Public Houses in East & West Molesey
Rowland G. M. Baker, 1981
BRIDGE COFFEE HOUSE
Walton Road, East Molesey
When Hampton Court Bridge was constructed in 1753, the road we now call Esher Road was laid down as an approach to it for travellers coming from the Portsmouth Road. The inevitable increase of traffic encouraged by this new road, which then of course bypassed the inns in East Molesey village, appears to have been the stimulus for the opening of another hostelry. This was sited in what had previously been a shop at the junction of the new road and Walton Road, opposite to the present police station, on what is at the moment derelict land. From here it could draw custom from both roads, and was given the name "Bridge Coffee House".
We should not be misled by the use of the term coffee house, it was not necessarily just what might be implied by the name. As Defoe informs us: "when you come into them they are but alehouses only they think that the name of coffee house gives them a better air" . It was presumably this "better air" that the proprirtor, a Joseph Carpenter, was aiming at, for he described himself, not as an innkeeper, but as a vintner - a seller of wines . Probably thinking that the clientele to whom he aspired was better suited to sipping wine in the comfort of a coffee house than quaffing ale in an everyday tavern.
That he did, in fact, draw upon the custom of the upper crust is demonstrated by the diary kept by John Baker, a barrister and one time solicitor-general of the Leeward Islands. Who recorded on 7 August 1759: "I went to Garrick's house, thence by boat near bridge and dined Bridge Coffee House, Moulsey" . There the two joined a party which included: Sir Thomas Frederick, of Burwood Park, Hersham; Henry Dodwell, of The Priory, West Molesey; James Norman, owner of the East Molesey gunpowder mills; Mr. Rowlls, the Kingston Brewer; and Edward Lovibond, the poet. That such a company should choose this establishment for their carousel shows that within a remarkably short space of time it had already secured a very high reputation for good food.
An insurance policy, originally taken out on the house in 1749, when it was used as a shop, tells us that it was three stories high, with garrets; of a total value of three hundred pounds. Although this was later increased by a further fifty pounds, after it had become licensed, and a thatched-roofed building was added by the side. It was described as being "on the south side of the road at East Moulsey Com. Surrey being the Corner House on the west side of the Road from Hampton Court new bridge" . This was almost certainly the nucleus of the house later known as "Olde Home", which was eventually demolished in the late nineteen sixties.
Joseph Carpenter, who originally came from Walton-on-Thames, died in 1768 , and the house devolved upon his son Charles. Now Charles Carpenter was a different fellow from his father. He was designated "gentleman", and it seems would not soil his hands or reputation by being in trade. He closed the business down, and by the time the insurance policy to which reference has already been made came up for renewal in 1770, it was defined as "formerly known by the Bridge Coffee House" .
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