Leatherhead & District Local History Society

for other recent years, see current programme page

2005 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.

21 Jan Fri - History of the Claremont Estate by Christine Dall
Mrs Dall is the Secretary of the Esher District Local History Society and has made an extensive study of Claremont, and her talk will include the history of the landscape gardens as well as the house.

18 Feb Fri - The Roman Settlement and Stane Street at Ewell by Frank Pemberton
Frank Pemberton is an active member of Epsom & Ewell Society (formerly the Nonsuch Society). He directed the excavations in Ewell during the 1970s and is currently engaged on research on Roman Ewell.

18 Mar Fri - The South East Film & Video Archives with Video Film by Frank Gray
Dr Gray is in charge of the South East Film & Video Archives at the University of Brighton and will tell us about what happens there and give a video presentation.

10 Apr Sun - Walk round Fetcham village led by Alan Pooley.
This is a repeat of the walk last October which was so popular that it was oversubscribed, so Alan is very kindly going to lead another one. The idea is to imagine the village 100 years ago, and members will be provided with maps of 1870. Subject to availability, the walk will include the parish church and finish with tea and biscuits at the village hall. Cost 2. Please send application form with cheque made out to Alan Pooley, via Leatherhead Museum. Meet at 2pm Outside Symphony World Travel in the parade of shops just before Budgens, where cars can be left.

15 Apr Fri - AGM, followed by some of Goff Powell's postcards of local inns

1 May Sun - GUIDED HISTORICAL WALK ROUND LEATHERHEAD
In addition to the above walks and visits for members, we shall be leading a guided historical walk for the public on the Bank Holiday of Sunday lst May, to which our members are most welcome. It will leave the Museum at 2.30pm No charge, but donations for Museum welcomed.

7 May Sat - Morning visit to the Docklands Museum at Canary Wharf.
This is an amazing museum which is well worth a visit and will be of particular interest after our talk on Old London Bridge last autumn, as there is an enormous model of the bridge - on one side depicting the 15th century and on the other side the 17th century. But as well as this there is a great deal to see and to make one appreciate that right from Roman times, it was trade and the Thames which brought London into being. If you have never been inside the Canary Wharf building, the shopping mall there is an experience in itself! Travel by train to Waterloo and Jubilee Line (or boat, or DLR) to Canary Wharf then five minutes walk to the Museum. Snacks available there (also restaurant) and lots of eating places all around. Meet at Museum at 11am. Entrance fee 5 (3 concession). Pay at the door. Please send application, so that I know who is coming, (but no money) to Linda Heath via Leatherhead Museum and SAE for directions to Museum from Canary Wharf, if required.

20 May Fri - George and Abraham Dixon by James Dixon.
James Dixon is the great-great-grandson of George and the great-great-great nephew of Abraham. What better place and person to hear from about the Dixon brothers! All most of us know is that Abraham was a great philanthropist and provided the Letherhead Institute for the people of the town.

5 Jun Sun - Afternoon walk round Claremont Landscape Gardens, following Christine Dall's talk in January.
The original garden layout of 1715 is being restored and although the house itself is no longer open to the public, we shall be able to visit the Belvedere (slight climb) which is only open once a month. Tea Room available. Meet at 2pm in the car park. Cost 4.00 for non NT members; free for NT members. Please send application, so that we will know the numbers, (but no money) to Linda Heath, via the Museum.

3 Jul Sun - Morning visit to Croydon Airport, following our talk on that in the autumn (details will be in May Newsletter)

Review of National Archaeology Week at the Leatherhead Museum 21-23 July 2005

The Roman Road walk along Stane Street on Sunday, 24 July 2005

6 Aug Sat - Combined visit with Friends of the Museum to the Weald and Downland Museum, Singleton, West Sussex (details were in the May Newsletter)

16 Sep Fri Surrey and the Motor Car, by Gordon Knowles.
Cars have been running on Surrey roads since 1895, and over 100 firms in the county have made them. Gordon, our Vice President, will describe many of them, whether commercial vehicles, passenger or racing cars, with an account of the racetrack at Brooklands and other events which made Surrey important in motoring history. His recent book Surrey and the Motor, mentioned above, will be on sale at the meeting.

