A History of Shifting Boundaries
These days when someone asks ‘where’s Weybridge?’ the response is likely to be ‘just inside the M25, between the A3 and M3’ or ‘not far from Heathrow’ or ‘London commuter belt.’ But Weybridge has a fascinating history of location in its own right – shifting boundaries and conflicts, varying uses of land and rights of way, and more than a few famous residents putting it on the map!
Bounded to the north by the most southerly bend in the Thames and to the west by the river Wey, Weybridge was a hamlet for centuries and part of the Byfleet manor in the parish of Chertsey, on one of the two land routes from London to the historic Chertsey Abbey (built in 666 AD and later dissolved by Henry VIII.) In the fourteenth century, growing in importance, Weybridge became a parish in its own right, with the separate parishes of Oatlands, Walton and Hersham to the east, and the parishes of Chertsey and Byfleet to the west and south.
Oatlands in particular rose to fame because of the royal Oatlands Palace built there by Henry VIII for Anne of Cleves, on the site of a former manor he acquired in 1538. Much of the foundation stone for the palace came from Chertsey Abbey, which fell into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. While the locus of power remained at Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII later married Catherine Howard at Oatlands on 28 July 1540, and his subsequent wife, Catherine Parr, also spent time there, as did Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. The area of Oatlands was dedicated as Henry VIII’s hunting grounds, and the Palace was located just west of where the Oatlands Park Hotel now stands. The palace only stood for about a century, and remnants of walls from the era remain in the area near Grotto Road and Palace Road, not far from St James’s School.
Locally life remained pretty much the same over hundreds of years – a sleepy village – until the Industrial Revolution and its attendant railways turned Weybridge into the commuter town we know today. Rich City merchants and their staff settled in the area, and by 1895 the town had grown to about 5000 people, a sufficient size for Weybridge to govern most of its own affairs. Thus, the Weybridge Urban District Council (UDC) was born.
Maps from 1895 onwards show the UDC boundary followed the course of the River Wey to the west, then onto the Thames around to roughly half way along what we call Desborough Island today. Fromthere the boundary went south, crossing Broad Water lake and cutting right through the Oatlands Park Hotel, continuing over Oatlands Drive and crossing Queens Road and the railway just before Haines Bridge. It then went to the east of Cavendish Road, changing course to cross Brooklands Road, which was then Byfleet Road and where the Brooklands Museum entrance is today. The boundary proceeded to follow the road for a short section down to the bottom of Caenswood Hill and finally turned west to continue to the River Wey.
At the time of its founding in 1895, the Weybridge UDC area was quite small compared to the neighbouring Walton council area, which then included Oatlands and Hersham, with the latter covering the majority of the St Georges Hill area. By this time much of the previously open Abbey land (used for hunting by Henry VIII) had been built over, and as the railway widened to four tracks, the population grew steadily. The addition of the world-famous Brooklands racing track in 1907 (one of the first such tracks in the world) and the nascent aviation industry helped transform Weybridge into a proper town. New housing and roads quickly and haphazardly took over along the old framework of fragile roads that dated to an era of horses and carts, and as industry brought increased density and traffic, Weybridge itself grew in designation.
In 1933, the national government created a new Urban District of Weybridge and Walton, adding to it the half of Brooklands racetrack that had been part of Byfleet, under the administration of Chertsey Rural District Council. Weybridge then continued to absorb areas previously considered parts of Byfleet and Hersham, so that today, as well as central Weybridge, it also includes Oatlands, St Georges Hill and Brooklands. A final major administrative change in 1974 was the merging of Walton and Weybridge local government with Esher’s – to form Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC).
Today if you look at Weybridge from an administrative map and contrast it with the alternate postcode system, you’ll find differences in what is Weybridge and what is contained in the KT13 postcode area. Running along slightly varied lines, the notable differences are:
- West of the river Wey, the areas of Hamm Court and Wey Meadows are in KT13 but actually fall under Runnymede Borough
- The Walton area at the eastern end of Oatlands Drive (almost to Walton Bridge) remains in KT13
- The Silvermere area south of the
- A245 Byfleet Road is not in KT13245 Byfleet Road is not in KT13
To further complicate matters, today’s physical boundaries do not reflect political boundaries. At the level of Surrey County Council, Weybridge is split in two, with one councillor representing residents of Weybridge, St Georges and Brooklands areas, while another represents voters in Oatlands and adjacent Walton-on-Thames. EBC boundaries – the wards of local borough councillors – are different yet again.
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