Church Island, River Thames
thumb Church Island or Church Eyot is an inhabited island in the River Thames in England on the reach above Penton Hook Lock in Staines upon Thames, Spelthorne, Surrey. It is in the upper part of the reach. It is approximately 200m above Staines Bridge and is thought by a minority of historians studying local Roman artifacts to have been the site of the crossing of the major river in the town centre, the focus of its Roman forerunner settlement or mapped and defended river crossing in their roads network, ad Pontes.
This inhabited islet connects by a footbridge to Church Street, Staines, adjoining The Lammas recreation ground and mini-golf course and 100m below the oldest of the town's three Anglican churches, a Grade II* medieval structure. The church is on a small rise, elevated 5 metres above river level, and 21 metres above sea level, as such, from its steeple the island is visible. The island is 100m long and almost trianglar, and rises no more than 1 metre above river level.<ref name=os>Grid square map Ordnance survey website</ref> 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 WNW/ESE axis above Staines Railway Bridge and different, north/south axis below that bridge. Staines Bridge is 200m downstream.<ref name=os/>
Roman Bridges across the Thames were built here soon after the invasion of Claudius in 43 AD. The Roman name for the wider area was "ad Pontes" (plural of "at the bridges") as today, more than one bridge. 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 the each of the town's rivers: the River Colne and then the Thames backwater via Church Island, in which case three bridges were in today's Staines in total. Alternatively the bridge may have been to an island. A county history of Susan Reynolds (1962) says Egham Hythe had a larger island that Church Eyot directly across Staines Bridge 1754, which remained until the early 20th century part of Middlesex and the parish of Staines. 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 medieval period.
- Islands in the River Thames