1869: Charles Dickens published a GHOST STORY about Temple Island (then called Regatta island) -
"THE PHANTOM OF REGATTA ISLAND"
Temple Island is of course the Royal Henley Regatta start (between the left
bank and the island at the downstream end).
During regatta times all river traffic must go to the Right bank side of
the island (as you approach going upstream from Hambleden Lock.)
If you think I have my banks confused tell the Environment Agency who have decided to name banks as seen from the sea. Since their Emergency Rendez-vous places use this convention I have decided I must go along with it.
1771: The Temple on the island was designed by James Wyatt for Sambrooke Freeman of Fawley Court
1793: [Temple Island,] Fawley Court & Henley Bridge, Boydell -
Fawley Court & Henley. June 1, 1793. Farington R.A. delt. J.C. Stadler sculpt.
(Published) by J. & J. Boydell, Shakespeare Gally. Pall Mall & (No. 90) Cheapside (London)
Henley Bridge in the distance was just seven years old in 1793
1793: Temple Island detail from above
1829: A Tour on the banks of the Thames -
On a little island, in the midst of the Thames, a former proprietor of Fawley Court has erected a Grecian temple,
where occasional banquets were given ; he had also surrounded it with hanging trees and choice shrubs,
forming altogether a retreat in which poetry might well be content to dwell, and Calypso be delighted to remain.
This little temple is beheld with peculiar effect from Henley bridge, which we are now approaching, the river having more the appearance of a lake than of that it in reality is.
1829: Temple Island was the cause of a clash in the first University boat race.
All the boat races are on this site and this first has a page to itself.
The race started at Hambleden Lock with Cambridge on the Berkshire station (the Right bank).
Cambridge wanted to take the Bucks side (the left bank side) of Temple Island but Oxford wanted the Berks side (the right bank side of Temple Island). The bank was a different shape then and the Bucks route was probably shorter though the Berks side would be more sheltered with less current.
The boats clashed just below the island and the race was re-run from the start. The second time Oxford just succeeded in taking Cambridge's water and the course they wanted - going on to win.
1834: Tombleson -
Temple Island, Tombleson, 1834
1870: Temple Island, Henry Taunt -
Temple Island, Henry Taunt, 1870
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1389
1899: Temple Island, Francis Frith -
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Temple island
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
1987: The Stewards of the Henley Royal Regatta purchased a 999 year lease of Temple Island.
The downstream portion of the island is retained as a nature reserve and has been extensively planted
with young trees to return it to its traditional, heavily-wooded appearance.
The Temple itself has been fully restored. The wall paintings (those in the principal rooms are the earliest surviving examples of the Etruscan style in Britain) had deteriorated badly and suffered from inferior over-painting. These were repaired and now appear in the original colours as designed by Wyatt.
A statue of a nymph, in keeping with the age and style of the Temple, has been placed under the cupola.
Aerial photo of Temple Island by Last Refuge
Temple Island © 2016, Doug Myers
the erosion on the Right bank just above the island, largely caused by the
breaking wash of umpires' launches going down to the start during regattas.
I once had a conversation with an umpire when he very patiently explained to me
that the launches needed to travel at speed in order that the races should start on time.
It did not appear to occur to him that if the launch left five minutes earlier
there would be no difficulty in obeying the speed limit (5mph) and keeping wash to
what has come to be regarded as reasonable limits. I suppose this might necessitate
an extra launch - but what price do we place on the banks of the Thames?
As a punter I am very aware of where the bank used to be, because for some 10 yards from the present bank there is thick mud, and outside that, firm gravel. Some attempt has been made to reduce the further spread of the damage.
Temple Island Meadows -RIGHT bank
COUNTY: BUCKINGHAMSHIRE SITE NAME: TEMPLE ISLAND MEADOWS
Status: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notified under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Local Planning Authorities: Buckinghamshire County Council, Wycombe District Council
National Grid Reference: SU769847
Ordnance Survey Sheet 1:50,000: 175 1:10,000: SU78 SE, SU78 NE
Date Notified (Under 1981 Act): 1989 Date of Last Revision: 1990
Area: 14.1 ha 34.8 ac
Other information: These privately-owned meadows are part of the extensive flood plain of the Henley Reach section of the River Thames.
