Leatherhead & District Local History Society
2012 Programme and Calendar

Dr. Fred Meynen - Programme Secretary: 01372 372930
This calendar includes Leatherhead Museum events and activities.
Fred is also Chairman of the Friends of Leatherhead Museum.

for other recent years, see current programme page

20th January Gatton Park : Restoration of an 18C Garden by Glyn Sherratt

Glyn Sherratt is the Landscape/Heritage Officer at Gatton Park and has worked in historic gardens and landscapes, both in this country and abroad.

17th February The Tudor Palace at Woking by Richard Savage

Richard Savage has organised the research and excavation of Woking Palace, one of the lesser known royal palaces, Hampton Court and Nonsuch being the best known homes of Tudor kings.

15th March - Joint visit with Society Members to Brooklands Museum

We meet at 10.30am in the aircraft hanger to hear Brian Hennegan talking about the final stages of the Hurricane restoration and also about other notable aircraft in the hanger. After lunch Doug Hollingsworth who also works at Brooklands will give us a talk in the museum car section about cars of particular interest including reference to Donald Campbell, an old Leatherhead resident. We are then free to explore the many other exhibits including the new Cobham Bus Museum and the Concorde Experience (an extra £4). If you would like to come please let me know 01372 372930 email fredmeynen AT live.co.uk. Entrance £10 (OAP £9)

16th March - Bishops Move by Chris Bishop

The history of a local family removal business established in 1854 with branches throughout the UK and Europe

20th April - AGM followed by a talk Surrey: A Hundred Years Ago by John Wettern

John Wettern reveals many surprising facts in a book published in 1910 dealing with topography, communications, resources and populations in Surrey

18th May - Village Signs in Surrey by John Chisholm

John Chisholm is a member of the Village Sign Society and is their representative for Surrey and Sussex.

The Programme Committee have arranged two visits during the summer months:

12th June Tuesday - Visit to Chawton House

This was the home of Jane Austen and is located just off the A31 near Alton, Hampshire and about one hour from Leatherhead. The guided tour starts at 11.30am and the cost will be £6. There is a good pub opposite for lunch or you can have a picnic in the field by the car park. Members may like to visit Chawton House Library , near the church at 2.30pm for an extra cost of £6. If you would like to book a place please telephone L Heath on L372603 and make a cheque out L Heath which can be left at the museum to save postage. Also please advise if you would like or can offer a lift.

11th July Wednesday - Visit to Gatton Park

The visit is a sequel to the lecture given in January and will start with a guided tour at 11am - cost is £4 pp payable on the day. The tour finishes at about 1pm and there is an interesting lunch place not far away. Gatton Park has everything : a mediaeval church, a ‘Regency’ hall, a lake, landscaped gardens with panoramic views. Situated near the M25 Junction 8 (Reigate). Turn south, then left into Gatton Bottom going towards Merstham. Take the second turning right, signposted to the Royal Alexander School and enter (right) at the top of the hill to meet in the car park. Please let J Wettern know if you are coming tel L459277 and say if you need or can offer a lift.

8th and 9th September - Heritage Weekend

The theme this year is Celebrations and Jubilations. We shall have displays at The Institute and The Museum. A guided walk round the town centre looking at historical sites will leave The Institute at 2pm and will last about 1.25 hours. No booking required. Full details of all events will appear in the Heritage brochure available at the Help Shop and library.

21st September ‘Weather Forecasting’ by Ian Currie

This is the first of our autumn lectures at The Institute. Ian is a fulltime freelance weatherman, an author of several books and broadcasts, best known locally for his weekly column in the Leatherhead Advertiser.

19th October Painting on Sculpture in the Middle Ages by Ann Brodrick

This lecture is part of The Mole Valley Arts Alive Festival. Ann Brodrick was Senior Conservator for the Victoria and Albert and British Museums and Consultant to The Paul Getty Museum. Her lecture will focus on the various painting techniques used on sculptures including the effigies in Arundel Cathedral and the death mask of Henry VII.

16th November Local Railways by Peter Tarplee

Peter Tarplee was previously Chairman of our Society and author of several books and publications on local history. His latest book Railways around Leatherhead and Dorking’ was published in 2011.

