Esher District Local History Society

Wolsey's Tower
Future Events
Past Events
Local Photos
Newsletter Extracts
Research Projects
How to Join
Meet the Committee
Society Objectives
News Items
Claygate War Memorial
Useful Links



Past Events

Saturday 15th September 2018

Andrew Rossabi who is President of the Richard Jefferies Society spoke about "Richard Jefferies and Surbiton". Jefferies had published a book in 1888 titled "Nature near London".

After the talk 50th Anniversary cakes were shared by members and guests over tea and coffee.


Saturday 21st April 2018

50th AGM followed by Paul Langton with "A Postcard Extravaganza"

David Taylor our President was unable to attend the AGM and had written some lines which he wanted to be read out as an introduction to the meeting before formal proceedings were started. Paul and Maureen Langton shared the reading and addressed the 59 members and 3 guests attending. "To the members and friends of the Esher District Local History Society" He regretted that he couldn't be with us on this special occasion. "Fifty and not out!" A significant milestone at which we could look back with a great deal of pride and satisfaction as to what has been achieved.

When the Society was formed he was in his teens and local history was a niche area of interest but he thanked the pioneering foresight of Councillor Royston Pike and Local Librarian Derek Brown. He listed the original committee members who had years of experience pursuing the history of their own particular "patches". Derek Brown had formed the basis of a wonderful collection of old photos, paintings and drawings of the area in the new Esher District Library. So today we look back with real affection and gratitude to those who started the Society..."May I conclude by thanking all those members of the Society, both past and present, who have worked so hard and kept the Society going..."

After the above notes were read the formal meeting took place and the Chairman's report was delivered outlining events of the previous year. Paul Langton and Maureen Langton were standing down from their roles and Terry Gale was appointed as a new chairman with Janet Heskins as Vice-Chair and Treasurer. There were additionally more changes on the committee as both Chris Harris and Tim Sargent stood down.

Paul Langton then gave a talk entitled "A Postcard Extravaganza" with many illustrations on the hall projector. We saw spectacular images of the Men of Clerkenwell Station, London Fire Brigade in 1906, the Sydney Street Siege in Stepney 1911 and the Auto Carriers Works at Thames Ditton 1916 to name a few. Additionally examples of Bairnsfather and McGill humour were shown. There were tables of picture postcards to view afterwards showing the incredible variety of material that had been produced, particularly in the Edwardian era, whilst tea and coffee were taken.


Saturday 17th March 2018

Shakespeare Debunked: What We Don't Know by Mel Harrison

Cold weather returned this weekend and it was good to see so many members and guests make their way to Holy Trinity Church Hall through light snow showers to hear Mel again after her excellent presentation to us at last years AGM. As they arrived copies of the Spring 2018 newsletter were given to members. See News Items for topics covered in the latest edition..

The poster created for this talk asked "Was Shakespeare ever in love? What were his inspirations? Is there any truth behind the myths about his life and work? A whistle-stop tour through the life and works of the world's most famous writer to discover how much we don't know about the man from Stratford upon Avon". These questions were answered and more by Mel. She took us from William being born into a well to do family, through his education at a grammar school and continued with looking at some of the vast number of plays written until his death at just 52 years. Three clips of film, all of them humorous, enhanced her lecture.



Saturday 17th February 2018

WAR HORSE The Making of War Horse - The Film by Andy Robertshaw

This was the sunniest day of recent weeks and we were fortunate that Dave Curtis at Holy Trinity Church had put up some high window blinds for us in the hall to protect the screen from the afternoon sun.

Andy Robersthaw had been chosen some time ago to be our keynote speaker this year and he proved to be the attraction we had hoped for, with a magnificent attendance of 93 members and guests, one of our highest ever totals.

As the lead historical and military consultant on Steven Spielberg's film, War Horse, Andy was involved in the production from the early days of the screenplay to the last day of filming. He even ended up with a small acting role! Andy is a veteran of Channel 4's Time Team and an expert on trench warfare. He has spearheaded numerous archaeological investigations along the Western Front and with a knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject which is boundless. He explored the magic of making this hugely successful film from his unique perspective. His descriptions of incidents brought much humour to an enraptured audience.

Andy stayed for tea and coffee and was available to sign books that he had brought with him. There was also a small table display of related material including royal field artillery postcards and information about a recent Historic England Grade II listing of the grave of war horse Blackie. Lieutenant Wall died at Ypres in June 1917 and was riding Blackie at the time. The horse recovered from injuries, remained in service and was one of a small number of horses which returned home. The grave in Halewood, Merseyside was given heritage protection last year.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2018 newsletter.



Saturday 9th December 2017

Esher's Princess by Stephen Chater and Steve Webbe

A decision to continue to hold all future meetings in the afternoon and not evenings was rewarded when eighty members and guests attended this Christmas meeting which until last year had been held on wintry evenings.

Stephen Chater opened and asked members to be mentally active as he was to do parts one and three of the story about Princess Charlotte and that Steve Webbe would cover episodes two and four. He said that Princess Charlotte was often compared with Diana Princess of Wales and that there were two main reasons. The first was that both were brought up by dysfunctional families and had unhappy childhoods. The second that in their later lives they enjoyed great popularity and when they died there was a great outpouring of popular grief. Stephen continued with the talk until, but not including her marriage and then about the events following her death which included the rushed marriages of her uncles and the birth of Princess Victoria. Steve Webbe continued with Charlotte's marriage and life at Claremont and closed by speculating a little about what might have happened had she lived and succeeded her father in 1830. It was a joy to listen to two speakers sharing their knowledge of events surrounding the tragic death of Charlotte at Claremont in November 1817 just over 200 years since that fatal day.

A free raffle was then held and mince pies and other refreshments were available. A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2018 newsletter.


Saturday 11th November 2017

1917 The Turning Tide by Andy Thompson

Andy's return and the quality of his lectures meant that he was quite a draw and a total of 63 members and guests attended another exceptional talk on a fitting date before Remembrance Sunday. He is a very experienced battlefield guide and took us through another harrowing year for the country in the Great War. Claygate had lost thirteen men in that year, the worst year of the war for the village.

1917 saw major shifts in the course of the Great War with the Americans joining, the Russians leaving and the French mutinying leaving the British army fighting alone for much of the year. This caused Britain to adopt a 'Total War' policy that saw a conscripted army and women recruited to work on the land, in the factories and behind the front line. The presentation covered the main events on the Home Front and on the Western Front.

All was superbly illustrated with many images of the period. Andy took questions afterwards and over tea and coffee a display board showed details of information about the Claygate War Memorial and some details of the men recorded thereon.

A fuller report will appear in the Christmas 2017 newsletter.


Saturday 14th October 2017

Big Ben by Tim Redmond

Another very good attendance of 57 members and guests came along to listen to this story of the most iconic building in the UK. Tim Redmond, our speaker, has climbed the steps of the tower more than 3,500 times. He was prepared to climb one more time to give us a unique view into the interior. We were taken behind the clock faces and shown the amazing Victorian clock machinery. We were then hauled up to the belfry where we saw Big Ben. During the tour Tim incorporated breaks into our climb and provided fascinating pen pictures of the controversial personalities who had been involved in the design and construction of the tower. We learnt so much about the workings of the clock including that Edward John Dent (1790 - 1853) had supplied the mechanism. It had to be accurate to one second in every 24 hours and the first bong indicated the hour. After completing our tour we were warned not to run down the stairs and were safely brought down to ground level where tea and biscuits were supplied after an informative question and answer session.

A fuller report will appear in the Christmas 2017 newsletter.


Saturday 16th September 2017

From Brooklands to Africa, the Search for the Locke Kings by John Pulford

A particularly heavy shower came as the church hall was being opened for this afternoon meeting. However, any thoughts that this might deter members and guests from attending was put to one side when 54 attended.

John is Head of Collections and Interpretion at Brooklands Museum and his superbly illustrated talk proved to be very informative. The Locke Kings are known in Byfleet as a family of wealthy landowners. All these years after Brooklands race track was built in 1907 where were the personal family items? Brooklands Museum had very little.

John was to go to Africa some years ago and answer this question. He retrieved a marvellous assortment of material. Included in this presentation was much early family correspondence, some magnificent portraits of the family and early vehicles as well as a portrait of Ethel Locke King. This was the partner of one of Sir Hugh which is in the National Portrait Gallery. John was then asked many questions by a fascinated audience.

A fuller report will appear in the Christmas 2017 newsletter.


Thursday 18th May 2017

A visit and guided tour of St Andrew's Church, Cobham with our President Dr David Taylor

There were heavy showers during the course of the early evening but that did not deter more than thirty members meeting inside the church for this tour. In addition to the excellent information given to the group by David he also passed around a series of water colour sketches by Hassell. They were completed by him on a visit in the 1820s and serve as a record prior to restoration. The original 12th century structure consisted of chancel, nave and tower and about 50 years later the chancel was extended and the Chantry was built on the north side. The 19th century saw a number of 'restorations' and enlargements. Tea and coffee were taken afterwards prepared in a small refreshment area within the church.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2017 newsletter


Thursday 6th April 2017

An evening with Dominic Raab MP Member of Parliament for Esher and Walton

As an introduction Paul Langton gave a short illustrated presentation of old historical postcards of the Houses of Parliament including Big Ben. Dominic then talked to the group about some of the recent historical moments in his time as an MP, including the Coalition in 2010, the Scottish Referendum in 2014 and the EU Referendum last year. He also explained why the majority of what an MP does attracts little media recognition including regular surgeries for constituents, championing the community in debates as well as private meetings, and the detailed scrutiny of law-making.

Dominic then took questions for 30 minutes on a range of issues including the terrorist attack in Westminster on 22nd March, the Elmbridge Community Fund (which he helped set up) and cross-party working in the House of Commons. As thanks a book 'Britain's Prime Ministers from Walpole to Wilson' was presented to him, published by one of the Society's founding members in 1968 E.Royston Pike, the same year that the Society was formed.

To find out more about Dominic's work see

A donation by the Society was made to the Elmbridge Community Fund.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2017 newsletter.

EDLHS visit by Dominic Raab

Dr David Taylor, Dominic Raab MP and Paul Langton after the book presentation.


Saturday 11th March 2017

AGM followed by A Dummy's Guide to the Wars of the Roses by Mel Harrison

The AGM commenced with the appointment of a new President as sadly Christine Whittle-Dall, who had presided at the last AGM, died in September 2016. David Taylor was nominated and seconded and with a unanimous show of hands was voted in to be the Society's President for the coming year. The Chairman's report outlined the Society's activities throughout the previous year and after the acceptance of the Treasurer's report formal proceedings were concluded by the voting in of a new committee before the speaker was introduced.

Mel outlined her personal interest in the subject and went on to say that upon realizing that Shakespeare's history plays were not the most reliable of sources she attempted to untangle the messy web of families, battles and plots that made up the Wars of the Roses. The talk explored the highs and lows of a century of tensions and civil war that ended up laying the groundwork for England as a modern nation.

Mel explored and told the stories of many of the the numerous men and women involved, which led to the Tudors ruling the country. Questions and answers followed from many of the audience of fifty. A warm thanks was given at the conclusion for her enthusiastic lecture which had been full of interest, observation and humour.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2017 newsletter.

Saturday 11th February 2017

Surrey in the Great War: A County Remembers by Dr Kirsty Bennett

Light snow in the morning and a clash of dates with the Six Nation Rugby Union internationals didn't deter members and guests from coming to Holy Trinity Church Hall to hear Kirsty tell us about the Home Front in Surrey during the Great War. It may have been fought overseas, but it was the first war fought on foreign soil to have such a deep impact on civilian life at home. Every aspect of life was affected - food, clothing, work. Surrey Heritage's four year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, seeks to uncover and share the stories of people and places connected to Surrey. Parish magazines are a useful source and we looked at one from Stoke D'Abernon which outlined the production of comforts for the troops including the supply of eggs for wounded soldiers! The economy and infrastructure were some of the many topics covered by this most informative lecture. Afterwards there was an opportunity to look at the live website on the screen and over tea and coffee a display of material was available.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2017 newsletter.


Saturday 21st January 2017

Old views of Cobham and Royal Elmbridge

The first meeting in 2017 was well attended and consisted of two talks. The first by Dr David Taylor 'Greetings from Old Cobham' showed a selection of postcards covering Cobham, Downside, Oxshott and Stoke D'Abernon. David had a magnificent selection of material to show which was stunning. With his knowledge of the area, together with his commentary on the postcards, it woukld not have been possible to improve the lecture. Copies of his most recent book with a foreword by Michael Wood Historian and Filmmaker 'A History and Guide to St Andrew's Church Cobham, Surrey' were available. It makes a fine intoduction to our planned visit to the church on the evening of Thursday 18th May 2017.

Paul Langton then spoke about 'Royal Elmbridge' a book by E Royston Pike which was published by the EDLHS in 1977 and 40 years on is still a valuable item for reference material. It covers Royal connections in the area and both Henry VIII and Princess Charlotte were mentioned. The talk concluded by looking at some old local postcards which included Hersham, Walton and Weybridge. Many of these images had been produced by the Esher photographer FWJ Fricker.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2017 newsletter.


Saturday 10th December 2016

The Christmas Meeting consisting of short talks

David Meggitt opened the afternoon by relating the story of the current Hampton Court Bridge which had been opened on 3rd July 1933. He outlined the planning and impact on the area and the creation of the bridge and also dealt with the opening ceremony. With a superb choice of illustrations he showed work being done to create this new crossing which involved the filling in of Creek Road. Paul Langton then showed some views of the locality on picture postcards including several of the Castle Inn which had to be demolished to allow the bridge to be built.

Jon Moore talked about the completion of the large bronze sculpture 'The Quadriga' at Hyde Park Corner which was done in bronze at the Thames Ditton foundry and he explained the logistics of transporting this huge bronze. His story continued with a visit to the site and spectacular photographs of close ups of the recent repair to the sculpture where he was at the top of Wellington Arch.

There then followed a few more comic picture postcards before Maureen Langton who had during short breaks read two items of poetry concluded proceedings by reading "Christmas" by John Betjeman. A round of applause was given to the speakers afterwards.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 12th November 2016

The Turning Point - the Impact of the Battle of the Somme on British Society

by Andy Thompson

Andy returned this year on the day before Remembrance Sunday to tell us about the effect that the Battle of the Somme had on the country. Though the 1st of July is the well known date that the battle commenced, the lesser known date is the 18th November when finally the battle stopped. By then there had been 420,000 British casualties and many of them had been involved for the first time, as it was the deployment of Kitchener's volunteer army.

Andy is a very experienced battlefield guide and he held the audience of seventy five in the palm of his hand as he described how men from the UK and Empire were sacrificed for a few yards of French soil. The losses caused society to reassess the value and very point of life. The German machine guns not only blew away countless British lives but also challenged the traditional understanding of the class system, organised religion and attitudes that had been long taken for granted in our civilised society. The presentation was a superb examination of the dramatic changes on British society.

Andy's fee was a donation from the Society to the "Friends of Lochnagar" which was one of the mines blown at the commencement of the battle. If you would like to know more about tours then is the website to check.

More details of the lecture will appear in the Winter 2016 newsletter.



Saturday 15th October 2016

Painshill: The Restoration Story by Cherrill Sands

It was November 2009 when Cherrill last came to us to talk about Historic Gardens in Surrey. Painshill on that occasion got a brief mention but was not the focus of the talk as it was for this lecture. There was a large attendance to listen to the description of this much loved local garden. Numbers were swelled by the attendance of several former members of the Walton & Weybridge Local History Society.

Charles Hamilton created Painshill in the naturalistic style commencing in 1738. His vision was inspired by Renaissance and contemporary art together with visits to Italy on the Grand Tour. Water, trees and follies made the area into a landscape garden. The Ruined Abbey, Turkish Tent, Gothic Temple and Gothic Tower were some of the buildings that decayed over the years and an aerial view of the site from the 1980s was shown. The first article about the state of the garden appeared in the Esher News and Advertiser dated 3rd July 1964 and was written by none other than a young David Taylor. In 1981 Painshill Park Trust was formed to restore the 18th century landscape garden. Work and improvements still continue with large numbers of volunteers assisting. The Crystal Grotto has been restored with hundreds of thousands of crystals used to re-create the folly. The Temple of Bacchus restoration is now underway with an estimated completion in July 2017.

Cherrill's talk and style of presentation delighted all those present and an informative question and answer session followed before tea and coffee were taken.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter 2016 newsletter.



Saturday 10th September 2016

The History of Frederick Paine Funeral Directors by Brian Parsons

Before the lecture took place a minute's silence was held in remembrance of our President Christine Whittle-Dall who had died peacefully at Kingston Hospital on Wednesday 7th September 2016.

Considering that it was a Heritage Weekend and was pouring with rain in the afternoon of the talk there was a healthy attendance in the hall. Brian has worked in the funeral industry since 1982 and his expertise was well used in this lecture.

Frederick Paine was born in April 1870 and joined his father's firm which included work as undertakers in 1884. He later took over the business in New Malden. In 1908 he opened an office at 24 London Road in Kingston and then established a network of branches in London and Surrey. He died in 1945 and was by then one of the largest firms of funeral directors in the country.

The Frederick W Paine Museum at 24 London Road, Kingston contains artefacts charting the firm's history. Brian was thanked for the excellence of his lecture which was superbly researched and contained some stunning images.

As tea and coffee were taken a timed slide show was shown of the first German airship to be shot down at Cuffley by Lieut. W.L. Robinson. It included photographs of some of the German crew being carried in coffins from the local church to trailers by men of the Royal Flying Corps and on to Potters Bar cemetery. The date of the air raid was 3rd September 1916 and within days H. M. The King was graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to Robinson.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter 2016 newsletter.


