A Rave on Eel Pie Island in August 1960

Eel Pie Island, 31st August 1960

Eel Pie Island, 31st August 1960

I found these rather fantastic photographs from Google’s Life magazine collection. They feature some teenagers at a ‘rave’ on Eel Pie Island at Twickenham on a Wednesday night August 31 1960. There is practically no other information other than the photographs were taken by a Peter Hall (I’m presuming not the theatre impresario who became Sir Peter Hall).

Does anyone know anything about the parties held on the island at the time and what kind of music would they have been listening to? Was it some kind of jazz? There seems to be a sort of young scruffy beatnik sort of style going on.

Two girls called Marian Dawson and Kathleen Mayo, the original caption makes sure that we know that Kathleen is holding her boyfriend's drink while they are drinking apple juice.

Two girls called Marian Dawson and Kathleen Mayo, the original caption made sure we knew that Kathleen is holding her boyfriend's drink while drinking apple juice.

Dirty feet on Eel Pie Island

Dirty feet on Eel Pie Island

The wall decoration is described as 'beatnik graffiti'.

The wall decoration is described as 'beatnik graffiti'.

The two girls would be around sixty eight now.

The two girls would be in their late sixties now.

Charles Mingus – Boogie Stop Shuffle
Charles Mingus – Better Git It In Your Soul

Buy Charles Mingus’s Ah Um here

Peter Hall’s Eel Pie Island photos are here


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44 Responses to “A Rave on Eel Pie Island in August 1960”

  1. Lissa says:

    One of those 2 girls is clearly Darlene from Roseanne. She’s doing very well for her age.

  2. nickelinthemachine says:

    I was hoping for some serious replies Lissa. Stop wasting my time, I’m watching Gossip Girl.

  3. Simon says:

    I think I’m in love with the blonde. She’s kind of…grubby…

    Great pictures!

  4. davyh says:

    Fab pics. Hugs to the brunette clutching her boyfriend’s pint.

    Some stuff about the Island here Rob.

    ‘It was very difficult not to get laid on Eel Pie Island’ – George Melly (!)

  5. nickelinthemachine says:

    Thanks Mr Melly (! indeed) I love it when you see old pictures and you wish you could have been there. It’s extraordinary how the photos look so contemporary isn’t it?

  6. Mick Farren says:

    Sad to say the music would have been so-called trad jazz of the Chris Barber/Acker Bilk ilk.

  7. Lyle Hopwood says:

    Yes, it was jazz. There’s a write up in Time Out and some pictures and memories at http://www.eelpie.org. I’ve looked before and there’s surprisingly little info on the web for such a famous and long lived London landmark.


  8. Dick Headley says:

    I’m pretty sure I shared a sleeping bag with the blonde one on Brighton Beach.

  9. slyme68 says:

    didn’t cliff harper, anarchist illustrator and later known for his woodcuts in the guardian live at eel pie island when it was squatted in the late sixties? i think he writes of it “the education of desire” collection. i don’t think he liked it very much…

  10. For anyone who’s interesetd I am co-author of a book called Eel Pie Island, which covers the musical history in depth. Not published until October this year, but available for pre-order on Amazon.

  11. Rob says:

    I think the blond girl might be Gillian Hills, starred with Adam Faith in “Beat Girl”, did some songs with Serge Gainsbourg – she would’ve been on this sort of scene in the late 50s early 60s, and it’s Life magazine, so some shots probably staged.

    Here’s a few links;




  12. nickelinthemachine says:

    Hmm, I think you may be right. Gillian Hills was 16 in 1960, so just the right age I should think.


