Leatherhead & District Local History Society
2013 Programme and Calendar

for other recent years, see current programme page

2013 Programme

18th January 2013 Local War Memorials Frank Haslam (lead).
Cancelled because of the snow. This talk was given in October 2013.

15th February 2013 The Bookhams in WW2 by Michael Anderson

15th March AGM of the Society, followed by Derek Renn on the Milestones of Surrey

19th April 2013 Alan Pooley on Fetcham Mill

17th May 2013 The Dorking Museum Project - the Big Society in action presented by Kathy Atherton, the Exhibition Co-ordinator

[ The orginally scheduled lecture was Finch, the local Haulage Contractor by Richard Finch and his sister Ann. The speakers regret that they have been obliged to withdraw from giving this talk at present for health reasons. The Society wishes them well and we hope there may be another occasion to hear from them. ]

20th September The Folklore of Surrey by Matthew Alexander, former Curator of Guildford Museum.

18th October Local War Memorials by Frank Haslam, Janice Steele and Ian Whitlock

This is the talk that was snowed off in January! Frank has helped to create websites of local war memorials and was joined by military historian Ian Whitlock and by Janice Steele of Fetcham U3A. This talk was very relevant in the approach to Remembrance Sunday.

15th November - Surrey Historic County Maps by Carole Garrard of the Surrey History Centre

There was no December meeting


2nd June Sunday Guided Walk Around Ashtead

Gwen Hoad, local resident and member of this Society lead a walk around the area of Ashtead south of The Street to look at interesting old buildings, meeting in the Peace Memorial Hall car park at 14.00 on Sunday 2nd June. The walk of about one and a half hours follows the route described in Barry Cox’s Ashtead Heritage walk leaflet. Comfortable footwear advised.

Owing to lack of support in recent years, no other visits were arranged this year. However, the programme committee members are open to suggestions.

Heritage Open Days in Mole Valley 12th-15th September

At the Letherhead Institute the L&DLHS presented a display on the work of John & Edward Hassell, watercolour painting of 18th century houses in the Parishes of Ashtead, Bookham, Fetcham, Leatherhead and Mickleham. This display was dedicated to the memory of the late Linda Heath 1931-2013, past Chairman and President of the History Society who was a very active and dedicated supporter of Mole Valley’s Heritage Open Days held at the Letherhead Institute.


15th February 2013 The Bookhams in WW2 by Michael Anderson

On Sunday, 3 September 1939, as morning service began, the churchwarden of St Nicolas' church, Great Bookham, handed the Rector a note saying the the Prime Minister had just announced that we were at war with Germany.

In 2010 the Military History group of the Bookham & District University of the Third Age set out to compile a record of local events during that war, which was published by our Society last autumn, and has already gone to a second edition.

Michael Anderson, the leader of the U3A project, gave us an illustrated account of the book's highlights at our February meeting. As well as interviewing people who lived in Bookham 1939-45, his team had combed the back issues of the Leatherhead and Surrey Advertisers and the archives of our Society and the Surrey History Centre, to construct a picture of the villages from just before until after WW2.

Bookham suffered two fairly peaceful invasions. The first was of 500 children evacuated in September 1939, many of whom soon returned home, only to come back when the Blitz and later flying bomb and rocket attacks made London a very dangerous place. Many had never seen fields or woods before, and strange surroundings,foster parents and hostility from local children complicated their young lives.

The second invasion was of units of the Canadian Army, based at Southey Hall since the private school there had removed itself to Devon. The soldiers became very much part of village life, and twin trees planted by them (English and Canadian maples) have intertwined in Eastwick Park Avenue. German and Italian prisoners of war worked locally.

Although the Atlas Works near the railway station was making aircraft parts for 100,000 planes, it was not bombed; about 50 bombs fell on the village, but no-one was killed: the only Bookham civilian was a schoolboy killed in Leatherhead. There were public shelters near both ends of the High Street for anyone away from home during an air raid.

