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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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The River Wey South Branch
Haslemere to Lindford

Having risen in West Sussex the Wey county hops between Hampshire and Surrey before heading on to eventually join its twin at Tilford. The stretch from Haslemere to Lindford is a beautiful and historic section of the valley with industrial history going back to Roman times.



The first line of the West Sussex Drinking Song composed by the Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc (1870 - 1953) in 1910 recalls what must have been a good ale tradition in Haslemere!

"They sell good beer at Haslemere
And under Guildford Hill.
At Little Cowfold, as I've been told
A beggar may drink his fill."

A great legacy left by the navvies who dug the two Wey Navigations are the towpaths. Built to provide the heavy horses with safe footing as they hauled the large barges up and down the waterway, it means that today you can walk or cycle the whole twenty miles from Godalming to the Thames along some of the most idyllic countryside in Britain.

The environmental protester Daniel Hooper, best remembered as 'Swampy' of 1996 Newbury bypass protest fame lives in Haslemere. Swampy, who was famed for digging tunnels to foil the road builders, has re-emerged from the backwaters to join the August 2007 Heathrow protesters.

Gibbet Hill
click image to enlarge

As a twenty one-year-old, Bruce Mackenzie was posted to the Admiralty Signals Establishment in Haslemere in 1944.

"There I was part of a team engaged in developing filters to eliminate the noise that radar signals were causing on ship radios. As fast as we succeeded in developing such a filter there was a more powerful radar system produced and we had to start all over again.

"I never knew whether or not we really helped the war effort, but I hoped that we did. I was very fortunate compared to many of my contemporaries who never returned . Two things that were never missed in those days were the weekly episode of ITMA and any speeches by Churchill. If Hitler wanted to catch Britain by surprise he should have attacked during an episode of ITMA." telegraph.co.uk 27th November 2008

“To save our wetlands, our wildlife and the livelihoods that depend on them, we must stop wasting so much water in our homes and gardens, build houses to the highest water efficiency standards and force water companies to immediately address their shameful rate of water leakage.” RSPB Water Policy Officer July 2005

click image to enlarge

Haslemere residents Ron and Mabel Lintott would have entered the Guiness Book of Records as the only couple alive today to have reached their 80th wedding anniversary. Sadly Mabel died (2007) only four days before the milestone at the grand old age of 99.

Gibbet Hill

A Haslemere teenager was devastated when he lost his left hand in a car accident. Evan Reynolds had set his heart on joining the army but found his disability changed his life. Three years later (2009) however he became the second person in the UK to be fitted with a revolutionary bionic replacement. The bionic hand, which took 20 years to develop, has five seperately working fingers controlled by thought. It is capable of taking light hold of a credit card but also can power up to stronger tasks such as lifting heavy objects. The i-Limb was featured in Time magazine's top 50 innovations in 2008. bbc.co.uk 19th January 2009

To Stuff a Shoulder of Mutton
Farnham 18th century Recipe
“Take half a hundred of oysters and shred yu a grate a little nutmeg & a little sett margoram a little lemon peele time finely shred yu grate a little bread yu take yr yolk of an egg & mix it all together cut a hole under yr knocal & stuff it in for some good gravey Serve oisters stewed in it & their own lickle.” Old Surrey Receipts & Food for Thought. Daphne Grimm

"We set out in a similar direction to my 35 mile route, but continued on into Bramley, then Chiddingfold, Haslemere, Hindhead then up to the Hogs Back back to Guildford. It was a good ride, with a particularly horrible hill out of Hindhead right on through Haslemere. According to my Garmin, we went from 200 ft to 850 ft. The best thing was coming down the hill the other side - we hit 35 mph at one point." Blogger: Garmin raceforchase.com 13th January 2008

The Church of England has built a brand new retirement home at Hindhead. The accommodation at Manormead Supported Housing is for
retired Church of England clergy, their spouses, and clergy widows and widowers. the home, which provides 28 flats, a chapel, library, communal lounge and dining room, was opened (February 2008) by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

“It's not difficult to spot an outsider in my home town. With an average age approaching 87, 'Mere folk like to live life in the slow lane. And as with any small knit community, there are certain customs which must be adhered to. An ability to drink traditional local stout, for instance. A passion for wellies, Labradors and bracing country walks is a must, while true Haslemerians also have a penchant for Morris and maypole dancing. But above all else, kindness is key. Haslemere people are big-hearted, generous and polite - all undesirables are advised to stay away.” Source: Clemmie Moodie – mirror.co.uk 5th June 2008

Haslemere-born Nora Deadman celebrated her 105th birthday (June 2011) at her home in Abbotsford, Canada. She was born to the Sherlock family in Haslemere on June 9th 1906 and emigrated in 1948.

The British rock band Led Zeppelin, which has sold more than 300 million albums over the years, penned their classic hit Stairway to Heaven whilst staying at Headley Grange near Hindhead.

In Haslemere 31 retailers got together and launched the town's own 'smart loyalty card' to reward the community for using their shops - and to hit back at the big national chains. The card, called Haslemere Rewards and launched in 2005, is run jointly with the Chamber of Trade and has over 4,500 users. The town has won five awards for 'revitalisation' projects including the Action for Market Towns Group (AMT) Business & Economic Category Award 2006.

After 32 years the Haslemere House and Garden Society was closed (2008) due to declining membership and increasing costs. The society, which at its height had over 100 members who attended lectures and went on outings all across the country, has donated its remaining funds to the Hindhead and Blackdown Committee for the National Trust.

Haslemere student Lily Clarke has a medical condition that causes her to sleep for months at a time. Clarke was diagnosed with the rare Kleine-Levin Syndrome in 2007 and on an approximate seven-month cycle will fall into a deep sleep lasting up to two months every year. There is no known cure for the condition which mainly affects young people.
Source: the-sun.co.uk 15th August 2011

Haslemere writer Tim Ellis has won (2008) the children's literature category of the Bulwer-Lytton Prize. The contest honours the worst opening lines for imaginary novels inspired by the Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton who in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford opened with the immortal line: 'It was a dark and stormy night'.

Ellis won with this imaginary opening for a children's novel: "Joanne watched her fellow passengers - a wizened man reading about alchemy; an oversized bearded man-child; a haunted, bespectacled young man with a scar; and a gaggle of private school children who chatted ceaselessly about Latin and flying around the hockey pitch and the two-faced teacher who they thought was a witch - there was a story here, she decided."

A former pupil of Haslemere prep school The Heights was killed by a polar bear in August 2011 whilst on an Arctic expedition in the Svalbard Islands. Horatio Chapple was 17 when he was mauled by the 40-stone animal wilst inside his tent.

Donkeys perceived: 2
Horses fussed over: 23
Pubs ensconced within: 1
Distance: Ten lovely miles

"Maybe the last decent day of the autumn saw Ms T and I head for Liphook on the train, then walk in a big circuit lasting ten miles, pausing only to have a drink and lunch in the Red Lion in Fernhurst. The talk from the table behind us was all about 'those poor people with mortgages' which gives you a clue to the income bracket enjoyed by the locals. But we saw virtually nobody on the entire trek, just some horses, two donkeys and a man clearing undergrowth from a country lane. The sun shone through the trees, an occasional helicopter flew over.

"Returned to find the world economy in meltdown, again. The Dow has fallen 600 points. I was going to go on the wagon, decided instead to pour myself a large scotch. It could be a long week." Blogger: Neil Henderson 29th September 2008

The Aberdeenshire town of Huntly used the local smart-card scheme launched in Haslemere in 2005 as the model on which to launch their own scheme to boost business in their town and fight back against the big multiples.

"When we identified a smart-card scheme used in Haslemere in Surrey and found it worked well in other towns down south, we decided this was what we were looking for," said Huntly Business Association chairman David Sherriffs. Source: pressandjournal.co.uk 29th October 2008

A Haslemere teenager was chosen for a one-hour slot on the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square. Charlotte Parrott used her performance (July 2009), in which she was dressed in white and adorned with chains, to highlight human trafficking especially that of women around the world. Artist Antony Gormley’s One and Other project using the empty Fourth Plinth ran for 100 days 24-7 giving members of the public an opportunity for an hour of fame.

The Greensand Way, which stretches from Haslemere to Hamstreet in Kent, has been revamped by volunteer ramblers working with Surrey County Council. The 108-mile trail, which passes through the Devil's Punchbowl and the Surrey Hills, has been repaired and re-signposted in an operation that took over 18 months.

"The Greensand Way is one of the British countryside's best kept secrets but now more people will be able to discover how truly beautiful it is," said Ian Lake, the council's cabinet member for the environment. "There's an amazing view from Leith Hill. From one spot you can see views stretching as far as London and if you look the other direction you can see the sea on the south coast." Surrey Advertiser 28th October 2011

The Dog and Pheasant pub in Brook near Haslemere was featured on BBC TV's One Show (December 2011) when Observer food critic Jay Rayner joined chef Remi Ravaux in the pub's kitchen to watch him prepare vegetable dishes. The One Show were featuring locally produced 'Heritage vegetables' from Secrett's in Godalming and wanted to screen 'farm to table'. Heritage vegetables are deemed to be traditional strains untouched by scientific plant-breeding programmes and chemical treatments.

Firefighters called to The Herons leisure centre in Haslemere (January 2012) had to tackle a chemical leak. Around 600 litres of sodium hypochlorite, which is used to disinfect and oxidise the pool water, had leaked from a barrel in the plant room. The emergency services reported that the chemical had leaked into the drains and was unlikely to have entered into local rivers or streams.

Transition Town Haslemere (1) have joined the 10:10 campaign (October 2009) that encourages people to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% by 2010. The group is distributing 10 energy monitors to schools and families to help them measure the energy use and identify where they could make reductions.

"It's easy to feel powerless in the face of a huge problem like climate change, but by uniting everyone behind immediate, effective and achievable action, 10:10 enables all of us to make a meaningful difference," said the organisers.

(1) Transition Town Haslemere was founded in 2008 and is part of a national initiative to develop practical solutions to climate change and the decline of cheap fuel (Peak Oil) and is driven by groups of local people getting together to tackle issues such as waste, energy, food, transport, and health. There are other groups along the Wey Valley including Farnham, Guildford and Godalming.

Jade Marshall, an 11-year-old schoolgirl from Hindhead, has won (October 2010) a Design4Health competition aimed at children who have to inject themselves with prescribed drugs. Jade, who has to inject herself daily with growth hormones, created the winning illustration of an ideal injection device. Her design, Dr Ladybird, featured a hidden needle and a squeezable surface to provide stress relief during the procedure. All the medication steps are preset so the patient only has to press the ladybird and wait for a squeak to know the injection has finished. An estimated 27,000 children in the UK have to inject themselves, often on a daily basis. Surrey Advertiser 5th November 2010

Pupils from Haslemere Preparatory School had the honour of burying a 2011 time capsule (March 2011) in the floor of the new Mary Rose Museum at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The new permanent museum, which opens in the autumn of 2012, marks the 500th anniversary of the launch of Tudor warship. Prince Harry was guest-of-honour at the ceremony.

Physicist Stephen Hawking is to open the world's first artificially created miniature black hole in the Surrey town of Haslemere, declaring, 'People will come from miles around to see it, whether they want to or not.'

The hole, created using Haslemere's world famous Small Hadron Collider, has been a controversial issue for many local residents, with complaints about the millions in funding the local council have endlessly poured into it, and neighbours objecting to planning applications claiming 'it will destroy all the light.'

In 2011 a high-speed link between the Haslemere hole and a supermassive black hole being built in Switzerland by CERN is also set to open. However, while people who enter the hole via CERN'S Large Hadron Collider will travel at almost the speed of light, the moment they enter Britain, they will slow down to a mere 40 miles per hour. The Haslemere black hole will be opened next Tuesday, to be followed by wine, canapés and the collapse of spacetime. Ludicity, 9th June 2010 newsbiscuit.com

A charity dedicated to providing holidays for young people from areas around Chernobyl still polluted by the 1986 disaster is based in Haslemere. Chernobyl Children's Life Line was founded by Victor Mizzie in 1991 at his home in the town and from where it is headquartered.

Many television viewers in Haslemere have endured a digital blackspot for years. But at last they will be able to access BBC Freeview channels for the first time when the much publicised TV digital switch-over kicks in across the town in March 2012.

Surrey Police announced (April 2011) the closure of Haslemere's police station as part of its bid to save £23m due to government funding cuts. Haslemere joins 11 others in the county, including Wey Valley village police stations in Ripley and Byfleet.

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Haslemere nestles in rolling hills close to the Devil’s Punch Bowl (see below) in nearby Hindhead, and commands a point where the counties of Surrey, Sussex and Surrey all converge. The town, with a population of around 14,000, is thought to have taken its name from the dense hazel woodland and a lake (mere) that once stood close to the centre of the town. An alternative view is that a Saxon settlement here was named after the tribe occupying it, although again it is likely that the tribe's name reflected its local geographic origins.

