Environment Trust

Environment Trust is a local charity that works to restore the threatened historic and natural heritage in South West London. Recently the Trust commissioned Caroe Architecture to complete an important study of a Grade II listed derelict Victorian boathouse in Twickenham that will help to secure the building’s future.

The boathouse is next to Twickenham Riverside and forms part of the Thames Eyot estate. It was built in the 1870s by Frederick Chancellor as part of the reconstruction of Poulett Lodge – once a grand 18th century house on the banks of the Thames at Twickenham – for William Henry Punchard, an emidc nent engineer.

Chancellor turned Poulett Lodge into an opulent eighteen-bedroom mansion, complete with artwork from Italy and stained glass windows.

The new boathouse was suitably elaborate too, especially when seen from the water. River gods were carved into the stone capitals on either side of the arched river entrance, a balustrade ran around the roof of the building, and an ornate cast iron staircase took people down to the boats at low tide.

The construction of the boathouse marks a point in time when the Thames became a source of enjoyment. Annual regattas and water carnivals grew in popularity in the late 19th century, and pleasure craft from central London brought people to the area on daytrips. Those who were rich enough entertained their guests on private steam launches or large rowing boats, which would have been stored in boathouses very similar to the one at Poulett Lodge.

However, in 1879 Punchard filed for bankruptcy and he was forced to sell the estate. Poulett Lodge then changed hands several times. At one stage it even became the glamorously named ‘Monte Carlo Club’, which advertised in magazines like Tatler! But the club didn’t last long, and eventually the house was demolished in 1933 to be replaced with the handsome Art Deco apartments known as Thames Eyot. Today only the boathouse and the balustrade, which runs along the waterfront, remain of Chancellor’s 1870s design. 

Over the years the boathouse has fallen into a state of disrepair, and very few people are aware of what lays hidden under the foliage that now shrouds it.

However, Environment Trust hopes that this legacy of boating’s golden age can be saved. And so, with support from Historic England, Pilgrim Trust and the Civic Pride Fund the Trust is currently completing a study to identify how the building can be conserved and brought back to life. Follow the journey at www.environmenttrust.org

If you have any questions on the project please contact Emily Lunn, Heritage Project Manager, on emily.lunn@environmenttrust.org

Note: Earlier this year Environment Trust and South West London Environment Network (SWLEN) agreed to merge, in order to create a single, combined charity with the capacity to achieve greater impact for natural and built heritage in southwest London.  We are delighted to announce that our new charity will be launched at the end of October 2020 under the name Habitats & Heritage. Watch out for more information!

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