This was a fantastic time for British music and the list of performers at Eelpiland is comprehensive and spectacular, the roll call taking up almost a whole wall of the museum. The club provided a springboard for such groups as the Rolling Stones, who performed there 24 times, earning just 50 pounds to share for their 9th gig. Ironically, on the 55th anniversary of that gig the Rolling Stones performed to a sold out Twickenham Stadium. You can only imagine what that would have earned them. Others to get a start at the club include Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Paul Jones, The Who and David Bowie (then known by his real name, Davie Jones). There were many others.
Sadly heydays are heydays and eventually the club was forced to shut in 1969 due to expensive safety requirements. Hippies moved in to squat in the hotel and started to tear the building down to use as firewood. Eventually this led to the whole place burning down in 1971 so the famous hotel and club are no more.
Luckily all is not lost. It is fortunate that the museum is crammed full of memorabilia from the island's glory days, painstakingly collected by curator Michele Whitby, - photos, receipts, contracts, instruments, even Aker Bilk's trade mark bowler hat and clarinet. The volunteer staff are welcoming and knowledgeable and will offer a free tea or coffee and invite you to choose some music from their vinyl record collection to play while you wander around.
|The instruments that make up a skiffle band|
But the museum is not only about the music scene on the island. It also acknowledges its history as a centre of boat building. There were originally several boat builders on the island. Horace Walpole described Twickenham as a "seaport in miniature". Sadly a major fire in 1996 wiped out many of the boatyards and today only two remain.
The island now has 50 homes and approximately 120 residents. It has also always been a haven for artists and craft workers and still is. It is a lovely, quirky, bucolic place only accessible by boat or the footbridge from Twickenham. I suggest you go there for a stroll after, of course, spending plenty of time at the Eel Pie Island Museum.
Left: Quirkiness on Eel Pie Island
|Celebrating the island's boatyard history|
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. There were a few other people there also and it was such a pleasure to hear them reminiscing and exclaiming over familiar names on the roll call. I particularly like small museums with enthusiastic staff and this music was the music of my youth, nostalgia plus, so what's not to like?
Eel Pie Island Museum
1-3 Richmond Rd, Twickenham, London
Open: Thursday to Sunday 12pm TO 6pm ( push the bell for admission)
Admission: 3 Pounds Adult - under 16 free if with adult
NB: DUE TO COVID-19 THE MUSEUM IS CURRENTLY CLOSED BUT WILL, HOPEFULLY, OPEN AGAIN BEFORE LONG.