Pioneer Motoring Days at Hindhead
This week, Chairman Richard has excavated his collection to visit that perennial love-it-or-hate-it subject, cars and the A3.
The Portsmouth Road, more locally always referred to as the A3, has been part of local life for the best part of 400 years. Before the Hindhead Tunnel was opened in July 2011 the A3 had become a local travel nightmare for many, not only for through-traffic but also for locals who just needed to pop down Haslemere or Liphook. Nonetheless, without it, and for better or worse, Grayshott and Hindhead would have had very different and probably less prosperous fortunes.
Travellers attracted the hospitality trade. In 1661 Samuel Pepys, then Secretary to the Naval Board, stayed at the Anchor Hotel at Liphook on his way to the Admiralty at Portsmouth. The recently demolished Seven Thorns at Bramshott was the final incarnation of a road house on the site since the 1500s. Some time during the late 1700s a small inn was established on Hindhead, later to be known as The Huts which became a staging post for coaches on the Portsmouth Road. The site is now occupied by the Royal Huts Avenue housing estate, by the double roundabout.
The introduction of tolls and turnpike trusts to operate the road system expanded rapidly in the 1700s and our section of the Portsmouth Road became part of the 1768/1792 act for Kingston to Sheetbridge (Petersfield), and tolls were charged accordingly. The original route over the top of Gibbet Hill, aptly named, was replaced by a new road around the edge of the Punch Bowl at a lower level in 1826. The completion of the railway as a direct route from London to Portsmouth in 1859 brought an end to much of the long-distance coach traffic using the road.
Virtually all of the turnpike acts were rescinded in the 1860s and roads handed over to local authority ownership. By the 1890s Hindhead had almost overnight become a popular residential and visitor destination and in the first decade of the 20th century the motor car began to make its mark.
In November 1900, the 5th anniversary of the passing of the Locomotives on Highways Act, 1896 was celebrated by a motor run from London to Southsea. This was certainly the first time any quantity of motor cars were to be seen passing through Hindhead. Entrants spent far too long over lunch at Godalming and those who did make Southsea did not arrive until well after nightfall. The road from Hindhead to Liphook was stated ‘to be still un-surfaced’. The following year the event was run via Egham, Bagshot, Basingstoke and Winchester, hence avoiding Hindhead!
During September 1903, a 1000 mile reliability trial under the auspices of the Automobile Club was held over 8 days based on Crystal Palace, London. Wednesday the 23rd involved a run to Southsea and back, some 145 miles. A timed section was the ‘Hindhead Climb’ starting just south of the Red Lion inn at Thursley to a point near the cross roads at Hindhead. Eighty-three cars left Crystal Palace that morning, from 7.30 am, again certainly the first time that so many cars would have be seen passing through Hindhead twice in one day. A sign of things to come!
Ben Chandler, the owner of the Royal Huts Hotel, took an early interest in motoring and his establishment became a popular meeting place for motorists. By 1908 he had commenced running a motor bus service between Haslemere, Hindhead and Grayshott . He established a garage business known as the Hindhead Motor Works at the top of the hill, on the site recently vacated by Barons BMW. In 1905 the London and South Western Railway Co started a motor bus service linking their Farnham and Haslemere stations.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took a strong interest in motoring from his residence, Undershaw. In August 1903 he wrote in The Spectator advocating that a £100 import tax should be applied to all imports to protect the British motor industry. Purchasing a 10 hp Wolseley car in 1903 he went to their Birmingham factory to collect the car and then drove it the 140 miles back to Hindhead, said to be his first experience of driving. On another occasion he managed to drive into his own gatepost, overturn the car on top of himself and remain trapped beneath until help arrived. In June of that year he joined the Automobile Club (later to become the Royal Automobile Club). In 1904 the Wolseley was replaced by a 20 hp Dennis car from the local Guildford factory, only soon to be caught in a speed trap at Shalford for doing 30 mph. Guildford magistrates imposed a fine of £5. Soon after he was caught again at Folkestone, which cost him £10. His interest extended into manufacturing and he invested in A.W. Wall at Guildford who built the Roc motorcycle. In May 1905 he competed successfully in the Isle of Man international motorcycle race with one of these machines. He also competed in various national and international motoring events for several years following . Another character, Doctor Gilbert Smith who lived at The Chalet (top of Headley Road ) was one of the first GPs to use a motor car for his rounds in 1902.
All was not well though. The Grayshott Magazine for September 1907 published the following letter from Samuel Marshall Bully of West Down. (Ironically this house now overlooks the southern entrance of the Hindhead Tunnel)
“A letter appeared in the ‘The Times’ of August 23rd, over the signature of ‘S. Marshall Bulley’. A few sentences which we venture to reprint here, as probably only a small proportion of our readers often see the ‘Times’.
“The roads are, with the exception of a few open spaces, waste lands, public gardens, etc, the only lands on which the great mass of the people have a right to put foot on without asking permission of, or paying rent to, somebody; and now the amenity of these roads has vanished, their safety impaired, and the cost of their upkeep has been raised by the advent of the motor. Why should people loose their roads that a comparatively small number of rich people should be able to rush rapidly from place to place?
Dwellers in the neighbourhood of the Portsmouth Road (which runs right through our parish), are constantly put to serious inconvenience and discomfort – not to say danger- through the reckless and inconsiderate abuse of the motor car: and cottages along our English high roads have ceased to be houses in which children can be brought up with any reasonable degree of safety. The main offenders on the Portsmouth Road are, presumably, men and women inspired with the somewhat foolish ambition to travel between London and Portsmouth in the shortest time possible, and who care neither for the comfort nor the safety of others. Motor cars, no doubt, have come to stay: and there is a perfectly legitimate use for them. But the insolence of this sort of motorist has strained the patience of the people to the limits of endurance, and it is high time that the peoples’ representatives in Parliament should take the decisive action in the matter.
It is stated that in the year ending May 31st. last, at least 235 people were killed and over 1000 injured in this country through motor cars. If this is to go on unchallenged, then ‘government by the people for the people’ will be a failure indeed.”
In Grayshott, Coxhead and Welch established ironmongers became cycle agents and with a natural progression became involved with motor cars supplying petrol, tyres and charging accumulators etc.
Another Hindhead resident, Lord Exmouth, who lived for many years at Highcombe Edge, had by 1912 become a keen competitor at Brooklands . His near neighbour JA Coe of Moor House was a local benefactor and come September 1914 lent his 35 hp Napier for use by the medical staff of the Aldershot Command as an ambulance. The ambulance body being built by Warrens of Wrecclesham was subscribed for by the residents of Hindhead, Grayshott and Haslemere.
There was of course a considerable increase in road traffic with the advent of military camps throughout the district and The Autocar of March 27th 1915 reported that ‘From Godalming to Hindhead the surface is in a terrible condition owing to heavy military traffic. The mud has been cleared off, but the surface is corrugated and indented with deep potholes’. This almost sounds familiar!
Two other early motoring notables who at various times resided in the district were Mark Mayhew, founder and Lieutenant Colonel of the Motor Volunteer Corps in 1903.He was a strong advocate of mechanical transport for use in the Military, but made little progress against the horse and by the outbreak of WW1 less than 100 motor vehicles were owned by the military authorities. By November 1918 the deliveries had increased to over 62,000 lorries, 33,700 cars/ambulances and 41,000 motorcycles! His commercial interests were Mark Mayhew Flour Mills, Battersea and he retired to The Wilderness, Churt Road. Other interests were his involvement with the AA and RAC, and a keen supporter of the local British Legion. Pioneer motorist S.F.Edge also spent some time in the district. He died in 1940 and is buried at Tilford, his last address being given as Dentdale, Corry Road, Beacon Hill.
Finally the Portsmouth Road has one other claim to fame – in 1903 the Automobile Club proposed to erect ‘caution’ boards along the length of the road from Esher to the Surry boundary just short of the Seven Thorns Hotel, which you could sponsor and have your name on .
RP February 2021
Charcoal Making Hearths
These New Finds are a little different from usual because they’ve been in plain sight for hundreds of years and probably seen by thousands of people. They are not so much newly found, as newly recognised and documented. They are charcoal-making hearths in Whitmore Hanger. So far, we’ve found twelve of them, along with several saw-pits and hundreds of yards of medieval boundary banks.
The photo below hardly does them justice, but trust me, it is a hearth. Typically they are level, circular platforms about 25 feet across dug into the slope. Most of them are within the medieval embankments of the parts of the Hanger known as Cane’s Coppice, Holloway’s Coppice, Beechen Row and Flat Wood.
Charcoal has been made in Britain for over 5,000 years. It fuelled the kilns of Bronze and Iron Age metalsmiths, and the Romans needed it for their iron industry. In the middle ages it started to be used in the manufacture of gunpowder. Its high point came in the 16th and 17th centuries when the Wealden iron industry was at its peak. The invention of the coke-fired blast funace by Abraham Darby in 1709 marked the beginning of the end of the Wealden iron-making. Charcoal was still needed for gunpowder, small-scale smithing and urban heating, but by end of the 19th century the use of traditional earth-covered forest kilns of the Whitmore Hanger type was very nearly a lost craft. It’s impossible to date our hearths by just looking at them, but on the basis of the very sparse evidence currently available they were probably active in the 16th century.
Charcoal is carbonised wood. It is baked rather than burned. If wood is heated to a certain temperature in the absence of air then reactions occur which drive out the water, tar and volatile oils. This means that charcoal is lighter than wood and burns hotter. Very roughly, five tons of wood will reduce to one ton of charcoal, which occupies half the volume and contains twice the energy density of the wood. Thus it was more cost effective to make charcoal in the woods than to take wood to the furnaces.
John Evelyn, a local-ish gentleman from Wootton, out Dorking way, described the process in his book of 1664 ‘Silva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees and the Propogation of Timber’. Almost any wood can make charcoal but various woods had specialisms. Alder was favoured for gunpowder. Oak or beech for ironworking, because it made strong charcoal that travelled well. Brushwood for ‘small coals’, for heating. But never elder, because it releases cyanide when burning. Whitmore Hanger has beech, oak and, in the swamp, alder. The process had a seasonal rhythm. The wood was felled in winter and stacked to season through spring and summer. Ironworks were busiest during autumn and winter when the streams to power their bellows and hammers flowed full, so charcoal burning would start in late summer and go on through autumn to feed the furnaces and forges. (A furnace converts iron ore to pig-iron by heating it with charcoal; a forge converts brittle pig-iron to malleable wrought iron by hammering out the impurities.)
On hillsides, a level platform was scraped out with a mattock for the hearth and the burner’s hut. They were often towards the bottom of the valley – it’s easier to carry wood downhill than up! A typical forest kiln would take two or three tons of wood, and would also need about 30 gallons of water for temperature control during the burn and cooling afterwards. Hauling 30 gallons out of the Southwater and up the side of the Hanger in wooden buckets would have been great fun. The soil underfoot was important. Clay – impermeable – would crack with the heat and also prevent drainage of the unwanted tar and gunge. Sand, like ours, was ideal – a little trickle of air could bleed up through it to ventilate the kiln and fluids could drain away. Sand was also preferred for the covering. This might be why our kilns aren’t right down in the bottom – it would have been too swampy below the outcrop of Atherfield clay. Our hearths are quite close together in places. Each one would have had its catchment area and it was probably easier in the long run to dig another hearth rather than lug tons of wood very far through the woods.
Jane Brayne’s lovely painting below gives a very atmospheric view of how the Hanger would have looked in the 1600s. Having made the hearth (and they were re-used many times, the earth beneath became ‘seasoned’) the burner would stand up a thick post about 3 feet long with a conical depression in the top. A second post with a matching point was located into it. This was called the motty peg, and it formed the flue. Then, timbers were stacked up around it in a triangle, as in Evelyn’s drawing. Wood about three feet long was then stacked around this central structure, almost vertical in the centre and sloping out towards the edges. The wood was cut with a pointy end, placed downwards, to minimise contact with the earth. A couple of layers like this, then a final layer stacked horizontally. The heap was then covered with bracken, leaves or turf, the purpose being to prevent the outer coating of sand from collapsing into the charcoal and contaminating it. This is what you can see being done in the nearer kiln. When the kiln was completely covered with sand, neatly packed firm and with no cracks, the burner would pull out the motty peg.
