Sunbury-on-Thames also known as Sunbury is a suburban town in the Surrey borough of Spelthorne (historically Middlesex), England. Though Sunbury lies just outside the border of Greater London, it does fall within the Greater London Urban Area, between approximately 13 and 14.5 miles from Charing Cross, and is hence largely urban in composition. The town has a railway station and is situated at the beginning of the M3 motorway. Lower Sunbury contains most of the town's parks, clubs and allotments and is home to Kempton Park Racecourse, served by its own railway station. A large retail centre is at Sunbury Cross, otherwise shopping and pubs are dispersed. By Sunbury Park is a public walled garden which has a large millennium tapestry in its art gallery/café. Most of Sunburys's riverside is privately owned, including Wheatley's Ait and Sunbury Court Island.
Sunbury is surrounded by other suburban towns with Feltham to the north-northeast (in the London Borough of Hounslow), Hampton to the east (in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames), Ashford to the west-northwest, Molesey to the east-southeast, Shepperton to the southwest, and Walton on Thames to the south-southwest. Sunbury is bordered by the River Thames on its southern flank.
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 had about 22 households, including one priest and have included the manor of Kempton, Kynaston, Chenneston, Kenton or Kenyngton, listed separately. The manor rendered £6 per year to its feudal system overlords. That of Kempton rendered £4.
Sunbury's history is in part told by its surviving buildings, see Landmarks, in particular the wealth and community tie of its parish church and mansions built in the 'Georgian period', the 18th century.
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 belonging to Richard Thornton, music hall owner) 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 in 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.