8th October - 25 Anniversary of the Opening of the Leatherhead Museum

21 Oct Fri The Dallaway Lecture
This year’s Dallaway Lecture is on Surrey’s ancient houses and their dating by tree-rings. The speaker will be Rod Wild, co-ordinator of the Surrey Dendrochronology Project who lives in a timber-framed Surrey house himself.

18 Nov (changed talk) Fri Landscape Archaeology in Surrey, by Judie English
Friday, 18 November. “Landscape Archaeology in Surrey” by Judie English MA.
This talk is in substitution for “Iron Age Forts in Surrey”, as scheduled in the last Newsletter, because Trudie Cole will be unable to attend as had been hoped.

Judie has been involved in her subject for twenty years and teaches archaeology at Horsham and Sussex University. This talk replaces that which was to have been given by Trudie Cole on Iron Age Forts in Surrey.

16 Dec Fri Leatherhead, Then and Now
This meeting will be preceded by mince pies with coffee at 7.30 p.m.
Last year we made a break from our traditional Christmas Miscellany by substituting a question and answer session with audience participation, and this year there will be something on similar lines.

Linda Heath and Peter Tarplee are going to talk about compiling their new book on Leatherhead & District Then and Now which is due out in the autumn.

They will show “Then and Now” slides of some photos used in the book and some which were not used, to be followed by questions and comments from the audience.

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21 Jan Fri - History of the Claremont Estate by Christine Dall
On Friday January 21 we had a most interesting talk by Christine Dall, secretary of the Esher Local History Society, on Claremont: its History and its People, illustrated with some really beautiful slides depicting the former gardens in all their glory.

In 1709 Sir John Vanbrugh bought the estate and demolished the existing house. He designed a much more lavish house for himself and also designed the stables, home farm, bakery, brewery and laundry. In 1714 he sold the property to Thomas Pelham-Holles, who became the Duke of Newcastle and who greatly extended the house. Vanbrugh continued to work on designing the house for the duke, and in 1715 started to build the famous Belvedere.

Various other eminent architects were involved with both house and gardens over the years, including William Kent, Capability Brown and Charles Bridgeman who designed the enormous amphitheatre in the grounds. Fashions in gardens gradually changed and by the 18th century taste had moved on from the earlier formalised style to a more natural countryside appearance.

The Duke of Newcastle had amassed considerable debts and in about 1759 he became friendly with Robert Clive, known as Clive of India. To settle his debts, the duke mortgaged the house to Clive. He disliked the palace, which he described as damp and draughty, so after the duke's death in 1768 he had it demolished and built the present house, designed by Capability Brown in a Palladian style. This house was built higher up the hill so that it was drier and healthier than the old building. Unfortunately, Clive was arraigned for amassing "ill-gotten gains" in India, and although he was exonerated, he never really recovered from the disgrace and committed suicide in 1774.

The property was bought and sold several times, and then in 1816 it was bought as a royal
residence for Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent (the future George IV) and her husband Prince Leopold. They were very happy there, but only the following year Princess Charlotte died after giving birth to a stillborn son, who would have been heir to the throne. She had been immensely popular and the nation was plunged into shock and grief, very similar to the outpouring when Princess Diana died.

After Princess Charlotte's death, Prince Leopold continued to live there, and his niece, the future Queen Victoria, used to come to Claremont as a child with her mother to visit her uncle. She always retained happy memories of these visits. In 1879 Queen Victoria gave Claremont to her fourth son, the Duke of Albany, and his widow continued to live there until her death in 1922.

In 1930 the property was bought by Christian Scientists for Fan Court School, which still occupies the building. Much of the land had by then been sold off, but in 1949 the National Trust acquired the remainder of the grounds and is gradually restoring them to their 18th century appearance.
Linda Heath, from the Leatherhead Advertiser 23 Feb 2005


18 Feb Fri - The Roman Settlement and Stane Street at Ewell by Frank Pemberton
Despite studies over many decades, there is so much still to be found out about the Stane Street Roman road, the main route linking London with Chichester. Our speaker in February, Frank Pemberton, addressed a well attended meeting giving us many intriguing insights, based mainly on recent excavations carried out in the area of Ewell. He described the aims of the researchers which were firstly to seek traces of pre-Roman occupation; secondly to establish the actual route of the road and most importantly to gain an impression of how life was lived by the local inhabitants in those far off days.

