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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
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The River Wey South Branch
On to Frensham and Tilford

A difficult valley to manage for farming provided the stimulus for developing the Wey Meadows method of water management. The river here also provided power for mills in an area of outstanding natural beauty.



There are a number of organisations that focus on preserving and reintroducing viable habitats for plants and animals along the Wey Valley. One of these, the Surrey Wildlife Trust, has active involvement in a number of key sites. The Moor Park Nature Reserve near Farnham covers 19 acres and has preserved the last remaining deep water alder swamp left in Surrey. Nationally the 'alder carr' as a habitat is very rare, and the efforts of the Trust and their volunteers has resulted in a self-sustaining habitat with hundreds of species now very settled, with Moor Park as their preferred home.

click image to enlarge

Waverley Borough Council arranges (2007) Walking for Health which are organised walks around Frensham Ponds and the hills around Churt. Duration: Frensham Walk around village and along the Wey 5 miles. Frensham Little Pond to Tilford 7 miles. Churt and the Surrey Hills 8 miles. The Two Ponds Walk (unaccompanied) is an easy loop suitable for wheelchairs around Frensham Common 01483 523392

“To do a Hare”
Farnham 18th century Recipe
“With time & onion & parsley Shrid & Strowed over hare as he is rosting yu bast him in milk.” Old Surrey Receipts & Food for Thought. Daphne Grimm

The Royal Anchor Hotel in Liphook, founded in 1416, boasts an Elizabethab door presented by Queen Victoria and adorned with her royal arms. The town was an important staging post and many important figures of the day overnighted there. Others included George III, William IV, Samuel Pepys and Lord Nelson.

The Tilford Bach Society was established in 1952 by Denys Darlow the director of the London Handel Society and organist at Tilford church. The Society specialises in performances of baroque music played with authentic instruments. Under the current directorship of Laurence Cummings, Head of Historic Performance at the Royal Academy of Music, regular performances are held at Farnham Castle and Tilford church.

"Guildford Orienteers hosted the OO Trophy Regional Event at Waggoners Wells in Hampshire. Over 650 competitors took part and were blessed by blue skies and sunshine as they took on terrain comprising heathland and a mixture of deciduous and coniferous forest. Route choice was the main challenge of the day, with plenty of paths and tracks available, while straight line routes often meant climb through the valleys in the woodland or pushing hard through the heather and bracken on the heath." Source: nopesport.com 15th January 2007

A Waverley countryside ranger was struck by lightning (May 2007) whilst at the ranger office near Frensham Ponds. Steve Webster was hit in the back of the leg when the lightning charge struck the building, but only suffered from shock(!). It was not the best of starts for Webster who had just begun the job. "It was my third day. I was standing inside on a stone floor and was not directly hit but it fried the fire alarm." Source: Surrey Advertiser 18th May 2007

Straddling the River Wey near Dockenfield is the aptly named Mellow Farm (GR: SU821388) where enthusiasts gathered (2008) from around the world to extol the virtues of the relatively unknown musical instrument – the hang. Resembling a wok, the hang, which was developed in Switzerland, is played with the hands and has seven or eight notes around the circumference with a single bass note at its centre. Think of a cut down version of a steel drum and you’ll have the right image in your head. The gathering at 'The HangOut' centred on a barn called The Chicken Shed and would probably have baffled the farmer who originally set up camp here in 1566.

to The River Wey

to the

Wey Meadows

This stretch of the river as far as Frensham was once renowned for the Wey Meadows which had been actively managed since the 1680s through until the early 20th century. Controlled irrigation, utilising water diverted onto the meadows from the river through a network of ‘carriers’ or man-made channels was funneled back into the Wey through drains and provided a system that greatly aided hay production. This system of improving agricultural yields was pioneered in Britain by Sir Richard Weston, the man who funded and masterminded the construction of the Wey Navigation.

