2006: Left bank Riverside Retreat by Gibraltar Island -
Gibraltar Island Footbridge, 2006
Gibraltar House, 2022
Left bank boatyard with central moorings: 01628 484244
Wootten's Boatyard, Cookham Sitting beneath the steep wooded slopes on the Berkshire side of the river.
The smoking chimney adds to the atmosphere
(in more ways than one) of a cold, dull morning.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Andrew Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Founded by Arthur Wootten in 1872. He was the son of a Boat Builder and had been involved with
boats since the age of ten, but in spite of this began his working life as an Electrical Engineer, and was one of the first people to install electricity in private houses at Bourne End.
When he learnt that a housing estate was to be built across the river from Winter Hill, Cookham Dean, he foresaw a new boat hiring enterprise. The housing estate was never build but unperturbed, he went ahead with his scheme and bought a second-hand shed and began the business with £5 in 1908 hiring our punts, skiffs and canoes and continuing with the electrical business.
Arthur had 5 children, three daughters and two sons. His eldest son, also called Arthur, joined the yard from school and his younger son, Guy, born in 1908, became a sales rep in the City before joining the yard in 1931.
In the late twenties the founders’ brother, Harry, a Boat Builder, joined the business. It was at this time the boat building began at the yard.
By the 1930’s Woottens had their own fleet of hire boats. During the Second World War contracts were placed by the Admiralty for small Cutters and Dinghies and this let to expansion of activities at Cookham Dean.
Arthur Wootten senior died on October 28th 1943 and the business passed to his sons Arthur and Guy Wootten.
The profits from the war years were reinvested. The large boat building shed which is still in use today, was erected in 1951. Apart from building river launches they started to build sailing dinghies, including some 14ft internationals. In 1952 Pat Wootten, the son of Guy, joined the yard at the age of 15. He had helped out from an early age ferrying visitors and helping with the hire of boats. Pat served his four-year apprenticeship at his father’s yard. A fellow apprentice at Woottens was Peter Freebody.
By the mid fifties, punting and skiffing had gone into decline as dinghy sailing become more popular. Woottens turned to building performance dinghies like Flying Fifteen, Merlin Rockets and the National Twelve.
With the introduction of GRP in the sixties, Woottens build GRP Dinghies for the water authorities.
The eighties revived the need for the old skill. Guy Wootten (son of Pat) joined the yard in 1987 after finishing his 4 year apprenticeship at Freebody & Co. When Pat died in 1998, Guy took over the running of the yard and is now joined by his son Lee, being the 5th generation of Woottens to be working at Cookham Dean.