THIS week, Peeps into the Past brings you a fascinating insight into a family who worked for well-known horticultural business Knaphill Nursery for many years.

Reader Dave Williamson emailed to say how much he enjoyed the story in December about the history of the nursery and the Waterer family who owned and ran the business for more than 200 years.

Here is the first part of Dave’s story of his family’s links to the nursery and the workers’ cottages where they lived.

He wrote: “My family had a long association with the nursery, so it was interesting to read the family tree of ownership over the years.

“The signs at the entrance in the 1950s and 60s mentioned ‘the late Anthony Waterer’. At that time, the nursery was run by Donald Waterer.

“My grandfather on my father’s side, Esau, was employed by the nursery for many years as a labourer. My father, William, was born at Inwoods at the top of Barrs Lane, Knaphill, which was divided into two cottages at the time.

“Even in the 1920s, the value of the property became apparent and the nursery’s owners sold it. My father’s family were moved to another desirable house – what is now Beetle Cottage in Carthouse Lane – using an old farm cart, like that shown in John Constable’s The Hay Wain painting, to move their belongings.

“They lived there until the 1930s when a council house became available in Beechwood Road, Knaphill. In the 1960s, I delivered newspapers each day to Inwoods – but by then it had been converted into one property.

“My grandmother, Frances, temporarily took on the job of cleaner/caretaker at the nursery offices, but it became permanent and she was there for many years. The Aldershot & District Traction Company Ltd bought a small bus to suit the narrow lanes and ran a shuttle service between Chobham and lower Knaphill and she used to catch this bus for the one stop between the nursery gates and the top of Barrs Lane, known as Bluegates Corner.

“When she became ill with tuberculosis, my dad then took over the job and also did it for many years. I used to go with him in his van and play around in the yard and in the barns.

“Later, I learned to drive by piloting the van around the nursery after everyone had gone home, while dad emptied the bins and burnt the rubbish on a bonfire where the Mizens Railway is now located.

“Just past the offices was a yard surrounded by barns and outbuildings where there was a hand-cranked crane similar to the one near Monument Bridge by the Basingstoke Canal.

“A bell fixed to the eaves of one of the barns and worked by a rope was used to summon the workers to the yard. They used to start early and then break for breakfast after being summoned by the bell. I could hear it being rung from our house in Barnby Road at seven o’clock each morning.

“As you walked into the offices, the medals and certificates won by the nursery for rhododendrons and azaleas were pinned on the walls. There was a definite mustiness to the place.

“A set of stairs went up to a galvanised water tank with sacking wrapped around the pipes. There was always a constant sound of water hissing and dripping into the tank.”

There will be more of Dave Williamson’s memories next week.


Knaphill Nursery memories 1 Inwoods 1.JPG: Dave Williamson’s grandmother Frances holding Dave’s dad William in front of their cottage Inwoods

Knaphill Nursery memories 1 Inwoods 2.JPG: A 1900s picture postcard view of Inwoods at the junction of Barrs Lane and Littlewick Road, Knaphill

Knaphill Nursery memories 1 Beetle Cottage.JPG: Beetle Cottage, Carthorse Lane, Knaphill, circa 1930s

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: [email protected]