The siting of Ewell has always aroused curiosity. Approached from the north east by an almost perfect straight line from London, the route then bends and takes on a more southerly course aiming for Epsom, Dorking and beyond. The reason for the deviation remains a mystery but our speaker suggested that the presence of the sacred springs might be a clue.
John Wettern and Derek Renn, from the Leatherhead Advertiser 31 Mar 2005


18 Mar Fri - The South East Film & Video Archives with Video Film by Frank Gray
At our March meeting, Dr Frank Gray, of Brighton University, told us about the South-East Film and Video Collection. This started with films held by record offices, town halls, police and fire brigades and then extended to "home movies". Fragile old films were copied onto fresh stock, with an expected life of 450 years.

Dr Gray showed us the Leatherhead Newsreel of the visit of Lord Simon, then Chancellor of the Exchequer to promote War Weapons Week. Leatherhead was collecting to buy a minesweeper for the Royal Navy. A postwar sound film showed the Leatherhead district councillors winding up the air raid precautions system, with shots of the buildings damaged and destroyed.

Leatherhead Museum reopens tomorrow (Friday 1 April), followed by a week of special demonstrations successively of calligraphy, patchwork, art masterclass, spinning and weaving.

The museum is at Hampton Cottage, 64 Church Street and is open free on Thursday and Friday afternoons, 1-4pm, and on Saturdays from 10am-4pm.
John Wettern and Derek Renn, from the Leatherhead Advertiser 31 Mar 2005


20 May Fri George and Abraham Dixon by James Dixon
On Friday May 20 our lecture season ended with an excellent talk about George and Abraham Dixon by James Dixon, great great grandson of George and great-great-great nephew of Abraham. It was particularly fitting that his talk should be given in the Abraham Dixon Hall in the Letherhead Institute, founded by Abraham Dixon in 1892.

James Dixon explained that without Abraham, George could never have got where he did, but that without George's financial resources, Abraham might never have been able to found the Institute. Abraham was born in 1815 and George in 1820 in Yorkshire. They both went to work for Rabone's merchanting business in Birmingham. It dealt in merchandise worldwide, from saucepans to the equipment for Stanley's expedition to find Livingstone in Africa.

Both brothers were fluent in French and Spanish, and in 1846 George was travelling extensively in Spain. In the 1850s Abraham paid at least one visit to Jamaica, where his interest in tropical plants may have originated. In 1866 George became Mayor of Birmingham and set up the Birmingham Education Aid Society, which led to his forming the National Education League in 1869 with concepts of free and compulsory education for all. Compulsory education did not in fact come until 1876 and free education in 1891. It is interesting that both brothers were passionately concerned with education for the less affluent.

In the same year, Abraham acquired Cherkley Court, which he described as a "small estate near Dorking" notwithstanding that it consisted of at least 400 acres and the house was to contain some 31 bedrooms. He had by this time formed an amazing collection of tropical plants and, before he left Birmingham an entire railway truck-load of his plants was sent to Kew. His conservatory and tropical house at Cherkley Court were on a par with those at Kew.

George died in 1898 and Abraham in 1907. Perhaps the most lasting memorials to both brothers are George Dixon's Technical School in Birmingham and Abraham Dixon's Letherhead Institute "to provide means and opportunities for educational, social and recreational occupation for the working men and for all social classes in the town and its immediate neighbourhood".

Our next meeting will be on Friday September 16 at 8pm at the Letherhead Institute when we shall have a talk on Surrey and the Motor Car by our vice-president, Gordon Knowles, whose book on this subject will be on sale at the meeting. Coffee is served from 7.30pm and visitors are welcome at 2 including coffee.
Linda Heath, from the Leatherhead Advertiser 21 Jul 2005


The Roman Road walk along Stane Street on Sunday, 24 July 2005
Twelve interested and hardy individuals turned up to take part in this advertised L&DLHS walk along the Roman Road Stane Street last Sunday, including a Warden from the Box Hill National Trust who videoed the event and two National Trust Volunteers. Among the party was also Fred Meynen our programme secretary. The purpose behind this walk was to give the opportunity to those interested to meet and learn something about our local Roman Road and mark the close of National Archaeology Week.

