This Mysterious Private Island Is One Of London’s Best Kept Secrets • Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island is a private island accessible only via footbridge, and it has many stories to tell. The island got its name from the pies baked using locally caught eels and served by the island’s residents to passing river traders. This trend didn’t last, but the name stayed.

A sign and loads of chairs surrounded by trees on Eel Pie Island in Twickenham
Photo: Murphyz, Flickr

More excitingly though, the island was once a hub for jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Many famous artists played within the ballroom at the legendary Eel Pie Island Hotel, including Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and The Who. In 1963, there was a period where you could come and see The Rolling Stones play at the Eel Pie Island Hotel every week.

A she surrounded by trees and lights on Eel Pie Island in Twickenham
Photo: Ungry Young Man, Flickr

Towards the end of the sixties, the club was forced to close because the owners couldn’t afford the repairs it so desperately needed. Shortly afterwards, it was taken over by a group of anarchists, and the island quickly became one of the UK’s largest hippie communes.

The hotel unfortunately perished in a fire in the early 1970s and the hippies fled. However, the island maintains its boho vibe.

Some brightly-coloured buildings on Eel Pie Island in Twickenham
Photo: Jim Linwood, Flickr

Eel Pie Island is home to 26 artists’ studios that open to the public twice a year – the only opportunity you’ll have to visit the island, unless you happen to know one of the 120-odd residents that live there. These events are a chance for visitors to talk to the artists and buy or commission new artworks – and, let’s be honest, to have a good (and respectful!) nosey around.

Keep an eye on the Island’s website for information about the Open Studios and updates for next year’s events. If you’re not around for the Open Studio dates, or just fancy learning a little bit more about the island, head to the Eel Pie Island Museum on Richmond Road.

Also published on Medium.