for other recent years, see current programme page
This calendar includes Leatherhead Museum events and activities. Fred is also Chairman of the Friends of Leatherhead Museum.
16th January Early Water, Gas and Electricity supplies in Surrey - by Peter Tarplee.
Peter is the Vice President of the History Society and has published several articles and books on Industrial Archaeology. He will explain how these three basic utilities started and developed in this county.
20th February Leatherhead Hospital, Past, Present and Future by Dr Fred Meynen.
Leatherhead has had a cottage hospital serving the community for over a hundred years. The present hospital dates from 1940 and has inpatient and extensive outpatient facilities. What are the plans for the future? Come and find out!
March 2009 Museum Steward briefing sessions (dates to be announced)
March 2009 Joint Friends of the Museum visit with the History Society to a local museum (date and venue to be announced)
20th March Godalming Past and Present - by John Young.
Born in Godalming, John has lived in the town for most of his life and is passionate about its history and character. He is actively involved with Godalming Museum and is a member of several local history groups.
21 Mar (not May as in Newsletter): Members may be interested in a presentation by Andrew Tatham The Group Photograph, 7.30pm in Leatherhead Parish Church Hall. Andrew has produced an animated film following the discovery of a group photograph of the officers of the 8th Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment taken in 1915. The presentation explores who they were and their history. Coffee, tea and biscuits will be served. Tickets £6 in aid of the Friends of Leatherehad Parish Church. For booking please phone C Evans 01372 372169 or J Hampton 01372 376640 or click on booking form.
25 Mar Joint visit with the Friends of Leatherhead Museum to The Spike and Guildford Museum: 11am The Spike, Warren Road, Guildford; 1pm lunch at The King's Head, Guildford; 2pm introductory talk and visit to Guildford Museum. To book a place please phone Dr FGC Meynen 01372 372930 and indicate whether you need or can offer lifts. Cost £2.50 payable on the day
2nd April 2009 Leatherhead Museum reopens
17th April AGM, followed by Air Travel in the 1930s - by John Wettern.
John will describe the workings of Croydon Airport from 1929 to 1939, together with the airlines such as Imperial Airways and the aircraft using the airport.
24th April 2009 AGM of the Friends of Leatherhead Museum
15th May A Butcher's Tale of Woe by Keith Weston.
Keith Weston is known as Rawling's & Kensett Butchers Shop in Bookham. He has spent 33 years in the butchery business and will describe the highs and lows and the various difficulties the butchery trade has faced in that period. Last year, Keith cycled from Smithfield to Bookham and raised £7,000 in aid of the rebuilding of Little Bookham Parish Hall.
31 May Guided walk through Ashtead Village led by Barry Cox, starting at 2.30pm. The route is based on the leaflet Ashtead Village Heritage Trail & Walks, written by Barry for Mole Valley some years ago (it may be in your public library). The group (no more than 15) will start from outside Barry's home, Forge Cottage, Blacksmith Close (off Rectory Lane). The walk will take about 90 minutes. To obtain a place please phone 01372 273167.
26th August-13th September - Ashtead Roman Villa & Tileworks
Members of the Surrey Archaeological Society's Roman Studies Group will be conducting a fourth Season of excavations at the site of the Ashtead Roman Villa and Tile works on Ashtead Common, directed by Dr David Bird and his dedicated team coordinating the excavation site.
10th - 13th September - Heritage Open Days
The History Society and our Museum at Hampton Cottage will both be providing a display in celebration of Mole Valley's Heritage Open Days, at the Museum and at the Letherhead Institute over the heritage weekend of Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th September.
13th September Open Day on Ashtead Common to mark Heritage Open Day
Organised by Lizzie Bruce Senior Ranger of Ashtead Common NNR.
If you would like to know more about this event visit their website: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
18th September The Story of Betchworth Castle - by Martin Higgins
Martin is the Heritage Buildings Officer, Surrey County Council Conservation Team and is raising grants for the restoration of the castle from its present ruins.
