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Boatyards on the Aits

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Archaeologist Dr. Fiona Haughey talks about the history of Brentford boat and barge building yards through archaeological evidence of the foreshore, to coincide with the Working River project and an exhibition of Brian Liddle's photography at Brentford Library.

The Thames is a very secret place, only allowing us access to the foreshore at low water twice a day but only for a few brief hours. Its islands are kept away, for the most part, from prying eyes and just exist as unobtainable tree-shrouded places that tantalise our imaginations with what might be there, hidden but in view.

These islands have been vital places, used by people since prehistoric times. In modern times, goods coming up the river from the Port of London were brought up to Brentford to continue inland up the River Brent. At this busy juncture in the river Thames, the boat and barge yards on the islands were vital parts of the working river, building and repairing commercial vessels.

First shown at Brentford library in 1980, a series of photographs by Brian Liddle documented the closure of the Thames and General Lighterage Company boatyard which had built barges and tug boats at Lots Ait since the 1920s. 37 years on, Brentford Library will once again be exhibiting this photographic exhibition throughout September. Fiona will also be running a series of walking tours on Lots Ait in September.