Church Island, River Thames
Church Island or Church Eyot is an inhabited island in the River Thames belonging to Middlesex. It is situated on the reach above Penton Hook Lock in Staines-upon-Thames, just to the east of the tri-point of Middlesex, Surrey and Buckinghamshire. It is approximately 220 yds above Staines Bridge, but is thought by some historians to have been the site of the Roman bridges (Pontes) across the Thames recorded as a waypoint on the Devil's Highway between Londinium (London) and Calleva (Silchester).
This inhabited islet connects by a footbridge to Church Street, Staines, adjoining The Lammas recreation ground and mini-golf course and 100 yds below the oldest of the town's three Anglican churches, a Grade-II* mediæval structure. St Mary's Church is on a small rise, elevated 15 ft above river level, and 70 ft above sea level; As such, from its steeple the island is visible. The island is 100 yds long and almost triangular, and rises no more than three feet above river level. The narrow channel between the island and north bank (backwater) forms a small oxbow away from the course of the river.
The island is in the upper part of the reach which has a north-west/south-east axis above Staines Railway Bridge and different, north/south axis below that bridge. Staines Bridge is 200 yds downstream.
Roman itineraries note that a point around Staines was the location of Ad Pontes (Latin for "Bridgeside" or "[City] by the Bridges"), a waypoint on the Devil's Highway between Londinium and Calleva. With evidence of architectural discoveries in the 19th century leading towards the island from the present town centre, a local historian of the Victorian period surmised that two Roman bridges crossed each of the town's rivers: the Colne and then the Thames at Church Island. Alternatively, the bridge may have been across another island. A county history of Susan Reynolds (1962) says Egham Hythe had a larger island than Church Eyot directly across Staines Bridge in 1754, which remained until the early 20th century. Its backwater must have been removed and little or no trace of that island remains in terms of land elevation.
The island has not always been the largest in Staines and Egham. A larger island was by Staines Bridge on the Egham side until 1754. Washed away islands or islands made part of the agricultural banks adjoining existed in the Colne and streams in Staines in the mediæval period.
- Location map: 51°26’6"N, 0°31’12"W
- St Mary's Church, Staines National Heritage List England no. 1187031: Church Island, River Thames (Historic England)
- Grid square map Ordnance Survey website
- Fred. S. Thacker The Thames Highway: Volume II Locks and Weirs 1920 - republished 1968 David & Charles
- OS Map with Listed Buildings and Parks marked
- Susan Reynolds (Editor) (1962). "Staines: Introduction". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3: Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Institute of Historical Research. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22225. Retrieved 25 October 2013.