Wood Street – The Growth of a Village has been compiled by members of the Wood Street Village History Society.
It was first published in July 1988 in hard copy – ISBN 0 9513065 0 2
Copyright 1988 Wood Street Village History Society
It is published here in electronic format. All rights reserved.
No reproduction without prior permission of the publishers.
Wood Street - The Growth of a Village
WOODSTREET – THE GROWTH OF A VILLAGE
Woodstreet is an enigma. To the outsider the question is mainly ‘Where is it?’ To the newcomer it is ‘How much is there?’ To the resident the question that most commonly occurs is ‘Why?’ Why did Woodstreet develop? And then ‘When?’ and ‘How?’
We, the Wood Street Village History Society, have attempted to find the answers to these questions. Our search has produced numerous legends. These are interesting and have been included because they are so. But history is concerned with the truth, and we have tried to uncover that truth: memoirs and hearsay have helped to direct our searches in the most successful directions. Sometimes we went off course, but as far as possible this book contains information gathered from primary sources, by which we mean records which were believed accurate in their own time, although officials can make mistakes. We have tried to indicate as clearly as possible where a legend is merely a story and where there is a fragment of evidence to support it.
Wood Street Village is situated between the north slope of the North Downs (Guildford to Farnham road) and the Guildford to Aldershot A323. It is in the Parish of Worplesdon, the Borough of Guildford and the County of Surrey. The access to the Village is at the Rydes Hill junction on the A323, and the single road through the Village rejoins this main road some two-and-a-half miles on, just before the modern Normandy boundary at Clasford. Our task as historians has been made more difficult by the fact that there is no natural or official boundary: Woodstreet was just part of a large parish, the ancient Parish of Worplesdon, which extended from Ash in the west to encompass Burpham in the east. Woodstreet did, however, form the major part of a tithing known as West End. But as most documents refer only to the parish of residence it has been an awesome task trying to identify Woodstreet residents and their dwelling-places.
The modern name was finally adopted as a convenient way to indicate to outsiders that Wood Street is not a road in Guildford. The Victorians called it Wood Street and attributed the name to the Roman occupation, but there is no evidence whatsoever of a Roman road. The medieval name was Woodstreet or Woodstreat. In those times the word ‘street’ was used in south-east England to describe a hamlet or group of houses served by a common thoroughfare.
The present population of Wood Street Ward is in the region of three-and-a-half thousand people, living in some twelve hundred and fifty dwellings. The population in 1851 of the slightly larger area of West End Tithing was five hundred and forty-four, living in one hundred and nine dwellings. We have not been able to use the historians’ formula to calculate what the population was in 1600, because our area is too small. There seems to have been eleven families, including three sets of brothers, living in Woodstreet and Broadstreet during the period 1600 to 1610. There is evidence, however, either architectural or documentary, of at least sixteen houses.
A geological map of Surrey shows why habitation in Wood Street developed so late in history: a geologist could have predicted that the area would be unsuitable for farming, dwelling or transport until technology had advanced far enough to overcome the difficulties posed by the land. There is, for example, no trace of any Iron or Bronze Age settlement.
Wood Street Village sits astride a narrow segment of London Clay, Parts of Frog Grove Lane are on sands (Bagshot Beds) and the railway line possibly marks where Reading Beds of sand begin to make their appearance.
Some thirty to sixty million years ago this area formed part of a great river delta or estuary. Fossils found in London Clay indicate that the climate was very warm at the time, about 20° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit), throughout the whole year. This Eocene period resulted in about a hundred metres of clay being deposited here, but it is up to three hundred metres thick in other parts of Surrey. Subsequent depositions, of sand for example, have been negated by the tilting of the land and by erosion. This means that the chalk lying under the clay is now exposed as the hills of the North Downs and Hog’s Back.
The sticky clay gives rise to poorly-drained and marshy land typified by the Broadstreet and Backside Common areas. This unfarmable land was called ‘waste’ in earlier centuries. The only use for London Clay is brick and pipe making; indeed, Rydes Hill was a very active area for both during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Many people will still claim that the damp clay is no fit place for human habitation.
The key to our history lies, as the cliché says, in the soil!
Wood Street Village abounds in legends about the Romans. It is generally believed that the name Woodstreet is Roman in origin, and many tell the tale of a Roman road which, because of the sticky clay, was made pontoon-style on logs. This legendary wooden street apparently ran more or less along the line of the present railway. The existence of a Roman villa at Broad Street Common is confused with a settlement. The naming of the local church after a Roman soldier saint has further consolidated the Latin myths of Wood Street.
A Roman villa was certainly built at some time between 250 and 400 A.D. The term villa is synonymous with our farmhouse. It is surprising that any farming should have been carried out in such wet deep clay or that any dwelling should have been erected so far from any known Roman settlement.
The villa was discovered on 13th July, 1829. Labourers had been repairing local roads. They were directed to the site by the neighbouring tenant farmer, Mr. George Charman, who had frequently noticed that cattle chose that particular spot to rest, presumably because it was drier than anywhere else. The workmen found a quantity of flints, just what they needed, a few inches below the surface, and their attention was drawn to ornamental work of a lozenge shape in the flints. Unfortunately this was destroyed before anyone realised its antiquity.