To fire the kiln, the burner would put charcoal embers kept from a previous burn down into the flue to sit in the dimple in the lower post. You can see this happening up the hill. Then, pack the hole with more charcoal to the top and pop a turf over. This was repeated until the flue was a column of burning charcoal, and the kiln was getting hot, at which point the hole would be properly sealed by clapping over more turf and sand. The intention was to heat up the kiln to over 100 degrees, at which point the wood would begin to steam, but not burn. Vent holes would be made in the covering, starting at the top. These would release the huge amounts of steam being generated. Once the moisture was driven out of the wood , the temperature would creep up and more chemical reactions would take place. Gradually the temperature would rise until at about 280 degrees the carbonising process would start. This was an exothermic chemical reaction, not combustion. The smoke would turn from white to blue, as tars, acetic acid, methanol and other volatile oils were driven off. At this point the heap would begin to darken as it became stained by the tar and oil. Sometimes yellow sulphur driven out of the wood’s bark would appear at the vent holes. Now the kiln would have been a mass of hot gas trying to escape, and the burner would be ducking in and out through clouds of smoke to damp down any excessively hot spots and sealing up cracks. The temperature inside the kiln would rise to 400 degrees.
As the burn worked through the kiln, the vent holes would be made lower and lower down. The kiln would gradually slump as the wood contracted into charcoal, and all the while it had to be prevented from cracking. It was a highly skilled control process; the burner would judge progress by the colour and smell of the smoke and the appearance of the sand crust. Wattle screens were set up to prevent wind turning the kiln into a blast furnace. It was a dirty, smelly, messy process. Burners were notoriously black-faced and during the burn our Hanger would have stunk.
Depending on the quantity and dryness of the wood, a burn took between two and five days. For the burner and his accomplice it was a 24-hour watch. There are stories of burners nodding off on the job and waking up to find that their kiln had turned into a bonfire. This is why you can see a little hut in the background. During the burning season the burner and his family lived on-site.
Eventually the blue smoke turned into a transparent shimmer over the kiln. This meant that the burn was done. Now, the burner would very, very carefully rake off small parts of the cover and gently tip water in to cool it. Too fast and he would be rewarded with a face-full of scalding steam. The idea was to drip-drip-drip the water in so that the kiln cooled by gradually transferring its energy into steam, rather than flooding it. Finally, if he’d managed not to explode, ignite or drown his kiln the burner could dismantle it and separate out and grade his charcoal, ready for transport to market.
Very little is known about the social organisation and prosperity of our local charcoal burners, or wood-colliers as they were more properly called. We do have a few references, direct and implied, from which we can make some progress.
– In 1543, John William was granted a plot of land 12 feet by 10 feet in the east of Headley (which of course Grayshott and Whitmore are) to build a shop to sell charcoal. Unfortunately John William doesn’t appear anywhere else in our records, so we don’t know what became of him or his shop.
– In 1523, John Andrewes of Ludshott had ‘felled certain trees called birches and made charcoal of them to the loss of the Lord’. He also felled 27 oaks and three ashes.
– In 1556 John Warner was granted a licence to ‘move an exceedingly ruinous barn from Northland to Graveshot (ie Grayshott) for the use of the woodwards’. A woodward was the guardian or keeper of the woods, acting on behalf of their owner. One of John Warner’s plots in Grayshott was Barnelands, now Applegarth, behind which in the Hanger are some hearths.
– In 1529 Richard Drake of Headley was granted a licence to build a ‘mill for working iron … in that place called Drakes Bridge’. We think this was on the Southwater off the northern end of Hammer Lane, towards Simmondstone. So about a mile or so from the Hanger. In 1545 this Richard took out a rent on 2 1/2 acres of ‘moor and underwood’ i.e. coppice, in the south part of Whitmore.
These entries at least tell us that there was active charcoal production in our area five hundred years ago, when the Wealden iron industry was working flat out to make guns for Henry VIII’s navy. We know by other means that the Hanger existed at this time, and the presence of woodwards indicates that is was valuable and managed. We see the indication of ironworking very nearby, and an ironworker renting coppice in Whitmore. We also know of forges in Thursley, Bramshott and of course at Pophole in Hammer Vale, none of them more than a few miles away. A map of 1739 shows a track across Ludshott from the area of Grayshott Hall down to Waggoners, annotated as ‘The Road to Hammer’, meaning Hammer Vale. It was an extension of our road of Hammer Lane, which for part of its length runs parallel with the lip of the Hanger. Charcoal could only be transported about fifteen miles without crumbling to dust, usually in sacks by packhorse; it was generally made to meet a local demand. Easy to imagine packhorse charcoal convoys clopping along Hammer Lane ….
From these very few pieces, a possibility emerges of our Whitmore Hanger supporting an organised system of woodland charcoal burning to supply the local forges of the Tudor Wealden iron industry. But what of the people?
The unfortunate fact is that apart from what’s given above, we can only speculate from broader patterns in a attempt to bring our wood-colliers to life. We have so far found a dozen kilns, spread through about 50 acres of woodland. The rule-of-thumb was that an acre of well-managed hardwood coppice would produce one ton of wood per year, so the Hanger was potentially capable of keeping its hearths fuelled indefinitely at a rate of one or two burns per hearth per year. Every year a typical Wealden forge needed the charcoal from about 1500 acres of coppice cut on a 15-year rotation. Or to put it another way, for every forge about 20% of the land within a two-mile radius had to be perpetually devoted to charcoal-producing coppice. Assuming the Hanger did indeed serve local forges, as well as some to village blacksmiths, then it could only supply a fraction of one forge’s demand. Regionally, it was a drop in the ocean; all the furnaces and forges active in the Weald together consumed the charcoal production from about 200,000 acres of coppice. Each burn of a two or three ton kiln took about a week from start to finish, so our twelve sites represent about three months burning when operated in sequence. That is, an autumn’s worth of burning. Add to this the winter woodcutting, and we can imagine that the Hanger would provide employment for one extended family. They were part of a huge industry.
Photos of Victorian word-colliers are evocative – whiskery, black faced men living in little teepee-like huts amidst the wood. In fact, broader evidence indicates that wood-dwelling was often seasonal and that although charcoal-burning was a complex skill it was frequently combined with smallholding as part of a multi-income lifestyle. The content of charcoal-burners’ wills from nearby parts of Sussex give us some clues.
– Thomas Alderton, collier, of Northchapel, in 1647 rented a house with a hall, chamber, room above, buttery and kitchen. His effects, valued at £54 3s 6d, included one mare, eight sheep, two hogs, and 6 acres of barley.
– In 1819, Henry Glasher, charcoal-maker of Fernhurst, left a ‘freehold house and land thereabouts’.
– In 1709, William Boxall (a familar surname in our parish), collier, of Lurgashall, left several pounds in cash and his tools of the trade: ‘my best broad-bitted axe, my best narrow-bitted axe, one cross-mattock, one short-spitt saw and one barking froe’.
We’ve so far found no charcoal burners or colliers in our parish records – censuses, baptisms, marriages, deaths – and yet it was going on. The most likely view at the moment, as a working model, is that we had maybe one family of smallholders living very close to Whitmore who combined seasonal charcoal work with farming.
If you want to visit a charcoal hearth, please respect the fact that all of them are on private property. They are archeaological sites and important witnesses to a tantalising part of Grayshott’s industrial heritage. The best place to view one up close, from a Public Right of Way, is at the bottom of Bull Lane (BOAT 13), where it joins the lane of Whitmore Vale. From the middle of Grayshott, go along Whitmore Vale Road, past Chairman Richard’s monkey puzzle, right down into the bottom. Opposite Purchase Farm turn left up Whitmore Vale, through Brydelades Ford, around the switchback by the gate to Laurel Cottage, to a sharp right bend. There’s a little laybay at the bend where you can park, if required. Go round the bend (so to speak), and you’ll see the dirt track of Bull Lane forking off up to the left. You’ll see a pair of galvanised steel gateposts. Walk ten yards past them and look for the L-shaped tree, below. To your left, just beyond the ancient boundary bank which runs alongside Bull Lane, you’ll see a hearth. It has a tree growing out the middle of it. You can stand there, think of Jane’s picture, and if you’re lucky you might catch a whiff of woodsmoke to take you back 500 years…..
What next? At the moment, these hearths are known about and researched to the extent which you read here. We have a plan, subject to landowners’ permission, to accurately record the location and context of each, and any associated features such as sawpits, boundaries and tracks. This will be entered into Hampshire County Council’s Historic Environment Record, at which point they will have been ‘officially’ recognised. Then, again subject to permission and resources, we would like to collaborate with an archaeology group to conduct a limited excavation. The objectives would be to obtain physical evidence sufficient for radiocarbon dating and, with luck, to retrieve charcoal samples from which we can determine tree species. All of this is on our very long list of Things To Get Around To Eventually. We also need to conduct more thorough documentary research, for example to examine the manor court records for evidence of leases or licences, which might lead us towards identifying individual colliers. It takes ages. If anyone would like to get stuck in, there is a fascinating research project in this, to make a deep-dive into the archives and develop a view of the charcoal economy of our local parishes. Let us know if you’re interested!
JC, February 2021.
Professor John Tyndall
We’ve just recieved a cutting from the Illustrated London News of December 1893 concerning Hindhead House, home of the late Professor John Tyndall. Click on the link below, although the pictures are more interesting then the flowery words.
Tyndall is best known locally for his pronouncement, upon moving to Hindhead, that “the Surrey Heathland air is as pure as that in the Alps”, thus encouraging the tourist boom which quickly led to the urbanising of Hindhead. However, his achievements were considerably deeper than a local PR job.
Born in Ireland in 1820, young Tyndall studied technical drawing, maths and surveying at school. This led to him working as a draftsman for the Ordnance Survey, first in Ireland then in Britain. By the time he reached these shores railway fever was at full steam, they were being built everywhere, and Tyndall’s surveying experience led him in that direction. From there, he went on to teach maths and surveying at a boarding school, where a young colleague was Edward Franklin, who had previously worked for the British Geological Society. The pair moved to Germany to further their scientific education, and Tyndall spent three years there developing his skills in experimental science.
He also became a pioneering mountain-climber, having first visited the Alps for scientific reasons. His speciality was the motion of glaciers. This led him towards studying the heating effect of sunlight, and the way in which radiation affects gases. In 1860 he was the first person to demonstrate experimentally what has become known as the greenhouse effect. He became a prolific researcher in the field of light and atmosphere, being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1852 and publishing 147 papers between 1850 and 1884. He was also a great educator. He liked to design lively and engaging demonstrations of his work, and gave hundreds of public lectures at London’s Royal Institution.
In 1876 he married Louisa Hamilton. They met through contact at the Royal Institution; Louisa assisted Tyndall’s research and writing, and she became a successful scientist herself. The year after, they built a summer chalet in the Swiss Alps, then, in 1883 – perhaps his bachelor apartment at the Royal Institution feeling a bit cramped – the couple decided to make a permanent home at Hindhead. Tyndall was well enough off to buy a choice plot and plenty of bricks; his books were good sellers and he took fees from lectures. They set upon building a mansion just off the crest of Hindhead ridge, positioned for the all-round far-reaching views and unpolluted air. During construction they lived in a little gardener’s hut amidst the wild commons.
The Tyndalls loved the remoteness and tranquility of the commons. John wrote of his new house “I have already sunk a well, and from it we shall draw water as soft as the dew and as clear as crystal”. They installed themselves in time for Christmas of 1884.
Hopefully the Tyndalls did enjoy their crystal well water and purple-clad hills, because their paradise was short-lived. Tyndall’s words, coming from one so eminently qualified to know about air quality, unwittingly let the secret out. Very soon there was a rash of mansion-building as other well-to-do colonists joined the band-waggon. They were quickly followed by hordes of day-trippers, training out from London, and then all the paraphanalia of tea shops and guest houses. Bang went the neighbourhood. Very good for the commercial opportunists, but heartbreaking for John and Louisa. Tyndall was not entirely to blame; railway commuting and the enclosure of commons for private development were already in motion, so urbanising was inevitable at some point.
The Tyndalls had bought a relatively modest plot; never did they think that anyone else would settle in such an isolated place. They soon found themselves getting hemmed in. One day he found workmen building a house immediately outside his boundary. Within a few weeks his view to the South Downs was obscured by the roof of a suburban villa. To shield the nuisance he built a huge screen, 40 feet tall, imitating the contour of pine trees, and fringed with pine branches. As a good atmospheric physicist he also equipped it with a lightning conductor. The locals objected to what they thought of as an eyesore and the press chimed in too. He was in trouble with the press anyway; as an Irish Unionist and Darwinist he had critics outside of science.
By this time, around 1890, Tyndall was a semi-invalid. He’d retired from the Royal Institution on health grounds in 1887, and suffered from insomnia. He would take chloral hydrate, a sedative, to help him sleep. One night in 1893 Louisa tragically miscalculated the measure and gave him a fatal overdose. Chloral was nasty stuff, it had a hand in the sticky end of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Evelyn Waugh and Marilyn Monroe, among others. Professor John Tyndall FRS is buried in St Bartholomew’s Churchyard, Haslemere.