14th December Members' Social Event

This is our annual social evening for members, their friends and invited guests with presentations by members on My Favourite Hobby. If you would like to give a short talk about your hobby please let me know. Wine, soft drinks and light refreshments will be served followed by coffee and mince pies. The evening will be hosted by our Master of Ceremonies, Mr Brian Hennegan, and will end with a raffle. Please note the date of the event.

20th January Gatton Park : Restoration of an 18C Garden by Glyn Sherratt

The January lecture of the Society was given by Glyn Sherratt on the restoration of the 18C garden at Gatton Park. Glyn is the landscape/heritage officer of the Gatton Trust formed in 1996 by members of the staff of the Royal Alexander and Albert School and members of the local community whose aim is restore the gardens of Gatton Park landscaped in the mid 18C by the landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Gatton is a small parish NE of Reigate lying on the southern slopes of the North Downs comprising 1200 acres of land , Gatton Park taking up 550 acres with a lake and two ponds. Roman tiles, coins and other artefacts found in and around the park indicate a probable Roman occupation. St Andrew’s Church located in the park dates, in part, to the 13C and is on a site mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It has the appearance of an 19C gothic building with a square tower and contains many fine examples of English and Continental wood carving. Close by is the 18C ‘Town Hall’ , an open portico supported on iron pillars where votes were cast, the tiny parish being represented by two members in Parliament.

Gatton Hall was originally built on the site of a manor in the 17C and pulled down and partly rebuilt in 1808 by Sir Mark Wood. Later Lord Monson created a grander house with a marble hall which was destroyed by a fire in 1934. George Colebrook of East India Company fame and owner of the estate commissioned Capability Brown in 1762 to landscape the gardens. It was part of a movement later including Humphry Repton which saw the”capability” to create a dramatic effect using vistas and other techniques balancing “ man within nature”. The manmade lake and serpentine canal were one of his hallmarks. A Japanese garden was constructed in 1900 incorporating plants from all over the world and in 1912 Sir Jeramiah Coleman of mustard fame commissioned a rock garden to be built using artificial stone called pulhamite.

The house was occupied during WW2 by the Canadians and in 1948 the estate was handed over to the Albert and Alexander School, originally based on a London orphanage and now a voluntary aided boarding and day school. The garden had become rather neglected and in 1996 the Gatton Trust was formed to restore the garden , work starting on the Japanese garden and later the rock garden forming part of the Monty Don TV series Lost Gardens in 1999. Glyn became involved with the restoration three years ago , removing the tennis courts, clearing vegetation and recreating the original vistas. There is still much work to be done as the workforce is made up largely of volunteer labour.

Currently the park is 600 acres in size, 260 of them managed by the Gatton Trust and the rest by the National Trust. An education centre provides a learning resource for schools studying ecology and demonstrating the art of living in harmony with the landscape. Various activities are run throughout the year including art and craft sessions and a country fair.

Glyn reminded us of the rich heritage we have in the surrounding countryside, Gatton Park being part of that. As a sequel to the lecture the History Society will be visiting Gatton Park for a lecture tour on 13th June 2012.
Dr Fred Meynen

17th February The Tudor Palace at Woking by Richard Savage

Hampton Court and Nonsuch Palace at Ewell are well-known - but a royal palace of the Tudor kings at Woking?

At our February meeting, Richard Savage, past chairman of the Friends of Woking Palace and now secretary and logistics manager of the community archaeological project there, told us its story. Entitled Power, Passion And Pleasure, his talk gave us sex and violence as well as peace and quiet.

Before the railway station opened on Woking Common in 1836, the settlement of "the people of Wocca" lay to the south-east, at the edge of the flood plain between the rivers (Hole) Bourne and Wey. The church there at Old Woking is probably on the site of the one whose ownership was claimed by both the ministers of Peterborough and Winchester, about AD700, a dispute finally settled by the Pope.

The large Woking estate, once held by Edward the Confessor, was given (or more likely sold) to Basset by the new King Richard I in 1189. The Bassets were 'new men raised up' by King Henry I as a counter to the old baronage. A hunting lodge and park are mentioned in the early estate, deeds which have, been recently printed.

