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Radley Boat Builders River Lea

Updated August 29, 2014


Clive Radley
clive.radley1@ntlworld.com

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The Radley Boat Building Business began between 1840 and 1844 and lasted for over a 100 years on the river Lea in East London in Clapton until 1970. It was called Vincent Radley and Sons in the 20 th century but previously was run by Vincentís father George Radley and was Radleys Boat House. Boats were both built and hired out. The earliest reference is a newspaper article in October 1844 in which Georges wife Phoebe is said to hire out boats although George was not listed as a boat builder in 1841/51 censuses.

By 1855 George was a boat builder as per the wedding certificate of his son James to Eliza Ann Lambert.

The 1861 census states that George and his family including Vincent lived in a Boat House at Lea Bridge at Waterworks Lane and next door was Radley Cottage which was rented out. By the 1871 census George Radley had died and Vincent lived in what was now known as Radleys boathouse with his sisters Emily and Alice and her husband William Wicks who was also a boat builder. In the 1874 Kellys Middlesex Post Office directory there is an Advert for Wicks and Radley Boat Builders Lea Bridge Lower Clapton. By the 1881 census William Wicks had left and set up his own boat building business further up river.
The 1881 census has Vincent and family living in Creek Boat house presumably the same place as Radleys Boathouse.

In the 1891 census Vincent and family were living in Stratford upon Avon having taken over the Unicorn Inn, Bridgefoot in it is believed 1889. The Inn had a boat hire part of the business. By the 1893 or 1894 Vincent had given up the the Unicorn and was back at The Boat house in Lea Bridge. Whilst Vincent was in Stratford upon Avon his nephew Arthur Radley was running the Lea Bridge business and was the eldest son of his brother James.
By the 1901 census Arthur had become a painter and decorator.

The business was mentioned in the 1901 Post Office directory although Vincent was listed only as a boat owner but by the 1907 directory a second site at Springhill was listed in the boat builders section. In 1916 the business had 3 listings: Springhill and Dockside Middlesex Wharf Lea Bridge(New Boathouse) for boat building and boat owner in Waterworks Road(Old Boathouse). The family lived at Lea Bridge during this period.

In 1923 when Vincent died his son Wallis George took over. In 1932 the New Boathouse partially burnt down at Middlesex wharf and all the boat clubs moved to the Springhill site. By 1936/7 the family had moved to Springhill (source for fire and move Donald Radley).

After Wallis died in 1943 Ken took over but this was short lived and after the war Wally and Sid ran the business until Sid died in 1970 and the site was sold to the Lee Valley development authority

Rowing was at its most popular in the 1860s, when Spring Hill was 'the Henley of the Lea'; (fn. 78) at the August regatta in 1869 tradesmen raced from Willow point for money prizes and amateurs, including Hackney rowing club, for trophies. (fn. 79) Processions of boats marked the opening and close of the season. (fn. 80) Many clubs were short-lived: at least 22 with boathouses in Hackney were defunct in 1899, although a few had changed names and were among the 39 active clubs, 20 of them amateur and 19 of them tradesmen's. Most were affiliated to the Amateur Rowing Association of 1879 or the Tradesmen's Rowing Club Association of 1882, or to branches which had been formed for the Lea. Nine clubs used V. Radley's boatyard in Waterworks Road at Lea bridge, 22, including Clapton ladies' boating club, were nearby at Middlesex wharf, 13 of them using C. Meggs's yard, and 8 used Verdon's at Spring Hill. Amateur races were held from May to July and tradesmen's, over a slightly shorter course, on three days in July or August. (fn. 81) Ladies and gentlemen raced in double skiffs in 1914.

GEDCOM Trees (viewing trees requires 4.0 or later)

  • ISAACS TREE (132 KB)
    This tree is of Maud Radley nee Isaacs ancestors and includes Lord Rufus Isaacs former Lord Chancellor and Henry Aaron Isaacs former Lord Mayor of London.
  • Radley Boat Builders Tree (195 KB)
    The Radley Family had a boat building/hire business on the river Lea for over a 100 years from the 1850s to 1970.
 

Family Photos

  • Unicorn Inn 1920s Bridgefoot Stratford upon Avon (62 KB)
    Vincent briefly ran the Unicorn Inn from it is thought 1889 to 1893/4. The Inn had a boat hire side to the business
  • Radley Family Rowing Eight (424 KB)
    Picture taken on River Lea probably in 1930s. Crew is from bow Sid,George,Barry,Ken,Don,Geoff,Laurie,Wally, Cox Ula
  • Radley Boat House Post Card (1015 KB)
    Card has a picture of Vincent in the lower right hand corner. It was sent by Wally to his future wife Elsie Byron in the early 1920s
  • Barry, Wally and Sid Radley-Early 1960s (70 KB)
    Picture taken at Springhill outside boathouse
  • Lea Bridge Radleys Boat House-early 1900s? (300 KB)
    This the first Radleys Boat House, possibly 1910ish.
  • Radleys New Boathouse probably 1920s (1254 KB)
    North of Middlesex Wharf Lea Bridge on River Lea. This boathouse burnt down in 1932 and the business moved to Spring hill
  • Vincent in Boat House Workshop c1900 (642 KB)
    Not sure about date could have been later.
  • Kellys 1874 Middlesex Directory (866 KB)
    William Wicks and Vincent Radley ran the business after George died
  • Wallis and Maud Radley about 1913 (110 KB)
    George,Laurie, Wally,Geoff,Molly and Sid
  • Radley Family Eight about 1937/8 (233 KB)
    Crew ; Ula,Wally,Sid,Laurie,Geoff,George,Ken,Sub for Don,Barry
  • Regatta on Lea 1895 (23 KB)
    The first rowing regatta was was held on the Lea in 1863 and many small rowing clubs were set up between Lea Bridge and Springfield Park to compete against each other. They also hired out rowing boats. In the 1960s, six separate rowing clubs operating from huts at Spring Hill decided to build one big boat house.
  • Radley Eight From Daily Mirror 1930 (203 KB)
    George, Molly, Ula, Geoff, Sid, Laurie, Wally senior, Wally cox Ken
  • Vincent Radley at Boat House c 1913 (697 KB)
    Thank you for the very interesting pictures. My eyes have very little sight now, so I've done the best I can to see who the people are, or were. The oldest photo was, I think, at the Olde Boathouse, with Grandpa Radley on the right at the back, with a white beard. The thin-faced lady with a bow at the neck of her white blouse is Aunt Phoebe, my father's sister. I could not see if Aunt Alice was there, but I am taking a guess that the plump older lady was Grandma Radley, who I can't really recall, but I believe she was "fattish". I am not sure about the people in the boat, but the children could be Geoff and Betty, and the adults could be Aunt Phoebe and Aunt Alice. Aunt Alice was married to Uncle Cole Wyrell, and they had one daughter, Betty, who was very pretty. She was the original Kodak in advertisements. Aunt Phoebe was very aristocratic in manner, and was a "cap and gowned" pianist. She and my father inherited the business, but my father bought her out, and she went to live in a flat above my eldest brother Wally, who was a Lieut. Commander in the Navy during the Second World War. When I was a young girl, the Radleys were very well established in Clapton, there was a square named Radley Square. Ula 1/05/2006
  • George, Sid and Laurie outside boathouse (98 KB)
    Photograph probably taken in the late 1930s
  • Radley Family Rowing Four (511 KB)
    The crew are Sid, Laurie, their father Wallis George Radley, Wally and my dad George as cox. It was taken c1926 on the river Lea probably at the family boat house
 
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