Loiusa survived him by 47 years. After John’s death she took over the organising of his papers and worked on his biography. His screens survived as well, they were said to be present into the early 1900s. Really, it’s a wonder they didn’t disappear over into the Punchbowl at the first stiff south-westerly. Hindhead House is still there, now converted into flats, engulfed by a housing estate and overlooked by a mobile phone mast. Sadly, the local air quality has got worse since the Hindhead Tunnel opened, due to the increased speed and volume of traffic.
Tyndall is remembered in the names of glaciers in Chile and Colorado, mountains in California and Tasmania, the Tyndall Effect in physics, and a small housing estate in Hindhead.
With thanks to:
John Owen Smith – Hindhead is Safe!
Chairman Richard – Period photos (which he said he bought, not took himself …)
JC, January 2021.
Dicken’s Farm in Whitmore
Last year we bought this newspaper cutting of Dicken’s Farm in Whitmore. Nowadays Dicken’s is a ruin; a few scraps of wall, the arch of what’s said to be a kiln and some rough pasture. Seeing this picture of it as a going concern obviously provoked our curiosity. As is so often the case, we now have more questions than answers.
Very little is currently know about Dicken’s. It’s most likely a post-medieval purpresture, meaning land reclaimed from the common for agriculture. Doing this was hard work; people did it when the supply of land ran short and made it worth the effort of clearing marginal land. At the north end of Whitmore this happened through the later 13th century, when people encroached small plots of land due to a population boom. Through the 14th century the population was more of less halved by the combined effects of the Great Famine and the Black Death. Pressure on land disappeared and it took about 300 years for the population to reach a point where people once more needed to clear new land. Our hunch is that Dicken’s dates from this second period, say around 1600, but we have no hard facts to that effect. The site is well chosen, a tolerably level shelf curving around the contour of the sunny side of a little valley, with running water below.
The earliest documentary evidence we can find is the first Ordnance Survey map of 1810. It shows the farm fully developed as per a later map of 1915 (further below) with its land either side of the stream and an orchard to the east of the yard area. This old map shows just how remote this area was in those days. There is absolutely nothing built in what was to become the villages of Grayshott, Hindhead and Beacon Hill, just open heath. The farms, really just one-family smallholdings, moulded themselves along the streams – as well as Dickens you can make out Purchase Farm, Stream Farm, Bowes Cottage (in olden days known as Crawtes) and Whitmore Vale Farm. As well as the water, they benefited from the slightly higher soil fertility from river alluvium and little outcrops of clay. Good enough for one family to scratch out a decent living.
Whitmore in those days was a little micro-economy. The Southwater had been an administrative boundary for centuries, and today it makes searching for records across multiple manors, parishes and counties a bit of a challenge, but to the local tribes it was an irrelevant distinction. Old families like Rooke, Crawte, Coombes, Cane, Voller would have thought of the entire remote little valley as ‘their patch’ – they all knew each other, intermarried, no doubt traded among themselves, discouraged interest from outsiders and ganged up to minimise evidence of anything that might lead to taxable consequences.
By the 1839 tithe survey Dicken’s was in the hands of John and Mary Boxall, just under 13 acres of mixed arable and pasture. Interestingly they were owner-occupiers. A surprising number of smallholders owned their land as freeholders rather than tenants, a consequence of the feudal manorial system of customary tenancies being replaced by a land-for-cash economy. It’s a clue to its origin as purpresture. The early medieval farmland, such as the ridge top farms in Grayshott, was established when people worked as a community under the authority of the lord of the manor rather than as free individuals. It was occupied under customary manorial rights by tenants. One customary right was that the rent was absolutely fixed forever, not subject to increase with inflation, which was a good deal for a tenant in 1700 on land who’s rent had been fixed in 1100! When enterprising spirits made purprestures therefore, increasingly the manor lords became willing to take a one-off lump sum in return for freehold rather than having the bother of collecting just another few shillings a year in rent.
The Boxalls had Dicken’s for decades and gave their name to the adjacent track between Whitmore and Hindhead – Boxall’s Lane. After John’s death, widow Mary kept the place going, no doubt helped by the income of her live-at-home son Abraham, who was a master wheelwright. Eventually though, she put it into the hands of a manager, one Thomas Mathison, but as she was by then knocking well into her seventies we think she was well overdue for a rest.
Weve not yet researched what went on after the Boxalls. We think that Dicken’s became swept up into what became the Stoney Castle Estate, which by the late 1890s was owned by Edgar Leuchars, an architect, who had previously built Apley House in Grayshott and went on to build Whitmore Vale House. By the early 1900s the farm seems to have been worked from off-site, the farmhouse occupied by gardeners, we guess working up at Leuchars’ new big house nearby.
Dicken’s is said to have been occupied until the 1950s, but its final demise is still a mystery. It was known for local authorities to purchase and demolish sub-standard houses. We are speculating, but perhaps Dicken’s had become uneconomic to operate and too ramshackle to live in. It was certainly demolished; the state of the ruins today show that it was deliberately flattened rather than allowed to decay naturally.
Another lost building is the old smithy on Boxall’s Lane, it’s on the map above, about half way along. Nowadays there’s just a patch of scrubby laurel on the site and a few broken walls. It must have relied on passing trade; the local farmers would have generated some custom but difficult to imagine them as its only patrons. Boxall’s Lane is a decent size track, certainly passable for horse traffic. It’s the continuation of Bull Lane in Grayshott, which as well as being associated with the early medieval foundation settlement around Hammer Lane was also an offshoot of, we think, a route connecting the wool trading towns of Farnham and Petersfield. Perhaps in olden days it carried travellers from a wider area.
You can make a pleasant walk out of exploring Dicken’s Farm. There is a little leaflet (click here) from the Beacon Hill end. From Grayshott, walk down into Whitmore. Just before Purchase Farm, turn right up the byeway of Boxall’s Lane. Continue up and down, crossing the stream. A little way after the stream take a fork to the right. You’ll start to see the old fields of Dicken’s on your left. Continue, generally bearing around to the left. Incredibly, the lower land on your right alongside the stream, now a swamp, was once the meadows of Dicken’s. Nature reclaims quickly. Eventually you’ll come across the ruins, which are interesting to sniff around. Then carry on, continuing to bear anticlockwise, and you’ll come out at the top of Boxall’s Lane. From there, return downhill, noticing the old field banks on your left and looking out for the smithy site on your right.
There is still alot to do to uncover the fuller story of Dicken’s.
How and when did it originate?
Who was Dicken?
Who had it before the Boxalls?
Why did it fall into decay?
What happened after Haslemere District Council bought it, and why was it knocked down?
Can the plan of buildings be reconstructed?
What happened to the idea of preserving it as a public open space?
What happened to the old smithy?
What pattern of local traffic used Boxall’s Lane and kept the smithy in business?
If anyone knows more that we do, please tell! Likewise, if anyone would like to take on Dicken’s Farm as a lockdown research project please let us know. It’s a fascinating area and we’d love to fill some of its historical black holes.
JC, January 2021.
Mrs Cane’s Notebook
Here we have the transcript from a reporter’s notebook in the hand of Mrs Adelaide Cane of Grayshott, part of the Parish Council collection, from original research carried out by Jack Smith. We think it was written in the early 1960s, perhaps in connection with the parish’s diamond jubilee celebrations in 1962. The book consists of 17 numbered pages, plus notes on the back of pages and at the end, and two photos. Chairman Richard has burned the midnight oil to make a transcription, given below. If you want to see the original notebook, it’s here:
Adelaide Cane’s Notebook.
By all means have a crack at it; there are a few words which we can’t decipher and would welcome suggestions.
Adelaide, née Goldring, was born to William and Harriet Ann (née Boxall) at Liss on 12th July 1879. She came to our area to work as a housemaid for the Jacksons at The Grange in Hindhead. The Grange is one of the grand Victorian villas, tucked away off the drive to Huntington House, on the shoulder of the Surrey side of Whitmore Head opposite Hurstmere. She married George Cane of Stoney Bottom in her parish church in the summer of 1901.
George, a garden labourer, was one of twelve children born to John and Hannah Cane in the house now known as Old Yew Tree Cottage. We think this is the location of the family photo, at the end of this article, taken on the August Bank Holiday Monday of 1904. The Canes are one of Grayshott’s old families. In the 18th century they were one of the hamlet’s major landholders, having the farms of High Grayshott and Bulls. You can find more about this further down this page; click on Old Grayshott Deeds at the index on the right.
The earliest local occurrence of the name, as Keyne, is in the year 1400, as a farmer over towards Hearne. In the 1800s they colonised Whitmore and Stoney Bottom as smallholders; there were alot of them and we’re trying to piece together their story. Grey Cottage in Whitmore was one of their plots, which area was known in the 1950s as ‘the land of Canaan’, a biblical allusion to the nearby Land of Nod. Jack Cane and Sid Doy and their families lived down there, and they ran William Hill butchers where Kaighan is now.
Anyway, for now, here are Adelaide’s memories, in her own words.
The Grayshott that I know was named after a Mr Grayshott who had a daughter, that is all that is known. I have been told by a friend who is an archaeologist ‘if’ you know of anything of value to pass it on before you pass on yourself.
I came to Grayshott 1897, there was so little of the village then ‘but’ of interest to myself. It is a village that has had rather uncertain boundaries which have been altered from time to time.
It starts from the boundary Rd and finishes up below Bulls farm on to Ludshott common with the main Headley Rd running through it, and each side of it the village runs down into a valley. the boundaries are often just beyond these valleys, so that the lanes along these valleys are good travelling points (see diagram, NB – missing). We will start from the boundary Rd and take the little path adjoining the boundary House and Lady Noyce’s garden which goes down into land which adjoined Mr Jackson’s land, follow this rough road into the valley, around Lawrence’s farm and comes out at the stream, follow this stream and cross over the bridge and follow on until you come to Barford still left of the ponds. At the end of the road, you cross over Hammer lane and round the sewerage works and cross a good bit of land belonging mostly I think to Captain Whitaker as well as other owners, and emerge on to Ludshott common, crossing Headley Rd and passing round Mrs Durhams house and keeping this and Grayshott Hall on the left, come into Waggoners Wells lane, follow this down to the first pond then take the stoney bottom lane and keep right on until you come to Hardings cottage and the boundaries are marked just in the wood above it and now include Mowatt Rd.
Come up the road (Crossways Rd) and now across the road to where we started from ‘boundary Rd’.
Then we travel down the Headley Rd or as the old inhabitants called it ‘the Gut Road’. on the right which is now called Hurstmere Dr Plympton had just had this built. This Dr was the surgeon at Great Ormond St Hospital for Children and was dealing soon after this with the first X Ray apparatus to be used publicly as I understood and he brought this X Ray to Grayshott and X rayed a good many of us.
Mr Sandell lived in the next house but he was not the first carrier as old Mrs Cane let her donkey and cart be used for this work and also later on to collect and return laundry at the Grayshott Laundry, which Miss K I’Anson had built when my husband George Cane left school to make employment for the young folk. next on the same side came our little cottage an old stone one where Mr and Mrs Hale lived before us. They then built the house with cement walls and large rooms called ‘The Oaks’ now named the Village House.
Then next a forge where ????? Wells worked, then a small house built by Mr Oakley (see note), and nothing else before the five roads. Back we go to the Boundary Rd again and see what we have on the left of the road. The small cottage now British Legion Hut was a boot repair shop It had formally been a fish shop.
Mr Charlie Barnes had built his house and workshop, 3 or 4 small houses built by Mr Bevis, then the Avenue which contained about 4 or 5 houses owned by Mr. Barrett. Then next an old house where Mr & Mrs Fry lived. These folk were very religious and how often I had called on them to fond them with only a candle reading the bible and eating kippers for their tea. And too, how often he told me that as he passed the Royal Huts homeward bound, he had to run past as the desire tempted him so hard to go inside.
Notes on back of page 4:
Mr Tom Puttick may have been built when I arrived 1897 but I cannot remember this.
The British legion Hut was a boot repair shop when first I knew it
The 1st chemist shop was at Heatherlands where Dr Gray lived for some years. This was really Hindhead. The mans name was Horage and he was most amused when I thought his name was Borage and said ‘well Miss we do use Borage in our make up.
2 more cottages and Mr Burdens shop where lived Mr and Mrs Hoy with their young children, a fish shop then. Then Coxheads’ shop where they sold good (enamelware) ironware. The two cottages which are now the gents wear shop (Warr’s) and the International stores.
Smiths yard where the horses and carriages were kept (owner Ben Chandler) for hire. Then Mr Mitchell butcher shop. next Mr Charlwoods shop ( a Harness makers shop and leather shop.) and the wool shop which was a Tailor’s business own by Upex.