Local historians believe that based on Haslemere's original street layout that it is an example of a 'planted' town - literally a settlement 'planted' in open countryside to provide market town functionality - and with a characteristic T-shape common in the 12th and 13th centuries. The town was granted a market under the Bishop of Salisbury by Henry III in 1221. In 1393 an annual fair was granted by charter and appears to have flourished until the end of the 16th century when Haslemere was documented as having fallen on hard times. Both the market and fair had been abandoned which would have had a considerable impact on the town as both events generated revenues in the form of market tolls. Elizabeth I granted a new charter in 1596 which gave the borough the right to elect two members of Parliament and also provided for the revival of the market and fair. This borough status was withdrawn in the Reform Bill of 1832.

A map created by one William Morley c1722, which is displayed in Haslemere Museum, clearly shows the T-shaped layout of the town with Market House at its focus. A map drawn 50 years after that of Morley's clearly shows the newly established turnpike road linking Haslemere to Godalming and building development in the town suggesting a period of prosperity. When the railway reached Haslemere in 1859 its future prosperity was assured.

Every other year the Haslemere Charter Fair revives the atmosphere of the medieval fair and attracts around 10,000 people to the town. The 2008 event had 110 stalls selling all manner of produce and provided entertainment including live music, parades and displays.

The broad high street leads into Shepherd’s Hill with its row of picturesque 16th century cottages. A Tennyson memorial window designed by Burne-Jones graces St Bartholomew’s Parish Church.

Haslemere Hall in Bridge Road was the brainchild of local benefactor Lewis Barclay Day. The 350 seat auditorium, complete with upper balcony and a large stage equipped to provide flying scenery and lighting, was designed by Guildford architect Annesley Brownrigg after an open competition for best design. Opening in 1914 the Hall was immediately requisitioned by the War Office and used as a drill hall for troops destined for the trenches. With the war at an end Barclay Day presented the Hall to the town. The building's design reflects the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 1900s and boasts a fine curved stone staircase serving the upper rotunda. The Hall is run by a board of trustees and is funded largely by private donation.

On the Hindhead Road is the Edwardian pile Branksome Place. The listed building set in 32 acres of rolling lawns and woodland has long since been converted into a 60-bedroomed hotel and today (2008) is run by the De Vere luxury hotel group.

Carvers, an Elizabethan style house just outside Haslemere and designed by the renowned architect Blunden Shadbolt was built in the 1920s and became a popular venue for hosting performances by bands including Queen and Genesis, and also served as a location for a number of well-known films including the Story of the Rolling Stones, starring David Morrissey and the thriller Cash in Hand starring Richard E Grant. Carvers was built using materials taken from former farm cottages and transported right across the country by horse and cart.

Philip Rhodes the current owner (October 2009) bought the house in 1969 for £40,000 and was famous for the parties that he threw for his friends which included famous polo players, actors and musicians.

"Even rich playboys have to face facts and downsize when the influx of ladies slows to a trickle and arthritis kicks in. Polo playing playboy Philip Rhodes, 67, is now selling Carvers a stunning 20s country house. Many famous faces have stayed at the house, from a fledgling Eurythmics who took inspiration from the landscaped gardens for the debut album in the garden, and the house itself for their third single This is the House (Esta Es La Casa); to Ginger Baker of Cream who lived in a wing of the property for three months. Until the late 90s, Rhodes also held charity bowls at which Queen and Genesis played. Cabinet are listed with pictures of past conquests, the walls are adorned with erotic prints and there is a secluded den hidden behind a fake wall which opens with a secret lever.

"But the piece de resistance is the Seventies bathroom which featured in the 2005 film Stoned, a controversial release charting the sordid escapades and final days leading up to the death of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones. Rhodes’ bathroom was ideal to portray Joneses excesses, with its circular tub large enough to fit in numerous groupies, the rich green velvet floor and the carefully positioned mirror." dailymail.co.uk Rachel Reilly 19th October 2009

The eight bedroom property, set in 11.5 acres (4.7 hectares) and surrounded by open countryside includes a swimming pool, paddocks, lakes, and a helipad, was on the market (October 2009) for £4,150,000.

A new-build country house of note was on the market for £10m in early 2010. Sparrwood Farm, which is set in 231 acres (93 hectares) seven miles away from Haslemere, was designed by Roderick James who is renowned for his timber frame designs. The house, which was completed in November 2009 has five ensuite bedrooms, an indoor swimming pool, an 8ft (2.4m) screened cinema and an 'integrated sound system'.

Haslemere is home to the Dolmetsch family, famous for the musical instruments they continue to make in workshops in the town founded in 1918. Arnold Dolmetsch was credited with the invention of the descant recorder, now a standard instrument used to introduce young children to music making. In the family's honour an annual music festival has been held at Haslemere Hall without a break since 1924. The Dolmetsch Early Music Festival's organisers lay claim to the record of the UK's longest running music festival in one location.

Other notable residents of the area have been Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) the creator of Sherlock Holmes, George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950) the Irish born playwright and essayist, and George Elliot (1819 -1880) the novelist, who as Mary Ann Evans worked under this pseudonym. James Oglethorpe (1696 – 1785) was the member of parliament representing the town prior to leaving for America to found the State of Georgia.

In a bid to encourage local residents and visitors to get out into the countryside to explore the Surrey Hills around Haslemere a new initiative has been launched (February 2008) by Natural Discovery. The Lythe Hill Hotel on the outskirts of town is providing electric bicycles for hire by the day or for longer periods. The hire tariff includes loan of cycle helmets, panniers, locks, repair kits and wet weather capes. The Powacycle Salisbury bikes have a small motor that provides a boost to get cyclists up steep hills and has battery range of 25 miles.

Shottermill on the western edge of the town and close to the River Wey was the site of a mill that specialised in the manufacture of cannon balls and shot for muskets. Further downstream near Hammer is the site of Pophall Mill (GR: SU874326) which was established by Lord Montague and that also was involved in the production of iron products. Only a set of sluices that controlled the flow of water from Hammer Pond to the mill remain. Hammer had its industrial origins in the early iron smelting industry. Brickworks were active here from the 19th century. SEE MORE BELOW

Shottermill has at its heart an old mill and adjacent tavern. Built in the 15th century The Mill Tavern as it is now known also served as a courthouse but today provides a family focus for customers wanting to enjoy the large bar, restaurant and gardens complete with adventure playground. Shottermill was a centre of industry for 700 years with the river providing water and power. By the end of the 19th century six watermills had been in operation here at one time or another. These provided an output for a wide variety of products including fulling, corn milling and iron working. Sickle making was a particular speciality of the area in the early 1800s. The mills also provided for leather dressing, paper and braid making.

Local historian Greta Turner has published a history of the area in two volumes with the first providing a history up to the 1700s and the second from 1730 to the early 20th century based on 10 years of detailed research. (1)

SHOTTERMILL – its Farms, Families and Mills Part 1 - Early Times to the 1700s Greta A Turner 2004 ISBN: 1-873855-39-7
SHOTTERMILL – its Farms, Families and Mills Part 2 - 1730 to the Early Twentieth Century Greta A Turner 2005 ISBN: 1-873855-40-0

The River Wey Conservation Area runs alongside the south bank of the river here and the local council has provided boardwalks around some of the area.

The Wey was channelled into water meadows here through Hammer Bottom as it flowed through Shottermill as part of the river's water management system.

Near to Haslemere is composer Tobias Matthay's house High Marley. Matthay designed his house that sits high in the Surrey Hills overlooking Marley Commons in 1907. The house has its major rooms with dominant south facing vistas and he designed the rooms so that they met at obtuse angles to soften the interior shadows. Matthay used the house as a place to teach his pupils whilst Professor of Advanced Piano for the Royal Academy of Music. Matthay died in the house in 1945. One of his pupils wrote a piano piece titled High Marley Rest in 1933.

Wartime Haslemere

In common with much of the Wey Valley, Haslemere witnessed the heroics of pilots from both sides during the 1940 Battle of Britain. Research published by renowned aviation historian and valley resident Simon Parry (War-torn Skies - Battle of Britain Surrey 2007 ISBN: 978095547) reveal the dramatic downing of a Luftwaffe aircraft near Haslemere. The Messerscmitt Me109 was attacked from below whilst escorting bombers returning from a raid on London and came down at Holmans Grove at Grayswood. The pilot, one Lieutenant Herbert Schmidt, parachuted to safety ending up over the county border in Fernhurst. The account of his ordeal is one of many in the book.

"Suddenly I saw tracer bullets in my direction of flight, and in the same moment my cockpit was full of flames. I was falling fast and constantly somersaulting. My first idea? I must open the parachute! it was very difficult to pull the handle as my arm (which had been smashed by a bullet) was being thrown about as I tumbled, but with great effort I succeeded in pulling the handle.

"When the parachute opened I thought I would be torn to pieces. I was falling fast and nearly all my clothing had been burnt off me. The parachute opened with a jerk and my boots came off.

"I floated in the air: I can still picture some things; three Spitfires roaring around and flying away, my blackened and bloody hands, but feeling no pain."

The Admiralty Signal Establishment, which was established in 1917 to develop signalling technology and later radar direction finding, was relocated from Portsmouth to Lythe Hill House in Haslemere in 1936. In the same year the establishment's production department was set up in Whitwell Hatch Hotel at Haste Hill. The Experimental Section in Lythe Hill House together with the Production and Development Section were commissioned as HMS Mercury in August 1941 to be operated as an independent command. Not long afterwards laboratories and workshops were established at King Edward's School in Witley.

Haste Hill was the site of a semaphore station in the nineteenth century. The Admiralty Telegraph was erected in 1821 as part of the 'semaphore line' linking London to Portsmouth. The building, which consisted of a bungalow-style structure with the semaphore standing high above the operations room, was sold in 1849 after the line closed. It was to become the Whitwell Hatch Hotel.

Pupils at Haslemere Preparatory School had the chance to meet (October 2011) the war veterans from the Second World War. Bill Bailey was an RAF navigator who flew bombing missions across Germany in a Lancaster bomber. He was shot down and having suffered severe injuries when his parachute didn't deploy fully was eventually able to escape across Europe into Spain with the help of the Resistance. Keith Evans served on HMS Hood, and Norman Rogers was a signalman who fought in North Africa and was part of the successful campaign ensuring the surrender of German forces in Tunis.

"This was a unique opportunity for the boys to hear about history first-hand," said headmaster Patrick Wenham. “This was a unique opportunity for the boys to hear about history first-hand. All three veterans told their stories with great skill and held their audience spell-bound. I hope the boys gained an understanding of the courage and character shown by our visitors when, as young men, they faced very difficult situations.” Midhurst and Petworth Observer 8th October 2011

Haslemere Educational Museum

Haslemere Museum was founded in 1888 by Sir Jonathan Hutchinson in the grounds of his home at Inval in the town. The surgeon had collected a wide array of objects related to his interests in the fields of geology, biology and social history and he wanted to share these with the local people. The venture became so successful that Hutchinson launched a series of lectures that still continue to this day. The collections were moved to Museum Hill in 1895 before being relocated to their current site at 78 High Street in 1926. Hutchinson also bequeathed land to be used for the town’s recreation ground and tennis courts in the 1920s.

The building dates back in part to the sixteenth century and was subjected to alterations during the nineteenth. The facade is little changed from its original appearance in Georgian times. The museum has extensive grounds containing several unusual trees including a gingko tree. There are views across to Lythe Hill and visitors can enjoy a stroll through the woods along a nature trail past the curved Ha-ha (1), gazebo and pond. A new boardwalk was installed by volunteers in the grounds during March 2009 with funds raised by Haslemere Lawn Tennis Club. Further improvements to the grounds using the £7,000 raised in the club’s annual charity auction in 2008 are planned.

The geological collection of 15,300 specimens includes 8,190 fossils, 4,203 minerals and 2,907 rocks (2006). Fossils on display include reptilian footprints, dinosaur fragments and the skeleton and egg of the now extinct moa, a flightless bird. The museum has acquired items and full collections from many 19th century collectors. The museum’s natural history collection is extensive with over 240,000 specimens, and there are many surprises with other collections. One for example provides for European ‘peasant art’ from the 16th to 19th centuries and also has over 600 objects including fabrics and embroideries from all over the world. The museum also boasts an Egyptian mummy.

The museum is run by volunteers and periodically has undertaken major reorganisations to cater for the growing collections. This account was made by the Haslemere Heritage Volunteers of one such event when a team of 32 HDFAS members (2) cleared the building’s six attic rooms after the roof had been replaced. The overall exercise took six years in total and was completed in 1998.

"The six attic rooms were totally full of museum items and even the stairs had boxes piled up on one side making it difficult to get past them all!! It was a mammoth undertaking for all the Museum staff.

"Pictures were brought down from the attic, some were large oil paintings in heavy wooden frames, these took two men to move them and many of the paintings had damaged frames and some broken glass. The larger items were handed over the gallery in the lecture hall to an assistant or two below and laid out on the tables for work to start on sorting them all out. Then volunteers removed the broken glass, broken frames and all old wires and metal hooks etc; Damaged frames were numbered, labelled, and put into bags noting which picture they belonged to for future reference.