It was not a very auspicious start to the day with the weather as bad as it was; there was no let up in the rain all morning. It was, I suppose, only to be expected that a change was imminent following the preceding weeks of very dry weather. Notwithstanding this, however, all those that did attend came well prepared to brave the elements and seemed quite prepared to walk in any weather.

We all met up at the Juniper Hall Field Centre at Mickleham (www.field-studies-council.org) at 12, noon. Thanks to Nick Lapthorn at the field centre, we had the opportunity to park within the grounds which was much appreciated considering the conditions.

Following a brief registration of all participants, we all congregated in the entrance porch at Juniper Hall which afforded us some shelter from the driving rain. We received an introductory talk from Alan Hall, the leader of the walk and a keen Roman Roads enthusiast. Alan proceeded to inform us about Stane Street from Noviomagus (Chichester) to Londinium. Both Winbolt, in his book ‘With a Spade on Stane Street’, and I. D. Margary in his books, ‘Roman Roads in the Weald’ & ‘Roman Roads in Britain’, have dealt extensively with the subject in the last century. Alan Hall, himself, has dug a number of other sites at North Holmwood and at Epsom and, in both cases, he was able to confirm the alignment of Stane Street in each of these areas. Alan also explained the difficulties of tracing Roman Roads which can prove very elusive, especially the section between North Holmwood, south of Dorking, and the Burford Bridge where the road allegedly crossed the river Mole by a ford. A resistivity survey carried out in the grounds of Juniper Hall where, allegedly, it crossed the lawn proved inconclusive. The recent excavations, earlier this year on the Denbies Wine Estate, also turned out disappointing and inconclusive because we had hoped to find the Winbolt/Margary alignment in the vineyard but this was not proven. Current thinking is that it is, possibly, partially buried under the A24, but has yet to be established. Hopefully, some obliging contractor laying pipes or some major road works in the near future may expose a section of this enigmatic road to confirm or disprove the theory.

Moving on, the walk started in earnest: negotiating our way up on to Mickleham Downs, evidence for the road was pointed out to us, first on the right and then the left in the plantations and woods. This was in the form of what appeared to be the Agger of the roadway. Further along the track way we were told that the road cranked, or was offset, as it traversed the hillside and then straightened up again on the top of the downs for a direct alignment towards Thirty Acre Barn. At this point of the change of direction, we paused to discuss how the Roman engineers/surveyors would have sighted between two or more points. It was, in fact, difficult for us to visualise how this could be done, due to the current surroundings being woods and plantations, but then our thoughts turned to how the landscape had changed over the millennia.

We were informed that in the more recent past, in the living memory of some people, this same landscape was completely different, with sheep grazing on the Downs, so, perhaps, a similar view could then be imagined in Roman times. It has now, therefore, become much more important, and an essential part of current archaeology, to study and understand the environmental condition prevailing at any given period from the remains of flora and fauna, pollen grains and rodents’ teeth to get a better picture of our history and heritage.

The Groma, a Roman piece of surveying equipment, was originally used to set out right angles in land and was probably employed in the surveying and sighting of roman roads and laying out towns. It was comprised of a staff supporting two cross arms with a lead weight plumb bob hanging from the end of each arm. When in use one plumb was positioned over the station or starting point and the angles were set off by sighting through the plummet strings. Used together with ten- foot poles or rods, similar to the ranging poles used in surveying today, the Romans would have been able to establish their alignments. The Romans also used two kinds of level, one a water level (libra aquaria), the other (a chorobates) comprising a 20 feet long level with feet at each end and a plummet.

The walk continued on to Tyrrells Wood where we sought some shelter under the tree for a very brief snack before returning the way we came and back to Juniper Hall. On the return leg of our walk, of course, the rain stopped and the sun broke through: it turned out to be quite a nice afternoon, pity about the morning.

