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 Item
Claygate War Memorial
Useful Links

Research Projects



Update 23rd March 2018

The book mentioned below continues to sell well and a reprint was ordered last year. We currently hold only two copies of that print which are available at meetings.


Update 12th December 2015

Jo Richards revealed to members at the final meeting of 2015 on the evening of 10th December that the book "Esher Origins and Development of a Surrey Village in Maps" had been published and that copies of the book had been collected from the printers and were available at the meeting.

The evening started with a presentation from Jo which included a brief outline of the contents and during the interval it sold well. A further short report appears on Past Events for 10th December 2015. The book will be available at future EDLHS meetings.


Update 10th November 2015

Work continues on the publication and it is at the proof reading stage. A short presentation has been confirmed as to the current position at the December (Christmas) meeting when a number of short talks will be given.

Update 14th February 2015

It is hoped that the Esher Study will be published later this year and there is likely to be a short presentation at the members evening which is planned to be held on the evening of Thursday 10th December 2015.


The following report appeared in the Winter 2014 newsletter

Esher Church of England High School Test-Pitting 2013
Preliminary report by Jo Richards and Chris Hayward (8-07-2014)

Test-pitting was carried out at the school by Surrey Archaeological Society with Esher Village Studies Group, volunteers and pupils, parents and staff of the school with kind permission of the head teacher Mr Simon Morris.

The aim was to find dating evidence for settlement on the site known as Eastende or Middle Green part of which now lies in the school grounds along the southern boundary with Wayneflete Tower Avenue.   Treswell’s 1606 map shows a loose group of 14 buildings - houses and barns - around a small green and pond with Princes Lane (now More Lane) running through it.  Most of these buildings are known to have been removed by around 1730 for landscaping of parkland for Esher Place.  But was this settlement the result of relocation of tenants during enlargement of the park undertaken by Bishop Fox around 1512, as suggested by records, or could it have earlier origins?

Geophysics survey was carried out over the weekend 9/10 March 2013 and the test-pit dig was held over weekend 26/27 October 2013.  Six one-metre-square pits were excavated in 10cm-spits.  Two on the playing field and one behind the ‘mound’ were placed as a result of indications by geophysics. One was put near the school ‘garden’ area and two in the wood near the pond.  A plan will accompany the final report.

Results in brief
Pottery sherds from all six pits indicate a long period of occupation from late Saxon to the 18th century.  The earliest type (7 pieces) date from AD 970 to 1100.  There are also 99 pottery sherds dating from 1050 to 1500 which require further consideration and assessment against the Society’s reference collection.
Around 37 post-medieval redware sherds were recovered, a piece of German stoneware 1520-1650, two pieces English Delft and 3 Surrey Border whiteware 1550-1700 and occasional 18th century blue and white ware but overall the pottery gave little indication of post medieval occupation despite the documentary evidence for settlement between c1600 and c1730.

There were 11 clay pipe stems and 3 clay pipe bowl sherds (from Elizabeth I to 19th century but none could be specifically dated), some pieces of iron and glass, one metal ornamental fastening and 7 pieces of flint debitage (knapping waste). 

A considerable amount of building material (brick and tile) was found in all pits and spits as well as quantities of ironstone nodules.  Amongst rubble in Pit D in the wood there is possibly a whole floor brick from about 1450.  It is of considerable interest that all the pits produced pottery and bits of building material from all spits which is typical of a site which has had buildings demolished on it.

Pupils of the school working in test pit B while parents and members of Surrey Archaeological Society sieve soil for small finds.

Although we are still working on pottery identification for the final report it seems clear that the site was occupied not only throughout the medieval period but quite likely before the Norman Conquest.  This adds considerably to the study of Esher’s development and further illustrates the dispersed nature of settlement in the Parish. 

Information from this test-pitting will help our understanding of detail emerging from other sources too, in particular ongoing translation of the manorial accounts between 1235 and 1410 which refer to people and places that can now perhaps be identified with this site.  Our map of medieval Esher will now show another site of habitation which previously was unknown.


