The course of the Wey had lapped up against a Royal Palace at Old Woking before the Navigation created a backwater as it cut across to Papercourt Lock. From here the water flows on through some favoured eel trappers grounds and on to the home of the 12th century Black Canons.
"We went down the lane, by the body of the man in black, sodden now from the overnight hail, and broke into the woods at the foot of the hill. We pushed through these towards the railway without meeting a soul. The woods across the line were but the scarred and blackened ruins of woods; for the most part the trees had fallen, but a certain proportion still stood, dismal grey stems, with dark brown foliage instead of green. H G Wells. War of The Worlds 1898
"It is rather embarrassing,” said the Mayor, Cllr John Kingsbury. "Obviously nobody is above the law and if the car was parked in a disabled space then that is that. Somebody had also stolen the pennant off the front of the car and the cradle it sits in."
“I saw the mayor’s car parked there and I must say I felt disgruntled — I don’t know how they can justify it," said one local visitor. “I saw a warden putting a ticket on the car so it is good to say something nice about parking attendants. If the mayor had got away with it, it would have a been a bit off.”
The ringing of church bells was used as a method of mobilising the volunteers, and Woking residents recalled the first time they responded. Derrick Clewley lived in Horsell and hearing the peel of bells early in the evening made for the muster point beneath an oak tree in Brewery Road with his father. At this early stage of the war (1940) the volunteers were unarmed and had to grab anything that came to hand. The Clewleys rushed to the defence of their country armed only with peasticks hurredly grabbed from their garden. Just as well it turned out to be a false alarm . . .
Ray Woods as a young man living in St Johns, Woking, and who was technically underage at the time, played an active role with the LDV. He would regularly be on duty at night serving as a lookout for fires and enemy aircraft. His shift would finish at 5 am and yet he would report in to work as normal at 8.30 the same morning. Source: Surrey Advertiser 11th May 2007
WEY WET SPOT
"There's not much to say about the WET SPOT MACHINE. I wonder whether it makes wet spots or cleans them up. It makes me laugh, and there's precious little humour to be had on my commute home, so the WET SPOT MACHINE is rather dear to me. I do find it fascinating that it needs to explain what it is on the side. Think about it - when was the last time you saw a sewing machine that said 'SEWING MACHINE' on the side? Or a random piece of industrial machinery which declared its essence on itself in large lettering? I actually cannot think of a reason why anyone would need to write 'WET SPOT MACHINE' on the side of the machine, except to give people like me a chuckle on way home. And for that, I thank them. I should like to nominate them for an honour, except I don't know who they are." Blogger: But Why? 15th July 2007
Old Woking and a Royal Palace
From Papercourt to Newark Bridge the waterway largely follows the original watercourse although a cut (GR: TQ036572) was dug through a meander in the 1930s Improvement Scheme to help alleviate flood problems. Just before here the River Wey proper rejoins the Navigation having undertaken a long and ponderous meander up towards Old Woking.
Old Woking (GR: TQ015573) was a small town in its own right before the Victorians ploughed their railways through the valley in the mid 19th century changing the area forever. Woking today is a sprawling dormitory town for the daily commute to the 'Big Smoke'. It had its own royal palace and a mill with a long history of corn milling and fulling prior to the Navigation. Prior to being converted to quite appropriately the Unwin printing works in 1896, Woking Mill (GR: TQ016585) had been milling paper latterly using water turbines. Another printer, Joseph Billings, had relocated from Church Street in 1856 to their works in Guildford next to the Wey near the busy A25 before they fell in the 1990s to the axe wielded by highly competitive printers and binders in the Far East.
As a royal manor, Woking Manor was held by Edward the Confessor before the Norman Conquest and in 1086 by William I. Richard I granted the manor to Alan Basset in 1189 and remained out of royal hands until 1372 when it reverted back to the Crown. The manor house at this time was a considerable property of a hall, chapel, two bed chambers, pantry, buttery, kitchen, larder, bakehouse, brewhouse, poultry house and laundry. The manor house was to be considerably expanded into a palace by Henry VII and his son Henry VIII (MORE BELOW).
