Raven's Ait is an ait (island) in the Thames between Surbiton, Kingston and Hampton Court Park in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, London, England, in the reach of the river above Teddington Lock. Raven's Ait is currently privately run as a catering facility and a conference and wedding venue.
Continuing southwards along Kingston's traditional High Street is Portsmouth Road alongside which the Queen's Promenade that has narrow gardens which mark the end of a Riverside Path from Richmond to Grove Road, Surbiton.
Level with the actual clubhouse upstream by the A307 is small area once a draw dock used for transporting goods to the area and the former fresh water works to the south. Seething Wells is the name for the locality of the borough from which the island has direct access.
Post Industrial Revolution History
In a long period to 1911 the island was home to Kingston Rowing Club, which is the same club as today, occupying a clubhouse at Canbury Gardens, founded in 1858. Long owned or leased by The Navy League, then the charity responsible for the Sea Cadet Corps and the Girls' Nautical Training Corps, Raven's Ait was the home of TS Neptune, a major sailing, canoeing and boating training establishment until The Navy League invested instead in TS Royalist a small Brig.
Until 1970 the buildings were the familiar wooden clad "Sea Cadet Blue", with very old style dormitories and a very naval discipline. In 1971 a major rebuilding operation started, with the entire accommodation except the superintendent's house rebuilt by Haymills Construction. That rebuilding replaced all the old wooden buildings with today's island buildings, which became a conference and wedding centre. During the rebuilding a small number of activities were carried on downstream of Kingston upon Thames, at the Albany Park sailing base opposite The Royal Canoe Club, with instructors commuting daily by boat.
During the 1980s the Inner London Education Centre used these facilities as a youth and community workers training centre and a water sports activity facility.
In early 2009 squatters occupied the island and facilities who had the declared aim of turning it into an eco conference centre, against whom an action in court was taken in March 2009. Eviction of these squatters took place on 1 May 2009 leading to mixed views from the local community. According to local media reports during their stay they had used as much electric power as would supply 45 homes However this was disputed by squatters who said that this was because before they arrived large industrial refrigerators and other appliances had been left running by the owners. The Council (local authority), who took the property back from the squatters, at least one newspaper has accused of failing to recycle office equipment and furniture and instead dumping it in landfill.
Raven's Ait was accredited by the Royal Yachting Association and by the British Canoe Union to conduct training in their respective disciplines. It also provided a semi-permanent mooring for Sparkle, a catamaran designed by Angus Primrose to be sailed by persons of restricted physical ability and mobility.
Motor boating skills
The boats were almost all naval stock, diesel powered:
- A 25-foot naval cutter (Twin-cylinder diesel), centre pseudo-cabin housing engine
- Several "Viking" open tenders (single-cylinder air-cooled diesel) with poor handling
- A Workboat with a cuddy, acquired from Haymills Construction after the rebuild, similar to the Vikings, but with better handling
- "Number 8", a small clinker-built smart, stubby, open launch, about 16-foot LOA with relatively low freeboard (Single-cylinder Lister air-cooled diesel)
Basic pulling skills were taught, usually to Sea Cadets, either in the ASC or in one of a pair of admiralty whalers (a clinker built pulling boat of approximately 28' LOA, slim beam, designed for naval pulling races, but originally a practical ship's boat).
Boats were a mixture of typical naval stock and somewhat strengthened "ordinary" dinghies.
There were the following fleets:
- ASCs - the "Admiralty Sailing Craft" 16 foot gaff rigged dinghy, sometimes known as the GRP16, moored alongside the island.
- Bosuns, allegedly able to be swung out from Her Majesty's ships on a torpedo hoist in the middle of any ocean
- Cadets, which were being phased out
- Coypus, a redoubtable short, fat, slow gaff rigged dinghy
- GP14s, heavily strengthened
- Fireballs, kept at Island Barn Reservoir for trapeze training
- Puffin Pacers, a light Jack Holt design made by Polycell Prout with a tendency to scoop up a large volume of water over the leeward quarter when hardening up.
- Ordnance Survey map, courtesy of English Heritage
- "Queens Promenade". Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
- "Thames Sailing Club". Retrieved 2009-01-07.
- "Rater Descriptions". Thames Sailing Club. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
- H.E. Malden (editor) (1911). "Kingston-upon-Thames: Introduction and borough". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- "Ravens Ait administration".
- "Ravens Ait Hall Management Company". Creditgate. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Grove, Kerry (2009-03-13). "Raven's Ait island squatters face eviction". This Is Local London. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
Squatters who have taken over Raven’s Ait island with the dream of taking it into a “eco conference centre” face eviction by the council at a court hearing next week.
- "Police evict squatters from Raven's Ait island". Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- "Raven's Ait refuse 'not being recycled', Kingston residents claim". Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- "Boat Pulling (Rowing)...". Coventry Sea Cadets. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- "ASC Pulling Dinghy". Retrieved 2009-01-08.
|Next island upstream||River Thames||Next island downstream|
|Thames Ditton Island||Raven's Ait||Steven's Eyot|