Thorney Island (London)

Last updated
Green plaque on Siegfried Sassoon's house in Tufton Street, Westminster, London, awarded by the Thorney Island Society Green plaque Siegfried Sassoon.jpg
Green plaque on Siegfried Sassoon's house in Tufton Street, Westminster, London, awarded by the Thorney Island Society
Thorney Street Westminster Thorney Street, Westminster, London SW1 - - 740624.jpg
Thorney Street Westminster

Thorney Island was the eyot (or small island) on the Thames, upstream of medieval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (commonly known today as the Houses of Parliament) were built. It was formed by rivulets of the River Tyburn, which entered the Thames nearby. In Roman times (and presumably before), Thorney Island may have been part of a natural ford where what was later called Watling Street crossed the Thames, [1] of particular importance before the construction of London Bridge.

Its name came from Anglo-Saxon Þorn-īeg, meaning "Thorn Island".[ citation needed ]

Thorney is described in a purported charter of King Offa, which is kept in the Abbey muniments, as a "terrible place". Despite hardships and Viking raids over the next 300 years, the monks tamed the thorny vegetation, until by the time of Edward the Confessor it was "A delightful place, surrounded by fertile land and green fields". The Abbey's College Garden [2] remains, a thousand years later, possibly the oldest garden in England.

The level of the land has risen, the rivulets have been built over, and the Thames has been embanked. There is now no sign of Thorney Island. The name is kept only by Thorney Street, at the back of the MI5 Security Service building; but a local heritage organisation established by June Stubbs MBE in 1976 took the name The Thorney Island Society.

In 1831 the boundaries of the former island were described as the Chelsea Waterworks, the Grosvenor Canal and the ornamental water in St James's Park. [3]

Thorney Island is one of the places reputed to be the site of King Canute's demonstration that he could not command the tides, because he built a palace at Westminster.


  1. "Loftie's Historic London (review)". The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art. 63 (1, 634): 271. February 19, 1887. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  2. Westminster Abbey College Garden.
  3. Comparative account, 1831

Coordinates: 51°29′54″N0°7′44″W / 51.49833°N 0.12889°W / 51.49833; -0.12889

Related Research Articles

Westminster Area of central London, within the City of Westminster

Westminster is a government district and former capital of the Kingdom of England in Central London within the City of Westminster, part of the West End, on the north bank of the River Thames. Westminster's concentration of visitor attractions and historic landmarks, one of the highest in London, includes the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Richmond, London town in London, England

Richmond is a suburban town in south-west London, 8.2 miles (13.2 km) west-southwest of Charing Cross. It is on a meander of the River Thames, with a large number of parks and open spaces, including Richmond Park, and many protected conservation areas, which include much of Richmond Hill. A specific Act of Parliament protects the scenic view of the River Thames from Richmond.

Millbank area and road in City of Westminster

Millbank is an area of central London in the City of Westminster. Millbank is located by the River Thames, east of Pimlico and south of Westminster. Millbank is known as the location of major government offices, Burberry headquarters, the Millbank Tower and prominent art institutions such as Tate Britain and the Chelsea College of Art and Design.

Strand, London major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, London, England

Strand is a major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, Central London. It runs just over 34 mile (1,200 m) from Trafalgar Square eastwards to Temple Bar, where the road becomes Fleet Street inside the City of London, and is part of the A4, a main road running west from inner London.

Victoria Embankment Road and river-walk along the north bank of the River Thames in London

Victoria Embankment is part of the Thames Embankment, a road and river-walk along the north bank of the River Thames in London. It runs from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge in the City of London.

St Jamess Park Royal Park in the City of Westminster, central London

St James's Park is a 23-hectare (57-acre) park in the City of Westminster, central London. It is at the southernmost tip of the St James's area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St James the Less. It is the most easterly of a near-continuous chain of parks that includes Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens.

River Westbourne river in London, UK

The Westbourne or Kilburn is a mainly re-diverted small River Thames tributary in London, rising in Hampstead and which, notwithstanding one main meander, flows southward through Kilburn and the Bayswater to skirt underneath the east of Hyde Park's Serpentine lake then through central Chelsea under Sloane Square and it passes centrally under the south side of Royal Hospital Chelsea's Ranelagh Gardens before historically discharging into the Inner London Tideway. Since the latter 19th century its narrow basin has been further narrowed by corollary surface water drains and its main flow has been replaced with a combined sewer beneath its route.

