The earliest record of the name Grayshott is in 1185, as the wasto bosci de Grauesseta, meaning ‘the woodland waste of Grayshott’, owned by the Bishop of Winchester. However, it’s likely that Grayshott was occupied long before this date, probably by Saxon farmers and perhaps as a lookout community to keep watch over the surrounding lowlands. The name of Waggoners, more properly Wakenors, means Wacen Ora – the Watching Place Ridge. This original settlement was to the west of the modern village, a hamlet in the area around Hammer Lane, Flat Wood, Grayshott Hall and Applegarth. There are still miles of visible earthen banks and ditches which were made by these settlers as a protective enclosure around their isolated community.
All around was heath and woods. The heath was remnants of land which was first cleared by Bronze Age farmers. By Saxon times much of it had reverted to woodland, and would have been carefully managed as a valuable resource. The name Grayshott means something like Grove Corner in Old English, the word grove indicating managed woodland such as coppice. The wood on the steep slope of Whitmore Hanger was once coppice and contains the remains of charcoal production. To the south of Grayshott Hall was the wood of Hawden (Haga Dene – a hedged enclosure around a wooded valley) and there are records of Grayshott’s citizens stealing timber from it.
Grayshott was continuously occupied through the medieval period, probably by a handful of tenant farmers on the high ground. The name took various spellings, such as Gravesetta, Graveschete and Graveshotte. The Black Death left about half of Grayshott’s houses derelict as a result of depopulation, but the community survived. By Tudor times there were six farms in the hamlet – Bulls, Kings, Barneland, High Grayshott, Grasseat and Home House. They grew crops of poor soil – rye and oats – and each had just a few pigs and cattle, their cash crop being sheep. The farmers called themselves husbandmen and probably had a secure but hard life.
By the 18th century the ridgetop farms were being bought by absentee landlords and combined unto bigger units. Even on Grayshott’s poor soil agriculture had gone beyond subsistence and become a profitable business worth investing in. A map from 1739 has drawings of two of Grayshott’s farmhouses, both of them gable-ended with two stories and a central chimney. Sadly none of these early houses survive but their approximate locations are known. This amalgamation of farms led towards smallholders and squatters occupying the valleys; some of their cottages remain. There were also colliers’ camps in the woods.
The future took a new direction with the enclosure of Headley Common in 1859. The common land formerly used by villagers to supplement their farms, smallholdings and gardens was sold to private developers. In the east of the village, this triggered the start of modern Grayshott’s construction, as builders were able to purchase large plots of land for development. In the west, the owner of Wishanger Estate converted the commons of the Land of Nod into a private shooting estate.
The region was made more accessible by the arrival of the railway in Haslemere, also in 1859. Beginning in the 1880s, the scenery of Hindhead and its good air quality, declared by Professor John Tyndall to be ‘as pure as that in the Swiss Alps’, brought an influx of visitors and new residents. This included prominent Victorians such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Bernard Shaw. After 1890 Grayshott rapidly expanded to become a trading centre; grocers, dairies, butchers, bakers, smiths, drapers, ironmongers, builders, guest houses, a well-digger, photographer, pub, laundry and library all supplied to the needs of the area’s new prosperity. The old farmland remained, untouched by development until the 1920s, and some of it still survives, but the focus of village life moved largely towards the new commercial and residential heart.
During both world wars Grayshott was host to the army. Thousands of soldiers were barracked and trained on the nearby commons of Bramshott and Ludshott, many of them Canadian. Many more were billeted in village houses and halls. The names of villagers who made the ultimate sacrifice are remembered on the War Memorial.
Grayshott has always benefited from the generosity of its residents, including the I’Ansons, Miss James, the Lyndons, Mrs Vertue and the Whitakers, all of whom contributed much to the amenities of the present village. The village has survived and prospered for a variety of reasons, including tourism, military and the housing of displaced persons after the Second World War. It has now become a residential and commuting area, and as in olden days, it’s still a true community with a variety of shops, businesses and societies serving locals and visitors.
Grayshott’s Timeline – From Mammoths to the Millennium
110,000 – 10,000 BC
The glaciers didn’t reach Grayshott during the last Ice Age. Nevertheless for tens of thousands of years the climate was arctic, the land bound by permafrost and vegetation limited to tough grass and moss. Huge mammals – megafauna – such as mammoths, woolly rhinos, cave lion and hyenas wandered the landscape, and very occasionally bands of adventurous human hunters visited from the continent. One of them left a flint tool in Headley. A mammoth’s tooth has been dug up in Godalming, but nothing so far in Grayshott. Perhaps there is something interesting waiting to be discovered in your flower beds?
During the Mesolithic period, as the climate warmed and the ice retreated, southern Britain became covered by grassland and eventually by forest. This forest was more open on the dry, infertile soil of the Greensand hills, which created attractive conditions for mobile groups of hunter-gatherers to camp and hunt. Their flint tools have been found all around our area.
