The beautiful island in the River Thames that helps supply the Royal Family with electricity using giant 40-tonne screws

The many islands that dot the Thames are quirky little places with a myriad of stories surrounding them. They are great fun to explore and investigate. One of them is so special that it actually has the distinction of supplying electricity to the Queen!

Yes, according to author Miranda Vickers who has spent four years exploring the islands, Romney Eyot which is in the Thames near Eton is actually two very long thin islands separated by a weir at a place called Toll’s Hole. The islands are covered with trees and meadows but have always been connected by a kind of bridge between them.

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Eton College viewed from the River Thames. School still holds fireworks over Romney Eyot every June 4

A popular spot for fishing, there were once plans to build a railway along the island, but to prevent this Eton College, which is just upriver, decided to buy it. Even to this day, on June 4 each year, the boys of Eton College celebrate the memory of King George III for supporting the school with a large fireworks display over the island. It is part of a much larger celebration on the river described in ‘The Eton Book of the River’ by L Byrne.

It describes how the fireworks tradition began in 1891 when the death of the school headmaster forced the postponement of the usual celebrations and the transfer of the fireworks display to Romney Eyot from a smaller island called “Fireworks Eyot “. Apparently, this change proved so successful that the new location stuck.

Romney Eyot is a nice place to walk

More interestingly though, two giant Archimedean screws were installed next to the island in 2011 at the weir to generate electricity for the Royal Family at Windsor Castle. This was in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Romney Eyot Dam

In 2013 the BBC reported that the screws, which are connected to a gearbox, produced enough electricity to power Windsor Castle and more at around 200kWh per hour. But the amount of energy from the screws designed by Southeast Power Engineering depends on the river conditions.

The state-of-the-art screws weigh 40 tons each and are connected to generators that deliver 320 kW per hour at peak output. Next to them is a fish tube so salmon, trout and eels can get around the screws without getting chewed up.

The traditional ‘Fourth of June’ day celebrated at Eton College with speeches, cricket matches, boat processions and fireworks in 1952. Here three of the schoolboys bring ice creams in keeping with the fine weather

After exploring the island, Miranda says it is a great place to walk around, especially because of the sound of water rushing through the weir combined with the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves of the tall poplar trees with ends of the island. She says the central channel between the islands also forms a lagoon which is quite beautiful.

Like many islands, it’s a fascinating mix of history, tranquility and innovation. Definitely looks like one to explore if you’re near Eton anytime soon!

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