History

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

LET’S take another wander through Woking town centre in the 1960s, this time beginning with a food theme.

Previously featured photos from the same period have been very popular with readers, many of whom have supplied answers to some of the “mystery” locations, while adding useful comments and memories.

A TASTE OF WOKING – The BA-FA Chinese restaurant and a fish and chip shop in Duke Street in the mid-1960s

A Chinese restaurant called BA-FA in Duke Street was recalled by Les Jermey, who also noted the Tong Do, in Chertsey Road, near the then News & Mail office.

This week’s photos show both restaurants. BA-FA can be seen in with its prominent hanging sign. All these buildings have, of course, long gone.

Interestingly, also in the view is a fish and chip shop that appears to be Somerscales Ltd.

Was this another premises of the same owners that Stan Martin recalls as having a wet fish shop on the corner of Commercial Road and Chobham Road, that was previously butcher’s HA Tanner and now the Slug & Lettuce bar?

There is a hanging sign for Pepsi-Cola and a poster in the window advertising Billy Smart’s Circus.

ON PARADE – Shops in Chertsey Road in the 1960s included the Tong Do Chinese restaurant

In the other picture, the Tong Do restaurant can be seen on the far right of the row of shops in Chertsey Road. Staying with the food theme, is that Coombe’s the baker’s shop on the left?

Next to it is Speed Queen Coin Wash, Susan Gay Separates and Rentaset Television Hire. On the far left, just glimpsed, is the News & Mail office at number 52.

This leads to more readers’ memories. Keith Francis wrote: “Wasn’t the old Woking News & Mail office, certainly in editor Don Swatman’s day, near Barrenger’s leatherware shop?

“Sallabank’s tobacconists, with FW Woolworth & Co Ltd surrounding it, [were in] Chertsey Road. On that side a few doors along, towards the railway station, was an independent sewing-machine shop, which sold Singer machines, among others.

“Further along Chertsey Road were several small grocers. Maypole for one, which I think was an International Stores brand, was further up the road on the other side. There was more than one butchers, including West and Dewhurst, all part of the Vestey Group. 

“The butcher’s shop managers used to joke about their different trading names, but all being part of the same empire. If I remember correctly, one of the Dewhurst directors, Colin Cullimore, lived in Chobham.”

If you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call 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 21 November edition of the News & Mail

IT’s been said that Worplesdon is one of the largest villages in England.

Covering an area of 6.93 square miles it may be a contender, although there are likely to be many others claiming the same. And what exactly constitutes a village? There is no standard definition.

The top of Perry Hill with the New Inn on the right

The parish of Worplesdon is, in fact, made up of a number of settlements. The principal ones are Jacobs Well, Fairlands, Wood Street Village and Perry Hill. The latter is often simply referred to as Worplesdon.

There appears to be only one Worplesdon in the UK and the name is said to derive from ‘werples’ a bridleway and ‘dun’ a hill.

The vintage pictures here show the Perry Hill area more than 100 years ago. Records reveal that there was an inn called the White Lyon opposite the green as far back as 1675. However, in 1718 it became the New Inn.

The old building was pulled down at the end of the 1930s and the current pub soon replaced it, sited slightly to the north of the original one and built in the then fashionable ‘roadhouse’ style; no doubt hoping to cash in on the motor-coach trade that was increasing along the Bagshot Road.

It reverted back to the White Lyon in 1966. More recently it doubled up as a Thai restaurant going by the name of the White Lyon & Dragon, yet is now the White Lyon once again!

Rickford Mill on the Hoe Stream

On the edge of Perry Hill, near the boundary with the borough of Woking, was a watermill on the Hoe Stream. Eventually powered by a turbine, Rickford Mill was later owned by corn merchants D. Taylor & Sons. It was still in use by the early 1950s when the book Old Surrey Watermills by J. Hillier was published.

Mr Hillier had visited Rickford Mill and had spoken to the miller. He wrote: “For all the advent of the turbine, the miller’s work is no different from that in a mill powered by a wheel, and his conversation was seasoned with the same milling terms and cant as any other of the confraternity.

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 14 November edition of the News & Mail

Picture captions:

Worplesdon 01.jpg

ON THE GREEN: The top of Perry Hill with the New Inn on the right

Worplesdon 02.jpg

GREAT BARN: Primmer & Terry were wheelwrights, blacksmiths and undertakers

Worplesdon 03.jpg

MILLER’S TALE:

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

A LOST Victorian chapel, discovered in the undergrowth at Brookwood Cemetery, has been fully restored by Woking Borough Council.

The Colquhoun chapel as it was before restoration efforts

The exquisitely sculpted, Gothic style chapel, built almost entirely from Bath stone, has been sympathetically restored over the past five months using original materials and specialist tradespeople.

It was built in 1858 by the Colquhoun’s as their family mausoleum. It was last restored in 1924 by Violette Freeman in memory of Eliza Colquhoun Redhouse but subsequently left to disappear behind a thick wall of shrubs and rhododendrons.

The chapel today after extensive work to restore its original glory

“Brookwood Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the country and of great historical value. When the council bought the 220-acre site in 2014, it was with a view to restoring this Grade 1 listed park and garden to its former glory,” said Ian Tomes, the council’s strategic asset manager. “In the last five years we have transformed the cemetery and hope to restore many of the memorials and structures on site. Colquhoun Chapel is among the first because it is one of the more beautiful buildings in the cemetery, and one of the oldest.