More careful exploration revealed a floor of sixty-two feet in length and twenty-three feet in width. The centre compartment, forming a hollow square, is presumed to have been the surrounds of a bath or sudatory. On either side of this was the floor of a small room sixteen feet by five feet. Beyond these were two more rooms of sixteen feet by fourteen feet, and the five rooms were bounded by a passage on the western side. The majority of the floors were of ironstone, found in abundance in the sand hills south of Guildford. The tesserae, or tiles, were cut to about one inch square and were laid on eighteen-inch foundations of large flint-stones, with many pieces of brick and tile amongst the soil. Some of this rubble contained interesting pieces of curved tiles. The corridor was the best preserved, ornamented at its outer edge with a border formed of very small tesserae, arranged in a double-wavy pattern in the centre. The black ironstone and red clay-like tiles were set in a background of white, brown and yellow tiles formed from stained chalk. Three coins were found during the excavation. One was sufficiently well preserved to allow it to be dated to A.D. 286–293. The Earl of Onslow, Lord of the Manor, had the tiles removed to Clandon Park for their preservation but, sadly, there is now no record or trace of them. During the last war, when the site was ploughed, pottery fragments were found, mainly pieces of rims and lips, and some of these matched those known to have been made in Farnham kilns. There were also some fragments of Samian ware which could be earlier than A.D. 286, but we cannot use these finds to conclude that the site is earlier than has already been suggested: modern archaeologists would have been able to form better judgements from the foundation materials, if any had been left.
What the Domesday tells us
The Domesday Book shows that only six-and-a-half hides, about 780 acres, were under cultivation in the land at Werpesdune held by Earl Roger. The ancient Parish of Worplesdon, in comparison, covers about 7,140 acres. Twenty years earlier, in 1066, so the record states, eight hides (960 acres) were under cultivation. This simple record demonstrates how easily the forest reclaimed uncultivatable patches. It is unlikely that anyone would have attempted to plough Woodstreet’s heavy clay when Perry Hill soil was so much more workable. It is recorded that there were eight acres of meadow; woodland, and sixty pigs from pasturage. We think that the eight acres of meadow would have been near to the church and settlement too.
The Domesday record goes on to state that “two men at arms hold two hides and one virgate of this land. In lordship they have 2 ploughs, and 3 villagers and 2 small holders”. There is neither record nor clue to the whereabouts of these 270 acres; they could just as easily be in Perry Hill, Normandy, Burpham or Woodstreet. It would have been good to have claimed them, with their five residents, for Woodstreet, but a historian’s job is to look for facts, not to create new legends.
Murder at Rydes Hill
The Surrey Eyre Roll of 1235 records that a stranger was killed at Rydes Hill. “It is not known who killed him. No Englishry so murder.” The ‘No Englishry’ refers to the fact that it could not be proved that the murdered man was an Englishman. A fine was levied upon the Woking Hundred (the administrative area) for the murder of a Frenchman or Norman.
The Development of Farming
THE DEVELOPMENT OF FARMING
Woodstreet was in that area of the Forest of Windsor known as Guildford Park. It is well known that Guildford Park was a popular Royal Hunting Ground. The King retained, by Magna Carta, the right to any deer straying on disafforested land. King John and King Henry III were especially regular visitors. After the death of Henry III Guildford Castle fell into decay, which resulted in Royalty staying in the moated hunting lodge just half a mile from the modern village boundary. Worplesdon Manor had been conveyed to the Crown in 1363, so it is unlikely that those who held the Manor would have managed it in a way which was disadvantageous to royal hunting.
We believe that Woodstreet was a wooded area in the thirteenth, fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The “Summonses of the Pipe” of 1295 include the following assessments owed on Assarts (valuable forest clearings) in Worplesdon.
We also know that owners were not allowed to cut timber without permission from the agent of the Crown. In 1536 Christopher More Esq. authorised Robert Wintershull to take certain oaks from his wood known as ffrenches wood (a place in Woodstrect we have yet to identify). The 1562 Customs of the Manor of Worplesdon state clearly that a copy- holder could only take timber (we think that ‘timber’ refers to oak) for the repair of his dwelling. The Customs go on to state that tenants were allowed to take trees of elm, and all underwoods and coppices growing on their copyhold. Of course, dead wood for fuel had always been freely available. Queen Elizabeth I also allowed Worplesdon a reduction in the audit for lands (over which villagers had common rights) enclosed into Guildford Park.
In the early sixteenth century John Russell bought a moiety (a half share) of land in Worplesdon. The document recording his purchase gives a clear picture of the proportionate use of land at the time: forty acres was arable land, twelve acres meadow, sixteen acres pasture and eight acres wood. This would not have been a single farm, but would have been split up around the parish. Farming in west Surrey involved both the three-field strip cultivation characteristic of the Midlands and the smaller, enclosed field system of Kent and south-east England. There was no apparent systematic arrangement of fields—a natural outcome in an area which had formerly been heavily wooded.
By the early seventeenth century nucleated farms were beginning to become established. Tenants still had fields scattered around various parts of the parish, although the Woodstreet holdings were beginning to concentrate in one area. It was still common for farmers to own fields far from the main farm.
Sheep farming was prevalent in the area right up to the beginning of ,this century. A trader’s token was dug up in a Woodstreet garden bearing the name of John Martin with the emblem of a woolsack. The reverse side of the coin bore the words, IN GILFORD, a castle and the date 1652. Orchard Farm, off Broad Street, was owned by a Mr. Childs in 1680 and was run as a sheep farm until the early nineteenth century. At this time Mr. Smallpiece planted it as an orchard, whence the name. The commons, as well as the farmlands, were ideal for sheep grazing.