Rising on sandstone, unlike the North Branch which rises on chalk, the upper reaches of the South Branch of the Wey suffered from a difficult geology and profile being restricted by a relatively narrow valley and small irregular meadows. There is much evidence over many centuries of the construction of stone aqueducts to ease the flow of water servicing agriculture and industry. A series of channels and sluices survive in the water meadows of both Bramshott and Ludshott Manors. Near Radford Bridge a single arch stone bridge carries a brick lined water channel, and at Passfield two arches of a sluice survives. The remains of an aqueduct (GR: SU833334) is located not far from Bramshott at Bramshott Court, just downstream from the confluence of the tributary Cooper’s Stream. All around are large numbers of the water meadows system of field channels centering on GR: SU842323, all evidence to this concerted effort at effectively managing the Wey’s water flow in this part of the valley.

The aquaduct between the sites of Bramshott paper mill and Standford paper mill has recently been restored (2005) by the River Wey Trust.


Waggoners Wells

Cooper’s Stream discharges from Waggoners Wells (GR: SU859342), a series of three ponds lying between Grayshott and Bramshott, and now a popular beauty spot. These ponds were formed by the creation of three dams in 1615 constructed by Henry Hooke to act as hammerponds for an iron mill planned for the site. There is no evidence of any mill or iron industry activity left today suggesting that the mill itself was never built. The surrounding Ludshott Common, managed by the National Trust, is one of the largest remaining areas of heathland in East Hampshire, and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and also a Special Protection Area awarded because of the richness of its wildlife. There is a conspicuous concrete road (GR: SU858353) scarring the eastern side of the common. This was laid by Canadian troops who were stationed in the area during the Second World War and is a memorial to their Camp Superior which consisted of over 100 wooden huts, the foundations of some still remaining. Apple trees, rose bushes and privet hedges still remain in places, a leftover of the gardens the soldiers had cultivated. Local residents believe there to be a mass burial of Canadian military vehicles somewhere on the Common as it was deemed at the end of the war a cheaper method of decommissioning than shipping the surplus ones back to Canada.

At Standford a paper mill once operated. Here there is a considerable water management system with a large millpond and weir where the old Standford Mill (GR: SU813350) drew its water to power the waterwheel for the hammers used in papermaking. Further downstream the part weatherboarded mill and house of the old Standford corn mill (GR: appSU813353) has been renovated to become the private residence Corn Mill Cottage.

Frensham Ponds and Frensham Common

The two Frensham Ponds, Great (GR: SU846403) and Little (GR: SU858414) sit in the middle of Frensham Common which provides a range of significant wildlife habitats including dry and wet heathland, reedbeds and alder carr, and pine and mixed woodlands. The common has various protective statuses including a Special Protection Area, a Site of Special Scientific Importance (SSSI), The Flashes Nature Reserve, an Area of Outstanding Beauty, the Kings Ridge Barrows as a Scheduled Monument, and an Area of Historic Landscape Value.

Frensham Great Pond by Paul Farmer
click on image to go to photographer's website Click to visit Garth Allan's Website

The Little Pond, owned and managed by the National Trust, is manmade and was formed when a dam was built in 1246. It was used to supply fish to the Court of the Bishop of Winchester when in residence at nearby Farnham Castle, and was drained on a five year year cycle to cleanse the soil and grow barley for brewing. The common and great Pond is leased to Waverley Borough Council by the National Trust which manages the area. Both ponds were drained in the Second World War to confuse enemy aircraft navigators and were subsequently used for tank training exercises until they were refilled in 1949. Pioneering flights of flying boats were carried out here after the First World War. A yacht club operates on Frensham Great Pond, and the common and both ponds are a popular leisure area.

frensham Pond by Paul Farmer
click on image to go to photographer's website Click to visit Garth Allan's Website

A study released (February 2007) by the Environment Agency covered the 1,047 'most ecologically valuable' of Britain's 14,000 lakes and highlighted that 379 of them are severely degraded and in urgent need of rehabilitation. Frensham Great Pond was listed as one of those whose ecology is under threat, in its case by substances reaching the lake from earth being disturbed by road building and other developments in its catchment area. The lake is particularly interesting in that it has an ecology closer to lakes in the country's northern uplands.