Thanks to all those who attended the walk and to Alan Hall, our leader, who kept us very usefully informed and stimulated active discussion between those present. David Hartley


Visit to The Weald and Downland Museum at Singleton on Saturday, 6 August 2005

The Weald and Downland Outdoor Museum is well known to many of us. Spread over 50 acres of park below the South Downs between Midhurst and Chichester, it offers some of the best insights into how domestic life was lived in times gone by. It grew from small beginnings, and now it is possible to ‘visit’ dwellings of every period since mediaeval times. A look inside each building offers a twofold experience: on the one hand it shows interesting and well explained structural details; on the other, we can see how people lived during that era, with contemporary furniture and decorations bringing reality to the scene.

All but one of those who came on this occasion said that they had been there one or more times before. This in no way blunted their appreciation this time round: there is always so much to absorb and many new developments to explore. On arrival we were greeted and offered coffee by The Friends of the Museum. Afterwards we toured the site, though unable to see all that was on offer : time would not allow.

Flitting from one century to another, between locations only a few paces distant, was an experience one began easily to take for granted. First we were in the 19th century as we entered the house transported from beside the railway at Ashtead; next we were in the high-Middle Ages hall house with a central hearth open to the blackened rafters and upstairs a projecting ‘garderobe’ (toilet). Then an Elizabethan kitchen with a roaring fire and tastings of period food. There was a house carefully reconstructed to reveal two aspects of its three-century life- one half, bare and primitive (1600s), the other showing refinements added from the 18th to the 20th centuries. A brief stop at a nineteenth century village school-room; then to the sound of rushing water, a mill with its wheel turning and flour emerging from the grindstones.

These descriptions can only hint at the variety of impressions gained as the tour of the site continued. “Must come back to see some more” was the feeling as we explored the extensive layout. In the “Market Square” a real-life wedding had just taken place. Was that blue horse-drawn wagon going to be used instead of the wedding carriage ?

Before we left, one further surprise was to follow. We were on an excellent guided tour of the Downland Gridshell. Completed in 2002, this huge, award winning, wooden structure is built of criss-crossing oaken strips bolted at each intersection and clad with softwood panels. Unique in its architectural design, it comprises an upper storey housing workshops and assembly space. Below this is a vast store room housing the museum’s collection of artefacts, a fuller description will be left to our own Museum Manager, Alan Pooley. John Wettern

The ‘Gridshell’ at Singleton
The Gridshell building is in shape rather like a short tunnel of semi-circular construction albeit with rather wavy sides. Thus the lower level is probably about six times as long as it is wide and partially set into the hillside. We approached it having left the upper floor from the “mouth” of the tunnel, down a track past several stacks of timber to a glass door about two thirds along the length of the building. Looking through windows to the left in the hallway, envy commenced upon the sight of the office and, after noting the computers, filing racks, conservation areas and apparently ample space, we were ushered through a door on the right into the store room. This was a bit like walking into an Aladdin’s cave but without the genie. Sure, there are conventional racks with bulky items like stoneware jars and large pieces of blacksmiths equipment on them but a considerable number of the “racks” consist of vertical frames holding steel mesh of about 150 mm pitch. Here it is not only possible to store smaller items like tools but significantly to display them by tying them securely to the mesh using plastic cable ties. All of the racks are mounted on runners so that they can be moved to increase or reduce space between adjacent ones. Several of the items kept there are for use on special occasions like the shepherd’s smocks or are for eventual use in a building as part of the “furniture” but others are of interest just as representing the tools of the old crafts. The tour, open to members of the public, is a real eye-opener.

Mentioning old crafts, the wheelwrights at Amberley Museum have been commissioned to make the museum a new cart wheel using the metal hub and rim from the old one but with all new timber spokes and felloes put together in the traditional way. They are all volunteers and will try to have the new one ready for the 2006 season in which case the tyring (when the rim is shrunk on) may take place in March next year.

Both Singleton and Amberley benefit from acres of space, are constantly expanding as funds permit and make a great day out but both apparently suffer from a shortage of volunteers. Where have I heard that before? Alan Pooley


Friday, 16 September. "Surrey and the Motor Car" by Gordon Knowles.