  13. roger pettet says:

    What a great web-site. I’ve been on it for 3 hours.
    I’ve re-lived my life fro 16 to 23 and currently here at Eal Pie Island.
    Long John had a bed in the hall of our flat in those days and we’d go with him to Eel Pie. I remember him singing with Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner and then when with his band after Cyril died. I recall hearing Rod Stewart there for the first time, this must have been right after the famous “meeting on the station.”
    I love others references to names “do you remember…?”
    Funny how we all had monikers. Mine was “Prof” and I remember “Libby”Mick (I believe he’d done a Libbys commercial at some time,) “Jewish Jerry”-a West End Face-along with “Hotdog George”
    who, needless to say, had a hotdog stall in Soho at the time.
    Klooks Kleek down the road from our flat and those great nights listening to the Steam Packet-John, Jules, Rod, Dickie Hekstall Smith, Brian, Micky Waller. Another flat-mate at the time-Gus Dugeon who of course later became Elto John’s record producer.
    Love the reminiscing. Some of our “friends” from those days became famous, some sadly have died, but those of us who moved on to maybe less glamourous lives and are still around have to consider ourselves blessed that we were part of that scene that certainly shaped my life and who I am today. Hello and Peace to you all.

  14. Daniel says:

    I’ll have to speak to my mum, she went to Eel Pie Island many many times from about 1956 till the very early 60s.

    I know she has mentioned George Melly being there & befriending film actor Peter Lorrie’s son too.

    Mum would often sleep under the stage with many others too, this was all before The Stones started playing there, she has often talked of the old Eel Pie Island Hotel & its ballroom with its sprung floor many times, I hear it burnt down in the end.

  15. Nigel says:

    Not sure, but the girl on the left looks like a young Carol White, the actress. Good friend of my sister’s!

  16. Kay Lobar (Kate) says:

    Unlike the “staged” picture of the two girls, the couple dancing in the photo “Dirty Feet on Eel Pie Island” are John Davies who lived in Putney and Maureen Trusty who married Dave Brock (Hawkwind). It’s so nostalgic to see these as I spent many great evenings on the Island from 1959 to the early 60′s.

  17. Brenda O'Connell used to be Howard says:

    I had a website from the 1960′s about eel pie but it was deleted from Geocities when they closed down. We went there in the 1960′s. Loved the Old Gal at the toll bridge. Used to hang with the gang at Richmond on the riverbanks.Anyone hear from Camberley Rob or Dave Hamlin. We wondered what happen to them. Found Bristol Alan. We live in Canada now. Would love to hear from anyone that used to frequent eel pie. As we lost all our contacts with the website

  18. Weed says:

    Brenda, hope you and Bob are well — can you email please? thx – Weed

  19. Claire says:

    My friend Jean Black used to go to Eel Pie Island A LOT ‘back in the day’ … She was telling me about it yesterday.. (which is what made me come and look it up now) .. Little tiny lady.. she described HERSELF as ‘Looking like a Gypsy girl.. but with hair like pubes!’ … haha

    She says she remembers the (Old) woman that used to collect on the money on the bridge… and how she would chat and laugh with her.. (and how she always thought she looked like a witch from a childrens book.

  20. Claire B says:

    Yes, it would definitely have been trad jazz in those days (my dad used to go, and I live not too far away – the place is a local legend!)

    Another place, not too far from Twickenham, that you might want to check out is the old Station Hotel in Richmond where people like Alexis Korner played and bands like the Rolling Stones began their careers…

  21. Tony West says:

    Only went to the island once or twice with friends, must be about 1963/64, R&B music then, yes the little old lady did look like she was straight from the pages of Hansel & Gretel, she collected a shilling from everyone. I remember standing on the dance floor and a girl asking me to dance, I said “Sorry I don’t dance” which was ludicrous really seeing as you were bopping up and down on that sprung dance floor just by standing there. Back in the very late 90′s I used to drive limo in Vancouver Canada and I took Long John Baldry home a few times, I said to him once “You’re a long way from Eel pie island John”, he replied “Oh gosh yes”! Poor guy died with not too much money to his name and friends collected for his send off.

  22. peter brown says:

    Every one wore bowler hats, used to go there all the time music trad jazz. I am now 72

  23. ray says:

    does anyone know simon dunne from the hotel days,apparently he used collect tho rent,

  24. Vaarta says:

    I was married on Eel Pie Island last year in a garden next to dear Trevor Bayliss’ house who is still going strong. I am really keen to uncover some photos from the Hotel era. I represent music photographers from this era so I have a double interest. Anyone who can help please do contact me: vaarta.co

  25. Homer Sykes says:

    Wonderful B/W photos.

