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• Introduction

• History
• The Godalming

• The Wey

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• Introduction

• Lock
• Barges
• Life on the

• The Horse-
drawn IONA

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• Introduction

• Watermills
• Flour & Bread
• Fulling & Cloth
• Chilworth

• Charcoal

• Brewing
• Papermaking
• Ice Houses
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• Introduction

• Habitats
• Trees & Plants
• Insects
• Birds
• Fish
• Countryside

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• Introduction

• More About

• More About

• More About

• More About

• More About

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• Introduction

• Legends
• The Big Names
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• Introduction

• Boat Art
• Inn Art
• River Graffiti
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• Basingstoke

• Wey & Arun

• The Thames
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We welcome
your comments

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Godalming Navigation
Catteshall to Unstead Lock

The 19th century politician and traveller William Cobbett described the Wey Valley between Godalming and Guildford as the 'prettiest four miles in all England' and this stretch of river is a perfect example of that natural beauty.


GOLO The Godalming Town Lottery supporting local good causes
The first small town lottery in England launches in November 2008 to help good causes in the town.


The Wey River historically has had a dependable flow which benefited water-dependant industry along the valley for many centuries. The waterway does however have to be carefully managed to ensure that levels remain sufficiently high to allow navigation all year round. The summer of 2005 presented particular problems following the driest winter in 30 years, and the situation prompted both the National Trust and the Environment Agency to publish warnings and encourage considerate use of the water. Notices were posted at locks requesting that vessels wait wherever possible to share the lock with others to prevent unnecessary wastage.

Tree felling barge on Godalming Navigation
click image to enlarge

"On our way back to the boat we walked around a large lake (Broadwater Lake, Farncombe) where there were numerous fisherman trying their luck. At the top end of the lake we found two signs stating “Please don’t feed the birds or fish with bread”. Now I ask you, you take kids to a pond or waterway and the first thing they want to do is feed the ducks, it’s only natural. Anyway, there were some mums and a grandad with kids trying to feed the ducks but the ducks were being hassled from below. Huge carp were taking the bread before the ducks even got a look in. After this we walked on a bit further and found a fisherman who had hooked a fish and was in the process of trying to land it. We stood and watched the battle unfold to see who was going to win, the man or the fish. The man eventually won to land a 15lb 8oz common carp. He told us that he had caught 8 fish during the day, the biggest being 22lb so he was going home a happy chappie.
" NB Gypsy Rover Blog October 2006

The Wildlife Trusts operate all along the valley. In woodland conservation areas managed by a Trust you may get the impression, upon seeing a great number of fallen trees and boughs that remain where they fell, that the woodland is being poorly looked after. In reality this rotting wood provides nutrients that are being released back into the soil, and also provides important habitats for beetles and fungi that assist in breaking down the vegetation.

click image to enlarge

"The boats chug along at about three to four miles an hour and everyone had a go at turning the tiller. It's not quite as simple as it looks at first, as was proven when Grenadier, trying to pass under a rather narrow bridge, found itself broadside on, as Euan, watching in horror from Trincomalee which was speeding ahead, shouted to Joanna, "they've cocked up Trowers." Eventually however they got the hang of it and we were all able to enjoy the passing sights including a view of John Donne's summer house, the ruins of Newark Priory and Lewis Carroll's home near Guildford. " Gloria Deutsch, JPost.com 5th October 2006

A five-month old Cairn terrier found and swallowed a four-foot long baited fishing line whilst his owners were taking him for a walk along the towpath by the Manor Inn in Farncombe. Dillon had to have surgery under a general anaesthetic before the line and baited hook could be removed in a £200 operation. It appears that the discarded line was one of several made from string left abandoned by the river. Source: Surrey Advertiser 3rd August 2007

An employee from WWF in Godalming, whose offices back onto a navigation cut of the River Wey near Catteshall Lock, has been (2008) using the river to train for an endurance event to raise money for a charity. Matt Wilson swims the river daily in a wetsuit but has had to endure attacks by territorially-minded swans and a visit to A&E for a severely cut foot.