Bookham raised enough money to buy and maintain two Bristol Beaufighters as well as a Crusader tank; not bad for a village of 4000 people!

The renegade broadcaster 'Lord Haw-Haw' is thought to have lived in Bookham - he knew a lot of details, like the butcher's name. The headmaster of the evacuated Strand School was grilled by MI5 when answers to his crossword clues were code-names for the D-day invasion. The probable explanation is that he was helped in his setting by senior pupils, who listened to the Canadian soldiers, amongst whom security was lax.

We meet on the third Friday of each month, at 7.30 for 8pm, in the upstairs hall of the Letherhead Institute (top end of the High Street). On 15th March our Annual General Meeting will be followed by a short talk on The Milestones of Surrey by Derek Renn.
Derek Renn

15th March 2013 The Milestones of Surrey by Derek Renn

Dr Derek Renn, a former president of the Society, gave a talk on Surrey's Milestones after the well attended AGM.

His story began in the days before the era of the turnpikes. The roads that existed were primitive and often ran through sparsely populated areas. Their maintenance was the responsibility of local people supervised by the Justices of the Peace. Their state was often chaotic and it was obvious that a better system was needed. Eventually Turnpike Trusts began to be formed, each set up by an Act of Parliament. Income was levied from passing traffic at "toll bars" and the proceeds were used to pay for the maintenance of the road. The system developed very slowly but, one by one, Surrey saw the creation of these new routes.

The carriage of letters by road led to the charges being "by the mile", and some way of marking the miles became a necessity. In 1740 an Act was passed obliging all roads covered by the Trusts to have milestones installed. Derek displayed an interesting map showing the location of Surrey's turnpikes around that time. Where were these milestones to be found now, and why had so relatively few survived?

To answer this, the speaker jumped a couple of centuries and reminded us of World War Two during which there was a severe threat of invasion. All forms of direction sign had to be obliterated or destroyed, and for this reason vast numbers of Surrey's milestones were destroyed, buried or defaced. Some were carried away and ended up in bizarre places such as private gardens. Nonetheless he was able to speak of the many that had survived, and these were of great interest because of their diverse appearance. At this point he displayed pictures illustrating some of these, at the same time explaining how turnpike construction spread to all parts of the county.

One might have thought that milestones would take on some standardised form, but this was far from the case, and the interest lay in our discovering how many shapes, sizes and types of inscription there were to be found.

Most of those illustrated indicated the number of miles to nearby places as well as naming the final destination, for Brighton, Portsmouth or similar. Invariably the number of miles to London would be stated, but this was not at all straightforward. Whilst some indicated just "London", the majority were more specific. Some quoted "Westminster Bridge", others mentioned "'Whitehall", "Hyde Park Corner" and still others indicated "Cornhill".

One fascinating aspect of the talk was that hardly any part of Surrey was excluded. The extraordinary shapes of these objects and the manner in which the inscriptions were displayed provided a succession of pictures, each of interest. In every case Derek described the location and explained how the inscription came to be decided. Many milestones are now badly defaced due to the passage of time or by wilful damage. Some of those in best condition were those made of cast iron. A few of these have even been repainted and are in pristine condition.

The talk was rounded off with an outline of how the turnpike era gradually came to an end. From the turn of the 19th century there appeared firstly canals and then the railways. Even with the turnpikes, the carriage of goods by road had always been slow and sometimes hazardous. With the new competition, their end was inevitable. They gradually ceased to remain solvent and one by one they were wound up as being no longer viable.

Modern roads eventually replaced them but their route often remains the same as in the case of the Leatherhead to Guildford road. The only reminder of the bygone era is sometimes the occasional discovery of an ancient milestone. Thus ended a fascinating and informative presentation.
John Wettern

19th April 2013 Alan Pooley on Fetcham Mill

Alan Pooley, our new president, gave us a fascinating account of Fetcham Mill and its millpond at our April meeting.