St Peter's Church (GR: TQ021568) was built by the Normans probably on the site of an earlier Saxon church. The original north and west walls partly remain and are believed to date around 1090. The age of the door, which once guarded the exterior entrance, was dendrochronologically tested (1) to establish its true age, which dated it as the oldest church door in Surrey. Although with the technique it's not possible to define an exact age, the science indicates that the wood for the door was felled and prepared during the reign of Henry I (1100 - 1135). There are only two doors in England dated older by dendrochronology these being the Pyx door to the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey (1032 - 1064) and at St Botoph's, Hadstock, Essex (after 1034, probably 1050s) (2). The door still hangs in its original position in an arch renowned for its good condition and medieval ironwork and has been protected since the lower part of the tower was added in the 12th century.
(1) Dendrochronological testing involves drilling a core sample from the wood which is then analysed in a laboratory to examine the growth rings of the wood which are compared to a database to try and exact a chronological match. It is not an exact science and doesn't guarantee a match but is relatively inexpensive when compared to the more exacting carbon dating method.
The upper part of the tower was added in the early 14th century, at which time the chancel was also built and the four original chancel windows are still preserved today. Sir Edward Zouche, who owned Woking Palace at the time, erected the gallery above the west entrance in 1622. The pulpit is largely contemporary to the era and is the top of what was originally a three-deck pulpit from which Charles I listened to a sermon on Regeneration ("Ye must be born again.") when attending a service at the church in 1627.
The building has been afforded a Grade 1 Listing and is remarkable for its unusually large size for a Surrey medieval church and its good quality 11th century fabric and architecture. There is a continual programme of restoration active at St Peter's with the latest (2006) project having been the restoration of the 1887 Ryde window in the chancel which has three large stained glass panels.
The church is open to the public in the summer months after Easter most Saturdays 1pm to 3pm. The church is also open on Saturday and Sunday during National Archaelogy Week in July, and Heritage Open Days in September.
Woking Palace (GR: TQ029571) is located on the flood plain of the original course of the River Wey away from the main navigation and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In ruins today, all that remains of this once magnificent complex of buildings are a barrel vault and some adjoining Tudor brick walls.
The original building here was a manor house to the Royal Manor of Woking and stood in a grand park. The property was acquired by Royal Grant by Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443 – 1509), the mother of Henry VII, and her husband Sir Henry Stafford in 1466.
Henry signed the Treaty of Woking here in September 1490 to establish an alliance with Prince Maximilian of Italy (1) in a bid to contain the expansionist ambitions of the French King Charles. The intention was also to include amongst others the King and Queen of Aragon, the King of Noway and the Duchess of Britanny.
(1) Maximilian I (1459-1519) was Holy Roman emperor and later was also to be crowned German King (1493)
Henry acquired the house from his mother in exchange for another manor and decided in 1508 to transform the house into a royal palace by building the King's Hall, of which only the brick ruins now remain. Henry VIII completed the transformation of the building into the Palace and was a frequent visitor during his lifetime. In its heyday the palace was a substantial building with farm buildings, two chapels, stables and accommodation to cater for the regular royal visitors and their entourage of servants. There were also separate Queen's Apartments built by the river which had consisted of a complex of rooms including a dining chamber, bedchamber, great chamber (a room for meeting in public), wardrobe of beds, a holyday closet (2), lodgings for two ladies-in-waiting and the Queen's own stable.
(2) a holyday closet was a room set aside for the hearing of Mass
Henry VIII stayed at Woking Palace as part of his honeymoon with Catherine Parr in 1543.
The Palace had fallen into a ruinous condition around the time it was abandoned in the 1620s by one Sir Edward Zouch who had been granted the manor by James I. As was common in that age the structure of the building was gradually dismantled to be used in buildings elsewhere with window glass being used at nearby Sutton Place, and speculation that other building materials were incorporated into local buildings possibly including the Jacobean staircase now housed in Fishers Farm. Sir Edward moved his household to Hoe Bridge Place, a new manor house he had built a short distance from what is now Old Woking.
The park and gardens were extensive in the palace's heyday. An ancient map originally held in the Muniment Room at Guildford (now replaced by the Surrey History Centre in Woking) provides an insight into how impressive these were. The map of the 'Mannour of Woking' shows clearly the the location of Woking Palace's southern estate which stretched down to Sutton Place. It depicts 'lawnes' and 'mazes' of spectacular size exceeding even those of modern-day Hampton Court Palace. (1)
The palace's park itself was turned over to farmland. The old manor house originally had a defensive moat around it, with the River Wey forming the southern boundary. The moat was extended over time and consisted of a wide deep excavation with an additional inner moat providing extra fortification along one side. Although much of the moat has been filled in there are still large water-filled sections surviving today including a large winding hole were barges were turned before heading back into the river. Any building with defences including moats had to have royal consent, which highlights the contemporary significance of the property and its owners.