Then some cottages and Wayside which has been built by Mr Henry Robinson and let to different people. Then next some stables with a house over by Jim Moore and the row of cottages now shops in which Mr Barker has a business as well as other folk these have changed hands except Mr Barkers. The two end cottages where Mr and Mrs G Cornish made their good business, one as a drapery business, the other as a grocery business, which was moved later to the house where it is now and Mr & Mrs Frost owned the next one as a hairdressers and stationer, now Penny’s business.
Notes on back of page 6:
wool shop was our first chemist in Grayshott itself kept by ‘Gane Inge’ who I think was a Haslemere man. previously to a wool shop this was a tailors business, then next the chemists.
The first Mr and Mrs George Cornish had a good business in both shops Mrs Cornish was a Miss Little and I believe Lady’s maid to Mrs Whitaker. The Fred Jacksons where I lived did nearly all their business with Cornishes. The George Cornish that is now was a great help to his parents in cleaning shops, delivering goods and looking after the babies. Truly a likeable boy.
Before these 2 shops and houses were built there was a small old wooden house where Mr & Mrs Dumpy Winchester lived, then later the Recreation ground came into being this was given by 3 of the local gentry. I am not sure who so I will not say. Then we come to the 5 roads and along the Crossways Rd was a house built by Mr Cover and Mrs Hannah Robinson store a part of which was the Post Office. A small house where Gould Chapman have their shop and Dale whites business is.
This was lived for several years by Mr & Mrs Hannant with their family.
Then down that road close by was Jubilee Terrace.
Notes on back of page 7:
part of Mr Covers house was let as a boot shop to Pannells of Haslemere . This was run by Frank Lawrence.
before Mr Hannant came to this house there was a man & wife who did not pay their rent so the Bailiffs were put in and the man said to his wife “I’ll get them out before we go to bed”. So, He made a good fire in the room where the men were sitting and went outside where the bees were settling down for the night, stirred them up and threw the skipp into the room, out came the bees, also the …. as they were called.
Next to this short road was where Mr & Mrs Ernest Chapman lived with their family and was the Post office for many years, being taken over by Mr Oliver Chapman, then the 3 cottages, one owned by Mr Prince called JAP. this being on his carts. He was a good baker the 1st in Grayshott and used to make very big bread puddings and sell it cheap at the evening meetings, in the small Institute at the end of Hardings lane “our first Village Hall” to the young folk at 1d a big slice.
The Queens Cafe was a grocers business owned by Freddie Deas. Windwhistle House was Inhabited by Dr and Mrs Lyndon, who had not long since come up from Headley.
Notes on back of page 8:
The brothers Chapman built what was used for the Post office and the nice houses along crossways road on the left hand side including Chapman’s yard and house afterwards Mr. Lowry joined the firm.
Village Institute, Hardings Lane. There was some good theatricals done in this small institute. Mr Oliver Chapman being particularly good and a good time was given to the lads of the village. Mr Prince had been very liberal with his refreshment which were most appreciated. There were also 3 small shops 1 the off licence the same as today, the centre one J Upex, the third Princes business (a bakery)
Ensleigh was inhabited but I cannot remember by whom. then no more houses that side.
We will now take the triangular piece of land from the five Rds Church Lane, “Phillips Green” which was given by Miss I’Anson s brother Philip to the village on the condition that a cricket Pitch was made on it. This had been willed by Mr Edward Blakeway I’Anson to his son Philip on this understanding. Mr Philip died a youngish man.
The laundry built by Miss C I’Anson to employ the young folk of the village. My Husband went straight from school there as did others. The school also built and given by the I’Anson family. The masters house, too and President Cottages which Miss I’Anson kept for herself to lodge teachers of the school in.
Note on back of page 9:
The 3 brothers Chapman, Oliver, Walter and Ernest owned Chapmans building business, afterwards Mr. Lowry joined them.
This triangular piece of ground was 15 acres, the same now.
Sheep stealing was very rife and old Stephen Boxall and his sister used to tell me tales as they were great friends of mine until his death. 2 sheep in sacks were hidden in his manure heap whilst the police were searching for the bodies. Stephen said oh you never knew anything about it as we all liked a bit of mutton. There were also 3 sheep bodies (carcases) were found when Mr Lowrys house in boundary road was built.
Then, included in this triangular land of 15 acres was the land the church now stands on. I witnessed the laying of the foundation stone of this and one would find in the church books when it was finished and at first it was not licensed for marriages, but we are proud to say ours were the first Banns of Marriage that were published in the church. The vicar Mr Jeakes wishes us to be married in the church as a presentation bible was to be given to this couple, but I preferred Petersfield my home church.
When I came we worshiped at a small Iron church standing close to the Vestry door and often on a fine sunday there were as many Congregation outside the church as there were inside. The first school was outside of Cottons house on the Portsmouth Rd, afterwards a carpenters shop. but my husband was not old enough for this and attended only Grayshott School but his older brothers sisters did. There were no other buildings on the right-hand side of the road going from the crossroads towards Grayshott Hall except the old barn which still stands. then comes Hammer Lane and there is Bulls Farm and some cottages.
Then cross the road which was pushed away from Grayshott Hall front door to where it is now and Grayshott Hall was an old farm house. then Grayshott House where a family named Woodthorpe who were remarkably good to the poor. afterwards Monsieur De Pury took it he had married into the I’Anson family.
next came Grayshott Court where lived Mr and Mrs Vertue, this house was partly burned down about the time my husband was 12 or 13, this would be about 1900 or near this date, and was built up and the convent added. There may have been a convent previous.
Notes on back of page 12:
My husband cannot remember the actual date of this fire or his own age, so this is as correct as we know.
Mr Edward Blakeway I’Anson was the first owner of Grayshott Court and his was the beginning of the I’Anson family coming to Grayshott. I think they came from Headley.
I have forgotten to mention outside St Anns gate is a rough road going down into Ruffit and Stephen orchard. Stephen Boxall kept here a big black horse which the folk hired to go to any funeral at Headley as all were interred at Headley. The coffin was resting in the cart and mourners sat on the rail of the cart if unable to walk. He was a broom squire and hawked the Herts in Guildford as late as 1902.
from there we come up the road to Laurel Cottage just off the road was really the first shop in Grayshott kept by Mrs Hannah Robinson. Afterwards this property was bought by the I’Anson family and built up as also was Pinewood. next Apley House where lived Mr and Mrs Leuchers & family. He was an artist, they built a house later at Beacon Hill. Then we turn down the Stoney Bottom road which was really the original Grayshott squatters and their families. The old squatter Body Hill and his wife lived in a small stone house, which was pulled down and Mr Larcombe built a nice house there.
Three more were owned by them, the little one at the top where now lives Stanley Fullick’s widow, the next one is empty also the one where Mr C Harris lived, the last one is Birch Cottage where the Cane family were all born, this was owned by a Mr Voller and he asked my husbands father and mother to live with, to look after him and a young donkey when they could have the cottage and young donkey for their trouble, this they did and he lived for another 20 years and had a good supper before he died, so they became sole owners.
This Mr Voller remembered when seeing and hearing the chains rattle on the old Yew tree where the 3 sailors were hung, part of this tree I understand was used as a lintel across the fireplace where a Mr and Mrs Kingshott brought up a family. The Kingshotts today are grandchildren of them. Afterwards Mrs Frogley lived there and it was bought by Haslemere council I believe, so I expect the piece of wood is still there. From the top of this Stoney Bottom George Heather had 2 cottages where he made boots afterwards Mrs J Heather became owner.
So this is all I know about our Grayshott. Older people may be living here now but they were not born here.
Notes on back of page 17.
There were some strange characters among them, Wellcome Laurence, always called Welcome Ducky and when Dr Smith has his first funny little car – Wellcome went pressing buttons and brakes, and the car started off towards the church, Dr Smith came running out of Cornishes shop and said whats the matter. Wellcome replied good thing you came when you did cause I couldn’t have held her much longer, he was hanging on behind.
My Husband George Cane and Mrs. Ruth Harmer are the two oldest inhabitants of Grayshott both been born in Grayshott
Notes on page ‘A’
Grayshott Court was first owned by Mr Philip Blakeway I’Anson with a lot of meadow land overlooking the Stoney Bottom Rd near to the 1st pond. They kept a good herd of cows.
My husband grand parents were married at Portchester Castle which in those days was used as a Gretna Green for young couples, actually in the castle I presume not the church at the side. In Charlie Deadmans cottages down Whitmore Hill, a man named Dave Petterson lodged with his mate. This Dave had sunstroke in India and occasionally went a bit queer. One night he sprang out of bed and jumped from the bedroom window, his mate woke and saw him disappearing and started putting on some clothes top fetch him back. The fall from the window had woke Dave up and hearing voices ran across the road to the wood, and Mr and Mrs Peter Rooke thought it was a ghost and started calling out. How we laughed the next day, and Dave had not hurt himself at all.
Notes on page ‘B’
Grayshott Village Hall (ground) was given by Miss James of West Down. The Hall itself by Mr and Mrs Bulley. I think built about 1898 or 1899.
I forget which year.
The Fox also near the same time or 1900.
Celebrated Folk who have lived near here.
1st Lord Tennyson who I think died when I was 10, also Poet Laureate.
Professor Tyndal of stars fame who lived at Tyndals Wood, and had a wonderful thatched screen made I think 70 ‘ high or so to keep out the lights of Haslemere town.
celebrated people continued
Professor Williamson of Air,
Sir William Beveridge writer of The Beveridge Report who lived at Lower Pitfold or a house near there.
Mr Bruce Joy, who cut the wonderful memorial to Queen Victoria outside Buckingham Palace.
Dr Plympton Smith who I think used in the Childrens Hospital Great Ormond Street the first public X-Ray apparatus and bought it to Grayshott and X-Rayed several of us, this was in 1900 or earlier.
Mr Baring Gould ‘The Broom Squire ‘
Grant Allen, writer.
Notes on page ‘C’
A Conan Doyle, writer
Mr Bruce Joy lived at the Cock Loft.
Mr Leuchars R.A.
Mr Buscombe Gardner R.A.
Mrs Plympton Smith sister to Dr Plympton, painter
Mrs Pankhurst, The ‘Miss’ Pankhurst, Mrs Desparol, Suffragette.
Bernard Shaw. Play write who lived after Miss Stedman at St Edmunds, named after her, now St Edmunds school. This school came originally from Eastbourne and was the old Rath ????? School.
Mr Basham, came with Miss Stedman and my husbands brother in law Charles Harvey of Eastbourne (Borough Police)
(the old Rath ????? School, Eastbourne )
knew the school and Mr Basham and they were great friends.
At Stephens orchard down the rough road outside St Anns gate lived Stephen Boxall, a broom squire, a squatter and bought herts from the cottages and hawked them in Guildford, Godalming. He had a tremendous voice and his cry “Ripe Herts” could be heard a great distance. He kept a huge black horse also a cart and he was really the first undertaker of the village as all funerals had to be conducted at Headley, as it was some time before Grayshott was licensed for these.
Adelaide and George lived at Rose Cottage in Glen Road. Lyon Lodge is on the site today. Her notebook is a wonderful source of eye-witness evidence for the early days of our village. Adelaide’s notes have already helped us to pin down the exact location of the Iron Room, as described in our previous New Find. She was very well informed about the village, its history and people. In the days before Jack Smith’s book there was really no readily accessible reference material; information was stored in people’s heads or hidden away in archives. Her memories of Grayshott around 1900 were very sharp; for example, the chemist Edward Gane Inge was indeed from Haslemere where he also had a shop in the High Street. Ironically, she seems to have had no idea that the ‘old barn’ she mentions on the way to Hammer Lane was the remains of her husband’s ancestors’ farm. And I must say, I would have had to be quite peckish to fancy a slice of Stephen Boxall’s manure-marinaded mutton.
Some of Adelaide’s places have disappeared but there are still plenty that she’d recognise – the Village Hall, Grayshott Hall, the Bulls Farm Cottages, Mrs Durham’s house (Dunelm, down on the edge of Ludshott), Granny Robinson’s shop at Laurel Cottage, her husband’s childhood home with Mr Voller, Apley House – all still there.
She was only adrift on a few points as we now know them; her origin of the name Grayshott is wrong, for which see here:
About Grayshott’s Old Placenames
The I’Ansons were from London not Headley, and her charming version of the name of St Edmund’s doesn’t tally with the school’s own version. And the Robinson’s first shop was actually in Mount Cottage, overlooking Stoney Bottom. It was their later shop at Crossways that was, and still is, called Laurel Cottage.
