Public Houses in East & West Molesey

Rowland G. M. Baker, 1981

Previous Page Index Next Page EUROPA INN


Walton Road, East Molesey


After the opening of the railway to Hampton Court in 1849, and the resultant population explosion in East Molesey, the old village expanded rapidly westward. In September 1850 some thirty acres of land within the rectangle bounded by the present Walton Road, Manor Road, Vine Road, and Hurst Lane, were purchased by an organisation known as the Westminster Freehold Land Society, who laid out the roads and sold off plots for houses.

Freehold land societies were a peculiarly Victorian phenomena, set up at a time when the parliamentary franchise was limited by a property qualification, and political privilege was concentrated in the hands of a comparatively few landed proprietors. The avowed object of these societies was to disseminate freehold ownership (and thus electoral influence) over as wide a field as possible. In effect to enfranchise the rising lower middle classes - the master craftsmen, successful traders, small businessmen, and the like - whose sympathies lay more with the Liberal Party than with the Conservatives. The society purchased the land, laid down the roads, apportioned the plots, and then advanced the capital to the selected members, who were thus able to acquire the property and the right to vote at elections, both of which would be quite outside their capabilities otherwise.

After the passing of the Second Reform Act in 1867, permitting a limited extension of the franchise, the political motivation for land societies diminished, some fell into abeyance, others carried on fulfilling their role as lenders of money for building purposes only. In fact, many of the well-known building societies operating today started off in this way [89].

The middle and working class reformers who formed the back-bone of the freehold land societies were also the principle supporters of the temperance and anti-drink movement [90], and it is significant that a meeting of those members of the Westminster Society who were entitled to allotments on the estate at East Molesey, held on 23 December 1850, was told that their committee had framed a restriction "That no public-house or beer shop, or any common nuisances be allowed on any part of the estate" [91].

Nevertheless, a few years after the freeholders had settled into their homes the commitment to absolute abstinence, desirable though may have previously been considered, seems to have been tempered with a modicum of sound common sense, and permission was conceded to a Mr. W.B. Roberts to erect a public house on a plot in the extreme southwest corner of the estate. An agreement was then drawn up precluding the building of any other tavern or beer-house within the confines of the freehold.

As we have already seen, under the Beerhouse Act of 1834 Mr. Roberts could now open the house for selling beer; but, being on this new suburban estate, he wanted to have a real inn catering for all tastes, and selling wines and spirits as well as just ale. In March 1856, therefore, he made application to the Brewster Sessions for a full Innkeeper's License, but, as it was reported that the house was then still in an unfinished state, the magistrates refused the request [92].

In the following year he submitted the application again, and backed it up with a petition signed by nearly ninety "respectable residents", including almost all the freeholders of the new estate, the Rev. C. Scott, vicar of St. Paul's, the churchwardens and overseer, and even by the landlord of the Bell Inn. It propounded that "it would be a great accommodation to the neighbourhood if this application was allowed; and being situated at the corner of the road leading to the Hurst, it was most eligibly situated to provide for the numerous visitors to the races".

Mr. Cann, the solicitor who represented Mr. Roberts, and himself a resident of Vine Road, said that "he should not have appeared here to advocate this application had he not been convinced from personal knowledge of the desirability and need of this license being granted. As he resided but a short distance from this house, if he thought that by acceding to his client's request a nuisance would be introduced, he should have been the first to oppose it, but he was convinced that a license was required in this part of the parish". He also stated that there was a "highly respectable cricket club established at the house, the members of which frequently required wines or spirits".

The application was opposed by the licensee of the New Inn, who opined that there was already sufficient licensed houses amply to supply the wants of the neighbourhood. A contention with which the bench appeared to have concurred, as they refuse to concede a license [93].

Undaunted Mr. Roberts tried again two years later, and again Mr. Cann presented the case for him, and again the inevitable petition was submitted, signed by an even greater number of residents and influential people, and this time including the plea that a new railway line was projected in the area which would undoubtedly create an increased demand for houses in the vicinity, and that the nearest licensed premises were some way away [94]. The house was not tied to any particular brewery, Mr. Cann added, it had been built entirely by his client.

Again the application was opposed by the landlord of the New Inn, whose solicitor, a Mr. Guy, found a loop-hole which delivered a technical knockout to Mr. Robert's case. The law required that requests for new liquor licenses should be advised officially to the overseers on an approved form. This had not been done, and although the overseers obviously knew of the application - for had they not themselves signed the petition in its favour - the bench had no alternative than to turn it down yet again [95].