[Southern half is owned by Henley Royal Regatta]
Description and Reasons for Notification
Temple Island Meadows consist of a series of slightly improved, sheep grazed, wet meadows which have developed on typical argillic brown earths and pelo-calcareous gley soils over alluvium. Their location, adjacent to the River Thames, renders them subject to seasonal flooding and waterlogging. Marshy neutral grassland grades into tall fen vegetation with scattered wet alder carr woodland and scrub occurring in the west and south. Wetland habitats such as these have declined nationally due to agricultural improvement and drainage and few examples of these habitats are now known to exist in Buckinghamshire. The meadows support a diverse flora and fauna, and are probably some of the most species-rich meadows remaining along the Thames, supporting several species which are of local or national importance including the nationally rare summer snowflake Leucojum aestivum, locally known as the Loddon Lily. The invertebrate and avian fauna are of particular interest.
The grassland sward is dominated by a variety of species of grasses, rushes and sedges characteristic of wet meadows such as floating sweet-grass Glyceria fluitans, reed sweet-grass G. maxima, marsh foxtail Alopecurus geniculatus, hard rush Juncus inflexus, jointed rush J. articulatus, brown sedge Carex disticha and greater and lesser pond sedges C. riparia and C. acutiformis. Species with restricted distribution in the county include carnation sedge C. panicea, common sedge C. nigra, slender tufted-sedge C. acuta and blunt-flowered rush Juncus subnodulosus. Typical herb species of this habitat are marsh marigold Caltha palustris, ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi, meadow sweet Filipendula ulmaria, creeping Jenny Lysimachia nummularia and greater bird's-foot trefoil Lotus uliginosus, together with less common species such as yellow loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris, sweet flag Acorus calamus and marsh ragwort Senecio aquaticus. The flora also includes several species which are known to be uncommon in Buckinghamshire; for example marsh lousewort Pedicularis palustris, marsh arrowgrass Triglochin palustris, tubular water dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa, marsh valerian Valeriana dioica, meadow rue Thalictrum flavum and both marsh and early marsh orchids Dactylorhiza praetermissa and D. incarnata; all of these species are associated with a long history of undisturbed grassland management.
The fen vegetation is dominated by reed canary grass Phalaris arundinacea and common reed Phragmites australis,
with abundant tall herbs such as hemp agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum, great willowherb Epilobium hirsutum, purple
loosestrife Lythrum salicaria, yellow flag Iris pseudacorus and marsh woundwort Stachys palustris. The shallower
ditches that cross the meadows support sparse vegetation with the rare water violet Hottonia palustris and frog-bit
Hydrocharis morsus-ranae recorded in past years. Another uncommon aquatic species, mare's-tail Hippuris vulgaris
is abundant in the wide stream that borders the site in the west.
Where the fen grades into alder and willow carr and wet woodland along the western margin, alder Alnus glutinosa dominates with some ash and an understorey of sycamore, elder, dogwood, crack willow and the uncommon purple willow Salix purpurea. The ground flora is dominated by common nettle Urtica dioica, comfrey Symphytum officinale and dog's mercury Mercurialis perennis with common valerian Valeriana officinalis, bugle Ajuga reptans, herb Robert Geranium robertianum and hemlock water dropwort Oenanthe crocata also present. Two colonies of Loddon Lily, a nationally rare plant occur within the woodland.
The marshy grassland supports a species-rich and diverse invertebrate fauna which includes two noteworthy flies, Teuchophorus simplex and Neoascia geniculata, and the nationally rare and endangered marsh fly Dicheptophora findlandica. Dragonflies such as the nationally rare club-tailed dragonfly Gomphus vulgatissimus, a species more or less confined to the Thames, banded agrion Calyopterex splendens, brown hawker Aeshna grandis and emperor dragonfly Anax imperator are frequently recorded visitors to the meadows.
The diversity of habitats also makes the site attractive to a variety of birds. Common woodland birds recorded from the site include great and lesser spotted woodpecker, woodcock and spotted flycatcher, while the scrub and marshy reed vegetation supports reed buntings and both sedge and reed warblers. The high water levels attract breeding waterfowl such as mallard, tufted duck, little grebe, moorhen and coot. Of particular importance are breeding snipe, a species declining in Buckinghamshire due to the draining of wet meadows and pastures along the major river valleys.