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Stage 1 - Hampton Court Palace to Staines (13 miles)

 

The start is inside the main entrance to Hampton Court Palace. The leg is mainly on the Thames Path. It crosses the Thames at two points, Hampton Court and Walton Bridges.  Diverts on road, through Lower Halliford, Old Shepperton and then again along the Thames, past, Shepperton, Chertsey and Penton Hook Locks to finish just before Staines Bridge.

 

Go out through the gate and turn left to a pelican crossing. Cross over the road and turn left over the bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge turn right along River Bank staying on the right hand side and next to the river. After 200 yards stay right past the war memorial and along a pedestrian area called Barge Walk, soon passing Molesey Lock to the right and Molesey Boat Club to the left. The route follows the Thames Path for the next 4.8 miles to Walton Bridge.

 

Hampton Court Palace is magnificent on the banks of the River Thames. The Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem had a farm on the site from 1236. They were a religious order formed in the late 11th Century to protect pilgrims on visits to Jerusalem. Buildings here were used to store and distribute their produce and by the 15th Century there was a country house used by the order’s abbots for rural retreats.

 

 

King Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth visited in 1503. Two years later Sir Giles Daubeney, the Lord Chamberlain, took out a lease on the property but died in 1508. A new lease was granted to Thomas Wolsey by the Knights Hospitaller in 1515.

 

Thomas Wolsey (1473 – 1530), son of an Ipswich butcher, was graced by ambition and ability to such an extent by the age of 40 he had an income of £50,000 a year. He was thus able to build the grandest private house in England. Work began in 1515.

 

King Henry VIII was fond of Wolsey and appointed him Bishop of Lincoln in 1514 and Archbishop of York in the same year. In September 1515 he was promoted to Cardinal by Pope Leo X, and on Christmas Eve the same year was made Lord Chancellor by the king.

 

As Hampton Court Palace grew the king was offended by the unashamed ostentation of his lieutenant. The king started to question Wolsey’s loyalty, when in 1527 he failed to secure Pope Clement VII’s annulment of Henry’s marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon (1485 – 1536). Catherine was previously married to Henry’s older brother Prince Arthur in 1501. However, Arthur became ill and died the following year. It is claimed their marriage was never consummated.

 

Henry became heir and ascended to the throne on the death of his father Henry VII on 21st April 1509. One of his father’s last wishes was for Henry to take his older brother’s widow Catherine as his queen. Shortly after his father’s death he married Catherine on 11th June 1509, thirteen days before his coronation. He stayed married (but not faithful) to Catherine for 18 years.  Catherine was getting older and although had gave him a daughter in Princess Mary (later Queen Mary), she had not secured his main aim of a son as heir. Henry believed that without a male heir the Tudor dynasty may not continue. 

 

Henry by now had fallen for Anne Boleyn (c1501 – 1536), a lady in waiting to Catherine and the younger sister of Mary Boleyn, one of his previous mistresses. With the annulment he could legally marry Anne and hopefully produce a male heir. Wolsey and Anne were at odds. She saw him as an obstacle to her becoming queen and he could see the many implications if this royal love affair was allowed to continue.

 

In 1529 after a further effort by Wolsey to obtain an annulment also resulted in failure, Anne became angry and blamed Wolsey. He was stripped of his office of Lord Chancellor. In a last desperate attempt to buy his way back into royal favour, he presented most of his property including York Place (Whitehall) and Hampton Court Palace to the king, keeping only Bishop Waynfleet’s old house in Esher. Henry accepted and by February 1530 had pardoned Wolsey and confirmed him as Archbishop of York. This only infuriated Anne even more and eventually she would have her way. Later the same year Henry summoned Wolsey to answer charges of treason. Weak in both mind and body, the dejected cleric set off from his See in York, but never made it to Henry's court. He died en route at Leicester on 29th November 1530 wishing "I served God as diligently as I served my King". He was buried at Leicester Abbey.

 

With Wolsey dead, Anne became the most powerful member at court. When William Warham (Archbishop of Canterbury) died in 1532, Anne had her family chaplain Thomas Cranmer (1489 – 1556) appointed to the vacant position. During this time the Pope’s influence over the Church in England was decreased by the king and his parliament. In 1533 Archbishop Cranmer granted Henry a divorce which left him free to marry Anne who was now pregnant with Henry’s child. The Pope’s response to the marriage was to excommunicate Henry and Cranmer from the Roman Catholic Church. This would eventually lead to the Reformation and the breaking away of the English Church from Rome, with the king becoming the overall head of the Church in England.

 

Anne gave birth to Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) on 7th September 1533. Their marriage was not a smooth one and Anne failed to produce the male heir which Henry wished for. His affairs and flirtations with ladies of the court would irritate Anne and cause much friction between them. Eventually his attention was more focused on Jane Seymour, one of Anne’s ladies in waiting. Anne’s behaviour did not help things and she made many enemies. Henry’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell used the king’s new affection for Jane as a catalyst to have Anne investigated. Although nothing was proved, Anne was eventually convicted of adultery, incest with her brother George and treason. She was executed at the Tower on 19th May 1536. The following day Henry married Jane Seymour.     

 

Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour (1508 – 1537) gave birth to Edward Tudor (later King Edward VI) at Hampton Court on 12th October 1537. Edward was christened a few days later in the Chapel Royal. However, due to complications during the birth, Jane died of puerperal fever 12 days later at the palace.

 

Anne of Cleves (1515 – 1557) was to become Henry’s fourth wife. She was a German noble and this would prove to be an important ally against France and the Holy Roman Empire. However, on meeting his new queen the images painted and told of her did not match what he had expected. Henry liked young and beautiful women – he did not find Anne attractive. However, due to pressure of the political circumstances of the time, the marriage went ahead on 6th January 1540. Anne was never coronated as Queen of England and Henry referred to her as a “Flanders Mare”. The marriage was never consummated and on 9th July 1540 – only a few months later – Henry gained an annulment. Anne was sensible enough not to fight this, as she kept her head, and was given estates and a dowry. She became a good friend to Henry “a sister” and outlived the King and all of his other five wives. She is buried in Westminster Abbey.

 

Henry’s was 49 years old when he married his fifth wife, 19 years old Catherine Howard (1521 – 1542) on 28th July 1540 in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court. Within 18 months she was accused of adultery and arrested at the palace. It is recorded that as she was about to be arrested she ran through the palace to beg mercy from her husband, and was dragged screaming through what is now known as the Haunted Gallery. She was executed at the Tower of London on 13th February 1542 and laid to rest near her cousin Anne Boleyn in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower. Her ghost is said to haunt Hampton Court Palace.

 

Henry married his sixth and final wife Katherine Parr (1512 – 1548) in the Queen’s Closet, next to the Chapel Royal, at the palace on 12th July 1543. She helped to reconcile Henry with his first two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, which resulted in them being put back in line after Edward, though they were still deemed illegitimate. Henry died on 28th January 1547 at Whitehall Palace and was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle next to his third wife Jane Seymour whom he was always thankful too, having given him a male heir.

 

Between 1529 and 1540 Henry remodeled and enlarged Wolsey’s palace. All of his six wives spent time there.

 

Although a lot of the original palace of Wolsey and Henry was replaced by later monarchs there is much remaining from that time. The Tudor Kitchens are still in use today; Henry’s Great Hall was built on the site of Wolsey’s and was the last great medieval hall built in England; Wolsey’s Clock Square is still looked over by Henry’s Astronomical Clock with the earth as the centre of universe and the sun revolving around it. The clock was built by Nicholas Oursian in 1540 long before Copernicus suggested a different theory. The Chapel Royal maintains many of its original features but was refitted by Christopher Wren.  

 

The current Royal Tennis Court dates from 1626 and is the oldest “Real Tennis Court” in the world still in use today. The present one is believed to have been built by Henry VIII in 1532 on the site of the older court. Legend has it that Henry VIII was playing tennis here when he was brought news of Anne Boleyn’s execution.

 

In the Lower Orangey, Andrea Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar has been on display since shortly after Charles I acquired them in 1629. They are now part of the Royal Collection.

 

From 1689, under William & Mary, Christopher Wren was employed to redesign much of the palace including the King’s and Queen’s apartments (see photo below). They were completed in 1700. Unfortunately Mary died in 1694 and was never able to enjoy them. William died in 1702 only a couple of years after their completion.

 

 

Wren’s Banqueting House, overlooks the River Thames on the south side of the grounds. It was commissioned by William III and completed in 1700. The main room is above the kitchens and was decorated by Italian painter Antonio Verrio (1636 – 1707), who is also responsible for many of the wall and ceiling paintings in the palace. The ceiling depicts Minerva as the Goddess of Wisdom surrounded by figures from art and science. The wall paintings show the loves of Jupiter. Alexander Pope once said of the painter:

 

“On painted ceilings you devoutly stare

Where sprawl the saints of Verrio and Laguerre”

 

In the grounds are many ornamental gardens, with much of the layout dating back to Henry. Many direction signs  done in good taste show the way to them all.

 

The Maze, planted in 1702, covers a third of an acre and has half a mile of paths. It is where Harris, one of Jerome K. Jerome’s "Three Men in a Boat", got hopelessly lost along with 20 followers and a keeper. The excerpt from the book is below, it maybe a bit long, but it’s funny and I hope you may enjoy it.

 

Harris asked me if I’d ever been in the maze at Hampton Court. He said he went in once to show somebody else the way. He had studied it up in a map, and it was so simple that it seemed foolish – hardly worth the twopence charged for admission. Harris said he thought that map must have been got up as a practical joke, because it wasn’t a bit like the real thing, and only misleading. It was a country cousin that Harris took in. He said:

 

“We’ll just go in here, so that you can say you’ve been, but it’s very simple. It’s absurd to call it a maze. You keep on taking the first turning to the right. We’ll just walk round for ten minutes, and then go and get some lunch.”

 

They met some people soon after they had got inside, who said they had been there for three-quarters of an hour, and had had about enough of it. Harris told them they could follow him, if they liked; he was just going in, and then should turn round and come out again. They said it was very kind of him, and fell behind, and followed.

 

They picked up various other people who wanted to get it over, as they went along, until they had absorbed all the persons in the maze. People who had given up all hopes of ever getting either in or out, or of ever seeing their home and friends again, plucked up courage at the sight of Harris and his party, and joined the procession, blessing him. Harris said he should judge there must have been twenty people, following him, in all; and one woman with a baby, who had been there all the morning, insisted on taking his arm, for fear of losing him.

 

Harris kept on turning to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his cousin said he supposed it was a very big maze.

 

“Oh, one of the largest in Europe,” said Harris.

 

“Yes, it must be,” replied the cousin, “because we’ve walked a good two miles already.”

 

Harris began to think it rather strange himself, but he held on until, at last, they passed the half of a penny bun on the ground that Harris’s cousin swore he had noticed there seven minutes ago. Harris said: “Oh, impossible!” but the woman with the baby said, “Not at all,” as she herself had taken it from the child, and thrown it down there, just before she met Harris. She also added that she wished she never had met Harris, and expressed an opinion that he was an impostor. That made Harris mad, and he produced his map, and explained his theory.

 

“The map may be all right enough,” said one of the party, “if you know whereabouts in it we are now.”

 

Harris didn’t know, and suggested that the best thing to do would be to go back to the entrance, and begin again. For the beginning again part of it there was not much enthusiasm; but with regard to the advisability of going back to the entrance there was complete unanimity, and so they turned, and trailed after Harris again, in the opposite direction. About ten minutes more passed, and then they found themselves in the centre.

 

Harris thought at first of pretending that that was what he had been aiming at; but the crowd looked dangerous, and he decided to treat it as an accident.

 

Anyhow, they had got something to start from then. They did know where they were, and the map was once more consulted, and the thing seemed simpler than ever, and off they started for the third time.

And three minutes later they were back in the centre again.

 

After that, they simply couldn’t get anywhere else. Whatever way they turned brought them back to the middle. It became so regular at length, that some of the people stopped there, and waited for the others to take a walk round, and come back to them. Harris drew out his map again, after a while, but the sight of it only infuriated the mob, and they told him to go and curl his hair with it. Harris said that he couldn’t help feeling that, to a certain extent, he had become unpopular.

 

They all got crazy at last, and sang out for the keeper, and the man came and climbed up the ladder outside, and shouted out directions to them. But all their heads were, by this time, in such a confused whirl that they were incapable of grasping anything, and so the man told them to stop where they were, and he would come to them. They huddled together, and waited; and he climbed down, and came in.

