020 8979 9858

Raven's Ait

WOULD you know how to tie a bowline? A clove hitch? A sheepshank? Or the difference between a gybe and a tack? No? Well that doesn't make you particularly unusual in this day and age when many teenagers spend a lot of their time playing console games or sending text messages on their extraordinarily expensive mobile phones rather than learning practical skills.

Indeed, there are relatively few places where those skills can be learned now but back in the day, many a youngster was taught how to do those things by joining the Sea Cadets - and learned a number of valuable life skills at the same time.

And one of the best - known Sea Cadet venues in our area was the island of Raven's Ait, just off Queen's Promenade on the Portsmouth Road.

These days, Raven's Ait is a conference and wedding venue but in the past, the island served as an important base for watersports and for helping to train youngsters in the arts of rowing, sailing, motor boat handling and naval discipline.

The island was leased for many years by the Navy League, the charity set up to encourage youngsters to join the Sea Cadet Corps and, later, the Girl's Nautical Training Corps.

Like dozens of other similar establishments around the UK, Training Ship Neptune, as Raven's Ait was known, acted as a feeder for youngsters who wanted to join the Navy and see the world - or who just wanted to have some fun while learning to stay safe on the water.

TS Nepture fulfilled the primary role for the Navy League of its main training establishment for sailing, canoeing and boating. It only ceased to have that role in 1971 when the Navy League decided to invest instead in the construction and operation of TS Royalist - a 34-metre sailing brig that provided berths for up to 24 sea cadets on regular training cruises around the UK coastline. A second ship of the same name went into service in 2014 as a replacement for the original.

Life for sea cadets - both boys and girls - on the island was pretty basic. The wooden clad buildings that provided accommodation were hardly luxurious and the strict naval discipline applied meant that it was a good idea not to step out of line.

Youngsters were taught the skills required to be a sailor - seamanship, the basics of navigation, and probably most importantly, how to work effectively as a member of a team.

The boats used at Neptune were nearly all ex-Royal Navy stock ranging at the top end from a 25-foot naval cutter with a twin cylinder diesel engine through a number of Viking open tenders, again powered by diesels, down to a pair of Admiralty Whalers - slim, clinker-built wooden craft which were used to teach cadets how to row. Although, at 28-feet in length, they required a lot of muscle power to get moving!

Raven's Ait also boasted a good selection of sailing dinghies which were used as sail trainers. These included ASCs (Admiralty Sailing Craft), GP14s, Bosuns, Fireballs and Puffin Pacers.

During its long service as a Sea Cadet base, Raven's Ait had a number of important visitors including, in 1958, the Duke of Edinburgh who was rowed out to the island by a crew of cadets and another, in 1969 when American Vice President Hubert Humphrey was the guest of honour.

TS Neptune is long gone and Raven's Ait is now a conference and wedding venue. But we think it's a shame that a wonderful training facility has been lost.

Other sea cadet bases still operate in our area and we just hope that more of our present-day youngsters will consider learning the skills the Navy has to offer.

For more information, visit www.sea-cadets.org.

Editors Choice local news, reviews and features...
Crisis in the NHS and Social Care Image

Crisis in the NHS and Social Care

The NHS featured prominently in the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, in a way it?s difficult to imagine any other country?s health system doing. And the Brexit campaign made significant traction with its promise that the £350 million a week we ?send? to the EU (over half of which comes straight back) could ?fund our NHS instead?

Read More

All Saints Parish Church Image

All Saints Parish Church

The site of the present-day church is where an original Saxon home of worship was positioned and it is where, in the year 838, Egbert, King of Wessex, held a great council attended by noblemen and senior churchmen of the day where the king and the clergy agreed to work together and to support one another.

Read More

Robert Bigelow Image

Robert Bigelow

MOST of the time, people who say they believe in the story that aliens are living on earth can be dismissed as 'the lunatic fringe' or perhaps those who have been rather over-indulging in strong liquor. But when a billionaire American businessman - and particularly one who has worked with NASA on constructing space habitats and vehicles.

Read More

Aaron Swartz Image

Aaron Swartz

AUTHORITY has always had a difficulty with those unique human beings who see things differently from the majority. In an extraordinary career, he founded a number of defining internet sites, many of which were devoted to ensuring public access to huge swathes of material.

Read More



Some more interesting facts from our local historian John Sheaf

Read More

Leander Scout Troop 1970

Kingston - Leander Sea Scouts

We are fortunate locally to have one of the most successful sea scout operations in the land in the shape of Leander Sea Scouts, based at 92 Lower Ham Road in Kingston.

Read More

From the Web, your call ? Bruno Borges Image

From the Web, your call ? Bruno Borges

WHEN you consider the vastness of the Universe, there is much to be said in support of the theory that there is likely to be other intelligent life out there somewhere. Throughout the centuries, man has posed the question about alien lifeforms and much has been written about supposed sightings of extra-terrestrial beings.

Read More

Cleve West Vegan

Veganism - the way to a kinder world!

We recently spoke to the Hampton Guide resident gardener Cleve West about his transition from vegetarian to vegan and how it has transformed his life.

Read More

hawker aircraft

Hawker Aircraft

KINGSTON has a unique place in the history of British aviation because for nearly 80 years it saw the production of thousands of iconic aircraft built initially by the Sopwith Company and later by Hawker Aircraft and then British Aerospace.
Read More


Raven's Ait

These days, Raven's Ait is a conference and wedding venue but in the past, the island served as an important base for watersports and for helping to train youngsters in the arts of rowing, sailing, motor boat handling and naval discipline.

Read More

out of order

Out of Order

Anyone who regularly wanders around the centre of Kingston has walked past one of David Mach's creations - the iconic display of 12 old red telephone boxes that have fallen onto their sides like a row of dominoes.
Read More

Kingston Combe Conduit

Coombe Conduit

IN OUR busy modern world, we take the availability of clean, fresh water for granted in this country. We turn on the tap and there it is - ready to use. But centuries ago, the delivery of water for everyday use required a good deal of effort and thought.

Read More

john cooper

John Cooper motor racing legend

THERE have been many notable sporting personalities who have lived and worked in Kingston and its surrounds but few have made such an impact on their sport as John Newton Cooper.
Read More

Galton and simpson

The Lost Hancock Scripts

Many people associate the birth of situation comedy with such shows as 'Hancock Half Hour' and 'Steptoe and Son'. Hampton residents Ray Galton and Alan Simpson are the brilliant writers behind these comic gems. We caught up with them over a curry to find out how they found the missing Hancock scripts...
Read More

Alan Turing, genius code breaker and mathematician

Alan Turing, genius code breaker and mathematician

WHEN you consider what some people do to earn a knighthood, it’s quickly apparent that there have been some glaring omissions in our history.
One of the worst such examples, in our view, is the case of former Hampton resident Alan Turing...

Read More

Alan Turing honour

Alan Turing honour

Where The Guide leads, others clearly follow! It was more than a year ago that The Hampton Guide launched its campaign for codebreaking and computer genius Alan Turing to be honoured by the nation for his outstanding work during and after the Second World War.
Read More


A Walk on the Wild (Life) Side

Here at The Guide, we particularly love the sight of the occasional kingfisher, that iconic angler which nests on riverbanks and islands all the way along the Thames.

Read More

Special Offers

Not to be missed special offers from local traders and businesses
Raven's Ait Special Offers Panel - Intro Image

What's On...

Events, shows, concerts, sporting occassions - month by month in your area -
What's On
Jun 27
Pride in London: Pride Day. London - various Celebration of sexual diversity, including the Pride parade (www.prideinlondon.org)
Jul 6-12
Pride in London: Pride Day Celebration of sexual diversity, including the Pride Parade. www.prideinlondon.org
Jul 11
The Gin to My Tonic Festival Kempton Park Fantastic celebration of all things gin! (www.kempton.co.uk)
Aug 15
Sunbury Regatta Rivermead Island, Sunbury (www.sunburyregatta.com)