Thursday 14th July 2016

Annual coach trip to the Royal Pavilion Brighton

Sandown Park kindly agreed again to be the venue for meeting before our coach journey to Brighton. It proved to be one of the warmest days of July and after arrival one of the locations for lunch could therefore be the garden cafe in the grounds itself.

Before that there was plenty of time to explore the immediate neighbourhood as we were dropped off next to the Pavilion on Church Street which had the former stables to the building there in the form of the Dome. There was an early opportunity to decide what of the many sights could be visited in the time available before our guided tours at 1.30pm.

Several chose the option to walk the short distance to the sea and there the remains of the famous West Pier were visible a short distance away. Others chose as their destination the many exhibits of Brighton Museum which were in the grounds. Then we all assembled outside the Pavilion to await our guided tours. Many had chosen the Regency tour and a smaller number The Indian Military Hospital tour.

Both guides gave excellent descriptions of the history of the Pavilion. George IV, William IV and Victoria were important residents and Brighton flourished as architects built impressive estates in Kemp Town and other areas. In 1850 Victoria sold her uncle's pleasure palace to the town of Brighton. The opening of the new London to Brighton railway marked the beginning of mass tourism. During the early years of the Great War the Royal Pavilion was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers and the interiors were altered and inevitably neglected. In 1920 a programme of restoration began and original decorations were returned. This continued after World War II when there was a revival of interest in the Regency era.

After the tours many chose to sit on the first floor terrace of the building and take tea with lovely views of the extensive gardens which were dominated by tall hollyhocks of many colours. A short walk then took us back to the coach. The journey home to Sandown Park was full of memories of this beautiful Sussex coastal town.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2016 newsletter


Thursday 7th April 2016

AGM followed by Restoration of The Temperate House, Kew by Susan Rhodes

The 48th AGM was well supported and President Christine Whittle-Dall opened the meeting by greeting all members and guests. Vice-President Dr Pamela Reading was also present. The election of committee officers for the coming year was dealt with as the first item and those serving were all prepared to continue in post for the coming 12 months. The en bloc group were proposed and seconded and their being no new nominations were voted in without any disagreement. Last years minutes were presented and agreed and Paul Langton gave his report of events over the previous year. Maureen Langton's Treasurer's report had been circulated in the Spring 2016 newsletter and was accepted. A round of applause had previously been given to her for efforts in many roles that she had performed during the year. The Independent Examiner, John Malyon, was voted in again and there being no other business that part of the meeting closed at 7.58pm and the speaker for the evening Susan Rhodes was introduced.

Susan has worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for four years and has been closely involved as a project manager in the Temperate House restoration project. It is running until 2018 when it will be reopened. The total cost of the spend since the start in 2012 will be 36 million pounds, funded by DEFRA, as the world's largest remaining Victorian glasshouse is fully restored. Susan took us through the early history of the Temperate House and then covered the architecture and ingenious Victorian engineering of this Grade I listed building. She then outlined the amazing plant collection which was and will be gathered therein. The largest of the plants have been covered as they were too big to be moved safely and are monitored whilst work takes place. The setting of the building was shown on wonderful maps with the Syon Vista and Pagoda Vista being protected views. Susan was thanked for such an informative talk, which had been wonderfully illustrated and it brought an end to a most successful evening and gave members a prompt about yet another place to visit.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2016 newsletter.


Saturday 12th March 2016

The Employment of Children in 19th Century Kingston

Dr Helen Goepel's lecture at Holy Trinity Church Hall proved to be a popular destination, as despite other local events clashing seventy eight members and guests attended. She eplained that by using census records it was possible to start to investigate what children were working at between the ages of 10 - 14. However she also said that these records could not be always be relied upon as a true record. Certainly what parents were doing would also offer a clue as to what a child might be involved in. The Kingston area finds girls were most likely to be involved with domestic service and the boys in 1851 were agriculture workers or errand boys. Later in the century by 1871 and 1881 errand and messenger boys increased and agricultural work was less shown.

Helen focussed on the period up until 1881 and looked at how many children were employed and how that work affected their schooling. There were examples of domestic work, chimney sweeps and brickfield labouring. Street begging also featured and one example of a crossing sweeper was shown. Helen is a researcher at the Centre for the Historical Record at Kingston University and has worked on the Historic Hospital Admissions Records Project on 19th century children's records, including Great Ormond Street Hospital. A most informative question and answer session followed the fully illustrated presentation.

Dr Pamela Reading gave the formal vote of thanks. A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2016 newsletter.



Saturday 13th February 2016

The Lushingtons and Their Circle, A Victorian Family in Cobham by David Taylor

David Taylor is the writer of several books and this lecture was about his latest publication. Sixty three members and guests attended. The book draws heavily upon descriptions of Cobham and its people found in the letters and diaries of the Lushington family whose home was Pyports. However, Vernon Lushington was more than just a Cobham resident. He moved within 'the intellectual aristocracy' of the nineteenth century. His friends included many of the well-known writers, artists and musicians of his day. David was pleased to say that Julian Fellowes has written the Foreword.

David is Chairman of the Surrey History Trust which seeks to support the Surrey History Centre's important work in acquiring, preserving and making accessible records relating to the history of the county. Proceeds from the sale of this book are going to the Trust.

The lecture was fully illustrated and contained many marvellous early photographs of the family at their home at Cobham. David was warmly thanked for bringing so much information from the Lushington family archive to life. A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2016 newsletter.


Saturday 16th January 2016

Eadweard Muybridge, father of the movies by Keith Hathaway

Eadweard Muybridge (1830 - 1904) became famous as a pioneer photographer of people and animals in motion. An extraordinary man by any measure, he was born and died in Kingston upon Thames, did most of his work in America but gained a worldwide reputation.

Keith's finely illustrated talk expored his adventurous and very controversial life setting out his many achievements. Sixty four members and guests were enthralled by Keith's descriptions of Muybridge's early life and his later escapades. He developed techniques to capture motion in freeze frame and then replicated the movement to projected the moving image. A brilliant landscape photographer, inventor and scientist, his photographs continue to inspire artists to the present day. He never forgot his home town and returned to England spending most of his time in Kingston where he died in 1904. In his will he left his famous projection machines to the new Kingston Museum that had just been built.

Keith was warmly thanked for his excellent lecture. A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2016 newsletter.


Thursday 10th December 2015

An evening of short talks by members of the Society

This was our last meeting for 2015 and was made up of a variety of speakers. As we journeyed to the Church Hall heavy rain was falling, but the indefatigable spirit of the members meant that there was a very good turnout.

The evening commenced on a high with Jo Richards revealing to the audience that a new book had been published with the assistance of the EDLHS and she was able to give a precis of the content. The book was available for purchase and sold well during the interval to many of the members. It is entitled "Esher Origins and Development of a Surrey Village in Maps" and is part of the Surrey Archaeological Society's Villages Study Project. In the Foreword Richard Savage had commended Jo for her diligence in pursuing this study and her husband Mark for his sterling support in so many ways.

Tim Sargent then showed us a 1915 diary that his grandfather had kept whilst serving at the Front as a Territorial Army rifleman. He outlined his initial service and then showed the highlights of the diary. The most revealing entry was "400 lost." There was then a break whilst refreshments were taken and the mince pies were delicious. The latest newsletter which is printed in black and white also commenced distribution and it was an opportunity for me to reveal in colour the front page which showed Father Christmas wearing a brown robe with a child praying at his side. Eileen Bernard had given me the card, which had been posted in India to an address in Bombay many years ago, it was now in my collection .A most interesting view was one of Aviation at Brooklands which had been posted to Bulgaria in 1912. There then followed a few examples of the first female press photographer, Christina Broom, who had close business connections with the Royal family and images included the State Harness and the King's State Coach. An informal shot of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, showed how relaxed everyone was in her company.

Stephen Webbe then charted the life of Charles, younger brother of Alice who had been born at Claremont. As a teenager he went to Germany and became the Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha. This was illustrated by a Royalty Series cigarette card issued in 1902. He was to return to Claremont in 1907 to a fete with his family but his future was in Germany and when the Great War started he was to be regarded as the enemy and fought on the opposite side. After the war he later became a friend of Adolf Hitler and though surviving the Second World War was not invited to Queen Elizabeth's Coronation. However, his sister was, and she was the last surviving granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The evening concluded with Maureen Langton reading the Rudyard Kipling poem "Tommy." Illustrations were used to emphasise the word Tommy and throughout the reading Maureen wore the steel helmet of a Tommy which had been recovered from a battlefield.

A full report will appear in the Spring 2016 newsletter.


Saturday 14th November 2015

The Unknown Warrior by Andy Thompson

The years 1918 - 1920 are known as 'The Great Silence' - reflecting a nation trying to come to terms with the grief and trauma of losing the 1 million killed in the Great War. Families were not allowed to bring their men home (it having been agreed that the army would bury the men where they fell) and without the opportunity to close the lives of their lost loved ones, widows and families grieved for the dead or missing in silence.

Andy was the ideal speaker to outline the events of early November 1920 as he is a very experienced battlefield guide. He was able to impart his great knowledge of the war to those years afterwards when important decisions were made. By 1920, with little happening (the army did not begin the search for bodies until late that year), the national mood began to shift from anguish to anger. Appreciating the need to help families bring a semblance of closure to their grief, the government ordered that a body of an unknown soldier be returned from the battlefields and buried with the kings in Westminster Abbey.

The key characters and involvement of people making the decision was covered and others were named who participated in the event on 11th November 1920. A very good turnout of eighty members and guests were enthralled by the presentation and asked many questions afterwards which were answered with great authority. After a vote of thanks by Stephen Webbe many members stepped forward and congratulated Andy on his splendid lecture. "Friends of Lochnagar" was Andy's chosen charity and a donation was made by the Society.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter 2015 newsletter


Saturday 17th October 2015

The 'Royston Pike' 40th anniversary Royston Pike lecture by Pete Allen

Pete is the Arts Development Officer at Elmbridge Borough Council and the Society were extremely interested to hear about the career of Edgar Royston Pike and the series of lectures that were named after him some 41 years ago. Despite clashes in the diary with other events, 65 members and guests attended Holy Trinity Church Hall to hear a fascinating lecture about his life and career. The 'Esher Library Lectures' which were introduced by him were renamed the 'Royston Pike Lectures'. The series has continued to attract audiences with an eclectic mix of speakers and subjects. Born in 1896 he was an early volunteer in the Great War and was posted to France in 1915. He obtained a commission in the Machine Gun Corps in 1917.

Having survived the war Royston developed his interest in writing and was to become the author of many books which covered a multitude of subjects. He was a founder member of both the Hinchley Wood Residents Association and the Esher District Local History Society. He died in 1980 and is fondly remembered by the HWRA with an inscription on a slab at the top of Telegraph Hill, a favourite spot where he walked with his dog.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter 2015 newsletter.


Saturday 19th September 2015

Leave No Stone Unturned by John Vigar

John has moved to Norfolk and it was very good of him to travel so far to lecture to us again and open our latest season of lectures. Despite other events taking place locally sixty nine members and guests attended this excellent lecture. John looked at the burial places of the famous and infamous and used their gravestones or memorials as a starting place for an investigation into their lives. Jerome K Jerome and Florence Nightingale were two of the famous names covered and many others were mentioned in this lively and amusing presentation with portraits, houses, churches and objects helping us to explore the theme of social history.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter 2015 newsletter.


Thursday 9th July 2015

A visit to and guided tour of Hatfield House, Herts.

Little did we know when the day was booked that it would coincide with a strike on the London Underground. The coach trip to the property was little effected, but the return journey was longer than anticipated because of heavy traffic, however, it did not detract from a thoroughlly enjoyable day.

We met at Sandown Park, who had kindly given us permission to park our cars and meet our coach there. Almost full we travelled north with the weather fine. The destination, Hatfield House is a magnificent property and was completed in 1611. It was built by Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury and son of Lord Burghley, the chief minister of Elizabeth I. The deer park and the older building of the Old Palace had been owned by Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII and had been used as a home for his children, Edward, Elizabeth and Mary. On arrival, there was time for light refreshments before our group, which had been divided into two guided tours, attended the house. They were given excellent informative insights into the story of the property. Both guides excelled in their presentation and attention to the needs of individuals within the groups.

There was a fine choice for lunch and then an opportunity to explore the beautiful gardens and park. Many sought to walk to the site of the oak tree that Elizabeth was sitting beneath when she heard that she had become Elizabeth I. The oak tree has long since gone but at the location is another oak tree planted some years ago by Elizabeth II and a plaque recording the event. Shops were open on site to purchase souvenirs and there was time for one more visit to the lovely cafe before our return. The weather complimented the day by being superb and we set off with much to talk about on the journey home.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2015 newsletter.


Thursday 18th June 2015

A visit to and guided tour of the Poppy Factory, 20 Petersham Road, Richmond

The Poppy Factory this year has proved to be a popular destination for groups and the afternoon tours were fully booked around the date we wished to visit. That meant a 10.30am start and 26 members and guests were present when Brian our guide explained the history of why the poppy had become the symbol of sacrifice in wars. His introduction and the presentation were of the highest standard. We then had a tour of the 'shop floor' and saw poppies being produced and assembled, both into individual flowers and wreaths. We met many of the staff and had the opportunity to see their work. We also were able to assemble our own poppy which we were allowed to take with us. Souvenirs were available to purchase from the shop at the conclusion of the tour.

A superb and memorable visit to this stunning local premises. A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2015 newsletter.


Friday 22nd May 2015

A visit to Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability, Teddington

The Museum opened especially on a Friday afternoon for this visit by a group from the Esher District LHS and refreshments were provided before a talk by the archivist Ian Jones-Healey. He explained with a fine fully illustrated presentation a brief history of the opening of Normansfield, Teddington in 1868 by John Haydon Langdon-Down who had been Physician Superintendent at the Royal Earlswood Hospital since 1858. There were some excellent and memorable Victorian photographs in his talk. He then took us on a tour of the Victorian Theatre which had been built to encourage his patients to learn music and drama as part of their education. Afterwards we were shown many of the exhibits which came to life with his expert descriptions. We were brought up to date by another presentation describing how several people who have Down's Syndrome take a very active part in the community.

Thanks are due to Lesley Alabaf for her arrangements and allowing the Society to visit this hidden gem in Teddington.


Thursday 9th April 2015

AGM followed by "Remember the Lusitania" - War Crime or Legitimate Target? by Tim Stoneman

The AGM had yet again a very healthy attendance and was presided over by Vice-President Dr Pamela Reading. After welcoming members and guests she dealt with the matter of the chairman for the next twelve months and Paul Langton was elected to continue. He dealt with various matters on the agenda and gave his report for the last twelve months. Then followed the election of officers for the forthcoming year. All committee members were prepared to stand with the exception of Penny Rainbow who had resigned for family reasons. They were dealt with en bloc proposed and seconded and there were no other nominations. Maureen Langton who has been acting as Treasurer would continue in that post until a replacement was found. The AGM part of the meeting concluded at 7.54pm and the speaker Tim Stoneman was introduced.

Tim who had travelled from Portsmouth to be with us, is an expert in Naval and Shipping history and also a Battlefield Guide. He was the ideal person to speak to us about the events of the 7th May 1915.

Nearly 2,000 people left New York onboard the four-funnelled liner on the 2nd May 1915. Five days later, 1,198 of them, including a Claygate businessman, would be dead, killed when Lusitania, which the German propaganda machine proclaimed was a legitimate target, was sunk off the coast of Ireland by a U-boat's torpedo. Was it a war crime, or was the submarine's commander justified in attacking the Cunarder? Whose fault was it that the ship was lost? Was it the Admiralty - or the shipping line - or the ship's captain? The talk gave us the background to the loss of a fine ship and the tragic deaths of so many of the passengers and crew.

Tim's expertise in the Royal Navy was used to great advantage as he explained events and dealt with the controversy over who should carry the blame for the disaster. A most informative question and answer session followed before Tim was warmly thanked.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2015 newsletter.


Saturday 21st March 2015

The people of Esher in the age of the Black Death

Dr David Stone proved quite a draw for this lecture and a total of ninety members and guests attended. He had previously talked to us about 13th century Esher and this talk was to chart the history of the bishop of Winchester's manor of Esher during the apocalyptic 14th century. The early part of the century was, for many, a time of dearth and, for some, a time of famine, as a growing population battled with the effects of climatic change, including torrential rainfall and severe drought. Worse was to follow, for in 1348-49 the Black Death swept through England, killing approximately half of the population. The talk tracked the development of the bishop of Winchester's manor and palace of Esher, during an era in which it was visited by a string of notable guests. It also highlighted the fortunes of local peasant families as they negotiated the perils of the period.

There was a lengthy question and answer session showing how enthusiastic the audience had been for this 14th century talk, the first time that David had given it. His expertise in translating the mediaeval Latin documents had been shown with great authority. A sincere thanks was given to David for making the effort to be with us as his family have recently moved from Claygate to Devon and he was travelling back immediately afterwards. The formal thanks was given by Peter Hills who had travelled with Anne Hills from North Somerset.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2015 newsletter.


Saturday 14th February 2015

To Journey's End and Beyond: the Life and Legacy of R C Sherriff by Zoe Karens

Robert Cedric Sherriff's (1896 - 1975) experiences as a junior officer in the First World War led him to write the play Journey's End, which became the most spectacular success of his literary career. His papers have been placed by Kingston Grammar School at Surrey History Centre for permanent preservation, and are now the subject of a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to celebrate his life and legacy.