 

He was a young keeper, as luck would have it, and new to the business; and when he got in, he couldn’t find them, and he wandered about, trying to get to them, and then HE got lost. They caught sight of him, every now and then, rushing about the other side of the hedge, and he would see them, and rush to get to them, and they would wait there for about five minutes, and then he would reappear again in exactly the same spot, and ask them where they had been.

 

They had to wait till one of the old keepers came back from his dinner before they got out.

 

Harris said he thought it was a very fine maze, so far as he was a judge; and we agreed that we would try to get George to go into it, on our way back.

 

The Great Vine, planted in 1768 by Capability Brown, is the oldest known living vine in the world and still produces up to 700lbs (320 kg) of grapes each year. They are harvested in August and are sold in the palace shops.

 

From the reign of George III in 1760 the palace ceased to be a royal residence. 

 

Under Queen Victoria (1810 – 1901) a lot of restoration was carried out and she opened the palace to the public in 1838.

 

On 31st March 1986 (Easter Monday) a fire caused much damage to the King’s Apartments. This resulted in another program of restoration to the palace and some extras. It included the recreation of the Privy Garden - originally laid out by Henry and extended by William and Mary. The garden was recreated and planted as it had been in William and Mary’s time and re-opened by Prince Charles on 6th July 1995.  

 

The Palace nowadays is run by the Historical Royal Palaces, whose headquarters are based at Hampton Court. Summer events include the Hampton Court Palace Festival and the Hampton Court Flower Show.

 

Today Hampton Court Palace with its redevelopments and restoration is still used in the original role which Wolsey intended. Royalty and statesmen including Queen Elizabeth II and the Prime Minster treat it as a glorious setting to entertain and impress notables from all over the world. However, it’s a palace for the people, a living English history for everyone to enjoy and look at how royalty lived in years gone past. You can have a Christmas bash, a wedding, ice-skate in the grounds, hold a birthday party, just pay a visit, or (like me) start a run around London. Long may this wonderful jewel continue to be available to everyone. If you do have time to spend a day here, take time and do it.

 

 

Just outside the grounds of the Palace there are many other places to see.  Christopher Wren lived close to the main entrance; his house is the second on the left, past the roundabout and facing The Green. The great architect died here in his sleep on 25th February 1723 at the age of 90. Michael Faraday's House is just a few past that of Wren's. He was born near Elephant & Castle in South London on 22nd September 1791, his family were very poor. His education was basic and at fourteen year old got a job as an apprentice bookbinder. This gave him the opportunity to educate himself by reading many books. He was eventually to become one of the world’s greatest scientists. The house at Hampton Court was awarded to him as “Grace and Favour” by Albert, Prince Consort in 1848. He retired to here in 1858 and died here on 25th August 1867. During his life he refused a knighthood and later turned down the opportunity to be buried in Westminster Abbey preferring Highgate Cemetery as his final resting place. 

 

To the north of the palace is Bushy Park, a royal hunting ground during Tudor times and now the second largest Royal Park covering an area of almost 1,100 acres. Its history can be traced back over 4,000 years. Within its walls herds of deer stroll freely, keeping the grass in check and the tree branches above a certain height. The central avenue of chestnut trees were laid out by Wren, with the Diana Fountain as its centrepiece. This dissects the park in two and was created to provide a fitting approach to the palace. The Woodland Gardens with the Totem Pole and Canadian Glade which remember Upper Lodge as a home to Canadian Convalescents during World War I, the artificial Longford River built in 1639 by Charles I to provide water for the palace, the 18th century Brewhouse which provided ale for all the workers, the Stockyard Buildings, Bushy House now home to the National Physical Laboratories, the numerous cricket clubs and playing fields, the huge children’s playground and the quaint Police Station of the “Royal Park’s Constabulary” at Lion Gate all blend together with the wide open spaces to make a wonderful place for people to visit and enjoy for free.

 

On the western edge of the park near Hampton is an open air heated swimming pool. It was completed in 1922 and remained opened till 1981 when Richmond Council decided to close it and give the land back to Bushy Park. However, a local community action group was formed and took ownership in 1984 under a charitable status as Hampton Pools Ltd. It remains open to the public till this day, and is still run by the locals as a charitable company and has been much redeveloped under their management.

 

During World War I some of the lands in the park were used as allotments in “the Dig for Victory”, and between the wars it hosted a camp for undernourished children.  During World War 2 the park became the site of a large US base, later renamed Camp Griffiss in memory of Lieutenant Townsend Griffiss who was killed when the aircraft he was travelling in was mistakenly shot down by the Royal Air Force on 15th February 1942, and was the first US Airman to die in the line of duty in Europe. General Dwight Eisenhower made the park Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) - the centre for planning Operation Overlord, the 1944 D-Day Invasion of France.

 

Immediately after the war the park came up as a site for a London airport, but it got reprieved when a cabinet minister pulled a quick one on the House of Commons to get permission to have a military airport built over a village called Heathrow. His real intentions were not voiced and we still are lucky to have Bushy Park as it was laid out hundreds of years ago.

 

The rules for modern day game of Hockey are thought to have been developed by Teddington Cricket Club in Bushy Park in about 1871. Some members went on to set up Teddington Hockey Club, which claims to be the world’s oldest.

 

You may recall the road cycling from the London 2012 Olympic Games. Chestnut Avenue was a feature of the Cycling Road Races on 28th and 29th July 2012, the first events of the Olympics and a few days later on 1st August was again lined with thousands of spectators for the Cycling Time Trials. The latter started and finished at Hampton Court Palace. You can watch Bradley Wiggins winning the Time Trial at Youtube. Where the trial started and finished is where we started and finish our walk around London.

 

When crossing Hampton Court Bridge look back, for a good view, across the river to the palace. There is a wonderful website by Doug Myers containing 110 paintings of all the bridges which cross the main stream, which he painted between 1996 and 2006.

 

 

Hampton Court Bridge, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1933, was designed by Lutyens. It is concrete, but so as to blend with the Palace, is faced with narrow red bricks and great quantities of Portland stone for dressings and balustrades.

 

To the left, after crossing the bridge and turning right along the river, is what till recently was the Streets of London Pub. This is now a restaurant and originally built by Thomas Tagg in 1887 as The Thames Hotel. A few yards later, just before joining the Thames Path is the East Molesey War Memorial. Across the river many expensive boats are moored at the Thames Motor Yacht Club.

 

On joining the towpath Molesey Lock is to the right. It was built in 1815. In 1865 fish ladders were added to the weir and in 1871 boat rollers were added to the lock. The footbridge across the weir is used by residents of Ash Island. Around 1850 there was a pub on the island, called the Angler’s Retreat. Within two years the pub was moved to the larger neighbouring island (later and still called Tagg’s Island) and renamed the Angler’s Rest. Ash Island is quite unique in having a weir both its sides.

 

Care must be taken as soon to the left is the busy boat house of Molesey Boat Club. It was founded in 1866 and is famous for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Gold winners, the Searle Brothers and their crying cox, Gary Herbert. Their win is commemorated by a large decorated wooden board attached to the front of the boathouse. T read more about the club’s achievements, visit their Olympics Section.

 

Across the river just after Ash Island is a Swiss Chalet. This was flat built in Switzerland in 1882, shipped here and erected on its current site. Up to 1986 it was used as a boathouse and as part of a boatyard. It was then sold for £2.5 million and lay derelict for many years.

 

A huge amount of people live on or next to the Thames, the exact number I wouldn't like to guess, but I'm sure it's enough to populate a small city. One of the first river communities passed is that of Tagg's Island, with its houseboats lined bow to stern along its shore. The island gets its name from Thomas Tagg Jnr, a boat builder and successful local businessman, who took over the lease on the island around 1872. He replaced the Angler’s Rest with a much more extravagant hotel in 1873. It became a mecca for the rich and was even then surrounded by houseboats. There have been many famous residents including J.M.Barrie, author of Peter Pan who lived and worked on a houseboat here around 1887.

 

 

Fred John Westcott was born into a working class family in Exeter in 1866. He had ambitions to be an acrobat and went to London to train. He paid for this by busking in the streets and on occasions went to Molesey to play to a captive audience of boat passengers as they went through Molesey Lock. He enjoyed the peaceful and pleasant setting and hoped that one day he would be able to afford to buy a houseboat on Tagg’s Island. He changed his name to Fred Karno and at first was careful with his money. He went on to form a small troupe and eventually his own Fred Karno’s Army. His success was due to his ability at spotting talent before they became well known and hiring them. Some of the acts he is credited with discovering include Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Will Hay and Max Miller. The 1992 movie Chaplin features Robert Downey Jr. in the main role as Chaplin and John Thaw as Fred Karno. The movie credits Karno as the first person to have given Chaplin a job. You can watch a trailer of the movie on YouTube.

 

By 1903 Karno had acquired enough money to buy his houseboat. He prospered greatly by forming more and more troupes and his fame and fortune grew. In 1912 no one with enough money was interested and he was persuaded to take over the lease on the island. He also decided to build the biggest and grandest houseboat on the river. In 1913 it was completed and moored at the island. He named it the Astoria and as you will see later is still moored close by today. In the same year he knocked the old hotel down and built a magnificent new one in its place called The Karsino, where he would entertain and dine the rich and famous from all over Europe. The island resort was a great success and he ploughed money in to develop more facilities to entertain his guests.

 

Unfortunately, in 1914 war soon broke out in Europe and, although it was much used by the forces, its wealthy clientele decreased. After the end of World War I in 1918, with the advances in technology, there were many new things available to keep people occupied and entertained. Business didn’t pick up enough to save Karno’s dream, He was declared bankrupt in 1927 and the lease was taken over by his creditors. He moved back to the West Country where he ran a wine shop and died at Poole in Dorset in 1941 with very little money.

 

After a few unsuccessful attempts at rebranding and relaunching the resort, the island came into the ownership of AC Cars of Thames Ditton in 1941. They used it to make munitions during World War II (1939 – 1945) and a road bridge was built from the Middlesex bank. After the war AC Cars continued to use the factory to manufacture three wheeled automobiles and novelty train carriages until 1965 when the bridge was declared unsafe.

 

In the 1960s Tagg’s Island became a popular haunt for “Hippies”. Pink Floyd played here on 16th March 1968.

 

The Billyboy gang fight”, a scene from the movie “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), was filmed in the Palm Court Ballroom at the Karsino. The film was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and adopted from a book of the same name by Anthony Burgess,

 

The following year the Karsino was eventually demolished and the island went back to a wildlife sanctuary with a few island dwellings and surrounded by houseboats.

 

The day before the Karsino was demolished a band of old music hall stars held a party and salvaged many items, including parts of the stage, to remember this great resort and the enjoyment it had given to so many. One attendant was Jack Melville who was celebrating his 88th birthday that day and had joined Karno’s company in 1904. He had preformed on this stage many times. He proposed a toast to Karno“the man who put more laughs into Britain than anybody else”. The BBC made a film of the whole event. The only visible evidence remaining of Karsino today is from the Surrey side of the river, where the steps which led up to the elegant hotel can still be seen.

 

In 1980 one of the residents, Gerald Braban, formed Taggs Island Limited in order to protect and regenerate it. He funded a new road bridge from the Middlesex side and constructed a lagoon in the centre. He lived on the island for 23 years and died in 1993. A few years later the New Millennium Sundial was erected in Terrace Gardens next to the bridge as a memorial to him. It incorporates the eight cardinal points of the compass and a series of concentric rings representing the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, the Equator and the Polar Axes. At present there are about 60 boats moored around or on the island, twenty of these are moored on the lagoon in the middle. The island also has its own website www.taggs-island.com.

 

On 15th February 2012, Taggs Island featured on the BBC’s “One Show”. To watch the relevant section of the programme visit the link at YouTube.

 

In contrast to the busy Tagg’s Island, the next island is Swan’s Nest Island or Duck Eyot. Aptly named, it is only inhabited by swans and a few other birds.

 

After a short distance along the towpath is Hurst Park. This was once a racecourse but now has given way to a housing development. Luckily, it was designated for the houses to be built back from the river and lots of open space be left for recreational purpose for people to enjoy. "The little race-course at Hampton" was where a scene from Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby was set. 

 

“THE LITTLE RACE-COURSE at Hampton was in the full tide and height of its gaiety; the day as dazzling as day could be; the sun high in the cloudless sky, and shining in its fullest splendour. Every gaudy colour that fluttered in the air from carriage seat and garish tent top, shone out in its gaudiest hues. Old dingy flags grew new again, faded gilding was re-burnished, stained rotten canvas looked a snowy white, the very beggars' rags were freshened up, and sentiment quite forgot its charity in its fervent admiration of poverty so picturesque.”

