Little has been recorded about the first Thames Lock Keepers. We do know that in 1652 the first official Lock Keeper was appointed to the Swift Ditch Lock above Abingdon by the second Oxford - Burcot Commission. He wasn't permitted to marry, sell victuals and lived a tiny one up one down cottage. Things weren’t quite so bad by the 1960s!
“Early weirs were constructed not only to catch fish but also for milling and navigation... Navigation weirs were usually constructed at the lower end of a set of shallows... enabling vessels to pass through a central span of 15 to 20 feet fitted with removable timber paddles... When a barge needed to pass upstream, the paddles were removed and the barge, lifted by the release of the pent up water, was then hauled by rope and manpower through the gap in the weir. Coming downstream the barge was carried through the opening by the released flush (or flash) of water, thus giving rise to the name ‘flash lock’.”
Maureen McCreadie - extract from ‘A History of the River Thames at Eynsham’ (opens in new window).