Oliver’s Island

Oliver’s Island, Hounslow

A small Thames island lying off Strand on the Green

Hidden London: Oliver's Island seen from the Surrey bank, with Kew railway bridge behind

The island’s name derives from the story that Oliver Cromwell once took refuge here but there is almost certainly no truth in this. It was called Strand Ayt until a century after the Civil War, by which time the myth had arisen that Cromwell had used the Bull’s Head in Strand on the Green as an inter­mit­tent head­quar­ters. The story was further embell­ished with sugges­tions of a secret tunnel connecting the inn and the island, allegedly constructed to help Catholic priests escape Protes­tant persecutors.

From the late 18th century Oliver’s Island had a kind of tollbooth, a wooden structure shaped like a small castle, which levied charges on passing craft to fund improve­ments to the river’s navi­ga­bility. A barge was moored alongside, from which the tolls were taken. By 1865 there was a smithy and barges were built and repaired here. In 1909 the Thames Conser­vancy assigned Oliver’s Island to the Port of London Authority (PLA), which used it as a storage depot and as a wharf for derelict vessels.

In 1958 the residents of Strand on the Green formed an amenity group for their locality, which also took an interest in conser­va­tion on the island.

The Strand on the Green Asso­ci­a­tion was at the forefront of a successful campaign of resis­tance when the PLA tried to sell the island in 1971. The smithy was demol­ished in 1990. The thickly wooded island is now a haven for herons, cormorants and Canada geese. Efforts have been made to control non-native tree and bird species.

Postal district: W4