"All the pictures were sorted ,lightly dusted, measured and details of the painting,the artist, the medium used were recorded on specially printed forms and all were given an individual number which was pencilled on to the back of each painting. This information was later used to catalogue and put onto the Museum database. Finally all these paintings were wrapped in bubblewrap and put upstairs into a prepared store room all labelled and numbered."

The Guardian newspaper selected Haslemere Museum as one of the country’s Top 20 family-friendly museums. The museum runs regular events and exhibitions including activities for children and is open weekly from Tuesday through Saturday with admission by donation. Other groups also rate the museum highly for being family friendly.

“As you enter the museum you will be met with a warm welcome from one of the  volunteers who staff the desk. They will be happy to advise you on how to get the most out of the museum for both you and your little one. They will also provide you with an age-appropriate backpack which is related to an aspect of the museum’s collection. Every visit to the museum can be different as your child can have a different back pack each time. There are plenty of themes to choose from: Eye Pack, Skeleton Pack, Frog Pack, Butterfly Pack, Insect Pack and Natural History Pack 1 (2 years+) and Pack 2 (3 years+).

"I have never felt self-conscious about noisy children in this museum. I think it must honestly be one of the most child-friendly museums in the country. There’s lots for you to do together and the atmosphere is so relaxed that even the most hyperactive of toddlers can be tamed to be interested. My happiest memory of Haslemere is sitting on the floor by the beautiful ‘Volunteer’s Window’. My eldest daughter and her friend had emptied the contents of their backpacks all over the carpet and we happily did the puzzles and activities for a lovely uninterrupted hour. It was one of those rare, but always longed for, moments of parental contentment, when you are both happily occupied and enjoying each other’s company.” Joanne Robinson  babyhampshire.co.uk (28th May 2009)

(1) Ha-ha walls originated in the 17th century and were created as boundaries typically between an estate’s gardens and grounds in such a way as they were invisible from the house. The sunken stone walls were often level with the garden on the house side and exposed in a deep ditch on the far side, with their unusual name deriving from the surprise in stumbling across the structures.
(2) HDFAS Haslemere Decorative and Fine Arts Society

The museum reported the theft of a rhinoceros head (May 2011) which was believed to have been stolen for the valuable ivory in its horn. One of the thieves was captured in November but it wasn't until the police appealed through the BBC's Crimewatch programme that his partner in crime was apprehended. Both men from Essex are due in court during March 2012. The horn theft was not a lone one with numerous others throughout the UK which include Ipswich Museum (July 2011), an auctioneer's in Essex (February 2011) and two replica horns fooled thieves in Tring, Hertfordshire (August 2011).

A Haslemere man was arrested (January 2012) on suspicion of illegally exporting ivory products. A raid on the man's house discovered tusks and ivory carvings. The police have not publicly stated any connection with the museum theft.

This is not the first reported major theft of valuable items being stolen from the museum. A 71-year-old employee, who had worked for 17 years at the museum, was given a three-year prison sentence in October 2009 for stealing books, paintings, antique furniture and various relics. The court heard that between 1990 and 2007 58 items had been removed from the museum and had netted the thief £60,000 through auctions.

The Haslemere Food Web

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) launched (May 2009) an appeal for Haslemere residents to join a Mapping Local Food Web project. Their inaugural meeting in the Georgian House Hotel resulted in several people volunteering to research the food purchasing patterns of the local populace in order to map their local food network – their food web – in order to explore the benefits of supplying and buying locally produced produce.

CPRE, who devised the project with Sustain (1), hope that the scheme will map out the links locally between farmers and growers, processors, suppliers, local food shops and the end consumer. The project will also identify other local food providers such as farmers markets, box schemes and any community supported agriculture and food cooperatives. The scheme was launched at the beginning of 2009 as pilot projects in six towns across England and has been extended to 24 communities including Haslemere.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to develop and strengthen links in the local food network, including those between producers, suppliers and retailers, right through to those of us who’d like to buy and eat more local food,” said Karen Gardham of CPRE. “The Mapping Local Food Webs project will help to bring all these strands together. Getting the community involved and making the most of people’s local knowledge are central to the project. We hope that people from all walks of life will take part.”

“We are very excited that Haslemere is involved in this project,” said the deputy mayor. “We produce some fantastic food locally, and this initiative complements our thriving Farmers’ Market, Food Festival and award-winning Haslemere Rewards scheme to encourage local shopping. We do need to get as many people in the town aware of the range and scope of locally available produce and also provide an easy method to get what is produced here onto people’s plates.”

The project involves local researchers running an initial public workshop to explore local people’s views about local food. Consumer questionnaires will then be completed through the canvassing of local shoppers within a 2.5 mile radius to gain an understanding of shopping habits and attitudes towards buying locally produced food. The final phase utilises a survey of local businesses within a 30 mile radius of the town involved in local food provision and the supply chain.

(1) Sustain was formed to campaign for agricultural and food policies that ‘enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture’. The charity was launched in 1999 with the merging of the National Food Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Food and Environment (SAFE) Alliance

haslemere.com; makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk 1st June 2009

Great Hall and Wispers School

Haslemere loses Wispers, a long-established independent school for 11-18 year old girls, in a shock announcement (May 2008) in which the governors stated its closure from the end of the summer term. The school, which was founded in 1947 in Midhurst before relocating to its 26-acre site at Oak Hall in High Lane, Haslemere (GR: SU902335) in 1969, is a casualty of falling pupil numbers and escalating costs. Fourteen full-time and 15 part-time teaching staff will lose their jobs together with 17 members of support staff. The roll of 80 pupils, many of whom are from abroad, are having to find places at other schools. Twenty are boarders.

Oak Hall House, Haslemere
Oak Hall
(copyright unknown)

Alumni include actress Susannah York (1939 - 2011), who was reportedly 'removed' from the school after being caught swimming naked at midnight in the school's pool. Angela Lambert (1940 - 2007) was an author and journalist, her most notable work being A Rather English Marriage published in 1992.

The governors will be establishing the Wispers Education Trust providing bursaries for girls from lower income familes from the proceeds of the sale of the site and its buildings. It was expected to raise £4m from the sale.

A third of the school's pupils in its last year were funded at the school through bursaries or scholarships, the majority funded by the school itself. Wispers had secured its site in Haslemere thanks to the support of local businessman Ken Wood, the founder of the Kenwood kitchen equipment manufacturer and who was chairman of the school governors until his death in 1997. The school operated under the motto Fortiter, Fideliter, Feliciter which translates as Faithfully, Bravely, Happily, and had found support right up to its demise including a glowing report from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (2007). The school had also consistently announced a 100% pass rate at A level for its pupils.

The Grade II listed house (from January 2010) was commissioned by Scottish landscape and portrait artist James Michie (1859 - 1919) and built in 1911. The architect was Theophilus Allen who designed it in sympathy to the Elizabethan Revival style. and was laid out to a typical Elizabethan courtyard plan. A large north-facing room on the first floor served as the artist's studio. After Michie's death his wife leased the house to one Miss Voy and Miss Keyte-Perry who built a large extension and established a girls' school on the site. Their venture appeared to be a success as the ladies bought the freehold in 1938. Oak Hall School later changed hands and remained until Wispers took over the building in 1969.

Planning consent was granted (2010) to convert the house into a 'care village' for the elderly. The application, which was for 112 assisted living/close care units to be managed by 55 members of staff, allowed for refurbishment and selected extension of the main house, together with the building of a new two-storey 'supported living centre' to the rear. All other buildings were to be demolished, although 'part' of the old sixth form centre Willow House was to be retained.

The following entry was published in the planning application.

The site comprises an area of 10.52 ha which borders residential development to the south and woodland to the north, east and west. The land to the west and north west comprises Weydown Common which is owned by the National Trust. The site contains Oak Hall, a substantial building constructed in 1910, together with various extensions and other school buildings. These include a large gym building to the north west of Oak Hall, modern extensions to the north east of Oak Hall, a large detached single storey building (known as the Joyce Rogers building) to the north of Oak Hall, two large prefabricated classroom buildings to the north east of the site and various sheds and outbuildings to the north of the main building.

To the south of the site is Willow House, a detached two-storey building which comprised the sixth form block and a small bungalow. There are two residential properties (Stable Cottage and White Cottage) located close to the existing school buildings, in the centre of the site. However, these are in separate ownership and do not form part of the application site. There is another residential property, The Lodge, which is also in separate ownership and is located adjacent to the access road to the west of Willow House. Source: waverley.gov.uk 2010

BBC Three filmed their ten one-hour TV series Leave Us Kids Alone at Oak Hall over a three week period in the summer of 2007. The series followed 12 teenagers who undergo an experiment to run a school without adult teachers. It was boroadcast in October 2007.

'Garden Grabbing' Concerns

Wey Valley residents in Godalming, Haslemere and Farnham have joined forces to protest against what they see as the 'garden grabbing' activities of property developers in the area.


The Hammer Vale Squire

The traditional art of broomstick-making fights on in a modern world competing with mass-produced foreign imports.

For over 50 years Hammer Vale near Haslemere saw a local ‘squire’, the occupational name for broom-makers, working hard in his shed with all manner of tools to produce hand-crafted brooms and brushes for the local populace and beyond.

The squire was George Berry and his widow has donated all of his tools to Amberley Working Museum in West Sussex where squire Harvey Stenning carries on the craft as his father, grandfather and great-uncle had done before him.

Hanging in Stenning’s shed at Amberley is a picture of Hammer Vale’s own squire.

"When George's widow heard we were starting up here, she let us have his tools," said Stenning. “You can't make a living today selling brooms. Mind you, things pick up at Hallowe'en time, when people get interested in witches flying on broomsticks." (There's a sign in his shed reading: ‘Approved by Witch? magazine.’) The best it's ever got was when the first Harry Potter film came out. We were doing a craft show at Kew Gardens and had queues stretching out of the building. Sold hundreds of brooms, we did, couldn't make the things fast enough. Arthur and I were turning them out at the rate of 10 brooms every 12 minutes."

"My father, grandfather and great-uncle were all professional woodsmen who took me with them when they went out working. We'd go into the forest and they'd do the coppicing, mainly thinning out the sweet chestnut trees. During the winter months, they would make the good pieces of wood into fencing and I'd make the twigs into brooms. They taught me everything I know about the woods - such as how silver birch is really just a weed. You won't find it in any timber book. And how sycamore is the rogue of the forest: let it shed its seeds, and it'll take over in no time."

telegraph.co.uk 25th October 2008

- the North-West Frontier

Lynchmere (GR:SU868309) in West Sussex, is oft described by local author Michael Tibbs as the ‘North-West Frontier’ lying as it does on the northernmost fringes of Chichester District and ‘dangerous country where inhabitants were always on guard waiting to repel those who dared to raid its borders’. The parish, which prides itself in its historic spelling of Lynchmere with a proud ‘y’ in rebellion to the Ordnance Survey’s more modern ‘i’, has repelled attempts in the past by neighbouring county Surrey to swallow up its territory, and which also rests uncomfortably up against the boundary of Hampshire’s Liphook. The River Wey holds the border to the north and which divides West Sussex and Surrey.

Michael and Anne Tibbs have written two books about Lynchmere and are so revered for their knowledge of the village that they are known as Mr and Mrs Lynchmere. They also act as guardians elect.

Lynchmere is proud of its ancient cricket pitch believed to be one of the oldest village pitches in the country. Under threat of redevelopment the village successfully campaigned to buy that too, and for added effect also raised enough money to build a brand new pavilio. The church has also benefitted from the villagers’ dedication when parishioners through Friends of St Peters raised £45,000 to pay for vital repairs. And of course you would also expect the high-spirited villagers to do something to protect their northern border with Surrey. Parish councillors created a wildlife walk on both banks of the River Wey providing a buffer against the threat of urban sprawl from the neighbouring town of Haslemere. A quarter of a mile (480m) trail has also been created on Lynchmere Common to allow easy access for visitors of all mobility to the viewpoint overlooking the countryside to the north west towards Selbourne Hanger.


After a break of over 40 years Lynchmere has relaunched (2008) its village fete. True to the  traditional event that would have been common in 1964, steam engines, vintage cars and tractors gathered around the cricket ground where games including knock the jockey, marble racing and beat the goalie were played alongside tug of war tournaments. Over £3,000 was raised and donated to St Peter’s Church.

St Peter’s Church, which stands at one end of Lynchmere Green with its ancient oak trees, has Saxon origins. The building today dates from the 12th century with the local sandstone church gradually being enlarged over ensuing centuries. The East Window dates to the 13th century. A sundial dated 1653 is on the south wall.

Shulbrede Priory (GR:SU876299) located at the bottom of the hill below the church and which originally housed Augustinian monks, has been home to the Ponsonby family for over a century who help with its upkeep by holding public open days. Shulbrede monastery (also historically referred to as Woolynchmere Priory) was founded in 1200 during the reign of King John. A document dated 1358 refers to the buildings as ‘by the industry and magnificence of its founder [Sir Ralph de Arderne] were originally sumptuously arranged'. The monastery was dissolved in 1536 with one historical account citing that the King’s Commissioner used a report that ‘26 whores were found at the priory’ as authority.

