Tagg's Island

Taggs Island

Tagg's Island is the much larger island upstream of Ash Island. Joined to the Right bank by a roadbridge.
Originally Walnut Tree Island.

Thames Voyages 020 8941 2676 Moorings,slipway,gas,engineering; on A308, Right bank by Taggs island.

1850: bought by Francis Kent in 1850. He leased part of the island to local boatbuilder Thomas Tagg and he opened a hotel and the island eventually became known as Taggs Island, and was surrounded by luxurious houseboats. There were many famous residents, including J.M.Barrie author of Peter Pan.

Original Boat House of Molesey Boat Club:

The story of the founding of Molesey Boat Club is said to be that a number of young men of Molesey formed a crew which they called 'The Argonauts', and tried to join up with the Kingston Rowing Club, but the latter refused them membership, whereupon they called a public meeting at the Prince of Wales Hotel, which agreed to subscribe towards the establishment of a local club. Very soon a constitution was adopted and officers elected. Within two months it was reported -

The new boat house being built on Mr Clay's ait just above the lock is fast progressing towards completion, and when it is finished the club will be well provided with the necessary requirements in that respect. The number of members is on the increase.

Tagg's Boathouse which later became part of the boatbuilders - Watercraft. Molesey Boat Club -

Taggs Island Boathouse
Tagg's Boathouse, which later became part of the boatbuilders Watercraft, and Molesey Boat Club Boathouse

The budding club quickly secured a reputation along the river. By 1874 they were competing at Henley, and in the following year reached the final of the Grand Challenge. The zenith of their success appears in the early 1890s. In 1890 they reached the finals of both the Thames and the Wyfold. They won the Thames in 1891 and the Wyfold in both the two following years.
By the end of the century the clubhouse on Ash Island became too cramped and inaccessible.
[ Ash Island? Either that was a mistake or Tagg's island was also known as Ash Island?]
The club, therefore, resolved to abandon its insular home and build grander and more commodious premises on the mainland. In 1899 a piece of land by the towpath was leased from Mr Kent.

1895: The Venetian Fete -

Following the regatta and later in the evening one of the most successful river fetes ever held in Molesey was carried out under the most favourable conditions. The illuminations on the river and along the banks from Hampton Court to Hampton were a grand spectacle, and the sight presented to the vast crowd was a splendid one and almost beyond description. The concourse of people who assembled to witness the pageant was very large. People seemed to come in shoals along the banks of the river, and long before the twilight deepened the thoroughfares were thronged with eager and anxious sightseers, who when they were able to witness the magnificent sight that was soon placed before them were unanimous in their applause and praise.
Looking upstream from the lock the spectacle was charming. The river was thronged with all kinds of boats. In some instances the occupants of craft had taken a great deal of trouble to contribute their share to the festivities of the evening. All along the Barge-walk were fanciful strings of Chinese lanterns making the bank stand out very prominently in the darkness.
Thomas Tagg and Son at their boathouse on the Surrey shore always have a large display. They were very successful in their efforts on the present occasion. The whole building seemed radiant with coloured lights. The front was covered with Vauxhall lamps.
Near the boathouse special reserved enclosures were to be found in one of which the Molesey Band played some excellent selections of music. The old quarters of the Molesey Boat Club were effectively treated while several of the houseboats were one mass of illumination ...
As usual a bridge of lights was suspended from Taggs Island to the Barge-walk, and a similar string was also festooned from the club-house to the end of the lock. On the Barge-walk Mr W.H. Smith of Hurstside had very prettily arranged fairy lights and flowers on a very effective background of cork.
[ Wonder if that was THE W H Smith? He was a keen river man.]

1906:  G.E.Mitton -

A number of islands lie above [Molesey] lock, the largest of which is Tagg's, as well known as any island on the river, and much patronised by holiday-makers at lunch and tea time. In summer a band plays on the lawn twice a week.

1912: the lease was sold to Fred Karno. Karno was the showman and impresario credited with discovering Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy.
1913: Fred Karno built a magnificent hotel on the island which he named The Karsino and the Island has retained its 'showbiz' links to this day.
["Karno's Circus" became a saying meaning a grand and chaotic affair ] -

Karsino on Taggs Island
Karsino on Taggs Island

Fred Karno's Houseboat "Astoria" is to be seen in the Google map satellite view just downstream of Garrick's Ait on the right bank. (see Garrick's Ait)

1917: A most extraordinary mishap -

On Whit Sunday a pilot from the Royal Flying Corps training camp, which had been set up on Hurst Park during the Kaiser's War, went up and was performing acrobatics for the delectation of holiday crowds along the riverside, when his undercarriage caught on the telephone wires crossing to Tagg's Island, and the machine, a biplane, crashed head-on into the trees.
The crowds on the towpath expected to see the plane come hurtling to the ground, with its occupant either killed or badly injured. Yet by some miracle the impact was so forceful that the machine remained firmly fixed in the branches. The Surrey Comet takes up the story:
'Ropes were obtained, P.C. Walter Baker, of the Molesey Section-house, climbing the tree, and after the officer, who was strapped to his seat, had fastened one around him, he was safely lowered to the ground. Beyond suffering from shock, he appeared to be little worse for the accident. The propeller of the biplane was completely smashed, as were other parts of the machine. When the aviator reached the ground he was taken to the Karsino, where he received numerous congratulations upon his lucky escape. Under the tree into which the machine crashed was a rustic seat, upon which a lady was sitting, but on hearing the crash she quickly made her escape'.

1930s: Ash Island with Taggs Island beyond -


Ash Island with Taggs island beyond