& District Local History Society - 2004 programme
source: The Society's Newsletters
for other recent years, see current programme page
2004 Programme of
Lectures, visits and walks
Meetings: at the Letherhead Institute 7.30 for 8pm.
Non-members are welcome at our meetings, admission £2: members £1. Walks & visits are members only.
See also events at Surrey History Centre, Woking
Fri - Arts and Crafts Houses of the Surrey Hills by Dr Nigel Barker
A number of remarkable houses, mainly by Edwin Lutyens, were built in Surrey around 1900 in a 'free Tudor' style. Previously Historic Buildings advisor to Surrey County Council, Nigel joined English Heritage in 2001 to advise them on development projects, grant schemes and Lottery funded townscape initiatives in Kent and Sussex.
20 Feb Fri
Cemetery - the answer to a Grave problem by Mrs Rosemary Hunter:
By the middle of the nineteenth century, many town graveyards were full, so the London Necropolis Company landscaped four square miles of Surrey heathland. The cemetery contains many interesting memorials. As well as being Secretary of the Surrey Archaeological Society, Rosemary is an expert on the Brookwood story; see also 17 April.
21 Feb Sat
Surrey Archaeological Research Committee:
All day Symposium of talks and displays
SARC's annual all-day symposium of talks and displays in the Peace Memorial Hall at Ashtead; see the Chairman's item on page 2 of the Society's Newsletter. Leaflets will be available at L&DLHS meetings.
19 Mar Fri - The
Plateau Group and its work
by Peter Harp
The Plateau in question is that around Walton-on-the-Hill, adjoining our area. The Group is researching and excavating sites ranging in date from the Lower Palaeolithic to medieval. Peter is the secretary of the Group and also of the Surrey Archaeological Research Committee (see 21st February above).
16 April Fri - Annual General Meeting followed by talks by Peter Tilley and John Wettern giving us updates on the Leatherhead Census project.
17 April Sat -
Afternoon visit to Brookwood Cemetery guided by
Mrs Hunter gave us a talk about it in February. It may sound a morbid place to visit, but in fact it is full of interest, (as well as interesting people) and will certainly be something different! Meet at 2.30 p.m. at Pirbright Village Hall car park in the centre of the village. Applications plus £2.00 to Derek Renn (Tel. 454880).
6 May Thu - Evening
walk round Polesden estate led by Heloise Collier
Heloise Collier gave us a talk about the history of the estate (as opposed to the house) in October. She will point out the things mentioned in her talk such as open fields and assarts, re-aligned roads and house sites. Paths could be muddy so wear strong footwear. Meet at the main car park at 6.45 p.m. for 7.00 p.m. start. Applications plus £2.00 to John Wettern (Tel 457299).
21 May Fri -
- its Palace and its People
by Joan Cottle
This was a very interesting and entertaining talk to conclude our season of lectures. Miss Cottle is the Senior Guide for Lambeth Palace and although she used no slides to illustrate the talk, she took us in imagination all round the palace, describing both the building and the people who lived there. Joan Cottle
2 Jun Wed -
Evening walk round Epsom town centre led by Ian West
Mr West gave us a talk on 'Epsom Past and Present' in November. Members who have been on a guided walk with Ian will know that it is always interesting and can have surprises!
6 Jun Sun - Guided walk around Leatherhead Members of our Society are leading historical walks round Leatherhead town centre on the first Sundays in June, July (4th) and August (1st), starting from the Museum at 2.15 p.m. Do come and join us if you have not yet been on one of these walks and please tell your friends and encourage them to come along. There is no charge for these walks, but donations to the Museum will be welcomed.
11 Jul Sun - Afternoon guided walk round Fetcham village led by Alan Pooley.
7 Aug Sat - Combined visit with Friends of the Museum by cars to Haslemere and Godalming Museums.
10-12 Sept - Mole Valley Heritage Weekend
17 Sep Fri Our 2004/5 season of talks opened with a talk on Old London Bridge by Clive Chambers
15 Oct Fri - Talk on The History of Croydon Airport by Robert Duffett
19 Nov Fri - Talk on Papermaking in the Tillingbourne Valley (The Other Damnable Invention) by Alan Crocker
Fri 17 Dec - Miscellany What happened to that Road?
