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CONVICTS themselves were used in the construction of an imposing prison built on barren heathland at Knaphill in the late 1850s.

Here, in a further story about Woking Invalid Convict Prison, later Inkerman Barracks, is the tale of one such prisoner who was transferred there from another prison to provide labour and then serve out the rest of his sentence.

ARMY USE: The prison was acquired by the military in 1892 and became Inkerman Barracks, seen here in the early 1900s

Previously the Peeps page has told the story of ‘Prisoner No.1’ William Stratham. Its third inmate was pickpocket William Privett, from Winchester in Hampshire.

He was born into an average, working-class family in 1835. His father, another William, was an agricultural labourer and his mother had no listed profession, but it’s likely she took in laundry for her neigbours.

William had five siblings, Jane, Elizabeth, Henry, Edward, and Charles. They lived in the Hampshire area for the entirety of their lives, across various parts of county, not moving above, or much below, their status of the “industrious poor”.

William, as the eldest child, may have felt the pressure to help support his father’s growing brood as quickly as possible. It is probable he started working with his father, digging ditches, fixing fences, any labour to increase their meagre income before he had turned the age of 12.

By the time William turned 20 he had perhaps grown sick of the endless drudgery. Perhaps the death of his grandfather aged 51 had soured him. Perhaps insalubrious companions persuaded him – but whatever the cause, he stole a silver pocket watch from Daniel Stockman in October 1855. He was caught and sent to prison remarkably quickly: there he would stay for four years.

William spent time in London’s Millbank Prison first, then Portland in Dorset, and finally transported to Woking to eke out the last few months of his penal servitude helping to build the invalid wings of the prison.

He was released at the end of his sentence in October 1859 and returned home to Hampshire.

William did fairly well for himself for a time. He became a fitter, a skill perhaps acquired in the jail. In addition, he met Eliza Jane Stripe, and they became close, very quickly. Within three months of his return, 18-year-old Eliza found herself pregnant.

William did the right thing by her, although if this was by choice or coercion, we’ll never know. But in May 1860 the pair married in Portsea and awaited the coming of their first child. A son, William, who arrived in October of 1860. He survived just three months.

William and Eliza went on to have a daughter, a girl they named Jane. Jane would later become a seamstress, she would die aged 27, a spinster buried in unconsecrated ground.

But William never knew this as in 1866, aged 31, he died: leaving his three-year-old daughter in the care of his 24-year-old widow.

Thanks again to historians Daniel Shepherd and Gem Minter who have researched and written this story of William Privett as part of their studies into Woking Invalid Convict Prison and the inmates once housed there. They have formed the Institutional History Society, dedicated to exploring England’s institutional system in the 19th century. Its website can be found at www.institutionalhistory.com

If  you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call me, David Rose, on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: davidrosemedia@gmail.com

A VETERAN village panto director bowed out from the role with a smash hit and packed houses for her final production.

Gertie Goose, Jill, Jack and Billy celebrate their good fortune

Linda Street ended 18 years of directing and producing for Byfleet Players on a high note with a well-received staging of Mother Goose.

Fairy Goosedown introduces the show

The village hall echoed to loud boos for the villain and plenty of laughs, applause and plenty of traditional audience participation over four performances last week.

Linda joined the players after directing pantomimes at St Mary’s Primary School in Byfleet. Preparing for a show takes up much of a whole year, as she usually starts planning for a show in January.

“After 18 years of directing and producing pantomimes, I have decided with a heavy heart to take a break,” she wrote in the programme.

Merphisto shows that he is still “unbowed”

“I would like to thank my two children for their continued support during panto season, especially in the months leadings to opening night. Elliot has been involved in panto one way or another since he was three years old.”

Other cast members included Albert Hickey (Merphisto the villain), Emily Garrad (Gertie Goose), Karen Skilton (Lucy the Goose), Fiona Fennell (Jack), Sarah Perrin (Jill), Kim Sullivan (Billy), Sharon Harrison (Fairy Goosedown), Denise Stiff (Nifty), Kimberley Jean Grove (Shifty), Christine Austin, Paula McEwan-Jenkins and Sue Thomas (Villagers)

See more pictures in the 16 January edition of the News & Mail

From its roots as a soup kitchen and winter shelter to a charity offering services all year round, the York Road Project tackles homelessness in Woking. Jennie Buzaglo finds out more:

THE York Road Project is a charity working with people at risk of homelessness or who are homeless in Woking. Having grown over the years, it is grateful for community support that enables it to help others.