Nine of the country's 18 species of bats have been recorded at Little Pond. A hunt for bats by the Haslemere Natural History Society (September 2010) proved to be very successful.

"With the help of bat detectors five species were seen or heard," said society secretary Judith Kusel. "The tiny common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle flew by twists and turns round clearings in the trees, the largest British bat the noctule flew in a straight line overhead and the Daubenton's bats skimmed over the water, dipping to the surface to catch their prey. Faint calls of a serotine were recorded on the detectors and possibly a brown long-eared bat." Surrey Advertiser 17th September 2010

A heathland fire on Frensham Common (July 2010) ravaged sensitive habitats and got perilously close to nearby homes. Surrey Fire and Rescue Service reckoned on their crews having saved property worth over £6m.

"The flames, fanned by westerly winds, were moving towards cottages at Lowicks Road," said fireman Alan Clark. "But then the wind suddenly changed direction, bringing properties along the A287 into direct line of the fire, as well as hundreds more hectares of wildlife habitats." bbc.co.uk 29th July 2010

The brigade had mobilised more than 90 firefighters, and eventually managed to control the blaze by bulldozing a firebreak from Frensham Pond across to Little Pond. So fierce had been the blaze that residue crews supported by rangers and volunteers continued to monitor the site for another five days to ensure hotspots didn't re-ignite.

Not surprisingly the wild and beautiful setting of Frensham Ponds has attracted film makers. Carry on Jack (1963) including Kenneth Williams, Bernard Cribbins and Juliet Mills had the Great Pond stand in for the Spanish coastline. Carry on Columbus (1992) with an all star cast including Bernard Cribbins, Peter Richardson, Maureen Lipman and June Whitfield similarly used the ponds to represent the American coastline. The Mummy (1999) with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz also had scenes filmed here.

Frensham Pond sunset by Paul Farmer
click on image to go to photographer's website Click to visit Garth Allan's Website

At nearby Frensham village, a late 14th century church (GR: SU842415) dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, with a Norman font has unwittingly became part of local legend which says that a white witch Mother Ludlum living in a cave near Waverley Abbey had had a copper cauldron stolen from her. Fearing for their lives the perpetrators had taken refuge in the church and the cauldron they had stolen still rests in the church to this day. Modern commentators however say that the large cauldron in the church had always been church property and would have been used for making and dispensing refreshments for the villagers at religious festivals.


Frensham Mill (GR: SU837410) once part of the nearby manor (GR: SU837407) had two mill ponds, one of which was built on a small Wey tributary carrying runoff from Frensham Great Pond to ensure the corn mill had a constant supply of water even if the main river supply ran low. This large pond (GR: SU838401), which has a bridleway running between it and the expansive grounds of the manor house, feeds into the Wey about half a mile above where the mill was located. The first documentary map evidence of a mill sited here was in 1768, although a mill at ‘Feresham’ was highlighted in the Bishop of Winchester’s Rent Rolls of 1217. The mill had expanded to run three pairs of stones by 1876 when it was demolished and an even larger mill was built in its place becoming the largest mill in this part of the valley, although the timing appears to have coincided with the general downturn in millers’ fortunes as the mill closed in 1920. All that remains today of this once large 4 storey complex is the miller’s house and a three storey granary both of which can be seen from Mill Lane by the large mill tail pond.

Frensham Mill Bridge (GR: 8484205) carrying the A287 from Farnham south to Churt is an arched 16th century bridge that was completely rebuilt in 1905 using some of the original material for facing to keep up appearances. There is a rare decorative fingerpost (GR: SU848423) made in cast iron opposite the post office at Millbridge north of here. The road sign dates from the late 19th century.

