Molesey Lock

Molesey Lock

River Thames

boat rollers

Sunbury Locks

(manual lock)

Rivermead Island

Sunbury Court Island

Platts Eyot

Garrick's Ait

Tagg's Island

Ash Island


Molesey Lock

Molesey Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England at East Molesey, Surrey. It is near Hampton Court Palace to the west of London. The lock was built by the City of London Corporation in 1815 and is the second longest on the river at over 268 ft (81.78 m). Beside the lock there are rollers for the portage of small boats. On the other side of the large weir sits Ash Island, with a backwater behind it continuing to a smaller weir upstream. The lock's proximity to Hampton Court and easy access made it a popular venue for spectators in the Victorian era, and the tree-lined lock still attracts large numbers of visitors.

A lock was first proposed in 1802 because of the shallows upstream at "Kenton Hedge and Sundbury Flatts above" but nothing came of the suggestion. In 1809 the proposal was resubmitted and the Act for the construction of Molesey Lock was passed by Parliament in 1812. Building began in 1814 and it opened in 1815 with an Italianate lockhouse. The first lock keeper was killed in a horse race at Moulsey Hurst and his successor discharged after incidents of pilfering from barges. In 1853 some changes were made to the lock in anticipation of lower water levels caused by the extraction of water upstream. Fish ladders were added to the weir in 1864 and the boat slide built in 1871. Such was the popularity of boating in these days that in 1877 a boat and crew were stationed above the weir in case of accidents. The lock was rebuilt in 1906. On the small lock island is a plaque commemorating Michael J Bulleid whose work for salmon conservancy has allowed these fish to travel up the river.

Access to the lock
The lock is about 100 yards upstream of Hampton Court Bridge on the South side. It is immediately accessible from the main Hurst Road/Riverbank (A3050) and is only a short way from Hampton Court railway station.

Reach above the lock
After the lock cut is Tagg's Island which provides mooring for houseboats some of which are three storeys high. On the Surrey bank here is the "Eights Tree" an original sculpture outside Molesey Boat Club. The Middlesex bank has interesting features like the Swiss Cottage and the Astoria Houseboat and there is then an array of period buildings at Hampton. Garrick's Ait is another island which is also residential, just by the Hampton Ferry, which runs in the summer between Hampton and Moulsey Hurst on the Surrey bank. Close to Hampton is Benn's Island which is completely covered by Hampton Sailing Club's building and mooring. Upstream of this is the island of Platts Eyot, where Motor Torpedo Boats were built during World War II. At Platt's Eyot on the Middlesex bank are the Hampton Water Treatment Works and reservoirs, and on the river in front of them is the Hampton School Boat Club Millennium boat house. Then there is Grand Junction Isle with a few chalets on it and riverside houses at Sunbury and Sunbury Court Island. Upstream of these is Rivermead Island an expanse of public open space. On the Surrey bank is the large stretch of open ground at Moulsey Hurst, which has an interesting heritage marker opposite Platt's Eyot. Beyond the Eyot on the Surrey bank are the Molesey Reservoirs behind trees and high brick walls and then a patch of meadowland before Sunbury Lock. The area around the weir pool is used for kayaking from the weir and the Creek backwater runs behind Wheatley's Ait where the River Ash joins the Thames. The stretch is home to several sailing and rowing clubs. Molesey Regatta takes place from Platts Eyot in July and Sunbury Amateur Regatta is held alongside Rivermead Island in August.

Sports clubs on the reach
  • Molesey Boat Club
  • Hampton School Boat Club
  • Lady Eleanor Holles School Boat Club
  • Hampton Sailing Club
  • Aquarius Sailing Club
  • 1st Molesey Sea Scouts
  • Hampton Hill Sea Scouts

Waterworks and reservoirs
There are reservoirs on both sides of the river above Sunbury Lock, created after the 1852 Metropolis Water Act made it illegal to take drinking water for London from the tidal Thames below Teddington Lock because of the amount of sewage in the river. The Hampton Waterworks were built on the northern bank in the 1850s by three companies " the Grand Junction Waterworks Company, the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company, and the West Middlesex Waterworks Company. The reservoirs at Molesey on the southern bank were established in 1872, by the Lambeth Waterworks Company, followed three years later by the Chelsea Waterworks Company. Both companies had previously built their reservoirs at Seething Wells below Molesey Lock, but the turbulence caused by the River Mole, River Ember and The Rythe meant there was too much mud brought in with the water.

Thames Path
The Thames Path stays on the Surrey bank all the way to Sunbury Lock. There are no bridges that cross the full width of the river on this reach, although there is a large tank trap beside the reservoirs.

Literature and the Media
  • Jerome K. Jerome wrote in the 1880s "I have stood and watched it sometimes when you could not see any water at all, but only a brilliant tringle of bright blazers and gay caps, and saucy hats, and many-coloured parasols, and silken rugs and cloaks and streaming ribbons..."
  • The lock featured in an edition of the gardening make-over programme Ground Force

River Thames