Heritage

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

NEWARK Mill was a handsome building that stood beside the River Wey Navigation between Ripley and Pyrford. That was until the early hours of 3 December 1966, when it was burned to the ground.

At five storeys high and a “maze of weather-boarded walls at ever-changing angles, tiled roofs with varied gables and jutting dormers,” was how J. Hillier described it in his book Old Surrey Water-Mills, published in 1951. He judged parts of the building to be more than 300 years old.

LOCAL LANDMARK: Newark Mill published as a postcard by Ampletts of West Byfleet

Newark Mill was exceptionally large and a well-known building throughout Surrey and beyond. It is still fondly remembered today, while in 1991 Send & Ripley History Society published a booklet charting its history.

With various owners over the years, in the first half of the 19th-century the miller was Edward Eager. A papermaker by the name of Henry Bailey was miller from 1862 to 1880, although it only ever ground flour.

It had three large water-wheels and two sets of four pairs of grind stones. Milling ceased in 1942 and it was then used to store animal feed. In the 1950s its then owners, the Ockham Estate, sold it to the Rubin family of nearby Homewood Farm.

Before the fateful fire, they had been seeking planning permission to renovate the mill and get it working again, but use it as show-piece building and restaurant.

However, the blaze that took hold 53 years ago this week ended their plans. Reports in the local press afterwards said the sky was lit up for miles around. Fire crews from Guildford and Woking attended, but their arrival was impeded by traffic blocking the B367 Newark Lane.

Such was the ferocity of the blaze, the mill was “rapidly reduced to a pile of smouldering ashes”. Afterwards… “there remained only the twisted pieces of machinery and some of the old grinding stones”.

Reader Mark Coxhead was eight years old at the time and attending Pyrford Primary School. Mentioning this story to him he replied: “In the News & Mail’s report it says Woking Police could not find any trace of arson. However conversely, the booklet by Send & Ripley History Society describes how remains of lamps that used to be put along the side of roadworks and lit at night to alert drivers, were found in the vicinity of the fire. 

“And youths were apparently seen running away at the start of the blaze. That was widely rumoured in the Pyrford community at the time. It is extremely sad that such a magnificent and historic building burned down, especially as it very narrowly survived enemy bombing during the Second World War.”

Ripley, Send and Pyrford’s ‘bomb map’, a copy of which is at the Surrey History Centre, marks a high-explosive bomb landing close to Newark Mill on 21 September 1940. The history society’s booklet mentions an incendiary bomb landing near the mill house in 1941, which ignited a pile of coke.

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 story get the 5 December edition of the News & Mail

BRICK-making was once a sizeable industry in the Woking area and one that has mostly been forgotten.

In past centuries, where clay was abundant, brickworks were set up when there was a demand locally for building materials. It was usually dug by hand in the summer and autumn and left in heaps over winter for frost, wind and rain to break it down into manageable pieces.

BRICK KILN: Was this photo of a brick kiln, thought to have been taken by Sidney Francis in 1927, taken at Chobham or Rowlands Castle?

The winter months were also time for the gathering of fuel to fire the burning process. Once the weather had warmed up during springtime, the bricks were formed by hand in wooden moulds. The shaped ‘green’ bricks were then left to dry in the open air in rows known as hacks. They were then fired in the summer in large piles known as a clamps.

Up to 100,000 bricks could be fired in a single clamp. A number of flues would be left around the clamp, which were packed tight with brushwood and fagots. Once lit and burning well the flues would be blocked up and the clamp allowed to burn for several weeks.

IN THE MAKING: Thousands of bricks and tiles in the process of drying out in the 1920s, location unknown

Towards the end of the 19th century the process was improved with the introduction of kilns with chimneys that resulted in much less wastage. And in the larger brickworks mechanical digging machines were introduced to dig out the clay.

Eminent Woking historian Iain Wakeford has written of brick-making taking place in the 1780s and 90s in the St Johns area for use in the construction of the Basingstoke Canal. The Kiln Bridge is a reminder of that.

Also known as brickyards, bricks were made at a site off Robin Hood Road in the late 1850s for the building of the Woking Invalid Convict Prison, and there was another site off Anchor Hill. In the 1920s it was estimated there were around 21 brick-making businesses in Woking. But soon these were to close, owing to a depression in the building trade and also probably due to cheaper bricks being imported from elsewhere in Britain and even from abroad.

In 1920 Tarrant bought an existing brickworks at Rowlands Castle in Hampshire. In 1927 he floated the business on the stock market stating its annual output as being five million 500 thousand hand-made bricks and tiles and three million wire cut and pressed bricks.

