Livelihoods, Leisure and the Islands
...weirs were licensed, to provide the royal household with 'lampreys and roches'.
Fishing was at once an industry, a pastime and a problem for traffic. Fish weirs constructed of stakes and brushwood obstructed the passage of barges. In 1405 the Lord Mayor of London decreed that "all weres in the River Thames to be destroyed." Probably they were soon rebuilt. In 1580 the problem engaged the attention of Queen Elizabeth and only certain weirs were licensed, to provide the royal household with "lampreys and roches".
Later, the river was fished by rod from the banks or from punts, offering barbel, gudgeon, pike, perch, dace, chub, and salmon until, fed by the drains from properties and industries along the banks, the river became an open sewer.
River islands came and went according to silting and scouring. Also they changed their names according to the owners or custom. was earlier called Twickenham Ait and before that The Parish Ait. The eel population declined but the name has stuck. Earlier the island was actually three aits and in 1635 Glover marked an earlier bowling alley there. In 1889 it was proposed to build a bridge to the island and an open air swimming pool. Only the footbridge was built and that not until 1957.
At Hampton, osiers were grown and harvested for basket making on Platt's Eyot until about 1884. Later, Thorneycrofts built motor torpedo boats here. One of these, whose Commander, Lieutenant Augustus Agar was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in a daring night raid on Petrograd in 1919, was displayed on the island for a number of years. it can now be seen at the War Museum at Duxford.
Downstream, Benn's Ait, now host to the Hampton Sailing Club, takes its name from the boat building family from the 17th Century. Next come Garrick's Ait, Duck's Ait and Tagg's Island, home both to a hostelry and a boat building business and later leased to Fred Karno. Farther on are Steven's Aits; a waterman during the 19th century, he supplied osiers to the City of London each year.
At Teddington, Trowlock Island is named after the trow, a Thames barge, and was home to Harry Gibbs' boat building firm in 1910.
Glover's Island, near to Richmond earned notoriety in 1898 because Mr Glover, a boatman wished to sell it to allow the erection of hoardings advertising Pears Soap. A local benefactor bought the island, securing its protection.