Neolithic farmers began to clear the natural forest, although they seem to have preferred the open chalk downs to our Greensand. A few Neolithic tools have been found locally, but it seems that their owners left our high ground as woodland in which to hunt, gather and harvest woodland materials.
Agriculture became more intensive in the Bronze Age and people extended their farms onto the Greensand. The heaths around Grayshott originated in this period; cultivation caused the thin, dry soils to starve and the land reverted to pasture then rough grazing. The farmers also left their mark in the form of burial mounds in surrounding parishes, including Ludshott Common. A bronze age torc – a neck ornament – was found near Grayshott Hall and there is some evidence of prehistoric activity and perhaps a barrow cemetery in the area of Ladygate or Camp Superior.
Iron Age remains have not yet been found in Grayshott. It’s thought that the high ground might have been used as summer grazing by villagers from the lowlands.
Roman occupation was all around – including a pottery at Alice Holt, a possible cemetery at Tilford and a shrine near Frensham Pond. Roman coins have been found in Grayshott, but so far no definite evidence of settlement. The Tudor placename of Syxtene Penne, in the north east corner of Ludshott Common, is derived from old British language saex tun pen , the Saxon Hilltop Enclosure, and is indirect evidence that Romano-British people were living in the area when Saxon colonists arrived.
During the Early Medieval period the Saxons most likely settled in Grayshott and founded the old hamlet west of the modern village, around Hammer Lane – the saex tun pen. There are many Old English (Saxon) place names in Grayshott, such as Whitmore (Withig Mere, a willow pool) and Wakeners (Wacen Ora, Watching Place Hill). Grayshott has probably been continuously inhabited since at least this time, and the earthworks around parts of the old hamlet (such as around Flat Wood) could have been made by Saxon farmers.
The Pipe Rolls mention the wasto bosci de Grauesseta, the woodland waste of Grayshott. This might refer to the area of the modern village, bounded by Whitmore and Stoney Bottoms, Waggoners Wells Lane and Boundary Road, about which in 1552 it was noted that ‘the wood contains 140 acres and the waste 103 acres’ which was ‘lying in length on the east of Graueshote’. Grayshott then was a hamlet in the tithing of Headley, within the manor of Bishops Sutton, which was part of the estate of the Bishop of Winchester.
The ‘Bounds of the Forest of Alice Holt and Woolmer’ mentions la porte de Graveschete, possibly referring to the area around the Village Hall, which would have been the easiest crossing over the ridge between Woodcock Bottom and Stoney Bottom.
In the Bishop of Winchester’s Pipe Rolls, Roger de Graveset was taxed 6d for clearing new land.
Julia of Graveselate was taxed 3/4d for land given by her father as a dowry for her marriage to Walter, possibly Bulls farm. Walter was then taxed another 3/4d for a licence to marry her.
Agnes sister of Robert atte Grevette was taxed 10/- for a messuage (a farm) and 5/- worth of land. This became known as High Grayshott farm and is now partly under the Waggoners estate. Robert probably died of the Black Death.
William Graveshet was taxed 20d for a messuage and land called Underwood. This land is next to Hammer Lane, by Flat Wood.
John Graciott set fire to the Lord’s wood, to the number of 2 oaks, at Hawdene. Hawdene is at the north east corner of Ludshott Common.
The Survey of the Hundred of Bishops Sutton lists the tenants of the Bishop of Winchester in Grayshott – John Warner (Home Howse and Barneland farms), Robert Luckyn (Grasseat farm), Richard Chitty (Hygh Graveshott farm), William Langford (Kynges farm), William Graveshott junior (Bulles farm), Richard Gyll (Yalcroft & Bryghtnesse) and John Newman (one little close of half an aker).
The boundaries on the Manor of Ludshott mention Graciot Corner, a spot now know to be on Footpath 5 at the south west corner of Grayshott Hall.
In his will of 1601 William Rapson of Grayshott bequeathed five kyne, five bullocks, a mare and a little nagg, rie and ottes in the barns.
The rent roll lists the tenants of Grayshott as Richard Holloway, Richard Missingham, William Trigg, Robert & John Mayhew, William Eades, Edward Freeland and ‘Dr Holme’s executor’.
Sir Thomas Miller becomes lord of Wishanger Manor and through buying up the surrounding land develops the Wishanger Estate, which includes Grayshott.
The parish valuation lists Grayshott’s tenants as Stephen Croft (Bulls Farm), William Belton (smallholder), William Langridge (Grayshott Farm), Richard Cane snr (cottager), Richard Cane jnr (cottager) and Knowles snr (cottager).
Enclosure of Headley Common, the sale of the ancient ‘waste of the manor’ into land for private development.
Rev Sir Thomas Combe Miller turns the former commons at the Land of Nod into a shooting estate.
Edward I’Anson purchases Grayshott Park Estate and builds Heather Lodge, later to become the convent of Our Lady of the Cenacle, which was used as a military hospital in WW1.
Wishanger Estate purchased by John Rouse Phillips, who started the conversion of Grayshott Farm to Grayshott Hall.
