Furzey Island is an island in Poole Harbour in the English county of Dorset. The island lies to the south of the larger Brownsea Island. Seen from the water, or adjoining land, the island looks like another wild pineclad island. However, hidden in the trees is an oil well and gathering station for the Wytch Farm Oil Field, which is linked by pipeline to Hamble on Southampton Water. The tall oil rig, a big landmark of Southern Poole Harbour is the main landmark between Brownsea and Furzey.
Furzey Island lies within the civil parish of Corfe Castle. The parish forms part of the Purbeck local government district.
The ownership of Furzey Island
At present the 31 acres of Furzey Island are in the hands of Perenco UK, after 27 years under the safe guardianship of BP, whose well-screened wells, occupying only five of its acres, are engaged in a short-term commercial use, tapping into the oil resources that underlie the whole of the harbour and beyond, while the remainder is maintained as a nature reserve.
BP had acquired the island in 1984 from Algy Cluff, a former proprietor of the Spectator magazine. His companies had revived gold mining in Zimbabwe and in the 1970s they set out to recover oil from the North Sea.
In 1980 Algy acquired the island, apparently ignorant of the underlying resource; he intended the simple stone house, built in 1936 for a former owner, the Dowager Lady Illiffe, to be his seventh home.
In making the purchase from a Midlands businessman, Mr Hilton Newton-Mason, who had paid £35,000 for the island in 1969 and kept two wallabies named Fred and Batty on it, Algy Cluff bested a Liverpool lad – a local wine dealer – who had harboured plans to buy it as a ‘boozers’ oasis’. Little did he know that in the first century BC, Furzey’s inhabitants had been trading wine with the Romans – then in Hamworthy. Or that boisterous passengers returning from Poole Market to Wych on the ferry in 1759 had capsized the vessel and, of nineteen passengers, only six had survived by struggling through mud to safety on the island.
On a more sober note, BP won The Queen’s Award for Environmental Achievement in 1995 in acknowledgement of the innovative, technologically challenging and environmentally beneficial manner in which Furzey Island had been developed.