Update 7th November 2013

The Test Pitting originally scheduled for March (see below) had to be cancelled because of poor weather. It took place on Saturday 26th October 2013 and Sunday 27th October 2013.

Six holes were dug and a quantity of material was found which awaits further analysis. The Surrey Archaeological Society provided the tools and much of the manpower for the two days. Thanks is due to Esher High School who allowed access to the area over that weekend.

Chris Hayward and Jo Richards

Chris Hayward the organiser and Jo Richards (Esher Village Studies Group) note some of the finds.

Roger Brookman digging a test pit

Roger Brookman provides the tools and the digging skills!


Update 21st February 2013

The Esher Village Studies Group in collaboration with the Surrey Archaeological Society have arranged for some Test Pitting at Esher. Esher High School are very enthusiastic about doing some archaeology in their grounds and involving a small number of students. Dates which have been agreed are Saturday 9th March 2013 (with 10th March in reserve if raining on the 9th) for a resistivity survey and Saturday 23rd March 2013 (with 24th in reserve) for test pitting. It is hoped to find some evidence of the lost Middle Green (Eastende) settlement and possibly get some clues about the enigmatic shapes on the 1945 aerial photographs.

Any Society members who would like to join in are most welcome. On both Saturdays, setting up will be at 9.30am for a 10am start. If you are interested in attending or the weather becomes an issue please check with the organiser

Update 18th January 2013

Work continues apace with the Esher Villages Studies Group and the prospect of a publication later in the year.

The Group will be taking part in the Villages Study Group 2013 meeting at Capel Village Hall on Saturday 20th April 2013 at Capel Village Hall. Dr David Stone who is translating some 13th century and 14th century Esher accounts from the Latin and will be giving a talk as part of the day.

Update 6th January 2012

A bid for funding was made to the Council for British Archaeology by the Esher Village Studies Group with an application form prepared by Jo Richards who outlined the aims of the project and the purpose for which the funds would be used.

The following is an extract from the application form "We are extremely fortunate that parts of Esher and the surrounding area formed one of only three Surrey mamors held by the bishopric of Wnchester and that accounts for the manor are consequently recorded on the Winchester Pipe Rolls. The Winchester Pipe Rolls form the most famous series of manorial accounts that survives for medieval England, since they cover the whole of the bishop's estate (which was chiefly in Hampshire, but with outlying manors in six other counties across southern England) and run in a near complete series from 1208/9 to 1453/4 (and, in a contract format, beyond). Not only are they more voluminous than any other series, but they also begin much earlier: the earliest surviving manorial account from any other estate dates to 1245/6 and accounts only become abundant for a small number of estates from the 1270s onwards. It is for these reasons that the Winchester Pipe Rolls were awarded a coveted place on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in 2011, conferring global recognition of their cultural significance. The accounts record in minute detail income and expenditure on each manor and record how the resources of the manorial demesne were exploited from year-to-year; thus they shed considerable light on a wide-range of matters that are relevant to our overall project, not least the nature and development of the medieval landscape.

The Winchester Pipe Rolls are our principal source for the study of Esher from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries and the aim of this application is to enable us to purchase specialist translation services so that we may glean as much as we can from a much wider selection of these documents than we currently have access to....However, manorial accounts are highly technical documents and are written in heavily abbreviated Latin; reading and interpreting them thus requires considerable expertise in medieval Latin and palaeography as well as an understanding of the nature and development of estate management and medieval accounting practices....

The accounts we hope to have translated are concentrated in the middle of the thirteenth century, between 1235, when Esher was acquired by the bishop, and 1258. This would form an excellent body of material for the study of the manor at a time when few other places, locally or nationally, can boast of similar material. Moreover, we hope to have translated a handful of accounts spanning the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, enabling us to track the development of Esher through the Late Middle Ages as well. Apart from purely historical information, it is hoped that the accounts will also yield information that would help guide future decisions about archaeological test-pits."

