THIS week, Peeps into the Past brings the second instalment of reader Dave Williamson’s memories of horticultural business Knaphill Nursery.

Dave’s grandparents and father worked at the nursery. And as a boy, Dave often visited it.

He said: “Donald Waterer, the then-owner of the family business, had an office and someone called Mr Causton also had one. Mr Waterer lived in a house in Littlewick Road, that belonged to the nursery. The house, Stubdale, is right on the junction with Lockfield Drive.

“The nursery employed secretaries to do typing and such. When stiletto heels became fashionable in the 1950s, the office lino my dad had painstakingly painted became riddled with thousands of small dents.

“Behind the offices was an old caravan where a temporary worker – usually Italian – was housed. After a probationary period, the worker moved on and a new one arrived.

“I think it was a cheap way of getting labour as I remember seeing a note on Mr Causton’s desk that read: ‘minimum wage for foreigner’ and an amount in pounds. My dad, William, was always amused by the antics of the young men living in the caravan trying to smuggle their girlfriends onto the site.

“There were several notable trees at the nursery including a weeping beech. One year in the 1960s, Mr Waterer organised a bonfire party for the staff. This included a home movie show inside the canopy of the tree, with a screen perched against the trunk.

“It was footage shot of staff at work and I remember the projector operator frequently changing the direction of certain scenes so someone would leap backwards over a gate or reverse a tractor at high speed around a bend.

“In the 1970s, I went to a display, at Knaphill Methodist Church Hall, of proposed new local road schemes.

“There were plans afoot to try and shift traffic around West End and Bisley and link Woking to major roads such as the M3 motorway.

“Two schemes were proposed, one taking traffic from the Gordon School roundabout to Brookwood traffic lights across the commons, and another starting at the same place but passing through Knaphill Nursery, the weeping beech tree and Stubdale, to link traffic with Lockfield Drive.

“I remember a letter of protest from Martin Slocock, who later owned the nursery, in the local paper. Neither scheme was adopted. The house, Stubdale, has been enlarged considerably since those days.”

Dave has a painting, dating from the 1920s, by a man called LR Owtram. While Dave’s grandparents, Esau and Frances, lived at Inwood Cottage, Barrs Lane, Knaphill, Mr Owtram, an art student, lodged with them.

Dave said: “He persuaded my grandad to dress up and walk behind a hay cart for a ‘Constable-esque’ composition. The location is Robin Hood Road and the pub would have been just out of sight on the left of the picture.

“Mr Owtram made a copy, painted on cardboard, of the picture and gave it to my grandparents. Our family were told the original was in a gallery.

“Although it is painted in oils, someone in our family put it in a rudimentary frame under glass. In the framing process, small nails were used which went through the artist’s signature.

“One night in the 1980s, the brass wire used to hang the picture gave up and it crashed to the floor. The glass shattered and damaged the painting. At the time I was working in a drawing office with a talented amateur artist named John Helyar and he repaired the damage and gave it a coat of varnish. I then had the picture framed in a shop in Farncombe.”

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]