16th October Iron Age and Roman Settlements around Leatherhead - by Frank Pemberton.
Frank is a well-known archaeologist. He has previously talked to us about his finds in the Ewell area. This lecture will cover more local situations including Hawks Hill and Roman sites near Stane Street.
20th November Sir George Edwards - From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde - by Robert Gardner MBE.
Sir George Edwards lived in Lower Road, Bookham, for many years. He was an aviation pioneer and designer. He was a leader of the British post war aviation industry. Robert Gardner lives in Leatherhead and was a Vice President of British Aerospace. His talk is based on his biography of Sir George.
18th December Members Social Event - Christmas Memories by Members of the Society.
There will be short presentations by members of their recollections of past Christmases. If you would like to take part with your memories please contact me on 01372 372930. Wine, canapes and mince pies will be served afterwards and the evening will end with a raffle.
from the Leatherhead Advertiser, 29 Jan 2009
Early Water, Gas and Electricity supplies in Surrey - by Peter Tarplee.
The lecture on January 16 was given by our vice-president Peter Tarplee, his subject being the early days of public utilities in the county. Peter is a well-known industrial historian in the county and is the author of guides to the industrial history of a number of districts in Surrey, including Mole Valley, published by the Surrey Industrial History Group.
Water was traditionally obtained from streams and ponds for domestic use, while large houses and estates took water from rivers and streams by waterwheel or windmill. Wells in the chalk provided supplies, drawn up by a windlass or hand pump. Domestic water was free, provided you could carry it from the source. Water carriers sold water at the door. Hannah Oakford, who died in 1898, charged a penny ha'penny per bucket to deliver to houses in Haslemere. There is plaque today on the town well commemorating her.
Local landowners often assisted. Lord Lovelace at Horsley Towers took water from the local waterworks and siphoned it into concrete tanks from which villagers could draw a supply. In Leatherhead there was small supply at Flint House off Highlands Road, drawn from a deep well by a windmill.
Villages often had their own pumped supply from a well on the village green. The pumps survive at Brockham and Leigh. One of the earliest public supply systems was in Dorking. It was not universally popular as it had to be paid for. The building, at Archway House, off Church Street, survives. It carries a plate inscribed RP Waterworks, erected 1738. The works closed in the middle of the 19th century when the spring became polluted.
In 1869 the Dorking Water Company dug a 300ft deep well and built a steam-driven pump house in Harrow Road East with a reservoir on Tower Hill. The pump house was converted to houses in 1919 and still stands. The next station was built in Station Road in 1902 and was replaced in 1939 by a new system in Beech Close.
Leatherhead's first supply was in 1884 from a borehole in Waterways Road. The buildings were only demolished in 1992 and replaced by housing. The 1930s building alongside had diesel driven pumps, later replaced by electric driven ones. Supplies are still also taken from the spring-fed mill pond in Fetcham.
Electricity as a power supply system had its origins in the late 19th century. In 1881 Godalming became the first town in the country to have a public electricity supply, which was provided by a waterwheel at Westbrook Mill. There had been earlier street lighting in Holborn in London. Willans and Robinson moved into the Ferry Works at Thames Ditton in 1880 where they built steam engines for yachts and soon foundthese were ideal for coupling to dynamos. It was claimed in 1884 that the Ferry Works was the first in the world to be entirely lit by electricity.
Weybridge had a power station in operation in 1890. Like the Godalming one, it was not continuous, reverting to gas for a period. Woking also had a system in 1890 which has remained in continuous use. Sutton had its first station in 1902, built predominantly to power the tramway system to Croydon.
Leatherhead's first generating station was built in Bridge Street in 1902 with a 75 kilowatt diesel-driven generator and lead acid batteries to absorb peak loads. A new station was built in 1925. Output was increased in 1928 with a more powerful dieselengine. The site was closed in 1939 following the earlier connection into the bulk supply system from Croydon via Epsom.
