The Book of Molesey
Rowland G. M. Baker, 1986
'It is obvious that all business purely local|
— all which concerns only a single locality —
should devolve upon the local authorities'.
John Stuart Mill|
On Representative Government (1861)
The first public utility to bring benefit to Molesey was the supply of gas. The Hampton Court United Gas Company was formed in 1851, with works at Hampton Wick. One of its chief promoters was Francis Jackson Kent, then busily engaged in laying out the Kent Town estate. It was probably due to his influence that the area supplied was extended to include the Moleseys. In 1867, by a special Act of Parliament, the firm was incorporated as the Hampton Court Gas Company, a name it bore until the nationalisation of the gas industry in 1949. The original main crossed the river on Hampton Court Bridge, augmented later by another via Tagg's Island. The area was connected to the gas grid in 1970.
Soon after gas came to the district the parish of East Molesey decided to light the streets with it. Lighting Inspectors were elected, but could not at first enforce a rate because they had placed lamps in Matham Road, which was then a private street. For some time these were maintained by voluntary contributions. In 1885 the Local Board, who had taken over responsibility, changed all the lamps to oil burning, because some ratepayers complained of the cost. In 1902 it was decided that the extra brightness of gas was well worth the extra expense, and gas lighting was restored. The lamps were converted to electricity in the early 1930s.
In 1871 Parliament passed an act which enabled the Lambeth Water Company to build reservoirs in West Molesey and, in order to appease residents during the trauma of having their streets ripped apart to lay the mains, the company inserted a clause empowering them to supply the houses in Molesey with piped water. Thereafter the sanitary authorities made by-laws compelling all habitable houses to be connected.
The supply of electrical power was first mooted by the Molesey Urban District Council in 1901, but for some reason no action was taken. It was adopted two years later by a commercial firm — the Twickenham and Teddington Electric Supply Company. By 1904 the cables had been laid and the first houses supplied.
Molesey was coupled to the telephone network on 1 October 1900, in what was then a commercial system operated by the National Telephone Company. The exchange was in a building in Manor Road next to the Poyntz Arms inn. A public call office was established for non-subscribers at 44 Walton Road, now part of Colena Ladies Outfitters, and another soon after in Mr Usher's ironmonger's shop, now Quality Hardware, at 53 Bridge Road. The charge for a call within the Molesey circuit was one penny, and three pence to either Kingston or London. The Molesey exchange, which was later extended to cover the whole of Hampton and Teddington, was transferred to a site on the other side of the river, near Hampton Church.
East Molesey's first post office was in the Bell Inn, and the licensee, Mr Pitcher, was also the postmaster. About 1867 another office was opened in a shop in Bridge Road, near the Albion Inn. The postmistress was a Mrs Taylor, and her husband ran a coal and corn merchant's business in the same shop. In 1906 Bridge House, No 70 Bridge Road, was purchased and adapted as a main post office, by building a new public office stretching from the old house to the pavement, and by altering the building for telegraphs, sorting, rooms for postmen and telegraph boys, and a residence for the postmaster. After this the Bell Inn became a sub-office, called Upper East Molesey Post Office. This was later transferred to Mr Kent's chemist's shop at the corner of Walton and Spencer Roads, and given the grander title of Molesey Park Post Office. In January 1904 a further sub-office was opened at Mr Wallace's draper's shop on the corner of Walton and Seymour Roads, but in a few years this was transferred to Rowe and Stevens, just up the road, in which shop it still exists.
In West Molesey, like East Molesey, the first post office was in the main hostelry — the Royal Oak. About 1864 it was transferred to Grave's baker's shop, which stood appropriately on the spot where the present postal sorting office stands. In 1900 it moved to the grocer's shop on the corner of Walton Road and High Street. In the early 1950s an additional sub-office was opened in Central Parade.