According to A History of the County of Sussex (1953) excavations around the Priory revealed evidence of a church on the northside measuring 140ft (43m) in length and 98ft (30m) across with a chapterhouse and domestic buildings on a similar scale. The exterior walls were 4ft (1.2m) thick and were built with a packed rubble of sandstone. The original priory enclosure covered around four acres and was surrounded by a moat. The Prior’s Chamber in the Priory buildings remaining today sits above a vaulted croft and contains 16th century wall paintings.

Illustrator Harriet Russell was brought up at the Priory, which according to her publishers Allison & Busby was ‘populated with various cats, geese and bantams’. Russell published (2008) an unusual and extremely imaginative book inspired by the experiences of her family at Shulbrede where wildly mis-addressed envelopes still managed to reach them at the house against all odds. The book Envelopes (ISBN 978-0749079239) features 75 envelopes Russell designed to provide various challenges to postmen whilst living in Glasgow and London and that still made it through her letterbox. She addressed the envelopes using mazes, anagrams, illustrations, puns and other imaginative foolery proving that the Royal Mail is still worthy of its heritage – 120 of 130 envelopes were delivered despite the fact that some required the postmen to fill out crosswords or join the dots to complete the address.

Within the parish of Lynchmere is Hammer (GR:SU876324), the ancient site of Wealden ironworks by the River Wey. The brickworks established here at the end of the 1800s by one John Grover saw the need for accommodation for its rapidly growing workforce. Grover bought land in nearby Camelsdale further upstream on which to build houses for his workers and which acted as a catalyst for the development of the hamlet.  The nonconformist church he also built, today as Three Counties Church is an Evangelical Free Church with an active congregation of some 150 churchgoers (2008). The village has its own First School, pub and village shop. Arnold’s Garage has traded in the village for over 70 years.

There were two ironworks at Hammer. On private land at North Park the original pit where gun barrels were cast has been restored and the second works at Pophall which is less well-defined has the remains of a sluice still visible. The Pophall ironmill was in operation from circa 1573 until 1730 and North Park from 1620.

Lynchmere Common

Lynchmere residents campaigned to buy 307 acres (125 hectares) of common land that Cowdray Estate (owned by Viscount Cowdray) had put up for sale to ensure that they could protect it for posterity. The campaigners successfully raised £400,000 from over 500 donors, including a grant of £220,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a grant from the Sussex Downs Conservation Board, and purchased the land in 1998.

The Lynchmere Society founded by Michael Tibbs in 1991 has the responsibility of caring for Lynchmere (GR:SU865316), Marley (GR:SU890315) and Stanley (GR:SU857304) Commons purchased from Cowdray, and from 1999 were classified as a Local Nature Reserve by West Sussex County Council. The commons have been a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) since 2004.

In the winter of 2008 12 tons (11,000 kg) of birchwood and four tons (3,600 kg) of pine were distributed by Lynchmere Society to local residents as winter fuel. The wood had been gathered from the clearance of excess trees across the three commons as part of the Society’s project to re-establish the lowland heath that had been encroached upon by woodland over many centuries. Eight head of Shetland cattle have also been reintroduced (2005) after fencing had been erected to keep saplings at bay under the Defra Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS). The encroachment had been exacerbated by the cessation of common grazing after WWII. The CSS also provides a grant of £10,000 annually to allow the commons to continue to be maintained and restored. The Society has also restored two ponds on Lynchmere Common.

Volunteers continue to regularly care for the commons. The following is an account by Sean Hellman, a pole lather and woodsman, who has volunteered since 2000 at Lynchmere.

I started working on the commons as a volunteer in 2000 to get experience in conservation work and as stress relief. I enjoyed it so much that now I help to manage the commons. Clearing fallen trees from paths and fencelines is one part of what I do on the commons. The wet weather this year has caused a lot of problems for trees. At some times of the year tree clearing can be on a regular basis especially with all the birch trees growing on the poor heathland soil (upper greensand of the Western Weald).

Winter is our busiest season on the commons as we carry out much of the heavy management work whilst the animals and plantlife are dormant or absent for the winter. During the week we have been scraping one of our ponds that had become silted up and choked up with weed. A couple of years ago we scraped the adjacent pond and the improvement has been clear. A recent survey found rare plants such as bog pimpernel starting to return.

. Woodland Antics blog. Various from October 2008 to xx

The Devil's Punch Bowl, The Tunnel, Gibbet Hill and Hindhead

The Devil's Punch Bowl (GR: SU895363) is a natural ampitheatre of dry sandy heath that lies to the end of a valley between Hindhead and Thursley and is straddled by Hindhead Common.

A popular beauty spot now managed by the National Trust, the valley is skirted by the main road artery (A3) linking London to Portsmouth and has been choked for many years by traffic that has been confined to the only remaining single carriageway stretch along the whole 74 mile (119km) route.

This bottleneck will be closed once the Hindhead Tunnel bypass road is completed in 2011. Local and national pressure groups had been campaigning for an alternative route to take traffic away from the Devil's Punch Bowl for over 30 years.

The Haslemere to Hindhead stretch of the A3 was rated a poor two out of four for safety levels by the Road Safety Foundation (January 2010). The score, which is based on guidelines produced by the European Road Assessment Programme, measures how well their design protects users from death or disabling injury if a crash happens. The single carriageway stretch which climbs a steep hill with a bend will effectively become redundant once the tunnel is open.

Hindhead Tunnel excavation August 2008

Although digging a tunnel beneath Gibbet Hill was approved in principle in 1993 it wasn't for another 13 years before funding was finally found to make the project a reality. Due to cost over £370m, clearance work began in January 2007 and the first shovelfull of earth for the twin-bore tunnels was removed in February 2008.


The area was one of the earliest major acquisitions (1905) made by the Trust, undoubtedly influenced by the fact that the Trust's first ever chairman, Sir Robert Hunter, lived in nearby Haslemere.

Devil's Punchbowl by Paul Farmer
click on image to go to photographer's website Click to visit Terry Harrison's website

The Devil's Punch Bowl and the adjoining Hindhead Commons cover an area of 1,600 acres and consist of some of the most extensive areas of lowland heath in the country, and as a large expanse of underdeveloped countryside is listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

A dominant prominence of sandstone overlooking the Punch Bowl was named Gibbet Hill (1) in the 18th century marking the hanging of three 'footpads' (2) who in 1786 murdered a sailor travelling alone along the Portsmouth to London road through what was then a wild and remote area, and who they had befriended in an inn in the area. Such was the public outcry at this cold blooded act on a sailor trying to return to his ship at Portsmouth that a memorial stone, which became known as the Sailor's Stone (GR: SU899359), was erected on the site of the murder in the same year. The murderers' bodies were tarred and hung in chains from a gibbet on the hill alongside the old road to serve as a warning.

The inscription on the stone reads:

In deteftation of a barbarous Murder
Committed here on an unknown Sailor
On Sep. 24th 1786
By Edwd. Lonegon, Mick Cagy & Jas. Marshall
Who were all taken the fame day
And hung in Champs near this place

Whofe theddeth Man's Blood by man thall his
Blood be thed. Gen: Chap 9: Ver 6

The Sailor's Stone by Gibbet Hill, Hindhead Common

A further inscription added to the base of the stone a hundred years later records that the stone was renovated by one James John Russell Stilwell of Killinghurst, a descendant of James Stilwell who had originally erected the stone in 1786.

(1)Gibbet refers to the gallows that was erected on the hill to hang the condemned men. It would have been a simple wooden structure consisting of an upright post with a crosspiece forming a T-shaped structure from which the noose was hung.
(2) 'Footpads' is a 17th century term used to describe robbers who operated on foot rather than 'highwaymen' who used horses to stop carriages and make a fast getaway.

The Haslemere Initiative (3) organised a ceremony (September 2007) to commemorate the 221st anniversary of the unknown sailor's murder. Accompanied by representatives from the Three Counties National Trust and the Mayor of Haslemere the group raised a toast to mark the erection of a memorial board at the site providing historical information about the killing. A second information board has been erected by the Celtic cross on Gibbet Hill (see below).

(3) The Haslemere Initiative is a partnership organisation of local and county government and the Haslemere Chamber of Commerce.

Local newspaper The Surrey Advertiser has been instrumental in tracking down (June 2009) five original paintings depicting the Hindhead murder. An unknown 19th century English painter recreated the scenes leading up to the murder and the trial, and these had for many years hung on the walls of The Royal Huts Hotel in the village. Postcards had also been published featuring the pictures. However when local historian Nigel Mee tried to trace them he found that no one knew of their whereabouts. Their last resting place he was told had been The Kings Arms & Royal Hotel in Godalming but they had been removed when the hotel had been taken over in 2008. The paper however traced the missing paintings to an art auction, where they had been submitted for sale by the new owners of the Kings Arms, and tipped off the historian just in time for the Haslemere Museum to successfully bid for them. The paintings, which cost the museum £3,300, are to be restored before being put on display. Part of the original gibbet used in the hangings is also stored at the museum. The gibbet chains had hung around the fireplace at the Kings Arms before its refurbishment, although their whereabouts is still unknown.

It is thought that Charles Dickens wove an account of the murder into Nicholas Nickleby. The event also spawned countless ballads and stories.

The hills around Hindhead, itself a small village of a few hundred inhabitants and billed as the highest village in Surrey, were noted by contemporary writers, and it's perhaps not surprising that many viewed the area as wild and lawless.

I had laid my plan, which included the getting to Thursley that night. When, therefore, I had got some cold bacon and bread, and some milk, I began to feel ashamed of stopping short of my plan, especially after having so heroically persevered in the 'stern path,' and so disdainfully scorned to go over Hindhead. I knew that my road lay through a hamlet called Churt, where they grow such fine bennet-grass seed. There was a moon; but there was also a hazy rain. I had heaths to go over, and I might go into quags. Wishing to execute my plan, however, I, at last, brought myself to quit a very comfortable turf-fire, and to set off in the rain, having bargained to give a man three shillings to guide me out to the Northern foot of Hindhead.

Off we set, the guide mounted on his own or master's horse, and with a white smock frock, which enabled us to see him clearly. We trotted on pretty fast for about half an hour; and I perceived, not without some surprise, that the rain, which I knew to be coming from the South, met me full in the face, when it ought, according to my reckoning, to have beat upon my right cheek. I called to the guide repeatedly to ask him if he was sure that he was right, to which he always answered 'Oh! yes, Sir, I know the road.' I did not like this, 'I know the road.' At last, after going about six miles in nearly a Southern direction, the guide turned short to the left. That brought the rain upon my right cheek, and, though I could not very well account for the long stretch to the South, I thought, that, at any rate, we were now in the right track; and, after going about a mile in this new direction, I began to ask the guide how much further we had to go; for, I had got a pretty good soaking, and was rather impatient to see the foot of Hindhead.

Just at this time, in raising my head and looking forward as I spoke to the guide, what should I see, but a long, high, and steep hanger arising before us, the trees along the top of which I could easily distinguish! The fact was, we were just getting to the outside of the heath, and were on the brow of a steep hill, which faced this hanging wood. The guide had began to descend; and I had called to him to stop; for the hill was so steep, that, rain as it did and wet as my saddle must be, I got off my horse in order to walk down. But, now behold, the fellow discovered, that he had lost his way! - Where we were I could not even guess. There was but one remedy, and that was to get back if we could. I became guide now; and did as Mr Western is advising the Ministers to do, retraced my steps. We went back about half the way that we had come, when we saw two men, who showed us the way that we ought to go. At the end of about a mile, we fortunately found the turnpike-road; not, indeed, at the foot, but on the tip-top of that very Hindhead, on which I had so repeatedly vowed I would not go! We came out on the turnpike some hundred yards on the Liphook side of the buildings called the Hut; so that we had the whole of three miles of hill to come down at not much better than a foot pace, with a good pelting rain at our backs. William Cobbett 24th November 1822 published in Rural Rides 1830

Original coaching road at Hindhead

Stories from the mid 19th century were collected and published in Frensham Then and Now (1938 Baker & Minchin) which includes this piece by an unnamed local resident about the infamous 'Hindhead Gang'. As notorious was the 'Blackdown Gang' which operated from Black Down common, the source of the southern branch of the River Wey to the south of Haslemere.

I, who am now well over the allotted span, can remember when a boy being told by my Grandmother tales of the goings-on of that rough Hindhead Gang who were so noted for sheep stealing and highway robbery. I still have a staff which was regularly carried by my Grandfather when he went out after dark. I myself remember tales of these rough gangs going round and smashing up threshing drums, as they were very embittered against these inventions, thinking they would do away with their winter's work. These old drums were but small affairs driven by horse gear. Old Mrs. Sturt kept a shop at the crossroads opposite Earle's Farm [at Frensham]. On very rough, windy nights they were afraid to go to bed. Sometimes old Mrs. Sturt would rush across the road in the morning and say, 'Oh, Harriet, they have been again; they have taken our cheese, butter and everything; it is that Hindhead Gang and they have cleared us right out.