Of the doctors, Richard Taylor Plimpton (with an i not a y) was a doctor, but of chemistry not medicine. He was Assistant Professor of Chemistry at University College London, where he turned out snappily titled papers such as ‘On the Action of Ammonia and the Amines Upon Naptha-Quinone’. In 1894 he was appointed Lecturer on Chemistry at Middlesex Hospital Medical School. He died suddenly, at work, in 1899, aged 45, and is buried in Norwood Cemetry, Lambeth.
If Dr Plimpton brought X-rays to Grayshott as Adelaide mentions then he is an unrecognised pioneer. X-Rays were first produced and detected by Wilhelm Rontgen in 1895. By 1896 they were in use for surgical purposes, especially by the military. They were also used as a novelty show, with customers being invited to view the bones of their hand on a rudimentary screen. This was before the effects of radiation were appreciated…. But they needed heavy and specialist equipment and operators, not least an electrical generator. Mobile X-Ray facilities were pioneered by Marie Curie during WW1. She mounted the apparatus on lorries and learned to drive herself, so she could dispense with a chauffeur. If Dr Plimpton beat her to it by 15 years or more then his achievement has gone unrecorded.
Dr Smith was a very interesting character, the second son of Sir Thomas Smith, 1st Baronet, KVCO, FRCS, Honorary Sergeant-Surgeon to King Edward, late Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria. Gilbert was born in 1874 and graduated from Durham with his doctorate of Medicine in 1900. He was armigerous, entitled to the arms ‘Quarterly Or and Gules a fret between three fleurs-de-lys all counterchanged’, so there we are. Upon graduation he settled in Hindhead, at The Chalet, which was at the top end of Headley Road on the right, just before the A3, and went into partnership with Dr Lyndon. He married to Elizabeth Adeline Carson and they had six children. Prior to graduating, Dr Smith was a clinical assistant in the childrens’ department at Middlesex Hospital; maybe that’s where Adelaide became mixed up with Great Ormond Street. During WW1 he was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps, went to France and served as a surgical specialist at a base hospital in Rouen. He must have seen some awful things. Perhaps he encountered Marie Curie’s mobile X-Ray lorries there and decided to bring the idea to Grayshott, and that’s where Adelaide remembers the X-Rays from. More research needed on that.
He was one of the first country doctors to adopt the new technology of automobiles, in 1902. His ‘funny little car’ was real; it probably disintegrated long ago, but not before our holidaymaker Albert wrote about it in his letter of 1st September. Dr Gilbert Smith MD, FRCS, LRCP died in 1950 and is buried in St Luke’s.
Adelaide died in 1964. Her and George had a family; we’ve not traced their fortunes, but it’s nice to think that her descendants might find their way to her words on this page.
JC and RP, December 2020.
The ‘Iron Room’ or ‘New Mission Room and Hindhead Working Men’s Club’
Often when researching local history a chance acquisition adds to previous work, and it’s almost like finding the missing piece of a puzzle. By coincidence, a notebook which arrived in the recent Parish Council donation, and Jo Smith’s publication of the Headley boundary perambulations for 1890, were, in this case, complimentary missing pieces which now identify the location and more details about the building in question.
Reports regarding the ‘Iron Room’ appear in the late 1890s Grayshott Magazine, which fortunately Grayshott Heritage hold bound volumes of. It was erected in 1889 in a corner of James Mowatt’s Kingswood Firs estate as a gift of Miss James, who was at the time living at West Down Cottage, situated at the apex of Headley Road and the Portsmouth Road. The main house of West Down was yet to be built, Miss James finally moving there in 1893. It has generally been known that the building was somewhere in Stoney Bottom, but where exactly?
The notebook donated by the Parish Council was written up by Mrs Adelaide Cane in the early 1960s. She came to live in Grayshott in 1897, and it gave us a clue. She mentions ‘the small institute at the end of Harding’s Lane, our first Village Hall’. But where was Harding’s Lane?
Next, from the 1890 Headley perambulations report (Grayshott was still part of Headley at that time), as the party is walking up Stoney Bottom towards Pook’s Hill, mention is made of the ‘New Mission Room and Hindhead Working Men’s Club’.
This led to us looking at the 1901 Bramshott Census, wherein the ‘Institute’ gets a mention as does the Harding family. Wife Lucy was the caretaker living next door in Bramshott Cottage, one of the old squatters’ houses. (The modern houses of Bramshott Cottage and Hooke Cottage are built over its site, but the old plot’s earth boundary banks can still be seen further along.) Hence that end of Stoney Bottom down from Pook’s Hill was known unofficially as Harding’s Lane. So, from these three documents the Institute’s exact location is found and also its full title, although locally it was generally known as the Iron Room.
In 1899, boys gymnasium classes were held there on Wednesday evenings, church services were held there until the iron church was opened in 1891 (on the site of the present St. Luke’s church), and various other functions and lectures were held with great success. In 1902 our present Village Hall was opened and the Iron Room became redundant.
Little is known of its subsequent fate; it disappeared from later maps. Jack Smith’s book says it was moved to School Road, near the site later used for the Nurse’s Cottage. Here it is said to have been used as a Band Hut, and later moved to the playing fields as an equipment store, where it survived into the 1970s. However, all of this is unsubstantiated and the 1916 map shows a completely different outline for the building in School Road, so we aren’t convinced. The Grayshott Magazine for September 1909 mentioned that Messrs Chapman, Lowry and Puttick purchased the Iron Room for £17.10s, which money was added to the Church Spire Fund. We suspect, but can’t prove, that they would have used it as a builder’s store or even broke it down for recycling into smaller huts.
As so often this leads to more interest. The building itself was no doubt a portable iron type, clad in corrugated iron sheets. It measured 15′ wide by 60′ long with a porch central to the long wall, and was possibly made by Boulton and Paul. Regrettably no photographs exist of the building, although their catalogue shows a likely candidate.
With the opening of the new Village Hall Lucy lost her caretaker job. She became a milk delivery lady. Her daughter Isabella went on to volunteer and joined the WAAC in July 1917, and asked to work in a canteen in France, which she did so at St.Omer. She married an Australian soldier in 1919 and we assume went to live in Australia. If any of her descendants happen to be reading this, we would love to hear the rest of Isabella’s story.
Mrs Cane’s notes mention Grayshott’s first baker J.A.Prince, who provided refreshments and ‘cooked very big bread puddings which sold there for 1d a slice’. We must add these to the menu at our future Friends’ Evenings. He was known as JAP as these initials formed the lettering on the side of his delivery carts.
The Institute’s location may seem today to be somewhat out of the way, but in 1889 there was very little built on the central area of our Grayshott Village. Most people were living in the areas of Stoney Bottom, Kingswood Lane and Whitmore, until development picked up pace through the 1890s. It must have been quite a little adventure to visit it of a winter evening, tramping along the pitch dark tracks over the heath and through the valleys, lit only by lantern or moon. Not too difficult for the countryfolk, they would have known the paths like the back of their hand, but perhaps a bit unnerving for the recently arrived gentry, especially with old tales of highwaymen and smugglers still in the local memories. A report published in December 1899 upon a lantern lecture being held there remarks “A wetter night could not have been. Rain was pouring in literally rivers down the steep approach to the Iron Room, The audience we thought was remarkably good, considering the difficulties”.
The ground it was situated on formed part of Lot 9 when the Kingswood Firs estate was sold by auction in June 1932. Next door, part of Lot 6, Bramshott Cottage was described as ‘An Old Brick and Stone Built Freehold Bungalow with 4 rooms …. having a large garden with an area of about 0.859 acres … and well water’. It was still occupied by Mrs Harding, at a rent of 4/- (20p) per week. The Institute’s site remained undeveloped until about 1960, and old Bramshott Cottage survived well beyond that. Nowadays the site is covered by the house Lansdowne, on the corner of Stoney Bottom and Crossways. We assume that all traces of the Iron Room are long gone.
This was not the only ‘iron building ‘ in Grayshott. The first church on the St Luke’s site was such, and once the new church had been completed in 1899 and in use the original building was sold for £87 and saw further use at Liphook, until the early 1950s at least.
A temporary corrugated iron sheet covered building at the cost of £170 was opened in November 1901 in Headley Road to serve as a Wesleyan Mission Chapel, and later as Grayshott Methodist Church. Despite originally being described as ‘temporary’ it lasted until the late 1970s, a capital investment equivalent to about £2.25 per annum. The site is now flats, next to our present Fish and Chip shop.
A further iron building appeared as part of the Moore family business on their Headley Road site (now Sainsburys) where they ran stables and carriages for hire and a butchers shop. It seemed a good business opportunity, being more central by then as rapid expansion of this area got under way. Subsequently it was used as a Working Men’s Club, in which guise it continued until the permanent club building was built in Hill Road in 1904. Incoming workers from all over the country had been gradually appearing from the 1880s, drawn by the building work, and they needed somewhere to spend their time and money.
It’s possible that there were other ‘iron’ buildings in use as private dwellings in the district. They were made by the thousand and exported all over the British Empire, specially designed to provide cheap and easy structures for pioneer colonists. For Grayshott, a little boom-town in the decades around 1900, these structures were just the thing for the first generation of civic facilities and opportunist businesses.
If anybody has more information on these buildings we will be most pleased to hear from you.
RP, December 2020.
Footnote: Shortly after publishing this article we came across a newspaper cutting in Jo Smith’s excellent transcription of the Laverty notebooks. It undoubtedly relates to the Iron Room, and lists the local dignitaries in the correct and proper order of the times. Here it is, with thanks to Jo and Headley Society.
Oct 1889 – LIPHOOK – Working Men’s Club at Hindhead – For the purpose of providing nearby entertainments, and for the improvement of its members, a room has been erected in the neighbourhood of Hindhead. It is situate at Greyshott, an outlying district of the parish of Bramshott. Amusements of various kinds will be started and the room will be supplied with daily and other newspapers. Lectures and entertainments, vocal and instrumental music, together with improvement classes in elementary subjects will be introduced. For the purpose of carrying on this work an influential Executive and Committee have been appointed. The President is the Rector (the Rev W. Capes M.A.); Vice Presidents, E.B. I’Anson, Esq, F. Jackson, Esq, A. Macmillan, Esq, J. Mowat, Esq, A.J. Whitaker, Esq, Dr. Williamson and C.F. Virtue, Esq; Treasurer, K. Leuchar, Esq, Librarian, Miss I’Anson: Secretary, Mr.G. Clark; Conductor of Meetings, Mr. Williams: Committee, Mrs Capel, Mrs Leuchar, Mrs Macmillan, Mrs Mowat, Miss James, Miss Land, Miss Woodthorpe and Messrs. J. Cresswell, Deadman, Evans, Gould, Hardwick and W.F. Woode. Several names have been entered as members; and any lad 14 years of age is eligible for admission, and should apply for further particulars at the Clubhouse or of Mr. Williams, who will gladly receive any suggestions as to subjects proposed for discussion, or needs of special instruction.
Grayshott Hall Sale Brochure
With the recent news of the demise of Grayshott Spa it seems timely to retrieve an old sale brochure from our archives. We believe this document dates from the late 1930s and led to its purchase by Mr John Stanley Coombe Beard. Beard was a noted architect, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, who specialised in London cinemas and theatres. During his relatively short time here – 1938 to about 1947 – it seems that he sadly wasn’t invited to contribute to Grayshott’s architectural scene, so far as we know.
Purchasing a substantial property in the south of England as tensions rose towards a second war in Europe might seem a trifle rash. And indeed, in July 1940 Beard attempted to lease the Hall for ‘the duration of the war plus six months’. He seems not to have found a tenant, for it remained his address for the duration of hostilities, whilst he worked for the Air Ministry. Perhaps he was comforted by the Hall’s ‘very good ARP shelter’ and the presence of the Local Defence Volunteers’ HQ on his tennis court. It’s easy to smile but in July 1940 the war must have seemed very close. The LDV had been mobilised in May, the nation was still taking stock after the evacuation from Dunkirk in June, and on 1st July Lufwaffe planes began making daylight bombing raids on Britain.
The only recorded casualty of war at the Hall was to its wine cellar, in 1941. The butler, one Frederick Thompson, claiming to feel run down, according to The Herald ‘found solace in the cellar’. Pilfered sherry, brandy, hock, port and champagne alleged at £250 were required to buoy him up, for which he earned six months hard labour.
Anyway, if you fancy your very own country pile in which to sit out the rest of Lockdown, now might be a good time to make the present owners a cheeky offer. Click the links below for the documents.
JC, November 2020.
Purchase Farm Postcard
One of our members has this lovely little postcard of Purchase Farm, down in Whitmore Bottom. It was posted by a visitor to the village on 28th August 1920, although the photo could have been taken ten or twenty years earlier.
Purchase Farm is actually in Churt, Surrey, but the photographer was standing on our side of the border – the Southwater stream – so we’ll claim the picture for Grayshott.
