Chiswick Eyot

Chiswick Eyot, Hounslow

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

Hidden London: Chiswick Eyot by Graham C99

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 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.

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 below 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.

Hidden London: Chiswick Mall on the left and the muddy foreshore of Chiswick Eyot on the right, by Stefan Czapski

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, 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 Graham C99
, 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 freely permitted under the terms of that licence.