“Without the local community, I really don’t know what we’d do,” said Cherisse Dealtry, chief operating officer, as she thanked residents for their ongoing support of the charity.

Cherisse Dealtry, chief operating officer of the York Road Project

It started as a soup kitchen run by volunteers from churches in the area before officially becoming a registered charity in 2001. It’s grown in terms of services it provides in that time, as well as local awareness.

Councillor Will Forster announced it as his mayoral charity when he wore the chain of office in 2018-19, even spending a night on the streets of Woking as part of the charity’s sleep-out fundraiser.

The charity provides accommodation for anyone experiencing homelessness, as well as support in the form of day services, along with an outreach team and wellbeing project to aid rough sleepers and people with complex needs.

Anyone who would like to donate to the charity but isn’t sure exactly what might be needed can look at YRP’s wish list on the Amazon website. It gets updated regularly, depending on what is most required. “During Christmas we ran out of shampoo so we put it on the Amazon wish list, and just before Christmas I think we received 12 big bottles sent to us that we wanted,” said Cherisse.

She revealed that Twitter has also benefited the charity hugely as they often tweet when they need something and the online community will respond immediately.

“We tweet about how much we want to thank the community and we mean it so much,” she said. “People are phenomenal, it’s brilliant and we really can’t thank them enough.”

For the full story get the 16 January edition of the News & Mail

Kat Wright, 19, has an exhibition of her work at the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices Centre in Goldsworth Park, which runs until 2 March.

“The reaction has been really positive,” Kat said. “A lot of people have commented on how realistic and detailed the work is, as well as how the expression of the animals has been captured.”

PET PROJECT – Kate with her exhibition wall at the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices Centre

Kat’s work combines her love of art and animals. “I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I would always be doodling on the corners of all my schoolwork, and it would almost always feature an animal.

 “As early as primary school, I achieved awards for artwork, and it was often said that my work was advanced for my age.

“I’m mostly self-taught, and learnt a lot of the techniques I use through trial and error, or looking at the work of other artists. I studied art as a GCSE and went on to take a C-Tec Applied Art course at Woking College, in which I achieved a Distinction and a Distinction*.

“I’ve always been a huge animal lover, too. I had my first pet, a guinea pig, at the age of three, and my first dog when I was eight. I’d wanted one since I was very young.

ANIMAL SPIRITS – Kat with her greyhounds, from left, Cooper, Poppy, Skye and Ruby

 “I really brought the two together when I was 13. I did a drawing of somebody else’s dog as a gift, and through that I got my first paid commission.

“I’d never considered doing pet portraits as a job until then, and it was surreal to know that people liked my work enough to pay for a drawing of their pet.

“Now I’ve started to turn my hobby into a business and do commissioned pieces, but the excitement and pride of being entrusted to draw somebody’s beloved pet never wears off.”

An exhibition to showcase Kat’s talents was a natural next step.

“My mum works for Woking & Sam Beare Hospices and told me about the exhibition wall in the reception and café area. The work that the hospice does is wonderful, so I was more than happy not only to display my artwork for the people there to enjoy, but to support them in some way as well.

An example of Kat’s work

“For the duration of the exhibition, I will be giving 10% of the sales to the hospice.

“The best time to view is during the café’s opening times, which is 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. That way people can combine it with popping in for a drink and a snack.”

Kat already has about 40 commissions in her portfolio, 15 of them in the past year.

“The majority of my commissions are from dog owners,” Kat added. “What I see the most of is probably sighthound breeds, such as greyhounds and whippets, due to my involvement with and special interest in these dogs, but I’m willing to draw any animal.

“I’m hoping to see more small pets such as rats and hamsters this year because I’m also very interested in rodents. I’ve started to offer smaller sizes specifically for this kind of portrait, and overall I’m seeing more of a variety of pets lately, particularly an increase in cat commissions.”

For anyone interested in commissioning a piece or to see more of  Kat’s work, please visit Facebook – Draw My Pet – https://www.facebook.com/pets by kat/; Instagram @pets_by_kat  –  https://www.instagram.com/pets_by_kat or by email:  kathrynwright422@gmail.com

For the full story get the 16 January edition of the News & Mail

A PIRBRIGHT man who took up real tennis after being diagnosed with leukaemia has completed an epic challenge, playing in 45 courts around the world and twice competing against the Earl of Wessex.