Zoe is the project archivist at Surrey Histroy Centre and the topic was of great interest to an audience about a local author. Seventy seven members and guests attended and listened to a lecture which contained some fine images of Sherriff and family throughout his life. It looked beyond Sherriff's army service and Journey's End and explored some of the other less widely known aspects of his personal life and career. The illustrations came from key archive items from his papers. Zoe included much material that was new to her audience including references to his lesser known works "King John's Treasure" in 1954 and "The Siege of Swayne Castle" in 1973. He had been nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay 'Goodbye Mr Chips" and one of his plays "The Long Sunset" which had first been performed in 1955 also appeared at Blackfriars in 1959 directed by Bernard Miles.

There followed a very popular question and answer session which explored further detail in his life. There was a short reading from a Society newsletter when members had been the guests of Sherriff to his garden at Rosebriars and then Zoe was thanked for making the talk such an enjoyable afternoon. Whilst tea and coffee were taken a short timed presentation was shown of some of the lost local Public Houses of Esher including The White Horse, The White Lion and The Coburg Arms.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2015 newsletter.


Saturday 17th January 2015

Rudyard Kipling - A Life by Paul Woodley

Gary Enstone who is the House Manager at Bateman's, which was Kipling's home for 34 years, was unavailable to speak on the subject because of staff illness but arranged an able deputy at short notice. Paul Woodley travelled from Mayfield, East Sussex and did not dissapoint a large audience of 88 members and guests. The emphasis of his talk was changed slightly and covered the whole of Rudyard Kipling's life, ranging from grandparents to his death in 1936. There was information about the tragic death of his young daughter Josephine in 1899 who was a pretty and bright girl. The family became very ill after severe colds and Kipling himself was close to death being told about his daughter a week later. Tragedy struck again in September 1915 when his son John (Jack) was posted missing during the First World War and his remains were never found until a discovery was made in 1992. The lecture was fully illustrated with images of Kipling and his family and included a few related video clips.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring 2015 newsletter.


Thursday 11th December 2015

Soldier, sailor, poet, playwright, perfumer: A rugby club at war 1914-1918 "The Final Whistle" by Stephen Cooper

The story of fifteen men killed in the Great War. All played rugby for one London club; none lived to hear the final whistle. Rugby brought them together; rugby led the rush to war.

This was the Society Christmas meeting and a reminder that 100 years ago World War I was not over by Christmas. Stephen took us on a journey through the records of those men who had played rugby for Rosslyn Park Football Club and were never personally to receive the Victory Medal or celebrate the victory. Those men who had lost their lives in the 'Second Great War' of the century were rightly revered on a clubhouse plaque, but there was no memorial to its first war dead.

Stephen then explained his work to piece together the list of men who died. Charles George Gordon Bayly was the first of the gang who had been named after his famed great-uncle, General Charles George Gordon. He made his debut for Park against Guy's Hospital as a nineteen year old on 8th January 1910 and was a compact, wiry halfback. He passed his Pilot's Certificate in a Caudron biplane at the Ewen school, Hendon Aerodrome in March 1913 and received his Aero Club Aviator's Certificate, Number 441. He had joined the Royal Engineers in August 1911and was gazetted second lieutenant. As the Schlieffen plan swung into action Lieutenant Bayly joined 5 Squadron RFC and had a week to prepare for his flight to France on 12th August 1914. British pundits were predicting peace by Christmas while the Kaiser told his Prussian Guard that they would be home before the leaves turned. Civilians reported that German troops in large numbers were advancing through Brussels towards Mons. The RFC was tasked to confirm rumour by observation. On 22nd August at 10.16am Lieutenant Bayly took off from Maubeuge in an Avro 504 flying as observer with Second Lieutenant Vincent Waterfall as his pilot. At about 10.50am making a low pass the plane was struck by cannon fire and the two men had no choice but to go down with their ship, parachutes were not worn. The two men died on impact and a grisly photograph showed Gerrman soldiers keeping a respectful distance from the two charred corpses - the fallen fliers they called 'Black Angels'. The wrecked Avro behind German lines was the first sure proof that British Troops were present on the continent of Europe.

Lieutenant Nowell Oxland and Captain Arthur James 'Mud' Dingle both died at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli in August 1915. Nowell on the 9th and James on the 22nd, exactly a year after Charles Bayly's death. In that single year of war England's James (Jimmy) Dingle had become the twenty first of the club's doomed youth. A small exhibition in the hall about the fallen in Claygate also showed that tragically that same month on 25th August 1915 Maurice George Burmester died at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli having been shot by a sniper.

Stephen was thanked for his superb, informative and concise lecture. He had clearly shown us that rugby and warfare share a common language.

Over tea, coffee, wine and mince pies, Stephen was available to sign copies of his book and it is highly recommended.


Saturday 15th November 2014

Women at War by Andy Thompson

Andy is a very experienced Battlefield guide and his lecture today covered another aspect of the Great War. It was to dramatically change the role that women in Britain had in society. As the men were drawn into war, women replaced them in the work place; initially into unskilled jobs but as total war evolved they worked in dangerous munitions production, heavy engineering, on the land and nursing. This gave women the opportunity to demonstrate competence, independence and a new found confidence that allowed them to cope with whatever challenges were thrown at them in the chaos of war.

The illustrated lecture started with life for women in the Victorian era. There were 1,500,000 in domestic service and others in sweat shops. Sex was used as a currency and led to the age of consent. Until 1882 and the Married Womens Property Act everything belonged legally to the husband. The typewriter and telephone led to many jobs for women and before the war commmenced suffragettes were in their ascendancy.

When the war started recruitment was helped by many posters and the diva of the day was Vesta Tilley who dressed as a man and encouraged volunterers to join up for a shilling. The lecture continued with information about women working in shell manufacture and the Silvertown, London explosion which was fortunate to have occurred on a Friday night when 19 women were killed, but would have been many more if earlier in the day. After the war votes for women was agreed, initially for those 30 and over, in later years reduced to 21 and over. Andy continued by mentioning incidents in World War II and later years including recent events in Afghanistan before taking a question and answer session. Andy's talk was the finest we have had for many years and over tea and coffee many exhibits were available for the audience to browse.


Saturday 18th October 2014

Epsom's Mental Hospital Cluster by Jeremy Harte

Jeremy made a popular return visit to speak to the Society again, about a subject that was very dear to him. He had been involved in obtaining oral history records some years ago about the Epsom Hospitals. For a hundred years, mental health was dealt with through segregation.

The Horton Cluster of mental hospitals was the largest concentration of asylums in the country. Jeremy took us through the history of the five hospitals and looked at the culture and history of a world which has now been swept away. In 1896 the LCC bought a rundown estate called Horton Manor and opened 'The Manor Hospital' in 1898. This hospital was to become 'The Manor' (County of London) War Hospital in 1916 when it was requisitoned in that year. The patients were transferred and the hospital was used to treat wounded soldiers. Iimages of these men were shown.

Horton Hospital followed in 1902 and then St. Ebbas and Long Grove were built before the Great War. West Park Hospital was the final one to be built in 1924 and catered for all stages of nervous and mental disorder. The hospital cluster needed all the utilities and infrastructure of a new small town and over time these were built. The whole lecture utilised pictures of the hospitals and staff and Jeremy is to be congratulated for their quality. There then followed a question and answer session before thanks were given and tea and coffee were taken.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter 2014 newsletter.

Saturday 20th September 2014

Britain with Betjeman by John Vigar

John had lectured to us previously in January 2013 and on that occasion there had been snow the day before. A warm spell and our first talk of a new season meant that sixty five members and guests were present in the hall.

When we look back on our lives, John said, and identify a date when things changed, for him it was the 22nd December 1974. To find out why we had fifty minutes to wait. Those of us who are interested in architectural history will know of a series of books called Pevsners. The building of England Series started over 50 years ago by Nikolaus Pevsner to record all that is important in our built environment.There is much more to buildings than architecture and that is where John Betjeman comes into our story. He more than anyone else changed the way in which we appreciate our built environment. You won't find a poem by Betjeman about a building that doesn't include people. To him buildings were meaningless unless you understood the people who designed, built, used, altered and continued to use the buildings today. We were going to look at his life and career, but tied in with the development of architecture in this country.

He was born just over 100 years ago in North London, the smells and sounds, the hustle and bustle of the city and that is why his earliest memories are of travels outside London. The Betjemans travelled in the early part of the 20th century to East Anglia or more commonly to Cornwall. Castle Coombe in Wiltshire would be one stopping off point on the journey and here he knew it was different. He couldn't articulate why, smells and sounds were different and perhaps a slower pace of life. In later years he was to say that the biggest difference was in building material, areas of Britain that had their own building material.

The lecture continued and will be more fully reported in the Winter 2014 newsletter.

John then explained that just before Christmas 1974 it was the school holiday and he was watching television. He had always enjoyed looking at churches and had an Observer guide to tick off what he had seen. He saw a programme by Betjeman "A Passion for Churches". The following spring his careers master asked what he wanted to do and he said "I want to do what John Betjeman did for me". The careers master's advice was to write to him and find out if he can help. In a fortnight he was having tea with Betjeman. The buildings we have seen this afternoon were buildings he had talked about. John said he would not be here if it had not been for Betjeman.

There was then a question and answer period before John was thanked for starting the new season with such a splendid subject and for making the afternoon such a memorable and enjoyable one.


Thursday 10th July 2014

A visit to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard by coach

This year the New Mary Rose Museum and other attractions at the Dockyard was chosen for the Society's annual trip. Dittons Library was again the meeting point and forty six members and guests boarded the coach. The weather was dull at the outset but improved rapidly on the journey and Portsmouth proved on the day to be the warmest place in the country. The New Mary Rose Museum was the only timed entry and we all went in at 11.00am shortly after arrival. Many stayed for hours as there is an enormous amount of material to see and be amazed by. The ship had sunk in 1545 at the Battle of the Solent with 500 men on board and only 35 had survived. One theory of the tragedy is that the guns from one side had been fired and as the ship turned to fire again the open gunports dipped below the water and it sank immediately. Many of the artefacts which have been salvaged over the years were now on display over three levels of the museum giving a marvellous representation of life on board at the moment of sinking.

Our tickets included visits on the site to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and a Harbour Tour. Additionally restaurants and the Royal Navy National Museum meant that the day was full of interest. Portsmouth being the home of the Royal Navy gave us the opportunity on the guided boat trip around the harbour to see views of ships currently in port including HMS Daring. If you haven't seen the New Mary Rose Museum make sure that it features as one of your top places to visit.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2014 newsletter.


Tuesday 17th June 2014 at 6.15pm and 7.00pm

A visit to and guided tour of Cobham Mill

The maximum number that could comfortably be in the Mill at any one time was twenty and therefore Society members were split into two groups to attend. The evening was a warm one and as the first visitors arrived two swans with four cygnets were on the bank shortly before the entrance to the Mill. Three tons of gravel had recently been laid outside to replace that which had been swept away in the Winter flood water to make a very welcoming entrance. It is very likely, but not certain, that one of the mills mentioned in the Elmbridge Hundred at Cobham in The Domesday Book was on the present site.

Manorial Records from 1534 show a Mill, still owned by Chertsey Abbey, was on the present site. In 1799 a great storm swept away the Mill buildings and a new brick built Mill was constructed. In 1822 an annex was attached to the Mill and the present Mill is that building. In 1928 milling ceased and the buildings were used for grain storage. In 1953 the road was widened and the larger Mill was removed, the remaining annex falling into disuse. In 1990 Cobham Mill Preservation Trust began the restoration of the Mill and it was opened to the public in 1993.

The team of volunteers who gave us information made the evening a splendid one and the wheel had been operated to make small amounts of flour which were offered for tasting. The evening had been a most enjoyable one for all those attending and thanks are due to Keith Simm and other Cobham Mill Preservation Trust members. The afore-mentioned swans and cygnets made their way down the Mole to swim immediately outside the Mill.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2014 newsletter.


Tuesday 22nd May 2014 at 10.30am

A visit to the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch at Imber Court, Ember Lane, East Molesey.

It is 6 years since our last visit to the Mounted Branch and with many new members and several who wanted to visit again, 40 members and guests attended Imber Court to see young horses in training. Our guide for the day was Natasha Streek who was a groom and responsible for caring for many of the horses that we saw.

She outlined how an officer was initially trained and showed us some of the horses in stables explaining that some were here for recovery from illness or injury. We were introduced to the farrier who demonstrated and told us how a horse-shoe was fitted. We then went to the arena where four horses were being put through their paces learning how to follow instructions and be in formation. There was then some audience participation as we were asked to become a noisy crowd. As the horses advanced towards us, shouting and banging did not distract them and they remained well behaved. We had been joined by a group of Polish Mounted Branch who added an international flavour to the day.

A visit to the museum on site followed. It showed the development from Horse Patrols 1815 - 1836 through Mounted Peelers 1836 - 1870 to the modern equipped horses of today. There were display cases which showed various famous horses including "The White Horse of Wembley 1923" and "Echo" who was injured in an IRA bomb blast in 1982. Many of the cards sent to "Echo" by the public and children were shown in the cabinet. A final visit was made to some of the horses that were on holiday from their duties before thanks for such an informative, enjoyable tour were given to Natasha and then many took the opportunity to take tea and coffee at the club house.


Thursday 10th April 2014 at 7.30pm

AGM followed by Surrey - Crimes and Murders by Julie Wileman

The AGM had a healthy attendance and was presided over by the President Christine Whittle-Dall with a Vice President Dr. Pamela Reading also in attendance. Christine welcomed the audience and gave a few of her memories of the Society and then dealt with the election of a Chairman for the coming twelve months. Paul Langton was voted in and after various apologies for absence dealt with the Chairman's report which included that membership continued to grow. Chris Harris reported that financially we have had a very good year and that again there had been an income surplus. Chris wished to remain on the committee but we are looking for a replacement treasurer. All current committee members were then voted in en bloc. Our guest speaker was then introduced.

Julie Wileman had kindly agreed to bring her talk forward as the original speaker for the evening was unavailable. Julie took us through a broad spectrum of crime and murder in Surrey from ancient times through to more recent 19th century matters. There were some grim stories of murders in Esher, Kingston and Richmond. However, the topics were always kept at an interesting level for her audience and we were also informed about such matters as barratry, recusancy, witchcraft, smuggling, riots and the benefit of clergy. Some of these were new words to us. Julie then took an informative question and answer session before the evening concluded with tea and coffee.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn 2014 newsletter.


Saturday 15th March 2014 at 2.30pm

Bat Boats to Red Arrows by David Hassard

This lecture covered the entire period of world class aircraft production in Kingston upon Thames over 100 years. There were superb illustrations which took us from aviation pioneers and First World War fighters like the Sopwith Camel to modern times. On our journey we were also told about the World War II Hawker Hurricane, Harrier "jump jets" and Hawk advanced trainers which are used by the Red Arrows. Sopwith, Hawker, Camm and Hooper were memorable names to conjure with, truly outstanding men whose contribution to aircraft design is beyond measure.

A full report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.


Saturday 15th February 2014

A History of British Cast-Iron Firebacks by Jeremy Hodgkinson

The weather had been wet and windy the day before and also overnight but had brightened for journeys to the meeting. Nearby areas were still suffering from the effects of flooding including Thames Ditton, Chertsey and Egham as well as the much affected Wraysbury a little further afield. The Royal Artillery Gold Cup meeting at Sandown Park on Valentine's Day had been cancelled because of the waterlogged ground and impending bad weather.

In view of this the attendance of 63 members and guests was more than could have been expected and they enjoyed a most informative talk from Jeremy Hodgkinson. Jeremy has been a writer and lecturer on the Wealden iron industry for 25 years. He outlined how firebacks were often confined to the dark recesses of old fireplaces but stated that they had much to reveal as social documents. It was a fascinating account of the history behind these pieces of iron. He showed us with magnificent graphics the various stamps on the firebacks which included Heraldic, Armorial, 'Royal' and Biblical. There were many images which displayed both Personal and Corporate Arms which had fine detail often with text and were a tribute to their makers.

After a question and answer session a short film clip of a fireback being made at a foundry was shown and the meeting concluded over tea and coffee whilst a timed slide show was displayed containing much of the material that had been used at the Society's short lecture which had been given the week before at the Open Day of the Esher Green Baptist Church at Park Road, Esher. The slide show contained some of the picture postcards produced by Mr F W J Fricker who had lived in Park Road, Esher.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 18th January 2014

A History of Beekeeping by Liz Knee

A well advertised meeting saw an excellent attendance of 84 members and guests for the first talk of the New Year. Liz was to take us on an enjoyable journey from ancient cave drawings to modern times and modern equipment for beekeeping.

Those cave drawings depicted man collecting honey from wild colonies of bees 8,000 years ago and she told us that the craft of keeping bees has been practised since the Egyptian times. Ancient Greeks believed that honey would prolong life. There are many references in the Bible to honey. In the Domesday book 16 beekeepers were listed. Clergy were also talented beekeepers and did much to modernise equipment and began to shed light on the compex life of the colony. Monastries kept bees as a valuable source of income.

Liz told us that the honey bee started in the Far East and gradually spread around the world. Honey, Wax, Pollen and Propolis were the reasons for humans to tend them. In 1622 colonies of honey bees were shipped from England to America. They were dubbed "White Mans Flies" by Native Americans. Liz then spoke about hives and of what material they were made from as well as their shapes. A skep was an early form and derived its name from an Anglo Saxon word for basket. There were difficulties in obtaining the honey from the baskets and a better modern hive with stacking boxes came into existence.

The audience had thoroughlly enjoyed the talk and that was obvious from the many questions which were asked and which were answered with an expert knowledge of the subject.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter.


