The Twickenham Museum
Places : Twickenham

Walter Hammerton's Ferry
Rival to the Twickenham Ferry

Walter Hammerton in his ferry boat

In 1901 Marble Hill House and Park were bought for public use and recreation. In the following year the towpath past Ham House on the Surrey side of the river became a public highway. In 1908 Walter Hammerton (1881-1956), of a local Twickenham family established a business for hiring out boats from a floating boathouse opposite Marble Hill. Being asked to carry people across the river at this convenient point, in 1909 he established a ferry, charging 1d for each trip.

William Champion in his ferry boat, 1890

A threat to the Twickenham Ferry

At £12 a year the income was small enough, and the ferry only subsidiary to his boat business. Nevertheless Lord Dysart and William Champion the Twickenham Ferry licensee, who was banking £150 a year, saw it as a threat. Legal action was taken in 1913 and Hammerton's right to run a ferry upheld. The judgement was reversed on Appeal but by now the matter engaged considerable public interest: his costs underwritten by subscription, Hammerton appealed to the House of Lords and finally won with judgement given in his favour on 23 July 1915.

With a degree of triumphalism a song was published, celebrating the victory. This described Hammerton's Ferry as "The Ferry to Fairyland", this being claimed for Marble Hill. Twickenham Ferry had enjoyed its own song since 1878 which had been specially composed by the Belgian Theo Marzials.

A celebration cruise with song

The two ferries continued in operation for over 30 years and on 2 July 1947 there was a celebration cruise along the river from Richmond to Sunbury enjoyed by the Mayors and Mayoresses of the riparian boroughs when each song was sung at the appropriate point. Walter Hammerton retired this year leaving his boathouse in the care of Sandy Scott, then a boy. Today the ferry still runs with a new boat and a new owner, the sole survivor of the ferries which have plied this stretch of the river for hundreds of years.

Further reading:

D H Simpson & E A Morris, Twickenham Ferries in History and Song, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No43, 1980
See also: Twickenham Ferry on this web site

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