History of Spelthorne

Spelthorne and the River Thames have a rich and varied history dating back centuries. Many archaeological artefacts that have been found locally over the years are on display at the Spelthorne Museum.

Early history

Spelthorne's early history was defined by the River Thames, which was formed approximately 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

Evidence suggests that the area was inhabited as early as 6,000 years ago by new Stone Age cavemen, through the Bronze Age and up to the Roman invasion, specifically in higher areas such as Stanwell so as to avoid flooding.

Roman invasion

Spelthorne originally formed part of the territory of the Catuvellauni, a tribe ruled by a chieftain named Cassivelaunus.

Claudius led the Romans into Britain in 43 AD. Soon after this invasion the first Staines Bridge was constructed to provide an important Thames crossing point on the main road from Londinium (London) to Silchester, near Reading.

However, there is a lot of evidence of burning, suggesting that the local Britons resented the presence of the Roman occupation.

It was also the Romans that built the first Staines Bridge, forming a settlement called 'Ad Pontes' (literally 'at the bridge').

The medieval age

A pivotal period in local history occurred circa. 400-600 AD. The Saxons, farming people from northern Europe, started to migrate into Britain and Spelthorne and to co-exist amongst the Romano-British locals. These Saxon settlements spread throughout the Borough and it is from this period that many local place names derive.

In 1086 the Domesday Book survey was completed and it provides much documentary evidence of the local area.

The County was divided into six "Hundreds" (later to be known as Boroughs), with the Hundred of Spelthorne (Spelethorne) covering Staines (Stanes), Ashford (Exeford), Stanwell (Stanwelle), Laleham, Shepperton (Scepertone), Sunbury (Sunbarie), Chenetone (Kempton) and Charlton (Cerdentone).

In 1215, The Magna Carta was sealed at Runnymede with the barons and their many soldiers billeted in Staines.

The first annual Staines fair was held on 11 May 1228, granted by Henry III to the Abbot and convent of Westminster, Lords of the Manor. Used mainly for the sale of horses, sheep and black cattle. The Charter allowed fairs to be held for four days twice a year, and although the timing was reduced to 11 May and 19 September over the years, the tradition continued up until the mid-19th Century.

In 1285, a famous landmark, the London Stone, was erected to mark the western limit of the City of London's jurisdiction over the Thames. It originally stood upstream from Staines town centre although a replica now marks the spot as the stone was removed for restoration.

During the civil war there were skirmishes on Staines Moor and numerous troop movements over Staines Bridge which was later destroyed in the war.

House of Hanover - from George I (1714) to Victoria (1837-1901)

In 1766 the then Lord of Stanwell Manor, Sir William Gibbons, fenced off Stanwell Moor having calculated that this extremely fertile land's close proximity to London made it a potentially very profitable stretch of farmland from which to supply the capital's population with farm produce. The Stanwell villagers, however, would not accept this enclosure and put up a strong fight against it, tearing the fence down, and employing their own counsel to represent them. In 1767 the Stanwell villagers marched to London and successfully overthrew an application by the Lord of the Manor to pass a private Act in order to authorise the enclosure. Twenty-two years later, however, the Act was successfully passed and the common land around the village was enclosed.

In 1832, the modern Staines Bridge was officially opened by King William IV (formerly the Duke of Clarence and after whom Clarence Street was named).

In 1862 the Staines Linoleum Company opened its doors for business, founded by businessman Frederick Walton, to produce his new invention of Linoleum floor covering. The company 'Staines Lino' became a worldwide brand and was responsible for employing the majority of the local population right up until the 1960s. The location of the original factory is now the location of the Two Rivers Shopping centre. It's significance to the area was commemorated with the erection of a bronze statue in Staines Town Centre.

In 1897 the Sunbury Clock was erected in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

19th and 20th centuries

The 20th century saw a mixture of tragedy and success in the area. The fire in 1924 at the candle factory on the corner of High Street and Kingston Road (opposite the Police Station), which took three hours and 400 gallons of water to put out. Melted wax blocked the drains and firefighters and policemen had to wade up to their knees in molten wax. Although there was little damage to the factory candle manufacturing was never resumed at the site.

In 1955 Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 opened as the "Europa" building followed shortly in 1962 by Heathrow Airport Terminal 3. In 1968 Heathrow Airport Terminal 1 opened; inaugurated by HM The Queen on 17 April 1969. Given the airport's proximity to the area, it was, and continues to be, a large employer of local residents.

In 1961 the first stage of Staines By-Pass was open improving local transport links.