Common reputed to be stage for prize fighting

THE area of Woking Common near what was once the Castle Ramwick Inn is reputed to have been lawless in the 18th century, as we look back with Peeps into the Past.

Last week, Peeps focused on this hostelry and a fanciful tale that claimed the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin stayed there. Today, the property is called Ramwick Cottage. It is on Park Road, and is one of the oldest buildings in the area.

Ramwick Cottage pictured in the late nineteenth century. Could the people in the photo be members of the Arnold family who were occupants at the time of the 1891 census? The picture is from the book Woking 150, The History of Woking and its Railway, by local historian Iain Wakeford, and published in 1987

A 1951 article by GH Campbell in the News & Mail said that cockfighting took place close to the inn – at a location that later became the lawn of a house in Pembroke Road.

Campbell wrote that it was: “where the residents of Woking and neighbouring villages held their cockfighting contests”.

He added: “There is no evidence to support the theory that prize fights were also held there, but this is the popular belief.

“It is thought that look-outs were posted at vantage points around the area to give warning of the approach of the law.”

In 1951, the cottage was owned and lived in by Mr and Mrs Clifford, and the writer gave a description of it. He wrote: “To the left of the fireplace is a large black door, which opens to the stairway to the upper rooms.

“Mr and Mrs Clifford have converted these into modern bedrooms – modern that is in furnishings, but with the doors quite original and beams black with age and preservative. Nothing can detract from the obvious antiquity.”

Recently, Peeps researcher Mark Coxhead and I were given a tour of Ramwick Cottage by the present owners, for which we thank them. Mark has also been researching past occupants and this has thrown up a mystery, yet to be solved.

Inside Ramwick Cottage in 2022

Based on census records, it seems possible that in 1861 the property was occupied by Sarah Jackman, aged 58, who was born at Pyrford and listed as a beerhouse keeper. Her daughter, Mary, 20, was listed as a nurse woman.

The census records also mention James Jackson, 25, who was a nurseryman’s labourer, and Ellen Taylor, 15, who was a general servant.

By 1871, the property appears to have stopped being a pub/beer house, because the Strudwick family lived there. Head of the household was William Strudwick, 38, a farmer and milkman.

His wife, Mary Ann, 43, was listed as “manager of dairy”. They had three children – William, five, Ellen, three, and Jane, one.

The Strudwicks were still there in 1881, with two more children – aged nine and five respectively – and farmer labourer Issac Mitchell, 72, and his wife, Mary, 57.

The 1891 census listed the occupants as Frederick Arnold, 26, who was a gardener and domestic servant, Alice Arnold, 28, Philip Arnold, one, and three visitors – all with the surname Dawson.

The Dawsons were gardener/domestic servant Thomas, 28, Mary, 30, and Charlotte, one.

Then comes the mystery – no definite trace of any occupants of the property for the next half century have been found. Was it really empty until 1951?

Then, a mention in the News & Mail gives the name TJ Clifford, a structural engineer. Presumably he was the man who, with his wife, showed GH Campbell around.

In 1957, the property was occupied by a Lieutenant Colonel AV Petri.

Seventy years of history

WOKING History Society has invited me to give an illustrated talk – 70 Years of Woking History – looking at aspects of the town, its development, changes and notable events since the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

It will be at the Nova Cinema in the Peacocks shopping centre on Monday 13 June at 8pm. The evening is open to all and tickets are £5 per person. Book online at www.novacinema.com/movie/70-years-of-woking-history.

Any vintage photos that readers may have of local street parties to celebrate the Queen’s coronation and subsequent jubilees are welcome to be included in the talk.

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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