Area and General Information
What was the Urban District of Walton and Weybridge comprised the two ancient parishes of Walton-on-Thames (6860 acres) and Weybridge (1371 acres). The parish of Hersham was taken out of Walton-on-Thames in 1851 and the parish of Oatlands out of Walton and Weybridge in 1869. Boundary changes in the 1930′s expanded the total area to just over 9,000 acres.
The district was bounded by the River Thames (north), River Wey (west), Mole (east) and Wisley Common (south). The central area consisted of a long ridge of sandy soil rising to 250 feet above sea level at St. George’s Hill. Until 1804 most of the central area, running from Wisley Common almost to the boundary of Apps Court, consisted of open common land, grass with very few trees; comprising some 3000 acres.
Until the middle of last century, the chief occupatin of the District was agriculture, though the poor sold of the central part was largely given over to park land. The crop returns for 1801 suggest that only 18% of Walton-on-Thames was under arable cultivation. Two thirds of this were devoted to cereals, the rest to peas, beans, potatoes and turnips. With the growth of London and the advent of the railways, the land was increasingly given over to market gardens with a special emphasis on peas, beans, lettuce, asparagus and artichoke.
In 1831 42% of the working population of Walton-on-Thames was engaged in agriculture and 10% in domestic services. By 1851 those engaged in agriculture has fallen to 22% and those working in domestic service had increased to 24%. By 1901, the figures were agriculture 6% and those working in domestic service had increased to 28%.
Over the coming years light industry grew with notable factories established such as the Power Dental Factory.
Walton and Weybridge Urban District
Walton and Weybridge Urban District existed from 1933 to 1974. It was formed by a County Review Order in 1933 by the merger of the Urban Districts of Walton-on-Thames and Weybridge. The district was abolished in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972 and now forms part of the Elmbridge Borough.
The history of this pre-Conquest manor is obscure, however some early records do exist. The Domesday Survey of 1086 records the appointment of lands after the Normal Conquest and in it is listed Manor of Absa’ (now known as Apps) that “hath 6 hides”, about 700 acres of land. At that time, Absa’ (Apps Court) was owned by Richard fitz Gilbert (c. 1030 – 1091) who was a Norman lord who participated in the Norman conquest of England in 1066. He was also known as “de Bienfaite”, “de Clare”, and “de Tonbridge”. Richard’s Surrey lands had a value of £241: 30% of the value of his English lands. Within Surrey, Richard fitz Gilbert owned manors in the following places: Albury, Beddington, Bletchingley, Buckland, Chelsham, Chessington, Chipstead, Chivington, Effingham, Apps in Elmbridge, Farleigh, Immerworth (Kingston upon Thames), Long Ditton, Mickleham, Molesey, Ockley, Old Malden, Shalford, Streatham, Tandridge, Tolworth, Tooting, Walton-on-Thames (the Manor of Walton Leigh), Warlingham, Tillingdon, and Woldingham.
Cuthbert Blakeden had the Walton-on-Thames estate in the 1590s, the son of Henry 8th’s “sergeant of the confectionery”. In 1602 the property, amounting to 150 acres, was acquired by Francis Leigh, whose son, created Baron Dunsmore in 1628, consolidated the estate by diverting various roads,establishing a private deer park and refurbishing the house in 1639AO. Dunsmore, an active Royalist, was created Earl of Chichester in 1644.
He sided disastrously with the king during the Civil War but was enabled to buy back his estates afterwards. Dying in 1653 Apps Court passed to his son in law, Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, another ardent Royalist living in seclusion. His daughter Elizabeth carried Apps by marriage to Joceline Percy, Earl of Northumberland, who appears to have been living there in 1664 when the Hearth Tax returns indicate a very large house containing thirty nine rooms with fireplaces. Northumberland died in 1670 and his widow married Ralph Montagu. Montagu was an intriguer in high places, a former ambassador to France and a political trimmer who changed sides like a man buying and selling shares. On his way up he collected an earldom, a dukedom, part of the Northumberland inheritance and a vast fortune from his next wife, the widow of the 2nd Earl of Albermarle. The Montagus had little use for Apps Court and leased it out after which its splendours diminished. The heirs sold it to Jeremiah Brown in 1749, whose son in law, Jeremiah Hodges, sold it in 1802 to Edmund Hill who left it to John Hambrugh in 1809. Hambrugh rebuilt the house on a smaller scale, described in a sale brochure in 1823 as newly erected in white brick with a noble stone portico supported on Ionic columns.