There was a distinct pattern of ownership relating to the age of the farmer. A young man acquired a tenancy and gradually saved up some money. He then invested this money by acting as a mortgagee to another local farmer. (Mortgages were usually only for a year at a time, so it was possible to retrieve the investment quite quickly.) Later in life it became possible to buy a farm or just a few fields. If the land a farmer owned was less easily managed than that he rented, then he would let it out and continue as a tenant himself: John Pink did this when he bought the forge in 1786. Similarly, William Trigg of Woking, who seems to have been a tenant of the Tickner family there, owned the present forge land in 1870. In old age a farmer might be able to retire, leaving his son or another tenant paying rent to him as his pension. Thus John Loveland junior undertook (1742) to pay off a mortgage of £60 and pay his parents five pounds a year for the rest of their natural lives.
Richer landowners began to acquire vast areas of Woodstreet and beyond during the nineteenth century. John Chitty (not the wheelwright) owned Littlefield, Attfield, Goldfinches, Froggrove, Russell Place and Comptons in 1832. Mary Mangles, born in the parish, wife of Guildford’s first Liberal Member of Parliament, owned Passengers, Old Gables, Wildfields and Bushes. The farms facing the Green (except Inholms) were almost the only ones which were owner-occupied. Most of the farms were arable and meadow; cattle, sheep and geese being grazed on the waste or common land. The last flock of geese was removed from the Green in 1986 at the request of the Cricket Club. There were at least half-a-dozen dairies during the early 1900s. Dunmore Farm had its own kiln, firing cream jugs for their dairy use. The milk was distributed until the 1930s by horse and cart.
Land behind the post office was coppiced for canes for making into walking-sticks. Locals remember saying, ‘We’re going up to the walking- sticks’. They were manufactured in Stoughton.
During both World Wars the farms concentrated on crop growing. Broad Street Common was ploughed and sown with wheat. A number involved themselves with poultry farming.
Steam traction engines were parked on the village commons. They were in constant demand during the first half of this century for driving threshing machines. Three generations of the Langford family owned and drove these until the coming of the combine harvester, the business continuing with more modern machinery until 1982. The youngest Langford brothers still enjoy the age of steam with an engine which they display at local shows.
Few of the twenty-five or so recorded farms of the nineteenth century remain as working farms: much farmland has been divided for smallholdings or sold for estate development. Farmhouses have become attractive residential houses rather than working farms. Some, like Range Farmhouse, were demolished before recent conservation interest arose. Despite the Brocks’ efficient farming of Blackwell, the farm on the south side of the railway, it has recently been acquired by the University of Surrey as an extension to its Research Park Industrial Estate.
The four pictures below show the buildings of Comptons Farm which was converted to a residence in 1938.
Frog Grove Lane was still a track; the A323 was yet to exist. The road went to Henley Park with a track towards Normandy.
The names of the farms are of interest. Littlefield was known as Littlefeldt in 1294, and Hillplace may derive from Nicholas de Hulle of the same era. Wildfields was Whitefields in 1605, a name reflecting the appearance of the chalky fields after ploughing. Nightingales (Nightingale Old Farm) also originates from this time. Several farms take their names from eighteenth-century tenants: Henry Compton, John Pink and John Passenger left their names to the farms they rented rather than to the places they owned.
Until a century ago Old Gables was known as Russell in the Wood. The last Russell owner was Dorothy Russell in 1780. One of the first records using the title ‘Woodstreet’ contains a reference to Wiltmo Russell in the wood (1542/3). Parish records refer to Thomas Russell of the Wood (d. 1598), Robert of the Wood (1591) and John in the Woode (1619). In 1605 John Russell had recently built in the wood known as Bazil Wood. Bazil Wood was that area surrounding Old Gables and Hollybush Farm and extending southwards towards Blackwell Farm. Old Gables has also been called Russell’s Farm (1841), Pinks Hill Farm (1860) and Hyde House (1923).
It is likely that Russell Place also derives its name from the Russell family; perhaps even from the first known Woodstreet resident, Johe (John) Russell in the Woodstrete (1542/3). Thomas Russell of Woodstreat is frequently recorded as a father between 1588 and 1605.
Whipley is spelt as Weep Leigh in nineteenth-century documents. Busshiclose (1548) may refer to Passengers or Bushes Farm: Passengers was known as Bush Inhams before common usage changed its name. Frog Grove was Forgrove Gate in 1548 and Forgrove in 1609. The word gate implies a thoroughfare. Chapelhouse acquired such a distinction following its use as a Meeting House although it was previously called Pink’s Hill Farm after its owner Thomas Pink. Pound Farm takes its name from the pound which was situated adjacent to the brook on the edge of the common. The pound, where wandering livestock were impounded, survived into this century. Hollybush is a recent name replacing Hartsouth.
A Who's Who of Early Woodstreet Folk
Since Woodstreet is only a part of a parish it does not have a separate identity until quite late in history. The first record we have found of Woodstreet as a name is in a list of lay subsidies (a kind of tax) for the Parish of Worplesdon in 1542/43. Only two out of the twenty-one persons listed actually have an address: the first is Johe (John) Russell, in the Woodstrete, and the second is Wiltmo (William) Russell, in the wood. The addresses of the four members of each of the Christmas and Ockley families are not mentioned, although we know that Thomas Ockley lived in Broadstreet (the area we know as Broad Street and Backside Commons). Thomas Daborn also lived in Broadstreet, as did Robert Loveland, the latter’s home being the house we now know as Hollybush Farm, Pinks Hill.