Local Historian John Owen Smith relates the tale that Lord Tennyson, the acclaimed 19th century poet, in 1867 wrote to his friend Francis Palgrave saying that although he had been warned about the local inhabitants he had decided to take up the lease for nearby Grayshott Hall. His time at the house appeared happily to have never involved any encounters with the local ruffians. A few years previously one Mr I'Anson had similarly been warned when he announced his intention to bring his family to the area.

In 1862, when Mr. I'Anson decided to build a house at Grayshott, he was warned that he would not succeed in completing it, or in living there, the few cottagers of the hamlet bearing the character of lawless folk who would never allow a stranger to settle among them. The predecessors of the squatters were runagates - persons who had fled from justice, and in the dense woodlands they skulked like the badger or the fox. The place was a rural Alsatia. However, the house was not only begun, but finished, and Mr. I'Anson and his family took up their abode in it. The praiseworthy ambition then seized his eldest daughter, the present Miss I'Anson, to civilise and lift up the degraded outcasts among whom her lot was cast. The task was no light one. It took a considerable time before the cottagers could be convinced that in visiting them she had no ulterior object. She started a Sunday School, but few could be enticed into it. However, the opposition of the parents disappeared and the children brought their little empty heads to be filled up. Grayshott : The Story of a Hampshire Village John Owen Smith 2002

Even the artist J.M.W Turner, who passed through Hindhead in November 1807, seemed to view the area as wild and barren as his sketch later to be engraved Hind Head Hill seemed to depict.

However a Victorian 'colony' of well-known writers who lived in the hills around Hindhead and nearby Haslemere towards the tail-end of the 19th century undoubtedly had a different view of the area. One reason may be down to the fact that by the 1870s the coaching trade had all but vanished, their business snatched away by the new railway revolution, and with them the highwayman's prey also disappeared. Additionally the broom squires, who made besoms from heather and birch twigs outside their huts on the heath and who were often blamed for local crime, had by then been put out of business by the competition from factory-made brooms and so also had disappeared from the area.

Writers included poet laureate Lord Tennyson, Conan Doyle and Bernard Shaw. A total of 65 other writers have been identified by historian Bob Trotter as being members of the appropriately coined 'The Hilltop Writers', and he details these in his book of the same name. The writers were attracted by the beauty of the area together with its accessibility by the new railway line that opened in 1859 giving them a fast connection to and from London.

At every step some new beauty bursts upon you. There is not a human being near - but one house, a solitary farm faraway on the ridge of Hindhead, is to be seen … It is with surprise that in this lonely waste one sees, between the Devil's Punch Bowl and the top of the hill, a fine, broad and well-kept road, nor is that surprise diminished when you come upon it, and find that it is as hard and smooth as any road in a private park can possibly be. There are very few marks of wheels to be found upon it, but abundant traces of sheep ... I declare that I stood looking at that road in amazement for pretty nearly a quarter of an hour, and I am inclined to think that if I had stayed there till now I should not have seen anybody or anything coming along it in either direction. Louis Jennings 1878

Shaw rented Blen Cathra set in 35 acres of gardens and woodland in 1898 having stayed at nearby Pitfold House for his honeymoon the same year with Charlotte Payne-Townshend. St Edmund’s, a co-ed school for 7 – 13-year-olds, took over the property the following year and still occupies the prime site (GR: SU878352) along Portsmouth Road backing to Boundary Road on the outskirts of Grayshott.  A blue plaque, designed and made by Grayshott Pottery, was erected (2008) by the front door to commemorate Shaw’s time at the house.  

Arthur Conan Doyle lived at Undershaws in Hindhead MORE HERE and Flora Thompson, the author of Lark Rise to Candleford, lived at The Ferns whilst assistant postmistress in Grayshott from 1898 to 1901.

Grayshott Hall on the Headley Road (GR: SU857356) was built on the site of a 224 acre farm and was home to Alfred Tennyson in 1867 whilst he was looking for land on which to build a family home – this was to be  Aldworth near Haslemere MORE HERE.

Mrs Glichrist, a friend of the family, at the time wrote:

"The Tennysons... have taken a house at Grayshott, that will serve their purpose for a time, enabling them to judge how the climate suits and to be on the watch for any land that might be on the market. I have undertaken to see the furnishing of the house."

At the time Tennyson was living there the substantial stone and slate building, that was then Grayshott Farm, comprised three reception rooms and eight bedrooms, along with a coach house, stables, a barn and a cowshed. The manor, which was part of a 1,794 acre estate, was sold the following year at which time it was renamed Grayshott Hall.

The property was substantially rebuilt in a ‘Victorian baronial style’ in 1886-7 by one Alexander Ingraham Whitaker, at which time a tower was added and two Latin mottoes were inscribed over the entrance beneath, ‘pax intrantibus’ (peace upon entering) and ‘salus exeuntibus’ (health upon leaving) – which was to be quite fitting given that the building has housed a health spa since 1965. The Century Wing was added in 1971 to provide an accommodation block of 21 bedrooms for the spa. The property today enjoys 47 acres of landscaped grounds.

Grayshott was appointed Best Village in East Hampshire in 2007 and was acclaimed Best Village in Hampshire in 2002 and 2005. The first documentation of the village appeared in the Pipe Rolls of 1185 when it was referred to as ‘Gravesetta’. In 1552 ‘Graveshott’ was preferred with the first reference as ‘Grayshott’ recorded in 1773.

Commoners by right had access to the heathland for grazing, and it was the presence of their animals that kept Hindhead Commons preserved in its natural state. In the mid-1900s these rights were withdrawn and very quickly birch, pine and bracken encroached and started to dominate over the heather. The National Trust has in place a programme of active reclamation which includes the idea of introducing Exmoor ponies and Highland cattle.

The dominant flora across the heath is bell heather (Erica cinerea), cross-leaved heather, also known as bog heather (Erica tetralix) and dwarf gorse (Ulex minor) alongside common gorse (Ulex europaeus), purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) and the omnipresent bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum). Older woods and wood pastures include oak, holly and ash with beech coppice in a number of locations including Highcombe Copse.

The wet habitat along Highcombe Bottom with its stream by the Youth Hostel (GR: SU894368) has ensured that alder, willow and bog bean (Menyanthes trifoliata) have flourished. The valley bottom also supports healthy insect populations including a rare cranefly specie. Woodpeckers, including green (Picus viridis), great (Dendrocopos major) and lesser-spotted (Dendrocopos minor) frequent the woodland and nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), stonechat (Saxicola torquata) and woodlark (Lullula arborea) can be seen on the heath.

Hindhead Commons, Boundless Valley (GR: SU905365) to the north-east of Gibbet Hill and Tyndall's Wood (GR: SU887355) by Arthur Conan Doyle's home Undershaw are all popular with walkers, equestrians and cyclists. To reach these from the Devil's Punch Bowl requires a dash of courage when confronted with the endless stream of traffic on the A3 which divides them, although come 2011 this route will be closed when the Hindhead Tunnel opens. Access to the Devil's Punch Bowl from the National Trust car park on the A3 is free although there is a charge for parking for non-members. The now Trust-owned cafe is open daily.

Gibbet Hill, Hindhead Common

The trig point (3) shown above marks the summit of Gibbet Hill, which at 895 ft (272m) above sea level ranks it as the second highest hill in Surrey. Maintained by the Ordnance Survey as a surveying bench-mark (S1535) and a global positioning system (GPS) point, the pillar has a circular topographical plate fixed to the top providing pointers and distances to regional towns. Nearby is a 15ft (4.6m) granite Celtic cross with the individual inscriptions 'Post Tenebras Lux', 'In Luce Spes', In Obitu Pax' and 'Post Obiter Salus', one on each of the four faces of the column. These translate as 'After Darkness, Light', 'In Light, Hope', 'In Death, Peace', 'After Death, Safety'. There is a date of 1851 inscribed. Local concensus seems to suggest that the cross was erected to reassure travellers that contrary to popular belief Hindhead Common was not beset by spirits and ghosts, and that they were safe to rest there.

(3) Trig (trignometrical) points in the days before GPS provided surveyors with a frame of reference enabling an accurately surveyed and documented position. Exact positions could be found by linking trig points. The surveyor would attach his theodolite to the metal disc inserted to the top of the trig point.

A trail across Hindhead Commons, initiated in 1995 to mark the centenary of the National Trust, was named after Sir Robert Hunter, the founder who lived locally in Haslemere.

Local historian, Lionel Joseph, is campaigning (October 2009) to ensure that historic milestones located along the shortly to be closed section of the A3 are not lost once the Hindhead tunnel is opened in 2011. In the 1920s the Sailor’s Memorial Stone commemorating the cold-blooded murder was sited in the centre of where the A3 currently runs around Gibbet Hill, but was moved when the road was tarred to its present site on the byway which was the former Portsmouth Road. A milestone, the 39th from Hyde Park Corner, was discovered down the bank at the Devils Punchbowl and was re-sited (September 2009) to the north of the memorial stone on the byway.

Another milestone, the 38th from Hyde Park Corner, is located just to the south of the minor road that runs from Witley to Brook. Joseph is concerned that once the road is closed that this may be lost as it would appear is the fate of the 37th milestone that was once located at Bedford Farm. The lost milestone was recorded on the Milestone Society's national database in 2005. He is hoping that the 38th, and 37th if found, will be re-sited on the Thursley byway route. He has calculated that the 37th would rest on the verge outside Thursley church and the 38th about 50 yards (46m) north of the National Trust boundary. Joseph approached Waverley Borough Council on the matter which is passed suggestions on to the Surrey County Council’s highway department.

October 1995 saw the first performance of a community play written for schools and amateur dramatic societies to dramatise local history. A Balance of Trust celebrating the centenary of The National Trust had an incredibly lengthy list of characters depicted by a cast of thirty players. The 67 characters included Waitress at the ‘Happy Eater,’ Hindhead (4); Landlord of ‘The Huts’ at Hindhead (5); John Tyndall (who had lived in a single-roomed hut on Hindhead Common with his wife); and local resident, the Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle.

The National trust is trialling (July 2010) a paperless parking charge system at the Devils Punch Bowl. This will enable visitors to pay by mobile phone.

(4) The Happy Eater was a fast food restaurant located by the main crossroads in Hindhead. It was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a new residential development.
(5) The Huts in the 1860s was a primitive hostelry at Hindhead with it's own micro-brewery. The building was later refurbished and reopened as The Huts Hotel.

Hindhead Common by Paul Farmer
click on image to go to photographer's website Click to visit Terry Harrison's website


Why is The Devil's Punch Bowl So Important?

The Devil's Punch Bowl was formed over many thousands of years by spring water eroding the upper surface of sandstone until it hit the impervious layer of clay beneath. The spring still runs heathily today and provides a rich natural environment for a wide variety of wildlife.

There is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status in place, with this status having been further strengthened by including the SSSI within the internationally important Wealden Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA).

As befits a large and impressive natural feature the Devil's Punch Bowl has also had its share of local legends. One such originating in mediaeval times had it that the devil spent much of his time tormenting the god Thor by pelting him with enormous handfuls of earth, one of which left the great bowl that remains today.

The ampitheatre was featured in the TV series Seven Natural Wonders broadcast by the BBC in 2005. The programme covered seven natural landscapes of note in each of eight English regions. Other 'wonders' featured in the local region included The Needles, Lulworth Cove and The Ridgeway, an 85 mile (137 km) road dating back to neolithic times.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Hindhead

The National Trust have started (August 2007) a major project to undertake environmental restoration at the Devil's Punch Bowl which will continue to prepare the area in readiness for when the A3 tunnel relinquishes the beauty spot from the traffic that has blighted it for decades. Improved access to Highcombe Edge from the main car park has already been undertaken, aided by a Sustainable Development Fund grant from the Surrey Hills AONB.

A report commissioned by the Hindhead Together Partnership (1) has recommended (January 2008) that the National Trust take a pivotal role in developing new facilities at Hindhead to coincide with the opening of the A3 tunnel. The facilities recommended include an eco-friendly visitor centre and management facilities to compliment the improvements that are already planned to the footpath and bridleway network. The consultants, MPCS, have however recommended that the changes to the visitor facilities should be aimed at a moderate increase in visitors rather than expecting to have to cater for a mass influx of tourists.

(1) The Hindhead Together Partnership, which is based at the Witley Centre in Witley, Godalming, was launched in November 2006 to provide a framework for development plans in the area associated with the changes that the tunnel will bring. Under the chairmanship of Poul Christensan who is the deputy chair of Natural England and a South East England Development Agency board member, the organisation is aiming to ensure that development is appropriate to the needs of local people and businesses. The Partnership comprises Natural England, Waverley Borough Council, Surrey County Council, The National Trust, Surrey Hills, the South East England Development Agency and the Highways Agency.

The Black Down and Hindhead Supporters commissioned Haslemere artist Malcolm Stathers to create a bronze sculpture of Hindhead Common and the Devils Punchbowl to commemorate National Trust 100th anniversary of managing the landmark. The sculpture, which with its raised relief also allows visually impaired visitors to appreciate the landscape around them, was unveiled in July 2009.