    I have a three colour photos taken in either 1968 or 69, in the hotel/ commune of, as I recall a young German ‘hippy’ and her two children. It would be great to be able to add more detail if anyone knows.

    Go to my website and keyword “eel pie 1960s “

  26. Guy says:

    I used to travel on the ‘Eel pie special’ the train from Windsor to Teickenham every Wednesday and Sunday in the early ’60′s , there were 2 old girls on the Bridge with a massive brazier on the winter, the toll was 1 old penny ( half-penny each way ) we used to get there early and scrape enough money to get one person through the door , to show you had paid the doorman used a rubber stamp to print on your wrist , early on the stamp pad was quite wet so the person going through would come straight out and we would then transfer the stamp on to another 2 wrists , it was a bit faded so we had to wait a couple of hours to chance going in when everybody elses stamp would have faded. Apart from the now well known bands I will always remember Sonny Boy Williamson with his big toe sticking out of his sock !

  27. Emmdee says:

    I’ve still got my membership card!
    I remember the bridge – cant remamber the old lady collecting pennies, but in those days, being young, old people were invisible……… Hrrrmmmm
    I do remember the sprung dance floors, not designed for the punishing we gave them, and I remember that the upper balconies were supposed to be closed off because (at that time) they were declared unsafe, but of course we went up there!
    It was the blues which attracted up from Southampton, in a Humber wartime staff car http://www.flickr.com/photos/10163027@N05/4627850898/in/set-72157624109005910
    We used to go to Ronnie Scotts, etc etc and because the clubs chucked out at 2am we went to the Covent Garden area for breakfast….
    I’ve been back to the Island since, and of course they had to replace the bridge,and the Hotel’s gone – but its still a very independent individual’s place, and I would give an eyetooth for a plot of land! …… or mooring?

  28. Brenda Howard Now O'Connell says:

    The music then was jazz or the Jug Bands. We mostly did the Trad dance to the Jazz bands. Alexis Korner and Long John Baldry were regulars

  29. Peter John Keating says:

    yes , i rmember the old lady on the bridge collecting a penny a time. also remember John Mayall etc. and the sausages and beer

  30. Bruce Hellingsworth says:

    I spent most of the 60s going to the ‘island’, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Yes I do remember the old lady collecting a penny as you crossed the bridge, the ‘bouncy’ dance floor and the foot prints on the ceiling of the bar. Some of my visits to the ‘island’ were a but hazy – well it was the 60s and we had to pass 3 or 4 pubs after leaving Twickenham station. I met my wife over there and yes we are still together some 48 years later. But most of all it was the atmosphere and the people that made it a special. Some of these are no longer with us and a few other we do keep in touch with. If the place was still open today we would still be going, still enjoy a bottle of Newcastle Brown.

  31. Ray Lovegrove says:

    Hi all,

    Just came across the site which has brought back many memories of the 60′s when I was working on the door – great times, never to be repeated and a pleasure to have lived the dream with you.


  32. [...] * From a British king to rock n’ roll : the slippery history of Eel Pie Island. Also, a rave on Eel Pie Island in August 1960. [...]

  33. Norma temperton says:

    In the 60s I was forbidden to go to Eel Pie Island but many of my friends did. My parents were very strict and it had a bad reputation. It was a shame because I would have enjoyed it.

  34. stella rosenoff says:

    I began going to the island in 1962. became great friends with Arthur, and we were still in touch up to his death.

    last saw Arthur around 10 years ago. I keep a photo of us both, taken then, in my sitting room. always say hello to him when listening to the music that takes me back.

    would love to hear from any one who remembers me. I remember bridget, Harold, graham married to rene, went to Canada, jean – arthur’s partner; auri, another partner. neil pharaoh…lots of faces, not many names! oh, and big john on the door. wendy and I used to get beer from the bar for him.

    a great place, great times – all thanks to a great man – Arthur.