Thursday 12th December 2013

An evening of short talks

A very good attendance for an evening meeting heard three speakers, a short poetry reading and a tape recording of a 1972 interview with R C Sherriff. by Richard Haynes, a former Hon Sec of EDLHS.

The evening commenced with the interview of Sherriff which included observations about his life at Rosebriars and his love of archaeology. Dr Pamela Reading then introduced 17th century John Lambert to the audience. A break followed which allowed the audience to partake of refreshments before Tim Sargent supplied us with a cricket story about "Lumpy Stevens and the third stump." Maureen Langton read a Betjeman poem and the evening was concluded by Paul Langton who showed postcard images of the Teck family at Claremont, Esher from a small collection of cards which included a card written to Claremont in 1916 from Kitty who also was present at Versailles on 28th June 1919 when the Treaty of Peace of the Great War was signed.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter.

Saturday 16th November 2013

Bishops and peasants: everyday life in thirteenth-century Esher with Dr David Stone

David spoke to a large audience who had gathered to listen to a talk about very early days in Esher. His introduction outlined that it was self evident that the further back in time we go there will be less documentation. Broadly speaking that is true as census returns start in 1801, there are few maps prior to 1600 and parish registers were first compiled in 1538. But for Esher there is probably as much documentation about life in the 13th and 14th centuries as at any time between the 16th and 19th centuries.

That is because the largest manor in medieval Esher belonged to the bishopric of Winchester, who had held this manor since the 1230s. Bishop Wayneflete had rebuilt Esher palace in the 1460s, but by then the bishopric had held the manor for over two centuries. The Winchester Pipe Rolls, which began in the early 13th century, contain accounts for every manor on their extensive estate and form the earliest and most voluminous set of surviving records about medieval estate management. In fact, they have recently been awarded a place on the United Nations UK Memory of the World Register; and Esher is a part of it.

David continued that he is translating the Esher accounts from 1235 to 1367 and is currently up to 1300 which seemed a good opportunity to pause and reflect on what these documents tell us about life in 13th century Esher: the landscape and buildings; the local economy; and the lives of the bishops and peasants.

He gave us a tour of Esher in the late 13th century and then described the development of Esher as a manorial centre. Next came the manorial economy and how the bishop needed a household staff, craftsmen, labourers, farmhands and goods, some produce of which was generated on the demesne at Esher. The lives of the peasantry was described which was filtered through the lord's eyes. Even so there were intimate glimpses of those lives of ordinary medieval people from Esher.

How did the peasants make a living? Surnames gave us a clue and then the differences between them, some being legally free and others unfree. The conclusion was that bishops were becoming wealthier and peasants poorer but worse was to follow. The great famine of 1315-1317, extreme drought in 1331, and the Black Death of 1348-9, in which 40-50% of the population of England died. The quality and level of information about 13th century Esher is so important and David was warmly thanked for giving the Society such an insight.


Saturday 19th October 2013

Brooklands into the 2nd Century with Tim Morris

Tim in a marvellous illustrated lecture covered the entire history of Brooklands from its conception in 1906 right through to the lively Museum of today. He described how Brooklands was built and detailed some of the early racers. A section of the talk was devoted to the early women racers. The first BARC race for women was in 1927 although they had taken part in other club races before. Competing in that race was Mrs Victor Bruce (Mildred) whose husband had died the previous year. She had been the first woman to be convicted of a motoring offence in 1911 when she had travelled at 60mph on her brother's Matchless motor cycle!

Kay Petre was related to Mrs Bruce and was another star at the circuit. She was 4' 10" and had blocks on the pedals to reach them. She was the first woman to lap Brooklands at over 130mph in timed laps. Gwenda Stewart had been a WWI Ambulance driver and broke many records. She was described as the "Queen of Brooklands." In a head to head with Kay, Gwenda achieved the Women's Outer Circuit Record at Brooklands with a speed of 135.95mph.

Tim went on to describe the Aviation history at the site including the 1911 Daily Mail air race and aircraft manufacture. In 80 years of production, 260 different types had been created and 18,600 aircraft constructed. A warm thankyou was given for the talk and members and guests at this very well attended meeting were encouraged to visit the site.

A fuller report will appear in the Christmas newsletter.

Saturday 21st September 2013

Doodlebugs and Rockets with Bob Ogley

Sixty one members and guests attended this meeting which opened our 2013/4 series of talks. Bob was welcomed back having talked to us in October 2012 and members were very keen to hear him again on another topic after such an excellent, enjoyable lecture he had given to us previously.

He covered the time before the first arrival of a VI by describing the Secret Weapons period and the raid on Peenemunde.  RAF Aerial reconnaissance had identified the location of rocket sites in June 1943 and later that year bombing missions had set back the German programme.  He continued with the first attacks of the Doodlebugs fired from the Pas de Calais.  They commenced shortly after D-Day on 13th June 1944 when the first one landed in Kent but fell on open farmland.  However, within minutes the first fatalities occurred when six people were killed and thirty injured at Bethnal Green.  It landed on a railway bridge and two tracks were torn up.  The damage demolished two houses and badly damaged others.  The new Battle of London had begun.  Bob went on to describe the indiscriminate, short-lived but lethal weapons which brought terror and included the efforts by both anti-aircraft guns and airmen to bring them down.  The later V2 rocket was too fast to be spotted and destroyed, but efforts to continue its use were hampered by the advance of the Allied troops.

Bob had given us a great insight into the courage, resourcefulness, luck and even humour of the British public who had to face these weapons.  He was available afterwards over tea and coffee to sign his book “Doodlebugs and Rockets” for those who wanted to purchase a copy.           

Thursday 11th July 2013

A visit to Bletchley Park by coach

Forty five members and guests attended Dittons Library car park for the annual coach outing on what proved to be a warm, sunny day. This year the location chosen was where the British codebreaking operation during World War Two was housed and also the birthplace of modern computing. Historians estimate that the Codebreakers' efforts shortened the war by up to two years, saving countless lives.

We were greeted on site and shown suggested highlights. Hut 4 which had been used for translating and analysing German Naval Enigma messages which had been decrypted by Hut 8 was a popular venue. Iit now houses the cafe where refreshments could be taken during the day. At 1245 we all gathered in Hut 8 where Alan Turing's Office was housed. and began a guided tour of the site with Anthony Duggan. He first outlined the basics of an Enigma machine and how the emphasis was on speeding up the elimination process in calculating the day's Enigma settings. We were then taken to the Mansion where a short history was outlined of daily activity before being shown other important outbuildings.

After thanking Anthony for his most informative one hour tour we were then left with time to explore the many attractions. These included Block B which today houses the main exhibitions of the Museum including a large collection of Enigma machines and a slate statue of Alan Turing. Until 1974 the work of the Codebreakers at Bletchley Park was Britain's best-kept secret and to preserve the historic buildings for the nation the Bletchley Park Trust was formed in 1992. It has saved the site from the bulldozers a number of times and a project is ongoing to restore many more buildings.

arrival at Bletchley Park by Reptons coach

Our arrival at Bletchley Park marked by a group photo.

Outside Bletchley Park Mansion group photo

Our first visit to the Bletchley Park Mansion with time to spare before a guided tour.

Thanks to Anthony Duggan our guide

Thanks to our guide Anthony Duggan from Paul Langton.

The Colossus at Bletchley Park

The Colossus at Bletchley Park.

If you haven't visited the location all our travellers would highly recommend it. The top secret Station X is a magnificent destination. .

Thursday 20th June 2013

A visit to St Raphael's Church, Portsmouth Road, Surbiton preceded by a river trip with Parr Boat Hire.

The day had been overcast and grey but as evening approached the sky brightened and the sun appeared just in time for our arrival at the Parr Boat Hire pier on Queens Promenade. Darren our leader from the boat company cast off and we travelled past Seething Wells on the way to the Backwater, Thames Ditton. There we saw the boarded up property of the former 'Home of Compassion of Jesus' and shortly afterwards the rear of 'Ferry Works'. It was still possible to see the faint markings on the brickwork of 'AMAZING CARS' the former home of AC Cars. Also present in the Backwater was 'The Gloriana' which had taken part in the recent Jubilee Celebrations for the Queen. It was awaiting minor repair after striking Kew Bridge. We travelled to Hampton Court and then turned to travel back getting fine views of the bungalows which inhabit the Thames Ditton side. On our arrival back there was time for a photo opportunity of the group before we crossed the Portsmouth Road to enter Alexander House.

St. Raphael's Church is a beautiful Church and was designed by the eminent architect Charles Parker in an Italianate style, with early Christian and Renaissance influences. It was commissioned by Alexander Raphael, an Armenian immigrant from India, a great philanthropist and entrepreneur, in 1846, and completed in 1848. The chapel was opened to the public as the first Catholic place of worship in Kingston since the Reformation. After being in private hands following the Second World War it was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Southwark.

Following the French Revolution of 1848, King Louis Phillipe with his family settled at nearby Claremont House in Esher. Four of their Royal Weddings took place in the Church between 1863 and 1899. The Church is now a grade II* listed building and is of local and national architectural interest.

Tea and coffee were available and Sandra and Michael our guides distributed information before we entered the Church. Our numbers had been swelled by those who were unable to attend the boat trip. A major programme of building and restoration had restored the internal and external fabric and had only been completed in 2012. The interior is Renaissance and was stunning. There was a range of graceful Ionic arcade columns supporting semi-circular arches along a tall, narrow Nave. The whole of the Sanctuary, the High Altar, the round Pulpit and the Baptismal Font were made of white Sicilian marble. There were three richly stained glass windows above the High Altar, the middle one showing the Angel Raphael with young Tobias. Father Vincent Flynn who had been busy earlier with an afternoon wedding in the Church welcomed us and spent time with a couple of our members who had been married in the Church in 1965.

Our thanks were given to Sandra who had supplied so much information and to Michael who had shown us the original book in which the 19th century French Royal Weddings had been registered.


Wednesday 22nd May 2013

A visit to St Mary's Church, Stoke D'Abernon with Stephen Chater

Members and guests arrived at the entrance to the church on a fine evening. They were greeted by Stephen Chater, one of our members, who is also a guide at the church and currently taking exams to become a City of London guide.

The church has been a place of Christian worship for over 1300 years and is the oldest church in Surrey. Built by the Saxons it has been modified and added to on many occasions. The church originally when built was a plain rectangular building with a semi-circular apse at the eastern end forming the sanctuary for the altar and the building belonged to the local feudal lord. The original south wall is nearly 3 feet thick. About 1190 the Normans enlarged the church by adding the North Aisle. The Norbury Chapel was commissioned by Sir John Norbury as a thank offering for his safe return from the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

A complete re-furbishment of the church fabric was undertaken in 1866, together with major restorations and extensions. In 1912 the tower clock was installed, a gift from Sir Edgar Vincent. From about 1950 the whole church was stripped of its Victorian decor and returned to its original simplicity.

Stephen drew our attention to many of the historic treasures including the large late 12th century oak chest and the magnificent Elizabethan pulpit with a panel containing the text FIDES EX AUDITU (Faith comes from what is heard). Items within the Norbury Chapel were described including 17th century splendid monuments to the Vincent family. Set into the east wall was the oldest item in the church - a Roman cinerary casket of the 2nd century containing the cremated remains of Sir Edgar Vincent who died in 1941. The two D'Abernon brasses on the floor of the Chancel were 14th century and the workmanship on each was superb especially in the detailing of the chain-mail.

There was then time to see the exterior of the church which contained large exposed field flints. In the south wall could be seen bricks, tiles and worked stones taken by the Saxon builders from the ruins of a Roman villa which once occupied the site of the present Manor House. Stephen was thanked for making the evening so special with his knowledgeable and informative tour. The opportunity was then taken to purchase items from the church and as members were leaving they were privileged to hear the Frobenius Organ being played.


Thursday 11th April 2013

AGM followed by Seething Wells - From Cholera to Clean Water by Simon Tyrrell

The AGM was well attended with more than 60 members present. Dr Pamela Reading, Vice-President, welcomed them and Paul Langton was voted in as the Chairman for another twelve months. In his report he stated that the Society had had another successful year. All current members of the committee were willing to stand and were accepted en bloc. Tim Sargent was also accepted onto the committee.

Simon Tyrrell then outlined how Surbiton's Seething Wells had become the safest place in the South of England for clean water. Around the 1840s and 1850s, the Thames was the disposal point for rubbish. The water companies drew their water from the Thames where sewage and the rubbish were dumped. Drinking water was full of debris and excrement. Cholera epidemics broke out, particularly in the over-populated slums. A connection between water and infected pumps was made by Dr John Snow, a London GP, particularly in the 1848 outbreak in Broad Street, Soho. He was convinced that cholera was transmitted through water and not air. Filter beds had been built in Chelsea and their equipment was moved to the small hamlet of Surbiton. The man responsible was water engineering pioneer James Simpson who proposed drawing water from the non-tidal Thames above Teddington Weir, filtering it and pumping it to London. New filter and settling beds were constructed in the ideal clay and sand. The water works became a notable employer, many jobs being well paid and the works was a major factor in the development of Surbiton's economy and culture. The filtering facilities and reservoirs were in constant use until the 1970s. Much of the riverside site has not been used for 20 years now and it provides a unique habitat for an uncommonly wide range of rare plants, birds and bats.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.

Saturday 16th March 2013

Suffragettes by Ian Porter

Seventy three members and guests chose to come on this showery afternoon, but at least it had warmed up a little since snow and sleet on a bitter cold day the Monday previously.  Ian split his subject into four sections and outlined each at the beginning of his talk.  Firstly he covered the main events that took place in the Suffragette struggle, secondly some of the main characters in that struggle, thirdly he mentioned prison and force-feeding and the fourth section would be how the vote was won.

The Women’s Social and Political Union was set up by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903.  Christabel Pankhurst, her daughter, in 1905 took up direct action by spitting at a policeman and was arrested and fined 5 shillings at court as well as being bound over to keep the peace.  She, with another woman, refused to be bound over and they were found guilty of contempt of court and were sent to prison.  They appeared on the front page of many newspapers and the Pankhurst’s realised that publicity was the oxygen of their movement. Many memorable facts about the Pankhursts, the Pethick-Lawrences and additionally Emily Davison were included.  This year is the centenary of Emily’s tragic death and he devoted a section of his talk to the Suffragette Derby of 1913 and also included the arson campaign.  He concluded by referring to Mrs Pankhurst’s place in history.  A long round of applause was given both at the end of the talk and after a very popular question and answer session.
Ian had travelled from Aylesford, Kent and brought with him some informative pictures which were available for the audience to look at over tea and coffee.  He was also available to sign copies of his book “Whitechapel”, which is set against the backcloth of the 1888 Whitechapel murders.      


Saturday 16th February 2013

Woking Palace and Old Woking: the archaeological investigations by Richard Savage

Richard had spoken to the Society last year and by request had been invited to attend again to talk about the archaeological investigations. An excellent attendance of 77 members and guests heard him talk about the past four years of investigations at Woking Palace and across the ancient Saxon and Medieval settlement of Old Woking.

In the early part of the talk Richard emphasised that an important caveat is that 'Excavation is Destruction' and that it was 'The Unrepeatable Experiment' emphasising the importance of recording and publication. He showed some stunning images of both the excavations and the finds, including a groat coin with the head of Henry VIII thereon which when discovered had not required cleaning. A clay toy horse was also displayed together with a Woking pin containing rubies which gave us an idea of the quality of the finds which are regarded as artefacts, it is not a treasure hunt. Test-pitting in Old Woking was then described showing 11th, 12th and 13th century layers and that some areas of land contained uncontaminated soil from before 1350.

Images of aerial photography with analysis of what was contained in the shot added to the information that was made available to the audience and an informative question and answer session followed. Richard was thanked for making the meeting such an enjoyable afternoon.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter.

Saturday 19th January 2013

Churches in Retirement by John Vigar

Considering the weather, Claygate and Surrey had received a blanket of snow the day before, this was a well attended meeting as forty seven members and guests made their way to the Church Hall and contributed to a most interesting afternoon. The effort proved to be worthwhile as our speaker who had travelled from Rochester, Kent, had an array of fine images to show us.

The lecture focussed around the question of what happens to Anglican churches when they are no longer needed for their original purpose. Fifty years ago they would have been shut up and left to decay. However, The Friends of Friendless Churches was established in 1957 and helped struggling churches to keep their doors open. This eventually led to the establishment of the Churches Conservation Trust in 1969. Today more than 400 churches in England and Wales are cared for by these two bodies.

John's fine lecture covered many churches with both exterior and interior views and he wanted the audience to go away knowing the difference between a bench and a pew. For those of us who didn't know, pews have doors.

Whilst tea and coffee were taken there was an opportunity to look at a small postcard and ephemera display of our own St. George's Church, Esher which is an example of a survivor after the building of Christ Church, Esher in 1854.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter

Thursday 13th December 2012

The Holly and the Ivy by Jeremy Harte

On a cold frosty evening forty eight members came along to hear the manager of Bourne Hall Museum, Ewell talk about arrangements made by the populace for a medieval Christmas. He outlined the efforts made to utilise local trees from the woodlands in Surrey to produce tools and implements to work the wood to provide shelter both for people and animals. A grand selection of paintings and tapestries were used to illustrate the talk. We were also informed about the original meaning of "a stalking horse" and so much more.

A fuller report will be contained in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 17th November 2012

AC Cars at Thames Ditton '1911 - 1986' by John Spencer

The Church Hall has been fitted out with a new powerful digital projector and it was used to its full potential to show some magnificent photographs. Eighty nine members and guests attended this talk which proved to be enthralling, tracing the days from before the company arrived at Thames Ditton in 1911 until the final demise locally in 1986.

