Leatherhead & District Local History Society - 2008 Programme
Fred Meynen

for other recent years, see current programme page

The Great Sock Raffle 2008

Friday, 18 January - John Evelyn, (1620-1706) and His Passion for Gardens by Beryl Saich, Secretary of the Surrey Gardens Trust.
The talk is based on the papers given at Surrey Gardens Trust's conference to celebrate the tercentenary of Evelyn's death. It describes the three driving forces of his rich, full life, his love of God, his devotion to the king and his passion for gardens. Three gardens, in particular: Sayes Court in Deptford , Albury, his most impressive design and Wotton, his family home were totally his own creation. Wotton, through his influence on his heir, his grandson Jack, changed the face of the Surrey countryside.

Friday, 15 February - The Great British Seaside by Brian Bloice.
Brian Bloice is a lecturer on local history at Morley and Lambeth Colleges, Vice Chairman of Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Societies and Organising Secretary for Streatham Local History Group. He is also a member of the National Pier Society and an entertaining speaker. We should have an interesting evening.

Saturday 23rd February 10am - Surrey Archaeological Society's Annual Symposium - Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall, Woodfield Lane, Ashtead - £10 on the door

Thursday 28th and Friday 29th February - Stewards Briefing Sessions

Wednesday 5th March 7pm - Holleyman Archaeological Lecture - The Villa of Tiberius Claudius Severus - a window into the past Roy Friendship-Taylor of the Upper Nene Valley Society
Chichester Lecture Theatre University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QQ. Entrance by free ticket only in advance from Lecture Co-ordinator - 01273 877888 or Si-enquiries AT sussex.ac.uk

Tuesday 11th March - Friends and members to Dorking Museum and Caves
Meet at Dorking Museum in West Street at 11am - introductory talk followed by special guided tour of the Museum and archive centre.

Saturday 15th March - Stewards Briefing Sessions

Monday 17th March - Executive Committee meeting

Friday 28th March Lecture - Early Cycling on the Surrey Roads by Les Bowerman, Send and Ripley History Society, member of Veteran Cycle Club and Vice President of Chariotteville Cycling Club of Guildford.
He has an extensive collection of veteran bikes and will be exhibiting a few of these at the lecture.
Note that this is not the usual third Friday, as that clashed with Good Friday this year.

It was planned to reopen Leatherhead Museum in April but this has been deferred until work is completed on repairing and restoring the building and the displays damaged in the car accident in January: see Museum News for the news of the opening on Thursday 29 May at 1pm.

Friday 18th April Lecture - AGM of the History Society followed by a short lecture on Monks Green Farm by Derek Banham
Derek has lived for the last 36 years in this 17th century farmhouse in Fetcham. After extensive and painstaking research he has recently published a document which details the full history of ownership and alterations that have occurred.

Monday 21st April 10am - British Library annual roadshow at the British Library - free bookings on first come, first served. Information and booking - Susy Wooton 0207 4127041 or Susy.wootton AT bl.uk

Saturday 3rd May - Guided Walk through the village of Great Bookham by Derek Renn who has extensive knowledge of the history of the area. Meet at 2.30pm in the Bookham Grove car park, top of the High Street on the left of the A246 coming from Leatherhead. £1 payable on the day. The walk will take approx. 1¼ hours and further details can be obtained from Derek on 01372 454880

Friday 16th May Lecture - The Homewood, Esher by Andrew King
This National Trust property has many unique features. It was built in 1930 in the modernist style incorporating what was then a `new' material - concrete. Besides its unusual design and layout the interior style and furnishings match the clean, bare lines of the house itself. Its owner, the architect Patrick Gwynne donated it to the Trust in 1999.

Monday 19th May - Executive Committee meeting

Saturday 31 May - Aqua Britannica: A one day conference on Water in Roman Britain at the Chertsey Hall, Chertsey Surrey. The conference will run from 10am - 4.45 pm and is organised by SAS Surrey Roman Studies Group. Tickets £12 (£10 for members of Surrey Roman Studies Group) and will include morning coffee and afternoon tea. A hot lunch will be available at the venue at a cost of approximately £5. The conference will be chaired by Mike Fulford and speakers will include:
Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green - Religion and Water
Dr Bill Putnam - The Dorchester Aqueduct
Ian Blair - The London Water - Lifting Machines Dr Bob Spain - Watermills
Anne Jones - Water for Domestic Needs Dr David Bird - Water in Mining

Saturday 7 June - Local History Day: At the Friends' Meeting House, Euston Road, London 10.30am-4.30pm organised by the British Association for Local History. Tickets £12.50 (£10 for members of BALH) includes coffee on arrival, packed lunch and tea after the lecture. Contact details BALH 7 St Mark's Road Salisbury SP1 3AY Website www.balh.co.uk
Open Forum discussion - Publishing local history. Speakers - Dr John Hargreaves (Halifax Antiquarian Society) and Dr John Chandler (Hobnob Press, Wiltshire). The chairman will be Dr Alan Crosby (editor of the Local Historian).
BALH Annual General Meeting Local History Awards 2008 Annual Lecture - Eighteenth Century Antiquarians. Professor Rosemary Sweet (Director of the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester).

