East and West Molesey share a high street, and there is a second retail and restaurant-lined street (Bridge Road) close to Hampton Court Palace in the eastern part of the district, which is also home to Hampton Court railway station in Transport for London's Zone 6. Molesey Hurst or Hurst Park is a large park by the River Thames in the north of the area, and is home to East Molesey Cricket Club. The Hampton Ferry runs from here to Hampton on the Middlesex bank, from where it is a short walk to the central area of Hampton.
Molesey is divided into three wards of the United Kingdom: Molesey South, East and North. The majority of Molesey's detached properties are in the east, which also contains the highest proportion of apartments of the three wards.
The earliest documentary evidence of a settlement in Molesey appears in a 7th-century charter, shortly after Erkenwald founded Chertsey Abbey in AD 666. He secured from Frithwald, sub-king of Surrey, a charter endowing the abbey with much of the surrounding land, including Muleseg. Etymologists suggest that the town's name is derived from the personal name Mul (pronounced Mule) compounded with the Old English word eg, meaning an island or river meadow – thus Mul's Island. Therefore, Molesey is not, as commonly believed, named after the River Mole that runs through it. The prefixes East and West did not appear until about the year 1200, before which there was only one parish centred around what is now known as East Molesey. Molesey lay within the Saxon administrative district of Elmbridge hundred.
East Molesey appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Molesham. It was held partly by John from Richard Fitz Gilbert and partly by Roger d'Abernon. Its Domesday assets were: 2 hides and 3 virgates. It had 7 ploughs, 2 oxen, and 32 acres (13 ha) of meadow and woodland worth 10 hogs. It rendered £6 15s 0d. West Molesey was held by Odard Balistarius. Its Domesday assets were: 1 hide, 1 church, and 5 ploughs. It rendered £4.
Along with neighbouring Thames Ditton, East Molesey formed a part of the ancient parish of Kingston upon Thames. From 1933, the Urban District of East and West Molesey became part of the Esher Urban District, which was originally recommended by the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London (the Herbert Commission) for inclusion within the new ceremonial county of Greater London. In 1974, the district eventually merged with its neighbour to the west, Walton and Weybridge Urban District, to form the new borough of Elmbridge within Surrey.