John is the archivist of the AC Owners Club and his talk concentrated on the Company history and the five sites which were occupied in the Thames Ditton area. The lecture described the diverse products ranging from airship engines and railway trains to World-Championship motor cars. This range of material also included many vehicle models which were produced at the sites, some photographed on Giggs Hill Green. The AC Cobra has always left an impression of British manufacturing at its best with the author of these notes, and images of that classic car were shown. The aerial shots of the locations were stunning.Then a very informative question and answer session took place which was followed by tea and coffee with an opportunity to look at some of the early AC booklets and ephemera that John had brought with him.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 20th October 2012

The Storm of '87 by Bob Ogley

A well attended meeting of 75 members and guests were enthralled to hear Bob describe the drama of the night and how it was to change his life. He told stories of how Kent and Surrey were affected and at one point read a report from one of his books as to how Elmbridge and Esher had dealt with the situation. He was born in Sevenoaks and as a former editor of the Sevenoaks Chronicle arranged for aerial photographs of the devastation, which he shortly afterwards used to complete some very successful books. Other topics followed and he has become the author of more than 20 books. There followed an interesting, informative question and answer session and during tea and coffee that followed he was available to sign copies of his books.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter .


Saturday 15th September 2012

The Five Fine Surrey Gardens by Bill Tomlins

The new season of talks started with more than sixty members listening to this illustrated lecture about the early history of five Surrey gardens. Claremont, Esher Place, Oatlands Park, Woburn Farm and Painshill were covered, each of them being a remarkable eighteenth century landscape garden. Two of them still exist; records and remnants survive of the other three. Bill with this very professionally presented talk covered them in turn with concise and interesting material and concluded with the fact that whilst on a visit to England, Thomas Jefferson had visited four of them in 1786. Bill mentioned that this might well be his last talk to an audience and he was warmly thanked for his efforts, done in such a knowledgeable, eloquent manner.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Thursday 12th July 2012

A visit to Dover Castle by coach

The summer has been very wet but fine weather greeted us as we gathered at Thames Ditton library car park. Thirty eight members and guests joined the coach at 8.30am and we arrived in Dover before 11am after a short stop en route. The sun was shining as we entered the Castle through Constable's Gate and individual decisions had to be made as to which way to explore the 80 acre site. Many chose the inner bailey and the Great Tower. Henry II built the present castle and a royal palace had been recreated to its 1180s glory. A large number chose to climb to the roof for spectacular views. A free land train assisted visitors to travel around the large site. The Roman pharos gave an example of the early days and the church of St Mary-in-Castro is the finest late-Saxon building standing in Kent. Refreshments were available at either the Regimental Institute (NAAFI) Restaurant or at the inner bailey Cafe before a choice of visiting the Secret Wartime Tunnels and seeing Operation Dynamo, Rescue from Dunkirk with light and sound effects or The Underground Hospital.

For over 2,000 years the fortifications have protected the English coast. Its buildings and defences have been adapted to meet the changing demands of weapons and warfare. The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment Museum was an opportunity to see examples of some of those demands and one display contained footage of recent events in Afghanistan. A memorable outing came to a close and as the coach drew away from the car park the first spots of rain of the day fell. For many Dover is a place to travel through and take a ferry abroad, but it is truly a destination town as well. There was no time to see the landing place on the hillside north-east of the Castle where Louis Bleriot had landed on 25th July 1909. He had just made the first powered flight across the Channel. A stone silhoeutte of his aircraft set into the turf marks the spot. That will have to wait for another visit.


Wednesday 20th June 2012

A guided walk around Ewell with Ian West

Bourne Hall was open prior to the walk and allowed members and their guests to view the many local exhibits in the Epsom and Ewell Museum. This walk concentrated on the area around the former Ewell mills, both Upper and Lower and took us on a trail viewing the properties near the Hogsmill. Ian gave details of the original Bourne Hall and grounds with a history of the house, before describing its loss and the erection of the current building. We briefly toured the garden and then moved on to looking at many architecturally interesting properties that bordered or were close to the old mills and the Hogsmill.

Weatherwise, it was one of the best evenings of the month and Ian had made the occasion a memorable one with his wit, knowledge and acumen. He accepted a donation from the Society to the Ewell Tower Conservation Trust and was thanked for such an enjoyable evening. A fuller report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.

Ewell walk 20062012

Ian with members and guests outside a property with three gable ends.

Ewell walk 20062012 at rebuilt Upper Mill

Near the Hogsmill and the rebuilt Upper Mill.


Wednesday 23rd May 2012

A visit to Sandown Park with Richard Lea

Thirty Society members and guests met at 7pm at the Paddock View Pavilion and were greeted with a display of photographs and maps of the Racecourse. It was a stunning evening weatherwise and was matched by the tour which took us backstage to see the Jockeys Changing Rooms and the Stewards Offices which were fronted by the winning enclosure. After the tour which included fine views of the Racecourse we returned to Paddock View where Richard told us some of the history of the grounds and the early days. He brought us up to date with a description of activities that currently take place in addition to the horse racing. Refreshments were provided and Richard was warmly thanked for such a wonderful evening and for the great hospitality shown.

Sandown Park visit 23052012

With the sun setting the group set off for refreshments and a history briefing from Richard.

(See News Items added on 20th August 2012 for 1893 provisions at Sandown!)


Thursday 12th April 2012

The Titanic and What has happened since by Malka Baker which followed the AGM.

The AGM was well attended and the Chairman's report recorded that another very successful year had taken place. Two long term committee members retired from their roles, Jo Buckley and Lady Sheila Frame and they were both presented with flowers. Peter Hills and Anne Hills had made their farewell appearances last month. A new committee member, Pat Worthy was voted in by members and the remaining committee members stayed in post.

Malka Baker, a member of the British Titanic Society had agreed to give this talk to the Society more than two years ago, long before the recent upsurge in interest in the fate of this huge liner. She took us through the history of the ship, from the first idea at a meeting in Belgrave Square, London to the recent efforts to find the wreck and the recovery of some of the contents. Tea and coffee were provided afterwards for the last time by our two retiring committee members. Titanic related items that Malka had brought with her were on view as well as a display board containing information about a local man, Austin Partner, who was a passenger victim of the disaster and whose body was found, returned to this country and buried in the graveyard of Long Ditton church the following month, May 1912.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.

Long Ditton Titanic Memorial from the road

The memorial to Austin Partner as seen from the road.

Long Ditton memorial Titanic inscription

The inscription on the memorial to Austin Partner.

AGM presentation to Jo Buckley

Presentation to retiring committee member Jo Buckley.

AGM presentation to Lady Sheila Frame

Presentation to retiring committee member Lady Sheila Frame.


Saturday 17th March 2012

Charles Dickens - Special Correspondent by Dr Tony Williams

Tony is Associate Editor of the Dickensian, the journal of The International Dickens Fellowship. He was Joint General Secretary of the Dickens Fellowship from 1999 - 2006. He is now an Honorary Life Member of the Fellowship and a Research Fellow in Humanities at the University of Buckingham. He has recently co-written "Dickens's Victorian London', a book of 19th century photographs, coinciding with the Dickens and London exhibition at the Museum of London.

The talk reminded us that this was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dickens. It revealed Dicken's work to be a deep and searching engagement with the age in which he lived. He wrote in Walter Bagehot's words from 1858, as if he was 'a special correspondent for posterity'. The talk explored aspects of that engagement, in Dicken's life, fiction and journalism.

Another large attendance of 91 members and guests warmly applauded Tony after his talk and he answered several questions from the audience before tea and coffee were taken. A display of original Dickens related postcards was also on view, including a card celebrating the hundreth year of his birth.


EDLHS packed audience enjoy Q and A with Dr Tony Williams

A packed audience enjoy listening to Dr Tony Williams during a popular question and answer period after his enjoyable, informative talk.

EDLHS Vote of Thanks to Dr Tony Williams

Peter Hills giving his final vote of thanks as Honorary Secretary, as both he and Anne Hills are moving to North Somerset. They were presented with book tokens as a thank you for their work for the Society. The tokens were considered to be a most suitable farewell gift at a Dickens Lecture. Dr Tony Williams is standing on the right.


Saturday 18th February 2012

Excavations at Woking Palace by Richard Savage

Another very good attendance of eighty two came to hear Richard give an account of the Palace and Manor throughout the centuries until its eventual demise in about 1630.  Known today principally as one of Henry VIII's favourite Palaces in Surrey, for more than 400 years Woking Manor was occupied either by royalty or by those just one step away from the Crown, whether they were defenders of the monarch or potential rebels.  After this historical summary the three seasons of archaeological excavations at the Palace from 2009 to 2011 were mentioned.  Also included in this illustrated talk was a wonderful reconstruction image of how the Palace would have looked in Henry VIII's time with buildings standing on an area of about four acres.

The Tudor association with the site began in 1466, when the Manor was granted to Lady Margaret Beaufort and her third husband, Henry Stafford.  Richard believed her to be one of the greatest women in English history.  She was the mother of Henry Tudor, later to become Henry VII and when Stafford died in October 1471 she married her fourth husband, Thomas, Lord Stanley in June 1472.  In September 1485 it is thought that Henry VII spent time at Woking with his mother.  In 1503, Henry VII decided to transform the manor house of Woking into a royal palace and arranged for Margaret to give up Woking.  She recovered it within weeks of her son’s death in May 1509, only to die herself a few weeks later.

Henry VIII completed the Great Hall by 1511and enlarged the Palace between 1532 and 1542.  In 1537 two bowling alleys were built.  Henry and Queen Katherine Howard were at Woking in 1540 when the King remarked that he felt much better in the country than when he was forced to stay in London during the winter.

Richard then outlined a few of the archaeological finds from the Palace including fragments of blue and white tin-glazed tiles which have been identified as coming from Valencia in Spain.  They probably date from the mid to late 15th century (i.e. the time of Lady Margaret Beaufort or her son Henry VII).  This type of decorated tile is very rare elsewhere in England.

Richard had for sale an official guide to the Palace and a CD.  They are available on their website at  Open Days at Woking Palace for 2012 are 12th and 13th May, 14th and 15th July, 8th and 9th September, all with guided tours and open between 11am and 5pm.  P.L. 


Saturday 21st January 2012

The History of Bushy Park by Ray Brodie

There was a record attendance at Holy Trinity Church Hall of one hundred and two for this talk, despite a matinee performance of Aladdin taking place at the Village Hall next door.

Ray explained that King Charles I had the idea of creating an artificial waterway in the Park because Hampton Court Palace was always short of water. There was nowhere locally with a sufficient fall of water and so the Longford River was built by hand taking nine months at a cost of £4,000. It was an ornamental canal, 12 miles long bringing water from the River Colne in Hertfordshire and it now appears to be a natural part of the landscape.

King Charles I also commissioned a statue and fountain for his Queen, Henrietta Maria. It first stood at Somerset House but was moved by Oliver Cromwell to the Privy Garden at Hampton Court. In 1713 the statue moved again. Sir Christopher Wren had designed the Chestnut Avenue at the Park to make a long formal route through the middle. He added a large round pound and put the statue and fountain in the middle. The feature is known as the Diana fountain after the Roman goddess of hunting, but the statue actually represents Diana's nymph, Arethusa.

Ray explained that much work and restoration had been done in recent years, particularly in the Water Gardens at the site of the Cascade, which had been built in 1710. A letter of that time was shown, written by the Earl of Halifax, the first Chancellor of the Exchequer encouraging a visit to Bushy to see his completed project.

The Park was much used in both World Wars. During World War I, Canadian troops were stationed there and Upper Lodge became the King's Canadian Hospital. In World War II part of the park was the base for the US 8th Army Air Force, US Strategic Air Forces and later where General Eisenhower planned Operation Overlord.

Thanks were given for an excellent fully illustrated lecture which encouraged many in the audience to visit or revisit the area armed with new information about such a historical neighbour.


Thursday 8th December 2011

Short talks on Local History by members at the Christmas Meeting.

The Society turned to a format which has been very successful in other years and volunteers from the membership prepared short presentations. Steve Webbe started with information about Frances Day, the lady who was responsible for the saving of 'The Tower of Esher', outlining the story of her career with little known but stunning facts and a little gossip and scandal. Tim Sargent then told us about the Cobham/London Bus Museum and showed some lovely images of old buses which have recently been rehoused at Brooklands Museum. Penny Jackson had prepared a well-illustrated talk about the career of Lady D'Abernon, who with her husband lived at Esher Place, and revealed a story of self-sacrifice and charitable work particularly at the time of World War I.

There was then time for a relaxing glass of wine or fruit juice with a mince pie and other refreshment to make the occasion a jolly one. Paul Langton showed several new images on postcards including Esher High Street in 1911 decorated for the coronation of George V. Keith Evetts then spoke about more scandal and a drunken vicar at St. Nicholas Church, Thames Ditton which led to the formation of the church at Holy Trinity, Claygate. Christine Whittle-Dall concluded this most enjoyable evening by reciting a Betjeman poem.

A fuller report of the first three talks appears in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 19th November 2011

Cemetery Sanitation in 19th century London. The work of George Alfred Walker by Peter Harp.

Peter Harp's talk probably wasn't everybody's idea of a jolly afternoon with Surrey's favourite history society. Indeed on sober reflection, it might have been best delivered at Halloween. But to the great credit of the Society, there was a respectable turn-out and nobody fell to the floor in a dead faint or made a dash for the door.

Eschewing all euphemisms and sparing no ghoulish detail, Peter Harp made it clear that in the early 19th Century London's burial grounds were an abomination. Bursting at the seams, stinking and insanitary, they attracted loathsome body snatchers bent on stealing corpses for dissection and for other uses too ghastly to repeat here.

Fortunately, none of this horror escaped the attention of George Alfred Walker, doctor, surgeon and sanitary reformer of 101 Drury Lane, London who expressed his concern about the scandalous state of the capital's graveyards in the lengthy title of a book he published in 1839. It was called "Gatherings from grave yards; particularly those of London... And a detail of (the) dangerous and fatal results produced by the unwise and revolting custom of inhuming the dead in the midst of the living."

Dr. Walker was shocked by London's overcrowded graveyards with their ill-buried, rotting corpses and in 1841 he wrote to the Home Secretary Sir James Graham to protest a practice in which "grave after grave is dug in soil, frequently so overcharged with putrescent ... matter, that it is impossible to prevent the corruption of the atmosphere, from the exhalations unavoidably arising from the frequent up-turning of the earth." It was a custom, he warned, "as dangerous to private and public health, as it is destructive of morality."

Heedless of any queasiness on the part of the Home Secretary, he went on to note that "in many instances, bodies are placed one above another and side by side until the accumulated masses of corruption have reached a depth of 25 or 30 feet, the topmost coffins being but a few inches from the surface." But Dr. Walker wasn't merely offended by London's hellish graveyards. He was convinced that the noxious gases or "miasma" emitted by the putrefying bodies caused sickness and death. "Indisputable facts," he told Sir James Graham, "prove that the gaseous exhalations from dead bodies have in many instances seriously injured health, and in others immediately destroyed life."

As Peter Harp noted, Dr. Walker wanted the age-old custom of burying the dead in crowded cities and towns outlawed. Accordingly, he devoted much of his life to campaigning for the closure of London's repellent burial grounds. "There is scarcely a single grave-yard, vault, or receptacle for the dead in London that is not overcharged," he informed the Home Secretary. In 1842 Dr. Walker repeated his concern to a select committee of the House of Commons, observing that "the majority of the places for the interment of the dead" in London constantly give off "noxious effluvia, which...operate as a slow or energetic poison."

One of the capital's most offensive burial grounds, Peter Harp declared, was the ironically titled "Green Ground" belonging to the Parish of St. Clement Danes on Portugal Street where some 5,500 bodies were interred between 1823-1848. Drenched with human putrescence, it was a paradise for bodysnatchers. According to Peter a "foul graveyard" was to be found every 100 yards in London. That's because, despite the capital's soaring population, burying space in London remained constant at some 300 acres.

The Spa Fields Burial Ground in Clerkenwell (scene of the famous radical mass meeting in 1816) was spectacularly repulsive. In an old tea garden where some 1,300 bodies might have been comfortably interred, the proprietor managed to accommodate some 80,000 corpses by the time the cemetery closed in 1849. Charging less than the local parish church, Spa Fields was nothing more than a diabolical racket. To make room for the newly deceased, the recently buried were brutally dug up under cover of darkness and burnt in a bone house. At this London golgotha, the hellfires burned day and night.

But as Peter Harp stressed, nothing was more stomach-churning than the Baptist Enon Chapel (built in 1823 or thereabouts) which stood on what is today St. Clement's Lane off the Strand. Grieving families paid the minister, a certain Mr. Howse, 15 shillings apiece to consign the coffins of loved ones to the vault beneath. The fact that the Enon Chapel Vault was only 60 ft. long, 29 ft. wide and 6 ft. deep didn't deter the minister who stuffed untold numbers of deceased Londoners beneath the floorboards as he conducted divine service in the chapel above. The stench of corpses was often more than the congregation could bear. Worshippers inhaling it fainted and fell ill. Loathsome black insects, nicknamed "body bugs" by the Sunday School children, infested the chapel in the summer and local residents battled a vast army of rats. When Howse died in 1842 it was estimated that he'd consigned 11,000 bodies to the hellhole beneath Enon Chapel.

