Started by Benjamin Wood in 1962, B.J. Wood & Son boatyard is a traditional family business. Passed to Ben’s son Robert, and eventually to the current owner, Ben’s grandson Stephen Wood, three generations have now worked on building and repairing boats on the site at Isleworth Ait.
The core business in the early years involved repairing wooden boats and building small motor boats. Ben Wood bought an old meat-storage barge and built a workshop on top of it, which continues to be used today. Over time the yard has doubled in size, and currently has four floating dry docks for maintaining vessels.
Work at the boatyard is seasonal. In the summer, they focus on repairing and renovating houseboats, from static homes to Dutch barges. In the winter, when conditions are more challenging, the yard maintain passenger boats whilst out of peak season. Being a floating boatyard, all docking are worked around the tides, and supplies have to be carried across the Thames when the tide is low, or craned onto small boats.
Steve and his father Rob worked together for over 20 years. When Rob Wood died suddenly, age 64, Mary (Robert’s widow), and Steve, took over the business and quickly had to learn how to run the yard on their own. Steve, and his neighbour on the Ait, Arthur Collier, have sometimes had a difficult relationship with the local residents on the mainland. Noise complaints have forced Steve to shift the nature of his work, with him no longer able to grit blast hulls at the yard. However, over the years the yard has upgraded and diversified, and continues to thrive today.
Further along Isleworth Ait is the green dry dock owned by Colliers Launches, which services their passenger boat fleet. Arthur Collier, who grew up in Isleworth, was apprenticed as a lighterman and worked for Tough & Hendersons and Vokins. After he took severance from the lighterage, Arthur purchased his first passenger boat, building up his fleet which he used to bring to B J Wood & Sons to be repaired before purchasing his own dry dock.