Moving on to gas, Farnham and Dorking, in 1834, were the first towns in Surrey to have a public gas supply. Leatherhead Gas Company opened in the Kingston Road in 1851, mainly supplying street lighting. Woking had gas in 1891, a year after electricity, and is unique in the county in this respect. Mergers took place during the 20th century, Leatherhead being absorbed in 1936 by the Wandsworth & District Gas Company.
Altogether this was a fascinating and wellresearched account by Peter of significant developments in the provision of public utility supplies in the county.
20th February Leatherhead Hospital, Past, Present and Future by Dr Fred Meynen: report sent to the press
While Epsom Hospital frequently features in local news, Leatherhead's own Cottage Hospital is little known. Many people do not know of its existence, until they need its services. Its story is close to Doctor Fred Meynen's heart, and this came across very clearly in his talk at our February meeting. Fred, a general practitioner who has been involved with the hospital since1968, had brought along a range of medical artefacts for us to handle, after warning 'those of a nervous disposition'! Compared with major hospitals, Leatherhead Community Hospital is more accessible (but still has a parking problem) and, being small, is less intimidating: you are likely to see a familiar face among the patients or staff. It now has 21 inpatient beds (234 admissions last year) and 29 outpatient clinics, advising on everything from back pain to wheelchair suitability.
Dr Meynen described the cottage hospital movement; 400 were opened in England, the oldest remaining being that at Cranleigh. Our first hospital (1893) really was a cottage, with 8 beds, leased to a management committee of local doctors giving 'seamless care'. It was no.8 Clinton Road (No.6 was the laundry) and when it reverted to a private dwelling, the owners found many empty Marmite jars in the garden, so the patients must have had a healthy diet! Donations took many forms: eggs, flowers, plants, rabbits, a pound of tea. Mrs Abraham Dixon provided an Ashford Litter, an open stretcher on two large wheels for moving patients from home to hospital.
The first hospital closed in 1902 through lack of funds, but the next year saw the laying of the foundation stone of the Leatherhead and District Victoria Memorial Cottage Hospital, at the junction of Epsom Road and Fortyfoot Road. It soon expanded from 6 to 21 beds, and the building opposite (Fairmead) was bought to house the domestic and nursing staff. Patients paid between 2s 6d and 10s.6d [12½p to 52½p] a week, and usually had to bring decent clothing and changes of clean linen. They were discharged after a month unless there was then a good chance of cure or improvement. 'Bed-blocking' is not new! The operating theatre was on the ground floor and unconscious patients had to be carried up a narrow staircase to the upstairs ward. When Sir Alfred Bucknill, the president of the hospital, suffered this treatment, it was decided to build a new hospital.
Dr von Bergen, who practised from Devon Cottage in Church Road (later the Leatherhead School of Music) and Mr Leach together led a group which bought land from Mrs Still's estate. Fortunately the building materials were on site before WW2 broke out, otherwise the present hospital might never have been built. This cost £47,000; the previous one had cost less than £3,000. In 1940 there were 40 inpatient beds (including 6 private ones), a busy casualty (A&E) department and operating theatre. With the advent of the NHS, the hospital came under the management of Epsom District Hospital, but with all 52 beds still under the control of general practitioners. Your GP would arrange your admission, tests and X-rays, consultant appointments and discharge you when you were well.
Dr Meynen acknowledged the long lasting close working relationship with consultants from Epsom and elsewhere; he related the story of Sir d'Arcy Power, who would cycle all the way from St Bartholomew's Hospital, give an opinion or perform an operation, and then cycle back. Many local full-time GPs had operating skills: Alan Easton, Alan Everett and Roger Gilbert for surgery, Keith Anderson, Margaret Birtwistle, Helen Gavin, Jim Phillips and John Watson for anaesthesia. Our speaker did not forget the nurses and matrons (Mary Munroe was the matron for 37 years), whose ward round ensured that floors and other surfaces were spotless and the wheels on the beds were all in alignment, but who would do anything, from making beds to cooking, in an emergency. The Christmas cabaret, with all the staff dressing up, was an highlight.