A well-preserved 17th century cooking pot was recovered from the river near Unstead in Peasmarsh. Identified as an example of a Surrey and Hampshire Border Ware pot experts have dated it from 1650 to 1675 and deemed significant enough to be officially registered. "This seems an interesting item," said David Williams, Surrey finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (1). "It is a pot used for domestic cooking which is still blackened by soot." "We were just pulling out gravel to help repair the towpath when we spotted this thing falling in with the heap of gravel," said National Trust dredger master Adrian Shaw." At first glance it looked like a teapot or something, but once we looked closer we could see it was something special. I find things from time to time and it is an exciting part of my job, but it is so rare to find things like this pot, which is still in one piece with barely a mark on it, despite the fact it had been underwater for so long. If you hold it in front of your face you would swear you could still smell the smoke and the fire."

Source: Surrey Advertiser 24th September 2010

(1) Portable Antiquities Scheme documents items found by members of the public dating back to 1700 and beyond.

to the next stretch of the Godalming Navigation:


The Wyatt 'Oyspitall'

The Wyatt Almshouses (GR: SU982448) back onto the river just before Towers Bridge, and from the towpath you should be able to make out the elaborate coupled chimneys towering over the single storey building. The ten almshouses were the brainchild of Richard Wyatt (1554 - 1619) of Hall Place at nearby Shackleford. Wyatt was a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, and a wealthy merchant and benefactor who secured part of his fortune through ownership of an ironworks at Dunsfold. His will left provision for funds to establish an ‘Oyspitall’ to be built on some portion of the ‘Prismarsh’ to provide lodging for ‘tenne poore menn’ of deserving character selected from Godalming and neighbouring settlements. Wyatt had left exact instructions which included some strict observances to be undertaken by the selection committee overseen by the Carpenters’ Company:

“None of these tenne doe to be placed shalbe eyther drunkard, swearer or blasphemer of God but shall observe such orders as shalbe appointed by the Orderers of the Hospitall or else put out. And my Will is that before any of these menne shalbe taken from any parishe that they shall give good sureties before they are admitted to the parishe of Godallmine that none of their Children shalbe any way chargeable to them such sureties as they shall like of. And my Will is that they shall everye Saboth daye if it be fayer weather goe all together orderlie to Godallmine Church to heare prayers there. If it be not fayer weather then one of them to saye prayers in that Chappell or house which shalbe appointed for that purpose.” Detail from Richard Wyatt’s Will 1619

Broadwater by Paul Farmer
click on image to go to photographer's website

In the photograph above the Almshouses are pictured at bottom centre on the banks of the Wey, with Broadwater Lake to centre left and the North Downs on the horizon.

Wyatt not only provided accommodation but also assigned the income from leases of properties he owned to a Trust to generate an annual income of £70, a generous amount at the time, to be equally apportioned between the occupants. A woman’s touch augmented the benevolence of the Wyatt family, for when his widow died 13 years later her will instructed that the ten men be provided with: “coate made of cloth with two letters that is to say R.W. for my said late husband’s name in the bosomes of everye of the said coates”, and provision was even made that these purple coats were to be replaced every three years. Margaret Wyatt had also instructed for a bible to be bought and for this “to remain in the Almes house of Goddalmayne forever.” Sadly the bible has long since disappeared from the little chapel at the almshouses.

In more recent times Godalming Borough Council sought permission from the Carpenters’ Company to erect 32 additional one-bedroomed bungalows on the land around the perimeter of the site to provide accommodation for the needy. These were carefully designed to blend in with the much older buildings using the same locally quarried Bargate stone. At the same time the chapel was renovated and a resident, Miss Nell Gwynne, a direct descendent of the infamous lady of the same name from the reign of King Charles II provided the altar cloth in red.


