Eel Pie Island is a mystery to most of us.
It hides Twickenham from the walker on the towpath but most of us are not sure what happens on the only inhabited island in the tidal Thames. There are myths about what used to happen.
Today it is best known as a former pop concert venue which suffered several serious fires. Only last September there was yet another when Min-y-Don, home of architect Clive Chapman, was burnt down.
A new book Eel Pie Island (Frances Lincoln; £16.99) records all known facts about the island. The main author is former Times foreign correspondent Dan van der Vat who has lived on the island for thirty years.
He insists that the 550 yard long island is in Middlesex and not Surrey, reveals that it once belonged to the nuns at Syon, examines claims about Henry VIII calling in for eel pies and explodes other such myths. He records the dates of the fires and access changes from chain barge ferry to toll bridge to new bridge.
The second author is Michele Whitby who holds a unique collection of documents, programmes and tickets from famous concerts.
She records what really went on at those pop concerts when the performers included Acker Bilk, Long John Baldry and the Rolling Stones. She also explains the role of Michael Snapper, last owner of the hotel, and generous concert promotor Arthur Chisnall.
There is the best map I have ever seen of the island and beautiful photography alongside historic photographs.
So what is it like to live on Eel Pie Island today? Its famous resident Trevor Baylis says it is just “120 drunks clinging to a mudbank”.
After reading this book you will want to live there too. It’s a delightful and important contribution to the Thames history.