AT SURREY HISTORY CENTRE 2004 (SCC)
130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND, Telephone; 01483 518737, Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org website www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistoryservice
Exhibitions (all are free)
February 10th - 21st Mapping the past: Surrey's Mapmakers, Historians and Artists, 1600-1830.
March 2nd - April 30th Private Faces in Public Places:
Archives can be found in unexpected places. Six diverse organisations joined together last year to catalogue some of their holdings and publish them via the World Wide Web. Surprises are in store as they reveal their treasures.
May 11th - June 12th Coupons and Camouflage; The Surrey Home Front in World War II
June 22nd - August 27th An exhibition about World War I
Surrey History Service
will also have displays at the following events:
31st May; Surrey County Show.
22nd August; Surrey Archaeological Society 1854-2004 'Going back in time' at the Rural Life Centre, Tilford.
Surrey History Service
Spring Programme of lunchtime talks (12 noon - 1 pm)
24th March; Getting the most from the Gentlemen's Magazine, 1731-1870. Speaker; Julian Pooley
Talks cost £4.00, and are held at the Centre. Pre-booking is necessary. Details and booking forms from the Centre as above. Cheques to be made payable to Surrey County Council.
Notes on 2004
January - Arts and Crafts Houses of the Surrey Hills
by Dr Nigel Barker
Nigel Barker attracted a very large audience to our first meeting of the year for his talk on the arts and crafts houses of the Surrey Hills. The first stirrings of change began after The Great Exhibition and Ruskin's polemical writing on craftsmanship versus mass production. William Morris added romantic undertones to what was an Europe-wide movement, but (apart from a book by Herman Multhesius) there was no contemporary literature on new architectural theory, unlike that on other forms of art.
Dr Barker explained that architecture expressed national characteristics. The English "love of home" showed as the retention of the large open fireplace (and tall chimneys) unlike elsewhere, where the closed stove and central heating were more usual by the middle of the 19th century.
The railway expansion caused Surrey to become the leading area where the husband lived in London during the week. Wives had a social life of their own (the "At Home"); weekend guests were both frequent and numerous, and the house had to be big enough for this, but guests received no special treatment. Today these Surrey houses are often difficult to see, up private tracks and behind tall hedges.
Some early moves from Victorian Gothic could be seen in Kerr's Ford Place near Lingfield, with a mixture of national styles and the dining room a long way from the kitchen, and also in Pugin's alterations to Albury Park and Peto's Woolpit at Ewhurst with its terracotta decoration (it was built for a Doulton.
The change to a more informal, asymmetric style in local materials (brick, tilehanging and weather-boarding) with long, low rooms like a medieval yeoman's house, and reflected in many of Margery Allingham's watercolours, began at the Red House, Bexley Heath by Philip Webb who, the next year, built Benfleet Hall on the Fairmile and then Upwood Gorse at Caterham.
On the slopes of the Hurtwood, Webb built Coneyhurst, with open "sleeping galleries" (the Victorians took fresh air seriously) and expanded the medieval Great Tangley Manor with a hidden bridge across its moat. The house has been repaired recently using Webb's original drawings.
GE Street's own house Holmdale at Holmbury St Mary had a stone tower between slanting wings, while Norman Shaw built Hopedene, Pierrepont, the lodges to Merrist Wood, Banstead Wood, Burrows Cross (Shere) and The Hallams (Wonersh).
Norman Shaw provided the inspiration for Edwin Lutyens, who was privately educated at Thursley and began by designing very modest farm buildings like pigsties and chicken houses (some survive at Littleworth Cross near Seale).