Operations under a general anaesthetic ceased at Leatherhead twenty years ago, which meant major changes to the hospital, particularly in type of patients looked after in the wards. In 2003 management was transferred to what became the Surrey Primary Care Trust, responsible for commissioning services, and in 2007 the community nurses and therapists were re-employed by Central Surrey Health, a 'not for profit' organisation owned by its employees. Nowadays half the admissions came from the 'acute' hospitals, the rest direct from home through their GPs or the Community Assessment Unit, which saves non-critical medical emergencies from having to attend the A&E unit of a major hospital. Patients referred by paramedics, district nurses or GPs would be seen by a consultant, given blood tests, ECGs and Xrays and cardiac assessment, and treated, often within half an hour. Only 4% needed to be admitted to either Leatherhead or Epsom hospital. Last year the Prime Minister and Lord D'Arzie paid a surprise visit to see Central Surrey Health and the Community Assessment Unit in action, flagships for future health care in England.
The Primary Care Trust had been consulting recently on the needs of the district ,before making a plan for buying medical services, balancing needs against wants against quality against money. Every bid to provide a service had to be considered. Other constraints were Government and Royal Colleges directives, National Institute for Clinical Excellence advice on quality, the Epsom/St Helier link, the 'Denbies proposal', legally-required reduction in doctors' maximum hours and changing technology,. All these could have a major impact on the future of our Community/Cottage Hospital.
Dr Meynen is closely involved with the League of Friends of the hospital, which has raised £1,600,000 over the years for equipment, patient facilities and has paid for rebuilding the entrance, consulting rooms and a theatre for minor operations.
20th March Godalming Past and Present - by John Young (as reported in the Leatherhead Advertiser 16 April 2009)
Leatherhead and District Local History Society
Godalming Past and Present was the topic for the March 20 meeting and our speaker was John Young. John is passionate about Godalming's history and character, having been born there in 1926. He does everything he can to ensure that local environmental schemes are appropriate. He is known locally as "Mr Godalming".
Godalming developed as a traditional market town and also prospered from the diverse local industries, particularly the wool trade. The town has a tradition in fitted knitwear going back over 300 years.
Our journey started at Godalming railway station, built in 1859, then on to the Phillips Memorial Cloister, opened in 1914 to commemorate the heroic Titanic wireless operator Jack Phillips, who drowned with the ship.
He explained about the church of St Peter and St Paul that dominates the town with its tall lead-covered spire - once twisted but now straightened.
He followed this up by telling us that Godalming came to world attention in September, 1881, when it became the first town in the United Kingdom to have a public electricity supply installed. But later on, in 1884, the town reverted back to gas lighting. Electricity returned in 1904.
Another place of interest shown was the 19th century town hall, nicknamed "The Pepperpot", a distinctive octagonal building situated on the High Street.
Because of his personal relationship with the local traders, he was able to tell many stories of interest. For instance, how the daughter of Thomas Thorne, the restaurant owner, died - it was while visiting the dentist. She died in the chair.
The popular Ottawa Cafe got its name when the owner, a Miss Willis, married a Canadian soldier.
Another story was that of Charles Candlin, who came to Guildford from London in 1870 to work for shopkeeper William Vickridge for 10 years. Vickridge said after seven years that if Candlin saved £20 for the next three years, he would double it. Candlin did and Vickridge gave him the money to start his own business in Godalming selling fancy goods. A disastrous fire in 1911 destroyed much of the premises. Undeterred, Candlin rebuilt the business and it continued for many years after. Today the premises are occupied by Oxfam.
After seeing many more buildings and shops past and present, we finally ended up back at the railway station.
