When resting place for beloved pets was under threat from developers

THE Friends of Chobham Pet Cemetery look after the enchanting wooded resting place of people’s much-loved pets that died between the 1930s and 1970s.

The cemetery was overgrown and largely forgotten until 2018 when a group of volunteers embarked on a project to restore the cemetery. They have done a great job and continue to look after it.

Chobham Pet Cemetery after volunteers cleared decades of undergrowth

However, in August 1965 the News & Mail published a story in which the pet cemetery was said to be under threat from developers who wanted to build houses on the site, which adjoins the disused Mincing Lane Nursery, land that is still a target for developers.

It noted the cemetery had been opened 32 years before, in 1933, by Millicent Baxter and her husband, Lieutenant Colonel RHN Baxter, and was the resting place of 600 pets. When the couple died, their ashes were scattered near the graves of their eight Airedale terriers “in the cemetery’s garden of memory”.

A News & Mail cutting from 1965 showing Daphne Baxter next to the memorial to the eight Aire-dales

Their niece, Daphne Baxter, became the sole trustee and she was pictured in the story next to the memorial to the Airedales. She said she had been approached by representatives of “two giant property companies” who had offered to buy the two-acre cemetery.

Daphne added: “Of course I refused, but when I did so I was told that the land around the cemetery would be developed anyway, and if I did not sell to them, my path of access, which is through adjoining land, would become inaccessible.

“I have studied the terms of the trust and seen legal advisors and there seems nothing I can do to stop the property companies, except [for me to] develop another acre of ground which belongs to the cemetery and joins the main road.

“But contractors have told me it would cost £1,000 to do the job properly and the garden of memory trust, from which comes money to keep everything neat and tidy, just has not got that sort of bank balance or anything approaching it. My only hope is that pet lovers will rally round.”

Daphne added that if people did contribute, they could have their pets buried in the extra acre of ground at any time in the future free of charge. Normal fees back then for a grave were £3 for the first foot and £1 for each additional foot, and the money spent on employing a local gardener to tend to the cemetery.

It is believed the last burial took place around 1970.

The cemetery is well worth a visit. There is a footpath to it from the end of Garden Drive, which is off Burr Hill Lane.

Among the animals buried there was an old English sheepdog awarded both a Brave Dogs’ Collar by the Daily Mirror and a medallion for Bravery from the Tailwaggers’ Club for stopping a runaway horse in 1935.

Also buried in the cemetery was Gama II (died 1962), a racehorse that won eight times for its owner Mrs E Nolan and trainer Rene Emery.

The headstone of racehorse Gama II, buried in 1962, and from whose grave a tree has grown

In its 1965 story, the News & Mail stated that actress and film star Diana Dors had a miniature poodle buried in the garden of memory, and paid £100 for a marble memorial to be erected.

The 1965 story was discovered by Mark Coxhead in the microfilm copies of the News & Mail at the Surrey History Centre in Woking.

The Friends of Chobham Pet Cemetery have a Facebook page that gives updates on their work in looking after the burial ground.

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

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