He worked on many domestic buildings in south-west Surrey. Lutyens was the architect of many Arts and Crafts houses, using Reigate stone, brick, tilehanging and Horsham slate roofs. He designed lodges for the Bray estate at Shere and Hascombe Park, with its open arcades, then The Hut at Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll and Chinthurst Hill at Ewhurst, with its "Elizabethan" wings and oak "Jacobean" staircase the whole height of the house.
At Goddard's (Abinger Common), Lutyens designed a communal house for gentlewomen of small means, with a large common room and offset entrance, plus service and dormitory wings, with a 15th century barn brought from Sussex.
He later successfully converted Goddard's into a new family home. In the 1890s Lutyens built three magnificent houses near Godalming; Munstead Wood, with its hidden classical porch and vernacular stone chip galletting, Orchards in medieval style with a wing at right angles for entertaining, with a dormer window over the door to draw the eye and Tigborne Court.
Dr Barker concluded by discussing the local
works of other contemporary architects, like Charles Voysey's
Greyfriars on the Hog's Back, roughcast with slate roofs on a
narrow site with extensive views, and Norney Grange (Shackleford)
with small gables to a service wing, adapted for guests in the
Arts and Crafts style, Guy Dawber's Solon's Court at Banstead and
Alfred Port's Longcopse at Ewhurst.
Derek Renn, in the Leatherhead Advertiser 19 Feb 2003
- Brookwood Cemetery - the answer to a Grave problem
Recent newspaper reports of cemeteries running out of space and of the re-use of graves echoes a problem since Victorian times, as Rosemary Hunter explained to a packed audience at our February meeting.
About 150 years ago, poor sanitation and hygiene led to outbreaks of fatal epidemic diseases like cholera and scandals like the "great stink", to human bones from crypts being ground up and recycled as fertiliser and to sextons beating the ground of churchyards to compress corpses in order to allow fresh burials within a year. Public cremation only became legal in 1885.
So the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company was formed in 1852 to buy up land for burials while London churchyards were closed. The company bought over two thousand acres of Brookwood Common from Lord Onslow and the other commoners. The new cemetery was laid out in a mixture of grand tree-lined avenues and smaller quiet area. It was opened by the Bishop of Winchester, but only one notable was buried there in the early years. It was mainly paupers at first, whose names were recorded but no stone erected to mark the exact site. Much of the land was resold for the development of Woking for a mental hospital and for a crematorium.
A separate London railway station was erected for the cemetery traffic on the south-east side of the present one at Waterloo. One train a day (with first, second and third class accommodation both for mourners and coffins), calling at intermediate stations, ran to Brookwood, where a turntable and branch line gave access to two stations (one for the supporters of the Church of England and the other for dissenters). The cheap fares on the cemetery trains led to golfers disguising their purpose with heavy overcoats. Two railway accidents occurred, one of which forced the lady owner of a Daimler limousine to return home by public train. Each cemetery station had a lowered platform for the coffin car, a chapel, a waiting room and a refreshment room. Several of the wooden buildings later succumbed to fire or dry rot. From the station, the coffin was carried on a handcart to the graveside.
The oldest reburial at Brookwood are the reputed bones of King Edward the Martyr, once in Shaftesbury Abbey, which were bought in 1970 by an American millionaire and eventually (by way of a bank vault) came here under the protection of a group of Orthodox monks who have converted two other chapels into their home and church.
Four murdresses were disinterred from Holloway Prison and reburied here, the best known being Edith Jessie Thompson, hung for complicity in the stabbing of her husband by Frederick Bywaters. Dodi Fayed was buried here temporarily, in accordance with Muslim law.
Mrs Hunter described some of the many artists and actors buried at Brookwood, and the architects and sculptors of the memorials. As well as plots for national groups, the victims of major air disasters, Chelsea pensioners and prisoners of war, there is a War Graves Commission Cemetery and the only one in England for Americans killed in the First World War. Rosemary described the memorial meetings, some of which broke up in disorder.
The Waterloo station was bombed in 1940 and the branch railway track taken up. There are still vacancies in the cemetery. Anyone can be buried there, and those from within a 15mile radius get a discount.