Alan Basset had three sons: Gilbert, a knight of the royal household, Fulk, Bishop of London, and Philip, Justiciar of England (a position Mr Savage likened to that of a later Mafia consigliere).

Alan's grand-daughter married into the Despencer family. Both families regularly celebrated anniversaries at Woking. The Despencer dynasty came to a violent end when their control of King Edward II was ended by his enforced abdication and murder at Berkeley Castle in 1327. Woking Manor and its contents was then described in a detailed inventory. Thereafter the estate was frequently confiscated by the Crown and regranted.

The new owner, Edmund of Woodstock, son of King Edward I, was beheaded in 1330 and Woking passed to the Holland family and thence to the Beauforts by 1397. Their grand-daughter, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was married four times, including to Owen Tudor; their son became King Henry VII in 1485.

Her third husband, Henry Stafford died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Barnet in 1471 and she then had to marry Thomas Stanley. King Henry VII gave Margaret a life interest in Hunsdon House in Hertfordshire in exchange for Woking in 1503. She recovered it on his death but died herself a few months later.

Extensive building works were then carried out both in Henry, VII's reign and in that of his son, Henry VIII. The-manor house (first mentioned in 1272) was built on a small sand hill beside the River Wey (later canalised) and enclosed within an E-shaped moat, half of which was a garden with a broad high bank inside garden, moat from which the small and large parks to the north and west could be viewed, together with an orchard and fish ponds. Most homestead moats were built between 1250 and 1350; that at Woking was much larger and stronger than usual.

John Norden made a detailed drawing of Woking Palace in 1607, showing its resemblance to Fulham Palace in London, together with its park, whose 'Pale' (boundary bank and ditch) still partly survives today.

King James I inherited 57 royal houses in England, and sold Woking to Sir Edward Zouch in 1618. Sir Edward demolished most of the buildings, re-using the materials in his new house (Hoe Bridge Place), a gallery in the church and in houses on the farms into which he divided the old hunting park.

Charles I was the last royal visitor in 1625, fleeing from a plague outbreak in London.

By the time that Woking Borough Council bought the site in 1988, all that was standing were some brick walls including those of a derelict barn and a roofless truncated building, containing a brick vault with stone ribs. The stone walls were built of heathstone, like the upper part of the tower of St Peter's Church nearby. A plan to create a Wey Valley Country Park extended from hereto Guildford has not yet been implemented.

The site is being excavated by the Surrey County Archaeological Unit, assisted by experienced volunteers and by many local people. Foundations of part of the Basset manor house have been uncovered, together with those of a courtyard surrounded by ranges of lodgings, a gatehouse, a gallery and wharf at the riverside, and the Tudor kitchens and great hall. A drain uncovered was of the scale usually found in monasteries; the palace accommodated over an hundred people in November 1419, when the brick buildings were added. These were the second major brick buildings in Surrey, after Byfleet Manor. Small finds from, the excavations included rare mid/late 15th century glazed and patterned tiles from Valencia (Spain), a Tudor gold hat pin with a fleur-de-lys in rubies - and a pottery toy horse.

The site will be open to the public twice in 2012 on July 14 and 15 and on Heritage Weekend in September. Approach via Carters Lane and check first with Mr Savage on 01483 768875.

The Leatherhead and District Local History Society meets in the Abraham Dixon Hall of the Letherhead Institute (top end of the High Street) on the third Friday evening of the month, at 7.30pm for 8pm.

Our next meeting will be on, March 16 when Chris Bishop will tell us about his family removal firm, established locally in 1858 and now with branches throughout the United Kingdom and the restst of Europe. You will be made very welcome.
Derek Renn

16th March - Bishops Move by Chris Bishop of Bishops' Removals

Nothing in Leatherhead now remains to remind us of the presence of Bishops’ removal firm. Years ago however this international carrier was not only based here, but it housed the firm’s head office and repository. These were the opening comments by our speaker, Christopher Bishop, himself a local resident, now retired from the firm, but descended from its founder whose trading history dates back to 1854.