The 'social affordable' bungalows are leased by The Almshouse Trust under the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, which owns the original almshouses, to the council in an agreement which expires in 2055. Due to financial constraints the council has found that it is unable to meet its obligations in bringing the more modern buildings up to the Government's decent homes standard, this partly due to the higher costs associated with retaining the original character of the buildings. The council has agreed (2007) to transfer ownership of the homes to the trust on a trickle agreement whereby whenever a bungalow falls vacant the trust will purchase it.

Catteshall Lock by Melanie Cambridge www.weyvalley.info
click on image to go to artist's website

Unitarian Chapel

A little upstream from the Wyatt Almshouses along Meadrow is the little chapel (GR: SU982447) that was home to the Unitarians in the 17th and 18th centuries. This religious community was the second oldest non-conformist group in the area after the Quakers with its presence here first documented in 1699. The chapel beyond the flagged path dates from 1789 has a baptismal pool beneath the floorboards of its long and airy aisle. The Unitarians had an unsettling influence on the traditional church groups for they not only discredited the beliefs in Original Sin, the Trinity, and that Jesus was the only son of God, but they also accepted women ministers from as early as 1834. An extremely tolerant group that uniquely at that time forbade flogging at Sunday School were progressive in that they had no fixed creed which allowed them to adapt to modern influences.

To Trowers Bridge

A large house that was once owned by George Marshall with gardens backing onto the Wey is now the Manor Inn (GR: SU984450) a public house hotel with good facilities for children and a popular restaurant. Pleasure boaters hiring craft from the nearby Farncombe Boat House can often be found moored here sneaking a final drink before returning home in the late afternoon. Marshall was a shareholder in the Navigations and used the waterways to transport wood for his substantial timber business.

Garth Allan's Watercolour of Trowers Bridge Click to visit Garth Allan's Website
click on image to go to artist's website

The pretty stretch of river running from Trowers Bridge (GR: SU983449) built in 1789 and down to the sluices near Tiltham’s Farm epitomises the idyllic surroundings usually associated with rural riverscapes. During the summer, if your timing is right, you’re likely to encounter the narrowboat Iona squeezing silently beneath the bridge, or at the winding point by the Unstead Sluices (GR: SU990453) where the boat is manually turned around, providing the horse used to tow the boat with a welcome break. The sluices, although now a modern structure, include part of the original 1960s workings, and carry water over into a section of the bypassed river proper providing flood control.

Boating on the River wey near Farncombe, Godalming 1908
Boating on the River Wey 1908
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

The track over Trower’s Bridge was one of the drives servicing the once influential Unsted Park Estate (GR: SU992442)

Unsted Park Estate

Unsted Park, also occasionally spelled 'Unstead', nestles high on the hill a mile or so away from the river at Munstead Heath, and today is a private hospital and specialist school set in 44 acres of rolling countryside.

Unsted Park House, Munstead Wood

Unsted Park House was built near the top of Farley Hill between 1786 and 1796 by one Thomas Parry. In 1873 it was bought at auction for £37,500 by a Lincolnshire landowner who refurbished and expanded the house, which by that time had fallen into considerable disrepair. A new wing and stables were completed the following year. Electricity was not installed until 1912 at which time the water supply was obtained from a hydraulic ram located near the Cider House in Catteshall at the bottom of the hill, and piped to the estate's own reservoir.

During the First World War the house became an army hospital, and in the Second saw troops billeted in 12 large huts in the kitchen garden. Much of the estate's land was sold off as smallholdings in 1945 leaving the house and 50 acres. In 1949 the house was converted into a training centre for a national bank, and changed hands again in 1972 to become the first Nestor (1) nursing home.

A NHS rehabilitation unit for patients with traumatic head, orthopaedic and spinal cord injuries was based here from 1995 until the hospital was deregistered and taken over for private patients. The privately-run service took patients 16 years and over providing neuro-rehabilitation in 27 rooms.

In 2007 the Grade II listed mansion Unsted Park School was converted to provide specialist education and support, on both a residential and day basis, for children aged seven to sixteen with Asperger's Syndrome (2).

