East & West Molesey

A Dictionary of Local History

Rowland G. M. Baker, 1972

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It was not until 1870 that Parliament enacted that education should be compulsory for all. Before this the well-off were expected to pay for the education of their children; the lesser trading classes to rely on apprenticeships; and for the poor the only schooling available was by way of charity. In 1787 John Winkins, who had lived in what became Radnor House in Walton Road, left 200 in trust, the interest to be paid to somebody resident in East Molesey to teach six poor parish children to read, write, cast accounts, and sing psalms. The first appointee was perhaps appropriately named Sing! He took up residence in a cottage next to Radnor House. Later masters taught in various cottages in the village and augmented their meagre stipend by taking in fee paying pupils.

From 1811 two church school societies were active all over the country promoting church schools, the National (Anglican) and the British (Non-Conformist). In the 1830s the Government contributed funds to the two societies and in the late 1850s much discussion was held in East Molesey to take advantage of this. In 1860 the two East Molesey parishes both built schools under the National Society scheme; St. Mary's in School Road and St. Paul's in Park Road. In 1876 an agreement was reached by which the girls of both parishes went to Park Road and the boys and infants to School Road. In 1885 both schools were amalgamated under a single board of managers. The boys were transferred to Park Road and the girls to School Road. This arrangement still continues. Both schools have been enlarged at various times. In 1904, because of overcrowding, the infants were moved to St. Andrews Hall where they remained until the present Orchard School was opened by the County Council in 1915.

In West Molesey a parish school was opened in High Street in 1839 but closed through lack of funds in 1879. In this year a School Board under the Education Act of 1870 was elected for the parish, with the power of levying a school rate. In 1882 the School Board bought additional land and a new classroom was built. In 1904 a corrugated iron building was erected in the playground to accommodate the infants. In 1913 the boys and girls were moved to new premises in Walton Road (the present Rivermede School), and the infants moved to the main building. The corrugated iron building was then used for teaching cookery and woodwork. In 1936 a mixed Central School was built in Ray Road to serve both East and West Molesey. This was enlarged in 1939 and divided into two single-sex schools. In 1965 they were reunited as a mixed school.

The infants school at West Molesey transferred to new premises in the late 1930s (the present Sunnymead). The old school buildings in High Street served as an auxiliary fire station during the last war and later as a youth centre. The corrugated iron classrooms were for many years the headquarters of the Phoenix Club and are soon to be used as an amateur theatre.

Hurst Park First School and Church Farm Middle School were built in 1967 and 1970 respectively, mainly to serve the additional population brought about by the Hurst Park residential development.


In 1973, as part of the general reorganisation of education into first, middle and secondary schools, the secondary school was moved from Ray Road to a new site on Church Farm. It was re-named Bishop Fox School, after the sixteenth century bishop of Winchester who was lord of the manor of Molesey and who founded a number of schools and colleges. Rivermede School moved from Walton Road to the premises vacated by the secondary school, and a new school, named After Joseph Palmer (q.v.), was established in the old Walton Road buildings.

The old parochial school in High Street is now used as a church by the Molesey congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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