The well attended talk was backed up not only with pictures tracing the company’s fortunes but a stunning set of models including a large replica of a horse-drawn van to remind us of those far off times. Explaining how it grew from first beginnings, originally in Pimlico, gradually extending geographically until the task of removal to any part of the world could eventually be undertaken. Rail-borne containers evolved as early as 1900. Latterly air freight became part of the service on offer. Many pictures showed the types of vehicle deployed, the horse-drawn being replaced by motors of varying vintages and even steam driven vans. Other pictures showed some of the locations where Bishop’s had operated : the House of Lords, the Rock of Gibraltar and Lambeth Palace, home of Archbishops of Canterbury since the Middle Ages.

Commenting on the scale of removal operations , he recalled one that involved no fewer than ten vans – now no longer likely. Problems often abounded, always with the challenge that the customer must at all times be shown care and understanding. Complicated office moves and demands sometimes at zero notice, regardless of the availability of vans. He gave us fascinating facts to illustrate the tasks of his men, for example the moving of a piano ( five men for upstairs and four for downstairs).

Those in the audience, perhaps remembering the pictures we had seen, may have been set wondering when they read their morning paper on the day after the talk. The headlines read : “Archbishop of Canterbury to Resign”. Perhaps they thought about that slide of a Bishop’s van outside Lambeth Palace and wondered : “How soon will a Bishop’s Move van be calling there again?"

18th May - Village Signs in Surrey by John Chisholm

Surrey Village Signs was the topic for the May meeting and our speaker was John Chisholm. John is the Village Sign Society Liaison Officer for Surrey and Sussex also their contact for the National Village Sign Photobase, which is the photographic archive of all known village signs throughout the country.

He based his talk alphabetically on Surrey Villages within approximately a 15 mile radius of Leatherhead. He admitted that the word ‘Village’ is a slight misnomer because many of the signs to be shown relate to ‘Towns’ but nevertheless still meets the criteria laid down by the society. Each of the signs was complemented by photographs showing the village or town in question.

Rather than list all seventy of them, here are some of the more interesting, starting with the parish of Abinger. Most people associate the name Abinger with the blacksmith striking the bell on the clock, hence Abinger Hammer, but if you walk around you will see the village sign depicting the blacksmith at his more familiar anvil commissioned in 2002. Venture further around the area and you will come across another sign relating to Abinger Common bearing a local coat of arms.

Many of the signs erected in Surrey have been to commemorate a national celebration for instance the Coronation of 1953 – Ewhurst and the original Byfleet sign, recently updated, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977- Forest Green with its elaborate scroll work including two deer and Pirbright showing a pear tree and the name Perifrith. Perifrith was a name first recorded for Pirbright, which is a compound of the two words pyrige (pear tree) and fryth (wooded country) or the Millennium in 2000 – Merstham Town Clock and Shere depicting the Church, War Memorial and Forge. One exception to these is that of Chaldon erected in 1986 to celebrate its 900 years existence. He also passed remarks on the Dorking Cockerel erected in 2007.

The 1953 Coronation sign for Tatsfield went missing and had to be replaced, the new sign bears the name Tatol - The name suggests it is derived from ‘a field or open land belonging to one Tatol’ (possibly a nickname meaning the lively one).

Hooley Village erected a tin plate sign in 2003 in remembrance of its 100 year association with the Surrey Iron Railway.

Often the scenes depicted are self explanatory for example Horne, a trumpeter, Ripley, a stagecoach – the old A3 London to Portsmouth Road, Ottershaw, an otter and Reigate with its familiar Town Hall.

He finished his lecture by telling the audience that although most village signs are assumed to be ornate ones on wooden poles, some are just plagues on walls, others such as that of Woodmansterne take on a somewhat different approach. It is chainsaw carved from an old cedar tree and incorporates several images such as a tree, a fox, a cobweb and even a seat in its design.

Hopefully the ‘Queen's Diamond Jubilee’ will mean more signs being erected in the villages and towns of Surrey?
Goff Powell

21st September ‘Weather Forecasting’ by Ian Currie

It was appropriate that, on almost the only wet evening in September, Ian Currie should talk about the history of weather forecasting. Ian is a freelance consultant meteorologist, best known to many for his weekly column in the Leatherhead Advertiser for the last 34 years. A Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, Ian also publishes his own magazine and website.