The scene is very similar today. The little footbridge is still there, although it’s grown an extra handrail. The roadside cart shed has disappeared, but the sycamore next to it remains. As does the magnificent old oak in front of the barn, now held together by steel cables and a nylon strap, but hopefully good for a few hundred years yet. There are more trees and undergrowth today, a general feature of the landscape since traditional mixed farmers stopped grazing their livestock on the commons. No doubt the farmer at Purchase would normally have had a tethered cow or some geese out chomping on the grass verges and nibbling off errant saplings.
Note also the neat, sturdy hedges. Cut-and-laid probably, to make a dense, stockproof barrier. The old hedgelayers must be turning in their graves at the overgrown and straggly relics that line many country lanes today.
The watersplash was once known as Brydelades Forda – Gushing Stream Ford – and for a couple of centuries up to AD900 the Southwater was the boundary between the Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia. Whitmore Bottom was frontier territory. You can find out more in our article on Saxon Grayshott here.
The Southwater never runs dry. It’s fed by numerous little springs which emerge where the porous greensand meets the underlying Atherfield Clay, and the greensand both filters the water clean and holds a huge reservoir within. The stream was slightly gushing when I visited, and in olden days the water table around here was higher, so streams and wells were more full. Our little Southwater is the great-grandchild of the crashing torrents of glacial meltwater which carved out Whitmore and our other bottoms tens of thousands of years ago.
It’s said that the old barn at Purchase used to be used for church services. In the days before St Lukes the nearest official churches were a fair trudge out to Headley or Frensham, and it’s quite likely that Whitmore-dwellers could have met informally closer to home. The first Ordnance Survey map of 1810 shows Purchase Farm as ‘Whitemoor Hall’, which might give the sense of a meeting hall.
In the late 19th century Purchase Farm formed part of the Wishanger Estate, which was created by Sir Thomas Miller of Froyle. A sale catalogue of 1882 described it as follows, all of which for a rent of £16 16s per annum:
Purchase or Whitmore Farm
In Whitmore Bottom
A New Farm House (stone, brick, tile)
Four Bed Rooms, Parlour, Sitting Room, Pantry, Kitchen, Wood House, etc: and Buildings, comprising Cow House and Stable, Stone, Brick and Tile, and 2 Bay Barn, Stone and Thatch.
It came with fields of just over 16 acres, namely: Whitmore, Long Meadow and Fallow Down, all pasture; and Winding, Middle, Barn, Upper Long and Crab Wilden, all arable.
The tenants at this time were the Moore family, John and Maria. They were an incredibly durable pair, first appearing at Purchase in the census of 1841 and still going fifty years later when Maria was 92. John at this time still gave his occupation as ‘farmer’, no hint of being retired. Their daughter, Hannah, married one Henry Robinson of Stoney Bottom, Grayshott’s first shopkeeper. She became known as as ‘Granny’ Robinson and took over running of the store at Laurel Cottage in Crossways.
Whilst growing arable in our area now might seem optimistic, the old farmers like John knew how to look after their soil through self-sustaining mixed husbandry, and would have been well aware of the extra fertility arising from the river alluvium and outcrops of clay. In 1949 a sickle-shaped prehistoric flint tool was found on the farm. A stray find proves very little but it is a reminder that our landscape has been occupied for thousands of years.
JC, November 2020.
Ludshott Common and Waggoners Wells Leaflets
WH Laverty, the rector of Headley, was a keen observer of local life. He compiled a fascinating and candid set of observations upon his parisioners and events, which have now been transcribed by Headley Society and are available on Jo Smith’s web site. He also took an interest in Ludshott Common, and our first document, another of Grayshott Parish Council’s donation, shows his proposal to assign names to some of the common’s roads and tracks.
To pick on a few of points of interest:
– His footpath ‘Bull’s Lane’ was in the 16th century known as Barnfield Lane or Farnham Way, depending on whether you lived at the Grayshott or Bramshott end of it. In the 1950s it was called Cow Lane, after the farmer at Bulls driving his cattle along it to graze on the common. If the National Trust’s plans come good we might again see livestock out there.
– In the early 18th century his path of Luffs Way, from Bramshott up to Waggoners Bend, was called ‘The Road to Gilford’. Local traffic at that time presumably preferred to avoid the turnpike tolls of the main road (the old A3) and instead detour up through Grayshott and probably then work around through Churt and Thursley.
– He also seems to have coined the name of Headley Down.
Its date is poignant, a year before the outbreak of WW1. Although the common had been used for army manoeuvres before (see our article on The Battle of Ludshott Common) it’s doubtful that anyone foresaw the scale of military activity that was soon to descend upon it.
Also, from Chairman Richard’s collection, we have this nice little National Trust leaflet about Waggoners and Ludshott. From the price we think it’s from the 1960s.
So now you have everything you need to mount a mini-expedition out into our beautiful countryside. Ludshott and Waggies are lovely at any time of year; at the moment you can get the last colours of autumn and some awesome fungi.
JC, November 2021.
Hampshire Treasures, 1977
Here’s another one from the Parish Council donation, a copy of the Hampshire County Council’s Hampshire Treasures, East Hampshire District, North, draft report of 1977.
During two ‘Countryside in 1970’ conferences (which actually took place in 1963 and 1965) it became clear that many organisations were studying the various impacts of human activity on the countryside without any form of liaison beween them. It was thus decided to create a single record of every county’s ‘Treasures’, so that the effects of time and development could be known and assessed. A Countryside Treasure was defined as “Those natural or man-made features of the countryside which are of public interest by reason of their aesthetic, archaeological, historic, scenic, scientific, sociological or traditional interest, and whose deterioration or destruction would represent a serious loss to our heritage”
Hampshire County Council conducted a pilot survey in the Petersfield District in 1967-68. Information provided by Volunteer Field Correspondents was transferred through the Parish Council to the county’s Planning Department, who compiled the report. Our copy is a draft which was issued for comment and correction.
Although inclusion in the report didn’t confer any legal protection, the survey listed for the first time what was judged by local people to be of special interest to their locality. Grayshott’s entry runs to seven pages and, remarkably, after forty-plus years, all but one or two items are still with us in some form or another. Please remember that it is now a historical document in itself, not an accurate guide to the parish as it is today!
The Hampshire Treasures volumes have now been superceeded by the County Council’s Historic Environment Record (HER) which you can view online here. To use it, type Grayshott in the search box then press the green ‘Find Location’ button. Then, in the Choose Location box which appears select ‘Grayshott,Grayshott CP’ from the list. This will bring up a map centred on the village. Use the + button to zoom in, then scroll across the map with your mouse, you should see that green triangles appear. These are the registered features. Click on one, it will turn to a blue box, and after a few seconds a description will appear below the map, from which you can click on a link for more detail. It’s a bit fiddly at first but hours of fun once you’ve got the hang of it.
The HER includes some of the recent discoveries around medieval and Tudor Grayshott. However, it seems that landscape features such as footpaths and woods don’t appear, so the old Hampshire Treasures volume continues to provide a useful if unofficial guide to the valued aspects of our village scene.
JC, October 2020.
Mission Church, 1912
The story of Grayshott’s Mission Church is told fully in our article here. Coming as part of the Parish Council’s recent kind donation we now have a copy of the original fund-raising brochure of July 1912. Follow the link below to read it. Anyone who has commissioned home improvements recently will be interested to compare the rates for tradesmen and materials then and now!
The core of the church still exists in the form of South Downs house on Portsmouth road, next to the new A3 junction at Bramshott Chase. The bell tower has gone AWOL but the form of the church, including its porch and lean-to, is preserved.
The church was made by Boulton and Paul of Norwich. Boys of the Airfix generation may remember them best as manufacturer of the WW2 Defiant fighter, but in fact the firm was founded from an ironmongers shop in 1797 and became a major producer of prefabricated wood and corrugated iron buildings – the original flatpack – which were exported all over the world. They created bungalows, cottages, stables, coach houses, motor car houses, schools, conservatories and all manner of iron fittings for farms, gardens and churchyards. All of these were shipped by rail to the nearest station for transport onwards to site. The factory also sent men to erect it, with assistant labour to be supplied by the client.
One of my favourites – a revolving summer house – was a small ornamental hut atop an iron turntable, which you could have your gardener swivel into the sun or away from the wind upon command. George Bernard Shaw had one as a writing hut at his house in Hertfordshire. If you fancy one, a surprising number still exist.
It must have been interesting to watch the church’s sections being hauled up the tiny lanes from Haslemere or Liphook, by draught horse or maybe steam waggon. Exactly the sort of event that would have attracted a crowd of inquisitive onlookers, all quietly hoping for a gossip-worthy minor disaster or furtively on the lookout for unattended spare parts which they could incorporate into their own project.
Sadly the firm has now disappeared so you can no longer buy a flatpack ‘Galvanised Iron Pavillion with Luncheon Room, Verandah, Store, two Dressing Rooms and Lavatories, Visitors Gallery and Scorer’s Room’ or their Number 402 ‘Galvanised Iron Infectious Hospital’, which would be very handy under present circumstances. However, eagle-eyed strollers may spot a bent, rusty example of their ‘Improved Wrought Iron Field Hurdles’ mouldering away in the mud of Stoney Bottom.
RP and JC, October 2020.
Jottings From an Earlier Grayshott, 1986
Here we show the text of a talk given by Mr FLH Harris to the Grayshott Good Companions club in May 1986. Mr Harris settled in Grayshott in 1927, and for many years during the 1950s and 60s he was Chairman of the Parish Council. According to our Chairman, Richard, his family had the village’s wholesale grocery business and lived at Merryhills in Church Lane. You can see him in the photo below, the gentleman standing at third from right. Incidentally, the gent at second from left is Jack Hayden Smith, author of ‘Grayshott, The Story of a Hampshire Village’, to whom we owe so much knowledge of Grayshott.
Follow this link to read the document: Jottings From an Earlier Grayshott
Some of the handwritten additions are a little tricky to decipher. On page 9, his earlier draft read ” 2:30 AM. Transmitting Air Raid Message Red or the All Clear/Messages in Code Nicotine Cecil”. If anyone can shed some light on what this means we would be most interested. Similarly, if any readers attended Mr Harris’s talk and can recall who was the “….. great idiot” please come forward!
On page 10, the earlier draft read “Correspondence to press. Plague of bluebottles. Compared them to the worst of Persia”. We may sometimes yearn for a simpler age as described with no yellow lines and less traffic, but I imagine most of us can be happy about losing the buckets and bluebottles!
JC, September 2020.
Comments by a Parishioner, 1981
In 1980-81 the Parish Council conducted a village appraisal, to research and document the residents’ views on issues such as shops, recreation, housing, parking and traffic. All of which are familiar themes to us nowadays. The results were duly published. One resident felt the urge to respond in the form of a letter, ‘Comments by a Parishioner’, which we show here. It’s interesting reading, prophetic in some instances, and shows how the concerns of forty years ago have not changed too much. The author is anonymous; if it was you, and you’d like to claim credit, please tell us and we’ll set the record straight!
Follow this link to read the document: Comments by a Parishioner.
JC, September 2020.
Grayshott Parish Booklet, 1932
We have recently received many generous donations of interesting and important items. Here we show the first of them, a little brochure from 1932 titled Grayshott Parish; Chronological Record of Events up to June, 1932. We think this was compiled largely from Parish Council minutes and living memories, therefore it’s a first-hand record of events written down by people who witnessed them. If you would like to know when mains water arrived in the village, who donated the allotments or how many gas lamps lit the village in 1926, read on.
JC, September 2020
Here we have an interesting little object which was dug up in a garden during building works. It’s the remains of the lid of a pot of FS Cleaver’s Bear’s Grease.
Frederick Samuel Cleaver and Sons were ‘manufacturers of genuine honey soap and every description of fancy soaps and perfumery’, based in Red Lion Street, Holborn, London. Samuel Cleaver started the business in 1770; in 1921 it was sold to Lever Brothers but the Cleaver name remained in use until 1934.
Bear’s Grease was sold as a hair strengthener and restorer, from the belief that bears being hairy, application of their fat would confer similar upon the human head. In 1653 the botanist and herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote ‘Bear’s Grease staies the falling off of the hair’. It was made with grease from the fat of the brown bear, plus beef marrow and a perfume. The best grease was said to come from Russian bears. In the 19th century, demand exceeded the supply of bears and so manufacturers substituted pig or veal fat, suet and lard. Green dye was added to make it look better, plus herbal fragrances such as thyme and lavender. An article in the London Journal and Weekly Record of Literature, Science and Art of July 1847 noted that ‘There is no medicinal property whatever in what is termed bear’s-grease, except that of moistening the scurf, and goose-grease will be found equally useful for that purpose’. Nonetheless, it remained in fashion up to World War 1.
