Molesey, a small town on the fringes of London, is officially divided into East and West Molesey. The two areas are separated by just a short stretch of residential road, and so are treated as one Molesey by the locals. As well as the usual supermarket, library, station, parks and police station, East Molesey is also the town in which the famous Hampton Court Palace is situated. This Entry will focus on East Molesey1.
The earliest record of Molesey occurs in a land survey of the 7th Century, in which is a reference to estates at 'Muleseg'. This is believed to have its origins in someone's name (Mul, pronounced as mule) and an Old English word for an island or meadow. Molesey was, therefore, an island2 or meadow belonging to someone called Mul. King Henry VIII's palace at Hampton Court raised the status of the area, and when the railway to London opened in 1849, Molesey began to truly grow towards what it is today. The first bridge was built across the Thames in 1753, and has been replaced with a succession of newer bridges since.
More about the history of East Molesey (including where West Molesey comes into it all) can be found at the website of the Molesey Residents' Association.
Around East Molesey
Starting at the eastern end of East Molesey, there are just two ways in: from the Middlesex side, across the River Thames on Hampton Court Bridge; from the Surrey side, up Hampton Court Way from Esher. Hampton Court Bridge is not a good place to be in the morning rush hour; however, the pavement is divided with a separate lane for cyclists, saving a lot of time on the morning commute for the more ecologically-minded.
Hampton Court Station
Travellers entering East Molesey from either the bridge or from Esher will end up outside Hampton Court's small branch-line station. Despite its end-of-the-line feel, with two platforms and not very many staff, it still manages to maintain a good service, with two trains an hour to Wimbledon, Clapham and London Waterloo3. Beware of the odd gyratory effect opposite the station - there is a rather strange road layout with four ways in and two (completely different) ways out.
Hampton Court Emporium
Once at the station, Creek Road leads away from the car park and towards the heart of East Molesey. The first thing it passes is the so-called Hampton Court Emporium. No-one is quite sure what this does. It used to house a small sub-post-office, but this was closed in 2003. There is a cash machine in the wall, and a bank sign on the wall, although it seems an odd place to put a cash machine without a bank in sight. It also professes to be a Tourist Information Office, but doesn't seem to make the fact very obvious. Apart from all of this, it appears to sell antiques4.
Banks, Police Stations and Walton Road
On towards the centre, and past the only bank at the eastern end of Molesey, is a sub-branch of a national bank. While it manages to operate as a bank at times, it only does so between 10am and 2pm on weekdays, and can only handle simple things like giving people money. Anything complicated such as paying in a cheque has to be sent off and handled by the Walton-upon-Thames branch about five miles away.
As if to confirm the fact that everything in Molesey is a sub-branch of something, we then arrive at a roundabout with Molesey's small police station. This building is open between 7pm and 9pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and between 10am and 12midday on Saturdays. When passing, you may notice that it appears to be open at a lot of other times as well. This is a trap. Do not attempt to understand it.
Turning left at the roundabout leads us back into Esher, whereas turning right leads onto Walton Road, and what is known as Molesey's high street5. This is where everything happens. There are shops, cafés, bars, a supermarket (expanding and refurbishing at the time of writing), a petrol station and various hairdressers, salons and the like. Worth a look are: The Blue Room, a rather nice bar with comfy sofas, and seats outside when the weather's nice; Superfish, selling a decent portion of chips at a reasonable price; the collection of charity shops (which include FARA and the Princess Alice Hospice); and a Woolworth's Local, which is useful at Christmas.
West Molesey and beyond...
Out towards West Molesey, and everything gets slightly greener. A grass verge borders the road, and we pass Molesey FC and a bowling green. Also here is Molesey Library, which seems to go against the trend and operates at normal opening hours6. Refurbished in January 2004, it holds a good stock of books, videos, DVDs and all the usual things you expect in a local library. It also has six computer terminals, although h2g2 addicts in need of their daily h2g2 fix will be disappointed to learn that sessions last only an hour.
There's not much more out here - another small cluster of shops opposite the church, and then open road until you get to Molesey Industrial Estate. By the time you get here, you have two options: either carry on into the industrial estate, or down the road between the reservoirs which leads into the outskirts of Walton-upon-Thames.
Back into East Molesey again, and slightly north of Walton Road to Hurst Park. The park has a council estate attached to it and several fields, and is bordered on the north side by the River Thames. It attracts several ducks, geese and swans, always hungry for more bread. There are also good views of David Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare on the opposite bank. Hurst Park forms part of the Thames Path, providing a fantastic opportunity for cyclists and walkers alike.
Outside East Molesey
So what's surrounding Molesey? To the west, is West Molesey7. To the east... well, it depends which way you go. South from Hampton Court Station leads down Hampton Court Way to Thames Ditton, Esher and into Surrey. Across the bridge takes you to Hampton Court Road, and either west towards Hampton, Sunbury and Heathrow Airport, or east to Kingston, Wimbledon and towards London.
Of course, you could always take the river - there are four to five scheduled river services daily to London from Hampton Court Pier, and the journey into Central London takes about four hours. They are, however, intended for tourists on a day trip from London, and so by the time the first boat to London has arrived at its destination, the last boat back has already left.
More about Molesey can be found at www.molesey.org.
For more about the history of the area, try the Molesey Residents' Association.