"We were looking for a really unusual feature for the new viewpoint," said head warden Matt Cusack. "We think this is a sensitive and imaginative way of depicting the unique features of the Punchbowl, and placed so near to the car park it is easily accessible to disabled or visually challenged visitors."

"Creating this unique sculpture was a real labour of love, and we greatly appreciate Malcolm's commitment to the project and the time he put into it," said Sarah Bain from the supporters. "Without a doubt the many visitors to Hindhead will find this model just as fascinating and informative as we do for many years to come." Surrey Advertiser 31st July 2009

The beauty spot has been selected (September 2010) by the National Trust as being one of six to trial a new Pay By Mobile Phone (PBMP) scheme to pay for parking at the carpark located by the cafe. National Trust members will continue to qualify for free parking with non-members incurring a charge of £2.50 a day.

and the Temperance Movement

In the nearby village of Grayshott an historical archive has been established to provide an important source of information on how local people lived from the mid-19th century to the present. The Grayshott Village Archive, which has been supported by National Lottery and local funding, is housed in the village hall. The archive includes interviews with local villagers recording historic memories of the village, and notes key utility milestones including the fact that a public electricity supply was not installed until 1901, mains water in 1904 and gas in 1909.

The village's only pub, the Fox and Pelican, has interesting origins. Land for the building of the public house was acquired at a price of £750 by a family member of the Alton Brewery Company in 1898 but the development almost immediately ran into difficulties. Horrified at the idea of a commercially run pub springing up in their village, a group of local residents with the vicar at their head raised private capital through issuing public shares to build a refreshment house based on temperance principles, and were backed by the People's Refreshment House Association. Subsequently the Alton Brewery Company's application for a trading licence was rejected in preference to the vicar's, and so the refreshment house was built at a cost of £1,465.

The temperance controls for a 'refreshment house' were that although alcohol was served it was sold to the landlord by the association at retail prices thereby eliminating any profit for the landlord. Conversely non-alcoholic beverage provided large profits through low supply costs. The landlord also was not allowed to advertise alcohol and could only serve it 'upon request'. For the name, The Grayshott and District Refreshment Association, which was formed to run the house, chose 'fox' after Bishop Fox, the 16th century founder of Corpus Christi College, and 'pelican' from the Bishop's coat of arms. The 1899 opening of the house, which had four bedrooms for travellers, attracted the attention of the national media including the Daily Telegraph and the London Morning Star. It was not until the late 1950s that the pub was taken over by Gales Brewery and converted into a fully licensed public house. Gales remain the owners today. The original building, which for a village of Grayshott's size is unusually large and rambling, still remains largely intact.

Like neighbouring Hindhead the village keenly awaits the opening of the new A3 tunnel as it will relieve the area of decades of traffic strangulation. There will be other benefits too as debated by an estate agent in the village. Proprietor Andrew Meehan of Keats Mehan reckons on property in the area becoming more sought after as local roads become becalmed. Although he doesn't support the view that prices could increase by as much as twenty percent as held by many homeowners in the village, he does reckon that with the removal of the current Devil's Punchbowl bottleneck commuters will find the area much more accessible and may consider setting up home.

"In the first instance the market will pre-empt the position around 18 months before it opens,” said Meehan. “Here in Grayshott we will never be in the same position as Haslemere, because we don't have a railway station and so the gap between the two will never close completely. But what will happen in the general Grayshott area is more people will consider living here." Source: Petersfield Post & Bordon Post 6th February 2008

The Plight of Undershaw

The author of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) lived for 10 years near to the Devil's Punch Bowl at the house (GR: SU 887356) he had had designed for him. The short stories, originally published in The Strand Magazine featured the local countryside. He is said to have written The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Homes at the house.

Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Image in public domain

The location was perfect in Doyle's mind for his wife who was a longtime sufferer of tuberculosis would benefit from the unique microclimate of the plot giving a dry sheltered position for the house that he had built in 1896 with her particularly in mind. He paid £1,000 for the four-acre (1.6ha) plot of land overlooking the Nutcombe Valley and drafted the first designs of the house himself before passing them over to architect and friend Joseph Henry Ball to complete.

"It is so sheltered from cold winds that the architect felt justified in having lots of windows, so that the whole place is full of light. Nevertheless, it is cosy and snug to a remarkable degree and has everywhere that sense of 'home' which is so delightful to occupant and stranger alike." Bram Stoker, Dracula author.

The build, costing around £5,000, provided 7,500 sq ft (697 sq m) of living space for the couple and their two young children.

Conan Doyle moved out of Undershaw in 1907 after the death of his wife the previous year. Doyle let the property in the hope that his children would eventually take ownership, only selling it in 1921 when his son lost his life in the flu epidemic of 1918.

Various members of Doyle's family are buried in nearby Grayshott churchyard. Doyle himself, who died at his house in Crowborough in East Sussex in 1930, is buried at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire.

The new owners added a wing of 2,500 sq ft (232 sq m) in the mid-twenties, selling Undershaw to the Bridger family who took the property on as part of their investment portfolio. In the ensuing 69 years very little was done to the house which ensured that many of Doyle's personal touches remained intact. These included heraldic windows, the low riser staircase that had been installed to help his ill wife, and the billiard room. The underfloor brick-lined water well also remained.

Undershaw operated as a private hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004, closing when the new owners Fossway Limited took ownership. They bought the property for £1.1m in February 2004.

Undershaw sits at the crossroads in Hindhead village alongside what was the busy A3 London to Portsmouth trunk road, and today has benefited from the the opening (2011) of the Hindhead Tunnel.


The 36-room house house seemed to have exerted a great influence over the writer and specifically is said to have provided the inspiration for The Adventure of the Norwood Builder (1903).

This account by The Sherlock Holmes Society of London highlights the author's productive time there.

"Those years at Undershaw were among Conan Doyle's most productive. Sherlock Holmes, killed off in 1893, was restored to life, and many other stories and novels were written there, including Sir Nigel, which he considered his literary high point. He involved himself in public issues, and stood for parliament twice. He served as a volunteer army surgeon in South Africa during the Boer war, and wrote both a history of it and an internationally circulated pamphlet defending Britain's cause. He became deputy lieutenant of Surrey, and took an active role in the local golf club and in the Chiddingfold Hunt. He championed the cause of George Edalji, who was falsely imprisoned for animal mutilation (the subject of Julian Barnes's recent novel Arthur & George).

"The many distinguished visitors to Undershaw included the writers James Barrie and Bram Stoker, the artist Sidney Paget, the cricketers Albert Trott and Frederic Meyrick-Jones, and even Field Marshal Lord Roberts, hero of Afghanistan and commander of British forces in the Boer war."

Sadly since its sale in 2005 the Grade II listed building has sat empty and is rapidly falling into disrepair. The extent of the problem has come to light with an official works notice issued to the owners to effect an estimated £64,000 worth of remedial work which includes securing and waterproofing the building. If the notice is ignored Waverley Borough Council have the legal right to gain access and undertake the work.

The developer, Desmond Moore, has encountered fervent opposition led by The Victorian Society (1) to plans for the property to be subdivided and a planning application to divide the house into four dwellings was withdrawn (2006).

Today evidence of the decline include smashed stained glass windows, a leaking roof which has been further worsened by theft of lead from the structure, and general vandalism.

"This is a matter of great local concern," said Councillor John Robini. "It is an important building and I am pleased that the council is taking action and I hope we can get something done. I hope we can assure the community we can get this back on the planning agenda."

Undershaw at its prime was a fantastic house designed in the 'Arts and Crafts' style of Doyle's time and international efforts have been made (2006) to secure an upgrade of its listed status to Grade I. The house has 36 rooms, and although many of its original features were lost when it was converted into a hotel in the 1920s, it still has the author's initials monogrammed on ground floor doors and some undamaged stained glass windows bearing the the family crest.

As recently as 2004 food critics from the national press paid the house a visit when it was a restaurant under the auspices of restaurateur Peter Ilic, and here they gave a glimpse of the sadness of what was once a grand house.

"To dine at Undershaw without a pipe would be unseemly. That's because Undershaw was built by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes - the world's greatest detective, and its favourite pipe smoker. The Arts and Crafts house, built of red brick and tile, was at the end of a steep drive under a hanging wood. On a wet, foggy night, it was easy to imagine the place with gas lamps at the window, and a huddle of hansom cabs outside. What more atmospheric setting for my last bowl of light-matured Virginias?

"Undershaw looks down the Nutcombe Valley and onto the South Downs. There are heavy rhododendron bushes banked on either side of the lawn. But rhododendrons don't flower in winter, and, with overgrown thicket and untended borders, the outside was a dismal sight. So, to be honest, was the inside.

"The original doors were designed to open on the push-pull principle (experts on door furniture will know this principle well) so that Conan Doyle's wife, who suffered from arthritis, didn't have to turn any handles. But, otherwise, the original features have long since gone." Richard Johnson. Independent. 7th February 2004

"My cab driver gave a B-movie throaty laugh and said, 'Funny place, Undershaw's. Reminds me of Dracula's castle.' I could see what he meant. The house was built by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is a huge lump of red brick Victorian Gothic, complete with stained-glass windows, a single, guttering candle in the gloomy hallway and crimson walls stained with the blood of sacrificed virgins. Or Dulux. One or the other. I went on a stormy day, when broken trees littered the path through the wooded slope to the front door and the rain charged horizontally into the hills. I was led by the impeccably polite waiter (who didn't smell at all of sulphur) from the gloom of the hallway to a much lighter room of pale blue and white, with airy views over the Surrey hills." Jay Rayner. The Observer. 25th January 2004

(1) The Victorian Society, which was founded in 1958, is the national society responsible for the study and protection of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and other arts.

Surrey Advertiser 19th January 2007; telegraph.co.uk 7th July 2006; The Independent 7th February 2004; Observer 25th January 2004

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has rejected (February 2007) an application to have Undershaw upgraded to Grade I status stating that the writer was not judged significant enough to warrant the change.

". . . cannot be said to be an author of the standing of . . .Charles Dickens or Jane Austen." English Heritage, who advised the Government on the application.

The fallout has been considerable with writers condemning the move and failing to recognise the literary importance of Conan Doyle.

The writer Julian Barnes' (Flaubert's Parrot 1984 Booker shortlisted) novel Arthur & George features the house extensively. The Booker shortlisted story based on the true tale of an early 20th century solicitor who had been accused of maiming cattle and who is saved by the intervention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

"Given that you can't channel-surf without coming across a Conan Doyle adaptation of some sort, I think the Secretary of State (Tessa Jowell) is profoundly misguided," said Barnes. "It is a fine and interesting property and a rare example of a house where a writer was the co-architect of their house. The only other I can think of is Thomas Hardy's."

The creator of Inspector Rebus, Ian Rankin, has added weight to the criticism calling it 'literary snobbery'.

"He created one of the most recognisable and archetypal figures in literature, and if this house is not worth saving, then I would say that no house is worth saving."

The Victorian Society, who made the application, have lodged an appeal pointing out anomalies in the department's approach by citing the Grade II* listing of a house that belonged to the grandmother of poet Tennyson simply because he had stayed there.

"I think if we are going to list any house with literary connections, it is of more interest and a greater part of our heritage than a house that belonged to Tennyson's grandmother," said Julian Barnes.

"No one is arguing that it bears architectural comparisons to a building such as St Paul's Cathedral, but it's the resonance of what it means and the person who lived there and what he achieved," said Kathryn Ferry, architectural adviser for the Victorian Society. "There is all this accumulated history. There is a sense of snobbery about this being someone who is best known as a crime writer, which can't be as significant as someone like Dickens or other 'literary greats' - and I do have a problem with that."

The Independent on Sunday 11th February 2007

The fact that the local council has now (May 2007) taken action to secure emergency repairs to the building was highlighted in this piece published by Private Eye in their 'Nooks and Corners' section:

Hooray for Waverley Borough Council in Surrey, which has dared do what most local authorities are too scared, mean or irresponsible to do, even though they have the powers under historic buildings legislation: it has sent in builders to carry out emergency repairs to a listed building being deliberately neglected by its owners.

The beneficiary is Undershaw, the house at Hindhead built in the 1890s by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for himself and his wife. It was bought in 2002 by developers who have since tried to multilate it by chopping it up into flats.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Society awaits the result of its appeal against the refusal to upgrade Undersaw to grade I by Culture secretary Tessa Jowell. She dismissed the house as "unremarkable", adding: "The building most closely associated with [Sherlock] Holmes is 221b Baker Street. I would be only too pleased to consider listing that building Grade I should a request come forward." It remains unclear whether Jowell was joking or really thinks the fictional detective's address actually exists. 'Piloti'

Private Eye No. 1185 26 May - 7 June 2007

The repairs under an Urgent Repairs Notice (URN) had to address the loss of areas of the lead roof to thieves and to protect the building against further vandalism and damage from the elements. Since the URN was issued by Waverley Council in December 2006 the owners have completed remedial works including making the building secure but did not comply with the requirement to install 'an effective temporary scaffold lid'. The council undertook the installation at a cost of £22,242 and is entitled to reclaim this, plus the ongoing £1,160 monthly rental of the scaffolding' from the owners. The council also fitted an alarm system.