The home park ran to 140 acres enclosed within a lofty wall. There was a farm adjoining and many outbuildings. Hambrugh died in 1831 and Richard Sharp of Molesey bought the property in 1836. He sold it to Robert Gill in 1854. Gill died in 1871 when his widow, Fanny Gill became the last owner of the Apps Court. In 1898 she disposed of the mansion and park to the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company. The Company demolished the house, excavated and embanked the park, and converted the estate into reservoirs. The present Walton Lane, skirting the former park on the south side, appears to be a diversion made in 1639 of the Molesey-Walton road which had previously run through the centre of the estate. An Apps Court Tavern survived until the 1960′s, but was demolished, with only Apps Court Farm, which was the farm of the old manor, remaining.
A navigable channel constructed to cut off the northern loop of the River Thames. The Desborough Channel was constructed by the Thames Conservancy between 1930 and 1935, and was named after Lord Desborough (William Henry Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough, KG, GCVO), Chairman of the Board at that time. A similar project had been put forward in 1816 and again in 1914. The first proposal was rejected because the land owner at that time, the Duke of York, considered the compensation inadequate. The 1914 project did not take place due to the outbreak of the the First World War.
The 3/4 mile (1 km) cut redirects the river on a straight course between Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames, thus avoiding a meandering stretch past Shepperton and Lower Halliford. The cut alleviated flooding in Shepperton and halved the distance of travel on that part of the River Thames. The island created by the construction of the cut was named Desborough Island.
Above: Photograph of the Desborough channel
The location of the Desborough channel is shown above, highlighted in red
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The building now known as The Playhouse has existed in Walton-on-Thames for over seventy years. The Playhouse was built by Cecil Hepworth as the power house for the film studios that existed in Walton-on-Thames at that time. The studio was one of the first indoor studios and one of the first to use artificial light. When the studios closed in 1924 the equipment was sold and the building was bought by George Carvill, the architect who had designed the building and an enthusiast of amateur theatre.
He designed a raked stage; wings; dressing rooms; orchestra pit; lounge and bar so that Walton-on-Thames. Today the Playhouse is still used as a community theatre. The building is quite low, with no balcony, the lounge and bar accommodation being upstairs. There is one elegant long window at the front, set in white painted brick-work. In 1991 the building was under threat of demolition, but such was the public outcry that the Elmbridge Arts Council relented, and its use continues to this day. The Playhouse is home of the Walton & Weybridge Amateur Operatic Society (WWAOS).
The High Street
Everything on the west side of the High Street, Walton-on-Thames is post 1924. Prior to this date the the street was bounded by the wall of the Ashley Park Estate, with a few small fringe buildings. The east side contains a few houses now converted into shops, with the rest occupied by more contemporary buildings.
Now a residential estate enclosed on one side by a gravel pit, originally Fieldcommon was manorial wasteland shared between the manors of Walton-on-Thames and Molesey. By the middle of the 16th century, two enclosed farms had developed. Field Farm at the Eastern End and Newlands Farm at the Western End. Newlands was coverted into a land owners (gentleman’s) residence in the last century and renamed Holly Lodge.
Holly Lodge Estate
Holly Lodge was a land owners (gentleman’s) estate developed out of a row of farm workers cottages, surviving from an earlier farm called Newlands in the earlier part of the 19th century by Edward Peppin of Holly Lodge, Walton-on-Thames. Part of the site is now covered by Wolsey Drive, Holly Avenue and Cardinal Drive. The rest of the land is now covered by the Queen Elizabeth Reservoir.
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