Thames Ditton History
Thames Ditton is recorded as 'Dictun' in a document of 1005 A.D. In the Domesday Survey of 1086 it was held by 'Wadard' from the Bishop of Bayeux, but it is obvious from the entry that Wadward himself was indulging in a little bit of sub-letting. It was held by Leofgar before the Norman Conquest. The manor of Thames Ditton had a share in a mill.
No church is mentioned in Domesday but there may have been a chapel here as Thames Ditton was a chapelry of Kingston until 1769. The present parish church of St Nicholas mainly dates from the 13th century with Victorian additions.
Thames Ditton has not always been a quiet riverside village. A surprisingly large number of industries have flourished here over the years, some of then relating to the river such as boat-building, but others involving heavy industrial work.
The famous 'Ferry Works' started life as a boatyard as early as 1733 but, from 1880, it was occupied by the marine engineers, Willans and Robinson, who built marine steam engines. They soon developed engines to drive the dynamos producing the new wonder of electricity and, to advertise their efficiency, the factory here was lit by electric light as early as 1884. It has claims to be the first factory in the world to be entirely lit by electricity.
Autocarriers Ltd or 'AC' moved to the works in 1911 and, by 1913, the firm had produced its first four-wheeled motorcar. In 1929 they moved to another Thames Ditton site in the High Street where, in 1963, that iconic classic, the AC Cobra sports car, was first made.
In 1874 a bronze foundry was established in Summer Road, Thames Ditton. Here many famous statues, which grace London and other cities throughout the world, were cast. These include the Quadriga and the statue of Wellington, both at Hyde Park Corner, and Robert Peel in Parliament Square. The statue of Captain Cook at Sydney, Australia, was also cast at Thames Ditton.
Across the river is the Tudor palace of Hampton Court, which was influential in the growth of Thames Ditton. Many of the officials of the palace built homes here. A few minutes by boat brought peace and tranquillity away from the pressures of palace life. The Thames was also the main highway to London.
The railway station at Thames Ditton opened in 1851, it being the only through station on the small branch which terminates at Hampton Court Station in East Molesey. There was a small amount of residential development during the Victorian period, but much of its growth dates from the 20th century. However, the old centre still retains a village atmosphere and the attractions of the river are always close at hand.