 

Horses were raced here from the early 18th Century to the last race held on 10th October 1962. All that remains of the race-course is the tall brick pillars and black gates on Graburn Way which were once used to close off the road to create a straight mile for the horses to race on.

 

‘The Hurst’ (see photo below) as it was called was also well known for many other sports which were played here including cricket, bare-knuckle boxing, pistol duels, golf, archery, rowing, ballooning and cockfighting.

 

 

Cricket has been played here since the early 18th Century. One of the earliest recorded includes Kingston versus Surrey in 1731. In 1733 Hampshire just beat Surrey in a game attended by Frederick, Prince of Wales. He was so enthralled by the game he gave each man a guinea. On 1st August the same year at Molesey he awarded a silver cup to a combined Surrey & Middlesex team for beating Kent – this is the first record of a trophy (other than money) being awarded in cricket. At this time the game was often played by royalty and gentry and many such games took place on The Hurst. The first LBW (Leg before Wicket) decision ever recorded was here in 1795 when England beat Surrey by two games to one. On 11th September 1889 Hurst Park Club played Australia, they defeated the Australians by 34 runs. Although the current East Molesey Cricket Club ground is opposite Tagg’s Island and the older Hurst Ground was situated a few hundred yards up the river, this match was basically repeated many years later when East Molesey played Australia on 26th April 1953. East Molesey also played New Zealand here in 1949 – they were very unlucky to loose. The latter two games were attended by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

 

In 2004 a tasteful memorial to this area’s history was built next to the river. It gives the history from over 6,000 years ago until the present day. It records the first known name of the area as “Herstegg” (1249), this changed to “Mousley Hurst” in the 18th Century. The present name “Hurst Park” was adopted from the name of the racecourse in the 1960s. The memorial depicts the sports played here over the years, tells of archaeological discoveries, remembers some of the local residents and points out things of interest which can still be seen. In its centre, on the ground, is a sundial which a person can stand on and use their shadow to tell the hour.

 

 

Garrick Temple & Villa from Molesey Hurst

 

Across the river is Hampton (settlement on the bend of a river) clustered around its church, St Mary the Virgin. Hampton House (aka Garrick’s Villa) can be seen facing the river, and is where actor David Garrick retired to in 1754. Garrick employed the Adam Brothers to improve the house on two distinct phases (1775-6 and 1772-4). Capability Brown was consulted over the grounds and suggested building the still existing, grotto-like tunnel under the road joining the house to the riverside gardens. In 1755-6 the octagonal Temple was constructed to entertain visitors and as a tribute to Shakespeare, Garrick commissioned Louis-Francois Roubiliac to make a statue of the Bard to be housed in the Temple. In 1779 Garrick died and was buried next to William Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey. Nowadays the Temple is open to the public and contains a replica of the statue. The original is in the British Museum.

 

In 1758 Garrick was visited by some friends from Scotland. They took a boat across the river to Molesey Hurst and played golf. The game had been played in Scotland for many years prior to this. However, this was the first record of golf being played in Surrey. Unfortunately in late 2008 Garrick’s Villa was almost completely destroyed by a fire. The cause was accidental; let’s see if it’s restored.

 

On the right just before Hampton House sits the Astoria. Around the time Karno was declared bankrupt, the Astoria, the grand houseboat he built in 1913, was sold to Vesta Victoria, a music hall singer and entertainer who made “Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow-Wow” famous. She lived in it till her death in 1951. It was then sold to a businessman who didn’t like all the attention the houseboat attracted, so he moved it the short distance up the river to where it is moored today. In 1986 the Astoria was bought by Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour and turned into a recording studio. He had previously seen it whilst doing a gig with Pink Floyd at the Karsino in his early days with the group. A lot of the later Pink Floyd work was recorded here as well as some of Gilmour’s own work. His solo album ‘On An Island’ was recorded here in 2005. To the left of the houseboat is the entrance to Garrick’s grotto-like tunnel which has now been closed off by a large gate.

 

 

The next island is Garrick’s Ait. It was once, like all other islands along this stretch of river, covered with willows and osiers used for the local basket making industry. Although some willows still remain, in the 1920s the island was divided up into plots and developed as residences. There are now about 20 houses on the island and many boats surrounding it.

 

Across the river, immediately after Garrick’s Ait is Hampton Sailing Club. It was built in 1962 on another island, Benn’s Ait, and connected to the riverbank by a hand operated chain ferry. Before they acquired the island their clubhouse was a boat moored on the Middlesex bank. For over 500 years a ferry has carried passengers across the Thames at this point. Today the Hampton Ferry still operates from near The Bell Inn on the north side of the river.

 

 

Just past the sailing club is the start of the Hampton Waterworks. They were a consequence of the Metropolis Water Act of 1852 which stated all water used for human consumption must be filtered and also prohibited using water from the tidal Thames – below Teddington Lock. By 1855 The Grand Junction, Southwark & Vauxhall and West Middlesex water companies had all built waterworks at Hampton. In 1903 the companies merged to form the Metropolitan Water Board, later to become Thames Water Authority and now Thames Water. After the completion of the London Water Ring Main in 1993 some of the filter beds were no longer needed and are still not used today. The current owners, Thames Water, are trying to get permission to redevelop the disused areas but face many hurdles as the land is designated “green belt” and most of the buildings are Grade 2 listed. The Hampton Society Website has information on the waterworks and you can keep up to date with current proposals for this area.

 

The next island is Platts Eyot. Like its neighbours, it was used to grow osiers and in the 1860s became known for its boatbuilding, which still continues today. The island is part of the River Thames Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and part of it is listed as green belt. The current owners wish to develop the site, but because of its status permission is almost impossible to attain.

 

 

There are many old pictures and lots of history of the river at Molesey that can be viewed on the www.moleseyhistory.co.uk website.

 

On passing Platts Eyot the housing development of Hurst Park is left behind, but to the left are a few older houses whose gardens back onto the towpath. Next to the river a hedge sculpture of a boy on the back of a bird appear as if they are just about to take off (see photo). Soon after this a large wall towers above on the left with only the river to the right. The wall hides the Molesey Reservoirs and water treatment works. They were built around 1900 and within the last few years have been used for gravel extraction rather than storing water. Soon they will be decommissioned and turned into a wildlife sanctuary. Behind them lie the larger Bessborough and Knights Reservoir and the vast Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir. Across the river is the Sunnyside Reservoir, which when dug had its extractions dumped on Platts Eyot. This explains why the island has a hill on one side.

 

  

 

The concentration of islands in this part of the Thames is great and with shoring up and being looked after they have all managed to survive intact, even when the river is at its most ferocious.

 

The next one passed is called Grand Junction Island after the water company who owned it. Today it has a few holiday homes and some boats moored around it and is now owned by Thames Water. Soon after and shortly before the end of the reservoir’s wall is Sunbury Court Island, another river community with 35 private dwellings. The island is reached by a footbridge from the Middlesex side and is named after the large mansion house which overlooks it. Sunbury Court (see photo below) was built in 1723 by John Witt. Subsequent residents included George Fermor, 2nd Earl of Pomfret, and Jack Needham, the Lord Kilmorey. In 1921 it was purchased by the Salvation Army who turned it into a conference centre and it was here their first Army High Council was held in 1929. Today it is a Grade 1 listed building, still owned by the Salvation Army and it is where they elect their General each year.

 

 

Rivermead Island is only separated from Sunbury Court Island by a narrow channel. It is uninhabited and joined to the north bank by two footbridges and a ford. It’s open to the public for everyone to enjoy. Up until 1980 there an open air swimming pool on the island. The Sunbury Amateur Regatta, established in 1876, is held on the river here in August each year.

 

After passing the wall of the Molesey Reservoirs there is soon what looks like a mile post on the left. This is the first of a number of coal and wine tax posts (or “coal posts”) that we will pass. Mostly they are white painted metal posts, but this one is stone, marked with the City of London arms and '14&15 VIC C146', a reference to the Act of Parliament under which the tax was imposed.

 

In a further half mile Sunbury Locks are to the right. The original lock was built in 1812 with the newer, smaller lock added in 1925. The Lock Keeper’s House is on the left just after the lock and beyond this is Sunbury Lock Cut Bridge which gives foot access to Sunbury Lock Ait. The island was created by the building of the lock.

 

 

Soon to the left is The Weir Hotel, with its pleasant beer garden which looks out across the river to Sunbury Weir. It's not the first pub on the route and it won't be the last. The pub sign may not look anything like its local weir, but it is tasteful and painted by a well known local artist. On the upstream side of the weir is Wheatley’s Ait. Another island owned by the Environment Agency. It is joined to the north bank of the river by both foot and road bridges. There are some works on the island and there are plans to redevelop it and make a foot crossing of the river here.

 

Just past The Weir Hotel is an interesting small house on the corner of two paths, and soon after this, to the left are the grounds of Walton Casuals Football Club. Next just set back from the river is Elmbridge Leisure Centre. The leisure centre has been recently rebuilt and renamed The Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Complex. It was on the towpath here in 1995 where the first Green Belt Relay around London started. It was from organising this which encouraged me to develop the London Green Belt Way long distance footpath, and why you are now reading this.

 

Adjacent too, and just above the towpath for a short distance is a grassy and slightly wooded picnic area (4 miles into the stage). Follow the path straight on through some trees to where it opens out to give a great view of the river looking upstream. To the left of the path is Walton Rowing Club, founded in 1927 and moved here in 1953. Its members have won many awards including a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 by Steve Trapmore in the men’s eight. In 2008 at Beijing, Walton-on-Thames was once again in the headlines for wining Olympic gold on water. This time it was local resident Tim Brabants paddled his way to victory in the men’s 1000m K1 final. He also collected a bronze by finishing third in the 500m event.

 

The stretch of the river from here to near Walton Bridge is known as “The Walton Mile” (see photo). It’s mainly straight, it’s wide and many regattas have been held here since the 18th Century.

 

 

For the next half mile houses and water activity clubs line both sides of the Thames, only broken twice to the left - firstly, by a recreation ground and later by a small public park reached by climbing some steps. A large red brick house sits at the upstream end of the park. This is River House and during the late 19th Century was home to composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (part of the famous duo Gilbert & Sullivan). An interview with the composer at the house in 1897 can be read by following the link.

 

Just behind River House and hidden from view from the towpath is River House Barn. This 18th Century barn has been converted to an arts centre with a “sensory garden” containing some interesting features. It is managed by The Walton-on-Thames Community Arts Trust and is largely run by volunteers from the local community. The strange looking sculptures you see from the towpath form part of its gardens.

 

Shortly after River House is The Anglers, a public house which dates from the 19th century and looks onto the river. Across the river the houses form part of the River Ash Estate and behind them is the London Shepperton Holiday Inn Hotel, a Swan Sanctuary and the large expanse of Shepperton Marina.

 

Just past the Anglers and set back from the river is The Swan, a Young’s Pub with a “secret beer garden” overlooking the river. It dates from 1770 and gets its name from “Swan Upping” a “swan marking” event which takes place in the third week of July each year. It starts at Sunbury Lock on the Monday and proceeds up river to finish at Abingdon on the Friday. I suppose the old pub has many stories to tell, but one of the best is of American composer Jerome Kern (1885 – 1945). In 1909 he was visiting Walton with two friends and went into the Swan Hotel for some food and refreshments. They stayed for many hours with Jerome playing the hotel’s piano. They were served by Eva Leale (1891 – 1959) the landlord’s beautiful daughter and he fell in love with her. They married in St Mary’s Church at Walton the following year. He spent a lot of time at the pub and wrote some of his songs there. During his lifetime he wrote almost 1,500 songs and is arguably the father of American musical theatre. His songs including “Ol’ Man River”, “Rock a Bye Baby”, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, “Sunny” and many others which are still commonly sung today. The couple were happily married for 34 years and his wife Eve and their daughter were at his beside when he died at the age of 60 in New York, the city where he was also born. US President Ronald Regan declared 27th January 1985, one hundred years after his birth, to be Jerome Kern Day and it was celebrated throughout the country. A memorial concert was also held in St Mary’s Church to mark the occasion. Today on a wall inside The Swan pub you can see a framed copy of Eva and Jerome’s marriage certificate.