Wednesday 18 June - Visit to Cherkley Court - The house and grounds were the home of Lord Beaverbrook, the newspaper proprietor and member of Winston Churchill's War Cabinet and have recently been restored by the Beaverbrook Foundation the gardens affording sweeping views over the Mole Valley. A tour of the house starting at 11am has been specially arranged for us as the house is not normally open to the public. Lunch can be taken in the Orangery with its excellent cuisine followed by a tour of the magnificent gardens at 2.30pm. To book a place please complete and return the reply slip enclosed with the May Newsletter, the cost of the house tour being £8 payable by cheque in advance and £4 for admission to the Orangery and gardens payable on the day. Numbers for the house tour will be limited to 22.

Friday 20 June - Goodbye Surrey?
Does anyone care about our Heritage? An illustrated lecture by Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive English Heritage. HSBC Investments Charity Service is the sponsor of this the annual lecture of the Surrey Archaeological Society at the Menuhin Hall, Stoke D'Abernon, doors open at 6.30pm, you are welcome to picnic in the grounds and a cash bar is available from 6.45pm. The Lecture commences at 7.45pm. Tickets: £12 (including a glass of wine) cheques to be made payable to 'Menuhin Hall' and sent together with a stamped addressed envelope to the box office The Menuhin Hall, The Yehudi Menuhin School, Stoke D'Abernon KT11 3QQ.

Wednesday 23 July - Horsham Museum and Town visit - This charming West Sussex town has so much to offer of historic interest. Its extensive museum includes displays covering every aspect of local life and of the past. Following a visit there and a choice of places to spend the lunch hour, there will be an optional guided tour of the town which cannot fail to fascinate. Horsham can be reached by car, bus or train. Travel advice will be sent to those interested on receipt of a SAE. The cost to members will be £4 which includes a donation to Horsham Museum. The application form enclosed with the May Newsletter should be returned not later than 1st July.

12th-20th July - National Archaeology Week
Saturday 12th July 10am - Launch of National Archaeology Week at Leatherhead Museum.
An invited guest speaker (to be announced) is to open NAW with a short speech, followed by refreshments, canapes and a glass of wine.
The Museum Opening Times during the Week are Saturday 12th 10am-4pm, Thursday 17th 1pm-4pm, Friday 18th 1pm-4pm, Saturday 19th 1pm-4pm

Associated Exhibitions
New Exhibition: Air Travel in the 1930s an exhibition devised and created by John Wettern, illustrating the 'Style' of the early years of air travel. It is hoped that the display and a presentation will be given by John Wettern on Friday 25th July at the Letherhead Institute 7pm-8.30pm. A forthcoming notice will appear on posters and posted on the History Society website

Ashtead Roman Villa - a display of painted wall plaster and pottery and other artefacts from the excavation of the Villa by AWG Lowther between 1926 -1929

Exploring Surrey's Past - a display of the work of the Surrey History Centre and their website.

Activities for Children - Designed for children and their parents to be held in the garden of Leatherhead Museum Hampton Cottage (weather permitting)

14th June Saturday - Ashtead Village Day at Ashtead

21st June Saturday - Bookham Village Day: At the Old Barn Hall, Great Bookham Surrey - See the press for details and local notices and posters. The History Society will again be represented at this annual event.

Monday 21 July - Executive Committee meeting

20th July Sunday - Epsom Charcoal and Woodland Day - Lizzie Bruce Chief Ranger reports the Ashtead Common Rangers will be attending and represented at Ashtead Village Day and Epsom Charcoal and Woodland Day and will be promoting the heritage aspect of Ashtead Common.

27th August to 14th September - A third Season of Excavations on the site of the Roman Villa and tileworks on Ashtead Common.
The Surrey Roman Studies Group is undertaking this third season of excavations on the Villa Site commencing 27th to 31st August, 3rd to 7th September and 10th to 14th September with the possibility of needing 15, 16th September for tidying up etc. Last seasons report written and prepared by David Bird was published in the SAS Bulletin and our own February Newsletter.

11th -14th September - Heritage Open Days.
Mole Valley is again participating in Heritage Open Days this year. They will take place on 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th September and, of course, our museum will be opening on all these days. This year the local theme is Hidden Treasures and many of the events will pick up on this.