Graeme Marks, 56, completed the challenge in two and a half years and is now hoping to play on new courts being built in France, the US and Australia over the next year or so.

NET GAINS – Graeme Marks took on the real tennis challenge after being diagnosed with leukaemia and has twice played the Earl of Wessex

Graeme was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, which affects the white blood cells, four years ago and says it was a reality check, leading him to move home from Abu Dhabi, where he was working in financial services.

He went from full-time work to being a consultant and later took up real tennis, an indoors version of the game that predates lawn tennis, as he no longer had the energy for his sports of cricket and triathlons.

“It’s ideal as its indoors and courts are booked for only an hour,” Graeme said.

He said the game is not only about power and speed but also involves tactics and is sometimes called “human chess”.

“There is a very good handicapping system, so you can be thrashed by a 15-year-old or a 75-year-old.”

Graeme said his involvement in real tennis soon became an obsession and he embarked on trying to play on courts around the world, with his brother-in-law, Nick.

At the same time, the Earl of Wessex, a keen real tennis player who learnt the game at Cambridge, was taking part in a year-long tour of every court in the world as part of his work for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

A raffle prize and a real tennis competition win meant that Graeme played the Duke twice, losing the first match but levelling the series with a victory in the second one.

Because of the Earl’s passion for the sport, it is now included as one of the bronze activities that make up the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Graeme’s leukaemia is now in remission, although he has to take chemotherapy tablets.

He said he hopes to play on a new court in Sydney in his native Australia, where a niece is due to be married over the next couple of years.

“The friends I have made, on and off court, and from all walks of life, have been fantastic. I have also loved the physical and mental challenge of the sport and the travelling around the world,” Graeme said.

For the full story get the 9 January edition of the News Mail

A WAITRESS who has worked at the Bridge Barn for 26 years was given a special celebration by the Beefeater branch to mark her 70th birthday.

Angelika Gibbon began serving food and drink at the pub/restaurant in January 1994.

CUSTOMER SERVICE – Angelika with husband Patrick and friend and former colleague Hannah at a celebration to mark her 70th birthday

To mark her recent birthday, Ben King, the Beefeater regional general manager, led celebrations with flowers, cake, chocolates and balloons.

Such is Angelika’s dedication that Mr King had trouble getting her to leave her shift in the upstairs restaurant to join the staff and customers for the party.

“He asked me to come downstairs but I told him there were customers and orders to take,” Angelika said.

“Eventually, he said ‘there’s no one at the bar to pour your drinks, so you’ll have to come down’.”

Angelika said she was “gobsmacked, to put it mildly” by the surprise celebration.

She worked three days a week until recently when she cut back to two days and says this is probably why she hasn’t got tired of the job. “I love it – a little less in summer, when you have to serve tables outside.”

She has had both knees replaced and two operations on her feet, but has always returned to work after her recuperation.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes and set myself the goal of working until 70. Now that that has passed, I thought I will carry on – at least until the summer and then let’s see.”

For the full story get the 9 January edition of the News & Mail

“THE roaring, rushing Ripley road is known to every motorist, and the old houses lining the village  street witness a never-ending procession of traffic.”

These words were first published in 1938 in Arthur Mee’s Surrey, part of a series of county guidebooks under the title of The King’s England.

TRAFFIC FREE: Ripley High Street looking towards the church in the early 1900s

There was no bypass then, and during the era of the horse-drawn stagecoach, Ripley was a convenient stopping point on the road from London to Portsmouth.

The Talbot Hotel has a fine brick frontage dating back to the 18th-century. The name is of a white hunting dog, a breed now extinct.

Some parts of the building may date back to the 1450, although most of it is likely to be from the 16th-century and is of a timber-frame construction.

ONCE A COACHING INN: The Talbot Hotel pictured in about 1930

The inn benefitted when sections of the road were turnpike after an Act of Parliament in 1749. Roads were improved and tolls charged for those using them. The golden age of the stagecoach was between 1800 and 1830. But as early as 1769 the Talbot had become a receiving office of the postal service with the Royal Mail coach calling regularly.