Mrs Hunter will be leading a walk for members of the society around the cemetery on April 17. Today the cemetery contains much of interest to the naturalist, including many rare butterflies, 150-year-old giant redwoods and monkey puzzle trees, but volunteer groups are having to fight invasive rhododendron and bracken.The presence of the monks has reduced vandalism.
Leatherhead Museum (Hampton Cottage, 64 Church Street) will reopen on 1st April and we are looking for more stewards.
Derek Renn, in the Leatherhead Advertiser, March 25th 2004
- the Plateau Group
Peter Harp described the work of the Plateau Group at our March meeting. The group arose from his studies for A-level archaeology at NESCOT, when he was given limited permission to excavate Tumble Beacon at Banstead. This is a large mound in a private garden, believed to have been originally a Bronze Age tumulus, which got its present name from being the site of a post-medieval beacon intended to be lit if foreign invasion occurred. Peter's digging permit required him to rebuild a stone wall, but had overlooked the fact that the mound also had concrete steps built up one side and a World War Two air raid shelter buried near its centre.
From this beginning a group, including many academics, had grown up to carry out an archeological landscape survey of the high heathlands of Banstead and Walton. Work on allotments near the site of Nork Park, a mansion destroyed in the 1930s, had produced evidence of the medieval manor of Great Burgh, including part of a pottery roof finial shaped like a mounted knight, probably made by John le Pottere of Cheam in 1372. A similar finial was found at the excavations of Patchesham Manor near Leatherhead some 50 years ago.
Much older finds at Nork Park included a siltstone pendant, Neolithic stone axes, Bronze Age flint arrowheads and scrapers, early Iron Age and RomanoSaxon pottery as well as Mesolithic flint tools. Peter pointed out that when a tree on the clay-with-flints capping of the plateau was blown down, this conveniently exposed the raw materials for tools and also provided rudimentary shelter, both next to the upturned roots and in the hollow left behind.
Further explorations by the Plateau Group of the Roman villa foundations which form bunkers on Walton Heath golf course had shown that the villa was built over a Neolithic enclosure. But their most important work was in progress at an upper palaeolithic site at Lower Kingswood, first occupied about 30,000-40,000 years ago. Building on the work of LW Carpenter and Tom Walls and using Dr Scott-Jackson's methodology, the most promising area was being excavated in five centimetre (two-inch) layers, each stone's position and angle being meticulously recorded. Geophysical surveys suggested that there was several metres to go. There was some discussion on the white patination of black flint, due to the alkaline soil (loess) and not to frost action.
We hope that this talk was the first of a series from neighbouring local history groups. Leatherhead Museum (Hampton Cottage, 64 Church Street) is now open on Thursday and Friday afternoons and all day on Saturdays.
Derek Renn in the Leatherhead Advertiser, April 29 2004
- AGM and progress report
on the Leatherhead District Victorian Census Project
The annual general meeting started with the announcement of the death of Jack Barker, his place as membership secretary being taken by Jenny Morris. Fred Meynen had become programme secretary and Goff Powell had also joined the executive committee. The other officers and committee members were reelected.
Presenting the annual report for 2003, Peter Tarplee, chairman, thanked all those workers behind the scenes, from publicity to cleaning, and appealed for volunteer stewards for the museum, only asking for one afternoon a month. Alan Roberts and Geoffrey Crellin were elected museum trustees.
Treasurer Norma Robertson secured a £3 rise in the annual subscription to help meet higher expenses and lower interest income. Linda Heath, president, appealed for suggestions for recruiting new members, particularly those at work during the day.
John Wettern introduced a progress report on
the Leatherhead District Victorian Census Project.
He gave the analogy of archaeology, a quest for knowledge about our ancestors, what they valued and how their society was structured.
