In the first of a new series of pieces about London's local and civic societies, Victor Keegan tells us about Westminster's very own (and very active) residents' group.
The Thorney Island Society was formed in 1985 when it successfully saved from demolition London's first public library in Great Smith Street, Westminster. We are named after the island formed by the meeting of the Tyburn and Thames on which Westminster Abbey, the ancient royal palace, Parliament and Westminster School stood. We believe this place is very special. The tiny area covered by Thorney Island arguably contains more "history" than any other comparable space in Britain and maybe anywhere.
These days our "parish" - where we monitor planning applications and other developments - extends to Vauxhall Bridge, St James's Park and The Green Park. We are also deeply involved with the history of the area. We maintain a small archive of books, prints, plans etc and organise visits to places of local historical interest and talks.
Our current concern is the Government's last minute decision to site the proposed Holocaust Memorial with a subterranean education centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, an area of greenery between Parliament and Lambeth Bridge. We applaud the idea of a memorial but strongly believe it shouldn't be sited on one of the precious few green spaces we have left to us where it would totally change the nature of the garden. We think it should be built either on another part of Thorney Island (the site of the underground car park on College Green) or at the Imperial War Museum, 0.8 miles away which is in any case planning an expansion of its own excellent Holocaust Museum. To split a Holocaust memorial between two sites does not seem sensible.
The Society has a web site at thethorneyislandsociety.org.uk and a Twitter feed @thorneyislandSo. We welcome new members and links with other like minded organisations.
Victor Keegan blogs about the Capital at LondonMyLondon.co.uk and has published a number of iPhone apps about London.