Messing about in boats
The Thames supported boatbuilding and other watercrafts
Most prints of the 18th and early 19th centuries show rowing boats, fishing punts and indeed working boats including sailing barges and ferries. Navigation had often been difficult but this improved after locks were built at Teddington in 1811 and Molesey in 1815.
Boatbuilding became important locally, particularly after 1850, when the hire of boats for fishing and leisure grew in popularity. Many firms both built and hired out craft. Well known local establishments included Charlie Shore’s (taken over by Hammerton’s in 1926) in Twickenham; Porter & Brice and Tom Bunn’s (taken over by Tough Bros. in 1928) at Teddington. At Hampton, Tom Tagg established a boatyard on Tagg’s Island in 1868 and Immisch built electric launches on Platts Eyot from 1889 in a yard that was later taken over by Thornycroft’s. The Hampton Ferry boatyard was in existence in the 1850s, later becoming Langshaw’s, and then Kenton’s.
To aid all the small boat traffic and avoid overcrowding, the locks were fitted with passing rollers. At Teddington, in 1869, a boatslide was added to the rollers to allow passage of small craft without having to open the lock. There were also larger boats and launches for day trips. The Eel Pie Island hotel, built in 1830, became a popular resort for picnic parties and a stopping place for pleasure steamers. River usage today is a sad reflection of the crowded scenes from earlier times.