The owners have stated that they intend to install a close-fitting temporary felt roof to replace the scaffolding that is now becoming insecure. The council are exploring whether a full repair notice will need to be enforced. If this notice was not complied with the council could start compulsory purchase proceedings.

“Officers can continue to advise potential future purchasers, and the current owner, on acceptable uses for the building and the scope for adaptation and extension. However, an owner of a listed building has no duty to maintain it. A local authority can intervene by serving an urgent works notice requiring emergency mothballing measures of a vacant property (which Waverley has done) and/or by serving a repairs notice requiring proper permanent repair of a building (whether or not occupied).

A repairs notice, under the Planning (Listed Buildings and ConservationAreas) Act 1990 s48, offers an owner the opportunity to undertake proper and reasonable and necessary permanent repair. This would need only a little updating to form the basis of a formal repairs notice. If the owner fails to undertake the items specified in a repairs notice the sanction is that the Council may, subject to various rights of appeal, begin compulsory purchase proceedings. Compulsory purchase would be at a price determined by the District Valuer, and would take account of the condition of  the building but also the reasonable planning potential of the site. If a local authority has no need of the property for its own use, the usual practice would be first to identify a suitable party prepared to buy the property in an immediate back to back deal by way of open competition / auction / sealed bids etc.” Abridged extract from WBC Executive Report 2nd September 2008

The building since March 2004 has been in the ownership of Fossway Ltd registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The Save Undershaw Appeal, which was launched in 2008, has succeeded in raising public awareness as to the building’s plight and the potential it also has for playing a part in the regeneration of Hindhead. Public consultations carried out in 2008 by local action group Hindhead Together, as part of their survey of 350 local residents and businesses into the re-development of the Hindhead crossroads, revealed the strong opinion that the building should be put to a use that retains public access.

A previous attempt to purchase Undershaw and renovate it back to its former glory as a hotel and wedding venue failed in 2008. Alternative plans being explored include converting the building into a visitor and heritage centre and a youth hostel by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA).

“We share the anxiety expressed by the Hindhead Together partnership about the future of Undershaw. Plans to develop this listed building for purely residential use with no recognition of its past history seem very unsympathetic. Undershaw is of great historical significance and we are keen to see it preserved for local people and SherlockHolmes fans throughout the world. If sufficient interest and funding was raised we would be keen to work with the others members of the Hindhead Together partnership to explore whether the property could be used as a visitor centre and gateway to the outstanding landscape of the Devil’s Punchbowl.” National Trust

“I am adding my wholehearted support to this campaign as I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and also a great believer in the importance of keeping the building’s literary heritage alive and well for the area and for future generations,” said South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt

A 10-year-old Hindhead schoolboy, who was involved in a project at Shottermill junior school about Conan Doyle and his home, became so angered at the plight of Undershaw that he started his own campaign to raise a petition to present to Waverley Borough Council.

"The more Harry found out about the house the more strongly he felt that it should be saved," said his mother Julia Groves. "As his parents we have always tried to teach him not just to accept the way things are but to try to challenge them if he feels they are wrong, and he asked what we thought he could do to try to help protect Undershaw. I feel extremely proud of him, that this small boy could feel so passionately that he wants to try to make a difference. We can only hope now that the council takes the local views into account."

Harry Groves raised a petition of more than 30 names, many of them collected after a presentation he made to his class.

"I felt really sad when I read about what was going to happen to Undershaw, because it is a really nice place with lots of history and it does not deserve to be knocked down," he said. "The Sherlock Holmes stories are in my top three favourites. I stood in front of my class and told them about it and some of them were sad too so they signed my petition and I sent it in the post."

Waverley Borough Council rejected the latest application (March 2010) which was to convert the building into flats. At the centre of the decision was the fact that there were concerns that the plans would be contrary to the Hindhead Together plan to promote the area as a tourist attraction. Previous applications that have all fallen through have included conversion to a hotel, wedding venue and museum.

"Once this decision is taken and once the house is divided up with floor to ceiling concrete walls, Undershaw will be ruined for eternity," said John Gibson, director of the Undershaw Preservation Trust prior to the decision. "There will be no going back. If the literary heritage and the potential of this site is disregarded so flippantly it will be a stain on the record of the authority that we will not forget."

Stephen Fry, the actor, writer and presenter of TV show QI has joined the 1,500 people objecting to plans of redevelopment.

Surrey Advertiser 18th March 2010; Surrey Advertiser 9th April 2010

Permission for the redevelopment of Undershaw was granted (June 2010) despite a high-profile campaign, three petitions featuring over 1,100 signatures and 213 letters of objection. The developers can now proceed to convert the building into three flats with a new-build of five three-storey townhouses alongside.

Objectors included Stephen Fry, Sir Christopher Frayling and actor William Roache.

"The proposed use maintains the domestic character and appearance of the building and its setting," said a spokesman for the developers. "In addition, however, it also replaces an unsympathetic extension with a building which is considered by officers to be of architectural distinction."

"This house has got tremendous historical importance," said Cllr Jim Edwards, the only councillor to vote against the planning officer's recommendation. "This is a massive development, and quite unacceptable in my view."

"Not nearly enough attention is given in the officers' report to the vast, almost unprecedented swell of objections," said John Gibson, director of the Undershaw Preservation Trust, addressing the planning meeting. "They say those nearest to the object often do not appreciate what they have until it is gone. If this is allowed to proceed it will be irreversible, and the character and integrity gone, and with it all public access."

"It is just such a shame that all that history will be lost forever," said Ricahrd Doyle, Conan Doyle's great-nephew. "The family had been trying to come up with ways of buying it, but the price was so high we could not afford it. We just wish there was something we could do."

Source: Surrey Advertiser 10th June 2010

In the ongoing battle to save Undershaw the Undershaw Preservation Trust announced (March 2012) that a judicial review has been scheduled to take place in May 2012.

"We've been working hard to get the hearing as we and our legal team believe the decision to develop was unlawful," said Lynn Gale of the Trust. "We need to remain optimistic that the decision can be overturned. We want to see the house remain as a single unit. All we can do is continue to raise awareness of the house worldwide. In the last year we've been inundated with emails from supporters." Surrey Advertiser 9th March 2012

Speckled Wood

The National Trust centre at Swan Barn Farm in Haslemere is having a new 'ecologically-sound' accommodation block for long-term volunteers constructed (2011). The building, named Speckled Wood after the butterfly, is being built from materials sourced from local trust properties.

The house, designed and built by Lodsworth woodsman and eco-author Ben Law, has used almost all natural materials with planks and beams sawn on-site. Clay excavated from the foundations has been used on the walls. Douglas fir has been used for roof rafters and larch for the many thousand shingles that make up the roof tiles.

A bio-mass heating system has ensured that the building is 'an ultr low carbon emission unit'.

The Peasant Arts Movement

The Haslemere Peasant Arts Society was founded in 1897 to source and preserve traditional handicraft made in the area, and also to inspire local people to maintain the traditions of craft and weaving. The collections were to be housed in the Peasant Art Handicraft Museum which were eventually moved to the Haslemere Education Museum in 1926.

A significant collection of 600 peasant art objects, gathered by Gerald Davies a master at Charterhouse School in Godalming during his travels across Europe between 1885 and 1908, was sold at a 'nominal fee' to the society in 1909.

An article, published by The Craftsman in January 1902, describes the location of the Peasant Arts movement in Haslemere. The author was Mary Woolson, President of the American Women's Educational and Industrial Union. The abridged version below was sourced from the Peasant Arts Haslemere blog.

A more ideal setting for a village industry, whose avowed purpose is to make good hand-made materials under ideal conditions, could scarcely be found. In the southwest corner of Surrey, in a deep valley between wooded cliffs, is the little town which straggles picturesquely in winding lanes like wandering vines up the steep slopes. In summer, in the near distance, the eye traverses stretches yellow with gorse and broom, and purple with heather up to the hig, dark ridge of Hindhead.

The village keeps its mediaeval appearance. The cottages of the people are low, with slanting tiled roofs. These ancient hand-made tiles of many varieties are well known to architects and antiquarians. The lanes are often so steep that the sidewalk is only on one side, while a high, abrupt cliff rises on the other.

The sidewalk gradually ascends above the road way and the cottages open on the sidewalk with a steep staircase descending to the road. This gives a curious and picturesque effect to the old stone cottages and the half timber houses with their overhanging stories. The workers in the Haslemere Industries live in such homes as these, surrounded from birth with charming nature and the simple artistic handwork of man.

The Peasant Arts movement were active campaigners against the spread of industrialisation. One of their core beliefs is introduced in a brochure Haslemere Weaving Industry published by the group: "... the belief that the production of materials by hand for use in the home and for the clothing of its inmates is a great source of happiness for the worker and has besides an educational value hardly to be measured."

The Peasant Arts Guild benefitted from the donation of Foundry Meadow in 1914. The land was the site of weaving houses and workshops that had been erected by politician and Joseph King at his property in Kings Road, Haslemere. He created the Peasant Art Handicraft museum here in 1912. King also supervised the move of the collection to Haslemere Educational Museum, and contributed funding to assist with housing the collection. King lived with his family in the Arts and Crafts inspired Sandhouse country house in Witley, completed by Francis Troup in 1902. The family moved to Hill Farm, Camelsdale near Haslemere in 1922.

Another notable resident active in the Peasant Art movement was Greville MacDonald, an eminent ear, nose and throat Harley Street specialist. After his retirement he moved to Wildwood, Weydown Road, Haslemere in 1919. His parents had lived in St Georges Wood, a house he had built for them in 1900. MacDonald provided financial help for the movement.

Wealden Iron Industry

This stretch of the Wey Valley was involved in what is collectively known as the Wealden Iron Industry which became active in Roman Times and continued on into the Middle Ages, and beyond. Iron smelting in the valley used local ironstone, which can be easily found today lying on the ground all around, and burning locally made charcoal as the heat source. Early smelting was in bloomeries, so called because these simple clay furnaces produced a ‘bloom’ or a lump of iron. The adopting of water-powered bellows in the 14th century increased productivity, but the local industry was dramatically transformed at the end of the 15th century when the secrets of blast furnaces were learned from French iron makers who settled just across the Sussex border. The new iron was cast into ingots called ‘sows’ and ‘pigs’ which had a high carbon content making the iron strong enough to be used in guns and cannon balls. The introduction of great waterwheel driven hammers enabled carbonless wrought iron to be shaped into all manner of products bringing considerable wealth to the area. There are good examples of hammer ponds, the reservoirs feeding power to the hammers, and the references remaining in the names of settlements in the valley laying witness to the importance of the industry here. Hence the likes of Hammer, Hammer Hill, Hammer Bottom and Hammer Moor to name but a few.


Bramshott, Liphook &
THAT George Best Brawl!

Now in the county of Hampshire, the Wey brushes past the small town of Liphook and there veers northwards by the ancient village of Bramshott with its 13th century church (GR: SU843329), the manor there important enough to have been listed in the Domesday Survey, and on towards Lindford.

A grand house, Bramshott Place (GR: SU843322), was built by John Hooke, a clothier from Godalming, in the 16th century, and it was here that Balfour masterminded his strategies before the Battle of Cheriton Wood (1644) in the English Civil War. The original house, which took five years to build and was finished in 1580, was intended as a status symbol for Hooke who fraternised with leading Parliamentarians of the day.

17th century Hearth Tax documents listed 15 chimneys in a red brick structure designed along a Dutch style, although no pictures survive of what must have been a grand country residence. Demolished in 1850 all that remains as a memory of the house today is a Tudor gatehouse. This is a small square two-storey brick building circa. 1575 located in the grounds of the 19th-century Bramshott Place, now King George's Hospital. It was one of a pair, and the main house was situated to the south of this remaining gatehouse, with The Great Bowling Green to the left of the drive. In 1610 Hooke bought the manorial rights of Bramshott to provide a further mark of his status, shifting the locakl centre of power from the original manor house situated near the church.

Liphook itself developed as a settlement providing services for the Stage Post with coaches travelling from London to Portsmouth. The Royal Anchor Hotel, founded in 1416, regularly provided hospitality for royalty including Queen Victoria, George III and William IV. Samuel Pepys and Lord Nelson were also guests, and an Elizabethan door presented by Queen Victoria bearing the royal arms graces the bar. The novelist Flora Thompson (1874-1947) wrote the Peverel Papers as a Liphook resident in 1916 inspired by the beauty of the area. A plaque identifies her house, once the post office where her husband was Postmaster, and there is a bust of her opposite the new post office.

And where does the legendary George Best fit into the history of Liphook? The high-living English veteran footballer, sadly now more renowned for his alcohol fuelled high jinks than his once unbeatable skills on the pitch, was a local man and made front-page news for a drunken brawl in 2004. Reportedly according to Best's account he was seated in The Royal Anchor quietly sipping a white wine spritzer when a resident took a swing at him. The other man told a different story.

