Memories of Twickenham Riverside
Richmond House, the Pool Site, Queen’s Hall, Charlie Shore Boat House/Regatta, Twickenham Rowing Club and Eel Pie Island (see MAP)
DVD Transcript BTEC TV and Film Students Richmond College (2012)
RICHMOND HOUSE AND POOL SITE, Twickenham Embankment
JOHN PERRY AND JEREMY HAMILTON-MILLER
I am John, John Perry I have been in Twickenham for many many years and I have got an affinity with the River Thames. I have had boats on the River Thames for many years and I live on Eel Pie Island in the middle of Twickenham.
I am Jeremy Hamilton-Miller. I have lived in Twickenham for 40 years. I used to commute to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead so I spent most of my time clunking along King Street on the way to the station. I have not got much affinity for the river but I love it dearly now. Richmond House was the house that was on the pool site, now being developed as open space. It was built in the early 1600s.
John: It was bought by the Urban District Council of Twickenham in 1924 and was a swimming pool from about 1933 or thereabouts onwards.
They started actual work in 1930 on the swimming pool. I used to go there as a boy, it was an open-air swimming pool which stretched from one end of the site to the other; it was a jolly good swimming pool. We used to enjoy our trips there during the summer.
CHARLIE SHORE REGATTA, Twickenham Riverside
Jeremy: I have done some research into Charlie Shore and his family. He was a very interesting chap, he was brought up here and they were Twickenham people through and through, his father and grandfather were all from Twickenham and described as waterman. He started off this Regatta, particularly for children because he reckoned that there were at least two regattas for grown ups. He thought the Charlie Shore Regatta should be for children. This was an annual event which took place in about September and everyone had enormous fun and it went on until he died. His son took over, then it had to stop during the War and after the War was very difficult to raise enough enthusiasm to start it up again. Our colleagues Teresa and Berkley this year started it up again and we had great fun on the riverside with boat races and waterboarding [Stand Up Paddleboarding] and stalls and things and we hope it is going to be an annual event from now on.
CLLR SCOTT NAYLOR (in the Members’ Room at York House, Council Offices)
Cllr Scott Naylor, I was elected here in May 2010. I do know this house [York House] which started to be built in 1633. This house was sold to the Council eventually somewhere in the region of the mid 1920s. The owner before that was Sir Ratan Tata and I believe it was his wife who actually sold the property but here lies a story of massive controversy since at least from the early 1900s when there were large quarrels by the greater people in the town in relation to where would we have our new town building, where would we have our new civic centre? (Richmond House site or York House).
QUEEN'S HALL (towards the back of the Pool Site)
CLLR SCOTT NAYLOR
The Queen’s Hall has a very interesting background; it was part of the original town hall but after the town hall was decommissioned it was used as a dance hall, it has been used most recently by the Busen Centre where thousands of children and adults have trained in various forms of martial arts and then it was used as a cinema. It has been used partly as a library at the front end and the building has been under formal threat albeit there are some beautiful staccato forms and various other things of interest. More interesting is its relationship to the riverside and the poolsite as an amenity.
The riverside in Twickenham, well we have one of the finest pieces of riverside I think in the whole stretch of the Thames from here down to Tilbury and the riverside is very closely linked to the town, not least because it is accessible; we have beaches, we have access slipways and it is very rare to have public access into the river very easily.
EEL PIE ISLAND AND EEL PIE HOTEL
I am Edward Davies and live on Eel Pie Island and have done for 30 years. I found a plot 32 years ago and then had the house built or started to have the house built and now 30 years later it is nearly finished. I went exploring and eventually found the Island and by shear fluke there was a piece of ground for sale and that was it but I did know that I did want to live by the river, the north bank of the river so I faced south and that I wanted direct river frontage.
The history of the pool was that it was in 1930 or 32 I think that it was actually opened and they called it a lido, there are other lidos in London and it was very successful apparently and it was a big public amenity and then when it was closed down the Council decided they could not afford to repair the crack and that in any case the usage had changed and so they did not want to keep it and unfortunately for various reasons there was not any development of it at all. In those days Twickenham and any place beside the river and Eel Pie Island in particular was the Marbella of the day. I have got post cards of 120 years ago where people were writing “Lovely day here in Twickenham, weather marvellous, will see you tonight”. Post cards to someone in Ealing. Quite incredible but it was incredibly popular in those days.
There was a revival of a big event they used to have here every year called Charlie Shore’s Regatta and I have got photographs to show you of Charlie’s Regatta with kids and grown ups all watching the Regatta and the remarkable thing I ask you to look at in the photographs is that they are all wearing hats, from the smallest child right up to the adults. Of course, the women would be wearing picture hats and things like that on the riverside. So it was very, very popular on the island and they had a hall as well which became a dance hall and it was supposed to have the best sprung floor in the whole of Britain and then it became a jazz club and various bands, the Who, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie all performed there long before they were famous and in those days as many as 1,500 people, mostly young people would come across, on the ferry originally, to this place for raves.