Frensham Little Pond by Paul Farmer
click on image to go to photographer's website Click to visit Garth Allan's Website

There were other mills operating in this part of the valley along tributaries to the Wey. At Barford (GR: SU854378) in the Whitmoor Vale, which feeds a stream rising from springs near Grayshott into Frensham Great Pond, there were three mills. Barford Middle was a corn mill in the 1700s that remained operational until the First World War, having been forced to close in 1914 when the axle shaft from the waterwheel snapped. The mill was demolished leaving the miller’s house to be converted into a private residence. The other two, Lower and Upper, were both paper mills, although reference is made to these having regular financial difficulties due to their remote location. Iron working using water power must once have been important here as a Hammer Lane runs up into the hills near the mill.

A key initiative by county, district and parish councils together with local voluntary organisations was launched recently in the form of The River Wey Trust. The Trust seeks to undertake preservation and corrective work along the river with a small employed workforce and a band of volunteers. The range of the Trust’s interest is restricted to the Wey valley South Branch, between the Black Down source and the confluence at Tilford with the North Branch. The Trust welcomes new volunteers.

If you want further information about the Trust and the research they've compiled along this part of the river hunt out a copy of The Southern River Wey pub 1990 (ISBN 0-9514187-0-X) published by the Trust. Copies are available directly from the River Wey Trust, 12 London Road, Liphook GU30 7AN. www.riverweytrust.org.uk

Frensham Dairy Farm gifted to Countryside Restoration Trust

Pierrepont Farm (GR: SU859423) in Frensham was gifted by Jo Baker in May 2006 to the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT). The dairy farm includes 200 acres set in prime Surrey heathland and is sited next to the River Wey. The wet meadow owned by the farm is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) established to protect the important flora habitat.

Tenant farmers now run the farm which has a dairy supplied by a Pedigree Jersey herd. The Trust, in keeping with its remit, will run the farm as an example of a traditional dairy farm whilst demonstrating sympathetic wildlife management.

Pierrepont is one of the last dairy farms in Surrey and is in good hands being managed by Michael Clear who moved to the farm having run a herd of Jersey cattle on the island of Jersey.

"It is an incredibly generous gift from Jo Baker and we are going to do our best to help Michael run the farm at a profit, keep the wildlife of Pierrepont and produce good milk that people will want to buy," said Robin Page, Chairman of the CRT. "We feel that other, larger charities should have led the way in bringing the scandal of the dairy industry and its vanishing wildlife to the attention of the public – but failing action from them, the CRT is again happy to accept the challenge.”

The Trust has launched a 'adopt a Jersey' campaign to raise funds. The 60 head herd welcomed six calves, Squirrel, Fanfare, Nutmeg, Moonlight, Tipple and Carla, born in January which are being offered up for 'adoption'. Adopting will allow you to follow your calf's progress and get to meet up too.

The Countryside Restoration Trust is a small charity that currently manages nine farms around the country. Their intention is to demonstrate profitable farming whilst blending traditional thinking and sustainable modern methods to restore wildlife and maintain rural culture.

CRT press release May 2006

In an increasingly beleaguered dairy industry beset by problems imposed by price squeezes from the major food retailers, Pierrepont Farm has in its unique arrangement through ownership by a charitable trust a more promising future.

Many dairy farmers are living on the poverty line with farm-gate milk prices around 18p per litre, the lowest in Europe. The problems are traced back to the dissolution of the Milk Marketing Board in 1994 after EU regulations on competition were implemented which put milk prices into freefall.

"The industry is in crisis with milk prices being driven right down in the last six or seven years, below the cost opf production because of supermarkets and milk processors making ever higher profits and dictating the prices to farmers," said Michael Clear, tenant of the farm. "I've been in the industry for 20 years and know that the price for milk was higher 10 or 15 years ago than it is now. It was around 24p."