 

    

 

The Swan Pub and Eva & Jerome Kern’s wedding certificate

 

A few yards to the right, past the front of The Swan, and on the opposite side of Manor Road is the Old Manor Inn. To the left of the Inn is a gap leading to a tiny park with an information board. The board tells where the pub gets its name and by looking over the wall there is a great view of the well hidden Old Manor House. It dates from the 14th Century and the long timber-framed structure still looks today as it did when it was built over 600 years ago. The house is believed to have been a home of John Bradshaw, President of the court which sentenced Charles I – he may have even signed the king’s death warrant in the house. It was once the Manor House of Walton Leigh, and in the 19th Century fell on hard times when it was divided into tenements and a number of poor families lived here. Today the Old Manor House is Grade 1 listed. It was restored by Ronald Segal who lived there up to his death on 23rd February 2008. He was an anti-apartheid activist, and a writer. He founded the Penguin African Library and was also Honorary Life President of The Walton Society.

 

For photos and a list of all the pubs in Walton-on-Thames visit Walton-on-Thames.org.uk.

 

Walton is Anglo-Saxon in origin and is believed to mean "farm of the Britons" or 'Saxon settlement'. Even before the Romans and the Saxons were present, there was a Celtic settlement here. The Anglo-Saxon word for the Celtic inhabitants who lived here then is "Wealas".

 

Over the years Walton had many large houses with surrounding estates. The largest on record was Apps Court. It lay about a mile and a half to the north east of Walton Village and was originally built in 1332 by the Lord of Apps. In 1602 it was bought by Francis Leigh who turned the estate into a deer park and enlarged the house. In the Hearth Tax records of 1664 it was recorded the house had 39 rooms with fires – this gives an indication to its size. The estate passed through several hands including Robert Gill who bought Apps Court in 1871. He was involved with George Stevenson in the construction of the Manchester to Leeds Railway; he was also the president of the Great Western Railway of Canada. The estate was acquired in 1899 by the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company who pulled down the house and excavated most of the estate to construct the Knight and Bessborough reservoirs. Apps Court Farm (on the A3050 to East Molesey) is now an archery centre which holds other activities including “OK Coral Christmas Parties” car boot sales, camping for events, classic car rallies and more.

 

Ashley House was one of the most important houses at Walton. It was built between 1602 and 1605 for Lady Berkeley, wife of the 7th Lord Berkeley. The Jacobean house was the first of its design to be built in England and stood for over 300 years. Its grounds extended to 440 acres and the main drive, an oak tree lined “Grand Drive”, ran through what is now the High Street to opposite WH Smith. The house passed through a number of families including the 1st Earl of Anglesey, Christopher Villiers, Benjamin Weston and Field Marshal Richard Boyle, 2nd Viscount Shannon. Sir Henry Fletcher acquired the house in 1786 and it remained in Fletcher family until the 1860's when it was sold to David Sasson. When the last Sasson died, without an heir, the house was demolished and the land broken up to make way for a private housing developments in the 1930s.

 

In 1899 Cecil Hepworth (1874 – 1953) opened a small film studio called Hepworth Picture Plays in Walton on Hurst Grove. The studio produced many films, but closed down in 1923 due to Hepworth becoming bankrupt. In 1926 the studios were bought by Archibald Nettlefold who rebuilt and renamed them Nettlefold Studios. Productions included “Scrooge” (1951) with Alastair Sim. In 1955 the studios were taken over by Sapphire Films and renamed Walton Studios. As well as making movies they also produced television series including 143 episodes of the hugely successful “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1955 – 59) with Richard Greene in the lead role and its catchy theme song which was sung by children all over the country. You can listen to the song by following the link to the website. The studios closed in 1961 and all that remains is the old power generating house which was converted to a theatre in 1925 called The Playhouse. It is still used as a theatre today by the Walton & Weybridge Amateur Operatic Society, is available for rent and is on Hurst Grove just off Hepworth Way. Today the theatre is named The Cecil Hepworth Playhouse after the early film pioneer.

 

Walton-on-Thames has lots of other connections with television and cinema. Many of the scenes for Monty Python’s Flying Circus were shot around the town centre.

 

Actress and singer Julie Andrews was born at Rodney House maternity home on Rodney Road on 1st October 1935 as Julia Elizabeth Wells. The maternity home was demolished in 1970 and a new housing development, now next to Walton Community Hospital, occupies the site. Julie’s mother Barbara Morris Wells was a piano teacher and her father Ted Wells was a woodwork teacher. During the war her parents separated and Barbara remarried tenor Ted Andrews. Julie’s stepfather and her aunt, on her mother’s side, helped her to develop her singing and dancing skills. She acted and sang from an early age and made her West End debut at the London Hippodrome aged of twelve on 23rd October 1947. Her Hollywood debut was in Walt Disney’s production of “Mary Poppins” (1964), winning an Academy Award as best actress for her performance. The following year she went on to portray Maria Von Trappe as the Singing Nun in the musical classic “The Sound of Music”. It was also at the age of twelve she met a local boy of her own age. For a birthday threat Tony Walton was taken to the opening night of “Starlight Roof” at the Hippodrome. He recognised Julie, from the play, on the train on his way home and befriended her. They remained close friends through childhood and married at St Mary’s at Oatlands, Weybridge on 10th May 1959.

 

Tony Walton (born Walton-on-Thames, 24th October 1934) developed a successful career as a costume designer and won many awards including an Academy Award in 1980 for “All That Jazz” and an Emmy for the 1985 TV version of “Death of a Salesman”. He has received many Oscars and BAFTA nominations, and funnily enough one for Mary Poppins in 1964. Julie and Tony remained married until 1967; they had a daughter, Emma Walton born in London on 27th November 1962.

 

Other famous people connected with Walton include, Nick Lowe singer and songwriter born here 24th March 1949. Current and previous residents include, singer-songwriter Mick Hucknall and lead singer of band Simply Red, snooker player Cliff Thorburn, ballroom dancer Camilla Dallerup and former US President Herbert Hoover.

 

Just past The Playhouse on the junction of Hepworth Way and New Zealand Avenue is the HWM Aston Martin dealership. The letters HWM stand for Hersham & Walton Motors. They were founded in 1946 when George Abecassis and John Heath bought a garage and started racing sports cars in 1948. Sir Stirling Moss first competed in Formula 1 in 1951 at Berne in a Hersham & Walton Motors car, he finished eight. HWM became the world’s first Aston Martin dealership over 55 years ago. Their newly refurbished showroom is still situated on the site of the original garage and its forecourt is still littered with Aston Martins for sale. 

 

New Zealand Avenue owes it name to Walton’s connections with New Zealand during World War I. Mount Felix, a large mansion overlooking the Thames near Walton Bridge, had been rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century by Sir Charles Barry for the 5th Earl of Tankerville. However it was taken over by the New Zealand War Contingent Association in 1915 and converted to a hospital for New Zealand war victims. It was called New Zealand General Hospital No. 2 (No. 1 was at Brockenhurst in the New Forest). At its peak it had over 1,000 beds and continued till after the end of the war until late June 1919. With pressure on the hospital during intense fighting at “The Somme” in France the nearby Oaklands Park Hotel was also converted for hospital use. During their time at Walton the New Zealand soldiers had many fond memories of the town. One New Zealand medical officer wrote:

 

“The grounds at Walton (which ran down to the Thames) were delightful with beautiful walks, flower beds and green fields. The garden was well kept, and the fine old English cedars and other trees lent a peculiar charm to the surroundings,”

 

Over 27,000 New Zealanders were cared for here during the Great War. The people of Walton took the young soldiers into their homes and their hearts, and in 1921 a plaque was erected to remember them. In 1966 Mount Felix was badly damaged by a fire and had to be demolished. The plaque was moved to the Walton Town Hall (now Homebase) in New Zealand Avenue.

 

“THIS TABLET IS ERECTED AD 1921 BY THE INHABITANTS OF WALTON-UPON-THAMES TO COMMEMORATE THEIR 27000 FELLOW SUBJECTS FROM THE DOMINION OF NEW ZEALAND WHO WOUNDED OR DISABLED IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918 WERE CARED FOR IN THE MILITARY HOSPITALS AT MOUNT FELIX AND OATLANDS PARK. SEVENTEEN OF THESE MEN LIE BURIED IN WALTON CEMETERY. THEIR BODIES ARE BURIED IN PEACE BUT THEIR NAMES LIVETH FOR EVERMORE”.

 

Taken from – The New Zealand European Connection by Martin O’Connor (Grantham House 1989 ISBN 1 86934 018 3).

 

A brass plaque was put up on the wall in the local St Mary’s Church in 1921 to record their stay at Walton and as a memorial to the seventeen of them who died here and are buried in the graveyard. Another memorial can be seen in the middle of the car park of Homebase, just off New Zealand Avenue, a Kowhat Tree given by the New Zealand High Commission in 1970 was planted with a small brass plaque next to it.

 

All that now remains of Mount Felix is the Clock Tower on Bridge Close which has been converted to office use and the gate pillars on Bridge Street at the junction of Hepworth Way.

 

St Mary’s Church is a Grade 1 listed building and stands at the highest point in Walton and only a short walk from the river. The church has eight bells, the oldest cast in 1606 – see links to Bell Ringing and Church Tour. It has many monuments, including one to Field Marshall Viscount Shannon (who died in 1740), and is one of the best works by Francois Roubiliac. It was commissioned by his daughter Lady Middlesex. To the right of Shannon Memorial is a glass box containing a Scold’s Bridle. The original, stolen in 1965, was dated 1633 and came to the parish in 1723 from Chester (or in some versions from a man called Chester who lost a fortune due to women gossiping). It is inscribed:

 

“Chester presents Walton with a bridle

To curb women’s tongues which talk too idle”

 

There are brasses (dated 1587) dedicated to John Selwyn, once a keeper of the Royal Park at Oatlands, and a black marble slab commemorating the work of William Lilly, a famous astrologer of his time, who died in 1681. The church also houses a late 17th Century organ case, and in the graveyard lays Edward 'Lumpy' Stevens (1735 - 1819), a well known cricketer whose bowling led to the introduction of the third stump.

 

Stevens was employed as a gardener at Mount Felix by Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville (1743 – 1822). The Earl was a keen cricketer and was one of those who sat at the first meeting to lay down the rules of the game. At the time cricket was a game of the upper classes. They would employ working men who were good at the game so as to have them for their team.

 

Csarevitch Nicholas II of Russia, later to be the last Tsar, stayed with Prince and Princess Louis of Battenberg, at Elm Grove in June 1894 on a visit to meet his fiancée and future wife Princess Alexandra. On a visit to St Mary’s Church, Nicholas was reported to have been amused on seeing the Scold’s Bridle in the church. A few days later the couple moved on to Windsor to stay with, Alexandra’s grandmother, Queen Victoria and attend a dinner in their honour. You can read more about the visit at Royal Menus.

 

Elm Grove is just off the southern end of Walton High Street. This former home to the Mountbatten family has gone through many uses, including a courthouse, local council offices and a recreational facility. It is now a listed building and belongs to Elmbridge Borough Council.

 

Walton and St Mary’s have also connections with the Surrey Diggers (or True Levellers as they called themselves). This was a movement started in 1649 by Gerrard Winstanley two months after the execution of King Charles I. He was a cloth trader from Lancashire whose business in London was ruined by the English Civil War. He moved to Cobham where he stayed with friends and earned his living as a farm labourer. Through a vision he claimed to have, together with stories from many others who were also left with nothing, he produced writings about the rights of the common man. A lot of these were merely pamphlets. The one below was entitled “The New Law of Righteousness” and was published in January 1649.

 

“When this universal law of equity rises up in every man and woman, then none shall lay claim to any creature and say, This is mine, and that is yours.  This is my
work, that is yours.  But everyone shall put their hands to till the earth and
bring up cattle, and the blessing of the earth shall be common to all; when a man
hath need of any corn or cattle, take from the next storehouse he meets with.
There shall be no buying or selling, no fairs or markets, but the whole earth shall
be a common treasury for every man, for the earth is the Lord's...When a man hath eat, and drink, and clothes, he hath enough.”
 

He earned a following through his radical views, believing common land belonged to everyone and thus everyone had a right to earn a livelihood from it. With people from Walton and Cobham he set up a commune at St Georges Hill on 1st April 1649. They built places for their families to live and dug the land to plant their crops. They were poor and at first thought harmless, so were left to their own devices. It wasn’t long before wealthy landowners and people in power realised their threat. Those who felt threatened by the Diggers paid local thugs to beat them up, destroy their crops and burn their houses. They and their families were taken prisoner and locked up in St Mary’s at Walton. They were eventually released as there were no grounds to hold them. They moved to Cobham and gained support from other corners of the country where communes were also set up. However, they never stood a chance against the might of those in control and within three years of starting they were quashed and became a part of history.