WATERMEN AND LIGHTERMEN, Twickenham Riverside
I am Freda Hammerton and I live on the Embankment and I have lived there all my life nearly. I am the daughter of a waterman and lighterman who was killed on the riverfront and there have been watermen lightermen on the Embankment in Twickenham for some 400 years. One of the Hammertons was married to Charlie Shore, he would have been related because all the Hammertons were interrelated; there were watermen here for as far as I can remember. It used to be a very simple thing. All the watermen helped with it and when they won prizes, the mayor and the Council and councillors gave them tea and buns in the Barmy Arms. I can remember my aunt Tilly who died when she was 92 saying to the then Mayor who came to visit where she was living in an old people’s home that she wondered what happened to all the silver cups which used to be awarded and he looked slightly embarrassed and said well they must be somewhere in the cellars of York House.
My father was 18 when he rowed in Kingston Regatta and if you were a waterman you could row it, on the arm went this badge, you see them on the Queen’s Watermen on the arms. When my father was killed in the Second World War the men he worked with took this off and made this case for my mother so that she could see what it was. It was all very elaborate. What he also got was a medal, a gold medal. They were very generous to people who rowed well and it was only watermen who could row them. Actually this one he got for being the youngest swimmer, at the local school, he was 9 and swum the farthest for his age.
EEL PIE ISLAND
My name is Bruce Lyons and I live here on Eel Pie and I work in Church Street. I moved in 1966, at that time I was living in St Margaret’s and working in a travel agents in Richmond. In those days we had a toll bridge to Eel Pie Island and I used to come here for the jazz club. It was very different to what it is now, not that many people lived on the Island although there were a few houses.
And if we can we row before breakfast, go down to Tesco’s which is open at 7.30, come back and go to work. Very nice, don’t have to drive anywhere.
EEL PIE HOTEL
My name is David King and I live in Twickenham but born on Richmond Hill and I have lived in Twickenham all my life and that is since 1948.
The Eel Pie Hotel, looking at the old photographs you will see all of this was a very beautiful house and then it was enlarged and, in the I suppose, in the late Victorian early Edwardian period they put a dance hall there so when we were all dancing and bopping and beeping the floor used to go up and down. It was terribly, terribly mucky but that’s how we liked it. On Eel Pie Island we used to go to the jazz club and it then became rhythm and blues on a Sunday and I went there many times, I saw the Stones there, I saw the Pink Floyd, I saw the Art Woods.
EEL PIE ISLAND AND THE POOL SITE, Twickenham Embankment
TREVOR BAYLIS, OBE
My name is Trevor Baylis and I call myself an inventor. Well I used to come here when I was a boy and when I say a boy I mean 15 or 16. We used to come here because there was a fantastic jazz club, the Eel Pie Hotel, and the dance floor was like a trampoline and when you went in there if you could not dance when you came out you could.
There was a chain ferry in those days so when we used to come over a little old lady used to stamp you on your wrist and that was your identity card but we had some really really wild times there. I did my national service and when I came out as a physical training instructor I thought it would be cool to get myself accommodation with mates of mine so there were three or four of us. We had a special relationship shall we say with the local hospital, you know the nurses. We had some really, really groovy wild times you know and of course I was coming to the jazz club but of coursethere were traditional jazz clubs all over the place.
The riverside pool was one of the places that I used to train but there were many swimming pools around here and swimming was more important to me in a way, not just simply because I love swimming but because of the friends that I built, you know, we had a swimming club as it were and we used to swim in the Thames.
TWICKENHAM ROWING CLUB, Eel Pie Island
Michael Salzman: Twickenham Rowing Club was founded on 26th July 1860. We know that from an Annual Report in 1867 although there are no actual contemporary records were found. In 1862 the club took possession of a floating boat house which was moored on the Twickenham side of Eel Pie Island. Now the floating boathouse worked very well for a few years then it sank one year because of ice, damage from ice, and another year a storm sank it and the club was very, very glad to be gifted the freehold to the land, that we now own, in 1876. A lot of fund raising took place at the end of the 1870s so the club house could be built.
In 1929 members of the club dug large holes in the sides of the boat house and created a tank, a rowing tank, so that people can learn to row or practise there on dry land in a pool of water. Another important development was the admission of women rowing members in the club late in the late 1970s and that necessitated the construction of changing rooms and other facilities.
The friendly connection with the French royal family, we don’t know how it arose but it was a very fortunate ripple from the Revolution that broke up much of Europe in 1848. Louis Philippe’s fifth son was the Duc D’Aumale and he bought Orleans House in Twickenham. He became the club’s first president in 1860 and he remained president until 1897. Now a lot of the Duc D’Aumale’s focus was on France and the events in France. He was particularly a military man and he was keen to get back to France at the first opportunity, the first opportunity came in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian War when he went to volunteer his services with some of his brothers and he remained in France for several years, all this while he remained president of Twickenham Rowing Club. We are not aware that he had a rowing background.
The Duc D’Aumale’s nephew, the Comte de Paris, was the person who actually gifted the land on which the club house sits. And the Comte de Paris became (not at that time) the Pretender to the throne of France as Philippe VII and his son Philippe VIII was the club’s second President from 1898-1899.
That is the French connection with the club.
Richmond Environmental Information Centre Heritage Lottery Funded project.
Contributors: Berkley Driscoll, Teresa Read, Davinder Teji, Hannah Wright.