So how had Howse jammed so many corpses into such a small space? Peter Harp contends that the fiendish minister broke into a sewer that ran through the vault and flushed decomposing bodies into the Thames. It was a scene that Hieronymus Bosch would have quaked at. Incredibly he revealed that the grisly Enon Chapel was later used for tea dances. Records show that it became a "low dancing saloon" for those of the teetotal persuasion, unabashedly displaying a sign which read: "Enon Chapel - Dancing on the Dead - Admission threepence - No lady or gentleman admitted unless wearing shoes and stockings." A drawing in "The Poor Man's Guardian" of December 4th 1847 shows dancers cavorting over a charnel house of bones and shattered coffins.

As the scandalous condition of London's graveyards became increasingly apparent, a string of countryside cemeteries began to spring up. Kensal Green, which opened in 1833, was the first of these to challenge the long tradition of burial in local churchyard or family vault. But Peter noted that it was only when Princess Sophia, daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte, was buried at Kensal Green in 1848, that it became a socially acceptable repository for the dead. There's still room for 1,000 burials in its catacombs. But there's a catch: coffins cost £7,000 each. Other cemeteries that followed Kensal Green included West Norwood (1837), Highgate Cemetery (1839), Abney Park (1840), Brompton (1840), Nunhead (1840), Tower Hamlets (1841), and Brookwood (1854).

Brookwood near Woking in Surrey offered a railway line that linked the cemetery to a terminus just outside Waterloo Station. When mourners arrived on the special trains from London they discovered a North Station for Nonconformists and South Station for Anglicans. Wags joked that Brookwood's bars displayed a sign that announced: "Spirits Served Here."

Peter ended his talk with a mention of the growing custom of cremating the dead in Britain. In 1874 Queen Victoria's surgeon, Sir Henry Thompson, founded the Cremation Society and the first official cremation took place in 1885 at Woking Crematorium in Surrey after a judge had deemed it legal. Dr. Walker died suddenly in Wales in 1884 while working on his book "Grave Reminiscences." It was never published. London may have long forgotten Dr. Walker and the debt it owes him. But Peter Harp is determined to honour both his memory and achievement. That parliament intervened to outlaw further internment in London's wildly insanitary graveyards by the Burial Act of 1851 is largely due to Dr. Walker's courage and determination, he avers.

If Peter Harp's talk at times evoked the grisliest of Hammer Horror films, it did reveal one of the grimmest aspects of life in early 19th Century London and introduce to all who bravely attended the heroic doctor who put an end to a foul obscenity that stained the nation's capital. Thankfully, not a single member of the Society had to be revived with smelling salts.

© EDLHS/Stephen Webbe

Saturday 15th October 2011

The Elmbridge Hundred

by Alistair Grant


This event was very well attended with eighty members and guests. Alistair concentrated his talk on several people who were local to Esher, mainly Victorian writers and poets of the romantic period. One of the first mentioned was Thomas Babington Macaulay 1800 - 1859 Historian, Poet and Writer who lived at Ditton Marsh. George Meredith 1828 - 1909 a celebrated Victorian Novelist and Poet was also included.

Two more modern names could not be missed, John Lennon 1940 - 1980 Musician, Composer and Political Activist who by mid 1964 had set up home at St. George's Hill, Weybridge and George Harrison 1943 - 2001 Composer, Musician and Film Producer who moved into a bungalow called Kinfauns near Claremont, Esher. Alistair was thanked for the eloquence of his script and for giving us such detailed information about some of the Hundred.

For a full list of the Elmbridge Hundred see the links page with the website address.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 10th September 2011

Surrey County History

by Julian Pooley of the Surrey History Centre.

We had been invited to Claremont Mansion to take part in the Heritage Day and several members acted as room stewards during the morning. There was much to be done at the property as the Claremont Tree Society were giving guided tours of the grounds which are not normally open to the public, there were guided tours within the property and there was tea, coffee and cakes throughout the day in the Grand Room.

The Drawing Room was set up for our meeting with several prints on the walls including Princess Charlotte wearing her Russian dress, the original Vanbrugh Claremont and a young Princess Victoria with the Duchess of Kent.

Julian Pooley from the Surrey History Centre at Woking spoke about the writing of Surrey's County History and informed the large audience about the problems encountered by early historians to get their information into print. He mentioned how historical documents were used to resolve boundary disputes and outlined the careers of men in the 18th and 19th century who had the vision to enquire and record the counyt's history in three large volumes.

After a popular question and answer session Julian was thanked for his informative, concise and educated lecture and then all were invited to attend the Grand Room for tea and coffee.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 23rd July and Sunday 24th July 2011

A study of Esher Parish in Maps 1005 - 1846

at St. George's Church, Esher

President Christine Dall and Anne LewisUnder the heading "Archaeology for All" the Esher Village Studies Group presented a display of facsimile maps from the time of the Eynsham cartulary to the Tithe apportionment. The presentation was held over 2 days between 11.00am and 4.00pm, the four members of the group sharing the time, always having one of them present to answer questions. The event proved to be very well attended over both days and the maps were stunning examples of early times in Esher.

Further information and photos appear on the Research Projects page. Note also the entry about "Putting Esher on the Map" on the Newsletter Extracts page.


Thursday 14th July 2011

A coach trip to visit Cliveden House and Gardens

This visit proved to be extremely popular and the list was full within a few weeks of booking slips being issued. A full coach of 52 set out from the Dittons Library car park at 9.30am. Cliveden was a stunning location, with arrangements having been made on arrival to visit the Cliveden Conservation Centre.There was then time for a walk around the magnificent gardens before and after lunch. A late afternoon visit to the House with a guided tour made the day a most memorable one. Peter Hills was warmly thanked at the conclusion for making the event such a resounding success.


Thursday 9th June 2011

A walk around Historic Esher meeting at St. George's Church to commence and finish the stroll.

Again more than 50 members and guests attended this walk which was arranged to be of an informal type, as members collected printed guides and a map at the church and set off in groups to walk the route at their own pace.

The first port of call was The Friends Meeting House on Claremont Lane who had kindly kept the property open for us, enabling the interior to be seen. Meetings had been held in the district in the mid 17th century and in 1793 land had been purchased and the current pleasant one-story building had been erected. Walkers then returned to the High Street and saw the Bear Inn, The Old Village Pump, The Victoria Memorial and the Drinking Fountain. Next came the Grapes, one of Esher's oldest surviving houses and then the former Post Office. Several other properties were admired as we went down the High Street as far as Moore Place Hotel, sadly currently boarded up. The return was on the opposite side of the road as far as Park Road which gives a fine view of Christ Church, consecrated in 1854. We crossed to Esher Green and back to the High Street and concluded the walk with a visit to The Traveller's Rest and Sandown House.

Back at St. George's Church tea and coffee had been arranged and there was a Power point presentation of old pictures of the route, display boards with old images and there was a short question and answer session amongst those present. A thoroughly enjoyable evening with one of the stars being the old church, the oldest public building in Esher.


Thursday 12th May 2011

A walk around Claremont School Grounds

with Eric and Noel Leigh of Claremont Tree Society

This walk proved to be very popular, 51 members and guests attended the Mansion at 6.30pm for the evening walk. The weather was fine and because of the large number attending two groups were formed.

All manner of trees were seen during the visit, predominantly varieties of oak, but also many others including some rare specimens. They cannot all be listed in this short report but included in the first part were a Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum), a Colorado Blue Spruce, a Walnut Tree and Kentucky Coffee Trees (Gymnocladus dioicus).

The Claremont Tree Society are responsible for continuing to plant trees for the future and amongst many young specimens we saw on our visit was a small Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba). There were oaks including Red Oak, Hungarian Oak, Turkey Oak and Black Oak. As we entered the woodland area the Cork Oak underneath which Princess Victoria had taken tea was seen. Finally, on our return to the Mansion, at the end of this most enjoyable walk Noel gave us a description of how one recognises the varieties of Cedars.


Sunday 8th May 2011

Historic Garden Open Day in aid of the Princess Alice Hospice


Committee members Anne and Peter Hills opened their garden for the second year in a row at 7 More Lane, Esher and free parking was arranged with Sandown Racecourse at the More Lane entrance.

The walled garden looked superb at this late Spring event and proved to be a popular place to visit on a warm, sunny day. There was much to see, including some rare shade loving plants and spring and summer bulbs under them.

In 1730 Henry Pelham commissioned William Kent to remodel Wayneflete Tower and to landscape the surrounding area, Esher Place. Within four years this was in the majority accomplished. The Head Gardener, Robert Leadman, leased a Cottage, Orangery and extensive Walled Garden within the Pelham Estate. He lived at the Gardener's Cottage whilst managing and maintaining the 'Pleasure Gardens' and 'Kitchen Gardens' that famously featured in many 19th century publications. The successive Head Gardeners would enter the estate through an imposing brick Archway, 6 metres high, onto Wayneflete Tower Avenue.

The Gardener's Cottage, Orangery, Wall and Archway still stand and visitors were able to stroll around the delightful garden and enjoy tea on the terrace by the summer rockery.


Thursday 14th April 2011

The AGM followed by

The Esher Commons - Past, Present and Future

by David Page

Our President Dr. Pamela Reading had indicated her wish to retire from the position after three years. The Society was not allowing her to go that easily and appointed her as a Vice-President. Christine Whittle-Dall was appointed unanimously as the new President of the Society. The Chairman reported a most successful year with an increased membership and attendances at meetings. All other members of the committee were willing to remain in post. The guest speaker was then introduced.

David Page is the Countryside Estates Officer at Elmbridge Council and has worked on the Commons for over 20 years. He is currently completing the Esher Commons Restoration and Management Plan which was agreed in 2006 to help restore the nationally important grass, heath and wetland habitats still found there. David gave a marvellously informative, illustrated talk which covered aspects of the natural and social history of the Commons and countryside around Esher.


Saturday 12th March 2011

The Queens Women

Defeating the Contagious Diseases Acts 1864 - 1886

by Chris Forester

In 1860, figures revealed that up to one third of the army suffered from sexual diseases causing them to be unfit for duty. The government passed an Act that was so draconian, it galvanised women into action and ultimately led to women getting the vote.

Chris gave a well presented, informative talk. The Society have been fortunate to have a hat trick of talks from him in recent years showing his great qualities as a guest speaker.



Saturday 12th February 2011

Craftsmen in the Big Houses of the 17th and 18th Centuries

by Sylvia Oliver M.A.

Another well attended meeting heard Sylvia talk about the social and economic changes in Britain which caused an increased demand for the services of Craftsmen. The talk explored how the Craftsmen adapted their skills to carry out the wishes of the landowners, who were building, rebuilding or extending their houses to show their wealth and political influence. Reference was made to the properties at Claremont and Ham House.

A fuller report appears in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 22nd January 2011

Life below Stairs in the Nineteenth Century

by Dr. Judy Hill


Initially with this illustrated talk Judy showed us a slide of numbers of servants in many roles in 1851 and 1871. It was obvious from those figures that as a general principal the numbers of females increased in the later year and the numbers of males decreased. There were over a million servants in Britain in this period. Industrialisation was to play its part in the reduction of males working in country houses.

She went on to describe the ranking and structure of the servants in the households and continued with the job descriptions of many of them. From the Housemaid whose work with others would start at 5am cleaning grates, lighting fires, sweeping, dusting and polishing, work that would continue until late at night, to the role of the Housekeeper whose badge of office was a large bunch of keys. The Laundrymaid, the Dairymaid, the Chef, Valet, Footman and Coachman were some of the many appointments required to run the property to a standard.

The talk drew on letters, diaries and autobiographies giving a vivid insight into the day-to-day lives of country house servants. There were many questions and answers afterwards which showed the enjoyment and information that the audience had drawn from the talk. It was also a new record for the Society at this venue, a total of 80 members and guests.

A full report appears in the Spring newsletter.


Thursday 9th December 2010

All the Fun of the Fair

by Jeremy Harte


Jeremy's first slide showed us Fairs that took place all over Surrey and Horse Fairs initially took precedence over any other kind. As the Victorian era progressed the fairground became the attraction that drew people in and illustrations were shown of how crowds flocked to the events and a comment was made about the rubbish that was left behind.

From flimsy stalls and sideshows to gleaming steam-driven machinery, the fair never ceased to attract attention, condemnation and investment. Fairground folk were a community like no other - quick-witted as the clowns, ostentatious as the gilded gingerbread and frequently as law-abiding as Mr. Punch himself.

Jeremy who is the manager of Bourne Hall Museum described daylight and twilight fairs, the peep show, fairground art, magic mirrors, boxing booths, the travelling menagerie and what was behind the curtains.

A truly stunning presentation which was followed by wine and mince pies. A full report appears in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 20th November 2010

The Volunteer Force on Esher Common 1859 - 1921

by Jon Moore

Seventy six members and guests attended this talk by Jon who is working towards an MPhil at Kingston University. This talk was based on that work.

Between about 1848 and the latter half of the 1850s there were scares arising from perceived threats by the French against the British. The French were modernising their navy and the British Army was in large part scattered around the globe.

The Volunteer Force was to be set up on a county basis with the Lord Lieutenant's approval being required. A Corps could be formed with a minimum of 60 members and 3 officers. Kingston struggled to form a Corps but Esher was more successful and was Gazetted as the 6th Company of the Surrey Rifle Volunteers effective the 29th October 1859. Jon then outlined many names both of the officers and other ranks which he had identified, including the second private recruited, William Limbrick, the publican at the Prince of Wales at West End, Esher.

The Esher Corps was fortunate to be allowed to build their rifle range on the Claremont 'wastes'. Jon outlined what remains at the site today and then described what men did there with the targets up to 900 yards away.

The talk was superbly illustrated and contained a rich description of events of the period. A fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 16th October 2010

The Story of the Grace and Favour Residents at Hampton Court

by Ian Franklin

Seventy four members and guests attended this talk by Ian who is a State Apartment Warder at Hampton Court. It was almost seven years ago that he had come to the Society and had spoken about the Palace behind the scenes. This was an entirely different talk that took us through the wealth of personalities who had connections with the Palace.

Much was learned by an appreciative audience who were shown illustrations on slides of paper ephemera material that had survived including photos of areas that the public are not entitled to see.

He outlined the fact that the approach building to the Palace on the left after entering through the Trophy Gates was a block which had been a Military Garrison until 1914. Even frequent visitors to Hampton Court were to learn new facts. Several personalties who had lived in the apartments were looked at in detail and then Ian took many questions from the interested audience. He was thanked for such a well researched talk and it had been worth the wait to have him as our guest speaker again.

A full report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 18th September 2010

The East Surrey's in WWI

by Ian Chatfield


A very well attended meeting opened the new season of talks. Forty six members and guests came to listen to the story of a local regiment. Ian briefly explained their initial formation and then outlined the involvement that they had in World War I. Kingston Barracks was too small to train many of the men and most were trained elsewhere including training camps in Richmond Park. In all 18 Battalions were formed from Regulars, Territorial Army, Volunteers and Conscripts. A total of 6,356 officers and men died in Service.

7 Victoria Crosses were won, 3 in one day on Hill 60. Each of those awards was looked at with images of the men involved. On 1st July 1916 2 footballs were kicked towards the enemy lines with men following and the East Surrey's football charge was the headline in a copy of the Daily Sketch. Only two footballs were involved and they were brought back to Kingston on 22nd July 1916. There had been about 350 casualties from a 1000 men.

A full report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Thursday 22nd July 2010

Annual coach trip to the Historic Dockyard at Chatham

Fifty two members and guests attended this trip which had been fully booked for some months. After arrival the party were divided into two groups each with their own guide. The Dockyard is a stunning survivor of a bygone era and the tour enthralled everyone present. There was time after lunch for individuals to explore the large site, decisions having to be made as to whether to attend the working Napoleonic Ropery and make rope or to go on board the Second World War destroyer HMS Cavalier or board the Cold War submarine HMS Ocelot.

Additionally there were galleries and a museum setting out the dockyard's 400 year history. Many of the group took the opportunity to upgrade their ticket for another visit. So much to see and on the coach trip back members commented on what a memorable day it had been.


Thursday 10th June 2010

A walk around Cobham led by our Vice-President David Taylor

It was a dark, windy and wet night when 26 walkers met at Hollyhedge Road, Car Park. A three mile walk followed and David took walkers to areas of Cobham that many never knew existed. At the end many were discussing when they could return again. A fuller report will appear in the Autumn newsletter. A collection was made at the end for David's charity - the Cobham Uganda partnership.


Tuesday 18th May 2010

A visit to Abbot's Hospital, High Street, Guildford

Twenty six members and guests attended for a "Bespoke Tour" of this magnificent Grade 1 listed building which had been founded by George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1619. The Hospital's plan was modelled on an Oxford or Cambridge college of the kind Abbot knew well. It is not a hospital in the modern sense, but in the old-fashioned meaning as a home for the elderly.

Our numbers were split into three groups each with an individual guide. The High Street frontage is dominated by the central gate tower which is flanked by two wings. The great oak doors bear George Abbot's initials, the three gold pears of his personal coat of arms and the Y-shaped pallium of the See of Canterbury. The gate tower contains a strongroom, now known as the Monmouth Room which we were shown displaying many artefacts and we were then taken to the top which had splendid views of Guildford.

We had initially been taken to the Guesten Hall which was comfortably panelled and we were also privileged to see the Chapel with magnificent painted-glass windows. The Common Hall and the Garden were also shown and described to us. The Society had been fortunate to have visited this beautiful building and to have had such splendid guides.


Thursday 15th April 2010

Victorian Life in the Surrey Hills

by Matthew Alexander

The business part of the AGM was kept to a minimum. The only alteration to the officers and committee was that Peter Hills became Honorary Secretary, all others members remained in post.