Lesnes Abbey former abbey, now ruined, in Abbey Wood, England

Lesnes Abbey is a former abbey, now ruined, in Abbey Wood, in the London Borough of Bexley, southeast London, England. It is a scheduled ancient monument and the adjacent Lesnes Abbey Woods are a Local Nature Reserve. Part of the wood is the Abbey Wood SSSI, a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest which is an important site for early Tertiary fossils.

The River Tyburn is a river in London, which runs underground from South Hampstead through St James's Park to meet the River Thames by Whitehall Stairs. It is not to be confused with the Tyburn Brook which is a tributary of the River Westbourne that is the next Thames tributary to the west on the north bank.

Little Deans Yard

Little Dean's Yard, known to Westminster School just as Yard, is a private gated yard at the heart of the school, within the precincts of the ancient monastery of Westminster.

York House, Strand Former string of mansions on the Strand in London, England

York House was one of a string of mansion houses which formerly stood on the Strand, the principal route from the City of London to the Palace of Westminster.

City and Liberty of Westminster

The City and Liberty of Westminster was a unit of local government in the county of Middlesex, England. It was located immediately to the west of the City of London. Originally under the control of Westminster Abbey, the local authority for the area was the Westminster Court of Burgesses from 1585 to 1900. The area now forms the southern part of the City of Westminster in Greater London.

College Green, London public park in Westminster, London, England

College Green is a public park in the City of Westminster in Central London. The gardens are situated behind Westminster Abbey, and to the east of Westminster Abbey Gardens and are adjacent to the Houses of Parliament. The gardens are not enclosed and are accessible at all times. During the Brexit discussions the park was closed due to semi-permanent TV broadcasting points and radio and media interview locations.

St Laurence Pountney Church in Laurence Pountney Hill London

St Laurence Pountney was a parish church in the Candlewick Ward of the City of London. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666, and not rebuilt.

New Palace Yard enclosed square at the north of the Palace of Westminster in London, England

New Palace Yard is an open courtyard northwest of the Palace of Westminster in Westminster, London, England. It forms part of the Palace estate and is not open to the public. The yard has existed since around the year 1100, but it has been considerably reduced in size over the years due to the construction of new streets and buildings, most notably the current palace, which was built across the eastern end of the yard in the 19th century. An underground car park used by Members of Parliament is located beneath the yard. Prior to the construction of the present Palace of Westminster, the yard was an open public space used for a variety of purposes including speeches, tournaments, pilloryings, and executions. It has twice been the scene of terrorist attacks.

Sheen Priory

Sheen Priory in Sheen, now Richmond, London, was a Carthusian monastery founded in 1414 within the royal manor of Sheen, on the south bank of the Thames, upstream and approximately 9 miles southwest of the Palace of Westminster. It was built on a site approximately half a mile to the north of Sheen Palace, which itself also occupied a riverside site, that today lies between Richmond Green and the River Thames.

Eia Former Medieval manor in Middlesex, England

Eia or Eye was an early Medieval manor in the parish of Westminster, Middlesex so has now become a part of Central London, much of which, now known as the Grosvenor Estate, heavily leased to others, is owned by Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster, which in total is worth more than two billion pounds, mostly in commercial rents and development revenue. It was about one mile west of the Palace of Westminster/Whitehall, about 2 miles WSW of the walled City of London, and about one quarter that distance from the present north bank of the tidal Thames. A smaller sub-manor called Ebury or Eybury containing the hamlet Eye Cross, were originally part of the manor. Ebury and a corruption of it, Avery, appear as modern streets and other places.

This is a list of the etymology of street names in the London district of Westminster. The Westminster area has no formally defined boundaries - those utilised here are the generally accepted boundaries of: The Mall and Northumberland Avenue to the north, the river Thames and Victoria Embankment/Millbank to the east, Vauxhall Bridge Road to the south and Buckingham Gate, Buckingham Palace Road and Bressenden Place to the west. For convenience Constitution Hill and Spur Road in the Royal Parks, and the area around the Wellington Arch, are included here, as are the streets in the Leicester Square area.

West London West part of London, England

West London is a popularly, but informally and inexactly defined part of London, England.