Over 100 different companies have made motor cars in Surrey, Gordon Knowles told us at our September meeting. Many of them produced only a single vehicle, although Cooper racing cars and Caterham kit-cars were made in large numbers.

Surrey was in the forefront of road improvements, from the charging of tolls for upkeep on the Reigate to Crawley road from l696, and the turnpiking of the Portsmouth Road between 1711 and 1749. A more recent plan for an express toIlway from Kingston to Brighton, to run across Epsom Common and under local roads, was never implemented. The last turnpike in Surrey, near Dunsfold, was begun in 1836 but traffic was being taken away by canals and railways. The invention of the motor car led to increased road use just at the time when County Councils were being set up. The dusty roads were improved by the use of tar macadam, first used on the road between Esher and Cobham in 1905, and the County Council set up its own asphalt plant in Dorking in 1914. In the same year, Surrey was the first county to be inspected by the new national Roads Board for its road surfaces and dangers.

Captain Sant, Chief Constable of Surrey from 1899 to 1930, was the scourge of 'furiously riding' cyclists as well as motorists, Ripley being notorious for speed traps. However, the Reigate division appointed Malcolm Campbell as inspector of a high-speed police car squad, and even had a volunteer air patrol.

Between the world wars, car numbers increased tenfold. Dual carriageways and by-passes were built, not to everyone's joy: Farnham wanted it on the other side of town, Ewell and Shere petitioned against the loss of trade.The blight of 'ribbon development' and the delight of a 'Green Belt' were both addressed in the Surrey County Council Act of 1931, which was followed by other counties.

A Farnham inventor, John Henry Knight, fitted a tricycle with an oil engine and was fined in October 1895 for driving it in Castle Street, Farnham. This publicity led to the repeal to the Red Flag Act and the annual London to Brighton Emancipation Run. Knight's car was not the first British car to be driven on British roads, since one had been built and run in east London a few weeks earlier. Knight was one of the founders of what became the RAC. and a cycle patrol set up by another Surrey man to warn motorists of speed traps on the Brighton road led to the formation of the AA.

Mr Knowles said the the story of Brooklands needed several evenings' talks to do it justice. The Hon. Locke King had seen cars racing round the streets of Brescia, and determined to set up a private circuit to let British cars compete. Part of his estate was quickly landscaped with banking and a ferro-concrete track built and opened within a year (1906). A new world land speed record was made here in 1914 and the first two British Grands Prix held here in 1926 and 1927. Campbell's Bluebirds and many other famous cars ran here including Count Zborowski's aero-engined monsters long known as 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', one of which was developed by Parry Thomas, who lived at Brooklands, to attempt to beat the landspeed record, which cost him his life. The car racing circuit closed in 1939, but the museum retains much of the old atmosphere and many historic cars are still fired up from time to time.

Two motor manufacturers have existed for over a century in Surrey. John Dennis made cycles in Guildford and in 1899 was convicted of driving a motorized tricycle 'at a furious pace' up Guildford High Street, just four years after Knight had done the same in Farnham. The Dennis car factory of 1901 is the oldest purpose-built multistorey surviving in the world, now known as the Rodborough Building, a Wetherspoon pub opposite the Friary. Dennis diversified into commercial vehicles and then into fire engines and 'bus chassis. The AC Cobra sports car is the best known produced of the company originally called AutoCarriers (or 'Amazing Cars' from the slogan on its factory wall). As well as sports saloons and racing cars, they also made a simple single-seat invalid carriage on Government contract. A rather different record is that of Venthams, who made stage coaches from the 1840's in Leatherhead, then moving into motor body making and repair and only closing in 1936.

Gordon mentioned the work of other firms such as Brabham at Chessington, Invicta and Railton at Cobham, Tyrrell at Ockham, and Allard and Lister here in Leatherhead. For more detail, you must get a copy of Gordon Knowles' new book Surrey and the Motor, available from the Museum or at meetings. Derek Renn


Friday, 21 October. The Dallaway Lecture: “Surrey’s ancient houses and their dating by tree-rings”, by Rod Wild.

