HAVE you noticed those tall cast-iron tubes pointing to the sky around Woking and the surrounding villages?

They are sewer vent pipes, often called stink pipes. Believed to date to the early 1900s, their purpose was, and still is, to vent noxious gases such as methane, hydrogen sulphide and ammonia from sewers by releasing it high above the streets – and so as not to cause a stink at ground level.

I have been noting the locations of a few of these pipes for several years. Peeps researcher Mark Coxhead now has a list of 17 and has been photographing his finds.

The pipes are usually in a neglected, rusty condition these days. Some have their dark green paint still visible, but look closer and you’ll see well designed and decorative pipes in the best of Victorian traditions.

Same have their maker’s name on them as well. Many in Woking were cast by Messrs Ham Baker & Co (Engineers) of Westminster. Other were made by the foundries of AC Woodrow and of Adams Ltd.

Marks said: “The Wisley vent pipes are more decorative than the Woking ones and were cast by Palmer & Co of Beckenham. These pipes can be found at various places in Pyrford and in West Byfleet along Camphill Road.”

Different makers of pipes for separate sewerage systems? Maybe. The Woking sewage works at Carters Lane, Old Woking, was built by Woking Council. Mayford may well be connected to the Guildford sewage works at Slyfield. Byfleet and Pyford built its own system, with its sewage works at Wisley.

Taking decent pictures of the stink pipes can be quite a challenge.

Mark said: “I have found that ideally you need a very clear sky. The one at the junction of Coldharbour Road and Oakcroft Road, Pyrford, was one of the best, but I had taken it with my car in the background. I went back the next day, but the photographs were all dull, as the sky was overcast.

“The one at Anchor Hill, with the remains of a gas lamp, was probably the most historically interesting, but again very difficult to photograph.”

Request for details of female war hero

ARCHIVISTS at The Lightbox, Richard and Rosemary Christophers, are looking for information about Lilian Verna (or Vera) Rolfe and her connection with Woking.

During the Second World War she was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force secret agent. Captured by the Nazis in occupied France, she was executed at Ravensbrück concentration camp. Germany, in 1945.

Although she was born in Paris in 1914, it is believed her parents or grandparents lived in Horsell. However, no trace of them can be found in official registers.

Some sources say that she and her twin sister attended summer schools in the UK and others that they spent holidays possibly in Woking, or with grandparents in London. If anyone has any information, please contact Richard and Rosemary by email them at [email protected].

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: [email protected]