The society is holding its annual meeting tomorrow (Friday). It will be followed by a talk on air travel in the 1930s by John Wettern.
17th April AGM, followed by Air Travel in the 1930s - by John Wettern
The April lecture Flying in the 1930s was given by John Wettern , following on from the 62nd AGM of the Society. Johns love of travel and his extensive collection of books and pictures on transport formed the basis for his lecture, choosing the 1930s because this was when commercial air travel came of age together with the opening of Londons first purpose built airport at Croydon in 1929. At this time Imperial Airways which later became British Airways became established, flying the 24 seater Argosy with an open cockpit later to be replaced by the Heracles offering Pullman luxury.
Passengers arrived at Croydon Airport by coach and entered the booking hall which contained a large wall mounted weather map. The hall still exists and can be visited on the 1st Sunday in the month. Foreign airlines came to Croydon including Air Union (Air France), KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) and Sabena (Belgium) operating high-wing monoplanes built by Fokker.
Initially destinations were to Europe, London to Paris taking over two hours and costing £4 and 15 shillings (equivalent to £236 these days). Later further routes opened up to Australia and Africa with flights taken in short hops with overnight stops in airport hotels.
Croydon was also the base for smaller airlines connecting to provincial centres in the UK, the most notable being Railway Air Services, a joint venture with the four railway companies. Flying Clubs and charter airlines such as Olley Air Services used the airport and later the German airline Luft Hansa brought the Junker JU 52 airplane, similar versions later becoming the bombers of World War 2. In 1939 Imperial Airways replaced its aging aircraft with the de Havilland Frobisher, successors of which flew after the war. Flying boats made by Shorts of Rochester crossed the Mediterranean and on to Australia and New Zealand carrying passengers, cargo and mail. Transatlantic commercial flights started just before the outbreak of World War 2
During the war Croydon was a RAF fighter station after which , due to the advent of Heathrow and Gatwick airports, commercial flying declined with the airport finally closing in 1959.
John ended his lecture by comparing air travel now with that in those early days, concluding that sadly some of the romance and excitement have been lost.
The lecture had a larger than average attendance and marked a new milestone for the Society with the introduction of the Societys computer projector and laptop skillfully mastered and presented by John with help from Martin Warwick.
Dr Fred Meynen
15th May A Butcher's Tale of Woe - by Keith Weston
On Friday 15th May we had a very informative and entertaining talk called A Butcher's Tale of Woe by Keith Weston of Rawlings & Kensett butcher's shop in Bookham. Last year Keith cycled on his butcher's bike from Smithfield to Bookham and raised £7,000 in aid of the rebuilding of Little Bookham Parish Hall.
Keith has spent some 33 years in the butchery business, from sweeping the floors as a schoolboy in the local butcher's shop in Chard, Devon, to his present job as manager of the shop in Bookham. He left school at 14 and got a job at a butcher's shop at Ilminster in Devon. By the time he came to Bookham in 1988 he had a good deal of experience in the business. Things were going pretty well until a new Sainsbury store opened in Cobham. What with the convenience of a supermarket and lower prices of meat, trade dropped off considerably for independent butchers.
The next blow was when for a time it became against the law to sell meat on the bone. This again hit butchers very hard. Metrication was another drawback. Customers could still ask for their meat in imperial measure - pounds, ounces etc but the butcher had to convert this into decimalised quantities. Then there was the 'e-coli' scare which deterred many people from buying meat at all, especially beef.
After that foot and mouth disease prohibited all transport of animals and a tremendous cull of cattle which, in many case, was unnecessary. Later the petrol shortage also had a very restrictive effect on movement of both livestock and meat. One purely local misadventure in Bookham was when a car was driven through the front window of Keith's shop severely damaging the window and newly furbished interior. Fortunately nobody was injured. This happened on a Friday morning and yet the shop was open for business again on the next Monday.