“What makes it even more special is the fact that it was a lost building, that hadn’t been seen by anyone for a number of years. There’s a wealth of history within the cemetery walls, which we’re trying to make people more aware of while at the same time, making this fantastic space more accessible to the public.”

For more information about Brookwood Cemetery, and the services available, call 01483 472222 or visit www.brookwoodcemetery.com.

For the full story, get the 24 October edition of the News & Mail

Woking’s Invalid Convict Prison was still under construction in 1858 when the man recorded as Prisoner No.1 was sent there – and was tasked to help to build it!

The prison, built on heathland at Knaphill, consisted of two wings, one for the sick and insane and the other for more able-bodied convicts. It later became Inkerman Barracks.

A postcard depicting Inkerman Barracks c. 1915

Prisoner No.1 was William Strahan, a banker, who was convicted with two business partners of fraud. He was born on 2 August 1807 to Robert and Margaret Snow, but later changed his surname to Strahan.

His father was a wealthy partner in one of the oldest banks in Britain, which could trace its lineage to the early part of Charles II’s reign.

After studying at Eton and Cambridge, Strahan himself pursued a career in banking at his father’s firm of Snow, Snow, Strahan, Paul & Paul. He later became a partner in the business, it eventually becoming Strahan, Paul & Bates.

It was on 1 January 1851, Strahan, alongside business partner J.D. Paul and, to a lesser extent, his other partner Bates, began to commit a most scandalous Victorian crime.

The Reverend Dr John Griffith, Doctor of Divinity and Canon of Rochester Cathedral, banked with Strahan, Paul & Bates and regularly asked it to make small investments on his behalf.

The relationship was a beneficial one, with both parties benefiting from the profits, until Reverend Griffith asked the bank to invest in Danish five per cent bonds. Between 4 February 1850 and 16 April 1851, he directed the bank to invest a total of £5,000 in bonds. This worked for a time, the bank received its fee and the Reverend Griffith received his dividends.

Reverend Griffith then heard rumours that Strahan, Paul & Bates had gone bankrupt, which soon proved correct. Enquiring about the state of his bonds, he was told by Bates and Strahan that they were either sold or pledged. He then engaged his solicitors to begin formal legal proceedings.

A courtroom artist’s sketch of William Strahan, on trial for fraud

The three bankers were arrested and put on trial. An examination of the bankruptcy of the firm at the time found that as little as six years before the business was solvent: there was a deficiency of £110,000 but Strahan had £100,000 in unencumbered assets and Paul had £30,000.

The defendants pleaded not guilty but at the end of the trial, that took place in October 1855, they were found guilty and sentenced to 14 years transportation.

However, Strahan was not sent overseas and was first imprisoned at Newgate and then on to Millbank Prison, then to Lewes Prison and finally to Woking Invalid Convict Prison in April 1858.

Strahan was released on 21 October 1859 and moved with his wife and six of their children to Blackmore Hall, Sidmouth, Devon. He died on 2 July 1886 in Perugia, Italy.

Thanks go to enthusiastic young historians Daniel Shepherd and Gem Minter who have researched the story of William Strahan 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.

For the full story, get the 24 October edition of the News & Mail

ASTOUNDING and gruesome crimes committed by inmates of Woking’s Victorian jail are being revealed by a website created by two young history buffs.

Daniel Shepherd and Gem Minter have formed The Institutional History Society, which is dedicated to exploring England’s institutional systems in the 19th century.

Daniel Shepherd (left) and Gem Minter, who have founded The Institutional History Society

One of the first to be depicted on its website is Woking Invalid Convict Prison, which was opened on the border of Knaphill and St John’s in 1859 to house disabled male prisoners.

“Our key driving force was a desire to put Woking on the map,” said Daniel, who lives in the town. “When people think of Woking, they often think of history spanning a few hundred years and even then, not particularly exciting but it’s, frankly, not true.

“The invalid convict prison was the first of its kind nationally. It was a purpose-built, permanent structure for invalided prisoners not fit for the normal prison system. Not only was it the first of its kind, but many of the inmates which came through its gates were unique.

“Irish terrorists were housed there. There was a banker whose crimes inspired the Little Dorrit novel by Charles Dickens, along with bloodthirsty murderers and zoophiles. You name it, they were there.”

A young inmate, photographed for his prison record

The Institutional History Society was set-up in June to showcase the “lurid, the scandalous, and often unfair lives, treatments and crimes of people from times gone by”.

Its website will house archival documents, useful resources, be a forum for genealogists and feature investigative research to be revealed in podcasts, biographies and blogs.

“In a much broader sense, we aim to bring to the fore things which affect modern and historic societies alike, particularly as regards to its institutions,” added Daniel, who studied archaeology and history at university.

“How should we treat the mentally ill? How should we view prisoners? What are the paths that lead to crimes and have things change? We feel you can judge a society on how its institutions treated its most vulnerable members.”

“If you’re interested in historic true crime, want to find out if one of your ancestors was a felon or if you’re interested in volunteering, visit our website at www.institutionalhistory.com,” said Daniel.

For the full story get the 29 August edition of the News & Mail