Other water features on the site include two substantial man-made fishponds situated in The Copse were constructed in Tudor times to provide a fresh fish for the palace. The Copse itself was an orchard. The Friends have an ongoing programme of clearance, path provision and coppicing in the Copse to provide an improved wildlife environment and easier access. The Copse boasts an extensive display of wild daffodils and bluebells every spring.
The Friends of Woking Palace is a dedicated and hard-working group of volunteers who are committed to preserving the site and increasing awareness as to its possibilities. The Friends are applying (2006) for a £50,000 grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund to be spent amongst other things on re-roofing the vault and installing solar panels to provide electricity for the site. This would enable the use of lighting and power tools and provide recharging facilities for computer equipment to aid archaelogical research and education.
The site is not generally open to the public except for Open Days organised by The Friends or by special arrangement for organised visits. Open Days are held during May, July and September annually details of which can be found on The Friends of Woking Palace website. The Friends also welcome new volunteers and financial donations, and there is a guide and CD available.
Woking Borough Council (WBC) have announced (Woking News & Mail 28th October 2005) that they are investigating the possibility of constructing a bridge across the River Wey from Broadmead to the site of the palace. Currently access to the grounds is only possible by crossing private land. A bridge would allow direct access to the public and WBC will be making an application for a major grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund. The intention is also to use the Palace site for archaeological training.
Of Elvers & Eel Bucks
The river and Navigation part company again briefly just before Newark Bridge (GR: TQ039575). There is a popular site for eel traps in the river proper alongside Newark Road as it approaches Pyrford Village.
Eels (Anguilla anguilla) are born thousands of miles away from Britain in warm seas off the West Indies taking three years to reach British rivers. At this point the slender young eels are known as elvers and make their way along freshwater systems inland, even being able to cross short stretches of dry land enroute. They serve a useful function scavenging, but also are partial to snails, frogs, tadpoles, fish eggs young fish. Between the ages of 7 – 19 years the larger female can grow up to 39 inches (100 cm) weighing in at 3 lbs (1.5 kg). Males are smaller. Eels can stay in rivers for up to 30 years before returning to sea to spawn again.
Eel traps were a common feature along the Wey Valley providing a living to the trappers and food for the table for many hundreds of years. Various types were used including an eel pot, made from willow fashioned to make a long funnel that enabled the eel to enter but not turn around again to escape. The woven pot measuring from between 30 ins (76 cm) to 60 ins (152 cm) was baited and used all year round. Larger eel bucks or baskets were fixed in line to posts usually in wide rivers to catch mature eels returning to the sea to spawn. The elver was traditionally cooked by blanching, rolling them in flour and frying them like whitebait. Eels were best fried with butter or smoked.
12th Century Puddingstone Church
Following the road into Pyrford Village you will encounter the delightful 12th century Church of St. Nicholas (GR: TQ040583) with its tranquil interior and original red ochre frescoes. Built of ‘puddingstone’ and dressed with ‘clunch’ the church’s wall paintings depict scenes from the flagellation and the Passion c.1200. Well worth a visit. The name Pyrford originates from the ancient Saxon language ‘pyrianforde’ meaning a ford by a pear tree or orchard.
Newark Priory & the Black Canons
Adjacent to the isolated Newark Lock (GR: TQ042575) - rise of 5ft 3in (1.60m) - are the ruins of Newark Priory (GR: TQ043577) from which the lock and the locale takes its name.
The lock in common with others along the Navigation was originally built in 1653 from timber but has since been reconstructed in concrete, and sits astride one of the shortest stretches of man-made cuts on the Navigation.
Newark Priory provides an example of Old English place-name changes that occurred in the Valley and which had original reference to another important ecclesiastic establishment locally. Newark Priory was called Aldebury (1204) and was renamed Novo loco de Andebir or 'new place of Aldebury'' (1210) by the influential Ruald de Calva (see below) at a time of significant ecclesiastical development locally. A 'burh' (bury) in Old English signified a monastic enclosure, and scholars believe that the Old English name of Newark that evolved refers to the 'new building' for the 7th century minster of Woking that had been established nearby.