Prior to 1814 the estate was documented as Farley Hill and in 1873 Unsted Wood, and included the Manor of Unsted and Unsted Farm. The Manor was held in the 15th and early 16th centuries by the influential Stoughton family, whose name is publicly preserved in the naming of Stoughton in nearby Guildford.

The farm was vested to the Corporation of Godalming to be used as a sewage farm in 1894.

The Thames Water Unstead sewage works as now is (GR: SU995455) takes waste from Godalming and Farncombe in a pipeline passing beneath the river by the Unstead sluices. This is also the site of Godalming Wetland Nature Reserve where the water company is a corporate member of local Wildlife Trusts and works with the local Unstead Bird and Wildlife Group to ensure the upkeep of this important habitat for wild birds. The nature reserve is open to the public but has restricted access except for the wildlife group.


(1) Nestor Healthcare is an independent provider of nursing homes and medical staffing.
Asperger's Syndrome sufferers are characterised by difficulties in social interaction and by restricted stereotyped interests and activities.


Trowers to Unstead Lock

It is just downstream from Trower’s Bridge that you will stumble across a very serene and picturesque stretch of the river, and it is here on the east bank, on the opposite side of the river to the towpath, that there is the first of three Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) called collectively the Wey Valley Meadows (GR: SU988450). All three sites have been notified for their unimproved meadows that support rich plant communities and several locally important species. The sites also support areas of woodland that are vital to breeding birds. The next to be reached (GR: SU996463) downstream is again on the opposite side to the towpath on the bend of the river beyond Unstead Lock. The third (GR: SU997476) again on the opposite bank to the towpath is on the meadow between the lockkeeper’s cottage by the weir and St Catherine’s Lock. This site is accessible via a public footpath reached by crossing at the lock.

Clouds & Water Click to visit Sarah Chanin's website
click on image to go to artist's website

The World War II pillbox (GR: SU989455) just down from the weir and set back from the towpath is on National Trust Land. This area, referred to locally as Colonel’s Ground, was acquired by the Trust to prevent modern developments encroaching on to the sensitive habitats of the river.

The next bridge downstream from the weir is Unstead Bridge (GR: SU991456). This is not the site of the 13th century bridge built as one of many in the valley by the Waverley Abbey Cistercian monks, who were based on the Wey near Farnham, as this is located to the east (GR: SU993454) along the track where it passes over the very original course of the river, which itself was bypassed to preserve this ancient structure. Confused? Don’t be. The first of three bridges is the one you see above the Navigation and was built when the cut was excavated and rebuilt in 1899 after it had been declared unsafe. Walking along the track eastwards you will come to the second bridge after 300 yards (270 m) which crosses what is now the course of the River Wey proper. Another 30 feet (9 m) further on is the mediaeval bridge.


Unstead Lock

On a straight cut the Godalming Navigation slices past a series of tortuous meanders alongside Unstead Lock (GR: SU993460) - rise of 6ft 6in (1.98m) which dates back to 1764. Prior to the 1830s Unsted without the ‘a’ was the common spelling. The original bricks of the lock were covered in concrete during refurbishment in the 1990s and which lead to considerable criticism of the National Trust at the time. The Lock is 17.8 miles (28.6 km) from the Thames.

There was once a corn mill sited next to the lock on the towpath side, and although Unstead Mill vanished long ago beneath the factory that now occupies the site with the mill race now filled in, the long tail-race remains witness to its existence. This race runs alongside the towpath by the main Navigation cut for over 300 yards (270 m) and today serves as a pleasant backwater for private houses that back down to it. There were originally two horse bridges here, although only one remains on the towpath today (GR: SU993464). The miller had control of sluices to control water flow. The sluices immediately upstream of the lock gates provide flood control with surplus water escaping along a cut to join the natural course of the Wey just across the water meadows. The mill ground corn until 1906 after which it became a flock mill, and then factories producing various goods. In the early 20th century tolls were collected here for the Navigation trustees from lock users, with the mill taking a 50% commission for their trouble.

Move on to the next stretch of the Godalming Navigation:



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