Unmissable at the south-west end of the High Street is the parish church of St Mary Magdalen. Its chancel dates to the 12th-century, while its current nave and aisle were built in 1846 and 1869, respectively.

YEW AVENUE: The path to the west door of the church in about 1910

In his guidebook Arthur Mee wrote: “A gloomy yew tunnel leads to the west door of the church, and cobbles form a patterned path to the porch. The chancel is one of the best pieces of Norman work in Surrey, enriched inside by a beautiful band of carved leaves and flowers running round the wall.”

If  you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call me, David Rose, on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: davidrosemedia@gmail.com

For the full Peep into the Past, see the 9 January edition of the News & Mail

A SURPRISE phone call from a pop star sparked an extraordinary adventure in which a teenager born in West Byfleet got to hang out with some of the world’s biggest stars.

Malcolm with Pink in early 2002

The memoir of those years is captured in a book called Freak Like Me: Confessions of a 90s Pop Groupie by Malcolm McLean.

Meeting Geri Halliwell for the first time, Heathrow, summer 1999, just after Malcolm finished his GCSEs

Malcolm, now 36, was living with his parents and two sisters in Ottershaw when Kelle Bryan, a member of the girl band Eternal, called him after receiving a fan letter.

The call led Malcom to the first of nearly 70 visits to see Top of the Pops and meeting likeminded teenagers in London and rubbing shoulders with the pop stars of the day.

He said the adventure took him away from Surrey, where he was bored and also suffered homophobic bullying.

Meeting boyband NSYNC, including Justin Timberlake, far left, in the US on tour

Malcolm, who only felt able to come out as gay when he went to university at 19, said: “It was different times. Because of Section 28 [legislation aimed at preventing local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’] schools felt they couldn’t address bullying relating to children who were gay, or thought to be gay,” Malcom said.

He and his new friends in London got to meet stars such as the Spice Girls, Hear’Say and All Saints and made fake passes so they could go to the BRIT Awards.

“It completely changed my teenage years and made them really happy.”

Freak Like Me: Confessions of a 90s Pop Groupie By Malcolm McLean is published by RedDoor Press.

For the full story get the 9 January edition of the News & Mail

KNAPHILL Scouts kicked off the new year with their annual village litter pick.

The Knaphill Scouts litter picking team

Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, leaders and parents spent the first weekend of 2020 in the parks and streets of Knaphill collecting litter for the seventh year running.

Harry, seven, found a metal sign and builder’s hard hat

Tracey Daniell, Group Scout Leader said: “The good news is that the amount of litter generally seems less year on year, with fewer sweet wrappers and crisp packets but sadly more drinks cans and for the first year, several nitrous oxide canisters were found”.

Beaver Scouts got competitive this year and wanted to see who could find the most unusual litter. Harry, seven, said: “It was much more fun than I was expecting. I found a builder’s hard hat and a broken metal sign in the park car park as well as lots of cans.”

For the full story get the 9 January edition of the News & Mail

A CHOBHAM man with Stage 4 cancer has been married with the help of Woking Hospice, which is caring for him.

David Kingston was diagnosed in September last year and underwent two rounds of chemotherapy. When he was told time was short, he and his fiancée Vanessa Smith decided to get married as soon as possible.

David and Vanessa take their wedding photos

Their wedding, at St Paul’s Church in Addlestone, conducted by the Rev Ben Beecroft, was made possible with the help of the hospice the local community, friends and family.

Caroline Hodgson, social work lead at Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, said: “When I met with David and Vanessa for the first time David’s wish was to give Vanessa the wedding day of her dreams. Despite being so unwell he was focused on their special day and I could see how devoted they are to each other.

Lifelong Chelsea fan David with his signed photo of Frank Lampard, sent to him by the football legend in honour of his wedding day

“It was fantastic to see the support from family, friends and local community; we had the whole day planned in about two weeks.”

Vanessa’s friend Janie lent her a wedding dress, her something borrowed, David’s sister Ange Shine was the photographer on the day, Sarah Hatch made their wedding cake, Ashleigh Philips did all the hair and make-up and Sandra Taylor and Heidi Fast created the bouquets for Vanessa and her bridesmaids. Jim Buckingham, David’s friend of 25 years, was best man .

Vanessa said: “David and I would like to thank everyone that helped us to make our wedding so special we had a fantastic day. Thank you everyone.”

For the full story get the 9 January edition of the News & Mail