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Sunbury-on-Thames, also known as Sunbury, is a town in the Surrey borough of Spelthorne (historically part of Middlesex), England, and part of the London commuter belt.

Sunbury is located 16 miles (25 km) southwest of central London, bordered by Feltham and Hampton and flanked on the south by the River Thames.

The earliest evidence of occupation in Sunbury is provided by the discovery of Bronze Age funerary urns dating from the 10th century BC. It is mentioned in the Sunbury Charter in AD 962. Many years later the arrival of Huguenot refugees gave the name to French Street.

Sunbury was in the Middlesex Domesday map in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Suneberie. Its Domesday assets were: 7 hides. It had 5 ploughs, meadow for 6 ploughs, cattle pasture. It rendered £6.

The riverside St Mary’sAnglican Church and the Ferry House nearby are mentioned in the book Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Other literary references include the difficulty of rowing up Sunbury backwater in “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome, and Sunbury Cross under a pall of smoke during The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.

Sunbury was once the residence of Admiral Hawke who blockaded Rochefort in 1757 and in 1758 he directed the blockade of Brest for six months.

In 1889 a group of music hall stars met in the Magpie Hotel in Lower Sunbury to form the Grand Order of Water Rats. The pub itself was named after the horse that one of the entertainers owned, whilst the Grand Order was named because the Magpie (a trotting pony) had been described as a drowned water rat. The Three Fishes in Green Street is one of the oldest pubs in Surrey, thought to date back to the 16th century.

Sunbury-on-Thames is historically part of Middlesex, forming the Sunbury-on-Thames Urban District from 1894. In 1965, most of Middlesex was absorbed into Greater London. However, the Sunbury-on-Thames Urban District was instead transferred to Surrey. The Royal Mail did not adopt the change in 1965 and the postal county remained Middlesex; although postal counties are no longer officially in use. In 1974 the urban district was abolished and it has since formed part of the borough of Spelthorne.

Sunbury has two areas divided by the M3. Lower Sunbury, colloquially known as Sunbury village, borders the River Thames and makes up the southern portion of the town. This area is buffered residential suburbia and includes the majority of Sunbury’s schools, recreation areas and open parkland. The northern section is Sunbury Common and aside from its tower blocks is of similar composition and houses many of Sunbury’s businesses including Chubb and BP. The M3, with its the large roundabout junction Sunbury Cross, divides the two sections and has a modest shopping arcade.

Marking the western border of the Upper Halliford/Charlton parts of Sunbury ecclesiastical and historic parish is the Queen Mary Reservoir which was constructed in 1925. This is also home to a sailing club and is regularly used by local schools and youth organisations to teach water sports skills. Lower Sunbury has a similar property range and economic profile to neighbouring Hampton. The mixture of Victorian terraces and 1930s semi detached houses in the leafy village offers a favourable and more affordable alternative to London. A conservation area within Sunbury village has been recognised to cover Thames Street and this reflects its historic buildings, numerous pubs, restaurants and a beautiful stretch of the Thames river bank leading up to the church.

Sunbury is a largely residential town however has five or six high rise tower blocks: one commercial; two and a half-size block residential; and two hotels. Similarly it has industrial/business parks clustered generally in the acute angles between the M3/A316 (Country Way) and the A308 (Staines Road West). BP’s Engineering and Research Centre, located in the north of Sunbury on the site of Meadhurst House, formerly owned by the Cadbury family evolved into BP’s international centre for business and technology and is home to a large number of BP’s business units. A number of other major companies, including Chubb, also have premises.

A few hundred yards to the east of Sunbury Cross is Kempton Park Racecourse.

Sunbury Court in Lower Sunbury is the home of the high council of the Salvation Army, built in 1723.

Lower Sunbury is the home of the Sunbury Millennium Embroidery which was conceived and designed in the 1990s and completed in 2000. Since July 2006 its permanent home is the purpose-built Sunbury Millennium Embroidery Gallery, in the well-tended, free-to-visit Walled Garden adjoining Sunbury Park. The opening of a café within the gallery building, which architecturally resembles a boat, has increased the leisure time spent in the old Village by locals and tourists alike, just across the road from a picturesque stretch of the Thames. The walled garden also hosts annual concerts and plays in the summer months.

In July of each year, Lower Sunbury is the start of the colourful traditional ceremony of swan upping, where two livery companies carry out marking of the swans on all upper reaches of the River Thames. In August, the traditional Sunbury Amateur Regatta takes place on the stretch of the river around Rivermead Island.

The town is also home to the Millennium Embroidery, a large commissioned artwork that commemorates Sunbury’s ascension to the new millennium. It was designed by John Stamp and David Brown to be a large patchwork of Sunbury landmarks, including St. Mary’s Church, the Admiral Hawke and the river. The finished piece is actually composed of several embroideries, the largest of which measures 9 by 3 feet (3 m × 1 m). It took four years to complete and enlisted the help of over 140 volunteers and artists. Queen Elizabeth II visited the Embroidery in 2001 and a dedicated gallery for it was built in 2006.

Sunbury is also home to:

  • Kempton Park Steam Engines at the Kempton Park waterworks
  • River Thames boat trips
  • The Riverside Arts Centre.

Roads in Sunbury include the A316, becomes the start of the M3 motorway; A308, directions towards Staines-upon-Thames and Kingston-upon-Thames; A244, directions towards Hounslow and Walton-on-Thames.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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