Just before Christmas 2011 news was received that the bid for funding had been successful and the Esher Village Studies Group were to receive a grant of £750 for the translation of an agreed selection of 16 annual accounts for Esher from the Winchester Pipe Rolls.


Please see Past Events for a short report about the display of facsimile maps at St. George's Church over the weekend of 23rd/24th July 2011. Further information about the event has been added here.

All four members of the group took part and answered questions on what proved to be a very popular venue to visit. The church itself is a magnificent survivor of a bygone era and gave a fitting location for the old copies of maps to be shown.

Veronica King and Anne Hills in front of one of the display panels

The Saturday shift on the change over. Dr. Veronica King on the left relieves Anne Hills who had a busy Saturday morning dealing with many enquiries.

A general view of the ESVG dispay with visitors

A general view of the EVSG display on the Saturday with visitors.


Anne Hills with Rector Revd William Allberry MA

Anne Hills with the Rector - Revd William Allberry MA looking at the Kip & Knyff Map of 1707


Dispay board containing Rocque Map of Claremiont 1725

One of the many display boards showing amongst other items the Rocque Map of Claremont 1725


Update 23rd April 2011

On Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th July 2011 between 11am- 4pm under the heading "Archaeology for All" the "Esher Village Studies Group" are presenting a display of facsimile maps at St. George's Church, Esher. The presentation is a study of Esher Parish in Maps 1005 -1846 and is part of the Festival of British Archaeology.


Update 27th January 2011

Esher Village Studies Group Report

The more the group research, the more there is to be researched! At the end of October 2010 a visit was made to the East Sussex Records Office with a list of mainly 18th century documents to view, concerning Henry Pelham and his land transactions around Esher Place in the early 1700s. One result of finding an indenture between Henry Pelham and several local Esher Village small land holders was to establish the size and position of Cato's Hill. The area has been plotted onto the 1606 Treswell Map.

As a result of further research into land transactions in the 17th century, this time at the Surrey History centre, a map of the boundaries of Claremont 300 years ago is being pieced together. Last November Anne Hills and Jo Richards could be found at Claremont measuring the circumference of Oak trees, in an attempt at dating them. One measured 6.45 metres around its trunk and was possibly there in the Duke of Newcastles time!

The group have exhaustively collected and analysed census data from 1841 and 1851 and applied it to an 1846 Tithe map. The results are complex but show pockets of poverty, predictable areas of great wealth and a fairly agricultural based society already showing signs of being influenced by the building of the railway.

Future developments will include more research visits to Winchester, the source of original documents regarding the Medieval Bishops, in particular, William Wayneflete. Also, a return visit to East Sussex Record office to finish looking at the documents there.

Some time ago the owners of houses in Esher built before 1850 were written to and the response has been useful and the exercise is ongoing. If anyone has historical information about these old properties the group would like to hear from you.

As they delve further back in time, more and more documents are in Medieval Latin. Members would welcome any interested 'additions' to the study group, especially if they are fluent in Medieval Latin.


Update November 2010

The group continue their meetings. There has been much research into land purchase records. There is no immediate requirement for Access software to assist them.


Update September 2010

The group continue to meet every 6 - 8 weeks and now has 5 members. Original documents were being researched, some in Latin. A report of the presentation by the group has been published in the Autumn Newsletter which commences distribution at the 18th September meeting.


Update April 2010

The next meeting of the Esher Village Studies group will be on 24th April 2010. After the presentation to the Society last month, several members have indicated their willingness to join the group.

Update March 2010

The presentation by the Esher Village Studies group took place on 13th March 2010 and was very well supported and received. Please see Past Events for further information. A fuller report will appear in the Autumn newsletter.

Update September 2009

Work continues on the Village Studies project and the group have agreed to do a presentation to the Society in March 2010.

They are also cataloguing much of the historical material held at Esher Library and this will continue until approximately Christmas 2009.