  35. Hi Rob

    You may be interested in finding out more about Eel Pie Island on the above FB page. Would be good to hear from you… and if you like, LIKE our page. Lots more to come

    All the best


  36. If anyone else is interested in finding out more about the wealth of 50s and 60s music heritage of Richmond, click the link and like the page…




  37. We’d also be very interested to hear from anyone with videos, photos and memoirs of Eelpiland and Crawdaddy club or any of the other music haunts in London in the 60s that were pivotal in promoting the many iconic bands of the time. Please email me on end@cotts.co.uk


  38. Domonic says:

    We were regulars at Eel Pie in late 50s early 60s. Can remember the music being stopped if the stomping got the dance floor vibrating too much. Arthur was a great guy and was flexible on the entry fee if you were short. We sometimes got a lift with the bands if they were going back to jam at Ken Colyers all nighters as they often did.we are still in touch with Karl and Ginger Eddie and other survivors and keep on raving round the Jazz,folk and bluegrass festivals. Domonic & Mary

  39. Giselle Houston says:

    I too used to travel Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday by train from Windsor, Where I come from, as you, Guy. I used to love going to the Island and some fun times. The lady on the bridge when I went there mid 60s was called Rosie and I then had to pay four old pennies to go and come back. If you came later in the evening you got across free as Rosie did not stay too late. Colin on the door stamping your writs. You had to watch where you walked at times with the bits of floor that were rotten. Drinking Newcastle brown ale from the bottle. Odd Police raids, messing the evening up. I still have my eel pie passport. Trad jazz dancing. Spencer’s washboard kings and many more. George Melly and friends were a regular sight in the pub. I went to a get together in summer 05 for to celebrate Arthur’s birthday. Colin from the door was there. I went there with a girlfriend I knew from the eel pie days that we are still in touch with.

  40. David says:

    I was at Kingston school of Art from 1955 to 59 and spent a lot of time on the island. I’m old enough to remember crossing over on the punt ~ or ferry before the bridge was built, and helped little Paul with the murals. The dark girl in the famous photo was called Helen, though I’m afraid I forget her friends name. If your out there helen I’d love to hear from you Shan.

    P.S I have a few photos that were taken inside the hall of myself and my girlfriend Monica at the time, which I guess would be 1959 ish

  41. Clive Higgs says:

    I first went to eel pie island before the bridge was built using the ferry. After the bridge was built you would have people jumping off it. My footprints are on the ceiling in the bar room. I saw the Stones, Georgie Fame, Long John Baldry and many others. we went to see the museum recently and it brought back good memories.

  42. I knew both the ladies in the first photograph very well, especially the dark one whose name was Helen.. I forgotten the blonde ladies name now, but she is wasn’t Gillian Hill as someone suggested. It’s a very long time ago now, but as far as I recall, she was a bit younger than Helen when that photo was taken, being at a guess, about 17.

    The photos were taken and first published in a paper called Weekend” I was there when they were taken and was in one of the photos they published as were a number of others.

    The music was definitely Tad, with the bands being Acker Bilk, Terry Lightfoot and Kenny Ball plus a few others. This would have been a year or so before R@B began to take over from Trad, and then came the Stones.


  43. peter hall says:

    I am the Peter Hall photograhper in question who shot ths Eel Pie Island pix while at Keystone Press Agency where just turned 21 I was the youngest photojournalist ojn Fleet Street, beating Terry O’Neil by about two months. It was one of my first feature jobs for Keystone and required several trips late at night. It paid off because I was also on commission and Weekend Magazine published the photos in a major spread, and later The Sunday Times. Fortunately, I still have 16×20-inch prints of them for old times’ sake. Music was Temperence Seven jazz and similar. Now living in Cornwall after an adventurous life publishing a newspaper under Papa Doc in Haiti which will soon become a world’s best seller! AGENTS PLEASE MAKE CONTACT.

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