Matthew Alexander then outlined that life for ordinary people in the Surrey Hills in the later part of the 19th century was picturesque perhaps, but hard, as they wrested a living from unrewarding soils. His lecture was eloquent and illustrated with some superb early images, many of them memorable for the detail of the person or event they were portraying. There were photographs of men ready to dig carrots, a charcoal burner, hop picking by ladies and a Surrey smock to name a few. A most informative talk was warmly applauded by the forty two persons present.

A full report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.


Saturday 13th March 2010

A presentation by the Esher Village Studies Group

Seventy five members and guests attended this presentation by four members who had done a vast amount of work and research, which Jo Richards outlined in the introduction.

They would be covering the period from around the arrival of the railway in Esher and would be working backwards from about 1850. A copy of the Tithe map was on display along with other maps and records. The major influences on the development of Esher and what brought people here over the ages were to be investigated. The sources would include maps, parish records, family papers and tax and census returns. Esher Library had a large local history collection which they had now largely catalogued. The project was work in progress and eventually it was hoped to publish a book.

Dr. Veronica King outlined the geology of the area, and covered the Portsmouth Road and coaching.

Anne Hills spoke about Esher Green and its development.

Pat Worthy continued the presentation with information about Sandon Hospital.

Jo Richards concluded with information about the landscape and medieval open fields.

David Taylor in a tribute at the end complimented them on the quality of the work done. He stated how long we had waited as a society for such a group to work towards the goal of a published document. It would form part of a series of books which was encouraged and supported by the Surrey Archaeological Society.


Saturday 13th February 2010

Nonsuch Memories

by Gerald S. H. Smith MBE


More than forty members and guests attended this talk about Nonsuch. Gerald had kindly agreed to give us an introduction about Nonsuch Palace as well as the story of Nonsuch Mansion.

He had spoken earlier that day to a group in Cheam and to allow him time to recover from his journey a short presentation of some local images and information about the proposed Elmbridge Hundred was given.

Gerald then gave an eloquent talk using slides. He showed us the original Palace and gave an explanation that so little survived because of the recycling of the material. He then went on to explain that the Mansion which is located within Nonsuch Park was built in 1731-43 by Joseph Thompson. It was rebuilt in Tudor Gothic style in 1802-6.

It became an important centre for Victorian and Edwardian high society in the area until its decline before WW2.

More information will be available in the Spring Newsletter.


Saturday 23rd January 2010

Imber Court House, Thames Ditton by Chris Forester

Another well advertised event brought in a new recent record of sixty two members and guests.

Chris told us about the early history of the estate giving a brief outline of the many owners including Onslow. He used maps to show the sheer size of the grounds and images to portray the beautiful gardens which complimented the house.

During WWI, the Munitions and Inventions Department was set up by Winston Churchill and between 1915 and 1920 the land became one of several testing grounds. Major William Herbert Smith was in charge and they set about experimenting with many contraptions which might assist the troops at the front.

The building was knocked down shortly after the war and the large estate was sold off, some of it for housing, some for light indusrial usage and some to the police for horse training and later as a sports club. All that survives is an old Lime tree.

Chris also reminded us that it was the scene of a horrendous incident in 1944 when a flying bomb fell on the sports field and 23 Welsh Guards were killed.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter.


Thursday 10th December 2009

A Christmas Meeting with several members giving short talks.

A well advertised event drew in forty five members and guests for this festive occasion.

Penny Rainbow described the work of William Kent with beautiful illustrations some of the images shown being snow scenes.

Anne Hills gave a delightful talk about the Gardeners Cottage which lies within the grounds of Esher Place and traced its existence back through the centuries.

Christine Dall recited a piece of poetry to conclude part one and refreshments were taken.

Steve Webbe then gave us a lovely story about Princess Victoria meeting the gypsies in Esher.

Paul Langton provided pictures of some thought provoking postcards and the audience joined him singing a verse of "Robin Hood".

Maureen Langton concluded proceedings by reading the poem "Christmas" by John Betjeman.

The Winter 2009 Newsletter was also distrubuted to those members attending. More details of this meeting will appear in the Spring newsletter


Saturday 14th November 2009

Historic Gardens of Surrey by Cherrill Sands


The day was memorable for being very wet and very windy. However, despite this more than 40 members attended to listen to Cherrill talk about some of the lesser known gardens in Surrey and additionally a couple of her favourites. They may be lesser known but her illustrations were to provide the audience with wonderful images of gardens close to us.

She covered a number of centuries in this talk and commenced with the garden at Albury which is near Guildford. Others included Gatton Park, Merstham, Titsey Place Gardens, Oxted and Great Fosters, Egham.

Claremont, Esher and Painshill, Cobham could not be forgotten. Cherrill was thanked for such a splendid talk, which had given many of our members a list of beautiful places to visit.

A fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 24th October 2009

"1536: The Year that changed Henry"

Suzannah Lipscomb Research Curator at Hampton Court Palace


The Society were privileged to have Suzannah with us the day before she flew out to the USA for a series of lectures.

Before the lecture there was a tribute to Colin Dall, Vice-President, former Chairman and Newsletter Editor whose funeral had taken place on the preceding Thursday.

Suzannah then enthralled the large number of members and guests about this amazing year in the life of Henry.

It all seemed to be going so well for Henry, such a handsome, athletic man with a warm and benevolent nature and then on 24th January 1536 he had a jousting accident. From that moment and throughout the year it became obvious that Henry was a changed man.

This lecture was a highlight of the year for the Society and a fuller report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 19th September 2009

Children First and Always: Victorian and Edwardian In-patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Dr. Sue Hawkins

Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease Queen's Square London WC at 72dpi

The Alexandra Hospital, one of the London Children's Hospitals mentioned in the talk.


Over forty members and guests attended this talk which commenced the new season. Dr. Sue Hawkins gained her doctorate, on nursing in Victorian London, at Kingston University. She is the research project manager for the Centre's Great Ormond Street Hospital Victorian patient admissions project and is currently managing a follow up on two further London children's hospitals.

The database is rapidly expanding and now circa 120,000 admissions will be recorded. There were many arguments against children's hospitals in the Victorian era, one being that children should not be removed from their mothers. The original hospital for sick children was opened at 49, Great Ormond Street on 14th February 1852.

Much information was imparted of Surrey children who had been admitted including details of two brothers living at High Street, Esher next to the Coburg Arms. Also mentioned were the illnesses that these children were admitted with including tubercular diseases often with joints, bones or muscles problems.

A full report will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Thursday 23th July 2009

Coach trip to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum Singleton, near Chichester

Market Hall 17th century



Thirty members and guests attended this magnificent Museum which had been launched in 1967 by a small group of enthusiasts led by the Museum's founder, the late Dr. J.R. Armstrong MBE.

The principal aim of the founding group was to establish a centre that could rescue representative examples of vernacular buildings from the South East of England, and thereby to generate an increased public awareness and interest in the built environment.

The Museum promotes the retention of buildings on their original sites unless there is no alternative.

The group were guided in the morning by one of the volunteers, Anne, who showed many of the buildings to us and offered tips on how to spend the remainder of the day after lunch. Shire horses at work and Lurgashall Mill grinding wheat into flour were some of the many highlights.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.


Thursday 18th June 2009

A walk around Ewell

Our guide for the evening was Ian West and included a visit to Ewell Tower and Spring House


Our meeting point was St. Mary's Church, London Road, Ewell and 23 members and guests attended the location to listen to Ian who has a vast knowledge and understanding of the architecture of both Epsom and Ewell.

He gave all present a fascinating introduction to the history of the village area and we were privileged to enter Ewell Tower and Spring House which are the subject of much ongoing work. The walk took us by Ewell Castle and another building displaying Tuck pointing which he had explained in an earlier lecture to us.

Mathematical tiles were shown at the conclusion of the evening and as he explained they were not a consequence of the brick tax.

A full report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.


Tuesday 19th May 2009

A visit to a Paupers Prison

The Spike, Warren Road, Guildford


The Workhouse stood on the periphery of Guildford and in 1906 stood as a testament to the welfare system. It housed the forgotten classes of England - the poor, the infirm, the ill and the destitute. In that year a purpose-built Casual Ward was designed to separate the 'undesirable' vagrants and their disruptive influence from the routine of the Workhouse.

The Society were to enjoy this well attended visit by listening to costumed guides of the period telling them about the experiences that inmates endured to earn their keep at the Spike.

More details to follow in the Autumn newsletter.


Thursday 16th April 2009

Excavation at Wayneflete Tower in 2007

by Peter Harp

Wayneflete Tower has been the logo of the Society since formation.

Peter gave a brilliant account of the excavation that took place a couple of years ago. He detailed the effort involved in completing the task and showed us with splendid illustrations many of the finds. A perfect topic for the AGM.

A fuller report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.


Saturday 14th March 2009

Made of Clay

Early brick buildings in Surrey

by Ian West


Ian explained the production of early brick in the county and brought with him several samples which were available for members to look at during the break. With illustrations on slides he showed many of the earliest buildings in Surrey. Some of the notable ones were the Epsom Assembly Rooms, the first Spa Assembly Room in the country and the perfect Robert Dyas shopfront in Dorking. Ham House, Carshalton House, Clandon House and many others were shown with a detailed description of each and the merits of certain architectural features.

A full report of Ian's informative, entertaining and excellent talk will appear in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 14th February 2009

A History of Walton Bridge

by Nick Pollard

Excellent illustrations accompanied Nick's very informative lecture about the 5 bridges and the proposed sixth. He took us back to a 1747 Act of Parliament which allowed the building of the first bridge and he showed the 1754 Canelleto painting of the bridge which is at the Dulwich Art Gallery. This was a wooden bridge which spanned 130' and was 65' high in the middle. The wooden bridge did not last long and was replaced by one similar in style to Queens Bridge, Cambridge in 1788. The collapse of the bridge's central arches in 1859 led to the railway coming to Shepperton in 1864. The 3rd bridge was a girder bridge and in 1870 was freed from toll. Nick outlined the construction of the later bridges and mentioned proposals for the future.

A fuller report will appear in the Spring newsletter.


Saturday 17th January 2009

RC Sherriff's journey: from soldier to playwright

by David Filsell

A former journalist and corporate affairs director, David now writes on the Great War and reviews military books. His passion for the works of author and dramatist RC Sherriff has involved hours spent researching the Sherriff Collection at Surrey History Centre. Sherriff served as a captain in the East Surrey Regiment during the First World War and his experiences are captured in the hundreds of letters he wrote home. David focussed on Sherriff's war and how it inspired him to write his great play 'Journey's End'.

A fuller report will appear in the Society's spring newsletter.

The Society were associated with RC Sherriff towards the end of his life. In our newsletter of December 1975 his death was recorded and stated "many members will recall the enjoyable afternoon we spent at his home 'Rosebriars', in May 1972, when he talked to us and showed us round his garden. Often, afterwards, he wrote in appreciation of the items which appeared in the Local History News, and he was full of enthusiasm and encouragement for the objectives and ideas which bind us together as a Society.

David after his informative talk took a question and answer session adding to our knowledge of the character of the man and was warmly thanked for such a splendid insight into a local personality.


Thursday 11th December 2008

The Classic Post Office

by Paul Wood


Paul had been busy the previous month over the Remembrance weekend and had taken his preserved Mail Van to Quorn Station, Leics. In a ceremony the Duke of Gloucester had renamed a steam locomotive to mark the centenary of the Territorial Army. Paul had then picked up mail as the Travelling PO came rushing through dispatching the mail as in days past and conveyed it to an Army PO.

Paul had been a telegram boy in the late 1950's before becoming a postman. He showed the audience of over 40 members many magnificent early slides of Staff, Vehicles and Buildings, produced an old postman's chapeau and regaled us with fascinating stories of his own and his father's experiences from the early days until the end of the General Post Office in 1969.

A full report of Paul's excellent talk to the Society will appear in the Spring 2009 newsletter.


Saturday 15th November 2008

The History and Development of the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch

by Chris Forester

Chris worked as a Constable and Sergeant in the Mounted Branch and he has researched many facets of the Metropolitan Police history. He is the author of many articles on police history and allied subjects. It was in 1984 that he founded the Mounted Branch Museum at Imber Court in Thames Ditton Surrey.

His lecture to the Society explained how the Mounted Police developed and adapted over time from chasing and deterring highwaymen to maintaining public order at demonstrations, football matches and other gatherings. His explanation verified that they are as essential now as in 1736.

Chris was warmly thanked for giving such a humorous, informative and well presented talk.


Saturday 18th October 2008

The Reward and Commemoration of 'everyday heroism' in England 1850 - 1914

by John Price


A Royal Warrant instituted the Albert Medal and the first recipient was dated 23rd March 1866. The following year the award was split into a 1st and 2nd class distinction for acts of courage at sea. In 1877 the medal was instituted for saving life on land. In 1917 the 1st and 2nd class distinctions were revoked and finally in 1971 the Albert Medal itself was revoked. The award could be controversial and was refused for many reasons including insufficient risk to life, insufficient evidence or multiple acts at the same incident.

John gave an excellent account and examples to members of how the award was won or refused. He outlined examples of the courage that would be required including the story of HMS Birkenhead in 1852 and of a woman Grace Darling who earlier had been a heroine.

A fuller report of John's well illustrated and very enjoyable lecture will appear in the Winter newsletter.


Saturday 27th September 2008

Poverty Unrest and the Response in Surrey

by Dr. Judy Hill


Forty members attended the first lecture of the new series as Dr.Judy Hill told us about the Swing Riots in Surrey 1830 - 1832.

There had been much unease in the country at this time, particularly in southern parts with a great deal of unrest in Kent but also in Surrey. Formally noted offences in the county included 48 cases of incendiarism, 7 cases of threatening letters and 5 food riots to name a few. The rising took place against increasing pauperisation of labourers after 1827 because of bad harvests. The summer of 1830 was wet and cold and was a particularly poor harvest. Parishes were finding it difficult to provide Poor relief.

The labourer's grievances included a demand for higher wages, the destruction of threshing machines, direct access to the land and the granting of Poor relief as a right and not as a privilege.

Events are often difficult to trace as vestry minutes didn't want to show that their parishes were involved in the Swing Riots. Certainly in this period Cobham was to appoint Special Constables to police the area. Outsiders were often blamed but the truth is local labourers had had enough.

Dr. Hill was warmly thanked for an informative and knowledgeable lecture.


Thursday 24th July 2008

Visit by coach to the Foundling Museum.


Thirty two members and guests met at Thames Ditton library car park for a coach trip to Brunswick Square WC1. On our way we passed Lambeth Palace (the scene of a visit the previous year) and Russell Square arriving in good time for our guided tours.

The museum is situated in a leafy Bloomsbury cul-de-sac, between the British Museum and the British Library. It tells the story of Thomas Coram who in the early 1720s was horrified by the many young children he saw abandoned on the streets of London. He resolved to do something about this drastic situation and spent the next 17 years working to raise funds for the establishment of the Foundling Hospital. It was supported by some of the leading cultural figures of the day including William Hogarth and George Frederick Handel. The Hospital was to close in 1926 and many paintings and exhibits are now on display in the Museum adjoining the site of the original Hospital. Today, Coram continues the Foundling Hospital's work with vulnerable children and young people.

After the visit was an opportunity to take lunch locally with a large selection of restaurants and cafes available and then being at the heart of London's Museum Mile informal visits were made to Dickens House or the British Library. Many extended a walk as far as the newly transformed St. Pancras to see the champagne bar!

A return journey on this hot sunny day in our air conditioned coach through Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square reminded us of the magnificence of London and concluded a very pleasant, enjoyable and informative day.


Saturday 19th July 2008

Claygate Flower and Village Show

Pamela ensures that the balloons are correctly positioned

Before the start and Pamela ensures that the balloons don't hide our name!

Visitors inspect the Society's maps and photos

Visitors inspect the Society's maps and photos. The display boards were laid on tables as it was a breezy day!


It is several years since the Society had a stall at a local event and a decision was taken that in our 40th year we should advertise ourselves.

This was the 105th year of the Claygate Show and was very well attended. Great interest was shown in the maps and photos that were exhibited and a constant flow of people ensured that the time flew by. As the President of the Show David Williams said in his programme notes "Flower show is a day for all the family and also a day when old friendships are renewed and new friendships are made". The local M.P. Ian Taylor was one of the first visitors to the stand and told us "Keep up the good work".

Thanks are due to Chris and Gay Harris for helping with the setting up and dismantling. Thanks also to Pamela Reading and Christine Dall for their support and good humour in greeting the many visitors.


Wednesday 18th June 2008

So you think you know Kingston.

A walk around central Kingston with a Kingston Tour Guide.

Alan Mason giving details of the Kingston Bridges

Alan Mason shows us the cobblestones at the site of the first Kingston Bridge and tells his audience about the history of the current bridge.


Twenty three members attended the evening meeting and were given a very good insight into the varied and amazing history of the Royal Borough by Alan Mason.

The walk around one of the best preserved medieval street layouts in Greater London included stories about the coaching inns and the Coronation Stone of Saxon Kings. A visit to the riverside showed us the site of the first bridge at Kingston to cross the Thames and a look under the present bridge showed the work required to extend it twice from the original width.

Descriptions of the long lost industries and buildings in the area added to the interest of an enjoyable evening. A full report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.


Thursday 29th May 2008

A visit to the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch at Imber Court, Ember Lane, East Molesey.

40th Anniversary Cake


Over 50 members and guests attended the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Esher District Local History Society and were privileged to visit the Mounted Branch. A guided tour of the stables and museum was given after a passing-out parade for newly trained horses and riders.

The visit was followed by a buffet which was held in the Esher Suite of the main building. The Elmbridge Deputy Mayor, Councillor James Vickers, was guest of honour and Pamela Reading, President of the Society, welcomed him to the meeting. A fuller report appears on the News Items page.