Several watermills once stood on the banks of the River Mole near Leatherhead. The last survivor was a "cutt-mill" - that is to say, one powered by water channelled from springs and not from a river - with the advantage of an even supply of power. The mill could be traced back to 1167, and became part of a small farm at the junction of the roads to Cobham and Guildford.

Between 1705 and 1710, Arthur Moore, a director of the infamous South Sea Company, built Fetcham Park House, installing an "engine" to pump water from the millpond up to a reservoir, which still exists in Rookery Close, to feed ponds and a canal in the grounds around his home. There is a similar arrangement at Petworth House in Sussex.

In 1794 there was a proposal to dig a canal alongside the Mole upstream from Walton on Thames, using the Fetcham springs as the headwater supply.

Milling continued for centuries; the railway embankments and Waterway Road were aligned to cause as little disruption as possible. By then, mains water was available and Fetcham Park had an easier supply. Larger mills dominated production, and the Mill House was leased out. In August 1917, the mill buildings and barn were destroyed by fire. Although the house was repaired, milling ceased. Photographs taken after the fire show the 12-foot mill-wheel and "buckets", which resembled those still in action at Ifield Mill near Crawley.

In 1922 the Mizen brothers, market gardeners of Mitcham, bought the estate and laid out glasshouses and watercress beds to exploit the pure water supply. A narrow-gauge railway track was laid on a concrete base for trucks to carry the watercress to the packing shed, from whence the cress went by lorry to Covent Garden Market.

The elder Mizen had a large house, "Watersmeet", built in the angle between the railway embankments. In 1924 the Mizens sold the Guildford Road frontage to the London Omnibus Company for a garage. In 1929-30, excavations for new glasshouses revealed skeletons, Saxon swords and an ornamental bucket (now in the Leatherhead Museum). By 1934, the springs had had to be channelled, extra boreholes driven and the size of the millpond reduced at the Cobham Road end, to maintain sufficient flow.

In 1957 the East Surrey Water Company, which already had pumping stations at the end of Mill Lane, bought out the Mizens, and the growing of watercress ceased. The company demolished Watersmeet, the Mill (but not the cottage nearby) and removed most traces of the mill. The millpond was reconfigured and lined, the spring water being pumped up by a complex "contraflow" system to the treatment works on Hawks Hill.

To maintain water purity, various conservation measures are in place around the springs: no fertilisers are used on the fields, the pond banks are only mown twice a year. A new fire station was built near the millpond in 1969, and the Surrey Society of Model Engineers has leased part of the site for an elevated railway track since 1978. All that now survives of earlier days is Mill Cottage, the Mizens' Waggon Lodge and the water channels.
Derek Renn

17th May 2013 The Dorking Museum Project - the Big Society in action presented by Kathy Atherton, the Exhibition Co-ordinator

A fascinating account of events leading up to the reopening of Dorking Museum was given to members and a considerable number of guests by Kathy Atherton who described the prominent part she played in this enterprising and extensive operation, writes John Wettern.

Dorking now has a museum worthy of its status.

The planning and execution of the venture was complex and far reaching. Its special interest lay in the many diverse aspects which had to be dealt with, as the speaker unfolded. It began with an assessment of what existed at the outset. The site was a former foundry; it was not an ideal location; the space available for development and had problems of access. There was a vast collection of objects available for display, and, most importantly, the need to have people willing and able to see the project through. All these factors presented problems that had to be overcome.

It began with a review of objectives. What do people expect their museum to feature? Surely not just a collection of unrelated artefacts. Whatshould be emphasised - local history, social history, or natural history?

There was material enough to cover all these - a vast fossil collection, much history from diverse periods including the Roman era, a mediaeval heritage, not to mention many of the products of local industry and agriculture for which Dorking was noteworthy. There emerged the decision that the museum would portray the town and its surrounding district, highlighting its history and displaying familiar and unfamiliar objects.

Also to be taken into account was the very extensive and valuable archive, inadequately stored and needing a lot more space. This would have to be included in the plan. Funding had to be obtained and this thankfully was forthcoming. A budget was drawn up and the project succeeded in being on time and within monetary limits.