However the big retailers are now beginning to realise that more and more dairy farmers, who typically are having to work 70 hour weeks with only four day holidays a year, are being forced to abandon the industry and that something needs to be done to redress the situation before the milk supply chain collapses completely.

"They are starting to realise that so many are likely to leave the industry which is a real threat to milk supply and are realising that they will have to support farmers," said Clear. "Tesco are now offering an extra four pence on four pint products which, while not a huge amount, will make a difference."

One of the key difficulties imposed by low pricing is the inability for farmers to invest into their businesses for the future, a problem lessened for Pierrpont Farm by the support provided by the charitable trust. In common with the four other farmers supported by the trust Clear can plan for the future.

"You need a lot of capital to get started, but with the support of the trust, we've done it relatively cheaply with reduced rents. We are looking to diversify by producing yoghurt and gold top milk, but we are not able to invest enough for this yet."

Surrey Advertiser 27th April 2007

Churt & The Devil's Jumps

The village of Churt with a population of 1,098 (2001) lies on the Surrey Hampshire border and has been a site of human settlement since Neolithic times. Within a five mile radius archaeologists have recorded evidence including Neolithic flint tools, Bronze Age burial mounds and remains of Roman buildings. A mammoth tusk and bones were found nearby. The first record of Churt was in 688 AD when Caedwalla's charter gave land around 'Certe' to the church. Several iron mills were located nearby taking power from the stream running through Whitmoor Vale.

The village did not have its own church until 1838, the current building of St John the Evangalist having been constructed to replace the original wooden structure in 1868. The village hall was built and presented to the local community in 1928 by a local resident Frank Mason, and the recreation ground and WWI memorial were provided by public subscription in 1921.

The Old Mill (GR: SU854378) in Kitts Lane, Barford by Churt dates from 1780 and was converted into a 5-bedroomed private residence. Straddling the River Wey's southern branch the stone and brick Grade II listed Georgian property is set in two acres of land with mill pond and race, ornate walled garden and retains many of the original outbuildings. The flock mill primarily prepared rag for papermaking towards the end of its working life although a mill has stood here since the 14th century. Only the ground ruins remain of the original mill which at its peak employed over 100 local people and is rumoured to have been built with the proceeds of smuggling which was rife in the valley at the time. In 2008 the property was on the market for a guide price of £2m.

The 1868-built 16-room hotel The Pride of the Valley is a mausoleum to onetime local resident David Lloyd George and has remarkable decor of decorative ceilings, oak paneling and sculptures. Lloyd George owned the farm Bron-y-de at Churt where he lived for twenty years with his second wife Frances after his stint as the Liberal Prime Minister. Footage from a news feature filmed for Fox News in 1928 has been preserved by the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. In the clip he is shown with his family and pets in the garden.

The Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park (GR: SU872394) is located opposite the hotel and provides visitors with 1.5 miles of pathways running through low-lying bog, woodland, hillsides and valleys to view the work of over 100 sculptors. There is an entrance fee.

The popular Crossways Inn was awarded the 2006 Surrey & Sussex Regional Cider Pub of The Year.

Stony Jump is the highest of the Devil's Jumps, a series of three hills near Churt village, and is associated with local folklore related to the Devil and the witch Mother Ludlam. MORE HERE

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

At Churt I had, upon my left, three hills out upon the common, called the Devil's Jumps. The Unitarians will not believe in the Trinity, because they cannot account for it. Will they come here to Churt, go and look at these 'Devil's Jumps,' and account to me for the placing of these three hills, in the shape of three rather squat sugar-loaves, along in a line upon this heath, or the placing of a rock-stone upon the top of one of them as big as a Church tower?