Benjamin Martin, mathematician, instrument maker and general compiler, was born into a prominent Broadstreet family in 1704. (The area we now call Broad Street Common and Backside Common was then called Broadstreet.) His biography states that he began life as a plough-boy, but as his baptismal record states that he was the son of John Martin, gent., it would seem unlikely that he actually worked as a ploughman. As a younger son of a gentleman, (with three brothers and two sisters) he was most probably put in charge of one of his father’s farms. He was an ardent scholar—one biography quaintly phrases it “the more his scholarship flourished, the less he profited from the plough, and so he gave it up”. He inherited a legacy of five hundred pounds from a relative, but he may have had to wait until he was of age to receive it. In the meantime it is believed that he set himself up as a teacher of reading, writing and arithmetic at Guildford. He used his legacy to equip himself with books and philosophical (i.e. scientific) instruments. By 1729 he had kept a school in Chichester long enough to have met and married Mary Love at the very young age of twenty-four. In his spare time he studied mathematics and astronomy, and this hobby led him to invent and make optical instruments, the most successful of which was a pocket reflecting microscope with a micrometer, which he produced and sold for one guinea. He also gained a reputation as a maker of spectacles.
During this time he travelled the country giving lectures on natural philosophy (which we would call science). There is no doubt that his instruments proved to be a grand entertainment. His personality was such that he gained a wide circle of learned friends. His first publication was in 1737: a book entitled Bibliotheca Technologica, or Philological Library of Literary Arts and Sciences. This book could best be described as an encyclopaedia. Benjamin Martin is considered to have made “a very skilful and comprehensive compilation, epitomising the current information and ideas of the time under twenty-five headings”. He had persuaded so many of his friends to contribute that the list of contributors filled twenty-six columns!
He moved to London’s Fleet Street in 1740. Here he became famous as a scientific instrument maker. His shop sign—his trade mark—was Hadley’s Quadrant and Visual Glasses. He continued to write, producing a large number of popular scientific books. His An Essay on Electricity, published in 1746, contained an almost modern theory: “This subtle matter or spirit appears to be of an elastic nature, and acts by the reciprocation of its tremors or pulses, which are occasioned by the vibrating motion of the parts of an electric body excited by friction.” Many of his books, however, were almost literal copies of earlier works. This should not detract from the fact that he popularised scientific knowledge and thinking, often aiming his writing directly at the young. Worplesdon Parish actually owns the book, The Young Gentleman and Ladys Philosophy. His light ray diagrams, and his drawings of objects as seen under a microscope, could just as easily grace a modern textbook as those over two centuries earlier. His attitude to the education of women shows his independence of thought, even after attaining high society.
In his old age he handed over the administration of his finances to others, but these persons so badly managed his,business interests that he became bankrupt, and he attempted suicide in a moment of desperation. No doubt his death, on 9th February 1782, was hastened by the wound.
His son Lovell did not stay in the area: most of the Martin family appear to have moved to Ash or Aldershot. It is possible that Benjamin Martin, who was on the Vestry of 1855, was a relative. His line of the family had been in Compton for three generations before farming at Passengers Farm in the mid nineteenth century.
The Baker Family
This family appear to have been wealthy, the first record being in 1625, when John Baker left his 40-acre farm of ffrenches to his son Henry. It could be the same Henry who paid a substantial lay subsidy in 1640 and had five fireplaces taxed in 1664. The Mr. Baker of 1753 was clearly a man of substance and society, because his name appears on a map. This gentleman is probably the Henry Baker who had willed Russell Place to his aunt, dying sometime before 1769. Russell Place remained in the family, though, as Land Tax records of 1780 and 1790 show, the owners then being first James and then Henry. These eighteenth-century Bakers were closely related by marriage to the Martin family.
The Clifton Family
This family moved about, both within the parish and at Pirbright, where one branch of the family owned land. The first reference is to an inheritance in 1582, when Robert Clifton received a house and land from Richard and Margaret. He does not appear in the Musters of the following year: these military preparations resulted in Thomas Clyfton being Pikeman selected; John Clyfton, Billman selected; Anthony Clyfton, Billman of the beste sorte; and John Clyfton also Billman of the beste sorte. In the same period of time only three Cliftons paid lay subsidies, i.e. taxes, so we must assume that Thomas and John Clifton still lived with their parents. By 1622 there were four Clifton families living in Worplesdon. Anthonie owned a field in Woodstreet called Inholme, which later became part of Nightingale Farm; William was the tenant of Frenches. Laurence Clifton was wealthy enough to be referred to as a gentleman—perhaps he owned the residence in our tithing which was taxed for ten fireplaces in 1664! The proud owner of this residence was by then Mr. Henry Clifton; his poorer Woodstreet relative Anthony was taxed on only four fireplaces. In 1661 Anthony had been one of thirteen people in the parish who had given a “free and voluntary present” of fifteen shillings to Charles II. The widowed jane Clifton had given the most, one pound.
