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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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Wey Navigation
Stoke to Sutton Place
& Triggs Lock

350 years ago Richard Weston dug his first lock as part of his agricultural experimentation into water management. Stoke Lock was the site of this early development, which eventually stimulated canalisation throughout Britain. Weston was a wealthy landowner and his estate covered much of the local area placing this stretch of the river right at the centre of his innovative plans.



Researchers into social history have been spoilt with the extensive accounts that William Cobbett made during his many travels through the Wey Valley. Born in Farnham in 1763, Cobbett was an aggressive campaigner against corruption in officialdom, and highlighted the plight of the poor, especially those working on the many agricultural estates. Forever hounded by those more powerful than he, Cobbett launched his journal the Parliamentary Debate to ensure that the public had open access to accounts of parliamentary sessions. His initiative continues today as The Hansard, named after his assistant who continued to develop the journal after Cobbett's death.

A discarded hand grenade was found (August 2007) by an employee of the waste management company running the Slyfield waste site alongside the river at Stoke. A bomb disposal unit detonated the device, which had been brought to the tip amongst rubble in a skip. The device was a high explosive grenade dating back to the 1980s.

"Why do spiders love boats so much? Bristol Fashion has been teeming with them over the summer. Yes spiders eat other insects, fantastic, good for them. But in the mornings I don't want to wake up, step out of bed and put my face straight into a cobweb. It's been worst when I've moored underneath trees, they drop off in droves. Recently I found two spiders' nests on a curtain, tightly cobwebbed bundles with a gooey inside like honeycomb." Blogger: NB Bristol Fashion November 2006

“The poor management of our precious water resources is destroying some of our finest wetland wildlife sites. Rather than planning to exploit even more resources the Water Companies should invest more of their massive profits in using what we do have more effectively. The Government also has a responsibility and should be taking decisive action to protect the British countryside." Matt Phillips. Water Campaigner for Friends of the Earth

click image to enlarge

"I was up bright and early this morning sorting a few things out before heading off to the River Wey to meet some forum chums. The river really is beautiful, the boats rest on it gently and the ducks float around peacefully. I felt completely tranquil. The stroll along the towpath is beautiful." Riverboat blogger 'Narrowboat Jones' July 2006

"We met up at the Waterside Centre at Stoke Bridge and ferried a car to the end at Pyrford Lock, 8.5 miles and 5 locks downriver. By the time we set off the centre was very busy with youngsters enjoying kayak training in the school holidays. Many of them were spending a great deal of time in (rather than on) the water.

"Setting off downstream we immediately entered the tranquility of the Wey Navigation and the chance for a gentle paddle and a chat. As usual, there was a bit of wildlife to add interest and the distinctive footbridges of the navigation.

"Our third portage at Triggs Lock indicated time for a tea stop. There are many more narrowboats on the Wey than on the Basingstoke Canal. Soon time for a lunchtime stop at the New Inn at Cartbridge. Wayne tried to order food but was told that the kitchen had already closed. I asked what time it closed and was told 2.00 p.m. (it was only 1.57 p.m.) but the staff were a bit tired today and wanted to pack up early.

"The mill at Newark was recorded in the Domesday Book. Shortly after leaving Newark Lock (the last portage) there is a small stream on the left and exploring this we soon came to the remains of Newark Priory. Walsham Flood Gate marks the entry into the final navigation section. The attractive riverside Pyrford Place, once the home of poet John Donne (origin of "for whom the bells toll" and "no man's an island" is now flats.

"And so to Pyrford Lock, and more people than we had seen in the whole of the rest of our trip. A relaxing trip in excellent company." Blogger: Keith D - Song of the Paddle Forum 2nd August 2007

"We passed by what must have been an old mill in the past, but is now the home of the Surrey Advertiser. It is a good use of an old building. I bet that place alone could tell a few stories. Let alone the ones that are being told through the paper these days.
In a field right next to the river, there was a field of pygmy goats; these two were having fun on an old log. They looked like they were practicing for gladiators." Blogger: Hadar 2nd June 2008

"Here we are back at the New Inn at Send, moored up for the night while a steady stream of showers pass over. The inn sign here has obviously been painted by someone without a clue about boats. The barge depicted appears to be going full speed astern and the stove chimney appears to be at the other end from the cabin. Ah well.

