On the morning of the 5th of June, Brentford Dock’s old toll house received a historical donation from an anonymous member of the public.
The donation was a small collection of log sheets, dating back to World War II, listing the boats that were tolled as they passed through the dock.
The Brentford Dock toll house dates back to the 1900s and was used to record the type and the weight of cargo carried by boats that were charged a toll fee accordingly.
Although no longer a functioning toll house since 1964, its interior has been repurposed as a mini ‘museum’ open to the public, showcasing the history of both the toll house and the dock.
Heritage Advisor at the Canal & River Trust Phil Emery said the anonymous donor found the log sheets while cleaning their attic and were initially about to throw them away.
Emery said: “What’s interesting is that the names of the boats on the log sheets are all from the military, for example, Lancer, Gunner and Gurkha.
“This combined with the date 1945 gives me the impression that these were boats that were commanded for military use.
“Given the sheets have the name of a lighterage company written on it suggests that some of the boats were lighters which were standard boats, no more than 17 foot long and 15 foot wide, that could fit into the dock.”
Similar log sheets recording the movements of British and Allied merchant ships during World War II can be found in the National Archives.
Like the donated log sheets, they list the type of cargo carried, the name of the ship and to whom the ship was registered.
According to Canal & River Trust volunteer Jennifer Martin, many people do not know that they can visit the interior of the grade II listed building because its opening hours are restricted to when there is a lock keeper at the site to open up the facility.
The timings at which the lock keepers are present at the dock are based on the tide of the River Thames which vary daily.
The toll house is not an accredited museum by the Arts Council because of its small size and consists of only a single-room exhibition.
However, it features informational placards inside and outside of the building.
The toll house had its placards refreshed and revised in time for Brentford’s first ever canal festival, according to Emery.
He said: “It was a very exciting time for the Canal & River Trust to work in partnership with the Brentford Voice.
“We have taken the opportunity to refine some of the content for the toll house, making sure that the information is accurate and also taking into account recent information.”
Although the name still sticks, strictly speaking, in 1964, the Brentford Dock was officially closed as a major trans-shipment point and dock allowing for the transportation of goods from around the world and later reopened as a residential marina for pleasure boats and luxury housing in 1972.
Now, Brentford Dock has just under 600 housing units that make up its residential estate, all of which are named after Roman emperors, and a green space that residents can enjoy.
Those wishing to visit the toll house should visit the dock anytime between a high and low tide and should request the lock keeper to open it up for viewing.
Timing for the tides to plan your visit at the Brentford Dock toll house can be found here.
Watch the video below to find out more about the history of the Brentford toll house: