The boatyard was purchased by John Henry Bushnell from Henry Butcher on the 31st December 1917. The boatyard had been in existence prior to that date and it is believed that Henry Butcher had, in fact, been the proprietor since the middle of the 19th century.
John Henry Bushnell carried on the business of renting self-propelled rowing boats, dinghies, skiffs, punts, camping punts, until the early 20’s when he obtained electric canoes followed closely by motor driven launches. Both the motor propelled craft could be hired for self-drive or with drivers. During this time boat building of various types was carried on at the site and, as years passed, larger and more sophisticated craft were constructed for both sale and hire.
In the mid 30’s the first self-drive holiday hire cruiser was built and thereafter others followed up until 1939 when the boatyard took on rapid expansions to cope with Admiralty contracts to build fast motor boats for both Naval and RAF air/sea rescue. The work continued throughout the war when some 60 men were employed at the yard and into the early 50’s while the re-stocking of war losses continued. In 1954, the land adjacent to the boat yard, comprising two meadows, was purchased from Mrs M F Bond and others and was built up to its present height with river dredging between 1954 and 1957. During this period the boatyard continued to expand, building craft up to 47 ft in length, with the self-drive holiday hire fleet expanding up to 15 craft. The small boats, i.e. punts, skiffs etc...had by now begun to decline in popularity and motor launches were beginning to take their place with more reliable diesel engines becoming available and, therefore, by the early 60’s all craft for rental purposes were fully motorised.
The 60’s up to and including the early 70’s saw the business expand in terms if moorings, rental of craft, both self-drive and driven (driven being with an employee on board) and the general modernisation, albeit slowly, of the whole operation.
In 1973 a planning consent was granted which allowed for the erection of two new buildings, a footbridge to the island and a clubhouse on that island. To date, the footbridge and two new buildings have been completed contributing to the operational modernisation of John Bushnell Limited and Bushnell Marine Services Limited.
John Henry Bushnell was in partnership with his father and two brothers at Richmond-on-Thames where they rented punts, skiffs, dinghies etc... from their business in the arches downstream from Richmond Bridge. They were also the owners of the quite famous floating boathouse which eventually sank in the 30’s. John Henry Bushnell moved to Wargrave in 1917 when he purchased the boat business from Henry Butcher, including the house on the same site. J H Bushnell had 2 sons, Leonard and Bert, who following completion of their apprenticeships, joined him in the family business.
During the war years JHB and his sons worked the Wargrave boatyard and thereafter he bought a second boatyard at Maidenhead and the businesses were split with Bert transferring to Maidenhead. Leonard Bushnell and his two sons, Nicholas and Paul, continued that Wargrave boatyard with Leonard Bushnell dying in 1974 and Nicholas Bushnell retiring from the business in 1986. Paul’s son David has now joined the company and is currently running the repair and maintenance operation known as Bushnell Marine Services Limited. David being the fifth generation, the succession of the Bushnell family businesses based on the River Thames.
The Bushnell family have enjoyed the privilege of a Royal Warrant since before the First World War and this has continued into the present generation with the senior member having been appointed a Royal Waterman to Her Majesty. The Queen.