The launch lecture will, as usual, be on the Friday evening and this year the speaker is Professor Richard Selley whose talk is titled: Mole Valley Hidden Treasures: its Caves, Tunnels and Subterranean River. The lecture starts at 19.30 and will take place in the Old Barn Hall, Church Road, Bookham. Many of you will remember the talk given by Professor Selley to the L&DLHS on 17th March 2006 when his subject was Surrey Vineyards, Ancient and Modern. The talk should be of interest to many people and we look forward to a large attendance to get Heritage Open Days off to a good start.

As usual our District is expecting to have a wide range of talks, walks, exhibitions and open properties over the weekend and members are urged to get a copy of the Heritage Open Days brochure which will give full details of all of these. Copies are available from libraries, museums, council offices, visitor information centre and the help shop. This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the local composer, and there are a number of activities to commemorate this anniversary.

It is not possible for me to give a comprehensive list of the scores of events on offer but here are a few which might encourage you to get a copy of the brochure:

The booking arrangements for these and all the other events are clearly shown in the brochure so if you feel that there may be something to interest you please get a copy and support the Heritage Open Days weekend.
Peter Tarplee

We would welcome the support of members of the History Society and Friends of Leatherhead Museum to assist in the manning of exhibitions and displays at the Letherhead Institute and the Museum during these celebrations.

13th September Saturday - Ashtead Common Event
This will take place during the last weekend of archaeological work on the Roman Villa site this year and will involve a number of guided walks up to the villa to look at the site of the archaeological excavation as well as stalls down at the Estate Office. Contact: Lizzie Bruce Senior Ranger - Ashtead Common NNR telephone 01372 279083 email, lizzie.bruceATcityoflondon. gov.uk (replace AT with @ before sending): website www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

Friday 19 September - Wayneflete Tower, Esher by Penny Rainbow
Penny Rainbow owns and lives in part of the medieval manor house of the Bishops of Winchester. The house has recently been excavated by the Time Team of Channel 4.

Friday 17 October - Excavations at the Ashtead Roman Villa and Tileworks 2008 by Dr David Bird.
Dr Bird who is Director of Excavations will bring us the latest news from this summer's work on the site. Last years illustrated report is in the History Society's February newsletter.

A Rich Inheritance by Linda Heath
Come and see history re-enacted! A Rich Inheritance is a dramatisation of historical events in Leatherhead from 1395-1897. It was first performed in Leatherhead Parish Church in 1995 and again in 2000.

This production is part of the Arts Festival and will again be in Leatherhead parish church at 7.30pm on 23rd, 24th and 25th October. Tickets £10 (£9 concessions) obtainable from Corbetts Bookshop, Swan Centre, Leatherhead, tel. 01372 362988.

Friday 21 November - Brooklands and the Hawker Hurricane Aircraft by Brian Hennegan
Brian was a Vickers Armstrong apprentice engineer and has been a Brooklands Museum Volunteer and a member of the Hurricane restoration team for many years. His lecture will cover the development of the aircraft, its role in the Battle of Britain during WW2 and the restoration of the aircraft Z2389.

Friday 19 December - Christmas Social Event including John Evelyn's Gardens in Pictures by Beryl Saich.
This is a short visual presentation following on from her lecture given to the History Society in January. Coffee and mince pies at 7.30, lecture at 8pm followed by canapés and wine as part of our Christmas Social event.
Fred Meynen Progammme Secretary

Friday, 18 January - John Evelyn, (1620-1706) and His Passion for Gardens by Beryl Saich, Secretary of the Surrey Gardens Trust.
Attendance at our January meeting was exceptionally high, perhaps because the lecture promised to be of interest to both historians and to garden lovers. The subject was the life and achievements of one of Britain's most celebrated horticulturists, John Evelyn.

Our lecturer, Beryl Saich, of the Surrey Gardens Trust, impressed us as she listed the diversity of our hero's attainments - a brilliant diarist, a writer of books, traveller and innovator. His legacy has many facets, the most notable being his mission to instruct landowners in the task of managing their estates and gardens coupled with his love of trees. Testimonials to this are the books he wrote, and the beauty of the landscapes he created.

As an ardent Royalist he went abroad during the Cromwell era, during which time he toured France, Italy and the Low Countries, noting the diverse and attractive landscapes that existed in the gardens and parks he visited. On his return to England he brought this knowledge and put it into practice, but there was always an 'English' element in his designs.

Surrey was a prominent beneficiary of his talents. He owned property and advised numerous landowners within the county. Most notable are Albury and Wotton. Both of these have seen changes since his time but much has survived. At Albury its owner wanted a 'new' garden and he gave it a canal, a grotto and a landscape dotted with trees of many varieties.