This lid is 3 inches across and made from sturdy white ceramic. The date is probably late 19th or early 20th century. This little pot retailed at 6d, almost certainly sold by a village pharmacy or barber shop. It was found amidst other bits of broken household and farm debris, in the garden of a 1907 cottage which was built by Alexander Whitaker for his estate workers. The cottage was built in a field at the edge of the farm, and the nature of the other things found nearby give the impression that this furthest corner was once used as a dump, perhaps for the farm in general.
The pot would have been a luxury purchase for a farm labourer. I rather like the possibility that it might have once been liberated from the squire’s dressing table by a valet or housemaid, perhaps nearly empty, then sampled by the farmhands and the evidence disposed of in the midden.
Pretty much every part of lowland Britain has been exploited by humans at some point. Even if your house is new, the land it stands on may hold little stories of its past waiting to be uncovered.
‘Tracco’ Waiting Room, Bramshott Camp
The rapid expansion of the military camp at Bramshott , spread out on both sides of the Portsmouth Road both north and south of the ‘Seven Thorns’ public house , meant that by the spring of 1915 there were some 24000 troops and 6000 horses stationed there . Local ‘bus operator the Aldershot and District Traction Co was soon to capitalise on this, running services to and from the camp. By 1916 a small waiting room had been built at the Bramshott terminus. This rare image of it has recently been acquired; after the closure of the camp during 1919 it was soon to disappear. The ‘Tracco’ would have been based at Clay Hill, Haslemere at the time, moving to a new depot at Hindhead in 1931, and became a major employer in the area. In addition to running bus services the company also had military contracts for the cartage of forage using Foden steam wagons.
Porcelain Tourist Souvenirs
It may be difficult to imagine now, but for half a century up to WW2 Grayshott was a popular tourist destination. Beauty spots such as Waggoners Wells, Ludshott Common, Whitmore Vale and the Devils Punch Bowl attracted visitors from far and wide. They came by train, with works outings by charabanc, with cycling clubs and by motor. Grayshott was a central point from which to explore, and thrived on their trade, providing a pub, tea rooms, guest houses and shops.
Naturally, like businesses everywhere, their proprietors sought to extract the maximum possible cash from the tourists and offered all manner of souvenirs for purchase. These little porcelain objects, recently acquired by one of our members, are a small selection of such. The crests are entirely imaginary – an attempt by the maker or retailer to add grandeur. That of the Cenotaph has a humorous reference via cannonballs to the ‘shott’ of our name. The Wealden iron industry certainly made most cannons for the army from the 16th century up until the end of the 18th, but there is no truth in the rumour that the ‘shott’ in many local place names derives from it. (In fact, it’s an Old English (ie Saxon) word which approximately means a corner or portion of).
They were sold in places such as the Post Office and Madame Warr’s four shops, which included a milliner, a costumier and a stationary & artists supply outlet. Alexander Whitaker also gave little crested jugs to the village schoolchildren. If you find a small jug with a Grayshott Hall crest upon it then it’s probably one of these.
A Victorian Ordnance Survey Map
One of our members has just acquired this 19th century Ordnance Survey map of Grayshott. It was surveyed in 1869, engraved in 1871 and printed in 1872. It therefore captures the village in the decade following the Headley Inclosure but before very much in the way of new construction had started.
At a scale of 6″ to one mile, and printed from an engraving on copper, these large scale maps are regarded as the best work ever produced by the OS. They were surveyed county by county, hence we don’t here see the Surrey side, and unfortunately a sheet-line runs right through the middle of the village. Nonetheless it gives a very accurate portrayal.
We hope eventually to produce some high quality scans so that we can put the whole map on this site. For the moment we’ve just chosen a few points of interest to illustrate here.
Above, you can see the blank part which is Surrey. Grayshott is at the top right, Ludshott Common at top left and Bramshott Common at the bottom. The diagonal line of the A3 and the Seven Thorns can just be made out at the bottom, beneath the word ‘COMMON’.
Above, a closer view of the area which was to become the modern village. Towards the top, Headley Road runs from left to right. The road with a kink in it, top right, which joins with Headley Road, is the remnant of Pitfold Way, now Avenue Road. Where they join is the site of our Co-Op. The clear space to its left, where the word ‘Hill’ is written, was owned by William Lawrence of Whitmoor Vale Farm. Nowadays it’s the site of the Fox & Pelican, car park and Village Green. The paddocks to the left of Kingswood Firs also belonged to Lawrence; now they form the grounds of Hunters Moon. The dotted line under the words Kingswood Firs has become the modern road of that name.
More detail is revealed when we look closer still. The dash-dot line running from top right diagonally to the bottom is the county boundary. Its middle portion – the third side to the triangle of Headley Road and Crossways Road – is our Boundary Road. In the 16th century this line across the open heath, between the heads of Whitmoor and Stoney Bottoms, was marked by a row of oak trees. Most of this triangle had been bought by James Baker of Pitfold, a land speculator. The southern part of Pitfold Way has already been closed off preparatory for building. At the bottom right can be seen the cottage of John and Mary Lawrence (spelled Lurance then), built around 1809 but including older remains, and is now Yew Tree Cottage. The county boundary ran right through their garden, with the house just on the Surrey side.
Above, zooming right in, we can see Stoney Bottom. Crossways is at the top right. Almost every house had a well in those days, or a tank for collecting rainwater. Mount Cottage was home to Henry and Hannah (‘Granny’) Robinson and was the first village store. Although most of the land had by now been bought by investors such as James Baker and Edward I’Anson there was still very little construction. All of the houses on this part of the map are those of the original villagers, some of them being broomsquires cottages such as the one just visible between the words ‘at Bottom’.
Above, at Waggoners Bend, the straight line of the recently made Headley Road contrasts with the wiggly course of its predecessor, the medieval Graveshotte Lane, which skirted around the fields then across the common and down into Whitmoor. At the top, by the number ‘604’, can be seen the entrance to old Canes’ Farm, formerly Highe Graveshotte Farm, and by 1869 just used as field barns. Nowadays it is crossed by the footpath beside Baillie Cottage. Note the dew ponds. The small triangle of land beneath is now The Dower House, which in the years around 1600 was the site of a cottage and garden of John Newman, the miller at Barford. From the centre, just above the word ‘Well’, a track heads off to the left, occupying a narrow strip of land between the fields and the boundary with Bramshott parish (the thick dashed line). This is still a bridleway, a very ancient one. Its original purpose was a driftway – a short-distance livestock route – to allow the local farmers to drive their animals between the commons of Headley and Grayshott without either trampling the fields or trespassing into the adjacent manor of Ludshott.
The second sheet, above, shows the northern part of Grayshott. The county boundary runs along the Southwater stream, beside which cottagers have colonised the bottom and set out meadows and small market gardens.
This close-up shows Bulls and Grayshott Farms. Grayshott Farm was home to John Rouse Phillips, a part of the Wishanger Estate, which he’d purchased the year before the survey from the Miller family of Froyle. He began the process of gentrifying the farm and turning it into Grayshott Hall. The Estate included the Land of Nod, which prior to the Inclosure was Headley Common. Sir Thomas Combe Miller purchased this area during the enclosure and converted it into a hunting estate. He planted driveways of ornamental trees which you can see at the top left, many of which survive in private gardens, including an avenue of sweet chestnut trees along Long Gut Bottom. The patchwork fields of Grayshott Farm are ancient, perhaps pre-dating the Norman Conquest, and most of them are now beneath the Applegarth Vale housing estate. The field at the bottom with the number ‘598’ in it was called Water Hall Field. Hall means ‘hollow’, indicating a dew pond. This pond was at the kink in the field boundary, to the right of the letter ‘8’, and this marks the site of the medieval farmstead of Barnelands.
These are just a few things that these maps can tell us. From time to time we’ll run little articles exploring other parts in more detail.
A First World War Map
One of our members has just acquired this Ordnance Survey map of the Aldershot District army manoeuvre area from the time of the First World War. Grayshott had been within the area of the Army’s Aldershot Command since it was formed in the 19th century.
Maps like this are fairly common survivors, they were printed in their thousands, issued to every officer on manoeuvres and they are still being found in sheds and attics. This is a lovely copy, and has obviously been used in the field, being worn, grubby and tea-stained. It was issued in 1912, and thick red line and the paler turquoise area were printed on, to show the Command’s boundary and Longmoor Ranges as they were immediately before the war. The interesting thing for us is that its owner then hand-coloured turquoise and yellow areas to show extra training lands, some of them outside the Command, that were added during the war.
Around Grayshott we can see that Ludshott Common, Waggoners Wells, Land of Nod, Golden Valley, Devil’s Punchbowl and Hindhead Common are all thus coloured. Most interestingly, so is Kingswood Firs, which at the time was owned by James Mowatt. Mowatt’s son Osmond served in the army and died of wounds in 1917.
The nearby heaths had long been used by the army, as described in our article The Battle of Ludshott Common. And the Rifle Brigade was just one of many units that were billeted her. The map is a reminder of just how close the villagers must have felt to the war – as well as their own sons, fathers and husbands in uniform, they were surrounded by the sight and sound of thousands of young men in training.
One such, Rifleman JE Taylor of the Rifle Brigade, wrote in a letter to his local newspaper of his time here.
‘Last Friday we left Blackdown and marched to Grayshott . They paraded us at 9am and, on marching off, we were joined by three more battalions ….. When we had all got into our stride it was a grand sight. On arriving at Grayshott at 5, after marching about 20 miles, we were marched to our billets.
I was rather disappointed to find that ours was a schoolroom. We had to sleep on the floor the first three nights with only three thin blankets ….
We are training with the Battalion now, and the last three days they have fairly put us through it. On Wednesday we paraded at 6:30, and had marching and doubling till breakfast. After that the recruits had some more marching and doubling in a field four inches deep in snow, and also an hour’s drill with the rifle. I thought my fingers would have dropped off with the cold …..
On Thursday we had a field day, another big march and more skirmishing. Then we halted for dinner; water, dry bread and cheese ….. After dinner we had some battalion drill, then marched back arriving about five o’clock. Today we paraded for breakfast at seven, and later formed up for a route march of sixteen miles ….. through some grand country. The trees around here are nearly all firs, and there are plenty of them ….’
So if you are walking across the commons on a sunny spring day, please spare a thought for Rifleman Taylor with his frozen fingers and dry cheese sandwich.
Grayshott Hall Nurseries
We have just obtained an interesting postcard of Grayshott Hall. The card itself is quite a common one, but its interest is in the message on the back. It appears to be from the Whitaker family’s nanny, and she has marked on the card the position of two nurseries.
The photograph was taken by Walder of Grayshott, we think around 1912/13. It was sent to a recipient in Herefordshire, presumably a friend or relative, and it shows how the domestic service employment of these big houses, of which there were dozens around Grayshott and Hindhead, drew people to the area from far and wide.
A WW1 Military Funeral
This postcard shows quite a common view along Crossways Road. However, the message on the back is more interesting. It reads:
‘The little village where we often make purchases. There are only two streets. The place is about fifteen miles from Aldershot. A military funeral passed thru today while we were there. The coffin was on the gun limber. The poor fellow, a French Canadian of a battalion in our own lines in camp, was killed by a motor lorry while walking along the road in the dark.’
Obviously written by a soldier, probably from the camp at Bramshott, we think the deceased was a Catholic going for burial at St Joseph’s. Unfortunately there is no date to help us further identify the victim of the accident.
Great War Postcards
One of our members has acquired a most interesting collection of postcards from the Great War. We know that Belgian refugees were housed in Grayshott, at Bulls Farm, Glenn Road, Homeside (Headley Road) and nearby at Bramshott Chase. These cards appear to be addressed to the sisters Marthe and Viviane d’Huart, at Gorsemount, so they add a further family to those already known. They are from their father, an officer in the Belgian Artillery, dated 1916 and marked ‘Belgian Active Army’. In one of them d’Huart writes:
‘Dear Marthe, This scene will interest your mummy as the mansion belonged to our family. It is now as flat as the ground and impossible to photograph. Yesterday our cook was killed in the cellar by a shell, and my best interpreter killed by an enemy bomb. I hope this week brings us better luck. Goodbye, dear Marthe. I send you my most heartfelt affectionate kisses. Write to me often.’
He must have been at or very close to the front.
Gorsemount is in The Avenue, built circa 1900. Of it’s owners during the Great War, or of the d’Huart family, we currently know nothing further. Time permitting, we hope to translate all of the cards and discover more about their story.
Latest Loss – The Golden Hind Cafe
The latest building to succumb is the Golden Hind Cafe at Hindhead, more recently known as Cooper Brothers furniture shop. Time and decades of pounding from recent traffic had taken its toll, and the building was sadly beyond economic repair. It was demolished in May 2018.