For my part, I cannot account for this placing of these hills. That they should have been formed by mere chance is hardly to be believed. How could waters rolling about have formed such hills? How could such hills have bubbled up from beneath? But, in short, it is all wonderful alike: the stripes of loam running down through the chalk-hills; the circular parcels of loam in the midst of chalk-hills; the lines of flint running parallel with each other horizontally along the chalk-hills; the flints placed in circles as true as a hair in the chalk-hills; the layers of stone at the bottom of hills of loam; the chalk first soft, then some miles farther on, becoming chalk-stone; then, after another distance, becoming burr-stone, as they call it; and at last, becoming hard, white stone, fit for any buildings; the sand-stone at Hindhead becoming harder and harder till it becomes very nearly iron in Herefordshire, and quite iron in Wales; but, indeed, they once dug iron out of this very Hindhead.

William Cobbett. August 1823
Rural Rides published 1830

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

Leaving the village I went up the hill to the Devil's Jumps to see the sun set. The Devil, as I have said, was much about these parts in former times; his habits were quite familiar to the people, and his name became associated with some of the principal landmarks and features of the landscape. It was his custom to go up into these rocks, where, after drawing his long tail over his shoulder to have it out of his way, he would take one of his great flying leaps or jumps. On the opposite side of the village we have the Poor Devil's Bottom--a deep treacherous hole that cuts like a ravine through the moor, into which the unfortunate fellow once fell and broke several of his bones. A little further away, on Hindhead, we have the Devil's Punch Bowl, that huge basin-shaped hollow on the hill which has now become almost as famous as Flamborough Head or the Valley of Rocks.

W. H. Hudson A Surrey Village
from A Traveller in Little Things 1921

Tilford & The Ancient Oak

The village of Tilford of importance for a number of reasons. The first, and of direct relevance here, is that the village nestles on the banks of the two River Weys as they meet for the first time to join as a single river headed towards the Thames. The confluence of the North and South Wey branches is just near the delightful village pub, the Barley Mow (GR: SU873435), which sits opposite a perfect English country village green on which cricket matches are regularly played in the summer months. Older names for the village included appropriately enough Tilford Green, and Tylford Bridge recognising this as an important ancient crossing point.

A village shop, church and infant and junior schools serve the community of around 700 people. The renowned Tilford Players regularly take to the boards at the Tilford Institute, which was designed by the acclaimed architect Edward Lutyens opposite the village green, with the Institute building serving as the village hall. Other village organisations contribute to this vibrant village community and include the Horticultural Society, the Cricket Club and the Tilford Bach Society which specialises in performances of Baroque music using authentic instruments and orchestration.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Centre Islamabad was established in the Old Sheephatch School (GR: SU876443) after it closed in 1977 and serves as an Islamic education centre. Until recent years in July members from all over the world would converge on Tilford for a three-day convention but as the visitor numbers continued to climb (eventually exceeding 20,000) an alternative venue had to be found. Following threats and a fire bombing (July 2005) extra round-the-clock security has had to be put into place at the building

"I have the privilege of having the Ahmadi education and conference centre, called Islamabad, at Tilford. In the summer, up to 10,000 members of the Ahmadi community from around the world gather there. Tilford is a beautiful Surrey village, and it is a tribute to the community that the Ahmadis are valued, respected and well integrated. Around 25 families live there permanently."Mrs. Virginia Bottomley MP (South-West Surrey) House of Commons Hansard Debates 9th June 1999

A filmmaker, British Films, in 1948 produced a part-documentary part-fiction film with commentary exploring Sheephatch when it was operating as a Camp School. The public service film today provides an insight into teenage schoolchildren's activities in the the difficult post-war years.