"Yesterday was not so bad as the forecast threatened but we stayed on our rather pleasant moorings in the meadows south of Guildford and watched the Wimbledon men’s final (that took nearly all day!).

"Setting off through Guildford town centre this morning it was noticeable thet the river was higher and running faster, so we made rapid progress. After a few minutes we were at Dapdune Wharf, now a museum of the Wey navigation, run of course by the National Trust. We stopped to empty the loo cassettes and had a look round. Most interesting were the huge wooden Wey barges being restored there. It’s hard to imagine how they got up and down some of the narrow and shallow sections of the river. An old guy there who had worked on them said they couldn’t use big horses to tow the barges because they’d never get under the bridges.

"We were joined by narrowboat Lily A who we had met at the weekend and accompanied them for the rest of the day’s cruise. At Triggs lock the lengthsman was busy locking boats through and said that he was glad of it, otherwise he would have had to go over to local weirs to draw more water off. Apparently if the navigation rises dangerously, they can normally get it back to a safe level in four hours by judicious use of the weir sluices." Blogger: Neil Corbett NB Herbie 7th July 2008


to the next stretch of the Wey Navigation:

Garth Allan's Watercolour of the Wey at Stoke Click to visit Garth Allan's Website
click on image to go to artist's website

Stoke Lock - the oldest lock in Surrey

The river is bypassed by the Wey Navigation at Stoke Mill and swings off along a large meander eastwards. With the intrusive sound of the main six-lane arterial A3 route from London to Portsmouth thundering in the background, it is impossible to detach yourself from the hubbub of the modern world along the stretch of canal from Stoke Mill and on towards Stoke Lock.

The Navigation is also squeezed here on its West bank by the sprawling Slyfield Industrial Park (GR: TQ002516) with its associated industry including Guildford’s refuse tip. The Slyfield Transfer Station, as it is officially and rather grandly referred to, handles huge volumes of waste each year. The Surrey Advertiser reported (January 2007) that over 2006 the volume of commercial waste processed at Slyfield had risen by almost 1,000%. The site, which is operated by a private company on behalf of the county council, received an average 119,430 tonnes of non-recyclable waste delivered as almost 10,000 truckloads. The plant over the same period processed 22,277 tonnes for recycling.

“After passing Bowers Lock, we soon arrive at Stoke, a suburb of Guildford. Stoke Park lies on the left bank of the river, and is hilly and prettily wooded. At Stoke Mill we came to our last lock before Guildford: a very deep one it was, and one of the most difficult to work.” J.B.Dashwood 1868


The first to be built as part of the initial 1618 – 1619 scheme, Stoke Lock (GR: TQ003516) - rise of 6ft 9in (2.06m) – is certainly the earliest pound lock in Surrey, and the debate is perhaps best left to the waterway historians as to whether it was the first in England. The lock sits high above the water meadows and was originally constructed not for navigation but to provide exacting water control to allow flooding as part of Sir Richard Weston’s innovative agricultural improvements. This ‘flowing river’ flooding technique enabled the meadows to produce higher yields of hay by maintaining the ground temperature during frosts, and hence promote early and prolonged growth often providing a double harvest. The scheme, which became widely adopted throughout the country, overcame the problems faced by farmers who struggled to feed their animals during winter. The short channel behind the lock cottage is thought to be a remnant of the flowing river.

The current lock, that was opened in 1653, has a large grey dressed stone incorporated into the structure which was brought here from Henry VIIIs palace at Oatlands near Weybridge after it had been demolished in 1650. This was a common practice of the time as building materials were extremely expensive and most of the locks have materials sourced in the same way, and quite commonly Tudor bricks. Many of the ecclesiastic buildings suffered a similar fate after the Dissolution with them being systematically stripped for local building projects. Both Waverley Abbey and Newark Priory along the course of the Wey suffered at the hands of scavenger builders.

The lock-keeper’s cottage was built in 1882 replacing an earlier one. The Lock is 13 miles (21 km) from the Thames.