A volunteer fire brigade was formed in 1872, and the East Molesey Local Board voted a small sum of money for the purchase of hoses, standpipes, a lamp, and a hand cart on which to wheel them around. In 1874 a shed in Park Road was rented at £5 per annum to house the apparatus and the words 'FIRE BRIGADE' were painted on the front. After a meeting was told in 1883 that 'at present they had had not a chance in a hundred of putting out a fire', moves were afoot to purchase a steam fire engine. However, no money for this was forthcoming and it was six years before the village had a fire pump, and then it was only a manually operated one. It was horse-drawn and cost £150, and was operated by men, 13 a side, moving their arms up and down. Thus 115 gallons per minute could be thrown to a height of 125 feet. At the same time new uniforms, hoses, and other equipment were purchased at a cost of £317 3s 6d. The vicar and churchwardens of St Paul's presented the Brigade with a bell to summon the volunteers together whenever the alarm was raised.
The fire station was moved, first to the old Local Board offices on the corner of Walton and Matham Roads in 1887, and then in 1900 to a purpose-built station, which is now the headquarters of the St John Ambulance Brigade.
A horse-drawn steam pump was acquired in 1909. The old manual engine, now a museum piece, is still preserved at the Surrey Fire Brigade headquarters at Reigate. There are some, however, who think that, as it was paid for by local people, a home ought to be found for it in this district. On 24 January 1925 a 32 horse power Dennis motor pump with an extending 35 feet escape ladder was purchased at a cost of £800.
Under the Fire Service Act of 1947, control was transferred to the County Council who, in 1961, closed down the Molesey Fire Station.
Under an Order in Council in 1840 the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police were extended to cover the Moleseys, to take over the tasks previously undertaken by unpaid parish constables. A police station was set up at Ferry Road, Long Ditton but, by the 1880s, complaints were voiced that, because of the large area and the distance away of the station, Molesey ought to have its own police station. In 1899 a police box with a telephone was placed at the corner of Walton and New Roads at West Molesey, and in the next year, under a special Act, the land was purchased for the present station.
A nursing home for local people was founded as a private act of charity by the Dowager Lady Barrow, and opened in May 1890 in a house called Waverley Cottage, next to the Methodist Church in Manor Road. On 27 February 1892 a public meeting was held to appoint a committee to take over the running of the home and raising of funds. In October 1894 the home was transferred to 55 Pemberton Road and renamed the East and West Molesey and Hampton Court Cottage Hospital. It had eight beds and one cot. In 1936 the former isolation hospital in High Street, West Molesey, established by the old Molesey Council, but no longer required for that purpose, was sold to the Cottage Hospital for the nominal sum of £1,000, and the Hospital was transferred to these premises. It was run as a voluntary hospital and served by honorary medical staff. Funds were raised by donations, Pound Days, and the Molesey Carnival, which developed out of an annual parade of Friendly Societies and a sports day. In 1948 the Hospital was merged with the National Health Service.
In Victorian times a small free library was run by the Parish of St Mary. in 1880 this was extended with some 500 volumes donated by Mr Samuel Carter Hall, a well-known author and local resident, to cover the whole village. The books were issued from the Girls' School, at the rate of about 60 a week. In 1926 the District Council was pressed to enter the county library scheme, which had been adopted by Surrey the previous year, but they refused, since it meant raising a rate of a penny in the pound! In 1927, however, they relented, and eventually a hut was erected in the council grounds at Dundee Villa, St Mary's Road. This was used until the present library was opened in 1964.
East Molesey Fire Brigade — Capt A. Angus, second officer D. Higgins, and the Brigade pose outside the fire station with the Dennis motor pump acquired in 1925. Mr Alfred Lincoln appears on this photo, on that with the steam pump, and also on that with the manual pump in 1897.
ISBN 0 86023 251 4
The Book of Molesey was originally published by Barracuda Books, now part of Baron, publishers of heritage volumes - maritime, military, transport, sporting and local. It is made available here with the kind agreement of Radmore Birch Associates.
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