The Cox Family
Thomas Cox was perhaps one of the first Worplesdon residents to see the advantages of concentrating his land ownership in one place. During the mid sixteenth century he had sold land at Stoke-next-Guildford in favour of Woodstreet. In 1583 he had been a Billman of the Second Sorte in the military musters. In 1590 he bought the freehold of Nightingales (Nightingale Old Farm), and the Cox family maintained their ownership of this farm for over a century.
The Crosse Family
The burial of Robert Crosse in 1596 occurred during a period when the Rector or recorder saw fit to add the place of residence, Woodstreet. He did not appear in the musters when Laurence Crosse was a Billman of the beste sorte. Another Crosse, William, owned enough land to pay large subsidies and serve on jury panels of the seventeenth century.
The Daborn Family
Early scribes spelt as they wished, so often the same name appears in the same document with different spellings. Thus in 1583 the recruiting officer listed both Thomas Dawborne and Thomas Daborn as billmen selected. One of these men had sold land which he owned with Thomas Christmas to William Ockley. In 1562 one of the Daborne families lived in an area near the end of Frog Grove Lane. Thomas Dawborne held a house called Hooks (perhaps Broad Street Common) from 1566 until at least 1605. Perhaps it was his son John, whose address was given as Broadstrect, who lived there in 1608. A John Daborne also farmed at Frenches in 1609. Baptismal records of Dabornes in Worplesdon continue throughout the seventeenth century, but we do not know where they lived.
The Giles Family
The baptism of William Giles’ daughter is one of the first to appear in the parish registers. He was also a Billman of the seconde sorte and appears in the tables of lay subsidies. Thomas Gyles senior and junior also lived in Worplesdon, Thomas senior being an Archer of the second sorte. There seems to have been two William Gyles in 1588, one living in Broadstreet and one in Woodstreat: they died within months of one another.
The Hewate Family
This family lived at Littlefield for at least a century before 1664. Walter Hewatt was a Billman of the best sort in the Armada Musters. The latter part of the seventeenth century saw John senior and junior and Richard Hewwitt living in the area.
The Lee Family
This is one of the families where the name John was always carried by the eldest son. In 1583 John Lee was a billman of the seconde sorte, whilst his relative William was an archer. By the time of Mr. Weston’s (Captain) Band Revue of 1592 John Lee was a Qualliver. The parish records of the early seventeenth century show John and Young John of Broadstreet and Harry of the Wood baptising their children.
The Loveland Family
This is one of the oldest families of Wood Street: they lived and farmed Hollybush Farm for at least three hundred years. The first known Loveland is also one of our earliest recorded residents. The household inventory of George Burt alias Loveland appears in the farming section. Most of the Lovelands were firstly carpenters, only taking to farming in their old age. They owned or rented several Woodstreet farms, including Nightingales, during the eighteenth century. The last Loveland was James, who pastured his sheep on Pinks Hill at least until 1881.
The Ockley Family
Five members of this large family were selected as Pikeman and Billmen in the 1583 Musters. They did not all live in Woodstreet and it is difficult to determine who did. Thomas lived in Broadstreet in 1590 and Robert lived there for a large part of the late seventeenth century. The more prominent Ockleys lived at Rickford.
The Purse Family
Thomas and Robert Purse lived in Woodstreet around the beginning of the seventeenth century.
The Russell Family
We can consider this family to be the founding dynasty of Woodstreet —this history is peppered with references to the Russell family, and the earliest recorded Woodstreet resident is John Russell. In the 1605 survey of the Manor of Worplesdon there are large areas of land owned by the Russells throughout the parish. They later concentrated on Russell in the Wood (Old Gables), Russell Place and also Hurst Farm at Stringers Common. The Russells contributed largely to Woodstreet’s population increase of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. By 1705 John Russell had moved to Guildford, merely exercising his vote where he still owned land. It is likely that the Guildford-born artist, John Russell, is descended from this man. (Old Gables seems to nurture artists!) Dorothy Russell was the last Russell resident of Old Gables, in 1780.
The Slaughter Family
William and Jane Slaughter ( nee Etherington ) had a son, Thomas Slaughter. He married Eliza Hartfree in 1846. Thomas was a tenant farmer of both Frogrove and Russell Place
The Smith Family
There are very few Smiths recorded in Worplesdon Church records. This is probably because they were Quakers (Society of Friends). Stephen Smith, a friend of the founder George Fox, actually owned land at Broad- street in our tithing. Thomas Smith lived in the Woode (perhaps Bazil Wood, Pinks Hill) in 1610. In 1664 Henry Smith was taxed on nine fire- places and John Smith on six, both somewhere in the Woodstreet area.
The Smither Family
Thomas Smither was a Billman of the seconde sort in 1583. Like the Smith family, the Smithers appear to have lived in Broadstreet for three hundred years without the benefit of Parish Baptism or Burial!
In the enumerators’ returns for the Census taken on 30th March 1851 there is a complete record of the people living in the Wood Street area on that night. These returns give the names, ages, occupations and places of birth of all the villagers—men, women and children—so they are of immense value to the local and family historian. The census returns are too lengthy to print in full, but we have listed the heads of households alphabetically in the table. Note the names of those still living in the area today; note also how many of the newcomers to the village come from counties other than Surrey. The enumerators did not always recognise place names; hence the unusual spellings of some of the places of birth.