The Greek philosophers were great observers: Aristotle attempted to explain the natural world, and Hippocrates noted the effect of weather on health and happiness. Philo of Byzantium made a crude thermometer and prehistoric Indo-Iranian farmers measured rainfall roughly in bowls.

A ninth-century Pope decreed that churches should have a cockerel weathervane on their roofs which turned to show the direction of the wind. One is being put on the roof of Westminster Abbey in the Bayeux Tapestry. Galileo researched atmospheric pressure and Merle of Oxford in the 14th century described weather features. The "Shepherd of 'Banbury" John Claridge, in the 1670s gave a number of forecast adages, related to changing features on land and sky like the sun, cloud shapes or distant land-forms.

Not until the 17th century that accurate measurements start being made. These became possible because Italian glassmakers were by then able to produce tubes with a uniform bore. Torricelli in 1643 made a barometer, measuring air pressure by the height of a column of mercury that it supported. It is uncertain how early was the first glass ball sun recorder. In the 1680s Richard Townley made a proper rain gauge. In 1728 Gabriel Fahrenheit graduated a thermometer between the freezing and boiling points of water, a scale later revised by Celsius; and by Kelvin with a lower limit of 0K (-273°C, absolute zero).

The aneroid (partial vacuum) barometer was invented in 1849 by Lucien Vidie. In 1854, Fitzroy, the first superintendent of the Meteorological Office introduced standard screening of instruments and a system of telegraphs relaying weather data from western Britain to allow forecasts to be relayed to the Navy by way of the ports.

The first weather map with isobars wind direction/speed and temperature, was made by the French during the Crimean war.

Weather fronts were so named by Bjerknes in 1916, by analogy with war battle fronts, in his theory of the fights between air masses to equalise matters. In 1922 there was the first radio broadcast of a weather forecast, followed in 1936 by a televised map and in 1954 the first television weatherman, George Cowley. Presenters were plagued by slipping symbols on the magnetic board, which nearly cost one his job!

During the meeting, chairman David Hartley introduced three new members of the executive committee: Natasha Bligh (publicity officer), Barry King (honorary secretary) and Lorraine Spindler (museum curator).

Michael Anderson described the arrangements for the launch of the book Bookham In The Second World War written by the Military History Group of the Bookham and District U3A and published by our society.
Derek Renn

19th October Painting on Sculpture in the Middle Ages by Ann Brodrick

The October lecture was given by Ann Brodrick on Painting On Sculpture In The Middle Ages, the lecture being part of Mole Valley Arts Alive Festival. Ann was previously senior conservator for the Victoria and Albert and British Museums, having worked on sculpture collections for 35 years.

As an example she used the Great Screen at Winchester Cathedral created in 1476 and dismantled a few years later, parts of which can still be seen in the Triforium. The paints were applied in layers and confined to specific areas such as flesh, mantle or robe. Minute fragments of paint were examined under the microscope with magnifications to a maximum of 1,000 times.

Cross sections showed the paints used, the first layer being a sealant if the surface was porous. The paints consisted of a medium which included animal/fish glue and egg, and the pigments added from animal, insect and plant extracts. Lapis Lazuli, a beautiful brilliant blue stone from Afghanistan, was ground into a paste, the colour suffusing into an alkaline solution and the impurities retained in a resin, gum Arabic and wax mixture, the process dating back to 1309. Gold and silver leaf were applied with great precision using water or oil gilding techniques.

Ann showed examples of painting on wood sculptures with their exquisite detail. A life-size oak carving of St Paul in the Gausdal Stave Kirke in Norway dated 1250 and the Virgin and Child in the Heddal Stave Kirke were shown, together with a painted limestone canopy with similar decorative features in Ely Cathedral.