Update April 2009

The Esher Village Study group gave their first presentation to Surrey Arcaeological Society's Village Study Group at Surrey History Centre on 31st January 2009. This was early work in progress and compared to some of the other study groups we are somewhat beginners! However, we were well received and encouraged by advice from more experienced researchers. Our illustrations included part of the 1847 Tithe map, an outline plan of the Manors of Esher and Milborne (1781), a plan of the three manors of Esher, that is Esher Episcopi, Watteville/Milborne and Sandon in c.1700 and the Treswell map of Esher Place (1606). Our aim is to be produce a publication with the draft title of Esher - A Village Study in Maps. Maps over four centuries, allied to manorial records, hearth tax records, probate and census returns etc., will be the key to discovering how and why Esher has developed as it has.

Research is not confined to record offices. An attempt to re-enact the walking of the Manor boundaries as carried out in 1781, and to see if any boundary markers remained, required intrepid confrontation with subsequent undergrowth.


Update July 2008

The research group has been concentrating on looking for evidence of the history of Esher using maps drawn over the period 1600 - 1900. One of the facts to emerge is that in the seventeenth century Esher was two villages, one on the Portsmouth Road and another community backing onto Esher Place. Pat Worthy has contributed a history of Sandon and Jo Richards is marking up a copy of the 1847 tithe map with the landowners in the apportionment book. A contribution will be made to the next Village Studies Group meeting on 20th September to report progress so far.


Update February 2008

There was a meeting on 14th January 2008 and it was agreed that two members would concentrate on map research and follow leads on roads and tolls.

One member would research the early history of Sandown and might also look at Thames Ditton which could be useful to extend our area of interest if Esher proves not to be a sufficient study, and will help to inform the problems in defining boundaries.

Another member is concentrating on transcribing the tithe and enclosure lists, following up leads from Aspects of Archaeology and History in Surrey and visiting the SYAS library in Guildford. Esher could not hold a Village Studies meeting but would be prepared to give a presentation on work so far at either the summer or autumn meeting.

If anyone else is interested in getting involved in some in depth research please contact Pamela Reading. All interests are welcome, but what we do need is someone with map drawing skills, or is keen to try their hand at it.

Update June 2007

Work has begun to transcribe the Apportionment Book for the 1847 Tithe map of Esher into a database. The Apportionment Book is the document which lists all the landholdings shown by numbers on the map itself. The information listed includes

  • Names of occupiers
  • Acreage of land held/owned
  • Description of property
  • State of cultivation
  • Amount of rent charge payable
  • Names of the tithe-owners

Using this record in conjunction with the map should help to create a detailed picture of land use in the Parish in the middle of the nineteenth century. However, not all of the several hundred entries are easy to decipher after some 160 years and transcription can sometimes be a painstaking and slow business.

To fill in more details about the owners and occupiers a further transcription has been undertaken - that of the 1851 census of Esher.

Because it has proved problematic in some parts of the Parish to align the early Parish boundaries with current land use, and also in relation to neighbouring Parishes, it is proposed to "walk the boundaries" - at least in part.

Another area of interest is the importance of the Portsmouth Road to the development of Esher.




Whilst several members of the Society carry out individual research I thought it would be rewarding to encourage others to become part of a research group and undertake a project to put Esher on the map, in the wider context of the history of Surrey.

An inaugural meeting was held in August 2005. Various models for a project were discussed, including those published in the Surrey Archaeological Society's "Village Study" series. It was agreed that the first step was to seek out maps and primary sources, taking one of the village study books as a model.

Our next meeting was at the Surrey History Centre at Woking to look at the available maps for Esher, including the tithe map of 1847 and others. We have subsequently had access to the plan of Esher, surveyed by order of the Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union in 1839. However, we reached the stage where some practical advice was necessary in order to organise the next step. We sought advice from the authors of similar studies for a Village Study Day held in May 20 2006.

This was arranged by Surrey Archaeological Society, with the Esher Project as one of the specific items on the agenda.

If this brief reference to some hands-on local research has whetted your appetite for more information about the Research Group, or if you have a project you would like to pursue, and would like some assistance with, please contact me on 0208 224 0347 or

Pamela Reading