Thursday 17th April 2008

AGM followed by The Homewood

by Andrew King of the National Trust

After many years as President, David Taylor stood down this year and Pamela Reading was voted in as our new President. He accepted a position as Vice-President, as did Colin Dall who had for many years served in various capacities on the committee.

After formal proceedings about 40 members, listened to Andrew give an excellent, enthusiastic and entertaining talk to the Society about "The Homewood", near Esher, Surrey. It is a country villa reflecting the style and ethos of the Modern Movement designed and lived in by the architect Patrick Gwynne. He created the house for his family - his father, mother, sister and himself - and completed it in the early summer of 1938.

However, the Gwynnes lived together for only a little over a year as the Second World War broke out in the autumn of 1939 and Commander Gwynne was forced out of retirement re-entering the Royal Navy. Patrick joined the Royal Air Force, and his sister Noreen (known as Babs) joined the Women's Royal Naval Service. Both parents died during the war and Patrick and Babs returned in 1945. She soon married and moved out, while Patrick remained. There he had his architectural office, tended the ten-acre garden, entertained and lived at the house until his death in May 2003.

A full report will appear in the Autumn Newsletter.


Saturday 15th March 2008

An Introduction to Family History

Diane Marelli

This well attended meeting listened to the Family History author Diane Marelli giving us an insight into research into her own family history. She was a very enthusiastic speaker on her subject and was able to offer much advice on the pitfalls if one is proposing to do research.

The lecture was accompanied by excellent illustrations using a PowerPoint presentation and she outlined the details of several members of her family, giving us much information about life in Victorian London. There were examples of the workhouse and imprisonment in this difficult time and we were also reminded that a workhouse existed in Esher.

A full report of this very good talk will appear in the Spring Newsletter.


Saturday 23rd February 2008

An Estate for All Seasons

By EDLHS President David Taylor


Over 50 members and guests attended this meeting to hear David Taylor talk about his tenth book.

In 1806 Harvey Christian Combe, brewer and Lord Mayor of London, decided to establish himself as a country gentleman and purchased the Cobham Park estate. His family played a significant role in the development of the village into a small town over the past two centuries.

David talked about the bicentenary of Harvey's arrival in Cobham and told the story of his descendants and their contributions to the estate.

He told us that the Combe family were relative newcomers to Cobham, an area of ancient settlement. Recent excavations at Down Farm have revealed occupation of the site in the Anglo-Saxon period. The land saw many fascinating owners and occupiers, including a fishmonger granted lands for his 'faithful services' to Chertsey Abbey, a royal officer under Henry VIII, an apothecary to Elizabeth I, the Suttons, who had links to the famous episode of Gerrard Winstanley, and a gentleman of Charles II's 'privye chamber'.

A full report of David's fascinating talk will appear in the Spring 2008 Newsletter.


Saturday 19th January 2008

Surrey Domesday

Patrick Molineux

Over 50 members attended this meeting to hear Patrick Molineux talk about Domesday Book with the emphasis on Surrey and our own local area.

Some say that Domesday Book is the most important document in English history, vying for that honour with Magna Carta.

Patrick gave us a superb talk on that early period telling us the owners of the areas in our locality including Chertsey Abbey and Westminster Abbey. He described the way that taxes were collected, in one way in the form of a a hide which originally was a unit of land. He detailed how the peasants whether they be villans, borders, cottars or slaves worked the land. The most important land was ploughland but meadow, grazing and woodland were also of great use.

A full report of Patrick's excellent lecture will appear in the Spring 2008 Newsletter.


Wednesday 12th December 2007

The Story of Holly (Our Christmas meeting)

Chris Howkins

The Christmas meeting was well attended to hear writer and publisher Chris talk about the Holly. There was a strong Xmas theme to the evening as he explained that the Holly was used as a ritual plant at this season for thousands of years before the coming of Christianity. It has now become a generalised commercial symbol, making Holly one of our best known trees.

He covered a vast amount of history including it being a seasonal symbol with the Babylonians and Romans and explained how it came to be accepted in Christianity.

This was the perfect event for this time of year and Chris made the evening a memorable occasion with his knowledgeable, witty and informative style.

A full report will appear in the Spring Newsletter.


Saturday 17th November 2007

Digging up Henry VIII's Palace at Oatlands

Rob Poulton


Rob Poulton works from the Surrey History Centre at Woking and is a member of the Surrey Archaeological Unit.

His many excavations include Guildford Castle, Chertsey Abbey and Oatlands.

Rob gave a fascinating intriguing and very knowledgeable lecture to an audience of 50 gathered to hear information about this Palace. Henry expanded an existing Medieval manor house in Weybridge using foundation material which was taken from the demolition site of Chertsey Abbey. It became one of Henry's Hunting Lodge's and the importance of hunting to Tudor monarchs cannot be over-emphasised. It was demolished at the end of the Civil War in 1650.

A full report will appear in the Society's Winter Newsletter.


Saturday 20th October 2007

Origin of the Guildford via Cobham Railway

by Howard Mallinson

Guildford via Cobham Railway


Local author Howard Mallinson gave the Society a talk about the prelude to and arrival of the Railway.

A collapse in agricultural land values, because of a bad harvest in 1878, a catastrophic harvest in 1879 and cheap grain from North America, brought a proposal by the largest local landowners for a new railway from Guildford via Kingston.

The impact that a railway could bring was shown locally many years before when a businessman from Hampton, F J Kent, having early notice that the London & South Western Railway intended to make their terminus for Hampton Court in East Molesey, had acquired about 300 acres of land, which when developed produced about £3,000 per acre compared with the £60 - £80 per acre that he paid.

There was controversy about the route particularly in the direction to Cobham and Queen Victoria was opposed because it was too near Claremont. The Oxshott, Stoke D'Abernon direction was finally decided upon and the New Line to Guildford opened on 2nd February 1885.

The audience gave Howard a warm round of applause for a very informative lecture.


Thursday 27th September 2007

Rowhurst - A House full of stories

Lucy Quinnell talked about her property in Leatherhead part of which was built in the 14th century.

Talk at the Molesey Day Centre, School Road, E. Molesey

Lucy owns and runs the Fire and Iron Gallery in Leatherhead, a gallery dedicated to art metalwork.

She lives and works on the same site with her husband Adam, and "home" for them just happens to be the oldest house in Leatherhead.

We were taken on a trip through time back to the inhabitants of the early days of occupation of the house which she had researched meticulously. Several old maps were used to illustrate her points. The property had large grounds prior to the arrival of the M25 and some delightful images were shown around the end of the Victorian era and up to modern days.

The talk included details of her family's arrival in Leatherhead and included photos of her grandfather "Boggy" who had fought in both World War One and World War Two. The talk was a fascinating record of the house and covered a combination of social, local and family history. Lucy feels that despite being the current owner of the property she is merely a custodian and her research continues.

Lucy was warmly thanked for giving the Society such a brilliant start to the new season.


Thursday 26th July 2007

A visit to Lambeth, His Grace The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury's Palace with a guided tour and also a visit to the adjacent Museum of Garden History.



View from Palace gardens

A view of the Houses of Parliament from the gardens.

Captain Bligh 100 Lambeth Road

A plaque on the wall of 100 Lambeth Road.

Brief Shower at end of day

A brief shower at the end of the day waiting for the coach.


Members met at Thames Ditton Library car park and the trip was fully booked.

The group arrived at Lambeth Road just before the Garden History Museum opened. We had learned that Admiral ( Captain ) Bligh of 'Bounty' fame, d. 1817, was buried in the grounds of St. Mary's Church which the museum now occupied.

The museum was a fascinating history of gardening techniques with displays amongst others of Gertrude Jekyll, Lutyens and Tradescant.

Lunch was taken and then came the highlight of the day. The group were divided into two and one group walked around the gardens where a fox was seen showing the rural nature of this Central London location. The other group were shown a video with a welcome by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Both groups were then led by guides and saw the splendours of the Palace. The building was begun by Archbishop Langton (1207-1229), but few of his successors failed to add to or alter it. The residential part was built in 1829-1838. Morton's Tower, a noble red brick gatehouse was built in c. 1490. The Great Hall, Library and Guard Chamber and the oldest part of the building the beautiful Crypt beneath the Chapel were admired. The current Archbishop when in residence uses the Crypt for daily services.

Many fine documents are held in the Library including Edward VI's Latin grammar and Elizabeth I's prayer book. The Guard Chamber contains a fine series of portraits of the archbishops since 1503. The Great Hall was rebuilt in medieval style by Archbishop Juxon in 1663 and has a roof 70 feet in height, resembling that of Westminster Hall.

Finally the Post Room (1435) and the small Chapel (c. 1230) rededicated in 1955 preserving stalls and other fittings provided by Archbishop Laud (1634) were seen.

A thanks was given to our knowledgeable, informative and eloquently spoken guides.


Thursday 21st June 2007

A guided walk around historical Twickenham with Jane, a member of the Richmond Society.

Members met outside Twickenham Museum, The Embankment, Twickenham close to St. Mary's Church. Initially the walk centred on this area and we saw many old cottages/houses and then the old coaching route of Church Street, seeing firemarks on buildings.

We also walked by the river, saw Eel Pie island and visited the grounds of St Mary's Church. Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744) is buried in the church. Whilst at the river we had looked upstream and seen the remaining part of Pope's riverside villa where he lived from 1717 - 1744. It lay on the direct road to Hampton Court.

We then visited the grounds of York House, Montpelier Row (where Chapel House was Tennyson's home in 1850 - 1853) and Sion Road. Both of these roads have almost unspoilt 18th century houses.

We passed the now defunct Twickenham Ferry and our journey also took us to Orleans House and Marble Hill House, a fine Palladian Mansion built for George II. Here the walk finished and a warm thankyou was given to our most informative guide.

The disappointment on a splendid evening was that only 10 members attended.


Tuesday 15th May 2007 and Wednesday 16th May 2007

Visits to Esher Place

by kind permission of Richard Griffiths General Manager


Esher Place Tulip Tree

Visitors on Wednesday gathered in front of the Tulip tree which was planted in 1684/5.

This was the perfect follow up to a previous visit to Wayneflete Tower. The Tower had survived from the original "Palace of Esher" when William Kent pulled down the majority of the Tudor mansion on the site. He built a manor and added wings on both sides of the Tower for Henry Pelham, a future Prime Minister, who had bought the manor and estate in 1729. The original estate covered 560 acres.

John Spicer, a London stockbroker, purchased the estate in 1805 and the William Kent manor was pulled down leaving again the existing Wayneflete's Tower. A new residence was built at the top of the hill from re-claimed masonry and bricks from the Kent house which had been next to the River Mole. In 1895 Edgar Vincent D'Abernon purchased the estate which was now 366 acres. He incorporated some of the Spicer house as the southwest wing and built a new house in the French style.

In 1930 the house was given to the Shaftsbury Society and a home for girls was opened which lasted until 1952. It was then sold with 8 acres of parkland to the Electrical Trades Union who opened its own residential college in 1953. Today, Amicus is committed to preserving the history and beauty of Esher Place.

The Society as well as viewing the house was privileged to see the amphitheatre, the great urn to Pelham and the 17th century Tulip tree in the grounds.


Thursday 19th April 2007

AGM followed by

East and West Molesey

by Pamela Reading

The main topic for the AGM was the retirement from the committee of two members, Colin and Christine Dall. A presentation was made to each for their sterling work over the last ten years. Christine has been our Secretary over that period and Colin, a former Chairman, has edited the Newsletter in recent years.

There were no members willing to take over their roles and so they will be temporarily left vacant and performed by current committee members.

After the official business was concluded the audience were then treated to a talk on Molesey by Pamela Reading. She took us on a walk around the area covering entries in the Domesday Book and bringing us right up to date with the recently constructed sundial near the river. The majority of the talk concentrated on that period around the arrival of the railway at Hampton Court.

A hearty thanks was given to Pamela for concluding the Society's lectures this season.


Saturday 24th March 2007

"Time and Tithe"

by John Morris


John Morris brought along equipment with him to show the audience gathered at the Molesey Day Centre, how to digitally photograph large original tithe maps. An ingenious configuration of poles and brackets enables an overhead photograph of the item to be downloaded to a laptop for easier viewing.

Questions were invited from the audience before a short break was taken. We were then enlightened with local and national information surrounding the story of the tithe. Originally it had been a 10% charge on produce of land, particularly to farmers, for support of clergy and church. This was to account for the existence of the tithe barn and later the charge was to be made in cash.

John spoke in detail about arrangements in the Leatherhead area and was thanked for being such an eloquent speaker.


Saturday 24th February 2007

The end of the Golden Age of the Postcard and a short history of World War One.

by Paul Langton.

Unfortunately our guest speaker Howard Mallinson was ill and unable to attend. I am happy to report that he is now on the mend and his talk will be rescheduled to later in the year.

Paul deputised with a description of the years of the postcard before World War One, often referred to as the Golden Age or Golden Era. We saw images of the experimental army airship "Nulli Secundus" and racing at Brooklands in those halycon days before the start of the war. German printing was at its best far superior to that which we could produce.

Sadly with the start of the war all that was to change and German products naturally were shunned. The postcard having been used as a happy contact between people all over the world was to be used for propaganda purposes and also to keep up morale. A sinking of British ships by a U-boat and each army taking prisoners were illustrated to show that both were winning the war. Cards sent by men in training, on the way to or at the front were mentioned. The unveiling of the Claygate War Memorial was the conclusion, one of the names thereon having lost his life at the Battle of Jutland.


Saturday 20th January 2007

John Evelyn by Isabel Sullivan of the Surrey History Centre



A late change of venue and a letter to members reminding them of the fact led to a large number attending this meeting.

John Evelyn was born in 1620 into a substantial Surrey landowning family whose fortunes were founded in gunpowder manufacture. John Evelyn became of age just as the Civil War began and to escape the disturbances embarked on a prolonged period of travel in Italy and France. This period abroad stimulated his varied intellectual interests. He returned to England in 1652 and had made himself learned in many matters. He began a famous garden at Sayes Court, Deptford. The Restoration of Charles II in 1660 began his engagement in public affairs and he became a founder member of the Royal Society.

He has principally been known from his diary. Interesting to note that the diary of Pepys a friend of his covered a period of 9 years and Evelyn's diary a period of 80 years. Some deeds and manorial records involving his family are held at the Surrey History Centre. Thanks were given to Isabel for imparting some fascinating facts about his life.


Thursday 7th December 2006

Frost Fairs and other Historic Winters by Ian Currie

Ian is a full time freelance weatherman, author and speaker on meteorological matters. The timing of his talk at the Claygate Day Centre was remarkable as London had a tornado on that day which overshadowed the 22 flood warnings issued that morning as heavy rain swept across from the Atlantic.

The talk concentrated on 'Frosts, Freezes and Fairs' the title of one of his books, a chronicle of the frozen Thames and harsh winters. The last of the 'Great Frost Fairs' took place on the Thames in 1814 and some of the other cold winters occurred in 1895, 1947 and 1963.

An interval at this Xmas meeting allowed people to warm up with mulled wine and mince pies! Ian concluded his excellent talk and illustrations with an explanation of why the Thames no longer freezes over.


Saturday 18th November 2006

Heathrow from Iron Age to Jet Age by Nick Pollard


Nick works in the Aerospace industry and gave a well illustrated talk to members at West End Village Hall.

About to celebrate its 60th Anniversary Heathrow was built on a flat expanse of farmland where several of the then properties were to be demolished. We looked again at early airports in the area and saw tents at Heathrow in those first days as an international airport with arrivals and departures shown in chalk on a blackboard. What must those early travellers from New York have thought of London Airport when it rained with mud and dirt everywhere. The constant factor was the Bath Road running to the north despite many of the houses being demolished to make way for hotels. Propellors gave way to Jets and the development of the airport was shown with excellent photographs.


Saturday 21st October 2006

The History and Golden Age of Local Postcards including Surbiton (with a look at the many Edwardian cards of local photographer F.W.J. Fricker) by Paul Langton.


A good turnout of members at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Claygate on a day clashing with the opening of an Exhibition of the 150th anniversary of St Paul's Church Molesey and a French Market in Esher.

A well received interactive day with members seeing images which invoked that nostalgic feeling when looking at old picture postcards. Mr F.W.J. Fricker a local photographer of Esher was well illustrated from a century ago, as well as Mr Martin of Claygate and then a look at the Edwardian holiday resort of Surbiton.


Thursday 21st September 2006

Wayneflete Tower History described by Mrs Penny Rainbow.

This was an excellent follow up to our June visit noted below.

Penny's illustrated talk at St. Christopher's Church, Hinchley Wood spanned the centuries from 1462 to the present day with an insight into events that had occurred at the Palace and Gatehouse. Spanish Admirals had been imprisoned there and later British Prime Ministers had been the owner. It's survival is a glorious tale.


Wednesday 19th July 2006

Walton Manor House Visit by kind permission of Mr and Mrs Segal.


Our visit coincided with the hottest day since records began. A gem of a house which Mr and Mrs Segal had purchased in 1963. Originally dated as early Tudor, experts had recently discovered that it had been built as early as 1327, now Grade 1 and therefore the oldest continuous dwelling house in the country.


Wednesday 21st June 2006

Wayneflete Tower Visit by kind permission of Mrs Penny Rainbow

Four separate groups paid a visit to the home of Mrs Penny Rainbow.

This was no ordinary home! Often referred to as Wolsey's Tower which is wrong as Cardinal Wolsey was not even born when it was built.

William Wayneflete Bishop of Winchester built an extensive "Palace of Esher" of which only this gatehouse remains. Cardinal Wolsey stayed in the palace when building Hampton Court.