The alabaster effigy of Sir Richard Herbert of Ewyas in Abergavenny Church (1510) was used to represent the secular power of sculpture. Alabaster is a soft pale grey translucent stone of calcium sulphate. The use of lead leaf applied to the carved areas representing plate armour is a very rare survival of this technique. Other notable features are the gilded chain mail and the small figure of the Bedesman hidden beneath the feet of the effigy, praying for the souls of the departed. Subsidence and the ingress of water with the resultant structural damage sometimes necessitates the dismantling and rebuilding of monuments.

Rare and sumptuous silks and velvets were used to define social status and this is demonstrated in the painted limestone effigy of Joan Nevin (1462) in the Fitzalan Chapel of Arundel Castle. The paints imitated the richness of the cloths imported from Italy using a gilded red glazed wax appliqué applied to the surface of the robe on the effigy.
Dr Fred Meynen

16th November Local Railways by Peter Tarplee

Peter Tarplee, former chairman and a noted industrial archaeology expert, spoke to a full audience about the history of local railways, with a stunning array of slides illustrating stations and trains from the past as well as the present.

Surrey's earliest railway, built in 1803 ran from Wandsworth to Croydon and later to Merstham, with horse-drawn traction. Part of the line was eventually taken over by the London and Brighton Railway.

This story began in 1839 when Croydon was joined to London along the track of the former Croydon Canal, terminating at the site which is now West Croydon station.

The railway came to Dorking in 1849, with stations on the line built to link Redhill with Guildford and Reading. This was the only link with London in those days, as there was no north/south line.

Later the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway began extending their line from London to Epsom, reaching Leatherhead in 1859. Epsom originally had two stations, the second built by the London and South Western Railway on the line which left the Waterloo main line at Raynes Park. These companies also had separate stations at Leatherhead.

An influential landowner laid down strict conditions governing the extension of the line from Leatherhead to Dorking which was reached in 1867. The result of his stipulations still can be seen. These included the requirement for stations and structures to be of the highest quality, and the construction of a tunnel under Norbury Park. The impressive architecture of Leatherhead and West Humble (now Box Hill) stations were the result.

In 1848 the line was extended to reach Horsham. Leatherhead continued to have two stations until the early 1920s when the two competing companies were merged to form the Southern Railway. Interesting pictures were shown to demonstrate the scene when both stations were in operation.

Lines to the west began to be built in the 1830s. Firstly the London and Southampton Railway (which later became the London and South Western Railway) with its terminal at Nine Elms, Vauxhall, which was a most inconvenient location.

The extension to Waterloo followed in 1868. Guildford had been reached in 1845, by a branch leaving the main line at "Woking Common". At that time the centre of population was at the village now called Old Woking, but the railway station became the cause of present-day Woking's development. Waterloo was rebuilt in 1922 with 21 platforms. The company's underground extension to the City remained under their control until nationalisation, when it was transferred to London Underground.

Some interesting facts about what the railways did for race-goers now emerged. Since it started, Derby Day had resulted in a mass-migration from London. From the nineteenth century thousands of Londoners could now travel, to the Downs by train. Competition was severe and the volume of traffic on race days was huge. The station at Epsom Downs, on the branch from Sutton, completed in 1865, had no less than nine platforms. Peter showed us a picture with all the platforms in use, and the Royal Train ready to depart. He added that this station now has one platform. As the years went by, the complex network of lines continued to multiply. We could follow the story thanks to the fine maps that were shown.

The last line to be built was in the 1930s. This would have brought trains from Waterloo into Leatherhead by a new route. The line had reached Chessington by 1938 and plans for the final link were progressing well. Then came the 1939 war and work ceased. The project was cancelled in the postwar era.

It was interesting to recall the days of the Beeching era when so many lines were closed. In our area all the existing lines bar one survived. The one that disappeared was the cross-country link between Guildford and Horsham.

With a hearty thanks accorded to the speaker, one interesting query arose during question time. It concerned the date when these lines were electrified. The answer was that a progression of projects was undertaken during the 1920s and achieved by the time 1930 was reached. Thus ended an informative and enjoyable session.

Peter Tarplee's well-illustrated book, Railways Around Leatherhead And Dorking offers full coverage of this subject. Priced £10 plus £1.50 postage, it is available from Leatherhead and District Local History Society, 64 Church Street, Leatherhead, KT22 8DP.
John Wettern