 

Until recently this was a part of England’s history which has not been given much credit. However, it resurfaced almost 350 years later on 3rd April 1995 when a band of modern day Eco Warriors and historians marched from Walton to St George’s Hill in remembrance to “the Diggers”. They camped there for a time before they were removed. Their intention was to erect a memorial stone to “the Diggers”. The story of this part of history has been documented by the BBC, h2g2 and by Elmbridge Museum. A Diggers Trail has since been established and a leaflet has been produced by Local Heritage. You can view it at the link to Elmbridge Museum.

 

The local council eventually agreed for a memorial stone to “Gerrard Winstanley a True Leveller” to be erected on Cobbett’s Hill just opposite Weybridge rail station and on the fringes of St Georges Hill.

 

Some more links to the Surrey Diggers are below.

 

This Land is Ours – A Land Rights Campaign for Britain

 

Songs: The Diggers Song (World Turned Upside Down) – follow the link to read the words and download different versions or click on DICK GAUGHAN to get his version of The Diggers Song” courtesy of www.seedstar.net, original lyrics by Leon Rosselson.

 

The St Mary’s website is well worth a visit to read its tour of the church and the history associated with it. The British History Online website contains a detailed early history of Walton-on-Thames.

 

In the last few years the centre of Walton-on-Thames (area between Hepworth Avenue, the High Street and New Zealand Avenue) has been mostly redeveloped with the building of a new centre called “The Heart”. It is an up market shopping centre with many restaurants with flats above.

 

Continue along the towpath, past the Anglers pub and through a parking area.

 

A notice board next to a wall on the left gives information on the local history of the area. On the river next to it is Walton Wharf.

 

250 yards after the Anglers stay right to cross a footbridge over the entrance of Walton Marina.

 

The path to the right leads past the back of the marina to Bridge Street and the western end of Walton viaduct. On crossing the footbridge look across the river to see the entrance to Shepperton Marina. Immediately over the footbridge is Walton Marina shop and on the river next to it is a small pier with some boats for sale.

 

On reaching a gate across the path, go through the opening to the left and turn half left onto a path across the grass to some steps – at 5 miles into the route. Climb the steps and turn right along the pavement and over the Thames on the pedestrian bridge. Once over the river, turn left to cross the road using the traffic island and go straight on into Walton Lane.

 

Walton Bridge was rebuilt in 1999. The previous bridge is to the right. The new bridge is the 5th built here. Originally the only crossing point was a ford a few hundred yards up river.

 

There was a ferry at Walton from the 15th Century until the first bridge was built here between 1748 and 1750. It was designed by William Etheridge and commissioned by Samuel Dicker, a wealthy landowner and MP for Plymouth. He lived at Mount Felix on the south side of the river with its grounds overlooking the bridge. The bridge was a wooden structure with three arches built on a brick base. Dicker recouped his money by charging tolls to cross. The old bridge was captured twice in paintings by Canaletto. One of these was in 1754, the original of which can be seen at Dulwich Picture Gallery. However, due to decay the bridge was declared unsafe in 1778 and demolished in 1783 to make way for a new bridge. William Etheridge also designed a smaller wooden bridge of the same format at Queen’s College Cambridge. This was originally built in 1749 and rebuilt in 1866 and 1905 using the same design and still stands today.

 

The second bridge was a six arch brick and stone structure built by James Paine in 1788.  It was painted by Turner in 1805 and the original painting can be seen at the Tate today. The bridge lasted for 73 years when in August 1859 the two centre arches fell into the River. The collapse was thought to be due to settlement of the central support pier and the account below appeared in a local newspaper at the time.

 

"On Thursday morning at half past five o'clock the bridge leading from Walton to Halliford, Middlesex was observed to be cracking across the highway of the bridge over the centre arch and the crack kept increasing so much as to allow parts to fall into the River and so it remained dropping bit by bit until twelve o'clock when the arch fell with a violent crash into the bed of the River. In a short time afterwards the other arch fell in....."

 

The third bridge was built in 1862. It designed by E.T. Murray and was made of iron and rested on brick and stone piers. On the Walton side a brick viaduct was also built over the flood plain - this still stands today. In 1940 the third bridge was damaged in a German air raid. It remained opened to light traffic until 1953 when a fourth bridge was built next to it on its downstream side. Cyclists and pedestrians continued to use the older bridge until 1985 when it was eventually demolished.

 

The fourth bridge was a temporary measure and not pleasant to look at. It remained in use to traffic up to December 1999 when a fifth bridge was built upstream next to it in the position of the older bridges. This explains why the road then went straight over the old viaduct and onto the new bridge. Once again the older bridge remains open to cyclists and pedestrians, but once again all is just a temporary measure until the new 6th Walton Bridge is completed.

 

The latest news on Walton Bridge came on 19th July 2010 from the new Coalition Government. Basically, all money to build the bridge is on hold and it looks like the current temporary bridge could remain a more permanent feature.

 

To update you on this story, in January 2011 Surrey County Council gave the go-ahead to build a new road bridge across the Thames next to the two older Walton bridges. It was estimated to cost £32.3 million and will be the first road bridge to be built over the river in 20 years – the previous one was the QE2 Bridge at Dartford which opened in 1991.

 

The sixth bridge was opened on 22nd July 2013. On YouTube you can watch a video of Walton Bridge being built in 3 minutes, plus another showing the opening ceremony. The two older, downstream, bridges are presently in the process of being demolished.

 

You can read the whole history of Walton Bridge on the Surrey County Council Website. There are also many paintings, sketches and photos of the different bridges on the Thames.me.uk website.

 

On entering Walton Lane stay on the pavement on the left hand side. The lane is one way until Dunally Park.

 

Immediately after Dunally Park are some desirable residences on the left with gardens onto the Thames. The white house at the end (Elmbank Cottage), on the corner of the Lower Halliford Green, was home to 19th Century writer Thomas Love Peacock (1785 – 1886); appropriately the house is topped with a peacock weather vane and the writer is remembered by a blue plaque on the front wall. Peacock was a member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers which included Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. He died here at the age of 81, on 23rd January 1866 from injuries he sustained in a fire whilst trying to save his library. He is buried in Old Shepperton Cemetery, reached by a narrow road just north of Church Square.

 

Directly across Walton Lane is an 18th century weather-boarded house named Dunally Cottage, and according to a document dated 2004 from Spelthorne Borough Council it appears to have also been once owned by Peacock:

 

“Dunally Cottage was originally a barn built in 1720 and Poet’s Cottage was built in 1833 and both have weather boarded end elevation. Dunally Cottage and Poet’s Cottage were two separate dwellings until Poet’s Cottage was bought in 1985 from Steve Holley, Paul McCartney’s drummer in ‘Wings’ and combined with Dunally Cottage to create one dwelling…

 

Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851) author of ‘Frankenstein’ once lived in Dunally Cottage which was lent to her by Thomas Love Peacock circa 1820, before her husband died in 1822.”

 

George Meredith, novelist and poet, married Peacock’s daughter Mary Ellen and they lived for a period at Vine Cottage, just across the green to the right on Russell Road.

 

Halliford (holy ford) got its name from a hermit, a holy man who lived here in Anglo-Saxon times by the ford, and is said to have performed miracles. Legend has it that the Romans, under Julius Caesar crossed the Thames from near Cowey Sale to Halliford and, fought a battle here in 54 BC. The village has connections with Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson and English Monarchs including King Edgar, Elizabeth I, Charles I and Charles II. Many houses around the Green, along the river and in the village have English Heritage plaques on their front noting them as “Buildings of Historical Interest”. They are too many to name and if you have information on any I miss out, I would appreciate if you would pass it onto me.

 

Just past Peacock House turn left onto a path across a small riverside park. On reaching Russell Road turn left along the road keeping the river to the left.

 

This short stretch along Russell Road from the green to Shepperton Cross once had four pubs, now only two remain - the Red Lion and the Ship Hotel (now Harrisons Hotel). Opposite the pubs is Gibbs Boatyard and just past it is the entrance to the Ship Hotel car park through which a track leads south to the river. A few yards further along on the right is Halliford School.

 

Next along Russell Road and to the left is the Brownies & Guides Hut (a wooden footbridge leads to the hut) and just past this a small road to the car park of the local Cricket Club.

 

Turn left into the car park of Shepperton Cricket Club (at 6 miles) then left through the car park and onto a footpath. Follow a path to the left through a wood to the river Then turn right along the river and after a couple of hundred yards, where your way is blocked, follow the path as it veers right away from the river and then left.

 

Continue along the southern edge of a car park and on reaching a road, turn left along the pavement and into Old Shepperton. This is a peaceful walk that is little used, and an alternative and slightly longer route of the Thames Towpath Walk.

 

(Note: You can also choose to follow the official route of the Thames Path. This continues along Russell Road past the entrance of Shepperton Cricket Club to Shepperton Cross. Here turn left into Church Road and straight on along the left hand pavement into the village. The road leads past Halliford School Playing Grounds to the right and a car park with public toilets and large green to the left. The entrance to the public car park is where the alternative Thames Path (mentioned above) rejoins the other route.)

 

The village signs on both sides of the road are a recent addition where the route enters Old Shepperton. The old houses along the winding road into the centre of village are well preserved. Two of them have been converted to restaurants, Edwinns (now Castello – it keeps changing name) and Bluebeckers – funnily enough both were opened by the same company. This was Bluebeckers first restaurant, opened in 1977, and the company has expanded greatly ever since. Bluebeckers is now owned by Home Counties Pub Restaurants.

 

The name Shepperton means “shepherds' settlement” and this place is quite unique as it can trace its origins back to over 5,000 years ago. In 1989 at Staines Road Farm, just north of Laleham Road and west of the M3 motorway at Shepperton Green, traces of a small circular ditched enclosure (or “henge”) were uncovered. This was dated to about 3500 BC and around the time when Stonehenge was constructed. “Shepperton Henge” is thought to have been a site of worship as its entrance faces the midsummer sunrise. An areal map of the site and some photos of the site are available on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website. As well as animal bones, pottery, tools and colouring materials, the remains of two humans were also found buried in the ditch. The skull of one, a woman believed to be in her 30s when she died, was painstakingly reconstructed and using scientific methods so were her features. Carbon dating suggests she lived sometime between 3640 and 3100 BC and this makes her the oldest ever human remains found in the London area. She is now know as “Shepperton Woman” and is sometimes referred to as London’s First Lady. The skull and the reconstructed head are on display at the Museum of London.

 

Another significant find at Laleham Road in Shepperton was uncovered in 1950. This was a simple pottery urn containing 300 coins cast in tin and bronze and a designed derived from Greek coins of Marseilles. They are known as “the Sunbury Hoard”, are believed to have been buried around 100 – 50 BC and now in the Museum of London.

 

At the time of the Domesday Book (1086), Shepperton was known as Scepertone, and was owned by Westminster Abbey. Early Saxon cemeteries on the north of Chertsey Road and near Walton Bridge also suggest settlements here in the 5th and 6th centuries.

 

Church Square at Old Shepperton, soon passed on the left, is a prime example of village survival. There has been a church here since the 12th Century. Although some of the original foundations are still thought to be in place, the current church dates from 1614. The rectangular bell tower was added in the early 18th Century. North of the church is the rectory, parts of which date from the 15th Century. The excellent Queen Anne front was added around 1700.  Like many old building, stories of ghosts have emerged. In this case the ghost is said to be Erasmus, 15th Century Dutch renaissance scholar, a friend of William Grocyn, Rector of Shepperton from 1504 - 1513.

 

On the north side of St. Nicholas Church is the solitary grave of Margaret Love Peacock (died 1826). She was the daughter of Thomas Love Peacock and died when just three years old. Peacock wrote a poem to his little daughter which he had inscribed on the headstone on the grave. The grave and headstone are well preserved. For historical purposes it is classified as a Grade 2 listed building and although over 180 years old you can just about still read the poem. 

 

"Long night succeeds thy little day

Oh blighted blossom can it be

That this grey stone and grassy clay

Have closed out anxious care of thee.

 

The half-formed worlds of liveliest thought

That spoke a mind beyond thy years

The song the dance by nature caught

The sunny smile the transient tears.

The symmetry of face and form

The age with light and life replete

The little heart so fondly warm

The voice so musically sweet.

 

The saddest to in memory of

Around the hearts that loved the cling

She leaving with long and regret

The in promise of thy spring."

 

The grave, like many other parts of the river along here, is mentioned in Jerome K Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat

 

“There is a tomb in Shepperton churchyard, however, with a poem on it, and I was nervous lest Harris should want to get out and fool round it. I saw him fix a longing eye on the landing-stage as we drew near it, so I managed, by an adroit movement, to jerk his cap into the water, and in the excitement of recovering that, and his indignation at my clumsiness, he forgot all about his beloved graves.”