The remains of an ice house (GR: SU825308), used to preserve food a few centuries ago, lies buried in the grounds of Foley Manor on the outskirts of the town. It consists of a 12 ft (3.7 m) diameter circular brick chamber with a dome supported by an iron pole. The property is not open to the public. There are several examples of ice houses in the Wey Valley with the best preserved at Hatchlands (GR: SU ) a National Trust property near East Clandon.

The parish has associations with Sydney and Beatrice Webb, founders of the Fabian Society in 1884, and who built Passfield Corners. The Fabian Society is a socialist think tank dedicated to social reform through political debate, and today has a considerable membership of leading socialist reformers.

Bramshott Mill during the early17th century operated as an iron mill known locally as the Bramshott Hammer. In 1690 this was converted to papermilling. The Mill House, then owned by the brother of a Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, was burned to the ground by suffragettes in 1913. Only the front steps and a garden wall remain. Another mill, this milling flour, was built in the 18th century at Bramshott and was converted to the Old Mill House (GR: SU837332) as a private residence in the early 20th century. The house has retained some of the machinery, sluices and part of the millpond although the waterwheel was dismantled. Standford Mill is recorded as operating papermilling from 1808 and the building was converted into a private residence in the 1970s. Standford is also documented as having had an iron furnace at some point.

The valley here has a long history of iron-making dating back to Roman times and various springs rise here to serve as tributaries to the Wey. Closer to Lindford the river runs through the grounds of Passfield Manor. A public footpath runs alongside the lake which is set in picturesque grounds, and it is possible to have a glimpse of the impressive manor house here (GR: SU828337). Passfield Mill was a paper mill in the late 17th century and built on the site of an iron mill. A series of fires in the late 18th and early 19th centuries resulted in a relatively modern brick replacement, and the Mill and Mill House have now been absorbed into a light industrial park, the Passfield Mill Business Park (GR: SU819345).


Headley Mill - Living History

Although at its peak there were at least a dozen watermills active at one time or another on the six mile stretch of river between Haslemere and Lindford, it is not until Headley Mill (GR:SU812356) that there is any significant example left of industry directly associated with the Wey. This mill is the last commercially working watermill in Hampshire with the firm J. Ellis & Sons working the mill to produce feedstuffs for animal and poultry, running modern machinery from the relatively modern (1927) breast-shot waterwheel. There are four pairs of the original mill stones in situ which, although not used for animal feedstuff production, have been kept in working order and are occasionally run for public demonstration. Each stone is 4ft (1.2m) in diameter and 10ins (25cm) thick weighing in at 15cwt (762kgs) There is a scale model of Headley Mill at the Haslemere Museum.

Woolmer Forest

Woolmer Forest (GR: SU800320) alongside Bordon and Liphook has a landscape of rolling hills with partial heather and forestry coverage together with low lying bogs and ponds, and has benefited by being under the control of the army (see Bordon garrison below). The name derives from the ancient 'Wolf Mere' when native species of carnivores roamed the area. Stone Age artifacts, pre-Roman burial mounds and Roman coins have been found across the local area. The forest was under the direct control of the Crown as a Royal Forest until the 14th century and served for centuries beyond this as a source of timber for the naval shipyards.

The forest's current size of approximately a square mile can be compared to that recorded by Gilbert White in 1789.

"The Royal Forest of Wolmer is a tract of land about 7 miles in length by 2 1/2 in breadth, running nearly from north to south, and is abutted on, to begin to the south, and so to proceed eastward, by the parishes of Greatham, Lysse, Rogate and Trotton, in the County of Sussex; by Bramshott, Hedleigh and Kingsley. This Royalty consists entirely of sand covered with heath and fern; but is somewhat diversified with hills and dales, without having one standing tree in the whole extent. In the bottoms, where the waters stagnate, are many bogs, which formerly abounded with subterraneous trees. . ."

Parts of the original forest still remain as scattered parcels including Broxhead Common and Slab Common in Whitehill, Kingsley Common, Shortheath Common in Worldham and Ludshott Common in Bramshott. An area of heathland within the forest has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Protected Area (SPA) covers Longmoor. The Deadwater Valley Walk penetrates a 50 acre area of heath and woodland.

The forest boasts 500 species of wild plants with several listed as of national and local rarity. The bogs are especially important habitats and harbour two species of carniverous Sundews (Drosera), 11 species of Sphagnum Moss and Hare's Tail (Lagurus ovatus), Cotton Grass (Eriophorum vaginatum) and White-beaked Sedge (Rhynchospora alba). 70 species of fungi have also been recorded.

Fauna species are plentiful too with over 50 species of spiders, 300 moths, 34 butterflies, 25 hover-flies, 12 wasps, 10 bees, 24 dragonfly and damselfly, 71 terrestrial and over 57 aquatic beetle. Many of these insect species are rare with one of the water beetles (Graphoderus zonatus) being unique to the area. Local environmentalists claim that the forest is the only place in Britain where all 12 species of native amphibians and reptiles can be found in one place including the rare Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis) and Smooth Snakes (Coronella austriaca), and Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita). 133 bird species have been recorded including Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and the rare Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata). Mammals include roe deer, water voles and the ubiquitous foxes, rabbits and grey squirrels, and smaller mammals including several species of bat together with mice, weasels, stoats and shrew.

In 1974 the Ministry of Defence established the Woolmer Conservation Group, its first (they now have over 200 worldwide at locations where the British military are based). The group coordinates the combined activities of English Nature, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Naturalist Trust, the British Herpetological Society, Deer Management and the MOD's Defence Land Agents. A carefully monitored management plan is followed which has included dredging and enlarging Woolmer Pond (GR: SU787318) and clearing many hectares of scrub. The army has implemented a no-firing policy on the ranges in September annually to facilitate conservation efforts.

However under a 2007 defence review the MOD are closing the REME garrison at Bordon and fears are being expressed locally as to the future of the forest. SEE BELOW

The Army at Bordon

Bordon, which has the origin of its name from a hill fort overlooking Woolmer Forest, and Whitehill are two linked settlements that have rapidly grown over the last century in part due to the army garrison based here. The area with Woolmer Forest at its centre is steeped in ancient history dating back to the Stone Age. The forest is the remnant of a medieval hunting forest that covered much of North East Hampshire, with the heathland rich in natural wildlife habitats. Much of this environment has been preserved due to the fact that 300 hectares was secured by the War Office in the 1860s to be used for military training.

The adjoining village of Whitehill, records of which date back to 13th-century maps, prospered from being a stopping post for the new turnpike roads. The first, built in 1826, was cut through the forest to link Farnham and Petersfield with a second constructed in the 1860s connecting Liphook and Greatham.

The Army had a garrison at Bordon prior to the Boer War (1899 - 1902) during which camps were built to receive troops returning from the war and celebrated its centenary in 2004. The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) currently have 4 Battalion, which was formed in 2000, based at Bordon, and has a remit to provide equipment support to mechanised brigades. This support includes the maintenance and repair of vehicles and electronic equipment at barracks and in the field on active duty. The battalion was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and in 2007 is on duty in Afghanistan.

The School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (SEME) was founded in 1961 from two REME training units based at the Bordon garrison (GR: SU790355) and has a role to train servicemen and women in electro-mechanical skills and as well as units from the Corps of REME it also provides training for foreign and Commonwealth soldiers and civilians. Over 140 different courses, which have been provided for the regiment by Vosper Thornycroft since 1998, cover vehicle mechanics, armoury and metalworking. The unit is one of the country's largest training organisations with over 4,000 students undertaking courses annually and 1,200 students in active training at any one time.

The 468 Specialist Territorial Army Volunteer soldiers of 104 Battalion REME are headquartered at the Bordon garrison.

St George's Garrison Church in Station Road, Bordon provides Church of England services for service personnel and their families.

Three miles (4.8km) away near Greatham a training camp is operated at Longmoor (GR: SU795307) which originally provided an operational centre for the Infantry, Royal Engineers and Royal Corps of Transport. The area has been used for military training since 1863 when the Army purchased 781 acres of land at Longmoor from the Commissioner of Her Majesty's Woods, Forests and Lands. Initially soldiers had to march a distance of 20 miles (32km) from the Aldershot garrison town breaking camp on land now occupied by St Lucia and Trenchard Parks, until a permanent camp was established. Construction work was completed in 1903 but the camp was never popular with soldiers who complained of 'damp and unhealthy ground'. The problem became so bad that in the same year the War Office was forced to relocate part of Longmoor Camp to Bordon.

In order to move 68 huts to Bordon a two-track narrow (18" / 46cm) gauge railway was built through the forest and heath, the route of which can still be seen today. The huts, which were 72ft (22m) long, 21ft (6.4m) wide and weighed 30 - 40 tons were each cranked up on to seven pairs of trolleys and were towed by the joint efforts of horses, steam and manpower at an average speed of 3 mph (4.8 kph). The process was laborious requiring a steel hawser to be dragged forward 500 yards (457m) along the tracks by two horses. The cable attached to a steam powered winch mounted on a platform to the front of the hut was then hitched to a tree and the trolleys winched forward before the process had to be repeated. On the steeper gradients traction engines were deployed to assist in the winching process. As the average weekly movement was only four huts the whole process of relocation took two years to complete. The relocation, which was completed in 1905, was not without incident and included one fatality. A sapper of the Royal Engineers lost his life when a hut swung sideways when being jacked back on to the ground and crushed him. Another incident when one of the huts fell from the line at Whitehill resulted in the hut being abandoned and being used for a time as the local police station. The police hut stood right alongside the 1907 military railway (see below). The existing police station was built in 1931 behind the site of the original.

The camp remaining today, which opened in 1978, is designated as a self-catering facility with units having to bring in their own stores and catering personnel and can accommodate 99 officers, 137 non-commissioned officers and 500 junior ranks. Nearby are the Longmoor Ranges which spread across Broxhead Common, Kingsley Common, Shortheath Common, Hogmoor Enclosure and The Warren. Woolmer Forest including Cranmer Pond and Woolmer Pond fall within the ranges' designated danger area. The ranges are open to the public when not in use by the military, access being denied when red flags are flying on the perimeter during the day or red lights are activated at night. Public access is permitted subject to the provisions of the Aldershot and District Military Lands Byelaws 1976 and the Longmoor Ranges and Demolition Training Areas Byelaws 1982.

The London and South Western Railway opened a link from Bentley to Bordon in 1905 and the War Office extended this in the same year to Longmoor. The route chosen was different to the narrow gauge railway because of the steep gradients that had to be negotiated there, with the standard gauge line being constructed close to the Whitehill to Greatham road. The Army constructed workshops, stores and a locomotive shed at Longmoor with much of the construction utilising materials salvaged from the Suakin-Berber military railway that had been built during the Sudan campaign of 1882 - 1885. The army's link was completed in 1907 and was designated as the Woolmer Instructional Military Railway (WIMR) which servicemen quickly renamed as the 'Will It Move Railway'. Various Railway Regiments were based here until 1969 when the Longmoor Military Railway was closed. The line was dismantled in 1971.

During the First World War Canadian soldiers were billeted at both Bordon and Longmoor, at which time a sawmill was constructed by the Canadian Forestry Corps by the Deer's Hut at Liphook. The Canadians returned during the Second World War and the existing SEME training area at Bordon was a Canadian Base Ordnance Depot and Workshop. A commemorative stone was erected in 1985 on the site of the original Garrison Church in memory of Canadian soldiers who served during both wars.

Two miles (3.2km) away at Oakhanger are based three satellite communications units which provide a ground relay station for the control of UK and allied satellites. RAF Oakhanger provided the focal point of UK military satellite communications for all three services from 1969 until 2003 when the base was closed as an RAF station. An independent contractor now provides the UK Military Satellite Communication System service.

The Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre in Station Road, Bordon was converted from a former Edwardian school. Described as 'intimate' the theatre puts on over 30 professional shows a year. The site of the modern One Stop convenience store was where the Church of England in 1904 had constructed a Soldiers and Sailors Institute building to provide leisure facilities. The structure, which was officially opened by Princess Alexander of Teck, was of corrugated iron with a wooden-boarded interior and took seven weeks to complete. The facilities included a refreshment room, a reading and writing room where concerts were held, a billiard room, a large devotional room with a harmonium and five bedrooms and two bathrooms. The facility was later added to with a 500 seater hall and a dance hall. The building was demolished in 1960.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has decided (2007) to consolidate army training following a Defence Training Review from the current 30 sites nationally to 10. Up to 600 acres of MOD land at Bordon will be released for local development over the next few years with the possibility of up to 5,500 houses being built on the land. Local campaigners are arguing for the Bordon rail link to be restored to help absorb travel demands from the huge influx of new residents. £564,000 has been earmarked for providing a facelift for Bordon town centre and will be used to link the Forest Community and Forest Shopping Centres and provide an outdoor arena.

The electro-mechanical training currently delivered by SEME at Bordon will be relocated to St Athan in South Wales with a small unit remaining at Bordon for vehicle recovery training. Military and civilian personnel and students locally will be reduced by an estimated 1,800. Initial reports suggest that the transition will be completed by 2011.



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