Riverside Park Nature Reserve

A few yards downstream from Stoke Lock is a large riverside informal parkland that has been preserved as a nature reserve. Riverside Park (GR: TQ007517) covers 80 hectares (198 acres) of mixed broadleaf woodland, a lake, wetlands, scrub, meadows and ponds. Sitting alongside the east bank of the Wey the reserve also incorporates the riverside and reed beds, a remnant of Weston's experimental land flooding 350 years ago.

The land here was being actively farmed until the late 1970s when it was purchased to enable the adjacent six-laned A3 to be built, with the remaining unused land given to Guildford Borough Council.

The site, which is open to the public, is maintained in consultation with the British Trust for Ornithology and the local Bird Club. To control access to limit damage to the different habitats present, a way marked trail has been constructed which originally included sections of boardwalks that enabled visitors to get right into the wetland and marshes - but please note that these however have since been removed (1). Interpretation boards are provided around the site. Not far from here is the outfall from the Guildford sewage works. A large carpark is available off Bowers Lane. Parts of the trail is accessible for wheelchair users, but the access paths are not even - so accompanied access is highly recommended.

Cattle grazing at Riverside Nature reserve, Guildford

The reserve also includes grassland and woodland away from the wetlands. These provide habitats for a number of important species. Up to 20 head of cattle are grazed in the reserve from May to October, these helping to keep the natural habitat in check to encourage wildlife breeding. Dogs need to be kept on a leash during this period. There is a car park in Bowers Lane (GR: TQ012526).

A large sweep of a meander of the river is sliced through by a short-cut dug during the original 1618 - 1619 century excavation of the canal, devised then for flood control and irrigation as this was constructed before the Navigation was implemented. Three miles of the Wey is bypassed here as it roars over a weir (GR: TQ009527) heading off towards Jacob’s Well and saved the bargees considerable time and effort. The concrete bridge that carries Clay Lane across the cut from Burpham to Jacobs Well replaced the iron bridge further upstream as the older bridge proved inadequate.

(1) Many thanks to Jim Allen of Burpham Community Association for factual corrections to this article. (180512)

Bowers Lock

Sitting on a tight bend that pushes the cut of the Navigation back onto the course of the River Wey proper is Bowers Lock (GR: TQ013529) - rise of 7ft 0in (2.13m). The lock, originally opened in 1653, nestles in amongst some mature trees near the site of Bowers Mill, the mill survived today only by the mill house which has been converted into a private residence, Bowers Mill House. The building now called Bowers Mill is not the original mill but had been constructed specifically by the Duke of Sutherland as a laundry to serve Sutton Place which he had then owned. The mill had made paper, flour then linseed but had closed by 1910, with the mill building demolished in 1947. The Lock is 11.9 miles (19 km) from the Thames.

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

The towpath downstream of the lock is reached by a horse bridge that carries it over the confluence with the Wey. Prior to this bridge being erected horses were either barged across or made to wade depending upon the depth of water. This bridge is a modern steel one with the original long since gone. The proof that the new bridge was built purely with towpath walkers in mind is in the fact that the horse taking part in towing the narrowboat Iona from Godalming to Weybridge as part of the National Trust’s 25th anniversary of running the waterway refused to cross the metal-mesh decking and springy structure. The outlet a hundred yards or so downstream is the original mill tail that had been widened in the 1930s improvements.

What was described by the sales agents as ‘an attractive parcel of sporting/amenity land’ located by the Wey at Clay Lane, Burpham near the lock was up for sale in January 2009 at a reserve of £200,000. The 22 acre site with frontage to the river was described as having potential for flighting ponds (1) and consists of grazing and woodland. The seller was offering the opportunity to purchase as two separate lots, with one 16 acre lot providing the grazing and woodland and the other of 6 acres providing the ‘sporting/amenity’ land fronting the river.

(1) Flighting ponds are open areas of water or marsh used by wildfowl to feed and rest at night and are commonly used for shooting wildfowl at dusk or in the morning when the birds depart.