"The films open with a shot of three teenagers running along a street in an industrial town. Once inside his house, one of the children implores his mother to let him go to camp school. A long shot of the Houses of Parliament is followed by exterior shots of the buildings and facilities at Sheephatch Camp School. The indoor classrooms are empty - outdoors, the students examine history and geography in the countryside setting. In addition, the girls undertake lessons in domestic science whilst the boys develop their woodwork skills. Sporting activities include football, netball and swimming - the children sustain their energy levels by eating healthy, nutritious food. The fresh food is grown on the school allotments by the Young Farmers' Club and reaches the dinner plates via a number of labour-saving devices including an automated bread and butter machine. An elderly man shovels coal into the boiler and a nurse supervises an all-but-empty sick bay. Leisure pursuits range from reading to ballroom dancing and to watching a film. Before retiring to their dormitories, the students wash in the communal bathrooms." Screen Archive South East


Two medieval bridges (GR: SU873436 and SU874435) cross the Wey here, part of a series of six early bridges (the others including Elstead, Eashing and Unstead), although the western one that had fallen into considerable disrepair has just been completely rebuilt (completed 2005) retaining its medieval character. The 13th-century structure, which is an English Heritage Scheduled Monument, was restored by Hampshire based Scott Wilson plc, a construction consultancy specialising in transport solutions, and has been protected from the day-to-day punishment of traffic by the construction of a brand new modern bridge to replace a crossing erected alongside the medieval bridge by the 55th Division of the Royal Engineers in 1941. The army bridge was built to withstand the movement of wartime tanks from a Canadian regiment based in the area. The Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award (1) has presented (September 2007) Surrey County Council with a plaque to mark the inclusion of Tilford Bridges in the award shortlist of 18 projects. The restoration work has also won the small civil engineering project award at the British Construction Awards (October 2007) beating 14 other national hopefuls.

The semi-circular arches of the eastern bridge crossing to Tilford village itself suggest that the bridge was originally built by the Normans, however the cost of maintenance of bridges in the days before local authorities was shared by the landowners on each bank which meant that no particular fashion was followed in maintaining bridges to keep the costs down, and original features were often lost.

(1) The Better Public Building Award was launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair to encourage 'good design' in publicly funded construction projects.

The river downstream of the eastern bridge's weir is popular with visitors in the summer months as it is shallow, right by the green and within staggering distance of the pub.

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

Tilford was fortunate in that the both bridges were the responsibility of Waverley Abbey which ensured a consistency was retained. Historic annals recorded some disastrous floods occurring along the Wey in 1233 which had caused severe damage to local bridges. It is likely that many of the bridges between Farnham and Godalming were rebuilt around this time following the earlier semi-circular arches with semi-circular cut-waters downstream, rare in that this was not adopted anywhere else along the Wey. A seventh arch was discovered buried during re-strengthening of this eastern bridge in 1997.

“I am not judge enough of timber to say anything about the quantity in the whole tree, but my son stepped the ground, and as neatly as we could judge, the diameter of the extent of the branches was upwards of ninety feet, which would make a circumference of about three hundred feet. The tree is in full growth at this moment. There is a little hole in one of the limbs; but with that exception, there appears not the smallest sign of decay. The tree had made great shoots in all parts of it this last summer and spring; and there are no appearances of white upon the trunk, such as are regarded as the symptoms of full growth. There are many sorts of oak in England; two very distinct; one with a pale leaf, and one with a dark leaf: this is of the pale leaf. The tree stands upon Tilford Green, the soil of which is a light loam with a hard sand stone a good way beneath, and, probably, day beneath that. The spot where the tree stands is about a hundred and twenty feet from the edge of a little river, and the ground on which it stands may be about ten feet higher than the bed of that river.” William Cobbett 1822

The ancient oak tree (GR: SU873435), which is thought to date back to well before 17th century (although popular legend would claim an age of 1,000 years), is unhappily also nearing the end of its life and rests wearily near to the pub cordoned off by a protective fence. The tree has inspired fierce loyalty many times over through its long life, the most notable of which was to trigger a mass disobedience against the all-powerful Bishop of Winchester who as Lord of the Manor owned the land on which the tree stood at the time. The Bishop had ordered his foresters to fell the tree, but their axes were prevented from penetrating the bark by hundreds of nails the villagers had hammered in to deflect their blows. Local legend also holds that Charles II once hid in it, that a Waverley monk hanged himself from it and that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, once preached beneath it. The green was eventually given to the community by the Manor of Farnham in 1835.

