Chiswick Eyot, Hounslow

An uninhabited ship-​​shaped island lying off Chiswick Mall in a stretch of the Thames known as Corney Reach

Chiswick Eyot - grahamc99 - 8973682218_63cf0d10ae_o

Flint tools and Neolithic and Roman pottery have been discovered on Chiswick Eyot (pronounced chizzik ait), indicating that there may once have been a small settlement here.

By 1800, osier (or withy) beds around the island were producing willow shoots that were used to make baskets for the market gardens of Chiswick. Commercial cultivation continued until the mid-​​1930s, when the borough of Brentford and Chiswick bought the island from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

Chiswick Eyot used to be more than an acre larger than it is now (which is presently about three acres), but all of the part that used to lie within the Hammersmith borough boundary has slipped away into the Thames. This erosion problem prompted a proposal in the 1970s to raze the entire island but the plan was shelved in the face of public resistance. Instead the banks were shored up during the following decade.

Chiswick Mall on the left and the muddy foreshore of Chiswick Eyot on the right

Chiswick Mall on the left and the muddy foreshore of Chiswick Eyot on the right*

In 1993 Chiswick Eyot was declared a local nature reserve and it is now cared for by Thames 21 and the Old Chiswick Preservation Society. As the photograph on the right suggests, the island is accessible at low tide – but the preser­vation society asks people to go across only during one of the work days arranged as part of the envir­on­mental management programme. This is to help protect the eyot’s fragile ecosystem – and for health and safety reasons. The Chiswick lifeboat has sometimes been called out to rescue explorers marooned by rising waters.

Except for Frog Island – an artifi­cially created waste management facility at Rainham – Chiswick Eyot is the most easterly of London’s Thames islands. It is the only insular obstacle along the ‘Championship Course’ that is used for the Oxford and Cambridge boat race.

Writing in 1902 (and quoted here), CJ Cornish reported that a resident reed warbler was “locally supposed to begin his song with the words ‘Chiswick Eyot! Chiswick Eyot!’ which indeed he does pretty exactly.”

In 2010 a homeless pensioner claimed to have been living on Chiswick Eyot and the BBC gave his story some credence. Hounslow council “sent repres­ent­atives” to the island, who found no evidence of recent human habitation.

Postal district: W4
Blog post: Lois Walpole: Chiswick Eyot Osier Holt

 

* The picture of Chiswick Eyot at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright grahamc99, at Flickr, and the picture of Chiswick Mall, seen from the muddy shore of Chiswick Eyot is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Stefan Czapski, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, both made available under the Attribution-​​ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse of either image is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.
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