Wotton belonged to his family and an Italianate garden was created there. There had been a loss of many trees, which John deplored. These were later restored and the property eventually passed to his grandson Jack. A book which he wrote, Memoirs for my Grandson Jack, abounds with practical advice. His counsel was largely followed, and Jack (who became Sir John) not only nurtured his grandfather's legacy but also became a supplier of trees for other properties including Claremont.

John Evelyn was a colourful and popular person. He had many friends from among the famous and gifted members of society. He identified with those pushing the boundaries of science and learning. One of his sayings was 'Enquire and experiment'. But his reputation as a champion of landscape architecture coupled with his love of trees outshines all his other virtues.

At the conclusion of the lecture members of the audience were given the chance to inspect and purchase from a variety of publications that were being displayed on a bookstall, on offer from the Surrey Gardens Trust.
John Wettern

from the Leatherhead Advertiser
Friday, 15 February - The Great British Seaside by Brian Bloice.
On Friday February 15 we had a most interesting talk by Brian Bloice on The Great British Seaside, which was an account of how small fishing ports gradually developed into fashionable and prosperous seaside resorts.

In particular, the talk focussed on Brighton - its rise from the totally insignificant fishing village of Brighthelmston into what became one of the most fashionable of all resorts, largely of course due to its popularity with the Prince of Wales, later George IV and the exotic Brighton Pavilion Palace.

The present pavilion was built in 1820, but the first one was built in 1787. A second pavilion was built between 1803-08 which gave a certain panache to the town, and in 1807 the Theatre Royal was built, which was an attraction to the wealthy visitors who by then were coming in considerable numbers.

There were really no hotels at this time, so visitors either stayed at coaching inns or they rented suitable houses. By this time, sea bathing was becoming popular and men, who bathed naked, were conveyed in and out of the sea in bathing machines, but ladies remained dressed and were escorted by the fishermen's wives, known as 'dippers', who dipped the ladies into the water - hence the expression "going for a dip".

Until the mid 19th century it was only the rich who could afford to visit seaside resorts like Brighton, but in 1841 the coming of the railway brought hundreds of middle class families to the area who could now go there either for a week's holiday by the seaside, or even just for the day.

The seaside pier began to be a feature of these towns - at first as additional areas for promenades, and then later on the amusement arcades became an added attraction. At Brighton, the first pier was built in 1822, but this was swept away in a gale in 1893.
Altogether, this was a fascinating history illustrated by excellent slides.
Linda Heath

Fri 28 March Early Cycling on the Surrey Roads by Les Bowerman
Our March lecture Early Cycling on the Surrey Roads was given by Les Bowerman who gave a fascinating account of the development of the bicycle from the early 19th century to WW2 and illustrated by excellent pictures and photographs. Les is a member of the Veteran Cycle Club, Vice President of the Charlotteville Cycling Club of Guildford and has a collection of over 200 veteran cycles, three of which were demonstrated at the lecture.

The ancestor of all bicycles was the 'laufmaschine' designed in Germany in 1817 by Karl von Drais who was inspired by skating, the rider sitting down and propelling himself with feet on the ground. This was followed two years later by the pedestrian curricle or hobby horse and then by the velocipede which had a ratchet device fitted to the front wheel 'pulling like the reins of a horse'.

In 1850 four wheeled velocipedes appeared and then in 1860 in Paris the first two wheeled pedal bicycle was produced, made entirely of wood with iron tyres and pedals cranking the front hub. In the Surrey Comet of the time the bicycle was described as a 'machine of solitary locomotion, costing less than a very bad horse and eats nothing'. In Guildford Museum there is a photo of Lewis Carroll astride such a machine. Les demonstrated one of the `bone shaker' bikes he had brought and showed early photos of Bolder Mere near Wisley depicting these bicycles and their riders.

The bicycle then evolved to having a larger front wheel enabling the rider to travel faster resulting in races and 'monster meets' at Hampton Court where 2000 riders rode round Bushey Park watched by crowds of over 3000 people. In 1871 the Surrey Bicycle Club was formed holding races between Kingston and Guildford finishing at the Talbot in Ripley. By now the High Bicycle or Penny Farthing with its huge front wheel was being produced and in 1882 L Cortis of Streatham rode a 60 inch wheeled bike with 60 spokes at 20 mph at Crystal Palace, the event being commemorated with a memorial in Ripley church.

By now efforts were being made to design bicycles which were safer and for women and in the 1880s the familiar diamond framed bike with wheels of similar size driven by pedal and chain was making cycling popular. Les showed photos of cycle camps outside Guildford and Dorking and venues popular for cyclists at the Anchor run by the Dibble family in Ripley, the Hut on Bolder Mere and the Bull and Swan Hotels in Leatherhead.

