Public Houses in East & West Molesey

Rowland G. M. Baker, 1981

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Bell Road, East Molesey

Before the construction of the present Esher Road, in the middle of the eighteenth century, the only public highway between East Molesey and Esher was by Bell Road, over Tanner's Ford, across East Molesey Common, over Ember Court Ford, and up More Lane. A route crossing at least three rivers or streams, and at certain times extremely wet and splashy. Bell Road (or at least the road we now call Bell Road - it is highly unlikely that it was so known then) was, therefore, the main road through the middle of the village, and the principal centre of activity and traffic.

At the lower end of the road, in the grounds of the house now called "Old Manor House", there was a tannery, in front of which was a row of wooden houses. The last of which, at the further end near to where the road ran down to Tanners Bridge and Ford, was an alehouse known as "The Swan".

In 1758 the owner of the tannery, whose name was Thomas Willett, took out a number of fire insurance policies covering all the properties on the site. From which we find that the Swan was a two storey building, thirty-seven feet by nineteen feet, of timber construction, "situate on the south side of the road at Molesey in the Parish of East Molesey, Com. Surrey", and valued at sixty pounds. The licensee was a widow named Elizabeth Hollis [152].

However, the first landlord of whom we have any knowledge was Mrs. Hollis's husband. The parish Accounts Book records the entry: "Paid for beer at Mr. Wm. Hollises", as early as 1737 [153].

Elizabeth Hollis died in 1764 [154] when she was succeeded by John Goddard, who had previously been her next door neighbour. That the Swan was probably the most well-established inn in the centre of the village at that time is substantiated by the fact that the vestry often met here but do not appear to have patronized the Bell until later. For instance, on 22 September 1768, the minutes record that one meeting was "Adjourned to the House of John Goddard, one of the usual Houses of Meeting" [155].

In 1776 the Bell Inn became vacant, and Goddard realising that the grander and more commodious premises it afforded, so long as the farming interests that had heretofore been associated with it were entirely divorced from the victualling side, would present a greater potential for advance than the Swan. In that year, therefore, it was arranged that he transferred his license to the Bell, leaving the farming portion of that house to others, and permitting him to concentrate entirely on running the inn.

After this the Swan closed as licensed premises and was allowed to revert to a private dwelling. In any case the opening of Esher Road in 1753, which offered a much safer and more convenient highway between Molesey and Esher, considerably less traffic passed its doors than before, and trade must have suffered thereby.

Notes on licensees:-

WILLIAM HOLLIS: Died in 1745, and was buried in the churchyard [156].

JOHN GODDARD: Was overseer in 1768 and 1770, and both churchwarden and parish constable in 1769. He died in 1791, fifteen years after moving to the Bell.

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