The Priory was built next to what has become known as Abbey Stream, which in fact originally formed part of a meander of the original Wey before cuts were created effectively marooning the building on an island. All around is a network of drainage channels dug by the monks to keep this floodplain clear. The ruins lie on private land for which there sadly is no public access. The priory was founded in the early 12th century by Augustinian Canons, or ‘Black Canons’ with descriptive reference to the black hooded cloaks and cassocks they wore. Ruald de Calva and his wife Beatrice de Sanders (or de Sende) provided the land and material support to enable the priory to be built with the initial blessing of Richard I, and by the subsequent re-founding charter of Edward II in 1320. Through their generosity the priory was able to become quite prosperous with rents being generated from property scattered across ten London parishes, Winchester and Rochester, as well as more local interests. The Priory in its heyday was a significant complex of buildings surrounding an important church. The Black Canons, also known as Austin, went on to found the St Thomas’ and St Bartholomews’ hospitals in London.
The priory, which at its peak was home to a community of 200, fell into ruins after it was sacked on the orders of Henry VIII at the Dissolution, and having been systematically stripped for building materials over the ensuing centuries all that now remains is part of the great church. A later owner, Lord Onslow, had the wisdom to stop the looting for without his intervention the little that is left would no longer be with us.
The crews of the barges were well steeped in the mysteries and legends of the rivers along which they worked. One often debated was the presence of tunnels that had been dug in the 13th century between the Priory and various destinations. The most believable was one that apparently ran to a nearby nunnery. A story often told by the carters was of a tunnel that ran all the way to Guildford passing under the river five times, a very tall story indeed.
Newark Priory has been added (September 2007) to the Buildings at Risk Register by English Heritage highlighting the fact that substantial funds need to be raised in order to prevent further deterioration to the ruins.
The towpath crosses over the waterway at Newark Lock and passes over a horse bridge (GR: TQ044575) just downstream spanning the old tail race of Newark Mill here.
The river near the Priory ruins offers an opportunity to take a swim by the open water meadows. However directly accessing this stretch is not easy as apart from the towpath there is no public access via the riverbank opposite.
Newark Mill & Lock
Newark Mill (GR: TQ040575), stood near here before it burned down in 1966 leaving only the mill house which survives now as private accommodation. A mill was mentioned here in the Domesday Book and there was certainly a mill in operation owned by the Priory. After the Dissolution the mill was granted to Sir Anthony Browne along with the priory and its lands, with the mill referred to in a letter from Henry VIII as ‘Le Owte Mill’. A later mill was constructed after the Navigation was built in the mid 17th century and became extremely prosperous with several extensions and eventually three waterwheels in operation. At its zenith the mill was a large weather boarded building with the boards painted a dazzling white and up to 8 pairs of stones providing an impressive milling capability. No other mill in Surrey had this many stones and three separate giant water wheels that were needed to drive them.
Newark was, in common with other mills that had been in operation before the Wey Navigation was built, in dispute with the Navigation Commissioners and barge owners for a considerable time over water rights. Millers needed a constant flow of water and bargees needed to pen theirs up to allow safe passage, an opposing need. Newark claimed preferential use but it took 200 hundred years before Newark’s owners finally received compensation in the Millers’ Agreement of 1832. Two others at Stoke and Old Woking were awarded agreement in the same ruling. Following the usual changing pattern of usage Newark Mill saw a number of uses until it fell idle in 1943.
In a field not far from Newark Mill, Gilbert Basset the Lord of the Manor in the thirteenth century used to host jousting tournaments. A great promoter of the sport Basset organised an event in Guildford in 1241 between English and foreign teams. Henry III got wind of the event, and fearful that it may spark an international incident ordered the Prior of Newark and the Abbot of Waverley to put a stop to it.
Newark Lock (GR: TQ043575) is in a delightful spot approachable only by the canal and its towpath. Shielded by trees with the ruins of the Priory a few hundred yards away you would have little idea that only a few miles distant lurk several sprawling dormitory towns serving the London metropolis. The Lock is 6.6 miles (10.6 km) from the Thames.
The closest pub to Newark Lock is the Seven Stars in Newark Lane a short walk from the canal.
© Wey River 2005 - 2012