In answer to a question from the floor Les demonstrated, without actually mounting, how to get on the High Bicycle bringing to conclusion a well presented and entertaining lecture.
Dr Fred Meynen

Leatherhead Advertiser Thursday May 22 2008
Friday 18th April Lecture - AGM of the History Society followed by a short lecture on Monks Green Farm by Derek Banham
The 61st annual meeting held in April was followed by a lecture given by Derek Banham on the history of Monks Green Farm, a 17th century farmhouse in Fetcham, which he and his wife have lived in for the last 36 years. The farmhouse is located on the edge of the village on the Cobliam. Road and first mention of it was in the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when a triangular meadow was marked as Monks Green with a lane leading to a farmhouse.

Local court rolls of 1631 refer to 28 acres of copyhold land called Freakes, late of the estate of John Monk. The Domestic Building Research Group suggest that in around 1600 there could have been a two-storey timber-framed house, followed later by a brick extension with a large brick chimney which exists even to this day.
The house was later rebuilt in brick and over the next hundred years substantial additions were made.

The first records of ownership are in manorial records of 1741 when the estate – comprising house, barns, stable, gardens, orchard and 28 acres - passed from Arthur Moore to Thomas Revell. Derek still has the original lead firemark dated 1774, which was nailed to the front wall to prove to the local fire brigade that they would get paid to putout the blaze if the house caught fire.

Derek has been able to trace subsequent owners and tenants of the farm, the acres rising in 1879 to 130 of farmed land employing three men and two boys in addition to two living-in servants. In 1875 Charles Anderson, a merchants clerk, was the first person to live in the house who was not a farmer and two years ago Derek was able to meet Mrs Hunt now aged 100, a direct descendant from the Anderson family, a unique encounter.

Arthur Smiles, another owner of the farm, developed a successful business breeding cattle, shire horses and Shetland ponies and in 1937 Virginia White was employed as herdswoman. Using audio-tapes, Derek has been able to discover from her what life was like on the farm and about her prize bull, Fieldplace Abdul. In 1971 the Jersey herd was sold and Derek and Dilys became owners of the house.

The farm buildings, which are now not part of the house, have sadly been left to deteriorate. Derek and Dilys have made some alterations to the house, creating a family home reflecting their own artistic interests and their love for the house and its history. This has resulted in a 108-page fully-illustrated document detailing the history, the alterations and development of the house and farm, together with full account of the owners and tenants.

The next lecture is on Friday May 16, entitled The Homewood-Esher by David Scott at Letherhead Institute, coffee 7.30pm, lecture 8pm. Visitors welcome £2.
Dr Fred Meynen

from the Leatherhead Advertiser 26 June 2008
Friday 16 May - The Homewood, Esher, by Andrew King
The Homewood was opened to the public in April for the first time. At our May meeting, David Scott, its new tenant, told us the story of this modernist house and garden near Esher. The architect, Patrick Gwynne, was brought up in a Victorian house on the site. He studied at the Royal Institute of British Architects and moved to the practice of Wells Coates. At the age of 24 he persuaded his parents to allow him to design and build a new home and garden for them. The house was built within a year and cost £10,500. Mr Gwynne lived there first with his grandmother, parents and sister, but later on his own until his death at the age of 90, leaving The Homewood to the National Trust.

Our speaker went on to describe the house, surrounded by acers, azaleas and rhododendron, together with birch, gorse and heather. The house is built of concrete and rendered brick, most of the rooms being supported on columns. A circular staircase rises from the front door to the bedroom block. Beyond this is a study and office, then a large living area and finally the servants' wing, with high windows so that staff were not distracted from their duties. Gwynne either avoided or hid clutter, with slopingwindow ledges and roller shutters.

David Scott described some of the problems of living in The Homewood today. The flat roof can only be reached with climbing gear and the rainwater drains into internal pipes. Two people are needed to lift the reinforced glass over any light bulb needing replacement. The original large windows and gas-fired radiators mean very large heating bills.

Our next meeting in the Abraham Dixon Hall at the Letherhead Institute will be on Friday, September 19, when Penny Rainbow will describe her Esher home, the 15th century Wayneflete's Tower.
Derek Renn

Cherkley Court visit, 18 June
Members of the Society went on a tour of Cherkley House and Gardens on 18th June which have recently been extensively restored by the Beaverbrook Foundation and reflect the style and design of the 1930s. Anna, our tour guide, outlined the history when Abraham Dixon built the original house in 1873, rebuilding it in 1893 following a disastrous fire. He also founded the Letherhead Institute and being a keen botanist gave rare lily plants to Kew.

Sir Max Aitken (later Lord Beaverbrook), bought the house in 1907 and furnished it with the help of Mrs Rudyard Kipling, the library books being provided by Bonar Law. Lord Beaverbrook lived there till his death in 1964, his second wife remaining in the house on her own for the next twenty years.