The age of a tree can be worked out by counting the growth rings when it is felled. Also, the relative width of the rings indicates climate change - narrow rings during dry, cold years and wide rings when the weather was generally wet and warm. The sequences of relative ring widths form a unique ‘fingerprint’ over time and, by using a series of overlapping ‘fingerprints’, the year of felling a particular piece of timber centuries ago can often be determined.In the Middle Ages, wood was used ‘green’ while it was easy to work, and not seasoned for any length of time. In 80% of timber-framed houses in Surrey where the building date was known from building accounts, the tree-ring felling date coincided with the documents, and the rest were built only a year or so after felling took place.

Rod Wild, co-ordinator of the Surrey Dendrochronology Project, explained this at our October meeting. The Project’s main aim was to determine the dates of change in timber-framed building styles.The oldest surviving houses in Surrey had the main room open to the high-pitched roof, with a central fire from which the smoke rose to coat all the roofbeams with soot. Later the fire was placed under a smokehood and a narrow ‘smoke-bay’ channelled the smoke between the upper rooms and roof spaces of the house. Later still, proper chimneys were built, usually of brick.

So far, an hundred houses had been dated by a professional dendrochronologist, funded by members of the Domestic Buildings Research Group, the Surrey Archaeological Society, together with a local charity and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The procedure is to take a pencil-thin core from a timber using a hollow drill and then automatically to measure optically the rings of 6 to 10 samples, presented as a computer-generated graph of width against time. Ideally (as at Clock House, Capel) the final bark ring would survive - otherwise the date had to be estimated from the ring marking the boundary between the outer sapwood and the inner heartwood. The first region to be explored was around Charlwood, where many old timberframed buildings survived in a relatively remote part of Surrey, impervious to rebuilding fashion elsewhere. Later, two other areas had been studied, comparing dates of change: around Godalming and latterly around Shere and the Clandons. Near Leatherhead, Brook Farm at Westcott is dated to 1407, Church House at West Horsley to 1434 and the ornamental panelling on Tunmore Cottage in East Clandon to 1573.

The dates of timber towers and roofs of churches sometimes proved to be rather later than had been expected (Newdigate's belfry was of 1525, athough the west porch and roof of Capel church was of 1410). Howard Davies reminded us of an earlier tree-ring dating for the felling of three of the timbers in the roof of the church tower of Ashtead church as 1450/1483. This may confirm other evidence of the building or repair of the tower early in the 16th century from such wood as was available. The dissolution of the monasteries had led to increased wealth trickling down to smaller landowners.

The famous Great Barn at Wanborough had been dated to 1388. House and barn might have similar dates (for example, Ivy House, Newdigate 1517). Closely similar timbers might come from the same tree or stretch of woodland (Black and White Cottage in the Hannah Pescar Sculpture Garden at Ockley matched exactly with Nyes Place eight miles away in Newdigate, both of 1608). So far the earliest dated building within the three 'clusters' was Greens Farm at Newdigate (1309), although Forge Cottage at Dunsfold had now been dated to 1254. Future work will be needed on a post inside the hall of Farnham Castle which has Norman decoration and a door to Old Woking church may even be pre-Conquest. Although all the Project funds have been spent, work continues if the houseowner meets the cost of up to 400. The Quinnells at Rowhurst Forge have done so: the provisional results there indicate a date in the seventeenth century.

Mr Wild said that the story that ship's timbers were re-used in houses was a myth: why use old, probably rotted, wood already weakened by mortice and peg holes, when good sound oak abounded? Surrey was still the most wooded county in Britain. The misunderstanding probably arose from the fact that ‘ship’s timber’ was a grade description, that is, wood of a quality suitable for naval construction. However, occasionally a house timber might be re-used (one of 1312 had been found among others consistently of 1460). Derek Renn


Report of the Friday, 18 November lecture “Landscape Archaeology in Surrey” by Judie English MA.