Rare Breeds Farmer Claims
Weir is Flooding His Land

The Surrey Advertiser reports that a farmer, who claims that new weir gates installed by The National Trust at Bowers Weir have resulted in his fields being regularly flooded, lost an appeal hearing in June 2006. The hearing upheld a decision made by a County Court judge in April 2006. Bob Dearnley, the owner of Burpham Court Farm (GR: TQ006530), has vowed he will now take his case to the House of Lords having secured financial backing from a sympathetic businessman.

The farmer claims that prior to the installation of the new gates the water at Bowers Weir (GR: TQ008526) used to naturally overflow releasing pressure from the river whereas since the new weir construction all the water has been held back resulting in flooding via a backwater next to his farm.

"There has not been a flow since those weir gates were put in, but the National Trust say that the weir has been put back to its original state," said Dearnley. "The new gates are at least a foot too high. The water just will not fit. We are going to be made bankrupt and lose everything we have worked for."

Dearnley said that the farm flooded 15 times in the 13 years to 1996 but claims that the river has now burst its banks 37 times since 2004.

The farmer however on his own website claims that regular flooding is caused by the sudden release of water through the Bowers Weir when the gates are opened. He also claims that his animals are being affected by pollution from the refuse tip nearby.

The appeal court judge concluded that ditches on the farm had not been properly maintained and this was the contributory factor behind the flooding.

Burpham Court Farm is a rare breeds centre with 76 acres dedicated to conserving rare cattle, sheep and goats and woodland and riverside wildlife. The old dairy farm dates back to at least the eleventh century when Edward the Confessor's (1042-66) wife Edith is recorded as owning the land. Parts of the old farm house were built in 1642. The farm is open to the public.

Surrey Advertiser 28th July 2006; www.burphamcourtfarmpark.co.uk 28th July 2006

Bob Dearnley was declared bankrupt in 2006 with debts of £400,000 after losing the court battle and having been ordered to pay the National Trust £100,000. Guildford Borough Council has negotiated (December 2007) a deal with the bankruptcy trustee to pay a £65,000 downpayment followed by an additional £135,000 if Dearnley will vacate the farm by 28th September 2008. The farmer has made it clear that he does not intend to vacate the land.

"That’s what they’re saying but we won’t be going anywhere. We’re still fighting tooth and nail," Mr Dearnley said. "My wife has not been made bankrupt and she’s a tenant here. We’re not going."

Surrey Advertiser 14th December 2007

The farmer’s application to the Agricultural Lands Tribunal failed in November 2008. The application was to force Guildford Borough Council, the Environment Agency and the National Trust to carry out flood protection work. The application was rejected on the grounds that the tribunal didn’t have the jurisdiction required. The tribunal however was reported to have said that ‘with some goodwill from all the parties involved the flooding problem could have been alleviated with some minor works’ (Surrey Advertiser 16th January 2009)

Flowers of condolence, Burpham Court Farm, Guildford

Eviction proceedings were initiated by the borough council requiring that Bob Dearnley leave the property following his refusal to vacate the farm in September 2008. Tragically the 57-year-old farmer was found dead (June 2009) believed to have poisoned himself with a mixture of pesticide and water. The police reported that the substance found on his body, Phostoxin which is used to kill vermin on farms, is so toxic that a post-mortem could not be carried out. Seven police officers and three ambulance staff were taken to hospital after being exposed to the chemical. The farmer’s death came just two weeks before he was due to attend the formal possession hearing.

A memorial service was held at St Pius X Church in Merrow on the 18th July 2009 with donations made to the Farm Crisis Network who had supported the farmer during his dispute with the council.

“The farm and animals were Bob’s life,” said Mr Dearnley’s wife Margaret. “He gave his all to every visitor with whom he had personal contact. Many of them came to me at the end of their visit to the farm and expressed their thanks and appreciation.” Surrey Advertiser 10th July 2009

Plans by Guildford Borough Council to offer the property for sale (August 2010) has resulted in a howl of protest from local groups. The council, which owns the property, has committed an application to its planning department for a change of use to allow the farmhouse and two cottages to be privately occupied. The land is currently listed for use only as a farm.