For the past three years more than 500 handwritten census returns for 1841 to 1891 had been photocopied, the data then transcribed to standard format by volunteers working on their own computers, the entries checked and finally collated into a master database. This recorded every individual named in a census schedule, their place of birth, age, occupation and relationship to the head of the household. Each schedule page contained up to 400 entries, and a total of over 150,000 records had been collated. The team was supplementing this with parish records of births, marriages and deaths to add data for events in the 10-year intervals between censuses.
Peter Tilley, who had designed the system and pioneered it at Kingston-upon-Thames and refined it in rural parishes of Surrey, then gave us more details. Much work was still needed on the Ashtead returns, but he paid tribute to Keith Poulton's research records for Bookham. The database could be presented either in the form of an individual's life history, their family tree or their household; he demonstrated this for individuals requested by members of the audience.
Peter showed us lists of long vanished occupations with exotic names, and graphs of the changing popularity of certain Christian names, as William and Mary (in 1841) became less popular. Grandparents often brought up children as if their own; Christian names given to bastards hinted at incest. Families with up to 17 children lived in Leatherhead, as did households with 20 servants (some being those of visitors).
Harry Hansard "printer to the House of Commons, employing over 180 men and boys" lived at Millfield, which (we told Peter) was now the Yehudi Menuhin School. Peter had found that Mrs and Miss Chrystie, the Bookham temperance reformers and benefactors were really sisters, the former having married a Major Chrystie. House numbers were rare before 1891, and the sequence of entries could be misleading. The stated ages and birthplace were often inconsistent at successive censuses.
Our next meeting will be Friday 21 May, when
Joan Cottle will tell us about Lambeth Palace and its people.
Joan is the senior guide to the Palace. We meet in the upstairs hall of the Letherhead Institute at the Epsom end of the High Street at 7.30 for 8pm. Visitors are most welcome.
adapted from Derek Renn's report in the Leatherhead Advertiser May 20 2004
May - Lambeth - its Palace and its People
On Friday May 21 we had a fascinating talk about Lambeth - its Palace and its People by Joan Cottle, senior guide at the palace.
Miss Cottle used no slides to illustrate her talk, but in imagination she took us on a marvellous tour of the palace, room by room, so that we could picture everything. She supplied a great deal of historical detail about various archbishops, monarchs, and London generally, especially the river, from the 12th century onwards. It all began in 1199 when monks at Rochester gave land they owned in Lambeth to the Archbishop of Canterbury in exchange for more land in Rochester. Up till that time the archbishop had lived in Canterbury.
We started our tour of the palace in the crypt with the small altar and paintings there. It was in the crypt that Henry VIII met Archbishop Cranmer to discuss how he could annul his marriage to Anne Boleyn. From the crypt we went out to the garden where there is a fig tree planted by Archbishop Pole in 1540. The garden still occupies nine acres of extremely valuable land in a prime area of London, but originally it consisted of 19 acres.
The great hall is similar to the one at Hampton Court. The Puritans stripped it of all the lead and stained glass, but in 1633 it was rebuilt as it had been. The library contains 200,000 books and 9,000 manuscripts, including one written for King Athelstone in 925. The books are available for anyone to study, but they are all in medieval English script.
There have been 104 Archbishops of Canterbury altogether, and the small hall contains 68 portraits of them, starting from 1396. The dining room is quite small and can seat only 16 people.
We were then led on our imaginary tour to the state drawing room, the Hansard room, and the tower known variously as the Chitterly, Water or Lollard tower. Upstairs there was a very grim cell where the Lollards were imprisoned. There is a post room with a private postal collection, and a doorway built by Archbishop Stephen Langton in 1220 leading into the chapel. There are frescoes on the ceiling with a theme of "Out of darkness into light". The little room above the chapel is where Cranmer wrote the book of Common Prayer.
Altogether, the palace is a wonderful piece of history, but because it is also a home, a piece of living history and not just a museum. Archbishop George Carey opened the palace in 2000 so that the public could visit it on certain days of the week and we hope to tour round it for real with Joan Cottle.