During this time the house and gardens were neglected and suffered further damage in the storm of 1988 when a very large number of trees were destroyed and the cellars flooded. Anna took us through the rooms on the ground floor which have been restored with attention to the exact colours, furnishings and fittings of the period.

The cinema, where films were shown to the guests after dinner has been completely re-panelled in light maple wood and the library, unique to the memory of Lord Beaverbrook, restored in every detail with every book damaged by water and woodworm sent away for individual treatment by experts. The reception rooms with breathtaking views over the terraces towards Norbury Park were reminders of the days when Lord Beaverbrook held an important and powerful place as Chief of Aircraft Production in Winston Churchill's War Cabinet, Churchill himself being a frequent visitor to Cherkley.

We then took lunch in the Orangery and sampled the tasty food beautifully prepared by a local catering firm Too Many Cooks. The weather had by then turned cold with a blustery south westerly wind and a small intrepid group of us went on a short tour of the terraced gardens, concluding a memorable visit to a unique house which played such an important part in our local and national history.

Dr Fred Meynen

Friday 19 September - Wayneflete Tower, Esher by Penny Rainbow
Living in a medieval tower today may be heaven - or hell. In September, Penny Rainbow shared with us the excitement she experienced after buying the derelict Wayneflete Tower at Esher.

The estate had been bought by William Raleigh, Bishop of Winchester, in 1245 for its position between the episcopal palaces at Southwark and Winchester. The nearby River Mole provided good access by water and a small timber-framed lodging was soon built, and a stone manor house added about 1331. Its heyday was during the time of Bishop William Wayneflete, who lived in the reigns of eight kings, from Richard II to Henry VII. Born in 1398, William was Master of Winchester College in 1429 and Bishop of Winchester from 1447, a reward for his work at royal Eton. He was made Lord Chancellor of England inl456 but had to resign in 1460 having backed the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses. He still had a stupendous income from 240 different properties and rebuilt Esher Palace on a courtyard plan, with a great hall and magnificent tower and gatehouse, both four storeys high. He built similar gatehouses at Farnham Castle and for a new school at his birthplace, Wainfleet in Lincolnshire. Large residential 'solar'towers were then fashionable and Penny showed us slides of those at Buckden, Caister and Tattershall. John Evelyn, who saw the Palace in 1673, described it as being 'of the best burnt brick I ever saw' and the hall roof with carved angels 'not unlike Westminster Hall'.

The palace stayed with the Bishops of Winchester. In 1515 the blind Bishop Fox lent it to Cardinal Wolsey while he was rebuilding Hampton Court Palace. Wolsey became Bishop himself in 1539 and retreated to Esher for some months after his disgrace, dying in Leicester Abbey the following year. King Henry VIII incoporated the Esher lands into his royal hunting chase. Owned briefly by Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I's favourite and by the Howards of Effingham, it was sold to Richard Drake, cousin of the famous Sir Francis, in 1583 .Three captured Spanish admirals from the 1588 Armada were lodged here, with large retinues, becoming a sight for tourists until they were ransomed in 1593. More positively the first Spanish/English dictionary was composed here by admiral Don Pedro de Valdez. An engraving of 1678 shows that additions had been made on each side of the tower, but the rest of the buildings had been demolished and replaced by orchards, gardens, avenues of trees and ornamental ponds. A tulip tree here may be the oldest in the country coming from the Americas where the then owner of Esher was a sugar baron.

Henry Pelham, brother of the Duke of Newcastle who owned Claremont, purchased the estate in 1729, employing William Kent to remodel the tower and landscape the grounds, including a grotto which survives in Pelham's Walk. Carvings of the family emblem, the buckle of the King of France captured at the Battle of Poitiers in 1396, can be seen on the Tower and (upside down) in the High Street. The estate was bought by John Spicer in 1805, who removed some of the additions to the Tower. He built a new house (now Esher Place) on a higher site between 1895-8 which was greatly enlarged by Lord d'Abernon and bought in 1927 by the Electrical Trades Union.

Wayneflete Tower was given to the Shaftesbury Society for use as a girls' school in 1930 and the rest of the estate 'developed'with expensive houses costing up to £5,000. Frances Day, the actress and singer, bought the Tower in 1941, installing main drainage and water, with a lift (to supplement the spiral staircase) found on a bomb site. The Tower had been empty and vandalized for seven years before Penny Rainbow bought it and began to repair it as a family home in 1992. She has not seen any ghosts there yet, although a horror film was made there in 1975. She described the work carried out by Time Team in 2005 and later by the Surrey Archaeological Society, when a 1960's garage was replaced by an extension to the gatehouse. Stone foundations of the early lodgings were found and part of the brick footings of the great tower. Documents suggested building here in the 1460's, and expert tree-ring dating of beams in the gatehouse indicated a felling date range of 1462-72. A 1473-78 silver penny came from the topsoil, as did a 1661 jetton of Thomas Carter, a Portsmouth hatter. A complete (but empty) Georgian wine bottle was also found!

