Molesey was first mentioned in the mid 7th Century record books when it was transferred to the monastery at Chertsey Abbey. It was referred to as Mulesei or Mul's Island. In the Domesday Book, it became Mulesey when the survey of 1086 showed a community of about 200 people, including villeins and serfs. During King Henry 8th reign, the manor of Moulsey and its land became part of Hampton Court Chase, created to provide a more immediate and accessible hunting area for the Tudor King. It was not until the Victorian period that the title of Molesey was used.
Today, the area of East Molesey has three Conservation Areas of Bridge Road, Kent Town and Old Village which contain a number of statutory and locally Listed Buildings.
Historically, the River Thames was one of the chief highways for trade, as all heavy goods were transported by sea, river and later on by canal. In the 18th Century, barges laden with goods such as coal, bricks and manufactured goods travelled up the river towed by horses or gangs of men and returned with timber, grain, vegetable and farm produce. East Molesey, Thames Ditton, Walton and Sunbury were all locations where goods were landed for later distribution. Movement for the deep laden barges was difficult where the water levels
fluctuated causing shallow waters or where there were strong downward flows after heavy rainfall.
In 1812, a Bill was passed through Parliament to construct the "Moulsey Lock". The construction of four locks at Chertsey, Shepperton, Sunbury and Teddington had previously been approved. Similar to the river bridges, the cost of river maintenance and construction work was funded by raising tolls from river users. The lock was a pound lock design built of wooden piles and wooden panels with handles. By the mid 19th Century, barge traffic declined and as leisure time increased pleasure boats predominated.
The Thames around Molesey Lock was particularly popular with the Edwardians and Victorians. In 1889, Jerome K. Jerome wrote 'Three Men in a Boat' and records "It is Boulter's (lock) not even excepted, the busiest lock on the river. I have stood and watched it sometimes when, you could not see any water at all, but only a brilliant tangle of bright blazers, and gay caps, and saucy hats, and many coloured parasols, and silken rugs, and cloaks, and streaming ribbons, and dainty whites." In 1905 the lock was refurbished, the lock house was rebuilt in the 1920's, and in 1959 the lock was completely restored and modernised with electronic controls for the gates.
The Riverbank marks the start of the Thames
Path National Trail in Elmbridge. The path begins at the source of the River Thames near Kemble in Gloucester and runs 180 miles into the City of London, ending at the Thames Barrier at Woolwich.
At Hampton Court Bridge, the path crosses over and continues along the Middlesex bank towards Kingston. Walking due west towards Walton and Weybridge there are a number of interesting landmarks and remains of local history:-
Major flooding by the Thames is marked by plates dated 1821 & 1894 on the Thames Conservators Offices showing the water levels and another of 1947 on the wall near the lock keeper's office.
Molesey Boat Club which stands at the intersection of the towpath and Graburn Way was built in 1901 to accommodate the Amateur Boat Club founded in 1867. This organised many of the famous boating regattas and its members have competed successfully in the 1992 Olympics.
Taggs Island was named after a local family who owned a major boat building and hotel business. The island, originally used for growing osiers (for willow baskets etc.) was transformed in the Victorian era into a popular society pleasure resort surrounded by elegant house boats. It was then taken over by Fred Karno who created the luxurious 'Karsino' hotel and ornamental grounds. After a chequered career, it was demolished in 1971 and the island returned to become an
attraction for houseboats. Fred Karno's houseboat 'The Astoria' is now moored on the opposite bank near Garricks House.
Molesey Hurst beyond the boathouse saw one of the first recorded cricket matches in 1731, first recorded game of golf in 1758 and was a venue for duels, pugilistic prize fighting and horse racing. The brick and cast iron gates at Graburn Way are all that remain of the racecourse and the area is now a District Park. The two vista lines are being maintained between the spire of St. Paul's Church in East Molesey and Garricks Temple and St. Mary's Cheurch on the opposite bank.
This is an area of public open space lying to the east of the Hampton Court Way and Railway Station. It is opposite Hampton Court Palace where the dark red Tudor brick of Cardinal Wolseys building lies next to the brighter bolder section of Christopher Wren's palace. The ancient English name was the "Sterte" meaning tail of land. Originally, the island was used for growing osiers or willow withies for basket making.
In Victorian and Edwardian times, the riverbanks were lined with houseboats and one particular vessel the "Cigarette" gave the island its present name. The introduction of the railway in 1849 made the area accessible to many visitors and resident commuters, although the station on its part of the island could only
be approached via a wooden bridge. When the present Hampton Court Bridge was built in the 1930's, the River Mole was diverted into the River Ember and the area called The Creek filled in - hence Creek Road.
Hampton Court Bridge
A ferry has run between the two banks since Tudor times and formed a well used route. In 1750, a Bill was passed through Parliament to enable private individuals to build a bridge across the river in its place. It had seven wooden arches and the style looked like the Chinoiserie design of the Willow pattern made popular from the porcelain and wallhangings being imported from China. It was subsequently replaced by another more substantial wooden bridge. In 1865, a new bridge was constructed of wrought-iron lattice girders resting on four cast-iron columns. The approach was between battlemented brick walls, one of which still remains on the Molesey riverbank. The Act enabling private individuals to build the original bridges allowed them to levy tolls on all users and the toll-house built on the Middlesex bank is now part of the Mitre Hotel. Tolls varied from 6d for pedestrians to 2/6d for a horse drawn carriage. In 1876, the bridge was bought and taken into public ownership using revenue from the Coal & Wine tax. Elmbridge is unique in still having 23 of the original Coal & Wine tax posts.
As the volume and type of traffic grew too much for the bridge, work began in 1930 on the fourth and present version. This included the demolition of the old Castle Hotel, the diverting of the River Mole into the Ember, the filling up of the old Creek and a new road, now known as the Hampton Court Way, built to connect with Portsmouth Road. The bridge was designed by W.P. Robinson and Sir Edwin Lutyens R.A. and built of ferro-concrete faced with hand-made red bricks and Portland stone, in the style of the "Wren" portions of Hampton Court Palace. It was opened in April 1933 by the then Prince of Wales, later the Duke of Windsor.
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