East & West Molesey
A Dictionary of Local History
Rowland G. M. Baker, 1972
The Hampton Court United Gas Company was formed in 1851, with works for the production of gas at Hampton Wick. One of its chief promoters was Francis Jackson Kent, who was then busily engaged in laying out the Kent Town estate. Probably due to his influence the area which the company supplied was extended to include the Moleseys. In 1867, by a special Act of Parliament, this area was confirmed and further extended, and 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. This was supplemented later by another coming over 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 take advantage of it and light the streets. Lighting inspectors were elected, but could not enforce a rate because they had placed some lamps in Matham Road, which was then a private street, the legality of which was questioned. Therefore for some time they were maintained by voluntary contributions. In 1885 the local Board, who had taken over responsibility for lighting from the inspectors, changed all lamps to oil burning bacause some ratepayers complained of the cost. In 1902 it was decided that the extra brightness of gas lights was well worth the extra expense, and gas lighting was restored. The local paper reported "... needless to say the change from the old oil burners is one that has given much satisfaction to the inhabitants". The lamps were converted to electricity in the early 1930s.
The Act of Parliament, passed in 1871, which enabled the Lambeth Water Company to build the reservoirs in West Molesey (see Waterworks) also empowered them to supply the parishes of East and West Molesey with piped water. The local Board made a bye-law compelling all habitable houses to be connected to the mains.
In the session of 1901-2 the East and West Molesey U.D.C. proposed to promote a Bill into Parliament to authorise them to supply the district with electric power. The scheme, however, was dropped. Two years later a private firm - the Twickenham and Teddington Electric Supply Company - were granted the same facilities by a special Act of Parliament. In 1904 cables were being laid, and houses connected to the mains.
Molesey was connected to the National Telephone Company's system on 1st October 1900. The exchange was in Manor Road next to the Poyntz Arms. A public call office was erected at 44 Walton Road, now part of the Colena Ladies Outfitters, and another in what was Usher's ironmongers shop at 53 Bridge Road, now Littlewoods. The charge was one penny within the Molesey circuit and threepence to either Kingston or London. Later the exchange was moved to a site over the river near hampton church.
East Molesey's first post office was in the Bell Inn, and the licensee - Mr. Pitcher - was aslo 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 merchants business in the same shop. In 1906 Bridge House was bought and adapted as a post office by building a new public office stretching from the old house to the pavement, and by altering the main building for telegraphs, sorting, rooms for postmen and telegraph boys, and residence for the postmaster. After the Bridge Road office was opened the Bell Inn became a sub-office, called "Upper East Molesey Post Office". Later this was transferred to Mr. Kents's chemist shop on the corner of Walton and Spencer Roads. When this shop was rebuilt in 1893 the name was changed to the grander title of "Molesey Park". In January 1904 a further sub-office was opened at Mr. Wallace's drapers 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, where 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 bakers shop, which stood, appropriately enough, on the spot where the present postal sorting office stands. In 1900 it moved to the grocers shop on the corner of Walton Road and High Street where the business is still transacted.
From early times each locality was responsible for maintaining law and order. The two Moleseys, like every other place, elected their own parish constables, and we know the names of some of them from at least Stuart times. By the nineteenth century this fragmentary system of part time law officers was too ineffective to combat the rising crime rate of the bigger towns, and the Metrpolitain Police Force, composed of full time paid constables, was founded by Act of parliament in 1829. At first it covered only the inner London areas, but by an order in council of 1840 the boundaries were extended to cover the outer suburbs, including Molesey. A police station was set up at Ferry Road, Long Ditton, to cover this district. By the 1880s may people were complaining that bacause 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 of Parliament, the land was purchased for the building of the present police station.
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