ON DISPLAY: Rowlands Castle and Chobham brick company’s stand at a trade exhibition in Woking, 1927

The photo here shows a display of his company’s products, it being named the Associated Facing Brick & Tile Works Ltd, Rowlands Castle and Chobham. It is likely the photo was taken by Woking photographer Sidney Francis at an exhibition staged by the Woking Chamber of Trade in 1927, held at the Sorbo rubber factory in Woking.

The other two photos, one outside a brickworks and the other inside, are also thought to have been taken by Sidney Francis. But where? They might be Chobham, although my hunch is Rowlands Castle. Details on a website by the Rowlands Castle Heritage Centre about its brickworks (in use until 1968) show a picture of the works and a chimney that looks very similar.

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 story get the 28 November edition of the News & Mail

SATIRICAL prints by the “father of the political cartoon”, a US flag and items belonging to the British Legion are some of the exhibits on display at Chertsey Museum.

The temporary exhibition, Every Object Tells A Story, showcases some of the newest additions to the museum’s local history collections over the past two years.

STARS AND STRIPES – The flag given to Chertsey Town FC as a thank you for hosting a visiting team from Virginia

The late 18th century/early 19th century prints are by James Gillray and feature Charles James Fox, Britain’s first Foreign Secretary, who lived in St Ann’s Hill in Chertsey with his wife, the former high-society courtesan Elizabeth Armistead.

MASTER OF SATIRE – a Gillray print on Charles James Fox’s life in Chertsey

The US flag is of more recent vintage and was a gift to Chertsey Town FC in 1982 from Reston Shamrock football team of Virginia, who visited and played in the town during a European tour. The flag has an accompanying letter of thanks from the coach and a certificate of authentication confirming that it had been flown over the Capitol Building in Washington.

The vast majority of the objects that come into the museum are donated by local residents keen on preserving a little piece of borough history. 

These include a Royal British Legion bass drum, standard bearer’s gauntlets and beret, and photograph of the Chertsey Remembrance Day parade, November 1953.

The exhibition runs until the end of January 2020. The museum, in Windsor Street, is open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 12.30pm to 4.30pm and on Saturdays from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free.

For the full story get the 28 November edition of the News & Mail

MYSTERY surrounds what is known as the Pyrford Stone, that can be found on top of Pyrford Hill, now a grade II listed monument whose origin is unknown but is said anecdotally to date before the Norman conquest.  

Reader Mark Coxhead has been looking into its history. He says since present-day Pyrford began early in the 1950s, when most of its woods were felled to make way for new roads and houses, many landmarks have vanished, but others remain, like the mysterious Pyrford Stone.

ORIGIN UNKNOWN: The Pyrford Stone pictured in the early 1900s

He has found that the stone does not appear on any ancient maps, while the scanty of any information in the historical records has not prevented the advancement of numerous theories as to the stone’s origins and purpose.

The Pyrford Stone has various aspects of folk law associated, and one legend is that either when it ‘hears’ the cockcrow at dawn or every night, when the clock of St Nicholas’ church strikes twelve, then the stone will turn. This is odd since St Nicholas’ church has never had a clock.

ALL ALONE: The Pyrford Stone today

The stone now stands at the entrance of Pyrford Court, but originally stood at the three-way junction of Upshot Lane, Pyrford Common Road and Church Hill. Moved in 1965 to Sandy Lane and 10 years later moved to the entrance of Pyrford Court as a result of a campaign lead by the late Sylvia Lewin and Merlyn Blatch. The current plaque was added in December 1976.

It is a sandstone block, that measures around 33in high and 38in at the base. The northern face, near the top, there has been carved a Latin cross 9in wide and 6in horizontal.

In a pamphlet, Sacred Stones and Holy Water, written by Roman Golicz and published in 2004, he speculates on five possible explanations for the stone’s presence.

1. A boundary stone of pre-Conquest origin. Not thought to be positioned on any historic boundary, although in a circular of 1880 sent to the parishioners of Pyrford reference is made to an ancient lane leading to the Pyrford Stone.

CORNER SITE: Plaque with details about the stone

2. A stone accidentally dropped during the construction in the 1190s from the wagons carrying stone for the building of Newark Priory and erected by persons unknown at the road site. Not thought to be a possibility due to the costly and dissimilar nature of building materials for the priory.

3. A sanctuary stone to give sanctuary to anyone fleeing persecution pointing the way to Pyrford Church. Not thought to be viable as too close to the church.

4. A sacred stone – perhaps a relic of pagan worship transferred to Christian use, as it is incised with a cross on the front face. Standing stones at principal road junctions were placed to signify the spiritual significance of crossroads and intersections. The original name of a nearby field was Holy Cross.

5. Ley lines – to signify links between religious sites.

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 story get the 7 November edition of the News & Mail