The Thames from Hampton Court to Sunbury Lock

garrick’s ait

This was once known as Shank’s Eyot.

 

Like most Thames islands, it was used for growing and harvesting willows.

 

To produce strong growth for poles for fences, the willows were pollarded by cutting them at about 2 metres high, then letting the branches grow straight until they could be harvested in 5 or 6 years time. Wood from pollarding could also be used for cricket bats, paddles, ladders, gun stocks and crates.

 

To produce more flexible branches, willows were coppiced by cutting them down at ground level and allowing shoots to sprout from the stump. The harvested branches are called osiers. They are strong, flexible and resistant to rot – they were used for fish traps, basket making and for reinforcing riverbanks.

 

Itinerant willow harvesters would use all the Thames islands as far down as Chiswick and they would build temporary shacks. When this business started to decline in the late 19th century, people began using these islands as campsites – boating and camping became quite a big business. Ripley’s 1884 book on Hampton says “During the summer months, innumerable picnic parties and campers-out congregate, making it one of the prettiest sights, especially on high days and holidays, we know of on the river.”

 

Like Platts Eyot, Garrick’s was also used as a dumping ground for spoil from the Hampton reservoir excavations in 1900.

 

The island was sold to the owner of Constable’s Boatyard in July 1913, although Hampton Council had been hoping to buy it. The Surrey Comet of 12 July said “We have the assurance that as far as possible the trees will be retained; being felled only as far as necessary for the erection of bungalows, for which there appears to be an increasing demand among river-users.”

 

Despite the start of housebuilding, Tom Chaplin saw an otter on the island in 1931 (Ripley’s book says an otter had been shot there in 1880).

 

There are about 20 houses on the island now.

 

Garrick’s Ait has a couple of dozen single storey chalets. It can only be reached by boat. I bet they have really good parties.

This is Garrick's Ait, with St Mary's Church Hampton on the rightGarrick's Ait, upstream end

And this is Garrick’s Ait seen from the upstream end