These are obviously but a few of the hazards which butchers have to contend with, but it is good to report that Rawlings & Kensett butchery is thriving in spite of it all.
18th September The Story of Betchworth Castle - by Martin Higgins
To buy a castle in Surrey for £1 as Martin Higgins is doing, sounds too good to be true. At our September meeting, he pointed out that Betchworth Castle is not in Betchworth, where he lives, but in Buckland. Further, it was never a 'proper' castle, but a large defensible medieval house which has had more than one make-over and is now a tottering ruin. As a private owner, Martin has been promised some funding for repairs by the Mole Valley District Council and is attempting to secure money from English Heritage and other sources.
At our September meeting, Mr Higgins described the steep bluff above a crossing point of the river Mole as attractive to early peoples; recent geophysical and magnetometric survey suggested that an Early Iron Age hillfort here was preceded by Bronze Age settlement. Betchworth was granted a market charter before Dorking was given one, and the manor was visited by the king in 1294. The manor of West Betchworth was granted to Richard, earl of Arundel in 1373. Six years later, his son obtained a licence to fortify his house and enclose a 360-acre park here. The park boundary can be traced as a continuous bank with old chestnut trees to the south and west of the castle; footpaths do not cross it, but run alongside. Deerleap Cottage marks a place where deer might jump into the park but not out again.
The estate passed by marriage to the rising Browne family in 1431. Thomas Browne had a similar licence to crenellate and impark in 1448 and it was probably then that the oldest remaining part of the castle was built: some surviving window-heads are of fifteenth century style. Although the Brownes were on the wrong side during the Civil War, the castle escaped demolition as not being defensible. In 1664 it was taxed for 31 hearths. A drawing by John Aubrey the antiquarian and an anonymous watercolour show what it looked like then. As well as a tower-like chamber block, there was a great hall with large bay windows, and a tall gatehouse like that built at Cowdray House in Sussex (also Browne/Montagu property) or more locally at Abbot's Hospital in Guildford High Street and Wayneflete's Tower at Farnham castle. Mr Fenwick, who had married the Browne heiress in 1691, demolished the southern half of the hall and added a new wing on the other side.
An engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck of 1737 dedicated to Abraham Tucker (the then owner) shows a large ornamental lake, with a fountain jet, below the house next to the river. In 1796, Henry Peters, a director of the Bank of England bought the castle, diverted the old coach road further to the north and employed Sir John Soane to remodel the house. Soane converted the old stables into a kitchen range, building new stables downhill, which are now regarded as some of his best work. The icehouse (the precursor of today's kitchen freezer) had a conical roof down to thhe ground, thatched with shredded oak. There was also what was probably the earliest conservatory in Surrey, and a 'crow-stepped' gable, much more common in East Anglia than in Surrey.
The Hope family, the richest in Europe, then owners of Deepdene House in Dorking, bought Chart Park for its land in 1812 and sold the house and its contents piecemeal. They bought the Betchworth estate in 1835 for the equivalent of £69M today, leaving the house as a romantic ruin at the end of a double avenue of lime trees. Most of the brickwork of the castle was removed leaving a stone skin. Soane's stables were converted into houses in 1836, and a private golf course laid out on the site of the ornamental gardens towards Dorking early in the twentieth century.
Bought by Dorking Urban District Council (as it then was), the lime avenue on the estate was felled in 1962 but a proposal to demolish the ruins was met by a public outcry. High winds in the 1990s uprooted many trees, which caused damage to the walls and foundations. Clearance and survey for Mole Valley District Council in 1999 revealed some thirteen narrow east-west tunnels under the foundations. No evidence for bats was detected, although the Small Teazle plants found here are their favourite food.
In 2004 the golf course was sold off, but an access strip to the castle was kept. A stone wall between the buildings and the river slope had fallen, and the narrow terrace was now only supported by a dense mass of yew tree-roots, which has delayed plans to erect scaffolding to prevent further collapse. There is a Community Archaeology project for an excavation to search for the foundations of the original gatehouse on the side away from the river.