Linda Heath, report in the Leatherhead Advertiser, June 24 2004
- London Bridge
The first of the 2004/05 season's lectures took place on Friday 17 September to a full house. One noted that not only were the society's members well represented, but there were many guests whom we hope will become regulars.
Our speaker was Clive Chambers, architect and industrial historian, whose of pictures he used to illustrate his narrative - not just the few illustrations garnered from various archive sources, or even the Victorian "reconstructions" which he presented. As well as these, his own most talented artistic products in the form of diagrams, drawings and paintings all helped to tell the fascinating story of this most famous structure.
Nearly everyone claims to know something about the legendary London Bridge, with its shops and those traitors' heads on spikes, but there was so much more to learn as we soon found out. We were regaled with insights into history, engineering, contemporary life, laws and disputes. Events involving famous, personalities at all phases of its history contrasted with tales of ordinary people and happenings, sometimes tragic and sometimes comic.
London Bridge was completed in 1176. It had taken 33 years to build. The earliest picture dates from the year of Agincourt, a view from the Tower of London seen by England's ransomed prisoner, the Duke of Orleans. With its many piers and small arches it was a virtual dam with a difference of level of six feet during a full tidal flow. Shooting the Arches was a dangerous and sometimes even fatal experience. It had a chapel and drawbridge in addition to the many shops and dwellings, which rose high above the roadway. Tolls were collected both from those passing over it and from passage under its arches. These helped to fill the coffers of the City of London, although much had to be spent on maintenance.
The story was enriched by descriptions of the people who inhabited the bridge and those who used it - for instance, the Keeper of Heads who oversaw the impalement of the headman's victims. More mundane were the shopkeepers and traders, each displaying a sign to denote the nature of their trade for the benefit of an illiterate populace. We learned how an average day was spent, from "prime" (the early morning shopping period) to the tolling of the curfew bell. Churchgoing was a feature even on weekdays, with early mass at 6am.
The structural interest was not neglected. Aided by his imaginative drawings, Mr Chambers described each stage of the bridge's construction from the driving of piles into the riverbed to the masonry arches and then the roadway (only 12 feet wide). Finally, there was the motley collection of buildings straddling the road. These overhung the sides of the bridge supported by timber props.
As the 1700s progressed the end could be foreseen. There were frequent blockages caused by increasing traffic and the deterioration of the buildings eventually led to their removal. Other modern bridges had now been built and it was now time for this most crucial artery to be renewed.
The end came in 1830 when Rennie's new bridge arrived alongside it and Old London Bridge passed into history.
John Wettern, adapted from the report in the Leatherhead Advertiser 14 Oct 2004
October - The History of Croydon Airport
Robert Duffett, from the Croydon Airport Society, spoke to a full audience of society members and many guests and told the story of the rise, the heyday and ultimately the abandonment of this historic site. He showed an excellent series of slides covering every phase of its history which augmented his lively dialogue.
The locals living in Wallington and Beddington could hardly have imagined how two small aerodromes, side by side, separated by a public highway, both created during the First World War, could eventually become Britain's first international airport. From one of these airfields fighters engaged German zeppelins bent on bombing London.
Alongside, in the immediate post-war years, war planes converted into primitive passenger carriers began the history of civil aviation. Even the passengers were exposed to all weathers and they were advised to hire heavy protective clothing to resist the elements. Former bombers now had a cabin with windows although the pilot was still perched above them in a windy cockpit. Travellers would be brought from London in black limousines with baggage strapped to the roof.
Features familiar to all modern airports emerged in primitive form: customs sheds, the control tower, landing lights and radio all appeared in pictures from the 1920s. Early radio still relied on the morse code until eventually radio telephony took its place. A new phase, leading up to Croydon's heyday, began with the construction of a giant new complex of buildings on a site opposite the now inadequate aerodrome. With its control tower, passenger building; cargo sheds, hangars and tarmac apron this was ceremonially opened in May 1928 as "the Airport of London". Beside it lay a luxury hotel. By now airlines, both British and foreign, were offering regular services to nearby countries.