New Loss – Woods Tiled Shopfront
The latest loss to Grayshott’s history is the beautiful Edwardian tiled frontage of Stainton House, more commonly known as Woods the butchers. The latest proprietor, of a shop named ‘Bells and Whistles,’ has decided to cover this village signature feature in a coat of vinyl. The tiles are said to be intact beneath the vinyl but have nonetheless been removed from the everyday enjoyment of villagers and passers-by. Despite the property being within the Conservation Area it currently seems that no planning enforcement to reverse this action is possible.
The property was built in about 1897. In about 1904 it was bought by Mr Woods and altered to make a double-fronted shop by infilling with the adjacent Coxhead’s. The tiled front would have been added at this time, a typical period feature for butchers. Since 1983 the premises were used as a restaurant, still known as Woods and until recently Wings Woods. As small compensation to those who loved this place we show below a picture of the premises in their heyday.
Three Old Photographs
This month we have some photos of varied interest.
First, a nice picture of Donec in the 1960s.
The second shows the signwriting shop of the bus depot in Aldershot, with finishing touches being applied to the local Hindhead & Bramshott board.
Finally, the Chapman and Puttick shop in Headley Road. If anyone knows more about this building or business we would be interested to hear from you.
A Pair of Old Grayshott Deeds
These two old deeds relate to property once owned by the Cane family. The Canes were yeoman farmers who had lived in Headley and Grayshott for centuries. Technically they were copyholders, meaning that they held their land as tenants of the lord of the manor. When a tenant was admitted to a property, two deeds were made at the manor court on one sheet of parchment, which was cut in half. One part was held by the lord and the other by the tenant – hence known as the copy-holder. The proof of authenticity is that only the original copy would match the cut. These are the original tenant’s copies.
High Grayshott was a farm in the area that is now the Waggoners estate and the eastern end of Applegarth. The farmhouse and yard were located in the area behind Baillie Cottage and Saddler’s Scarp. If you take the footpath by Baillie Cottage towards the Hanger, you will walk right over it. It was first recorded in 1349 when Agnes sister of Robert atte Grevette was fined 10/- for a messuage and 5/- land. Robert probably died of the Black Death. For a long while called Cane’s Farm, the house is shown on a map from 1739. In 1813 it was absorbed into Grayshott farm and by 1846 the buildings had become an unoccupied barn-yard. One old barn survived until the 1950s.
Bulls Farm is the area to the west of Hammer Lane, now mostly used as horse pasture, and almost the last of Grayshott’s medieval fields that are still used for at least some form of agriculture. It’s first mentioned by name in 1552, in the occupation of William Graveshott jnr. The earliest record is from 1274 when Julia of Graveselate was fined 3/4d for land conceded by her father. In the same year Walter of Graveselate was fined 3/4d for the above Julia and her land. Julia was given the land as her marriage dowry and as unfree tenants – villeins – Walter had to pay the lord for permission to marry her. Bulls found its way to Richard Cane by his ‘customary right’ to inherit his mother’s land. His stepfather, Richard Missingham, built the old portion of the house now called Grays Farm around the year 1772. Bulls Farm was modernised by Alexander Whitaker in the 1890s as a model farm, and his stable, dairy and four pairs of workers cottages still exist, along with Richard Missingham’s farmhouse.
The deeds read as follows:
Transcription of a Copyhold Deed to High Grayshott & Brightness, Grayshott, 1773
Bps Sutton Manor
Granted by copy of Court Roll at the Turn of Hock with the Court Baron of the said manor there held the first day of April in the thirteenth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third by the Grace of God King of Great Britain etc and in the twelfth year of the Translation of the Right Reverend John Lord Bishop of Winchester 1773.
Fine xs Robert Mayhew for one Messuage and twenty two Acres of Customary land called High Grayshott by the yearly rent of vs and five acres of purprestureland by the yearly rent of iiid in the Tything of Heathley Which came into the hands of the Lord on the surrender of John Cane. To hold to the said Robert Mayhew and his heirs according to the Custom of the said Manor.
Fine xiid the said Robert Mayhew for one Close of land called Brightness containing three Acres by estimation lying in Grayshott in length between the land of John More on the North part and the waste of the Lord on the South part late parcel of the customary lands called Hurlebutts containing sixty Acres in the Tything of Heathley / Which came into the hands of the Lord as aforesaid. To hold as aforesaid
Examd by: James Serle Dep Clerk of the Bishopric of Winchester
Sir T. Miller was admd to this 22 March 1792
Transcription of a Copyhold Deed to Bulls Farm, Grayshott, 1804
Bps Sutton Manor
Granted by copy of Court Roll at the Court Baron of the said manor there held the twentieth day of September in the forty fourth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King Defender of the faith. And in the twenty fourth year of the Translation of the Honourable and Right Reverend Brownlow Lord Bishop of Winchester 1804.
Fine iis iiiid Richard Cane only son and heir of Mary Missingham Widow deceased who survived Richard Missingham her late husband and also deceased and was at the time of her marriage with the said Richard Missingham the Widow of John Cane father of the said Richard Cane for fourteen acres of land / whether more or less / parcel of one toft and eighteen acres Acres of land called Bulls in Greyshott in the tithing of Heathley by the yearly rent of iiis iiiid Which came into the hands of the Lord by the death of the said Mary Missingham To hold to the said Richard Cane and his heirs according to the custom of the said Manor.
Examd by: James Serle D Clerk of the Bishopric of Winchester
The fine in the deeds was not a punishment for wrongdoing but an entry tax, like modern stamp duty. It was paid by the new tenant every time a property changed hands. The stamp on the deed is actually another tax on the parchment itself. The rent was then the annual charge. In Grayshott these prices were absolutely fixed for centuries so the lord’s income gradually became less and less in real value. People could sell their tenancies, and in 1773 Robert Mayhew paid £600 for High Grayshott – the equivalent of 2,400 years of rent. Richard Cane sold Bulls in 1820 for £400 – again the equivalent of 2,400 years of rent. Both of these farms are much older than the dates on record. Most likely the land has been continuously occupied and worked since Saxon times. These deeds preserve a snapshot of the human activity that has probably exceeded a thousand years.
A New Loss – The Closure of Lloyds Bank
Lloyds Bank, the last proper bank in Grayshott, finally closed its doors on Tuesday, October 10th 2017, ending the presence of a purpose-built bank in the village for 110 years. Starting as The Capital and Counties Bank at the corner of Crossways Road and Hill Road, they moved to the present site as a new building in 1924.
The Original War Memorial Cross
We have been given the original cross from the village War Memorial.
At the end of the First World war there was a profound feeling of national grief and the need for remembrance. As a result nearly every town and village constructed a memorial, which eventually came to commemorate the dead of subsequent wars, and which remain prominent in communities today.
Grayshott’s cross was designed by the architect Mr Sharp of Hereford and dedicated at a ceremony conducted by Reverend A E N Simms on July 17th 1921. The formal unveiling was by Col- Commandant A C Day, CB, CMG, officer in charge of Bordon. It was originally located on the village green, approximately where the Millennium sculpture now stands, but in 1932 it was moved to its present site which was thought “more fitting and worthy where the beauty and dignity of the monument could be seen”.
Recently it was noticed that the cross was cracked and potentially dangerous. It was removed, a replacement made and installed, and the memorial was rededicated at a ceremony on Sunday 29th October 2017.
Grayshott Heritage will now repair the original cross, and we hope to mount it with an explanatory plaque in a suitable public spot.
A Postcard of Whitmore Vale
This lovely old postcard shows Whitmore Vale in the early 20th century, perhaps before the Great War. The landscape is much more open than today, there are less conifer plantations, and the hedges are all well kept. Whitmore Vale was farmed by smallholders and market gardeners and supplied fresh produce into Grayshott, Hindhead and local villages. We think this photo is taken from the north, on the Hampshire side looking up the valley towards Grayshott, maybe somewhere in the area of Dingley Dell Cottage. If you can place the spot please let us know.
A Cream Jug from the White Heather Dairy
Recently purchased is a small cream jug from the White Heather Dairy, one of three such businesses trading in Grayshott pre 1920. Situated in Headley Road (opposite the present Co-op), and built about 1899, the first advertisement for the establishment appeared in the Grayshott Magazine for January 1900. The 1901 census records Ada bridge as ‘dairy manager’. Subsequent advertisements also include ‘tea rooms’ as part of the business. By 1936 the shop had become a hairdressers of which it still remains as such today although during the 1970/80s it was the Victoria Wine off-licence. This lovely little jug reminds us of a time when almost all fresh produce was local. The milk most likely came from cows that grazed in the fields of Whitmore Bottom, or perhaps the farms of Headley.
A Rifle Brigade Cap Badge
Recently found in a garden on the western edge of the village, was this cap badge of the Rifle Brigade. The 8th Battalion of the Rifles was billeted in Grayshott from November 1914 to March 1915 and this well preserved badge must surely have been lost during those few months.
Formed in 1800 as the ‘Experimental Corps of Riflemen’, they were soon renamed the ‘Rifle Corps’ and then in 1803 became the 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles). Under this name they fought with Wellington in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo. Selected and trained as marksmen, they were an elite unit equipped with the Baker Rifle rather than muskets. Fans of Bernard Cornwell will recognise the 95th as the unit of his fictional hero Richard Sharpe. They became the Rifle Brigade in 1816.
During the Great War the Rifle’s four regular battalions were augmented by several war-service battalions. The 8th was one such, formed on 21st August 1914 at Winchester as part of Kitchener’s First New Army. Its members were all volunteers, men who came forward to serve during the first rush of patriotism following the outbreak of hostilities. After basic training at Aldershot they were moved to Grayshott, where they continued their training on manoeuvres around the heaths and woods.
In Grayshott, our small country village found itself with 800 soldiers to accommodate. Most other ranks and the majority of officers were billeted at Grayshott Hall, which became the battalion HQ. The remaining other ranks were put up in the newly built Village Hall. The owner of our cap badge and how he lost it must remain unknown, but it was found just over the road from Grayshott Hall, a few inches under the soil amidst a layer of ash and small household debris. Perhaps this area, in a corner of a field, was some sort of campsite or hutment which suffered an accidental fire?
In March 1915 the 8th returned to Aldershot , from whence in May they departed for Bologne-sur-Mer. They marched towards the front, heading into the Second Battle of Ypres. They were held as a reserve force for a while, behind the lines but under shellfire, then moved to the front line for trench duties. By late July A and B Companies were at the ramparts, C and D Companies in dugouts.
A strategic point at this time was the area around Hooge Chateau. The British decided to take it by a mining operation, a huge explosive charge placed at the end of a tunnel under the enemy lines. At 7pm on 15th July the mine was blown, making a crater 120 feet across. On Thursday 29th the 8th was called to defend the crater, marching into position under cover of darkness beneath a waning moon and being in place by 2am. At 3:15 am, just hours after the 8th’s arrival, the Germans attacked, with the first use of flamethrowers during the war. At the same time there was a massive bombardment upon the communication trenches behind.
A Lieutenant describes the attack:
‘About half-an-hour before dawn there was a sudden hissing sound and a bright crimson glare over the crater turned the whole scene red. I saw three or four distinct jets of flame, like a line of powerful fire-hoses spraying fire instead of water, shoot across my fire trench. Then every noise under Heaven broke out, trench mortars and bombs, machine guns firing, shrapnel falling and high explosive shells….Those who had faced the flame attack were never seen again.’
Most of the 8th was overrun and the survivors retreated to the support line. Of the 8th’s 24 officers and 745 other ranks, within 24 hours 19 officers and 469 other ranks were killed, wounded and missing.
Another officer wrote that the worst casualties were in A Company, which had been billeted at the Village Hall, and C Company, formerly billeted at Grayshott Hall. These were right on the front line and C Company was described in the battalion’s war diary as non-existent.
The 8th was kept close to the line, billeted under shellfire and regularly digging and repairing trenches. Men were sickening with fatigue but gradually drafts of replacements arrived. Within a couple of weeks the battalion was back in the front line.
Later in the war the 8th fought in the Battle of the Somme at Delville Wood, and at inverness Copse during the Battle of Arras. It returned to England in June 1918.
Whether the owner of our cap badge survived these horrors is unknown. The odds are against him. The crater at Hooge was filled in after the war, still containing hundreds of bodies.
A Cast Iron Grave Marker From St Luke’s
We have been shown this object, which we believe to be a grave or row marker from St Luke’s churchyard. It is 15 inches long, made of cast iron, and carries the number 25. Probably, it dates from when the churchyard was first laid out and when many people couldn’t afford a headstone. How it came to be separated from its rightful place is a mystery.