At present the best view is looking west from the Big Field in Buckland. Mr Higgins concluded his talk with a dramatic photograph from that viewpoint, then overlaying it with the watercolour picture of Betchworth Castle as it looked 350 years ago. Derek Renn
16th October Iron Age and Roman Settlements around Leatherhead - by Frank Pemberton.
Speaking to a well attended meeting for the October lecture and accompanied by an excellent selection of pictures Frank Pemberton gave us an insight into how things were in our area during the period before the Roman occupation, that is between 800 BC and 100 BC. In the second half of his talk we were given a glimpse of life in our locality during Roman times.
With a lifelong experience of archaeology and great knowledge of local history Frank listed numerous locations where excavations had revealed signs of Iron Age activity . He described the so called 'hill forts' - more likely places of refuge or perhaps centres of tribal administration. Local digs have revealed little sign of houses but unmistakable ramparts and ditches. Cultivation patterns can be deduced from traces of field systems. A survey at Mickleham Downs and at Fetcham revealed these and also finds of Iron Age pottery. One of the slides illustrated a variety of farming implements. Archaeology at other locations were mentioned, in particular, Ottways Lane, Ashtead and Hawks Hill, Fetcham. Several digs in the latter area (the latest as recently as 2005) revealed post holes, storage pits and rubbish deposits yielding abundant finds including pottery and food remains.
The transition from Iron Age to Roman period was not sudden but only gradual. Before the invasion Roman influence was spreading across from France and many `Roman' ways such as coinage were already being adopted by tribes here. History records intense rivalry between powerful groups in Southern Britain. Pottery was also beginning to show Roman influence.
There is strong conflict of opinion about the invasion of AD 43. Was the landing at Richborough in Kent., or was it at Fishbourne near Chichester ? Neither can be proved conclusively but the story of Stane Street is used to support the latter. This was a major artery built with a strategic aim. Some archaeologists believe that construction began near Chichester and progressed towards Londinium. The line traverses our area through Dorking, across Mickleham Downs towards Ewell and eventually via Merton to London. Many excavations have been undertaken to verify the line and to investigate its construction. One notable site is on Pebble Lane in the Epsom/Headley area.
A map of Mole Valley and surroundings in Roman times pinpointed the several locations where habitation was known to exist. There were extensive settlements at Ewell and Dorking and villa sites at Ashtead, Fetcham, Headley and Cobham. Villas at Walton-on-the-Hill and Walton Heath have been excavated, the latter revealing an exquisite floor mosaic. The finds from these sites have facilitated their dating, particularly in the case of pottery. Metal objects too have appeared including brooches, needles and even tweezers. Some of those on display in Leatherhead museum were featured on slides.
Concluding his lecture the speaker mentioned that despite the work done over many years, there was still a great deal of research needed in order to uncover further knowledge of this period. He hoped that local societies would take up the challenge. John Wettern
20th November Sir George Edwards - From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde - by Robert Gardner MBE.
The November lecture was given by Robert Gardner MBE entitled Sir George Edwards: From Bouncing Bomb to Concorde, the subject of his recent biographical book. The daughter of Sir George was present at the lecture together with her family and it was noted that he was very much a local man living for 17 years in Bookham and later in Guildford.
George Edwards was born in 1908 in the suburb of Walthamstow, his father running a small shop. From a modest background he rose to eventually lead the great aircraft company Vickers, and the British Aircraft Corporation. After showing ability in mathematics and engineering he came to work in the drawing office at the Vickers works at Weybridge working under Rex Pierson as chief aircraft designer and Barnes Wallis as chief structural engineer. The pressure was on to design and produce new aircraft in the run up to World War Two, developing the Vickers biplane followed later by the geodetic monoplane, the Wellesley, and the Wellington bomber. George Edwards designed the tailplane of the Wellington, one plane surviving to this day at Brooklands Museum.
