Sonning Eye

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Sonning Eye
Sonning Bridge from the Sonning Eye bank of the River Thames
Sonning Eye is located in Oxfordshire
Sonning Eye
Sonning Eye
 Sonning Eye shown within Oxfordshire
OS grid reference SU7576
Civil parish Eye & Dunsden
District South Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Reading
Postcode district RG4
Dialling code 0118
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Henley
Website Eye & Dunsden Parish Council
List of places

Coordinates: 51°28′34″N 0°54′56″W / 51.4760°N 0.9156°W / 51.4760; -0.9156

Sonning Eye is a hamlet on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England, in the civil parish of Eye & Dunsden (one of its four small settlements), at what is since 1974 the southernmost tip of Oxfordshire.


Sonning Eye is about 3 miles (4.8 km) northeast of Reading, Berkshire. Sonning Eye is opposite the village of Sonning, Berkshire, to which it is linked by crossing the 18th century brick-arched Sonning Bridge combined with Sonning Backwater Bridges.

Built Environment

Sonning Eye is surrounded by the alluvial floodplain of the River Thames, much of which has been extracted for gravel, forming a number of lakes, especially upstream on this bank. In particular, a long rowing lake has been made, the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake, named after Olympic oarsmen Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. Other local sports include sailing and water skiing. Berry Brook, a small tributary runs through the floodplain west and north of Sonning Eye, joining the Thames at Hallsmead Ait to the northeast.

On the riverside near the Sonning Backwater Bridges is the French Horn, a luxury hotel and restaurant. There is a small public car park here, a place to launch small boats, and a grass area by the river bank that is popular with fishermen.


Its toponym "Sonning" is derived from the Viking/Saxon chieftain Sunna and "Eye" meaning island (cf. eyot) since it is a small gravel mound surrounded by the river's flood plain. Equally however, within this low land is a true (permanent since management of the river levels) island on the Thames.

Until 1866, Sonning Eye formed part of the Oxfordshire section of Sonning civil parish.

The heart of Sonning Eye is a conservation area with a majority, 12 architecturally Grade II listed buildings five of which are barns that have now been converted for modern use. One house has some excellent William De Morgan tiles.

Buildings of the island[edit]

The island is roughly heart-shaped cut through by a narrow mill race which forks into two runs for a few metres at its downstream end. On the islet beside its green lane in the midst of therefore four little bridge is The Mill at Sonning, a restored 18th century watermill on a medieval site converted to a dinner theatre.[1] The millrace runs through what is now the theatre bar, and powers a small turbine powering an 18.5 kW hydroelectric generator that supplies the National Grid.[2]

Set behind this on the island is Mill House a Grade II listed building owning some of the 5 acres (2.0 ha) island . It was originally built in the 17th Century and once owned by the wealthy Rich family, Lords of the Manor of Sonning, hence owning its manor house towards the top of Sonning's Thames Street as well.[3] Sir Thomas Rich generously founded Reading Blue Coat School just south of here in 1766 by endowing it with the income with his neighbouring farmland.[4]

Paintings and Sketches[edit]

The area has been a favourite location for artists, especially views of the old, disused brick bridge and viaduct from the river bank just downstream of the island with surrounding lush flora. George Price Boyce, the Victorian watercolour painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, visited and painted in the area.[5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Mill at Sonning.
  2. ^ The Mill at Sonning: Hydro Scheme.
  3. ^ English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (1047410)". National Heritage List for England. 
  4. ^ Samuel Lewis (editor) (1848). "Somerford, Little – Sotwell". A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 8 June 2013. 
  5. ^ At Sonning-eye, Oxfordshire by George Price Boyce, 1860. (Sold at Christie's, London, 1997.)

External links[edit]

Next island upstream River Thames Next island downstream
Sonning Hill island Sonning Eye Buck Ait