Out of one hundred and nine heads of households there were eighty- four born in Surrey and twenty-five born outside the County. Almost half the Surrey total were actually born in the Parish of Worplesdon. The average age of the men was forty-five years. William was the most common name (23%), followed by James (14%) and John (12%). Three-quarters of the men were employed either as farmers or agricultural labourers, but it is not possible to tell from the Census how many men were tenant farmers and how many were direct employees.
The First Smithy
Contrary to popular opinion, the blacksmith’s shop has not stood on the edge of the Green for centuries: the original smithy was in White Hart Lane. The four plots of land now known as Seagry, The White Cottage, The White Hart and Clovers were bought in 1672 by Nicholas Boylet, blacksmith tenant, from the then Lord of the Manor, Thomas Newton: the annual rent for the thousand-year lease was two shillings and sixpence. The property was described as a “messuage or cottage, and shop, and the land then enclosed and adjoining thereto, in all one acre”. The ‘shop’ was a blacksmith’s shop.
The Boylet family, father and son, stayed for fourteen years and spent twenty-four pounds on repairs and improvements. The widowed Mrs. Boylet junior sold for £53 5s. 3d. It is interesting to note that the Perry Hill blacksmith of 1874 bears the name Boylet.
The families Boxall and Cobbett owned the site for the next hundred years, each family starting as the tenant blacksmith and advancing in wealth and stature. Each ended his days in retirement, living from the rent of the subsequent tenant and his other properties. The smithy was clearly attractive as an investment: John Pink and William Luff, farmers, both owned it for a time.
The next wheelwright occupier did not manage his affairs so well: he died an insolvent debtor. Nevertheless, the property had more than doubled its value, from £145 to £390. His business interests are reflected in his daughters’ marriages: the eldest married a farmer, the second an innkeeper and the youngest a blacksmith. His only son became a wheelwright.
It is not known when the smithy removed to its site on the Green. Daniel Hockley and then William Trigg, probably cordwainers (leather- workers) were the neighbours of the Boylett and Boxall blacksmiths of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Thomas Hambledon, a cordwainer, bought the house we now know as The Forge from Trigg in 1722, and it passed through two generations of cordwainers before coming into the hands of George Ellis. In 1812 Ellis borrowed a considerable amount by mortgage for “adding to or building upon the said premises”, but in 1815 he sold to his tenant William Merry, blacksmith. We have not yet established when William Merry became a tenant to Ellis: the facts suggest that there was a period of trade competition if not outright dirty dealing! William Merry (senior?) had been John Pink’s tenant at the ‘White Hart’ smithy in 1790. Thomas Pink (probably the son of John) was trustee to William, loaning him the money to purchase the new forge.
In 1825 John Stedman bought the forge. He and his brother already owned Normandy smithy (Wyke was part of Worplesdon). The tithe map and first detailed census of 1841 give us a clear picture of the Stedman family: John was then about fifty years old, and lived with his wife and family, including his son George, then about twenty years old. There were four other teenage children still at home, as well as three teenage employees. Next door, on the site of the present electricity sub-station, lived his journeyman-smith, Richard Adams. Richard served Woodstreet for over forty-five years and was still working at the age of seventy-two.
These were clearly years of expansion for metal workers. John Chitty (not the wealthy owner of Littlefield) bought Nightingale Old Farm in 1829 and soon set up a wheelwright’s shop there: his business thrived, despite renewed efforts from the ‘White Hart’ wheelwrights. The 1841 census shows no fewer than five wheelwrights working in Wood Street! There were all called John: Chitty senior and junior at Nightingales, and Attree senior and junior with John Wood at the ‘White Hart’.
By 1851 both John Chitty and John Stedman had left off the running of their businesses and taken to farming. John Stedman bought Hillplace Farm: elderly locals still refer to HillpIace as Stedmans Farm in memory of the owners of their childhood days. Steadmans Cottage and, recently, Steadmans Farm derive from the family’s ownership too.
The next phase of expansion was the building of the new smithy and wheelwright’s shop on common land adjacent to the forge. Their copy of the Worplesdon Manorial Court Roll dated 23rd May 1863 grants John Stedman Ounior) admission for “a piece or parcel of land lately part of the waste of the manor (1½ rods) lying at Woodstreet, being part of the site of the blacksmith’s shop there occupied by George Stedman”. The annual rent for the twenty-four-foot-square piece of land was one shilling. Incidentally, John junior was described as a gentleman of Guildford. (George did not gain control of the business he ran until his brother’s death.) It is likely that the wheelwright’s shop was built at the same time. It made sense to have wheelwright and blacksmith on adjacent sites: it must have greatly enhanced their efficiency and potential.
Strangely enough, John Chitty junior did eventually acquire the site of the first forge. (You can read the bill of sale in the section on the history of the White Hart as a beerhouse.) His son William continued the business. Lodging with William in 1881 was the twenty-one-year-old employee Albert Stovold, who is still remembered, much loved—and generally known as Grandad Stovold.
John James Bateson took over the forge in about 1880. Kelly’s Directories of 1895 and 1899 give his trades as builder and decorator, sanitary engineer, blacksmith and sub-postmaster. Clearly a man who believed in diversifying with an eye to the future! By 1903, William Young had taken on the business, and it was at about this time that Alexander Pierce came from Yorkshire to work for him—he lived in a cottage on the site of the present electricity sub-station next to the Old Forge. His daughter, Alice, remembers helping Mr. Chitty and Mr. Stovold do the watering for making the wheels. This was the process of shrinking the iron tyres onto the cartwheels. The huge flat iron disc set in the ground, on which the red-hot tyre was laid for the insertion of the wheel, is still in situ.