A month or so later Mr. Roberts died [96], and the Europa was taken over by his widow, Mrs. Mary Ann Roberts, who doggedly persevered in trying to obtain a full license for the place.

At the next licensing sessions she tried a new approach. In the previous years her husband had been represented by Mr, John Cann, a Molesey resident with a partnership in a firm of lawyers in Lincoln's Inn, and had been opposed on behalf of the landlord of the New Inn by Mr. Guy, a Kingston solicitor who seems to have specialised in licensing cases. Mrs. Roberts' new tactic was to employ Mr. Guy herself, for if he could oppose the application with success, might he not equally successfully promote it? So this year the petition in its favour, which was now signed by no less than a hundred and ninety-six people, was presented by Mr. Guy. And, as no opposition was presented, the justices at first granted the license.

However, the next suit to come before the bench was an application on behalf of the Victoria Tavern, at Surbiton, which was opposed in the interest of some neighbouring inns by the same Mr. Guy. Guy's strategy in this case was to fall back on his old trick of pointing out that the legal requirements with regard to the issuing of the proper notices had not been complied with. Now the magistrates dearly wanted to grant this license to the Victoria and were not too pleased with Mr. Guy for bringing forth this legal impediment which frustrated their plans, and which, on the advice of their clerk, they were forced to accept. But Guy had been hoist with his own petard, for the beaks now called him back and pointed out that as exactly the same procedure had been adopted with regard to the Europa as with the Victoria, if it was wrong in one instance it was also wrong in the other, and they had no option but to withdraw the license already issued to the Europa. He had been too clever by half, in winning the case for one client he had thwarted the chances of the other, and although he protested that the license once issued it could not be withdrawn, the bench did so. And he had only himself to blame, for it was he who had caused the situation and he was forced to accept it [97].

In the following year the whole rigmarole was gone through yet again, the formal application, the issuing of notices (this time correctly), the numerously subscribed petition ("signed by at least nine-tenths of the parishioners"). This time there was nobody in opposition, all legal requirements were complied with to the letter, and after five years after the original application had been made, the license which allowed the Europa Beerhouse to become the Europa Inn was issued [98].

Shortly afterwards Mrs. Roberts relinquished the management, and the license was transferred to Henry Alderton, a master builder, who combined the job of publican with that of running his own firm, but almost certainly spent most of his time looking after his five building employees. Although it was Mr. Alderton's name written on the license issued by the magistrates, and who was ultimately responsible, it seems that the day to day running of the pub was in the capable hands of his wife, ably assisted by their daughter, whom the census returns designate as barmaid [99]. In fact Mrs. Alderton afterwards took over the license herself completely.

It is interesting to note, and also a sign of the times, that in 1871 the inn boasted the services of a full time ostler living on the premises [100]. There was, of course, considerable stable accommodation in the rear of the house, much of which, including the hay loft, still exists.

When originally built the inn had a heavy classical style portico spreading out from the principal entrance, over the footpath to the edge of the Walton Road. Which allowed riders to bring their horses right upto the entrance, to dismount, let the ostler take the beast away to the stables until required again, and still in inclement weather stay in the dry.

The choice of the name "Europa" is a curious one, and is almost unique. As far as the present author can discover there is only one other public house in England so named, and that is in the centre of Liverpool [101]. Its adoption bespeaks not only a knowledge of classical mythology on the part of the person whose choice it was, but presumably the opinion that his customers would appreciate the allusion as well. One wonders, however, how many of the people who frequent its bars today realise the significance of the sign hanging outside.

Europa was the legendary daughter of Agenor, king of Phoenicia, whose beauty captivated the love of Zeus, who approached her in the form of a bull and carried her away to Crete, where she bore him several children, including king Minos.

This mythological association is carried even further, to the adjoining house in Dennis Road, the house in which Mr. Alderton lived, which is called Agenor Cottage, after Europa's father.

Licencees during the nineteenth century:-

            1861 - Mary Ann Roberts

            1862 - Henry Alderton

            1876 - Mrs. Alderton

            1882 - John Howes

            1888 - Alfred Bard

All books copyright © R G M Baker, all rights reserved.
Images © 2006 M J Baker and S A Baker, all rights reserved.
Web page design © 2006 M J Baker and S A Baker, all rights reserved.