First church services held at the school.
Wishanger Estate, which included Grayshott Hall, purchased by Joseph Whitaker.
First Post Office in Grayshott, Mrs. Hannah Robinson, Crossways, Haslemere Road. (now Crossways Road).
The ‘Iron Room’or ‘Institute’ opened in Stoney Bottom at the expense of Miss James. (Believed to have been located in the lower part of the garden of ‘Moss Know’ now ‘Ensleigh’).
Alexander Ingham Whitaker begins the modernisation of Bulls Farm, building four new pairs of cottages and a stable block, to make a model ‘home farm’.
Iron church built at the expense of Mr. Whitaker . (On site of present church).
– 127 Pupils on the register of Grayshott school.
– Church Lads brigade formed in October.
– Band of Mercy formed.
– Cricket Club formed.
– Grayshott District Magazine first published.
– Working Men’s Club ‘now open every night of the week except Saturday’ at the Iron Room , (part of Archie Moore’s site, now Sainsburys, Headley Road).
– Annual exhibition of animals to be held at The Grange in June.
– A club to be formed for young ladies who work at the laundry.
– Band of Mercy show in August.
– Foundation stone laid for the present St. Luke’s church.
– First resident police constable in Grayshott.
Flora Thompson, then Flora Timms, arrived in Grayshott to work as the Post Office clerk/telegraphist.
The following were in existence during 1898:
- Grayshott Provident Club.
- Grayshott Dramatic Society.
- Grayshott Choral Society.
- Grayshott Orchestrial Society.
– The Fox and the Pelican opened.
– Lecture by George Bernard Shaw at the Iron Room on Socialism.
– Grayshott Brass Band formed.
– St. Luke’s church opened in September.
– The ‘iron church’ sold for £87 for use at Liphook.
– St. Edmunds school moves to Grayshott.
– Grayshott Hall rifle club formed.
– Separation of Grayshott from Headley to form a new Ecclesiastical Parish.
– Walter Chapman, post master, murdered his wife.
– Electricity installed.
– Grayshott formed as a new Civil Parish as the result of an Order by the Local Government Board.
– Wesleyan chapel opened.
– Agnes Weston arrives in Grayshott.
– Village Hall opened.
– Mens club opened at Village Hall.
– Grayshott and Hindhead Temperance Guild.
– Mains water installed.
– Consecration of St. Luke’s churchyard.
– Bicycle shed built at the church at the cost of £87.
– Serious outbreak of diphtheria in the village.
– Parish Council purchase land at Stoney Bottom for allotments, all taken in 1906.
Fire Brigade formed, attended first fire at Tarn Moor, February 1908.
– The Iron Room ( institute) sold for £17.10s and this added to church spire fund.
– Mains gas installed.
– Tower and spire added to the church.
– St. Joseph’s catholic church built, consecrated 1911.
– Death of Miss James.
– Coal club and Clothing club established.
– Boy Scouts ‘patrol’ formed at Hindhead with Grayshott boys welcome.
– Separate Grayshott ‘patrol’ formed in late 1911.
– Grayshott and Hindhead Nursing Association announce that a resident District Nurse to be installed at Grayshott.
– Yew tree planted on the Lyndon green to commemorate the Coronation.
– Mission church built at Chase Plain, opened January 1913.
– War Hospital opened at the Convent in September.
– Outbreak of the Great War, from October a complete list of those serving from the parish published in the Grayshott Magazine.
The playing fields were given to the village by Alexander Whitaker.
– War Memorial dedicated on the village green.
– Nurses Clinic built at School Road as a ‘Peace Memorial to the Great War’.
– The first 12 Council Cottages built – Beech Hanger Road.
– Mr James Mowatt recorded that an ancient crab-apple tree at the junction of Stoney Bottom and Crossway Road, which had been noted in perambulations as the parish boundary landmark called ‘Big Apple Tree’, and had died during the Great War, had been examined by experts at Kew Gardens and stated to be upwards of 300 years old.
Death of Hannah Robinson at the age of 93.
– British Legion – Grayshott branch formed.
– War Memorial moved to present location.
– Kingsway Firs moved into Grayshott Parish from Bramshott.
About this time the maple trees were planted on the village green.
Superior Camp turned over to social housing, closed 1962.
Public toilets opened.
Main drainage comes to Grayshott.
New Fire Station built on the site of the old bowling green.
Grayshott Pottery opened on the site of the former laundry.
Millennium sculpture installed.
The first Hidden Gardens of Grayshott event
Hindhead A3 road tunnel opened.
Village library closes after 117 years. It was originally in the Fox & Pelican.
Grayshott and District Housing Association opens a new two-bedroom detached house in Beechhanger Road, its first in thirty years and the 31st in its portfolio.
– Closure of Grayshott’s last bank.
– Demolition of The Golden Hind, former tea rooms at Hindhead.
– Demolition of West Down at Hindhead.
– Start of construction of Applegarth Vale on the site of the medieval fields.