"With increasing development in Guildford, the town relies upon the floodplain at Burpham Court Farm to accommodate water," said East Guildford Residents Association chairman Graham Hibbert. "It is one thing for an established farm unit to live with flood risk, but quite another to allow a change of use to create three freestanding residential units that would be frequently stranded in floodwater. Also creating three freestanding residential units in Burpham Court Farmcomplicates and puts at risk a successful outcome of the Slyfield Area Regeneration Plan (SARP). The future of the site cannot be separated from the plans been formed under the SAR." Surrey Advertiser 13th August 2010

Historic Cooper's Meadow

The land between the lock and Broadoak Bridge downstream is of historical significance to the Wey Navigation. It was here in Cooper’s Meadow that Sir Richard Weston cut the very first of his ‘flowing river’ channels to start his agricultural improvement experiments. The meadow flooding experiment was a great success in boosting the hay crop and lead to the eventual excavation of the waterway. Sadly a modern owner has planted trees, dramatically changing the original landscape, although the line of his original channel can be made out. Just upstream of the bridge is a penstock, a sluice which would have been used to drain water back from the meadows into the river after the frosts had gone.

The first indication that you have reached Sutton Place, the home estate of the man that devised and constructed the Wey Navigation in the 17th century is Broadoak Bridge (GR: TQ021532). The bridge carries the drive from the impressive gatehouse, now just yards away from the busy Portsmouth to London A3, across the river and Navigation which share the same course here, up to the big house which sadly is not visible from the river. There is a towrope roller preserved by the towpath here, with the remains of brackets for additional rollers beneath the bridge. The rollers were needed to navigate the sharp 90 degree bend, Pippers Point, that carries the Navigation away from the natural course of the river. The Wey itself tumbles over a weir not rejoining the Navigation again until Triggs Lock. This weir (GR: TQ023532) was part of Weston’s original experimental scheme and industrial historians attribute it to being the first weir to incorporate tumbling bays. The additional cut breaking away from the river before the bridge on the east bank was dug during the 1930 improvements.


Sutton Place - Home of the
Father of the Wey Navigation

Sutton Place (GR: TQ012536), a few miles downstream from Guildford, stands on high ground above the river which fittingly encloses the estate in a horseshoe as a combination of the original course of the Wey and the canal skirt around the magnificent gardens. This was the home of the Weston family who created the Wey Navigation in the 17th century. Sir Richard Weston (1591 – 1652) junior introduced some ground-breaking agricultural innovations to his estate which were to contribute significantly to the prosperity of the country, and it was his ‘flowing river’ idea that was the precursor to the building of the canal.

Sutton Place, Guildford 1914
The Hall, Sutton Place 1914
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

“The other (architectural) devices seem later, that of the clown crossing a brook with five goslings tucked under his belt, is probably copied from Withers' 'Emblems,' published in 1635 where 'a fool sent forth to fetch the goslings home' is said to have thrust them under his girdle, and so strangled them, for fear they should be drowned in crossing a river. The best good turns that fools can do us Prove disadvantages Unto Us. is Withers' moral (A. J. Kempe).” J.B.Dashwood 1868

The land occupied by Sutton Place was described in the Domesday Book as 'Manor of Sudtune' which over time came to be known as 'Sutton'. The manor was joined to the royal manor of Woking where Edward the Confessor was to build a hunting lodge on the site now occupied by St Edward's Church.

The Manor of Sutton was granted to the first Sir Richard Weston (1465 - 1541) by Henry VIII in 1521 to reward him for assisting in the negotiation with the French at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The king had owned the land for 36 years with his grandmother. The property was to remain in the Weston family for almost 400 years until it was disposed of in 1900.

Weston rebuilt the house during the 1520s as the first great house in England without defensive fortifications. Built in the form of a parallelogram, the house is of red brick, with many of the bricks visibly marked with the initials RW together with a tun and bunches of hops encircled by an ornamental border. This is a visual reference to Sir Richard as the brewer to Henry VIII.

