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Thorney Island in 1835 (centre left) before being joined to the mainland with seawalls

Thorney Island is an island (effectively a peninsula) that juts into Chichester Harbour in West Sussex. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel called the Great Deep.


The village of West Thorney lies on the east coast of the island and has been incorporated into a British Army military base which occupies the southern part of the island, south of Great Deep. A coastal public footpath, part of the Sussex Border Path encircles the island, but public access to the south of the island is limited to the footpath and the church of St Nicholas at West Thorney. Walkers using the footpath may be asked by intercom to provide their contact details (name, address and mobile phone number) at the security gates to access the southern part of the island. Walkers must keep to the footpath marked with the yellow posts.[1] During the winter months, fortnightly game shoot is held on Thorney, shooting partridges, pheasants and snipe.

To the south of the island is Pilsey Island, now joined to Thorney Island by a sandbank, which is an RSPB nature reserve.[2] The 2001 census showed the island to have a resident population of 1,079.[3]


The climate of Thorney Island is generally milder than elsewhere in the UK, but slightly cooler than other areas locally due to being quite rural. The record high temperature is 35.2 °C (95 °F) on August 6, 2003 & record low is −9.3 °C (15 °F) on January 13, 1987.[4] The Met Office has an official weather station situated at the Royal Artillery base on Thorney Island.

RAF Thorney Island and Baker Barracks

In 1938 the RAF airfield on Thorney Island was built.[5] Subsequently the Royal Navy expressed an interest in utilising the base. In 1980 West Thorney became host to many hundreds of Vietnamese families, accepted by the United Kingdom for settlement in the United Kingdom.[6]

In 1985, a series of experiments referred to as the "Thorney Island Heavy Gas Dispersion Trials" investigating atmospheric dispersion of gases was carried out on the island.[7]

1984 saw control of the base handed to the Royal Artillery, who remain in control of the base to date. Baker Barracks on Thorney Island is currently home to 47th Regiment Royal Artillery, armed with the Starstreak HVM.[8] In January 2008, 12th Regiment Royal Artillery moved to the island on their return from Germany.[9]

In 2009, the airfield was used as a test track for a British-built steam car hoping to smash the longest standing land speed record. The British Steam Car Challenge team included test driver Don Wales, nephew of the late Donald Campbell and grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell.[10]


  1. "Sussex seashore, Thorney Island, West Sussex". London: The Guardian. 12 June 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  2. "About Pilsey Island". RSPB. 21 March 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  3. "2001 Census: West Sussex – Population by Parish". West Sussex County Council. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  4. "Climate Thorney island". 19 November 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  5. "Thorney Airbase History". Daveg - Tripod. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  6. "A brief History". Thorney Island Sailing Club. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  7. E. Skupinski, B. Tolley, J. Vilain, ed (1985). "Large-Scale Field Trials on Dense Vapour Dispersion". Safety of Thermal Water Reactors: Proceedings of a Seminar on the Results of the European Communities’ Indirect Action Research Programme on Safety of Thermal Water Reactors, Held in Brussels, 1–3 October 1984. Springer Netherlands. ISBN 978-94-010-8701-8. 
  8. "47 Regt RA". Ministry of Defence - British Army. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  9. "12 Regt RA". Ministry of Defence - British Army. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  10. "British-built steam car unveiled". BBC News. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 

Coordinates: 50°49′02″N 0°55′13″W / 50.81722°N 0.92028°W / 50.81722; -0.92028

External links

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