 

Two old pubs stand on either end of the Square. Nell Gwynne is said to have lodged in the Kings Head, and Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton to have visited the Anchor Hotel. The square is well known for illegal bare-knuckled fights being held here in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Through the years many famous people have lived (or stayed) in the village, including Charles Dickens, H G Wells, Jerome K Jerome, Gilbert and Sullivan, Judy Garland, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin are just some of them.  A statement in the entrance hall of The Anchor reads,

 

"Through these Portals have passed

The Rich, the famous. Prime Ministers, Statesmen, Politicians.

Notorious Personages of dubious character, Wenches, Pugilists,

Visitors from the Colonies (including the Americas), Sporting Gentry,

Vagabonds, Glamorous Artistes from the World of Motion Pictures, -

But the Most Important of Them All is You!"

 

 

The Anchor Hotel dates back over 400 years. It was a haunt of highwayman Dick Turpin. This may explain why after one of his visits a pistol was found in the rafters inscribed “Dick’s Friend”. It is also claimed to be the place where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s romance first blossomed. They stayed here in 1963 whilst filming “Cleopatra” at the nearby Shepperton Film Studios. The hotel has also been used as the setting for many TV dramas.

 

Many famous movies have been made at Shepperton Studios over the years and many of the actors have stayed in the two hotels in the Square. It’s a shame the hotels do not have a log of this as it would go to hundreds. The studios are just a mile to the north, near the vast Queen Mary Reservoir.

 

Opposite the church on other side of the Square is the Warren Lodge Hotel. The hotel actually takes up all of this side as it also owns the King’s Head pub. The car park of the hotel was known as Ferry Square. There was a ferry here from the 14th century. In 1970 the square was handed over to the people of Shepperton by the Lord of the Manor for them to enjoy. The occasion is commemorated by a plaque on the wall.

 

In the entrance to the Warren Lodge Hotel, are many memorandums to popular music, including Roger Daltry's gold disc for sales of "Tommy". 

 

In Iain Sinclair's circumnavigation of London in “London Orbital” published in 2000 he sometimes visits JG Ballard (1930 - 2009) at Shepperton. The book is about a walk around London on paths and narrow lanes, starting and finishing at the Meridian Line in Waltham Abbey and staying as close to the M25 as is possible. His route is 127 miles and passes through many of the same places as the London Green Belt Way.

 

Follow the main road through the village as far as Ferry Lane – the Thames Court Hotel Pub sign marks the start of the lane. Turn left into the lane. As its name suggests, Ferry Lane leads to the river and a privately run ferry to Weybridge on the opposite bank.

 

A field next to Ferry Lane has a ghostly story associated with it. In 1929 a Vickers Vanguard aircraft crashed here, killing both its crew. Many local people heard the noise from the crash several times over the next few years and some even reported seeing the plane come down in the moonlight.

 

On reaching the river turn right along the road running parallel to it.

 

Ferry Lane gets its name from the Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry at the end of the lane and next to the Nauticalia Shop. A ferry has crossed the Thames here since the reign of Henry VI in the 15th Century. Services stopped around 1960, but have been introduced again since 1986.

 

There are many islands on the river, in this area, and it's behind some of these where the River Wey and the Wey Navigation join the Thames. Just past the ferry is Shepperton Lock and immediately after is the inviting Thames Court Hotel, with its cosy bar and large beer garden overlooking the river. It is owned by Vintage Inns and was once home to the Dutch Ambassador. On our walk around London we pass many of the pubs owned by this company. They seem to choose pubs overlooking rivers or in other scenic areas. I have eaten and drank at all the ones we pass and have never been disappointed.

 

The Domesday Book of 1086 records a weir at Shepperton. The first lock was built of wood in 1809 and was replaced by the current one in 1899. In “Our Mutual Friend” (1865), by Charles Dickens, the lock at Plashwater Mill is based here. In “The Wars of the Worlds” (1898), by HG Wells, one of the main battles is fought between Weybridge and Shepperton Lock.

 

The road soon passes Pharaoh’s Island. It was given to Lord Nelson after the Battle of the Nile (1789) and he used it as a fishing retreat. Today the island only reachable by boat and many of the properties still have Egyptian names. In January 2011, a small dinghy ferrying people from the island capsized with the loss of two lives. The fatalities were named as university professor Dr Rex Walford OBE and record producer Keith Lowde.  You can read the BBC News website report on the tragedy.

 

Along this stretch there are many desirable properties on both banks of the river. Those on the opposite side form part of the Hamm Court Estate and were built on what was the old Manor of Hamm Court. The road by now is one way (in the opposite direction) and within half a mile becomes Dockett Eddy Lane and turns right, away from the towpath towards the main Chertsey Road. The name Dockett Eddy as far as I can ascertain comes from a small island on the Thames, no longer here, near Shepperton Lock and called Dog’s Ait. The name got corrupted to Dockett hence the name Dockett Eddy Lane.

 

As the road turns right go straight on along the towpath which is now enclosed between the river and farmland (also a flood plain).

 

There is the odd dwelling set back from the river on the right and some isolated houseboats moored on to the left. Across the river, for the next mile, are Chertsey Meads, a 170 acre site of open grassland with wildlife habitats, walks and picnic areas. A leaflet about the meads is available from Runnymede Borough Council or by following this link.

 

Eventually the path passes through a kissing gate and into a large open field called Dumpsey Meadow. A short footpath off to the right leads to Chertsey Bridge Road. However, stay straight on around a large bend which is the edge of meadow and is next to the riverbank.

 

Dumpsey Meadow covers 24 acres, is classified as a “Site of Special Scientific Interest” and is open to the public. It is a haven for wildlife, usually has cattle grazing in it and in summer is awash with yellow ragwort. On the approach to Chertsey Bridge there are some houses and a marina on the other bank and just past this is a new development of flats. Since 1851 the Chertsey Regatta has taken place along this stretch of the Thames.

 

At nine miles the route passes under Chertsey Bridge, a sign shows the way. The first bridge built here was in 1410 and was maintained by Chertsey Abbey. The current bridge was built between 1780 and 1782 by James Paine and is certainly one of the most tasteful on the river. The bridge is a stone’s throw from the well preserved lock, a pub on both sides, a riverside campsite and large open pastures to explore next to the river. 

 

Across the river in Chertsey Town a curfew bell in the church commemorates Blanche Heriot who, at the time of the Wars of the Roses, knowing her lover was to be executed at curfew, climbed the church tower and hung on to the clapper of the bell until he was reprieved, but she died through her actions.

 

Her courage inspired the ballad ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’ by the American poet Rose Hardwick Thorpe.  A memorial to Blanche has been built on the Chertsey side of the bridge. 

 

Alongside Windsor Street in Chertsey is the site of an old abbey (Chertsey Abbey). This Benedictine monastery was in Saxon Times as important as Westminster and in Shakespeare it was here that Henry VI was sent to be buried - "Come now towards Chertsey with your holy load". Today very little remains of what was one of the greatest abbeys in England. Founded in AD666, pillaged in 871AD by Vikings who came up the Thames in a fleet of ships, rebuilt during the 12th Century, it was finally destroyed during the Reformation. It is believed materials from the abbey were floated down river to be used in the construction of Hampton Court.

 

Chertsey Museum in the centre of the town is a fine Regency house and has many interesting displays including the 13th Century Abbey Tiles. They are described by some as the most famous tiles in England.

 

Just before Chertsey Bridge is where Dickens placed a scene in Oliver Twist (chapters 11 & 12).  Bill Sikes and the poor Oliver travelled, mostly on foot, from Whitechapel. They met Sikes' confederate, Toby Crackit in a house on the riverbank, "a solitary house all ruinous and decayed".  After some discussion and a nap, they preceded along the river and over Chertsey Bridge to the scene of the crime. You can read more about their journey from London to Shepperton on stage 22 of this book.

 

By Chertsey Bridge (at 9 miles into the stage), there is another Coal Tax Post - this is one of the usual white metal posts. There is another one a little further on, in the garden of No 242 on the right, and a third one on the right of the road, shortly before the gates to the Angling Club

 

Continue straight on under the bridge and along the footpath on the left hand side of the road and next to the river.

 

Next to the bridge is the Kingfisher Pub, and just like the Thames Court is owned by Vintage Inns, and just past it are two adjoining white houses. The top window between the two is painted, on the inside, with the bridge and two young lovers walking along the river on a fine summer's day. I found out from the lady of the house that the glass painting was done by her daughter. In the garden of the second house (No 242 mentioned above) is a well preserved “coal post” and in front of the other is what may also be a different type of coal post. All are classified as Grade 2 listed for their historical importance.

 

Across the river next to the bridge is the Boat House Pub & Bridge Lodge Hotel and just upstream from it is the Chertsey Campsite

 

On approaching Chertsey Lock, it is plain to see some recent work has been done shoring up the island. This was carried out by the Environment Agency who is responsible for maintaining the locks.

 

After passing the lock the route soon passes under the M3 road bridge over the Thames. There is a constant hum of the traffic from above, but from the tranquility of the riverside it seems a long way away.

 

Around and beyond the motorway bridge is an area of gravel pits and reservoirs. Most of the pits have filled with water and some are used as fishing and boating lakes. There are parks, recreational areas popular for barbeques and picnics, riverside beaches for paddling and swimming, a solitary boathouse, two ice-cream vans, gaps in riverbank for anglers to test their skills, car-parks to rest vehicles and 15 sleeping policemen to slow down the traffic along the narrow road. It is about a mile and a half from Chertsey Bridge to Laleham and along the towpath. The riverside past the M3 Bridge is known as Laleham Reach – it is one of the least spoilt parts of the Thames. On the opposite bank there are many floating riverside residences whose lights at night form a homely glow across the water.

 

In January 2003, because of heavy rainfall, the Thames being unable to cope with the volume overflowed its banks and most of this area was flooded. The towpath and the road along the river were up to a metre under water. Chertsey Town and riverside residences took most of the brunt of the floods. Many of the locals blamed the opening of the new Jubilee Flood Relief Cut, upriver near Windsor, as the main cause. Sacrificing, Chertsey and other downstream areas to save historic Windsor and Eton.

 

Soon to the right is a large car park with public toilets, an ice-cream van and a child’s play area. The grassy area around it is Laleham Park. On one side are permanent barbeques for people to use, on the other is Laleham Park Campsite and at the riverbank there are two small beaches where people can paddle of even go for a swim. Less than half a mile to the west is Thorpe Park with its spectacular dome and many rides. It is built on an island, surrounded by flooded gravel pits and staffed by students from all over the country. The tops of the roller-coasters are visible across the river. 

 

The park was originally part of the gardens of Laleham Abbey (earlier known as Laleham House). The Abbey is set back from the river and shortly after passing the campsite is visible from the route. It has being converted to flats, but was once home of the Earls of Lucan, a title associated with misfortune. The Lucans moved to Laleham in 1803, the third earl giving the disastrous order to the Light Brigade to attack at Balaclava on 25th October 1854, and the seventh earl still missing after a murder in 1974.

 

After passing Burway Rowing Club is a second and smaller riverside car park. It also has an ice-cream van, a barbeque area and small beachy areas next to the river. At the back of the car park at the base of a tree and always surrounded by flowers is a metal plaque on a tiny concrete base. The inscription remembers Tony Kembery, known as "Kim" to his loved ones.

 

Soon the road turns right and away from the river towards Laleham Village, centred round its 12th Century church, All Saints. Laleham means “settlement by the willows” and its most famous resident was Thomas Arnold, the great headmaster of Rugby School, who inspired Thomas Hughes to write the novel "Tom Brown's School Days". He was appointed to his position at Rugby largely on the reputation built up in his small private school at Laleham (1819 - 28). He came to Laleham in 1819 with his brother-in-law Reverend John Buckland, who founded the English prep school system. Six of Arnold's children, including poet Matthew, were born in the village. Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888) and his three sons are buried in Laleham churchyard.

 

Many other famous people lived in Laleham, including actress Gabrielle Anwar (born here 4th February 1970), and Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales, was a regular visitor at the Three Horseshoes public house when he stayed with the Lucan Family at Laleham House.

 

The route past Laleham stays on the towpath, and because of this many of the interesting features of Laleham Village are missed.  For a historic walk around the village just follow the link.

 

On reaching Laleham the road turns right towards the centre of the village (now at 10.25 miles into the stage). DO NOT turn right with the road, instead follow the towpath straight on along the narrow river road to Penton Hook Lock, at 11.1 miles into the stage. Go straight past the lock staying next to the river.

