Over the years we have run a few stories about the houses and residents of Wheatley’s Ait which seems to leave an impression on many of those who have lived there. The antics of Florence Glossop Harris, the esteemed Shakespearean actress and her entourage of luvies was well known in the area.
We received an email from such a former resident, Les Wright and followed up with a current resident, Neil Huntingford who kindly supplied some current photos of the houses which Mr Wright so fondly remembered. Mr Wright wrote: “I came across your magazine recently via the internet and was very interested to read the articles about the bungalow known as Cubiculo on Wheatleys Eyot. My parents first bought this bungalow in the 1950s after selling their converted MTB houseboat (a story all on its own) shortly after my birth.
They sold the bungalow at some time in the 1960s and the family moved to Hanworth. However after a few years they decided they missed the island and the river, and they moved back to another bungalow on Wheatleys Eyot called Le Champignon. After carrying out much work on this over the next few years (it had apparently been empty for some time prior to their purchase) they found out that Cubiculo was again for sale and they bought it back. We then lived there as a family until my fathers death in 1978, and my mother sold the bungalow in 1980.
It was an amazing place to grow up in as a child and I was very popular amongst my classmates being able to offer fishing, swimming and boat trips from my ‘own island’! I am sure I also remember the sleeping huts you refer to in one of your articles as I and my friends used to play in them in their derelict state.
I can recall my mother referring to a group of actors and actresses who used to spend weekends there many years before, although I am not sure how she knew about this as it was well before her time, and we took such stories with a pinch of salt. There was another rumour that Cubiculo was partly built from a wrecked houseboat many years before but I have no way of verifying this. The ground behind Cubiculo was rented from the then Thames Conservancy by my parents and was used as our back garden.
I remember other bungalows on the island; Mon Abri, The Nook, Weir, Minavon, The Kraal etc. It was a secluded, peaceful but thriving community in the 60s and 70s, with many characters, although the inconvenient access and lack of mains water and drainage were of course bugbears, and I can recall being sometimes envious of my friends who lived in ‘normal’ roads and could simply drive up to their front doors.”
Many thanks to Neil Huntingford who lives on that part of Wheatley’s Ait for taking photographs of how the houses look now. You made Mr Wright’s day!