Friday, 16 September 2011

Shiplake Lock

Shiplake Lock is a lock and weir situated on the River Thames in England near the village of Shiplake, Oxfordshire. It is just above the points where the River Loddon joins the Thames and Shiplake Railway Bridge crosses the river. The first pound lock was built by the Thames Navigation Commission in 1773.
Shiplake Lock was the first lock on the Thames to have hydraulic operation installed in 1961. During the winter of 2009/2010 the wooden lock gates were replaced with steel gates at a cost of £600,000.

The lock was rebuilt again in 1874 and the weir in 1885. The lock island was purchased by the City of London Corporation for camping in 1891 and in 1907 the ruined mills were demolished.
The reason for the purchase of Shiplake Lock Island by the Corporation was to preserve the amenities for bathing and camping. It was managed by the Corporation's City Lands Committee. However, managing at a distance proved a problem and the island was let in perpetuity in 1914 to the Thames Conservancy. The camp was then divided into 18 plots and run by the lock keepers.

Soon after taking over, the Conservancy allowed huts to be built near the tents. The use of these was restricted to cooking and they were not to be used for sleeping. (At that time, ladies were not allowed to sleep on the island at all, but had to retire to wooden huts on the Shiplake bank).

The Thames Conservancy and its successor organisations the National Rivers Authority and Environment Agency have not been prepared to give more than a one-year lease to the plotholders. However, the community has remained remarkably static with plots passing down the family line.

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