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Eel Pie Island Oral History Project

Eel Pie Bridge

The History
Eel Pie Island is the largest island in the London section of the Thames and until 1957 it could be reached only by boat. Originally called Paryshe Aite, some historians argue that it was once the site of a monastery and there are rumours that Henry VIII used it as a courting ground. In the 17th century it was used by day trippers and became well known for the eel pies made from locally caught eels.

In 1860 Twickenham Rowing club was established and runs to this day, one of the largest and oldest rowing clubs in London. From the early 20th century ramshackle huts and yards were built on the island and many of these structures exist today as do two of the boatyards built to construct and repair working boats on the Thames. The boatyards are also home to workshops for artists and craftspeople and moorings for houseboats.

From the 1920s the Eel Pie Island Hotel hosted ballroom dances and from the 1950s and 60s a bohemian crowd began to move to the island and it became a venue for jazz and rock musicians including the Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd - some say that the island is where the 1960s began in the UK. The Eel Pie Island Hotel that hosted many gigs became a hippy commune after concerts stopped in 1967 and it then burned down in 1971.

This little hidden part of London never lost its allure to artists and musicians who continued to move in during the 1970s, many of whom remain to this day and comprise a number of its residents. Today there are 50 houses and 120 residents.

The Project
In this project a group of residents from the Richmond area have researched the history of the island at Richmond Local Studies Centre, and with two local historians, conducted a walking tour of the island. In Spring 2017 they undertook oral history workshops with digital:works before researching and meeting current and former residents to record oral history interviews with them.

recording practise

They have explored the rowing and yacht clubs, the history of the music scene, the boatyards and many of the island's quirky residents.

These interviews will be given to Richmond Local Studies Centre and the Eel Pie Island Museum and also sit on this project website which will also house all photos and ephemera unearthed through the project.


The interviews are being edited to make an oral history based documentary about the island that will be free to view online. The film will also be shown at local events, film festivals, community groups, schools and also at a launch event in September 2017.

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