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SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
SISLEY by the Thames
Getting to the area
Self-guided walk
Paintings 1 to 8
Paintings 9–11
Extension to the walk
Useful information
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SELF-GUIDED WALK

Introduction
Much has changed in the area of East Molesey and Hampton Court since Alfred Sisley visited in 1874 but there is also much that he would recognise. It is the intention of this self-guided walk to take the reader on a leisurely stroll around the area pointing out the places, where possible, where the artist set up his easel to paint the canvases in his Hampton Court series. Along the way snippets of local history will be given to put the views in context.
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It is assumed that most visitors will arrive by train, as Sisley himself would have done, and the station is the starting point for the walk. The branch line to Hampton Court was opened in 1849 thus completing a convenient link with central London and opening up the area to day visitors from the capital. It also made possible the development of the district to provide comfortable dwellings for the expanding ranks of middle class commuters.
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The orientation of the railway station in relation to the river is the first major change a visitor from 1874 would notice. At that time the station was effectively on an island with the River Mole to the west, the River Ember to the south (passing beneath the station platforms) and the River Thames to the north and east. There was a crossing over the Mole to what is now Creek Road and it was at the end of this road that the Castle Hotel was situated adjacent to the old bridge across the Thames.
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The old bridge was completed in 1865 and replaced two previous bridges of wooden construction, the first of which had been built in 1753 to a rather exotic design which wouldn’t look out of place in a Chinese landscape. Before that date the river had been crossed by a ferry for several centuries. It is the 1865 bridge that appears in several of Sisley’s paintings and it consisted of five spans of wrought-iron lattice girders, resting on four pairs of octagonal cast-iron columns. The approach from the present Bridge Road was between battlemented brick walls, and evidence of these can still be seen on both banks. On the Middlesex side this has been incorporated into the Mitre Hotel together with the remains of a toll-house.
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When the new Lutyens-designed bridge, completed in 1933, was proposed it meant major changes to the water courses around the station. The Mole was diverted to join the Ember before the combined rivers passed under the station platforms and the old creek was filled in and covered by a major approach road to the bridge. This meant that the Castle Hotel had to be demolished and so the place where Sisley probably stayed has disappeared together with its riverside terrace from where several of his pictures were painted.
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Regretably when the visitor leaves the station now the first sight is of a badly neglected building site, the development of which has been the subject of dispute for many years. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this may be, the result is a disgraceful eyesore and a very disappointing introduction to the otherwise attractive environs of the royal palace. Passing this on the right continue to the approach to the present bridge.