After her talk, Penny drew the raffle tickets for pairs of clean socks donated by John Bird (founder of The Big Issue), Adam Hart Davis, John Julius Norwich, Tony Robinson and Phil Harding {Time Team), and Dr David Starkey. This raised over £200 for the Leatherhead Museum and Heritage Centre Trust.
(Bishop Wayneflete's silk-covered linen stockings and ankle boots are still preserved by Magdalen College, Oxford, which he founded in 1458.).
Derek Renn

Friday 17 October - Excavations at the Ashtead Roman Villa and Tileworks 2008 by Dr David Bird.
The Abraham Dixon Hall of the Letherhead Institute was crowded for our October meeting, to hear a report on the latest excavations of the Roman villa in Ashtead Woods. Dr David Bird, the former County Archaeologist who is directing the excavations, began by setting the scene. The Romans had not invaded Surrey from the Weald and had no towns in the county. Their road system connected major settlements, but a road from London to Winchester was still unproven.The varied geology of Surrey meant that there were many different landscape areas and although the heavy London clay was very unfavourable, there was some evidence of pre-Roman activity nearby, particularly near the present village. A new survey of the triangular earthwork just west of the villa suggested that it might be prehistoric too, but an excavation made here had never been reported. Saxon finds had also been made at the villa and nearby, particularly in a cemetery on the site of what was now the headquarters of Esso Petroleum.

AWG Lowther (our first Chairman and then President) noticed Roman tiles on the ground during a survey of the natural history of the Ashtead woodland in 1924. Over the next five years he and his friends dug out a villa and bath-house, each with central heating. Unfortunately the excavations were poorly done, clearing the rooms but not the tops of the flint walls, and records were scrappy. Heavy rain on the London clay meant digging conditions were awful, and one of the most interesting rooms was vandalized the night after it was found. Captain Lowther changed his mind (and his drawings) and his reports were incomplete and contradictory - his later writings on other sites often mentioned his finds here for the first time. The most reliable accounts were the press cuttings of the 'twenties'.

In the 1960's John Hampton resurveyed the site and examined the Roman and later claypits nearby, finding tile dumps but not the baking kilns and a corner of either a building or an enclosure wall. Recently, it had been discovered that at the same time scientists from Kingston University had produced pollen diagrams which suggested clearance of the woodland both in Roman times and in the sixth century AD. Carbon dating of the former gave a period of 50-240 AD which agreed with coins and pottery found at the villa.

Not only is the villa a scheduled ancient monument requiring permission from English Heritage to excavate, but the woods are a site of Special Scientific Interest. Nature England specified that no digging was to take place within 15 metres of any tree. David gave particular thanks for much help from the Commons' keepers employed by the owners, the City of London. Over 500 people visited the site over the Heritage Weekend in September.

The apparently unique plan of the villa has often been commented upon. The different floors (one of chalk, another of bricks laid in herringbone fashion, a third in small square pieces of tile) at different levels had been re-examined. Pottery had been deliberately broken during building.

The front porch proved to be rather smaller than had been recorded by Captain Lowther and various rooms had been added afterwards. Dr Bird drew attention to the odd shape of the hollow boxtiles, with slots in the sides either for linking pegs or sharing heatflues and their arrangement entirely jacketing one room both above and below floor level. The stamped designs on such tiles had suggested distribution patterns, but it would be necessary to analyse the clay fabric to differentiate sources. A visit to Swallow Tileworks at Cranleigh, shortly before it closed after a century of hand tilemaking, had given much insight into working methods; for example, the right firing temperature was determined by eye, not by instruments.

The tall 'lamp chimneys' found may have been for incense not light or heat. The famous 'dog and stag' tiles bore initials, probably of the owner and of his foreman. These images were often meant to seek protection for the building by the gods. The only sculptured stone fragment found here was the comer of an altar. The owner may have been a retired army officer as there were small but unique links with Roman military sites at Corbridge (Northumberland) and Holt (Denbighshire). 'Wasters' showed that pottery vessels were made here as well as tiles. There may have been commercial timber management too.

There were still unsolved questions:
How widespread was the industry? A tile kiln had been found on the site of Horton Hospital four kilometres to the NE.
Why was the bath house separate from the villa? Was it for the workers rather than for the owner's family ?
Why was the villa sited at the claypits rather than near Stane Street? Had Epsom salts been found here in Roman times?