A builder was engaged and a first-class designer brought in. A public relations campaign was mounted, not only to inform the public about the scheme but to enlist the support of volunteers who would be needed to manage all aspects of the task. Happily, the volunteers came flocking, and the process of training them was undertaken. It needed not just skills but a large measure of enthusiasm. Both these targets were achieved. On every open day, 15 people have to be on duty.

Thanks to a set of splendid slides, Kathy traced the progress of the project. It made those in the audience visualise what was taking place and made most of us want to pay a visit to view the final result. Details such as the use of signs and photographs were highlighted as having great importance.

The problem with all museums is that it is impossible to put on show everything that exists in the collection. The skill lies in getting the right balance to stimulate the visitor's interest without an excess of clutter. All age groups must be considered, and most importantly the children. Many features, like "dressing up" exhibits were introduced. Summing up the result of all the work undertaken, it was clear that all the targets had been met. The museum now has an entirely different look, its forbidding aspect has gone.

A lot has been done to "to keep it quirky" to stimulate the visitor's interest. One feature that. Dorking takes pride in is the decision to mount special presentations from time to time, and this is currently being pursued. Kathy's presentation ended with some interesting questions and a well deserved ovation from her audience.
This lecture concluded the spring series for 2012-13.
The next season will begin in September, with a talk on Surrey Folklore. Details will follow nearer the date.

20th September 2013 The Folklore of Surrey by Matthew Alexander, former Curator of Guildford Museum.

Matthew Alexander, Honorary Remembrancer of Guildford and former curator of the Guildford Museum, made a welcome return to speak to us in September to address us on the subject of Old Surrey Customs and Folklore. He said that culture (in the sense of customs, superstition and tradition) changed more slowly in Surrey than elsewhere. Until 150 years ago, the county was made up of middle-sized and smaller farms and villages. There was no middle class, and few large landowners. The agricultural depression of the 1870s hit hard, but there was little mechanisation to riot against.

He pointed out that as more people became literate, superstition declined and commonsense prevailed over many customs and traditions. But we still delight in ghost stories, from the blue donkey climbing the stairs at Slyfield Manor to a haunted car park in Guildford. Tales of tunnels and buried treasure were associated with ruined abbeys and churches (for example Newark Priory and Ockham Church). The removal of churches by the Devil was usually explained by the removal of the village for another reason. Matthew told us the legend of Catherine and Martham, the two giantesses of Guildford, building on rival hilltops and throwing their only hammer from one to the other.

Witchcraft ceased to be a criminal offence in 1620. The witch was nearly always a poor old woman living on the margin of society, who would be blamed for disease or injury to animals or young children. He related some sayings including: a farmer shot a white hare; the next morning his neighbour had a limp: was he just a bad shot? White magic-folk medicine often had a simple explanation: the healing well at Thorncroft, Leatherhead, helped eye infections because any bathing would relieve the symptoms.

The speaker debunked three Surrey folk tales: The Silent Pool above Albury was an 18th century chalk pit, nothing to do with King John.
The exact route of the medieval Pilgrims Way through the county was a guess by the Ordnance Survey, and the silencing of the Chertsey Curfew Bell was a legal change, not to save a lover's life. Community disapproval took the form of "rough music". A wife beater's sleep would be ruined by the beating of metal pots and kettles. On the other hand, if a wife left home, the husband would literally "put the broom out" to signify his needs.

Many customs were recent: the plaiting of ribbons in the maypole dance was due to John Ruskin, and the mayhem of Hallowe'en was a new import from America. Shrove Tuesday street football, with no rules, lasted longest in north Surrey, particularly at Dorking. Guy Fawkes' night riots against unpopular local worthies in Guildford had eventually to be put down by the army, not thepolice. Both harvest supper and Christmas dinner had the same menu - beef and plum pudding. A berry would be removed from the "kissing bough" each time a kiss was claimed until all were gone. Gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day and the cake on Twelfth Night contained a dried bean and a pea and a bean: the lucky finders were king and queen for the day.

