The photochemistry of several α-silylbenzyl compounds has been investigated in hexane and in methanol solution. Direct photolysis of 1-benzyl-1-methylsilacyclobutane (1) in methanolic hexane solution produces 1-propyl-1-methyl-2,3-benzosilacyclobutene (6) in quantitative yield, by a sequential two-photon process involving the photoactive isotoluene derivative 1-methylene-6-(1-methylsilacyclobutyl)-2,4-cyclohexadiene (13a), which has been identified on the basis of its 1H NMR and UV absorption spectra. In contrast, direct irradiation of 1-benzyl-1-phenylsilacyclobutane (2) under similar conditions results in the formation of a complex mixture of products consistent with the competing formation of 1-benzyl-1-phenylsilene and benzyl- and 1-phenylsilacyclobutyl radicals. The silene is a transient which has been detected directly by laser flash photolysis of 2 (λmax = 315 nm, τ ~ 4.5 µs). Free radical formation is shown to be due to secondary photolysis of a second primary product, 1-methylene-6-(1-phenylsilacyclobutyl)-2,4-cyclohexadiene (13b), which has also been detected and identified by static UV absorption (λmax = 335 nm) and 1H NMR spectroscopy. In a reaction with some analogy to the acid-catalyzed desilylation of allylsilanes, both 13a and 13b can be intercepted in neutral or acidic methanol solution to yield toluene and 1-methyl- or 1-phenyl-1-methoxysilacyclobutane, respectively. Direct photolysis of benzyldimethylphenylsilane (4) also leads to the formation of the corresponding isotoluene derivative, while benzyltrimethylsilane (3) exhibits negligible photoreactivity. The endocyclic benzylsilane 1,1,2-triphenylsilacyclobutane (5) is shown to undergo competing [2 + 2]-cycloreversion and [1,3]-silyl migration to yield a bicyclic isotoluene analogue, which reacts rapidly with methanol to yield the acyclic methoxysilane reported previously to be the main product of photolysis of this silacyclobutane in methanol solution. Relative quantum yields for isotoluene formation from photolysis of 1-4 and absolute rate constants for methanolysis of several of these compounds under neutral and acidic conditions have also been determined.Key words: photochemistry, organosilicon, benzylsilane, silacyclobutane, silene, kinetics, isotoluene.