PLA Chart of Eelpie Island
PLA Chart of Eelpie Island
Eel Pie Island has it's own Eel Pie Island website
Between Richmond Bridge and Teddington Locks
Joined to the Right bank by a footbridge - Snapper Bridge.
1753: A Perspective View of Twickenham
A Perspective View of Twickenham, 1753
1758: A Description of The Thames, Binnell & Griffiths
TWICKENHAM Eyght, though on the Surry Side of the River, is the next, on which is a House, called the Eel Pye House, formerly very eminent for the Entertainment of those who took Parties of Pleasure up and down the River.
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
The [Twickenham] parish church is situated upon the edge of the river, but it is almost hidden from view by a large island, sacred to picnic parties, and known as Eel-pie Island, from the popular refreshment provided there. It is of considerable length, and has a house for the entertainment of water-parties, the whole of this "ait" being devoted to their service and use. A narrow arm of the Thames divides it from the village of Twickenham
1860: Twickenham Rowing Club founded. website -
Twickenham Rowing Club is one of the oldest and largest rowing clubs in London.
Our unique position on London's most beautiful stretch of the Thames makes Twickenham an idyllic place to row.
As a pillar of the local community, Twickenham has a strong reputation as a friendly, sociable and welcoming club and caters for beginners and experienced rowers of all ages. The club is currently benefiting from sustained growth in membership.
Our ever stronger senior squads cater for professionals with demanding careers who also want to race at Henley.
Twickenham Rowing Club on Eel Pie Island
Eel Pie Island Bridge, 1955, Francis Frith
1923: Walter Higgins in "Father Thames" -
Nearly opposite the church is Twickenham Ait, better known as Eel Pie Island,
comprising, I believe, about eight acres.
One old author says: "The Eel Pie house has been noted for the last two hundred years as a favourite resort for refreshment and recreation to water parties, and persons repairing hither for the amusement of fishing;
the old house was taken down in 1830, and a very handsome and commodious edifice, comprising a good-assembly room, measuring fifty feet by fifteen, has been erected on the site by the present proprietor."
1923: Ward Lock, The Thames -
Eel Pie Island, the principal feature of Twickenham's frontage, contains about 8 acres,
and is a popular place of public resort, with concerts and other amusements for river
Antiquaries of the Pickwickian order find some difficulty in tracing through the dim vistas of history the origin of this romantic name.
Prosaic chroniclers, however, are of opinion that, given the river, the hostel on the ait, and hungry fishermen desiring supper, the conclusion is obvious.
from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens -
It had come to pass, that afternoon, that Miss Morleena Kenwigs had received an invitation to repair next day, per steamer from Westminster Bridge, unto the Eel-pie Island at Twickenham: there to make merry upon a cold collation, bottled beer, shrub, and shrimps, and to dance in the open air to the music of a locomotive band, conveyed thither for the purpose: the steamer being specially engaged by a dancing-master of extensive connection for the accommodation of his numerous pupils, and the pupils displaying their appreciation of the dancing-master's services, by purchasing themselves, and inducing their friends to do the like, divers light- blue tickets, entitling them to join the expedition.
Approached from downstream on the Right (north) bank side. Website -
Eel Pie Boatyard is a small family run business offering boat repair facilities and moorings.
There is a 100ft by 33 ft dry dock, hardstanding for approximately 8 boats up to a maximum of 45ft
and 14 tonnes serviced by a crawler crane, and 180 ft of pontoon for mooring alongside for fitting out,
repair and maintenance afloat.
Professional or DIY workspace for boat repairs. We encourage DIY work, but we have on site also have a small team on site covering wooden boat repair, welding, fibreglass repair and marine engineering.
Eel Pie Boatyard has 14 workshop/studio spaces rented out to small industrial businesses, artists and craftspeople.
Right bank at Cross Deep
1719: Alexander Pope moved here to Cross Deep.
He built a Palladian villa by the river, over the road from other land he owned. And the following year he began to make a tunnel under the road from the villa basement. In the centre he made his Grotto.
I have put the last hand to my works ... happily finishing the subterraneous
Way and Grotto: I then found a spring of the clearest water, which falls in a
perpetual Rill, that echoes thru the Cavern day and night...
When you shut the Doors of this Grotto, it becomes on the instant, from a luminous Room, a Camera Obscura, on the walls of which all the objects of the River, Hills, Woods, and Boats, are forming a moving Picture ...
And when you have a mind to light it up, it affords you a very different Scene: it is finished with Shells interspersed with Pieces of Looking-glass in angular Forms ...
at which when a Lamp ... is hung in the Middle, a thousand pointed Rays glitter and are reflected over the place.
1802: Pope's Villa was demolished.
Much of the Grotto survives and lies beneath various 20th century buildings owned by St James Independent School for Boys.
Pending restoration, the grotto can only be visited by special arrangement or during Twickenham's Festival Week in the second week of June of each year. Email Contact
The Voyage on the Thames in "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope 1688 - 1744
Not with more glories, in th'etherial plain,
The sun first rises o'er the purpled main,
Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams
Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames.
Fair nymphs, and well-dress'd youths around her shone,
But ev'ry eye was fix'd on her alone.
On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.
Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those:
Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
But now secure the painted vessel glides,
The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides,
While melting music steals upon the sky,
And soften'd sounds along the waters die.
Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play,
Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay.
All but the Sylph—with careful thoughts opprest,
Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast.
He summons strait his denizens of air;
The lucid squadrons round the sails repair:
Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe,
That seem'd but zephyrs to the train beneath.
Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold,
Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold.
Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,
Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light,
Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew;
Dipp'd in the richest tincture of the skies,
Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes,
While ev'ry beam new transient colours flings,
Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings.
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
Pope's Villa is the next remarkable residence after Strawberry Hill is passed, from which it is distant but a very short walk. Pope died before Horace Walpole had completed his purchase; but the house then remained in the condition in which the former had left it.
Our cut is
copied from an engraving exhibiting it as in Pope's era. He purchased
this house in 1715, and removed to it with his parents from Binfield.
The high road from Twickenham to Teddington passed in front of the
house, and the small piece of ground at the back, toward the Thames,
was all the garden Pope could command without crossing the road,
where the large garden was situated; he accordingly formed a tunnel
beneath the road, and, decorating it with spars, it became "the grotto",
so celebrated by his friends, and so ably described by himself, and
immortalized by the verse he wrote for it. He had little care for money,
and as he made more than he wanted for necessity, he spent it in continually
improving his house and garden. Speaking of this once to
Spence, he said,
"I never save anything, unless I meet with such a pressing case as is an absolute demand upon me; then I retrench fifty pounds or so from my own expenses. As, for instance, had such a thing happened this year, then I would not have built my two summer-houses."
His half-sister, Mrs. Racket, once said to the same person,
"It is most certain that nobody ever loved money so little as my brother."
He died at Twickenham in 1744, and was buried in the church, with his father and mother. After his death the house was sold to Sir William Stanhope, who added new wings to it, enlarged the gardens, and formed a second subterranean passage. His daughter marrying the Right Hon. Welborec Ellis (afterwards Lord Mendip), the estate passed into his hands, and he guarded with jealous care every relic of Pope. At his death Sir John Brisco succeeded to the ownership; and when he died it was unfortunately purchased by the Baroness Howe, in 1807, who at once ordered it to be destroyed, and erected a new mansion at the distance of a hundred yards from the site.
Pope's taste in improving his house and gardens certainly induced a dissemination of taste in general by other imitations, and he led the way to modern ornamental gardening. His favourite work was his grotto, which he constantly amused himself by adorning, and was constantly fond of descanting upon in very glowing terms to all his friends. Warburton says that "the improvement of this grotto was the amusement of Pope's declining years". He has left an interesting description of it in a letter to his friend Blount, written in 1725. He says —
"It contains a spring of clearest water, which falls in a perpetual rill, that echoes through the cavern night and day. From the river Thames you see through my arch up a walk in the wilderness to a kind of open temple, wholly composed of shells in the rustic manner; and from that distance, under the temple, you look down through a sloping arcade of trees, and see the sails on the river passing suddenly and vanishing as through a perspective glass. When you shut the door of this grotto, it becomes on the instant, from a luminous room, a camera-obscura, on the wall of which all the objects on the river, hills, woods, and boats, are forming a moving picture in their visible radiations. And when you have a mind to light it up, it affords you a very different scene. It is finished with shells, interspersed with pieces of looking-glass in angular forms; and in the ceiling is a star of the same materials, at which when a lamp of orbicular figure, of thin alabaster, is hung in the middle, a thousand pointed rays glitter and are reflected over the place. There are connected to this grotto, by a narrower passage, two porches, — one towards the river, of smooth stones, full of light, and open; the other towards the garden, shadowed with trees, and rough with shells, flints, and iron ores. The bottom is paved with simple pebble, as is also the adjoining walk up the wilderness to the temple, in the natural taste, agreeing not ill with the little dripping murmur and the aquatic idea of the whole place."
The porch and entrance to the grotto is seen in our engraving. Pope never tired over improving it, and composed the following inscription to be placed in it: —
Thou who shall step where Thames' translucent wave
Shines a broad mirror through the shadowy cave, —
Where lingering drops from mineral roofs distil,
And pointed crystals break the sparkling rill —
Unpolished gems no ray in pride bestow,
And latent metals innocently glow, —
Approach: Great Nature studiously behold,
And eye the mine, without a wish for gold!
Approach: but awful! Lo! th'Aegerian grot,
Where, nobly pensive, St. John sat and thought;
Where British sighs from dying Wyndham stole,
And the bright flame was shot thro' Marchmont's soul!
Let such, such only, tread this sacred floor,
Who dare to love their country, and be poor.
1923: Ward Lock, The Thames, on Twickenham -
Two centuries ago "Twitnam", as it used to be called, was as nearly an earthly Paradise
as lavish expenditure combined with naturally beautiful surroundings could make it.
Thither came all the aristocracy of the day and erected mansions. Here were to be found the elegant triflers, the brilliant wits, poets and painters, the cultured and the dilettanti.
Horace Walpole's Gothic mansion at Strawberry Hill, though tawdry in construction when viewed with the sober judgement of today, was palatial in those days of grottoes.
What famous personages gathered here! - Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mrs Abingdon, the celebrated actress, with Kitty Clive of the same profession, Lady Suffolk (Pope's "Chloe"), Garrick, Richard Bentley, the Misses Berry (of diary fame), General Conway,the Hon. Mrs. Damer (the sculptress whose "Thamesis" and "Isis" heads form the keystones of Henley Bridge, Lord Radnor, Walpole's near neighbour at Radnor House, Pope from his villa hard by, young Gay, the poet, Sir Godfrey Kneller and Hudson the painters, James Craggs (Addison's successor as Secretary of State), Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, and a host of others were frequenters of Strawberry Hill.