Eel Pie Island’s residents, sports clubs, boatyards and other business enterprises are an essential part of the community of Twickenham and the town’s cultural and river-based heritage, sporting activities and business life.
The town’s music culture was for decades centred on the Eel Pie Island Hotel, an iconic venue in the fifties and sixties for top jazz bands, R&B musicians and rock groups. Today the island is home to approximately 50 households and 120 residents, as well as providing artists’ and designers’ studios, craft workshops and moorings for houseboats, plus two slipways and four boatyards for building, repairing and maintaining the river’s working boats.
A large part of the island is a dedicated nature reserve.
The island’s boatyards are among the few still operating on the tidal Thames. They include a dry dock and can accommodate large vessels. Work is undertaken on more than 30 or 40 boats annually.
Twickenham’s strong connections with the river are also seen in three river-based sport clubs established on Eel Pie Island:
- Richmond Yacht Club was originally founded in 1897
- Twickenham Rowing Club is one of the oldest and largest rowing clubs on the Thames
- Twickenham’s Standing Up Paddleboarding club, affiliated to Canoe England, is based on the island as well.
Since 1957 Eel Pie Island has been connected to the town by a single footbridge, on which the island’s residents and businesses depend.
Large equipment, materials and supplies for the boatyards are unloaded along the embankment and ferried across to the island. Rowing eights and other racing boats are taken across the river and loaded and unloaded for transport on road trailers.
Eel Pie Island is privately owned. It is not included on the Twickenham Riverside development site, but plans for restricting motor vehicles and developing The Embankment will inevitably have adverse impacts on people who live and work there.