Sutton Place, Guildford
Sutton Place 1914
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

The impressive and richly decorated Great Hall occupies the centre of the house and measures 50 feet in length, 25 feet in width, and 31 feet in height. Within are a variety of devices including one of a clown crossing a brook with five goslings tucked under his belt. This was added some time after the house was built and appears to have been inspired by Withers’ ‘Emblems’ published in 1635 where, ‘a fool sent forth to fetch the goslings home’ is said to have thrust them under his girdle and strangled them for fear that they should drown when he was to wade across the river.

It is said that the blood-stained ruff of Sir Thomas More (1477 – 1535), who was executed on the orders of Henry VIII for daring to oppose his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, is preserved at the house together with a crystal pomegranate once the possession of Catherine.

Anne Boleyn was an occasional guest at Sutton Place and it is said that Henry first met his future queen here. However Boleyn's association with Sutton Place was to bring tragedy to the Weston family. Sir Richard's son, Francis, was much favoured by the king and at the age of 15 he was accepted into court. He married at 19 and by the age of 21 was appointed a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. By 1536 he had developed a close friendship with Boleyn who was now queen. This friendship was to be used by Henry as an instrument to remove Boleyn. The now Sir Francis Weston accused of adultery was executed two days before Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Their ghosts are said to roam the corridors of Sutton Place.

Sir Francis' son Henry inherited the estate at the age of seven when his grandfather died. The child grew up to become a distinguished soldier and a politician. Sir Henry Weston in 1588 at the age of 23 served with distinction at the last siege of Calais, when France finally reclaimed the town. Elizabeth I stayed for three days at Sutton Place after she had made him Knight of the Bath at her coronation two years earlier.

On Sir Henry's death in 1592 at the age of 57, his eldest son Richard inherited the estate. Knighted by James I in 1603 Richard was to pass Sutton Place to his eldest son, another Richard after his 22nd birthday. The third Richard was also to be knighted by James I, this time in Guildford in 1622.

White Cruiser on the River Wey by Melanie Cambridge Click to visit Melanie Cambridge's website
click on image to go to artist's website

Often confused with his father, it was in fact the third Richard Weston who was to pioneer the construction of the Wey Navigation which literally transformed the valley and inspired other canal builders all around Britain. Sir Richard’s pioneering agricultural innovations can be found HERE.

However interesting to note here is that his experimentation with meadow flooding and canal building started right here along the River Wey between Stoke at Guildford and the estate, which was considerably more extensive in those days. Three miles of canals for his ‘flowing river’ and the very first lock at Stoke were commenced in 1618. The work to complete 10 miles of an artificial channel and build connecting locks was completed in November 1953. Sir Richard however had died the previous year and the scheme, which had far exceeded it's original budget, left his successor George in serious debt, so much so he was incarcerated into a debtors prison.

The fate of the family seemed to have been sealed. A fire at the house severely damaged the gate house and destroyed the north wing. The family was not financially able to effect repairs and the house remained this way for many years.

John Weston (the second) owned the estate from 1701 to 1730, and being the last male heir Sutton Place was passed to his daughter Melior Mary who lived here for 52 years. It is said that Melio, who never married, had a love affair with Bonnie Prince Charlie. In an effort to keep the estate within the Weston family she bequeathed Sutton Place to a distant relation on condition he took on the name of Weston and adopted the family arms. John Webbe moved in during 1782 and over his 41-year tenure was to at last to take action over the fire damage at the house. He removed both the ruined gatehouse and north wing.

The modern garden at Sutton Place was designed by Gertrude Jekyll for the press baron Lord Northcliffe and his wife, who took possession in 1900.

An American, the oil tycoon and recluse Paul Getty made Sutton Place his home from 1959 until his death there in 1976, and housed part of his considerable art collection here prior to Seeger purchasing it in 1980. Getty despite his incredible wealth is said to have installed a payphone in the house for use by his guests. He also kept two lions at Sutton Place, Nero and Teresa, who were rehoused at Longleat after his death.

Two other Americans also owned the estate. The Hollywood film magnate J. Stanley Seegan spent more than £10m on renovations and brought the landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe out of retirement to plan major landscaping and the largest domestic lake to be dug in Europe in over two centuries. Frederick Koch bought the house in 1986 and housed his considerable art collection there. He also undertook considerable restoration work and established the Sutton Place Foundation to run the estate, and through the foundation opened the house and gardens to the public on restricted days to raise funds for charitable causes.