Judie gave an update of her work since her last visit to us four years ago. Landscape archaeology is using simple surveying techniques to determine the use to which the land had been put. Work is done in close liaison with Dr Rob. McGibbon of the Surrey Archaeology Society who is regenerating heaths to prevent them becoming scrub woodland. She described three projects:-

1. Survey of 19th century military earthworks
Recent work on the Ash Ranges in NW Surrey has located two hill forts where a combination of banks and ditches seems to suggest experimentation with different forms of defences in the mid 19th century when the government had purchased heathland to be used as army training areas. With the threat of an invasion by Napoleon, army camps were established, notably at Aldershot, and it was thought that London was largely unprotected and the French armies could be ravaging the towns in the Mole Valley Gap en route to the capital ! Earthworks consisted of combinations of internal and external ditches and banks of varying dimensions. On Hungry Hill, northwest of Farnham, a high ridge was invested with a system of trenches and polygonal redoubts (forts) built between 1854 and 1862, similar to the masonry forts built to protect Portsmouth harbour. Before the forts were built the land contained smallholdings leased by the Bishop of Wnchester for "the benefit of the poor " to avoid them ending up in the workhouse at Farnham.

2. Whitmore Common, north of Guildford
Work has just been completed on a site that dates back to the bronze age with two barrows (burial mounds) and a trackway. The coaxial field system was developed on sandy soil with banks held in place by hazel fences. Pollen analysis shows that cereals were grown and some of the grassland grazed. Eventually the area was taken over by grassland and has not been cultivated for the last three thousand years.

3. Holmbury Hill
Survey work is due to start at HoImbury Hill, one of three iron age forts probably constructed as a refuge overlooking the Weald and as a place from which to observe movements from other forts.

In concluding a fascinating lecture Judie hoped that landscape archaeology will train people to look critically at the landscape in order to determine the original use of the land. Archaeology without digging ! Fred Meynen


Report of the Pre-Christmas meeting, Friday, 16 December. “Leatherhead & District, Then and Now” by Linda Heath and Peter Tarplee
In the traditional way, the meeting was as much a social get-together as a lecture event. Coffee and mince pies were served and members and their guests gathered.

The lecture presented jointly by our president and our chairman provided copious pictures of Leatherhead and its surroundings in days gone by. The aim was to highlight each scene, enabling the audience to see a moment in the past contrasting with the same view as it appears at the present time. The speakers referred to the recent publication of the book in their joint authorship: Leatherhead & District, Then and Now. They explained that many books relating to the history of Leatherhead and surroundings have already appeared so, the audience might ask, what could be the justification for another one. The answer was well explained in the ensuing talk.

In planning the content and to ensure a wider public interest they chose to cover not just Leatherhead but also the outlying districts of Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham. The subject matter would be dealt with not in chronological order but in terms of theme, or rather, spheres of activity such as trade, industry, transport, countryside and so forth. In every case there would be illustrations contrasting the past with the present. Text would be used sparingly. As Peter Tarplee explained this was easier said than done. In some cases there was a dearth of pictures; sometimes however there was an overabundance, so selection had to be discerning. Many individuals had helped not only by contributing archive photos including postcards but also by producing excellent contemporary views. With Peter’s presentation we saw a rich variety of scenes, both urban and rural, many reflecting changes in people’s lifestyle. The row of meat and poultry carcasses hanging outside a butcher’s shop made us realise how times have changed.

Linda Heath spoke of the difficulty in defining ‘the present’. She pointed to cases such as that of the Bookham factory, a scene of thriving activity only a few months ago, now a burnt out shell. In matching the old with the new it was sometimes difficult to identify exactly the original photographer’s viewpoint, as so much had changed in the meantime. The choice of views in Leatherhead was particularly difficult. Speaking of scenes in the High Street there were archive pictures available taken in every era from 1880 onwards. But a single choice had to be made in order to meet the publisher’s requirements. Which should it be, 1905, 1912 , 1928 or 1980 ?

She recalled the association of North Street with the Leatherhead fire service and showed on the screen the classic picture of the horse-drawn fire engine with its crew aboard wearing their gleaming brass helmets. Behind it was the clock tower in North Street which, she explained, was the place where the engine was housed. Her hope had been to persuade the present-day firemen to bring their machine to be pictured on the identical site. Sure enough the fire service consented. The only problem was that a white van was parked in that very place. At the hour the fire engine was due to arrive the van was still there but the driver was located. Summoning up her courage she said to the van driver : "Would you mind if I asked you to move, you see I'm expecting a fire engine". To her relief the van drove off just as the engine arrived for her picture.
John Wettern