 

A short distance before Penton Hook Lock the towpath crosses an outlet from the Thames. By looking at the bank of the river you should see the sluice gates. Each day something like 200 million gallons of water are fed through here, then east along a channel for half a mile and there pumped uphill into the huge Queen Mary Reservoir.

 

At Penton Hook the main river doubles back on itself around Penton Hook Island. The lock, when built, created the island and shortened the journey for pleasure crafts along the Thames. The island itself is accessed by crossing the lock and is a joyous and peaceful area where you can stroll, paddle and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the world. 

 

Pleasant houses, flats and riverboats line the river to Staines. Many of the houses are built at an angle to give them a wider view to the river.  

 

Shortly after passing a grassy open are and then following the towpath as it turns right, and at 11.8 miles into the stage, across the river is Truss's Island. This is joined to the Surrey bank by a small bridge and remembers the City of London's famous Navigation clerk of works Charles Truss.

 

To our right at 12.5 miles is St Peters Church, finished in 1895 by architect George Fellowes Prynne. The Lych Gate opens onto the towpath.

 

 

Sir Edward Clarke (1841 – 1931) was a Conservative politician and a barrister. He served as Solicitor-General (1886 – 1892). In 1895 he famously represented Oscar Wilde in Wilde’s disastrous prosecution of the Marquess of Queensbury for libel. After the trial Wilde was arrested and prosecuted for homosexual practises. Clarke sold his house and its grounds downstream to K S Ranjitsinhji (1872 – 1933), Indian cricketer, politician and “Prince”. He built himself a large house on the river, next to St Peters. The house still exists today as The Vicarage, as shown below. The photo on the right is of Sir Edward and Lady Clarke outside St Peters in the late 1920s

 

 

Sir Edward Clarke and his wife were a huge influence on Staines during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were the most prominent couple here then. They gave a lot to the town and also took much pleasure in the years they lived in Staines. At www.Archive.org you can read Edward’s autobiography about his early life, as a barrister, a politician and as someone who used his own money and time to help the community he enjoyed living amongst.

 

The quote below is from Edward Clarke’s autobiography.

       

“I am speaking of my pleasures at Staines, so it would be affectation to omit one of the greatest. That was the building of St. Peter's Church. When I bought Thorncote, the only place of Church of England worship within a mile of the house was a very uncomfortable iron building, too hot in summer and much too cold in winter, in the Edgell Road. Someone suggested that a church should be built, and a subscription list was opened. Two or three sums of 500 each were promised, but after that only small amounts were talked of, and it was clear there would be much difficulty in raising the required sum. A little higher up the river than Thorncote there was a charming site, where a row of fine elms stood along the river-side of a field which it was proposed to let in building plots. I was afraid these trees would be cut down, so I told my neighbours that if they would buy the site I would build a church upon it. The site was secured, and I employed Mr. George Fellowes Prynne, the son of my dear old friend and supporter at Plymouth, the famous Vicar of St. Peter's there, to design the church…”

 

K S Ranjitsinhji was a very successful first-class cricketer; he played for Cambridge University, Sussex and England. In India he succeeded to Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar in 1907. With the outbreak of World War I, in August 1914, he declared the resources of his estate could be used by Britain, including “Jamnagar House” at Staines. The house was converted to a hospital (The Prince of Wales Hospital for wounded officers) run by the Red Cross and with a gift of £50k to pay for running costs. As Maharaja he sent several squadrons of the Nawanagar Lancers to the Western Front. He became Chancellor of the Indian Chamber of Princes and represented India at the League of Nations after the war. Later, Ranjitsinhji moved back into his house at Staines. After the formation of the newly founded Irish Free State in 1922, he became the first head of state to officially visit. He bought the 50,000-acre Ballynahinch estate in Connemara and moved there in 1924. This helped popularise tourism in the state at a tumultuous time in Irish history. He died at Jamnagar Palace, India in 1933, aged 60. Ranji is remembered in India by the Ranji Trophy, a national cricket tournament inaugurated in 1934. At Staines his house has been demolished, but the lodge still remains. Mid-20th century residences now cover the large grounds it stood in. Jamnagar Close is one such development built on the site and remembers his time here.

 

 

One thing I have always thought strange about St. Peters is the church backs onto the road and the front proudly overlooks the river, with the lych-gate immediately adjacent to the Thames Path. The gate was presented by Sir Edward & Lady Clarke in 1908 on their Silver Wedding anniversary. It is where the congregation is supposed to pass through on their way to the church, but I’m sure most don’t come from the direction of the towpath. However, people passing by in boats and walking can appreciate it more than the cars speeding by on the Laleham Road.

 

In the grounds of the church, next to the lych-gate, is a small memorial garden remembering those who served in the Burma Campaign (1941 – 1945) during World War II.

 

 

Houseboat Reach was the name given in Edwardian Times to a half mile stretch of the Thames, on the Surrey bank, opposite St Peters and downstream from the railway bridge. It was lined with luxurious houseboats and many parties went on in the evenings. Servants were brought in from the posh London homes and entertainers were hired. Boats were illuminated with lanterns and it was a wonderful sight to behold. Today all the large houseboats have gone, there is no path along the river, on the Surrey side, and the only boats are the small launches moored at the bottoms of gardens belonging to private houses facing onto the river.

 

Below the first photo shows the large houseboats on the Surrey side with the railway bridge in the distance. The second photo is from 1895 and from the Francis Frith website.

 

With the coming of the railway to Staines in 1948, the town became a popular “country” resort on the river, away from the hustle, bustle and smog of London. For the less well-off, they would only come here on a day ticket and have to travel back to their humble homes and drab life in the evenings. For the better-off they could stay overnight in one of the town’s hotels or inns. However, for the wealthiest, they could buy or rent a large houseboat on “Houseboat Reach” and entertain guests and have them to stay.

 

On approaching the metal railway bridge at Staines (at 12.67 miles), to the right of the towpath is a small park and memorial commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, June 1897. In 1977 another memorial “The Jubilee Stone” was erected in the High Street to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II – I can only suppose the local towns folks didn’t want to make her feel left out.

 

After we continue along the towpath we pass the small Jubilee Memorial Gardens, opened in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in June the same year. The stone base of the cast iron lamp post is inscribed:

 

“This ground was purchased out of public subscriptions raised by the Staines Committee for the Commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. June 1897”

 

 

You can also take a break here by having a seat in one of the old benches. Most are really well preserved and have lasted the effects of time. They were all made in Johnson & Sharp Foundry which was situated next to the Blue Anchor, on the corner of the High Street and Thames Street.

 

Boatbuilding along the Thames has been a tradition going back to at least the Prehistoric period. Rafts and dugout canoes from tree trunks were most likely the earliest forms. A preserved dugout canoe was found at Shepperton in 1812, and another at Beasley’s Ait, Sunbury, in 1966.

 

Across the River Thames from here, you can see Tims’ Boatyard. As far as I know the last remaining boatyard in Staines. Tims started in the late 1870s when John Tims set up a boat building business in Church Street. In 1928 the firm of John Tims & Son moved to the south bank of the River Thames, just downstream from the railway bridge. Here they continued to build a variety of boats, hire out smaller craft and later hired out launches and cruisers by the week, thus allowing people to journey up the river as far as Lechlade and downstream to London.

 

In 2012 we have seen the new royal barge, the Gloriana, built as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee. Tims, for years, held the honour of being entrusted to repair and renovate an older royal barge. The King’s State Barge was a huge boat made of English oak and built in 1689 as a gift from William III to Mary II. The photos below show Tims’ Boatyard today, the grave of John Tims at St. Mary’s and a 1910 photo of the King’s State Barge being tested with Tims in the background.

 

 

Staines Railway Bridge was completed in 1856. It carries the London Waterloo to Reading Line and the London Waterloo to Chertsey via Hounslow. Staines Station was opened eight years earlier (1848) on the London Waterloo to Windsor Line. Hence with the coming of the second line Staines became a junction and for many years the station was named Staines Junction.

 

 

On the riverside face of the railway bridge abutment are three vertical rollers attached to the lower part of the buttresses on the towpath. These date from the early 19th century and were to prevent the towropes of the barges from fraying and causing damage to the buttresses by wear. They could also be used as a gentle friction braking system if required. As they are relevant to local history they are classified as a listed building.

 

 

 

As you can see from most of the photos of the railway bridge, there is a yellow stripe painted along the top of the bridge. This was added in the 1980s to make it more visible to swans and stop them from flying into the bridge.

 

Artist Douglas Elston Myers worked on a ten year project to paint all 110 bridges over the navigable Thames. He did this between 1996 and 2006. If you visit his wonderful website you can see all of these, including the Staines Rail Bridge and Staines Bridge (both below).

 

 

After crossing under the rail bridge the path comes up to the pavement, just before the Thames Lodge Hotel. Across the road next to the BUPA building is a white metal obelisk. This dates from 1837 and is a “Coal & Wine Tax Pole”. This obelisk, like the city posts also included (qv) marks the point at which the City of London boundaries began. The inscription on the post reads “14 & 15 VICT Cap 146”.

 

Immediately after passing under Staines’ railway bridge and before reaching and next to the Thames Lodge Hotel, turn left through a gate and behind the hotel to continue upstream along the river. The path leads past a riverside car park, then the back of the Town Hall and across a footbridge over the River Colne to the finish next to Staines Bridge.

 

For some reason I have always thought the footpath behind the Thames Lodge Hotel was the Thames Path as it’s the first opportunity to get back to the river. However, there is no direction sign from the road as the official Thames Path continues along the pavement, past the hotel, and then turns left to re-join the river.

 

The two adjoining cottages immediately upstream from the bridge date from the 19th century and are named "Hook on" and "Shoot off". Here the towpath switched banks and the process of getting the barges across the river was known as “Shooting Off”. It involved making the horses gain maximum momentum before casting off the tow-rope to shoot the barge across the stream. The horses were walked around via Staines Bridge or taken across by ferry, then re-hitched on the other side. Coming downstream, the barge crossed using the help of the current.

 

 

 

The Thames Lodge Hotel dates from 17th century (or maybe earlier) and was originally The Woolpack, named after the wool carrying barges. The cottages "Hook on" and "Shoot off" were renovated and incorporated into the hotel. It changed names to the Packhorse Hotel and later to the Thames Lodge Hotel – a bit more posh I suppose. You can see an old photo, dated 1895, of the Packhorse Hotel, from the river, at Francis Frith – it’s not a lot different from today. The photos below show the front of the hotel, the footpath down the side of it to the river and the path behind it.

 

 

While walking behind the Thames Lodge Hotel look across the river and you will see Staines Boat Club. According to their club website Staines Boat Club was established in 1894. However, Wikipedia and many other sources on the Internet state it was founded in 1851. Old results from the Henley Regatta seem to reinforce the older claim, as Staines had prize-winners in 1858 and 1871. We learnt earlier the first Staines Regatta was in 1850 and the Staines Amateur Regatta is now organised by Staines Boat Club. I’m not sure when and where the club was first based, but would really appreciate if anyone could clarify dates and fill in a few gaps on the history. 

 

 

 

The Thames Path is a long distance “National Trail” opened in 1996. It follows the River Thames for 184 miles, from its source near Kemble in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich. The route of the National Trail comes along the Thames from the west through Egham, crosses over Staines Bridge and continues along the northern bank, through Staines and on towards London.

 

 

 

If you look to your right you’ll see a small round building in the eastern side of the Riverside car park. This is the Sweeps Ditch Pumping House. Sweeps Ditch was originally an ancient man-made mill stream which flowed through Staines. In Roman & Medieval Times it formed the western and northern boundary of Town Island (sometimes referred to as High Street Island). It was fed by the waters of the River Clone, but with the High Street redevelopment and the building of the Elmsleigh Centre in the 1970s the water source was cut. A new water source was provided when Thames Water installed a pump house here in 1982 and this takes water from the Thames. The stream no longer goes through the centre of the town, instead it goes underground in a pipe across Thames Street and South Street, the pipe then goes in a straight line for 300m along the south side of South Street to feed the original open channel between the Elmsleigh Shopping Centre car park and the railway. This heads south to enter the Thames, just below Penton Hook Lock. Probably, the best place to view the old watercourse is as it flows south along the east sedge of Staines Park. The photos below show the Pumping House, the weather vane on top of it and the trees which follow the line of Sweeps Ditch through Staines Park.

 

 

To the left of the footpath and immediately past the car park, the sails canopies look down over a circular viewing gallery. A series of circular stone terraces lead down to a planked platform, with a rail next to, and overlooking the River Thames. Disabled access is provided by a ramp which leads down from the right hand side. To the right, and along the edge of the garden area, is a straight narrow water channel with a circular fountain at either edge (I believe called the Life-line Fountain). This extends for almost 60 m directly towards the swan arch at Thames Street. 