Wassailing - singers wishing good luck to houses and particularly apple trees - was not originally a Christmas tradition. Many carols were locally composed, and Matthew ended his talk by singing two verses from one found in a 1660 book. at Elstead.

Our next meeting will be on Friday, October 18, when Frank Haslam, Janice Steele and Ian Whitwick will describe their study of the lives-of those commemorated on local war memorials. We meet in the main hall of the Letherhead Institute (top end of the High Street) at 7.30 for 8pm, and visitors are always welcome.

Derek Renn

18th October 2013 Local War Memorials by Frank Haslam, Janice Steele and Ian Whitlock

As Remembrance Sunday approaches, it was very appropriate for Frank Haslam to talk about the Society's ongoing websites project on our local War Memorials.

This aims not just to record on-line the names of those commemorated but also to find out who they were, what happened to them and what were their local connections. What came across strongly was that the names on our war memorials were people who lived where we are. We owe it to them to remember their lives.

The Society's website ( leatherheadlocalhistorysociety.org.uk ) has links to websites on the memorials in Ashtead, Box Hill, Great and Little Bookham, Effingham, Fetcham, Headley, Leatherhead, Mickleham and Oxshott.

Our local war memorials can be found in churches, churchyards, village halls, schools and in prominent outdoor sites. Perhaps the most elaborate is Leatherhead's Town War Memorial in North Street. There may be a cross, sometimes with the reversed 'Sword of Sacrifice', and there are more or less detailed inscriptions, some of which, amazingly, have proved to be inaccurate!

Frank appealed for help from his audience: the small team on the project has still much to do. Information comes not only from inscriptions, families, and former neighbours, but also from national websites like those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the National Archives (including census returns), free and paid-for family history organisations, records of births, deaths and marriages, parish magazines, local and national papers and regimental records are all vital sources.

There is also the unusual. Frank instanced Wing Commander Knocker on the memorial at St George's church, Ashtead. Piloting a Short Stirling to bomb Bremen, he was shot down on the Dutch coast in 1942. His mother was Baroness de Serclaes, who had been awarded the Military Medal as an ambulance driver in the first World War, looking after the wounded from both sides of the Front. He also mentioned the unravelling of the story of the death of Rev Vivian Redlich, a missionary commemorated in St John's School chapel.

The speaker praised the work of Liam Sumption, who in the days before the internet travelled by public transport all over the British Isles to research many of the names on the Leatherhead memorial. He left the Society his extensive manuscript collection (entitled 'Taken not Given') when he moved away.

Janice Steele, from Fetcham U3A, spoke of two names on the Fetcham War memorials. Trooper Edgar Jones, in the Royal Armoured Corps, was killed in action aged 34 on 8th June 1944. Originally from Wales, he is also on the London Passenger Transport Board memorial. He and his wife Margaret lived at 47 Warenne Road, Fetcham.

Company Sergeant Major Gravett MiD, of the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment died aged 36 on 16 November 1940 following an air raid in a series of attacks on Poole, its important harbour and the residential parts of Bournemouth. A parachute mine landed on the house in which the headquarters of 'D' Company were quartered.

Gravett's family lived in Fetcham Lodge. There is a record of him leaving Fetcham School at the age of 14. His wife Janet who he had married on service in Karachi in 1933, was Scottish which may explain why he is buried in Lockerbie, in Scotland.

Ian Whitlock, a local military historian, inspired the current project in 1999, intrigued by the Leatherhead War Memorial inscriptions. The first commemorations were the'Ladies' War Shrines' of 1916-7, panels hung from the old Clock Tower/Fire Engine House, roughly where the 'bus shelter now stands outside Lloyds Bank.The panels were moved to the parish church: there are other plaques in All Saints church and the Methodist church in Leatherhead.

Land for the Leatherhead War Memorial was given by Charles Leach, of Vale Lodge, later to be President of the Port of London Authority. His son (Grey de Leche Leach) died in 1916, sacrificing himself to save those around him when a grenade which was being primed was seconds from going off. He could not be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross as his deed was not 'in the face of the enemy'. Instead he was awarded the Albert Medal in Gold (today's George Medal).