"To this country's considerable debts to Mr. Koch - he largely paid for the Swan Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon, for example - must now be added the restoration of Sutton Place, which for the first time this century has interiors worthy of its architectural importance. Thanks to Mr. Koch, it is a house of mystery no longer, but one regularly opened to visitors interested in its architecture, gardens and collections, who are made welcome as never before." Country Life Magazine 1996

In 2002 the estate was divided up into lots which in effect isolated the house within 500 acres of its own land.

The original home farm of Sutton Place, Ladygrove, is being redeveloped (2007) to provide six new homes. The Grade II listed farmhouse built in the mid-1600s, and which had been standing empty for 18 years, is being restored and will retain key features including the original carved oak staircase. The restoration work is taking advantage of original timbers on-site, including roof timbers from the two barns, and some of the new homes are incorporating original structures on the farm. One such structure, a round building built in 1918 when the then owner the Duke of Sutherland was developing a 'model dairy', was originally used to hose down cows.


The following account (abridged here) was published online by a Guildford law student who secured a holiday job at Sutton Place in 1973 during Getty’s tenure.

December 5th
I'm going for a job interview at Paul Getty's country mansion tomorrow (for Christmas). Imagine that! It doesn't particularly bother me, as I had never heard of the man but, apparently, he's famous - or so everyone keeps telling me. I'm pleased, because it looks like I'll finally be fixed up for the Christmas holidays, and £18 wage per week plus free accommodation and food is not to be sniffed at! So I'm keeping my fingers crossed and recrossed and hoping that I get the job.

December 10th
Well, I got the job at Sutton Place, starting the day after I finish the student Christmas relief at the Post Office (sorting the mail). You know, I'm going to have my picture in the paper. A reporter came into the sorting office yesterday and took a photo of me; supposedly looking super-efficient, as I stared mesmerised at a card addressed to Chipping Sodbury (or some such place!). Although the pay won't be as good as the standard G.P.O. rates, once I start at Sutton Place, £18 per week is not to be sniffed at.

December 17th
I have been here three days now… Some of the rooms I like more than others. The room Mrs Bryant is staying in is my favourite. It's very sunny and light, with a four-poster bed, thick pile carpets and floral curtains. The blue staircase is very impressive; I can imagine Lord and Lady Whosit come tripping down it; but it is so COLD. 43 degrees Fahrenheit - evidently to keep the furniture in good condition, but my condition isn't very cheerful when I have to sweep and polish it at 8.30 a.m.! I rise at 6.45 a.m. and I 'do' the cloakrooms (loos). Breakfast is at 8 a.m. and is usually typically English - bacon and egg with toast. If I make it down to breakfast at 8 a.m. instead of later, tomorrow morning, I might even get HOT toast.

Mary is the Head Housemaid. All I have discovered about her in the past three days is that she is 50ish, Irish, Catholic and that she loves her food; and that she is not very popular with the 'dailies' (of which there are six). I sympathise with her, though...she has no friend among the three other live-in staff; so she really has no-one to talk to or complain to. She has two loves in her life: Patricia (the daughter of one of the security officers), who isn' t due to arrive from boarding school in Scotland until next Saturday; and Remus, one of the guard-dogs, who is hopeless at guarding. This fact endears her to him (or him to her?).

December 23rd
Every job I do has to be thought up and approved by Mary. She will never let anyone take over one of her jobs; though, goodness knows, she has too much to do. Being busy herself, she cannot appreciate that I want to be busy too, and not to be wasting time. Tomorrow, I am to clean the offices (in mobile outside the main house), as the cleaner is going on holiday for a fortnight. That's from 2 - 6 p.m. I usually finish work in the main house by 2 - 2.30 p.m.; which I obviously can't do this week, as it would be physically and morally exhausting to work from 7.15 a.m. till 6 p.m. ….. We went out and picked some foliage today from the grounds; and I met Nero and Theresa (Getty's lions). I felt so sorry for the poor things - stuck out in a tiny cage in the grounds in winter, with nothing to do. It doesn't seem right that a lion should be put in such an unnatural environment. He must lose his zest for life, and that's the worst thing that can happen. He can't take up knitting or something to pass the time of day!" Winnie Caw whimsy.org.uk

