"The first evidence that a post-war musical subculture was beginning to take hold centred in a dilapidated hotel on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. It had been a tourist attraction in the 19th century and, renowned for its sprung ballroom floor, was hosting tea dances during the 1920ís and 1930ís. However, by the mid-fifties it had fallen into disrepair and its owner was not sure what to do with it. It was Arthur Chisnall, a Kingston junk-shop owner, who had the idea of holding weekly dances at Eel Pie Island. and name jazz acts like Ken Colyer, Kenny Ball and George Melly became regular visitors." - from The Eel Pie Club (history)
Dance News, May 1957
[click on pic for full size image]
"I am pretty sure that it started in 1955 as I was finishing Art School in Guildford [Comstock Lode gives the date of the first party as 20th April 1956]. I was at the first night as we knew Arthur Chisnall from his antique shop in Kingston. There was a lot of the crowd there, more of a party atmosphere. Music was trad. Roy Pellett, aided and abetted by myself and Phil Henman, was playing his clarinet up a ladder. Phil sadly passed on two years ago. As the club took shape, passports were issued (I still have mine) - I was helping out on the door with Ginger Terry (named after the colour of his hair). I remember Arthur getting very worried when Acker Bilk or Bob Wallis were playing, about the prospect of the dance floor disintegrating. (I also remember going for an audition as banjo player with Acker... With me was a mate from school, Ian Stewart, also with the dreaded banjo. He didn't get the job either, but then, when you see what happened to him, I dont think it bothered him too much.)" - Chris Mitchell (June 2003)
Eel Pie flyers (1957)
"Chas, who a few years later was squatting in Grosvenor Road, had been one of the people involved with Arthur Chisnall in running Eel Pie in the late 50s / early 60s and had some great tales of those times, including the restoration job they did on the famous dancehall floor, and the clearing of the island's main sewer pipe using calor gas (butane) leading to it 'raining shit' over a wide area." - Weed (June 2003)
June / July (1963)
In the early '60s, Richmond and Twickenham became the centre of English r&b, with The Crawdaddy Club and Eel Pie Island being two of the main venues.
"Here's a couple of photos I took of the Stones at the Richmond Crawdaddy - the one of the group includes Ian Stewart the pianist. The 'head' in front of Mick belongs to Chris Dreja of the Yardbirds. I think the first time the Stones played in Richmond was in the church hall just up the back road from the L'Auberge - about 20 people turned up (including most of the Yardbirds and Eric Clapton) to watch Mick Jagger prance about wearing white Anello and Davide's (later to be known as Beatle boots)" - Phil Bird (2005)
People who played at Eel Pie included Cyril Davies, Alexis Korner, Long John Baldry, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, the Downliner Sect, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and David Bowie.
Prince Pan membership card, 1966
Later in the decade it became one of South West London's larger rock venues putting on bands such as the Paul Butterfield Band, Pink Floyd, Family, Genesis, The Who, Edgar Broughton Band, Hawkwind, Stray, Atomic Rooster and Van Der Graaf Generator.
Prince Pan membership card, 1967
"The guy who ran Colonel Barefoots was Cauldwell Smythe and he was also our manager. We supported lots of the big groups headlining there each weekend... Deep Purple, Mott the Hoople, Taste, Black Sabbath etc. We would then be the main band during mid week. We were first called White Lightning, then changed to Thunderzone (the heaviest rock band in the world), a three piece rock band a la Hendrix / Robin Trower, loved and followed by the local Hells Angels!" - Alan Birch (December 2003)
Colonel Barefoots Rock Garden, 1969
Colonel Barefoots Rock Garden, 1970
The dance hall finally closed down in the early 1970s.
There are plenty of refs to '50s and '60s music from Eel Pie Island and other venues in the Richmond and Twickenham area, but very few to the music and the musicians that could be heard on Eel Pie during the first half of the twentieth century. If you have anything from the '40s, the '30s, the '20s or even earlier, please get in touch. Thanks.