The design of Leatherhead War Memorial was chosen after visits to design exhibitions in London. Unusually, each casualty had an individual plaque; 117 are commemorated, and there are still some blank panels.

Ian had researched those born in Leatherhead who are not on the memorial 'to the sons of Leatherhead'. He spoke of the Taylor family who lost four sons killed in WW1. Two survived, one after losing a leg. Percy Taylor is buried in the Parish churchyard and has a War Grave headstone. He is one of those not on the memorial, at the time apparently because he did not see service abroad. Some of the Taylor family were at the talk.

If you would like to help the project forward, please contact Frank Haslam or through the Leatherhead Museum.

Our next meeting will be on Friday 15 November, when Carole Garrard of the Surrey History Centre will tell us about Surrey's Historic County Maps. We meet in the main hall of the Letherhead Institute (top end of the High Street) at 7.30 for 8pm and you will be made very welcome.

Derek Renn

15th November 2013 - Surrey Historic County Maps by Carole Garrard of the Surrey History Centre

There was a good attendance at our November meeting with an exceptional turnout of non-members for Carole Garrard's talk about the maps in her custody at the Surrey History Centre, writes John Wettern.

How had maps evolved and how had they come to be of such great importance to mankind? This was Carole's theme, based on examples from the collection which provided an abundance of illustrations.

An illustration from a book dated 1432 was her earliest example. It depicted the property of an abbey with its church and nearby rivers, a mill and other landmarks. It was rather primitive and not to scale but it stressed the importance of such records to contemporary landowners.

The earliest true surveys began to appear in the 16th century. Still concerned with land ownership, this took on overriding importance at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. The marking of boundaries was important.

The first-ever map of Britain appeared in 1546. Several examples of Surrey maps from this period were shown and Carole was able to highlight our own district rather than the entire county. It was interesting to note the names of places, nowadays considered as unimportant, appearing along with the towns and villages.

Viewers spotted names such as Slyflell, Polesden and Norbury appearing quite prominently. We also noted the different spellings used at the time: "Asted", "Darking" and "Ebbisham". Roads only appeared on maps from a later date such as the surveys of Norden in 1580 and John Speed in the early 1600s.

One of the most prolific map-makers was John Rocque in the mid-1700s. He was the first to use what we now call conventional signs, to indicate grassland, marshes, ponds, and the like. The emergence of the scale "one inch to one mile" also came about.

The Industrial Revolution was now beginning, and this provided an even greater stimulus for the production of maps. There was increasing interest shown by the military as well as by engineers. This led to the creation of the "Great Survey of Britain" spanning the period 1783 to 1853, and thence to the creation of the Ordnance Survey as a department of government. From now on there was an ever wider demand for maps, particularly by estate agents and other professionals. They also became available to the general public.

Carole gave us a detailed description of the printing process which was based on the engraving of a copper plate. It required extraordinary skill and it grew in complexity as history progressed. The finest example in the Surrey archive is to be found in the mapmaking of John Speed (1596-1610). On one of his maps featuring the area of Ewell, he included pictures of Henry VIII's Nonsuch Palace which are considered the best available representations of the palace known to exist.

Larger-scale maps were now evolving, culminating in those of 25 inches to the mile. The library at the Surrey History Centre prides itself in that it holds every one of these in its coverage of the county.

Concluding this outstanding talk, Carole reminded us of the more recent developments that have-occurred. First the national grid and later the adoption of the metric system. Even later has come the digitisation of maps to enable surveys to be uploaded into computers which perhaps foretells the disappearance of paper copies. It seems the tasks undertaken by the county's maps library will never cease, and she affirmed the collection of Surrey maps from all eras will always be ongoing.

The success of this presentation was evidenced by the warmth of the applause and even more by the multitude of questions and comments that she was asked to respond to before her departure.