Between Farnham and Tilford there are nearly half a dozen hills and not one viaduct. Over these I trudged uphill on my toes and pounded downhill on my heels, making at each step an oozy quagmire full of liquid gamboge. As the land-space grew less human, the rain came down faster, reducing my book to pulp and transferring the red of the cover to my saturated grey jacket. Some waterproof variety of bird, screaming with laughter at me from a plantation, made me understand better than before why birds are habitually shot. My sleeves by this time stuck cold to my wrists. Hanging my arms disconsolately so as to minimise the unpleasant repercussion, I looked down at my clinging knees, and instantly discharged a pint of black dye and rainwater over them from my hat brim. At this I laughed, much as criminals broken on the wheel laughed at the second stroke. A mile or two more of treadmill and gamboge churning, and I came to the outposts of a village, with a river hurrying over a bed of weeds of wonderful colours, spanned by a bridge constructed on the principle of the Gothic arch, so as to extort from horses the maximum of effort both when drawing carts up one side, and preventing the carts from over-running them when slipping precipitously down the other.

George Bernard Shaw A Sunday on the Surrey Hills Pall Mall Gazette 1888

About half a mile upstream from the village on the north branch of the Wey is the site of an ancient mill. Close to Sheephatch Lane, Tilford Mill (GR: SU869443) was in business as far back as 1367 when it was a fulling mill for the woollen industry. Further reference to the site as Wanford Mill, then milling corn, was made in 1679. There was an active corn mill here until 1850 with the mill demolished in 1866. Part of the miller’s house survives today as Tilford Mill Cottage. The bridge carrying Sheephatch Lane is named after the mill and is another of the bridges built by the Waverley Abbey monks although centuries of repairs have significantly altered it.


Tilford has been home to a number of worthy names. These include J M Barrie (1860 – 1937) who wrote the stories Peter Pan and Dear Brutus at nearby Black Lake MORE HERE, and Philip Snowden (1864 – 1937) who lived just outside the village at Woodlarks and spent the last years of his life here. Snowden worked closely with Ramsey MacDonald for thirty years to build up the strength and reputation of the Labour Party. As Chancellor of the Exchequer his debating skills on the floor of the house were legendary, and were often conducted in great pain inflicted by his severe physical disabilities. William ‘Silver’ Beldham (1766 – 1861), a legendary cricketer at the time, lived in a cottage on the edge of the green. After his retirement he became landlord of the Barley Mow overlooking the cricket green, a fitting place to end one’s days. Silver’s ghost reputedly has taken up residence in the pub.

Close to Tilford House (GR: SU871436) is an ice house near the river bank in which meat and fish was kept fresh with ice cut from nearby Stockbridge Pond and the river whenever it froze over. The local policeman used to use it as a temporary cell in which to sober up village drunks to save him having to walk them all the way into Farnham.

There is also a well preserved lime kiln (GR: SU865441) close to the Tilford Road and Sheephatch Road junction. Lime (calcium carbonate) has many uses including for breaking up clay soil on fields, as a building mortar, lime wash waterproofing for buildings, and for preparing hides in leather-making. A typical early lime kiln would measure around 18 feet (5.5 m) in height and be lined with bricks with an access hole at the base. The heat of the burning fuel, which was controlled by opening and closing a vent in the chimney, breaks the limestone down into pure lime or ‘quicklime’ which is the end product. Mortar made from lime is remarkably durable and many ancient buildings still in existence today were built using this mortar. This was made by dousing quicklime with water to turn it into ‘slaked lime’ and to which would be added sand to make a thick paste, exactly as we make modern cement based mortar today.




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