The British flag carrier, Imperial Airways, had introduced giant four-engined biplanes carrying 38 passengers in Pullman luxury, serving a fivecourse meal on the way to Paris. Later in the 1930s air routes began stretching out to the far corners of the British Empire. The glamour of Croydon is reflected in Press stories of the time: not just VIPs arriving and departing but intrepid, recordbreaking solo fliers touching down from their ventures mobbed by dense admiring crowds. The names are familiar even today: Lindberg, Amy Johnson, Bert Hinkler and Jean Batten.
In 1939 it was all to change. Civil aviation ceased and a fighter station was set up to defend London. The buildings were camouflaged to escape detection but it did not prevent devastating damage being inflicted by German raiders. There was little doubt that the German civil pilots had been carrying out detailed surveys of what was vulnerable among the buildings in the area.
After the war civil aviation resumed but there were only a few more years remaining for the airport. The airfield, still grass and without runways, was now becoming too small to accommodate the ever larger airliners that were appearing. Services with smaller machines and charter operations continued but in September 1955 these came to an end with the final departure of De Havilland Heron G-AOXL.
Flying was at an end and buildings sprang up"over the former airfield. Some original buildings still remain including the hotel and the terminal block, imaginatively restored by its present owner, a property developer. Outside on a pedestal overlooking Purley Way (A23) can be seen the aircraft that was the last to fly from there. Inside, the booking hall and the control tower have been arranged to recall how things were in former times. Mr Duffett added that this has become a visitor centre open to the public on the first Sunday of each month. He hoped that those interested would take the opportunity to visit the centre being run by his society. Admission is free.
John Wettern, adapted from the report in the Leatherhead Advertiser 18 Nov 2004
November - Papermaking in the Tillingbourne Valley (The Other Damnable Invention)
William Cobbett, the campaigning political writer, described the Tillingborne Valley in 1822 as "created by a bountiful providence ...but perverted to two of the most damnable inventions of man - the making of gunpowder and of banknotes".
At our November meeting, Professor Alan Crocker, president of the British Society of Paper Historians, gave us a lively account of how paper was made by hand, a skill now only practised commercially at Wookey Hole caves. This was his third Dallaway lecture (named after the first historian of Leatherhead). He had previously spoken to us about gunpowder, on which he is also a national authority.
Cobbett, however, conceded the benefit of "converting Rags to Registers" (a reference to his radical Political Register), and Alan showed us his 1831 order to a local papermaker.
Paper was first made from coarse rags, cut by hand before being reduced to a watery pulp by triphammers in water mills. Large amounts of water were involved, since only one-half of one per cent of the stuff was fibre. Later the triphammers were replaced by a Hollander bladed roller which shredded, macerated and pulped the stuff in a vat.
The vatman dipped a frame of fine wire mesh into the half-stuff, shook off the excess and placed it in a deckle frame. The coucher then turned the frame over on a layer of felt and a gross of sheets were placed in a press to expel as much water as possible. Then a layer hung the sheets over ropes to dry. The highest-paid workers were the women who finally inspected the paper for flaws and cut it to size.
Alan apologised for not sporting the traditional square paper cap, worn to stop hair falling into the pulp. He showed us his own deckle with a watermark wire design attached. From 1794, watermarks usually included the date, since this meant that less excise duty had to be paid.
Apart from a shortlived mill at Hertford, the early paper mills were near London where rags and stationers were plentiful. But the Thames was dirty and the mills were driven by the tides. The first papermill in Surrey was at Stoke by Guildford, dating from the 1630s. By the end of the century, French and Dutch pagermakers had immigrated to England, bringing the skill of making fine white paper from linen and cotton rags.
