The earliest record of Molesey so far traced occurs
in the grants of land made to Chertsey Abbey in the 7th century.
Among these are estates at "Muleseg". The name derives
from an Old English word for an island or river meadow compounded
with a personal name Mul (pronounced Mule). Molesey was Mul's
Island or meadow. The prefixes East and West are not met with
until the beginning of the 13th century, prior to which there
was only one village, and this was undoubtedly East Molesey.
In the Domesday
Survey Molesey appears as three manors, tenanted by knights who
had come over from Normandy with the Conqueror. In the Middle
Ages its isolated position, encompassed by rivers and low-lying
land, probably flooded even more frequently than nowadays, must
have kept the community small and poor.
View of Molesey Lock
was originally part of the parish of Kingston upon Thames, although
from at least Tudor times it had elected its own parish officers
and had other rights which made it virtually independent It was
separated from Kingston under a Special Act in 1769.
Although Henry VIII's residence at Hampton Court may have brought
the village some prosperity, this was offset by the conversion
of the district into a deer park. The Molesey people's complaints
were loud and bitter.
The Green at Hampton Court
most momentous date in East Molesey's history was 2nd February,
1849, when the railway to London was opened. The commuter era
had begun, soon the fields were gradually covered with houses,
and the orchards gave way to villas. Most of the present roads
were laid down or adjusted during this period. The chief developer
was Francis Jackson Kent, a lawyer from Hampton. He bought most
of the land between the Walton Road and the Thames and laid it
out for a housing estate. The district is known as Kent Town.
Of a church on the site of East Molesey mentioned in Domesday
no details survive. It was probably small and built of wood. A
more solid church of mud mortar and flint rubble erected in the
12th century survived until the middle of Queen Victoria's reign.
For many years it had been too small for the growing population.
After being damaged by fire in 1863 the parishioners demolished
it and built a new church which was consecrated in 1865. Of stone,
in the Early English style, it retains a number of old memorials,
the oldest being a brass to Anthony Standen who died in 1611,
a servant to the ill-fated Earl of Damley.
St Paul's Church was built on the Kent Estate which was separated
as an ecclesiastical district in 1856. The church, in Perpendicular
style, was enlarged in 1861,1864 and 1870 - indicative of the
rapid population growth The tower and spire were erected in 1887/88.
From at least the reign of Henry VIII there was a ferry between
East Molesey and Hampton Court. In 1753 it was replaced by a wooden
bridge. This lasted twenty-five years and was replaced by another
wooden bridge in 1778. An iron bridge was erected in 1865 to be
replaced by the present Ferro concrete structure in 1933.
of the quaintest inns in Surrey, The 16th century Bell Inn is
still situated right nest to St Mary's Church Hall. 'Matham Manor
House' (17th century and earlier) and the 'Old Manor House', which
is the newer part of Guillots Royal, still stand in East Molesey,
although the latter was never a manor but the parish workhouse.
In 1866 East Molesey adopted the Local Government Act of 1858,
which authorised the setting up of an elected "Local Board"
in place of the old Parish Vestry. It was the only part of the
new Borough of Elmbridge to have its own elected Council before
the setting up of Urban Districts in 1895. In that year East Molesey
became an Urban District, and eighteen months later took in West
Molesey. Under the Surrey Review Order of 1933 the Moleseys were
merged into the enlarged Urban District of Esher.
lies along one of the most pleasant stretches of the River Thames.
It is a continuation of and much larger than its parent East Molesey.
At the end of the 12th century a church was built, of which nothing
remains and of a later church only the 15th century tower remains.
The rest was rebuilt in Victorian times, though the font, pulpit
and communion table, a piscina and several monuments were preserved
from the earlier building. Some brasses from a memorial to Thomas
Brende, who died in 1598, are fixed to the chancel wall. There
is a black marble monument to Frances Thorowgood, the date of
whose death is inscribed cryptographically.
Molesey Hurst, a long low open stretch of land, lies along the
Thames on the north side of the parish. It was once a common meadow.
The name derives from "Hyrst", an Old English word for
a small wood that presumably once stood here. The land was once
used for sporting activities -archery, cricket, pugilism, horse
racing, golf and occasionally for illicit duelling. The first
game of cricket known to have taken place here was on 13th July,
1731, and the earliest recorded instance of a player being given
out leg-before-wicket occurred here in 1795. Several bouts for
the Prize Fighting Championship of England were fought on Molesey
Hurst in the early part of the last century. One of the earliest
games of golf to have been played on English soil is said to have
taken place here in 1758. Eventually horse racing dominated the
scene. In 1890 Hurst Park Race Course was laid out but in 1962
it was sold for residential development.
The River Thames from Hampton Court Bridge
One of the
earliest balloon ascents in the history of English aeronautics
took place from the grounds of the "Priory", now Molesey
Football Ground, on 5th May, 1785.
In the 18th and 19th centuries West Molesey was much favoured
for the erection of large country houses and in 1900 there were
a dozen or so still in or around the village. Sadly, there are
no good examples remaining. Being further from the railway station
than East Molesey, the parish was later to develop. In the 1930's
when expansion began on a large scale, there were still four large
farms and several market gardens in full production. Since then
the rate of development has increased enormously and the parish
is now well populated.
Words by Walter Koscielniak
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