East & West Molesey

A Dictionary of Local History

Rowland G. M. Baker, 1972

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Manors were largely self supporting estates administered by a manorial lord, in effect the land lord. At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086) Molesey, or Molesham as the Norman scribes then set it down, contained three manors. Two had been given by the Conqueror to his follower Richard FitzGilbert, later called Richard de Tonbridge, Earl of Clare. Soon after these two manors appear to have been united in the subtenancy of the d'Abernon family. When the d'Abernon's moved from Molesey to Stoke d'Abernon in the twelfth century, their Molesey lands came into the possession of the Priory of Merton, since when the combined manor has been known as the manor of Molesey Prior. Merton Priory retained the manor until the reign of Henry the Eighth, when it was acquired by the King and thrown into his Chase of Hampton Court (see under Honour and Chase).

The third Domesday manor was granted by the Conqueror to Odard, otherwise called Ballastarius, an officer in charge of crossbowmen. For long after this the manor was held from the Crown by the service of providing a crossbowman for the king's army for forty days a year. Odard's heirs seem to have adopted the name de Molesey. Around 1330 Isabella de Molesey married John de Matham who came from a small manor manor of that name at Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Thereafter it was called the manor of Molesey Matham. In the fifteenth century it was divided between two heiresses and the two separate parts were known, rather confusingly, as the manors of Molesey Matham or East Molesey, and Molesey Matham or West Molesey.

These, like Molesey Prior, were acquired by Henry the Eighth and incorporated within his Chase of Hampton Court.

After the Chase was disparked in 1547/8 Molesey Matham or East Molesey was leased to various tenants and the freehold finally sold to James Clarke in the seventeenth century. From his descendants it was acquired late in the eighteenth century by Beaumont Hotham, later Lord Hotham, and his brother in law, Thomas Sutton, owners of the gunpowder mills. Their descendants, Lord Hotham and the Earl of Berkeley, are the present lords of the manor.

The freehold of the manor of Molesey Matham or West Molesey was purchased in 1570 by Thomas Brende and held by his descendants until the seventeenth century, when it passed to the Smyths, to whom the Brendes were related by marriage. Sir Robert Smyth sold it in 1787 to the owners of Molesey Matham or East Molesey.

The manor of Molesey Prior was retained by the Crown, and sub-let to various people, generally, after 1669, to the owners of Molesey Matham or East Molesey. In 1816, under a special Act of Parliament, it was sold to them to raise money to purchase Claremont as a home for Princess Charlotte. Since this time all the manors have been held by the same owners.

It is extremely difficult now to define the exact bounds of each manor, especially as they were never compact areas. The lands were interspersed, not only within Molesey but in adjacent parishes. When they were under the same lordship the estates became even more intermixed, and sometimes lands which were originally in one manor were entered into the court rolls of another. Roughly speaking, however, the land in East Molesey to the north of Walton Road belonged to the manor of Molesey Prior, that to the south, and the whole of West Molesey to the manor of Molesey Matham.

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