As experimental manager Edwards worked on many secret projects including the magnetic mine, fitting a single jet Whittle engine to a plane and pressurising aircraft so that they could fly above air defences. After the Weybridge factory had been bombed he moved his workshop to Foxwarren, Cobham (now the Cobliam. Bus Museum) working with Barnes Wallis on the bouncing bomb. Being a keen cricketer and a leg spin bowler he used the principle of counter rotation to enable the bomb to hurdle the dam's defences.
After the war George Edwards was promoted to chief designer adapting the Viking for military use. Although not a natural pilot he learned to fly and insisted on flying every aircraft for which he was responsible.
He was living at that time in the grey stone house Durleston on the Lower Road in Bookham, worshipping at Fetcham Parish Church. In 1948 the world's first gas turbine powered prop jet, the Viscount, made Edwards internationally famous, a unique plane whose pressurised cabin allowed cruising at 30,000 ft. He chose a Rolls Royce engine, the Dart, instead of the government backed rival, a courageous but highly successful choice. The Viscount went into service in 1950 with British European Airways making it Britain's most successful airliner.
Another famous plane designed by Edwards was the Valiant in 1956, a state of the art V bomber with nuclear carrying capability. Robert Gardner recalls Edwards coming to his house in Fetcham to collect his daughter and saying he was 'working night and day'. He was later knighted for his work on the Valiant.
According to George Edwards 'the greatest blunder of all' was committed when BOAC commissioned the turboprop Brittania instead of the jet V1000, a civil version of the Valiant. Edwards had to defend the reputation of the Vanguard, a successor to the Viscount on the Raymond Baxter Panorama programme in 1959. Policy changes within BOAC affected sales of the long range rear-engined VC10, an aircraft which later was voted by passengers as their favourite airliner.
1964 saw the maiden flight of the military aircraft TSR2, built by the British Aircraft Corporation formed from the merger of Vickers-Armstrong and English Electric with Sir George Edwards as managing director. The project was beset with wrangling between government committees and between the RAF and Navy, resulting in Dennis Healey cancelling the order in favour of the American F111. Two other military aircraft the Jaguar and Tornado were produced later.
The last civil aircraft to carry the stamp of Sir George was the BAC One-Eleven, a contract with BEA in 1967 being a turning point for Weybridge.
The world's first supersonic aircraft the Concorde went into service in 1976, Sir George leading the British team of the joint British/ French project. He flew with the test pilots Brian Trubshaw and Andre Turcat on the first Concorde. Brian Gardner was privileged to fly in 002 in 1972 over Singapore. At the time of Sir George's retirement in 1976 BAC was the finest aerospace company in Europe later emerging as British Aerospace and now BAE Systems. He died in his home in Guildford in 2003 at the age of 94, his epitaph at St Martha's reading ferme et tenacite (don't give up: press on). A remarkable man, a man of honour, humour and great perception. Fred Meynen
18th December Members Social Event - Christmas Memories by Members of the Society.
On December 18th we enjoyed a members social evening recalling 'Christmas Memories'. The convivial evening, compered by Brian Hennegan resplendent in his Victorian naval uniform was a warm contrast to the inclement weather outside.
We shared reminiscences of members' childhood and family Christmases in a variety of settings as we sipped wine and ate canapes. Brian Hennegan introduced the speakers in his own inimitable way with feisty yarns of yesteryear as Gwen Hoad, Gordon Knowles, Goff Powell, Fred Meynen, Frank Haslam contributed their special memories, giving a fascinating social insight into Christmases over the past seventy years. We listened to Linda Heath reading a passage from a book describing a Christmas in Dorking in the 19th century, as we drank a warming cup of coffee before braving the December weather again.
Our grateful thanks to Ros, Maureen, Vivien, Doug and Margaret for their help in organising such a successful evening. A raffle contributed proceeds to the evening. Fred Meynen