Alec Pierce became the only blacksmith and remained until 1932. The bellows, still in working order, and other paraphernalia were still there in 1950; his sign lay in a corner of the garage. It read “A. Pierce & Son, Farriers” and was carved with horseshoes and other symbols. The beautiful chestnut tree, so often associated with a smithy, was planted about eighty years ago. It still contains the collar and chains which Alec Pierce used to join up the trunk. This wonderful piece of tree surgery is perhaps the best legacy a blacksmith could leave.
The White Hart
We do not know how long the White Hart has been a beerhouse; we can only follow clues.
Henry Herret bought the house and land in 1827 from the executors of the insolvent James Mills. Mills’ daughter Mille had married a Yorkshire innkeeper. The 1827 sale transaction mentions additional structures: cottages and buildings which had possibly been built much earlier. It is likely that the successful Cobbett blacksmith family of the eighteenth century enlarged the house. The ground plan from the 1841 tithe map shows that there has been substantially little change until very recently. There is no mention of a beerhouse on the site: Herret himself was a carpenter, and he had sublet to wheelwrights.
The census of 1861 shows that William Hammond was the ‘beer shop keeper’, and ten years later his widow Susan was ‘grocer and beerhouse keeper’. They probably came before 1855, since their first child was born in the parish. There is no mention of the White Hart in the Brewster Sessions of the Guildford Magistrates’ Bench, nor is it marked on a map of 1870. A detailed return of Surrey Licensed Houses later in the century states that it was licensed as a beerhouse before 1869; this document also states that there was no accommodation for travellers or persons requiring refreshment other than intoxicating drink. There was no stabling provision for visitors, either. It can safely be stated, therefore, that the White Hart has never been an inn.
The Surrey Advertiser of Saturday 25th August 1877 contained the following advertisement:–
Neither Thomas Francis nor George Lipscombe considered the beer- house side of his business important enough to enter on his census return. It could possibly have been a job for the wives, but Mary Lipscombe then had eight children, including three under five years of age. It was more likely a retirement job; indeed, a directory of 1887 shows that Thomas Francis, then sixty-four, was the beer retailer. In 1899 Walter Ellis, another partner in the wood-dealing business, took over for twelve years. A local government survey of 2nd April 1913 names Fanny Ellis as the occupier; the owners were by then Friary, Holroyd and Healy’s Breweries Ltd., Guildford. Fanny Ellis paid twenty pounds a quarter rent, which still included the garden and orchard (now Seagry) but not the cottage. The entry reads:- “An old brick and tiled building known as the White Hart containing Tap room, Bar Parlour, Clubroom, passage, small cellar on ground floor, Private sitting room, kitchen, and good sized pantry, three good bedrooms and two small; some are very low but are nicely situated in good decorative order. One small room downstairs is now turned into a shop for groceries. Good garden and orchard at rear.” The valuation was £1200.
In 1912/13 Fanny Ellis was succeeded by Robert Lipscombe. The dynasty ended in about 1925.
The paraffin lamps in the bar, and the pump and well in the kitchen, were next tended by Herbert Lintott. When his faithful service ended in 1958, he and his son Bert could look back proudly over all their improvements: “now we have electric light and all conveniences”.
The Royal Oak
A fine Victorian building stood atop of the hill where the road ended in a rough track to Wood Street. It was in 1853 that Edmund Healy applied for, and got at that first application, a victuallers licence under the sign of the Royal Oak.
The land on which the Royal Oak was erected was known as Torr Field and was part of farmland belonging to Pound Farm in what was then called Mays Hill. A new dwelling-house building was built in 1851 by the landowner William Ede and a twenty-one-year lease granted to G. W. & F. A. Crooke, who were Brewers in Guildford.
The first fourteen years saw six landlords come and go, but sometime between 1867 and 1871 Thomas Wheeler arrived from the ‘Duke of Normandy’. That part of Normandy was in the West End Tithing of Worplesdon, so you could say that he was no stranger, since he had already given ten years’ service on the very borders of the village. He and his daughter served the Royal Oak for more than sixty-seven years. Thomas was also a wheelwright, presumably to John Chitty. Four of his six children were born in Wood Street. The eldest girls, Fanny and Nellie (officially Edith Ellen and later Mrs. Ellen White), were clever enough to be still at school at the ages of fourteen and thirteen years. It was Nellie who took over from her father when he retired in his eightieth year.
The photograph on the front cover ( and above ) shows Thomas, Fanny and Ellen outside the original building. There were six steps down to the cellar and every pint had to be drawn from there. This was partly the reason why the building was demolished in 1928 and the present one built. There was no interruption in trade: the barn beside the pub was used as a temporary bar in order to maintain the licence. The Wheeler family relinquished the Royal Oak sometime during the Second World War, thus completing a record long service.
Wood Street School
A voluntary school was established at Wood Street in 1878 by a committee under the chairmanship of the Rev. George I. Dupois “to make best use of the provisions of the Elementary Education Act (1870) for furthering the education of the people of this parish”.
It was first intended as an infants’ school for eighty children, to complement the already-established school at Perry Hill. When the proposed school neared the drawing-board stage, however, the Inspectors decided that it should be a full school for fifty children. There was to be one school room, and living accommodation for the teacher.
