Visit Brentford’s Secret Island !

It’s ‘Back to the Future’ with TideFest – a unique pop-up museum, exhibition and guided tour of historic Lots Ait – Brentford’s secret island!

Lot's Ait Boatyard
Lot’s Ait Boatyard

Visitors to this year’s TideFest will have a chance to visit Lots Ait Boat Yard and learn about the importance of this small island on the Thames. Lots Ait is home to John’s Boat Works, the Two-Lipped Door snail and a thriving community of boat dwellers, artists and artisans.  It was also a key location for the film ‘The African Queen’ which starred Oscar winner Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn!

Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen
Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen

Established in the 1920’s by Thames & General Lighterage Company and closed in 1980, Lots Ait Boat Yard was the site of one of the last tidal boat yards on the Thames.  Since careful restoration work was completed in 2012, the site has housed John’s Boat Works, a traditional working boat yard.  With an exhibition of photographs from a bygone age of Thames boatbuilding, past will meet present as visitors walk around the yard and hardstand with John Watson, accompanied by Stuart and Ian Shields, former apprentices of the original Lots Ait Boat Yard.  After forging successful careers in the maritime sector, Stu and Ian are back to share and entertain with tales, memories and knowledge of life at the old boat yard.

Stuart and Ian Sheilds
Stuart and Ian Sheilds

Curious (and mostly rusty) artefacts – found on site – will be available to view and handle, a sunken barge can be discovered, and throughout, historic images can be viewed at their original locations.

"The Hammer" just one of the amazing relics of a bygone age.
“The Hammer” just one of the amazing relics of a bygone age. (picture courtesy of Wendy Kloos)



Owner John Watson said:

“Lots Ait has a rich and amazing boat building history that I’m looking forward to sharing with visitors to TideFest. The title of our event ‘Lots Ait – Back to the Future’ is intended to give a sense of time travel as we look at the past, present and potential of the island.  We are excited to be working with Stuart and Ian Shields, who will be sharing their knowledge and first hand accounts of work and life on the old yard.  In addition to learning about the island’s historic past, visitors will have the opportunity to discover the natural environment of Lots Ait and it’s wild inhabitants with the archaeologist, Greer Dewdney.  So if local residents have ever wondered what lies over the blue bridge by Goat Wharf bus stop on Brentford’s High Street then this is their chance to discover the charming and busy island of Lots Ait.”

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The tours are suitable for adults and accompanied children over 12 yrs.  Advance booking is required for the tours which leave at 2.30pm, 3.15pm and 4pm.  Groups need to be at the gate 10 minutes beforehand – from Goat Wharf, adjacent to 41 High Street, Brentford, TW8 0BB.  Tickets are £3 available online at HERE

The Carpentry Shop
The Carpentry Shop



More info:  Wendy Kloos, curator and project manager ‘Lots Ait – Back to the Future’: 07875000465, or Martin Salter, TideFest Organiser: 07976946033


Pictures: Pre-war tugs at Lots Ait dock



TideFest is supported by the Thames Tunnel Now Coalition with sponsorship from Thames Tideway, Fullers and Thames Water. All activities are either free or offered at a substantially reduced rate. Check website or Facebook page at or for more information.

Tidefest partners: Active 360, Angling Trust, Brentford FC Community Sports Trusts,  Edge Paddling, Get Hooked on Fishing, London Wildlife Trust, River Thames Society, RSPB, Strand on the Green Assoc, Strand on the Green Sailing Club, Thames 21, Thames Tunnel Now, Thames Anglers Conservancy, Totally Thames, Port of London Authority.