Public Houses in East & West Molesey

Rowland G. M. Baker, 1981

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Bridge Road, East Molesey


After the closure of the Bridge Coffee House in the late 1760s [102] it became clear that a need existed for another public house in this part of East Molesey. The opening of Hampton Court Bridge had not only intensified the volume of traffic using this route, but had contributed largely to the ribbon development of houses, large and small, almost all the way from the old village upto the bridge, on both sides of what we now call Walton Road and Bridge Road.

Across from the Coffee House was a large cottage with a garden running down to the River Mole, which belonged to Thomas Martin the proprietor of East Molesey Mill [103]. Martin had made a substantial fortune from the profits of his milling business, which he invested heavily in real estate throughout the district.

This house was leased to a man named John Benham who opened it up as an inn about 1766, and called it the Kings Arms. It soon became a part of the community life of the village. On 22 September 1767, the East Molesey vestry minutes record that the meeting was "Adjourned till the 27 Day of the said month to the House of John Benham", which was further described as, "one of the Usual Houses of meeting", which proves that by then it had already become well-established [104].

In 1788 a friendly society was started by the local working men, who chose the Kings Arms as their lodge meeting place [105].

At the height of the threatened Napoleonic invasion scare in 1803, a gathering of parishioners was called at the Kings Arms for the purpose of receiving names of people willing to serve as special constables, and twelve men put themselves forward, including the licensee, Mr. William Turner. The following week the deputy lieutenant of the county attended at the inn to administer the oath and swear the men into their office. It wasn't entirely an unrewarding job for Mr. Turner having the meeting at his house, and he being the overseer, for in the following year an entry in the accounts records "to Mr. Turner for Beer to Volunteers and Special Constables, 2 12s.6d."; whilst Mr. Davis, landlord of the Castle, had to be content with just 17s.10d. as his share [106].

In the early years of Queen Victoria's reign a daily omnibus service was started between Addlestone and London, which called at the Kings Arms to pick up passengers each morning at a quarter past nine and returned at a quarter past six in the evening. Surely the first commuter service from Molesey to Town [107]. The earliest buses had been introduced onto the streets of London by George Shillibeer in 1829, and sanctioned by Act of parliament in 1832. They quickly spread around the surrounding country.

In addition the carrier, William James, from Weybridge called every other day, travelling to town on Tuesdays and Fridays, and returning on Wednesdays and Saturdays. And most probably also conveyed those passengers who were unable to afford the luxury of the more elegant omnibus, but who were prepared to amble along in the slower, bumpy, springless, and cheaper, goods van [108].

In 1807 Thomas Martin's son sold the property to the licensee, William Turner, in whose family it belonged for the next fifty years or more. Although it was for some time leased to the Rowlls brewery company (later Hodgson's) of Kingston [109]. It afterwards became part of the Courage group.

The licensees of the Kings Arms tended generally to stay longer here than at most pubs. In nearly one hundred and fifty years only six hosts are recorded. They were:-

1767 - John Benham

1780 - William Turner

1822 - William Neale

1853 - Thomas Edwards

1871 - John Leat

1882 - William Leat (son of above)

Notes on some landlords:-

JOHN BENHAM: He was overseer from 1771 until 1775, and surveyor of the highways in 1778.

WILLIAM TURNER: Was parish clerk for a number of years after 1775, and churchwarden from 1793 to 1795. He purchased the inn from the owner in 1807, and retired in 1822, to live in the house which was formerly the Bridge Coffee House, and which his son ran as a farm. He died in 1830 at the ripe old age of ninety-two [110].

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