Oliver’s Island

Above: in the distance can be seen Kew Railway Bridge (or Strand-on-the-Green Bridge), which spans the River Thames between Kew and Strand-on-the-Green, Chiswick. The bridge was designed by W. R. Galbraith and built by Brassey & Ogilvie for the London and South Western Railway. It is part of an extension to the latter company’s railway line from Acton Junction to Richmond, and was opened in 1869. During the second world war a pillbox was built to guard it on the south end, along with an open enclosure to fire an anti-tank gun from.

It is now owned by Network Rail and used by London Overground for North London Line passenger trains running between Richmond and Stratford. The same tracks are also used by London Underground’s District line trains running between Richmond and Upminster.

From the Hidden London website:

“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.”

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