East & West Molesey

A Dictionary of Local History

Rowland G. M. Baker, 1972


Under the manorial system of agriculture most of the arable land within a manor was cultivated on a communal basis. It was divided into large open fields, in each of which tenants had strips of land scattered in various parts so that no one person's share held all the most fertile soil. Crops were rotated from field to field, one being left fallow each year, and everybody had to grow the same crop. The system was uneconomical and it became the ambition of most tenants to run their holdings together and cultivate them independently. This was a difficult process eased by enabling Acts of Parliament from the end of the eighteenth century.

In East Molesey the commonfield system seems to have died away as early as Tudor times, the land being divided into small compact units or closes. In West Molesey the commonfields continued in use until 1821. These were Churchfield, which ran between Walton and Hurst Roads from the church to the Walton boundary; Crossfield, which was on the eastern side of the village across both sides of Walton Road; and Crabstile Field, which covered the land between High Street and the river Mole, south of Walton Road.

Surrounding the arable fields there were common meadows. These had to be hay cropped by the tenants before Lammas Day (August 1st) and came to be known as Lammas Lands. They were then thrown open for grazing. Meadows were technically lands besides rivers and carried a considerably higher value than arable land. In Molesey they lay by the Thames, and were The Hurst, and two separate meadows, one in East Molesey and one in West, both called Lot Mead, because each man's holding was allocated by drawing lots. The manorial waste, i.e. the lands too poor or waterlogged to cultivate, now called commons, were mainly along the flood plain of the river Mole. East Molesey Common covered the land between the Mole and the Ember from what is now the Trocoll Sports Ground to Hampton Court station; Dunstable Common lay between Green Lane and High Street. Commoners, i.e. tenants, had the right to graze cattle on the waste in strict proportion to their holdings in the commonfields.

In 1815 an Act was secured to enclose all the common lands in East and West Molesey and reallocate them to the tenants in rational compact holdings. At the same time the tithes were commuted and the owners received land grants in lieu. The lords of the manors, as lay rectors of the great tithe of East Molesey, received large pieces of East Molesey Common, for which they were charged with the liability of maintaining the chancel of the parish church. The Trocoll Club, as present holders of this land, still have this obligation. The ministers of the two parishes received smaller pieces of land in lieu of the lesser tithes (see Cow Common). Some parts of Dunstable Common were sold by auction in small plots to pay the expenses of the Enclosure Commissioners. The awards made under the Act came into effect in 1821.

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