 

 

Soon to your right and just set back from the Thames Path is the red brick Staines Methodist Church. On the wall overlooking the Memorial Gardens is a relief carving of a dove that symbolises peace in biblical tales.

 

 

According to British History On-line the famous preacher and founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, once preached in Staines:

 

“John Wesley visited Staines in 1771 and preached in a house which had just been fitted up for the purpose. He recorded an enthusiastic reception and according to the Anglican authorities the number of Methodists increased between 1778 and 1810.”

 

The first Methodist chapel at Staines was built in 1854 on the south side Kingston Road and in the vicinity of the new police station. In 1890 it was replaced by a larger spired Gothic church on the opposite side of Kingston Road. The present church, overlooking the Memorial Gardens, was completed in 1987. Staines also once had a “Primitive Methodist” chapel, built in Richmond Road in 1878. This also closed in 1890, but the building has been preserved and is now a private dwelling.

 

The Origami Swans sculpture by Tom Brown (c2002) is made of folded polished sheets of mirror steel and depicts a swan and her signets. The swan represents the symbol which appears on the Borough coat of arms. The steel mirrors reflect the sparkling waters of the River Thames.

 

 

 

Staines Town Hall was designed by John Johnson, architect and District Surveyor of East Hackney, and was completed in 1880 in a Flemish Renaissance style with Italian and French motifs. It took nine years to build and cost a princely sum of £5,000.  To make way for it the old small spired market-house was pulled down, as were a number of buildings to the east. This widened the street to form the Market Square and provided the site for the Memorial Gardens which were completed in 1897. However, there does seem to be a slight flaw - if you look closely at the front dial on the clock you will notice two XI, one at 9 and one at 11.

 

The reason we have the Town Hall is due to the Rennie Brothers choosing a site 200m upstream from earlier bridges to build the present bridge. It left a dead-end onto the river at a space where the bottom of old High Street led to the bridge. Locals complained by building the Town Hall with its back to the river, Staines had turned its back on the river. We are still lucky to have this wonderful building as in the early 1970s Staines Urban Borough Council voted by just one not to knock it down. It was thanks to a campaign by concerned local residents which tipped the balance. This led to the formation of the Staines Town Society, a charity whose purpose is to protect the old buildings and heritage of the town.

 

 

 

According to Exploring Surrey’s Past:

 

HER 777 - Site of Staines Town Hall or Market House (Pre 1603 - Post 1712)

 

Staines Town Hall, or market house, originally stood in the middle of the highway and was afterwards removed to its later site. There in the Autumn of 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh was indicted before Commissioners and Middlesex jury. The current Town Hall was built in 1880/81 to replace a smaller one in a miserable and low thoroughfare known as Blackboy Lane. The original position has been sited to a widening of the High Street. The site of the meeting house lies just south of this part of the High Street. Sometime post 1712, the town hall or market house was moved to Blackboy Lane, which ran from where the present town hall stands south-eastwards to the river. It may be presumed that the present building stands very near to the site of the earlier one. The 1st edition of the OS 25" does not show it by name, but there is an isolated building in the centre of the roadway on the west side where the present Town Hall stands.”

 

Sources claim Sir Walter Raleigh was tried here, but this is not correct. It was here he was committed in 1603, before his trial at Winchester.

 

Over the years the Town Hall was used for many public events, including boxing tournaments, the local archaeological group, opera and stage plays. Famous rock bands who played here during the 1960s and 70s included, The Who, The Yarbirds and The Jaywalkers (with Richie Blackmore). The town hall was used for the court scene in the 1982 film Gandhi, where Judge Bloomfield sentences Ghandi to six years imprisonment for sedition. It also featured in the 2002 film Ali G Indahouse.

 

Staines Town Hall was mainly occupied by the local council, under different names from it opened until 1972, when Staines Urban District Council moved to new offices at Knowle Green. The local Magistrates Court was based her between October 1967 and March 1976, when it also moved to new offices at Knowle Green. The Old Town Hall opened as new Arts Centre in 1993; officially opened on 15 April 1994 by actor and director Kenneth Branagh. In 2004 the building became a “Smith & Jones” pub. However, when I went there recently at lunchtime, it seemed to have been abandoned and signs on the windows were advertising the leasehold of the building being up for sale.

 

Both of the red telephone kiosks at the front of the Town Hall, although looking a bit shabby at present, are grade II listed. The Old Fire Engine Shed, at the back right of the hall, was built c1880 and housed Spelthorne’s first museum from 1980 to 2003. You can read more about Staines Town Hall on the British Listed Buildings website.

 

 

 

On the side of the Town Hall, as we pass, look up to see a plaque which remembers “The Trafalgar Way”. This is the 271 mile route taken “express by post-chaise” by Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere between 4th & 6th November 1805. He travelled from Falmouth to the Admiralty in London, carrying the news of the momentous victory and the death in action of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. In total he took 37 hours and made 21 stops at coaching inns to change horses; the 20th of these stops was at the Bush Inn at Staines. The Bush was behind where the Town Hall no sits and next to the old Staines Bridge. Ironically, as you can see from the second plaque below, Lord Nelson stayed at the Bush Inn (apparently with Lady Hamilton) in July 1801 and just four years before his death.

 

 

This is one of two Swan Arches which mark entrances to the riverside Memorial Gardens. They were hand-made from stainless steel by Anthony & Simon Robinson. The motifs on the legs were designed by pupils of Kingscroft Junior School, each depicting images of the town. Both arches have a single swan in flight at the top – the swan represents the symbol of Staines. Kingscroft Junior School was amalgamated with Knowle Park Infant School and Shortwood Infant School in September 2011 to form Riverbridge Primary School.

 

 

 

The Dancing Fountains were erected here in 2006. The centre-piece is a sculpture of five swimmers mounted on a plinth. It was created by David Wynne in 1980, originally as the centre-piece to the Elmsleigh Shopping Centre which was opened the same year by Queen Elizabeth II. Some locals found the naked figures in the sculpture distasteful and downright rude. The council decided to remove it and put it into storage, at one point it came close to being disposed of. Luckily, this didn’t happen and it stayed in storage until it was placed here as important part of the Memorial Gardens. Apparently, before it was moved here, the male appendages were reduced – I suppose to keep some residents happy.

 

 

Enhancement of the Memorial Gardens along the riverside, between the Town Hall and the Thames Lodge Hotel, commenced in October 2001 and was completed in September 2002. This meant decreasing the size of the Riverside Car Park, increasing the area covered by the gardens and adding many new features. Since then many new features have also been added.

 

In 2001, and before additions to the Memorial Gardens, some archaeological work was carried out just south-east of the Town Hall, in the Riverside car park and the Market Square. This unveiled evidence of flood defenses going back through the years to the 1st century AD when the Romans were first here.

 

On the river behind The Town Hall sits a replica of the London Stone. The original stone is thought to be a Roman Altar stone and stood in Staines near this same spot since 1285. It marked the Corporation of City of London’s former limit of jurisdiction on the Thames. They gained these rights in 1197, during the reign of Richard I, and held them until the formation of the Thames Conservancy in 1857. This was the highest point at which the tide could be detected (that pleasure now belongs to Teddington Lock). In the 18th Century the stone was moved upstream, to what is now Lammas Park, and this in turn was replaced by the replica in 1986. In 2003, I found the original London Stone sitting unprotected under some scaffolding in what seemed to be an abandoned Town Hall. In 2012 the replica was moved back down river to where it is now, between the Town Hall and the Town Pier, and near to its original site. You can now see the original stone in Spelthorne Museum, behind the library on Thames Street. According to the display at the museum:

 

“… The London Stone is actually a stack of six layers of stones, of varying dates. The topmost one was reputed to be a Roman altar stone, although its actual origin is unknown. On the top part are the words “God preserve ye City of London AD 1285””

 

 

The local museum has recently been re-housed behind Staines library in Elmsleigh Road. Spelthorne Museum has a lot of information about the history of the borough and displays include Prehistoric Spelthorne, Roman Staines, Brewing & Bottling, Staines Linoleum Industry and the original “London Stone” is also on display.

 

Spelthorne Museum first opened in 1980 in the Old Fire Station next to the Town Hall. Towards the end of 2003, the Old Fire Station was sold as part of the Town Hall regeneration and the museums contents went into storage. On 30th July 2005 the museum re-opened in temporary offices. Then on 21st October 2006, the new professionally designed Spelthorne Museum was opened by television presenter Michael Aspel. It sits overlooking Thames Street with the entrance around the corner in Friends Walk and through Staines Library. The museum contains the original London Stone, plus a replica of the reconstructed face of “Shepperton Woman” (c3640 – 3100BC), sometimes referred to as the first lady of Britain. There are many other exhibitions telling the history of the area through the centuries. These include Prehistoric Spelthorne, Roman Staines, Brewing & Bottling, Fire, Iron Foundries, and Staines Linoleum Industry.  

 

 

On the wall of the Library, next to the entrance of the museum is a ceramic mural of Staines depicting places of interest and historical information about to the town. It is dated 2002 and was made by pottery students at Staines Adult Learning Centre.

 

 

 

A poster in the museum explains where many of the names of the local areas originated from and their links still held from Saxon Times. From my research, I have added a few extras, plus links to Wikipedia for further reading.

 

Middlesex           -        The area of Middle Saxons (between the three kingdoms of Essex, Wessex and Mercia).

 

Spelthorne:        -        “Speech Thorne”, a tree where the elders of the community would meet, believed to have been in the Ashford Common area.

 

Ashford:             -        Originally called Exford, a ford across the River Axe (possibly once known as the River Ex).

 

Charlton:             -        Derived from the word “Ceredentone”, meaning the property of a man called Ceolred.

 

Halliford:            -        From the Saxon word Helyaforda, meaning a holy ford, perhaps with a shrine. Another source claims Halliford (holy

ford) got its name from a hermit, a holy man who lived here in Anglo-Saxon times by the ford, and is said to have performed    miracles.

 

Laleham:             -        A water meadow with willows, or a river settlement by willow trees.

 

Littleton:            -        Originally from “Lytleton”, meaning just what it says, a small town.

 

Shepperton:       -        Saxon word is “Scepertone”, meaning a settlement of shepherds – Sheep Walk still exists as a road name.

 

Staines:              -        From the word “Stana”, meaning “stones”, perhaps the remains of the Roman town or road. Alternatively, it may have derived from an ancient stone circle which is believed to have been where the roundabout is now just

south of Staines bridge – the nine stones or “Negen Stanes”.

 

Stanwell:             -        From “Stanwelle”, a stony well or spring.

 

Sunbury:             -        From “Sunnanbyrig”, meaning the stronghold of a Saxon chief named Sunna.

 

Staines has been an important crossing point on the Thames since Roman times.  It was the site of the Roman town “Ad Pontes” (“by the bridges”), a model of Ad Pontes in the Spelthorne Museum, next to the Library, shows what a large settlement Pontes was in AD150.

 

Brewing and the production of “lino” formed an important part of Staines industrial past. Linoleum is made from flax (or linseed) and oil, the name is derived from the Latin for the two products “linon” and “oleum”. It was invented by local businessman Fredrick Walton who set up his lino factory in Staines in 1862. Staines became famous for its easily available floor covering and continued to produce it for over a hundred years. A metal statue in the centre of the High Street shows two workmen carrying a roll of lino.

 

North of the town is London Heathrow Airport. This is one of the busiest in the world and continues to grow. On 18th June 1972 a British European Airways Trident (Flight 548) crashed on Staines Moor (next to the Bypass) two minutes after take off, killing all 118 passengers and crew. On 18th June 2004 a quiet seating area on the Moormead Estate, close to where the accident took place, was dedicated to those who died. The area was landscaped by staff from BAA Heathrow and Spelthorne Borough Council. There is also a stained glass window in St Mary’s Church in Church Street commemorating the crash.

 

Near the town hall is the Blue Anchor pub (now The Boundary), notice that it still retains five false windows, owing their existence to a 19th century window tax. Along the riverside, next to Staines Bridge, a new development of flats has been built on the site of the old cinema. It is called Thames Edge and has enabled a continuous walkway to the bridge. Many other parts of the riverside along here have been spruced up quite tastefully, with notices, sculptures and water features depicting the history of the town. The local council have produced an art trail leaflet for Staines called “Artwalk”. This gives details of places of interest and public works of art around the town centre and has a map with a suggested route to follow.

 

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