The clean water, constant flow and steep gradient of the Tillingborne were ideal for this, and the decline in the local woollen industry and uncertain demand for gunpowder had left a number of watermills ready for adaptation to papermaking. Some of the gunpowder mills at Chilworth were converted in 1704. After the French revolution, the Comte d'Artois (later Charles X, King of France and Navarre) persuaded the Ball family at Albury Mill to make special paper designed for forged assignats to flood the market and so destroy revolutionary financial credit. The collapse of many British banks led to a reduction in demand for banknotes and the Balls emigrated to Normandy. Papermakers seemed to have gone bankrupt frequently.
Steam power took over from water and from 1826 Fourdriner machines made paper in continuous rolls. Professor Crocker showed us an engraving of such a machine, from the educational Penny Magazine of 1833, printed on paper from the local Postford Mill. The discovery of bleach improved colour, but the inadequate supply of rags led to the use of straw and then woodpulp, and the industry moved back to the Thames estuary. The Chilworth papermills lasted until 1870, when Unwins took over the site for printing, only to suffer a disastrous fire in 1895. The only artefact surviving locally was a boiler, used by the Blackheath Cricket Club as a roller.
Alan concluded by saying that, although the modern Printing Industry Research Association has its laboratories in Leatherhead, the only local papermills were at Ewell and Cobham.
We meet in the upstairs hall of the Letherhead Institute, High Street, at 8pm on third Friday of each month, September to May, and visitors are always welcome.
Derek Renn, adapted from the report in the Leatherhead Advertiser 6 Jan 2005
Fri 17 Dec - Miscellany What happened to that Road?
The society held its annual Christmas Miscellany meeting on Friday December 17, which is usually an evening of short talks by members. This year it took a different format, with a topic called: What happened to that road? with members submitting questions and a panel of two members suggesting answers. The panel was chaired by John Wettern who posed the questions, with Derek Renn and Jack Willis on the panel.
In the first half of the meeting John presented some excellent maps of roads which were never constructed, illustrated with some delightful slides. The first "missing" road was the direct route from Bookham to Cobham. There is a road part of the way, but at Bookham Common it becomes a track.
The second one was from Leatherhead to Polesden, and then Epsom to Walton on the Hill.
The last two concerned the part of Stane Street and the track called Ermyn Way which form a route between Epsom and Leatherhead, and finally, Stane Street between Dorking and Ockley.
After the interval for coffee and mince pies, the second half of the meeting consisted of comments by the panel of possible reasons why these roads were not constructed, with further questions and comments from the audience.
Derek Renn made the point that the vast most people using the roads were on foot, so a Roman-type paved road was often not necessary. In the Middle Ages, both Cobham and the land on Bookham Common were owned by Chertsey Abbey. The part of the road from Bookham Common to Cobham (which led to Chertsey) fell into disuse partly because of the dissolution of the abbey, and partly because of the very muddy terrain.
The question about a road to Polesden was: Why bother with a road to Polesden which was only a large-house? But in the 17th century, Polesden was a settlement, like Bookham, Eastwick or Slyfield. The road, which is merely a track, would then have been completely open, without the hedges which now surround it. But because it ran parallel to Hawks Hill and the Guildford Road (a turnpike road) it was never developed.
The direct route from near the Epsom Grandstand to Walton on the Hill across the racecourse is about 3.5 miles instead of nearly five miles by modern roads via either Langley Vale or Tattenham and Tadworth. Why not follow the track which leads directly there? The reason appears to be that there had been a race-track there for so long that this was "hallowed ground" so to speak.
Jack Willis then spoke about possible offshoots of roads across Epsom Downs from Stane Street to the Ashtead Roman tile works on the Common. A discussion followed which produced more questions than answers. Time had by this time run out and so we had to leave the intriguing question of why Stane Street north of Ockley does not run straight to Dorking instead of its present devious route.
Altogether, it was a most interesting and informative evening, with lots of audience participation.
Our next meeting is a talk about the history of
the Claremont Estate by Christine Dall on Friday January 21 at
8pm in the Letherhead Institute. Visitors welcome at £2,
including coffee served from 7.30pm.
Linda Heath, from the report in the Leatherhead Advertiser 13 Jan 2005