Future excavation work was planned to look for some of the ancillary buildings suggested by John Hampton's work and a subsequent magnetometer survey, and also to investigate the problem of water supply. Questions to the speaker suggested the whereabouts of some still existing wells near the villa, and whether the high site was partly for observation or was it once a sacred site?.
Derek Renn

from the Leatherhead Advertiser 25 Dec 2008
Friday 21 November - Brooklands and the Hawker Hurricane Aircraft by Brian Hennegan

On Friday, November 21, Brian Hennegan gave us a talk entitled Brooklands and the Hurricane Aircraft. Brian talked about the role that Brooklands played in the development of cars and aircraft. He also said that it played a part in the life of people living in the Leatherhead District. It was of course a large employer, especially from the mid 1930s onwards right up until the mid to late 1980s.

He described a journey on the 462 bus in the early 1950s. The journey started at Leatherhead station and by the time the bus arrived at Vickers Armstrongs at Weybridge, the passengers left the bus rather like toothpaste leaving the tube. It was packed. During the war the site was occupied by both Vickers and Hawkers who relocated to Langley in 1942. People travelled there to work by all means of transport. Many arrived by push-bike. The racing track was opened in 1907 and from 1908 aircraft manufacturing had begun.

One of these companies was the Sopwith Company started by Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith. During the First World War they built many aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps, the most famous being the Sopwith Camel. When the war ended the need for aircraft diminished and the company turned to the manufacture of other products. Today we call it diversifying. The Treasury then dealt Tommy a crippling blow. They wanted a huge tax payment for the past three years. Forget the huge debt that the country owed the company for its vital contribution during the war years. Sopwith asked if he could make the payment over an agreed period, but the Treasury would not play ball. Sopwith being an honourable man wanted to be sure that his creditors got their due payments so he arranged for the company to be placed in receivership. In November the company was re-formed under the name of Hawker Aircraft. Harry Hawker was the test pilot for Sopwith and he had made a vital contribution to the development of its aircraft. Harry was killed in a crash on July 12 1921.

The first Hurricane flew on November 6 1935. Brian went on to describe the role the Hurricane played during the Second World War. At the time of the Battle of Britain the Hurricane shot down more enemy aircraft than all the other Allied aircraft and ground defence put together. Their pilots had ammunition for 15 seconds only and fuel for say two hours or thereabouts. For the remainder of his talk Brian described the rebuilding of Hurricane number Z2839, currently being carried out at Brooklands Museum. This project has been ongoing for the last 10 years and is reaching completion. Brian was in at the beginning and has been at Brooklands for most Thursdays during that time.
Goff Powell

based on the article in the Leatherhead Advertiser 15 Jan 2009
Friday 19 December

Members and guests of the society met at their pre-Christmas event which provided a cheerful social occasion as well as a stimulating insight into the story of one of Leatherhead's former monuments. The speaker, Goff Powell, had kindly agreed to give the lecture at extremely short notice owing to the scheduled presenter having had to cancel due to illness.

Leatherhead Clock Tower was the subject of Goff's presentation. The story, well illustrated with slides, traced the history of the quaint edifice which stood in North Street from 1859 until 1952. Older residents remember it well. Others came to learn of its location and of its function as well as its history. This small building, dominated by its clock, stood at the intersection of North Street and Gravel Hill. At its base behind double doors the town fire engine was stored. We enjoyed a colourful description of episodes when this horse-drawn vehicle was summoned to local emergencies – the firemen in their brass helmets and the horses with gleaming harness.

This was the focal point of Leatherhead's life. Close by the Town Band played and public speakers held forth. Goff's pictures highlighted some of the most memorable moments on record: the celebrations at the conclusion of World War One, and similarly those that followed victory after World War Two.

In 1917 a 'war shrine' erected by the ladies of Leatherhead was placed on the clock tower, displaying a roll of honour bearing the names of those who hade served in WWI to that time, including the many who had died. This is now housed in Leatherhead's parish church.
[see http://www.leatherheadweb.org.uk/warmemorials/go_to_town_creation.html ]

We learned what became of the clock tower. 1926 saw the opening of the town's new fire station and the lower level became a public toilet. Close by, in 1921 the war memorial was built, with its garden of remembrance as we know it now. We were shown many pictures which reflected the life of the town during these earlier years: a concourse of cyclists relaxing during their tour, days of celebration marking historic events, the sparseness of traffic.

The meeting concluded with an announcement of the next event, a lecture to be given by Peter Tarplee on Friday, January 16 entitled "Early Gas, Water and Electricity Supplies in Surrey". This will take place at the Letherhead Institute starting at 8pm, coffee served from 7.30. Non-members are welcome. Admission £2.
John Wettern