Weston - the Agricultural Reformer

Weston is broadly acclaimed in his role as agricultural reformer through, amongst other schemes, promoting the use of White Clover (Trifolium repens) as a protein rich fodder crop for cattle that provides the added benefit of replacing nitrogen into the soil. He introduced the plant into Britain from Flanders, hence its colloquial name ‘Dutch Clover’, and a cloverleaf is incorporated into the nearby little village of Sutton Green’s (GR: TQ006545) banner. You should be able to see white clover growing in the summer months all around. Another crop variety introduced by Weston was Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) which provided a high quality feed for the heavy working horses that were widely used, not just along the Navigation but also in the fields all across the Wey Valley. Sutton Place is one of only a handful of places in Britain that Sainfoin will be found growing wild as the crop fell out of favour being difficult to cultivate.

"Sainfoin is something of an agricultural paradox; from the point of view of animal nutrition it seems to be the most desirable of all forage legume plants; from an agronomic point of view it is an undesirable plant because it doesn't grow very well." Royal Agricultural College 1982

Weston quickly became something of an expert on revitalizing poor or unutilised land for agriculture, and his ‘Directions for the Improvement of Barren Land’ first published in 1645 was reprinted several times over the next 50 years.

“Clover husbandry was 'universal from the North of
England to the further end of Glamorganshire.' Clover, the 'great clover,' had been introduced into England by Sir Richard Weston about 1645, as had probably been turnips also.” Arnold Toynbee 1884

Medieval Churches

As the Navigation straightens after making its sharp bend to the north of Sutton Place the medieval church of St Mary’s (GR: TQ018544) can be seen by Send Grove across the water meadows. Sited close to the River Wey proper, which has run in parallel to Weston’s cut, the church shares an idyllic setting, and you half expect the church to be shrouded in some mysterious ancient mist swirling in off the river. The church was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 although the present tower, nave and chancel had to be replaced around 1200. In the 18th century, probably in a fit of one-upmanship, the height of the tower was raised by adding an additional 9 courses of bricks. In the churchyard one of the Navigation’s master carpenter’s Walter Grove is buried, with his wife and three children alongside.

There is another church a few miles further downstream that was also built close to the original course of the river. This is St Peter’s (GR: TQ021568) in Old Woking, a Norman construction dating back to c1080-90, and is renowned for having one of only five picture doors in the country. The Great Oak Door is a fine feature with its medieval iron work. (1.041006)

Just upstream from Trigg’s Lock is Wareham Bridge (GR: TQ013546) which provides a footpath link between the church at Send Grove and Sutton Green.

Triggs Lock

Triggs Lock (GR:TQ013549) - rise of 6ft 6in (1.98m) - opened in 1653 and marks the half-way point of the Navigations to the Thames with Weybridge 9.7 miles (15 km) away. The lock’s timber and turf sides were replaced by concrete in a number of rebuilding stages. The existing lock-keepers cottage was built in 1769, with an extension in 1916, and renovated by the National Trust in 1987, its isolation proving popular to artists and photographers alike. William Stevens, whose descendant Harry Stevens was to own and eventually donate the Navigation to the nation, was lock-keeper here in 1812. One of the old stalwarts of the Navigation also lived here until the ripe old age of 90. William Grove was lock-keeper from 1856 and raised nine children in the cottage. He doubled as blacksmith having served an apprenticeship, and in a forge he built behind the cottage made and repaired much of the Navigation’s ironwork. He died in 1915 at home.

The original system of water management here required that the keeper had to manually adjust paddles in the lock gates to allow surplus water to flow through, however the Trust replaced this awkward arrangement with a tumbling bay which took the onus off the keeper by providing a self-regulating control. Just downstream opposite to the towpath was a wharf, although it served for loading and unloading only and had no warehouse.

The closest pub to Triggs Lock is The Olive Tree, a short walk upstream and over Warehams footbridge .



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