The Thames from Hampton Court to Sunbury Lock

platts eyot

I think the name of this island comes from Platts, a local family name. There was a chain of about 30 Platts Stores in the Kingston to Brentford area in the 1920s—only one survives, in Hounslow.

 

Like Garrick’s Ait, Platts was used for harvesting osiers until about 1884.

 

Around 1868 Tom Tagg set up a boatyard on Platts Eyot. There were several famous Taggs around this time—George Tagg had a boatbuilders at Hampton Court; Harry was a boatbuilder and operator at East Molesey, Thomas (Tom) was a boatbuilder and operator on Walnut Tree (later Tagg’s) Island, as well running a hotel.

 

Tom became famous for building skiffs and houseboats, and is supposed to have built the brick structure with balconies and a tower that still exists today.

 

By 1889 it seems to have become an Electrical Works called J. Johnson, which was then taken over by Immisch and Co.

 

Moritz Immisch designed and built electric launches, and his company set up a network of hire facilities and charging stations—20 by 1904, later reaching a total of 100 between Oxford and Teddington.

 

Other companies followed suit, but the cost, reliability and convenience of petrol engines meant that the electric launch began to die out in the 1920s.

 

In 1888 a water intake was created on the island to feed the reservoirs in Hampton, and from 1898 to 1901 the island was used as a dump for some of the spoil that was excavated when the Stain Hill Reservoirs were built by the Southwark and Lambeth Water Works—which explains why the upstream end of the island is so much taller than the downstream end.

THORNYCROFTS

The Immisch boatyard had been taken over by John I. Thornycroft and Company, who set up the Hampton Launch Works in 1908. Although their main boatyard (which built destroyers) had moved from Chiswick to Southampton in 1904, the Platt’s yard was used to build Coastal Motor Boats—CMBs, the forerunner of MTBs from 1916.

 

The Platts-built CMB 4 sank a Soviet cruiser, the Oleg, at Petrograd in June 1919, earning Lieutenant Augustus Agar a Victoria Cross. After it was decommissioned, CMB 4 was displayed at the Thornycrofts boatyard at Platts Ait until the company was taken over by Vospers—then it was moved to Southampton, but it is now on display at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.

 

Thornycroft continued at Platts between the wars, building launches and other civil craft—they built Miss England III which set a world speed record of 119.81 mph on Loch Lomond in 1932.

 

Many of the little ships at Dunkirk were cabin cruisers built by Thornycroft’s—you can find details of Platts-built boats on the website of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships (see Home & Links page).

 

Thornycroft turned out 32 MTBs, 4 Motor Launches, (MLs), 19 Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDMLs) and two Motor Minesweepers (MMs) at Platts in the Second World War, plus several different types of landing craft. The workforce numbered 150-200 during the war. The steel suspension bridge was assembled by REME engineers in 1941.

 

WW2 Construction at Thornycroft, Hampton

MTBs: numbers 24-28, 49-56, 67, 68, 104-107, 213-217, 227-331, 344-346.

MLs: 157, 195, 260, 343.

HDMLs: 1129-1136, 1211, 1212, 1283-1291.

MMs: 1, 2.

 

In 1952 and 1953 Thornycroft built two of the Gay Class Fast Attack Craft—Gay Centurion and Gay Carabineer—at Platts Eyot. I think the boatyard closed when Thornycroft’s merged with Vospers in 1966.

The suspension bridge was built here in 1941. It will be removed and replaced by a two-lane road bridge if  current development proposals go through

This is the downstream end of Platts Eyot

Photo of a CMB designed by Thornycrofts

This is CMB 65A, designed by Thornycroft’s

The wartime suspension bridge to Platt's EyotMiss England III, built by Thornycrofts

Miss England III, built on Platts Eyot, set a world speed record of 119.81mph in 1932

Mimosa, a launch built by Thornycrofts and used in the Dunkirk evacuation

Motor yacht Mimosa, built on Platts Eyot in 1935—one of many Thornycroft boats involved in the Dunkirk operation

Derelict crane once used to unload coal barges

The crane, built for Thornycroft’s Hampton Launch Works. It is still in use—the  handle is kept in the Port Hampton office

The office building at Port Hampton - possibly part of the original Immisch works

The building with the tower and balconies is often said to be part of the Immisch works; it was perhaps part of the earlier Tagg  boatyard

The downstream end of Platt's Eyot

development proposals

The old Thornycroft buildings have been decaying for 40 years, but the island is home to a number of small businesses and to houseboats, moored boats and some long-abandoned boats.

 

In 2002 and 2005 there were two major development proposals. The latest one (amended in January 2006) proposes 73 homes as flats, maisonettes and houses, an office block, car park, a new road bridge and industrial units. The existing bridge would be removed.

 

It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen to Platts Eyot, but the island is certain to change. It’s owned by a company that needs to make a profit, so it’s not going to stay in its present peaceful, green and decaying state.

Here’s a nice email from Martin Buckley, who used to work at Thornycrofts...

The pics brought back some great memories for me as I was apprenticed there as a boatbuilder from 1956 to 1961 when I was called up to do National Service in the R.A.F.

I returned to the yard after I was demobbed and stayed for a further two years. I then left to work for what was then BEA at Heathrow Airport. It was very sad to see that the sheds are in such a dilapidated state and it made me think that this was the end of a great era.

Whilst I was apprenticed there the manager was a Mr Miles who we apprentices saw little of. On the other hand, the under manager was a Mr Bish who was always trying to catch us boys having a crafty smoke in the toilet. Likewise the boatbuilders’ foreman Mr Sam Serle who we called “THE SNAKE” because he could creep up on us so quietly.

I remember the CMB  which was stored under cover outside the CMB shop, and also the steam pinnace that was kept behind the big shed at the bottom of the hill. This was the one used in the film Three Men in a Boat.

Here are some pics of boats built at Thornycrofts during my time there...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Martin.

If anyone else has memories of Platts (or any of the other places featured on these pages) please email me.