Working Boatyard to be Brought Back into Use
The historic boatyard on the island of Lot’s Ait, situated on the river Thames between Brentford shore and Kew Gardens, is to be restored to active use by John’s Boat Works Ltd, builders and restorers of traditional wooden boats.
On this overgrown island in the Thames, the rusting remains of boatyard docks, slipways and workshop buildings still exist as welcome reminders of a proud river front industrial heritage that once stretched along the Brentford shore from the River Brent down towards Kew Bridge.
The boatyard on Lot’s Ait was one of a number of boatbuilding businesses established in Brentford during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The coming of motorways and containerisation changed the landscape of the tidal Thames from Rotherhithe to Richmond Lock, and, in the process, the commercial traffic that dominated the Thames from the early days of the industrial revolution into the post war era entered a rapid and terminal decline. As the river traffic dwindled, so the boatyards and support services lost business and, one by one, closed down.
One of the last yards to be closed in the late 1970s, Lot’s Ait avoided the residential development that has taken place along much of the Thames, partly due to there being no means of access from the shore, and remains today virtually as it was left, with overgrown buildings and ancient machinery paying testament to its former glory.
Now, under new plans developed by the Thames and General Lighterage Co, owners of Lot’s Ait, and John Watson, owner of John’s Boat Works, the boatyard is to be revitalised and restored to active use.
Restoration work will include repairing the travelling crane to enable work to be performed on vessels in the tidal dock, while a restored trolley and lift engine will enable vessels to be taken up the slipway railway for survey, inspection and short term repair. The workshop will be equipped with a wood machine shop, stores and services to enable boat building, repair and restoration activities to be undertaken by professionals and DIY boat owners and boat builders. The hardstanding area will be available for winter storage as well as repair and restoration projects. Through the sympathetic regeneration planned for Lot’s Ait, the yard will once more encourage traditional and heritage vessels to find a home for storage, maintenance and repair, alongside smaller commercial vessels. The other tidal docks will be redeveloped as leisure moorings.
Planning consent has been granted for a footbridge, this will provide pedestrian access to the island, and also assist the restoration. An area of the island fronting the Thames is to remain untouched to provide natural habitat for wildlife.
The boatyard project is being spearheaded by John Watson who owns and runs John’s Boat Works Ltd. Specialising in boatbuilding, maintenance, restoration and refurbishment of wooden boats and yachts, they also offer skilled tuition to all levels from novices to those with years of sailing experience. His drive and passion for traditional boatbuilding has led to an exciting opportunity now being presented to the Thames community.
With Lot’s Ait boatyard expected to open in the spring of 2012, likeminded enthusiasts and businesses are being offered the rare opportunity to become an integral part of its thriving future with a number of workshops and facilities available for lease.
John Watson commented, “The restored Lot’s Ait Boatyard will bring back to Brentford an echo of its industrial heritage, and an opportunity for a new generation of craftsmen and women to acquire and apply traditional and modern boatbuilding and restoration skills.”
For more information on Lot’s Ait and John’s Boat Works, visit www.lotsait.co.uk and www.johnsboatworks.co.uk.
November 9, 2011