A CANNON stands imposingly in the centre of Chobham. But the gun is not the one originally placed there.

After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the village decided to raise money to erect a memorial cross on Chobham Common and acquire a cannon of the Crimean War period for what is now the war memorial green. 

This was in memory of the late monarch and to remember when, in 1853, she and Prince Albert came to review the Great Camp, a huge military exercise on Chobham Common.

Peeps researcher Mark Coxhead has found details of the unveiling of the 20cwt smoothbore, 24-pounder gun in the 9 August 1901 issue of the News & Mail

Dated 1843, the two-ton cannon had been used in the Crimean War. It was presented by the War Office and came from Woolwich Arsenal in London.

Long ropes were attached to the gun carriage and nearly 500 children moved it through the village. On one side were youngsters from the Chobham schools, and the other side were pupils from West End School. The procession was headed by Chobham Brass Band. 

The bands of Shaftesbury and Farms schools at Bisley, with a complement of about 300 children, were at the rear in uniform and with rifles.  

When the cannon reached the green, the vicar of Chobham, the Rev HS Acworth, explained to the large crowd the symbolic nature of both the gun and the forthcoming runic cross on the northern part of the common. The cross was unveiled in September 1901.

After the cannon’s unveiling, a large crowd of people adjourned to Mill Meadow – lent by Mr FW Benham, one of the benefactors – where games and athletic sports were indulged in for six hours.   

The final event was walking the greasy pole over water, although none of the three competitors succeeded in doing this. The prize was divided between them.

During the afternoon, bands of the Shaftesbury and Farm schools played.

The cannon stood at the top of the High Street, on the site of the village lock-up, until 1942, when it was donated as part of the scrap metal campaign to make armaments for use in the Second World War.

In 1979, the Chobham Society, having established that the cannon had been melted down, set about replacing it with an 18th-century barrel loaned by the National Artillery Museum, Woolwich.   

Local craftsmen made a replica gun carriage, and it was heaved into the village by local children, in a carnival possession resembling that staged at the installation of the original weapon. The barrel, dated 1786, is thought to have lain in the mud of the River Thames. It is not known whether it is of Russian origin.

The Great Camp of 1853 has not been forgotten. In 2003, there was a festival in Chobham to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s visit.

IF you have memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area and its people which you would like to contribute to this page, call David Rose on 01483 838960, or write to the News & Mail.