Molesey Lock

Molesey Lock

The lock after the release of 160,000 Rubber ducks at the start of the Great British Duck Race in September 2007
Waterway River Thames
County Surrey
Maintained by Environment Agency
Operation Hydraulic
First built 1815
Latest built 1906
Length 81.78 m (268 ft 4 in) [1]
Width 7.56 m (24 ft 10 in)[1]
Fall 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)[1]
Above sea level 20'
Distance to
Teddington Lock
4.8 miles
Coordinates 51°24′17″N 0°20′45″W / 51.40472°N 0.34583°W / 51.40472; -0.34583 (Molesey Lock)Coordinates: 51°24′17″N 0°20′45″W / 51.40472°N 0.34583°W / 51.40472; -0.34583 (Molesey Lock)
Power is available out of hours

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
River Thames

Molesey Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England at East Molesey, Surrey. It is located close to Hampton Court Palace in southwest London.

The lock was built by the City of London Corporation in 1815 and is the second longest on the river at 81.78 m (268 ft 4 in).[1] 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.[2] 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

The Thames at Hampton

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

Waterworks and reservoirs

There are reservoirs on both sides of the river above Sunbury Lock, created after the 1852 Metropolis Water Act[3] 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.[4]

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

Alfred Sisley's painting of the weir in 1874

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "A User's Guide to the River Thames" (PDF). PDF file. Environmental Agency. 2009. pp. 29–30. Retrieved 7 November 2012. Dimensions given in metres
  2. Fred. S. Thacker The Thames Highway: Volume II Locks and Weirs 1920 - republished 1968 David & Charles
  3. An Act to make better Provision respecting the Supply of Water to the Metropolis, (15 & 16 Vict. C.84)
  4. A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of the Borough of Elmbridge
  5. Jerome, Jerome K. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Bristol: Arrowsmith, 1889
Next lock upstream River Thames Next lock downstream
Sunbury Lock
4.79 km (2.98 mi)
Molesey Lock
Grid reference: TQ150686
Teddington Lock
7.74 km (4.81 mi)
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