In 1872 Henry Peak was commissioned to draw the plans. He was a very prolific architect and is said to have been “the Architect of Victorian Guildford”: he was responsible for many of the buildings in and around Guildford between 1864 and 1891. The school was built by Thomas and John Loe, Builders—but also owners of Old Gables and Chapelhouse Farms—at a cost of four hundred and fifty-three pounds, with a grant of thirty pounds from the National Society.
In the early years the school was supported by the rich of the Parish of Worplesdon with a rate levied by the Church. The parents also had to contribute by means of the ‘school pence’.
The school was opened on 8th April 1878 with an intake of eighteen and by July there were forty-six pupils. For many of the children it was their first schooling, but others came from a class held by Miss Keel in the chapel (now a private house) opposite the ‘Cricketers’ on the Aldershot Road, and from the main school at Perry Hill.
In 1882, when the school became a Board School, an announcement in the Surrey Advertiser stated that the new school board “Resolved to carry on the existing schools at Worplesdon [Perry Hill] and Wood Street under the existing arrangements until Michaelmas, the present teachers to be notified accordingly, and the new arrangements will be entered into from that date. Also that the trustees of the present school [the Worplesdon Church] be asked to state upon what terms they will grant the use of the present school buildings, and the Board are desirous the Wood Street School should be made a public Elementary School.”
As a Board School it relied on an annual grant from the Government, which in turn depended upon a favourable report from the Inspectorate. The grant in 1891 was 12s. 6d. per child, with extras for:– discipline, 1s. 6d.; singing, 6d.; English, 2s.; girls, 1s.; giving a total for that year of thirty-one pounds eleven shillings and sixpence.
By 1882 the ‘school pence’ had gone up to 3d. a week but only 2d. for each extra child. If the parents were wealthier they were asked to pay 6d. a week. The teacher (usually a Miss) was paid approximately forty pounds per year; she had to teach all grades from infants (five-year-olds) to standard five (thirteen-year-olds). She did have the help of a monitress, who was usually a pupil who had just left school and was paid ten shillings per month.
By the turn of the century the school was getting too small and the Inspectorate insisted that a separate room be provided for the infants. After many warnings had been issued, including the threat of withholding the grant, an extension was put on the school room in 1902, which enabled the infants to be taught separately. This room now forms half of the school hall.
A surveyor’s report of 1904 shows that seventy-two children were housed in the extension (half hall) and twenty-three infants in the original classroom (attached to the house). The toilets were of hopper type with no water available for flushing (they were flushed and cleaned once a week with water carried from the house well). The cesspools were emptied twice a year, usually at night, by men with buckets.
The catchment area for the school roughly encompassed Flexford, Strawberry Grove, the ‘Cricketers’, Perry Hill and Passengers Farm. Many of the children had to come over the common land to get to the school, so very often only a few children would be able to attend school if there was flooding in the district.
The school was closed on joyful occasions, such as the Royal Wedding in 1893 of (the later) George V and Mary and in 1897 to commemorate “the Queen’s long reign” (Queen Victoria’s). It was also closed for more serious reasons, such as diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough and measles.
As a school treat the children and staff would be invited out to tea with the local landowners, sometimes followed by a magic lantern show. If the trip involved any distance, such as Guildford Town or Merrist Wood, a two-horse braked waggon was ordered.
The children often helped the hospitals by going out picking black- berries on the common. They also responded to ‘Pound Day’, which involved bringing in a pound weight of any product they wished.
In 1913 a separate infants’ school was built in the mistress’s garden. This meant that the school could be divided into three groups: infants; standards one and two; and standards three to five.
- Stan Burgess 19. Len Nicklin
- ? 20. Burt Grist
- Les Goodship 21. Son Pearce
- Don Buckler 23. Reg Grist
- Alec Martin 24. Annie Napper
- ? 25. Jenny Limming
- Edgar Goodship 26. Freda Ives
- Les Buckler 27. Daisy Cousins
- John Huck 28. Lance Case
- Ken Buckler 29. Alice Thompson
- Charlie Gaff 30. Rose Boxall
- Teddy Ayling 31. ?
- Alice Pierce 32. David Hill
- Olive Huck 33. David Hill
- Clara Thompson 34. M. Ayling
- ? 35. Bill Tresher
- Ernest Limming 36. Sid Boyton
- Mr Oyston
The school continued to grow and by 1928 it was felt that another extension (to the existing extension) was needed. This was built and the end wall of the original extension taken out and replaced with a wooden partition, so that the two classrooms could be used as one big room for concerts and assemblies.
The school meals service was started during the Second World War. A cooker was placed in the lobby to cook food and provide hot Horlicks, which were taken back to the classrooms for consumption. The central- heating boiler and the telephone were also in the lobby—you can imagine that there were times when it was almost impossible for the headmaster to hear the phone. It was not until 1958 that the school house (up to now a residence for the head teacher) was converted to provide a kitchen, on the ground floor, and headmaster’s offices and medical room on the first floor. Soon afterwards the flower beds at the front were asphalted over to provide more playground space.
In 1963 one of the three air-raid shelters was taken down to put up a temporary classroom. This enabled the original school room to be used as a dining room. By 1971 a second temporary classroom had been installed, and this allowed the partition between the two extensions to be removed to provide a hall large enough to hold all the school. The original school room then became a classroom once more.
Plans showing the development of the School from 1878 to 1982:
The school has now been a centre of village life for eleven decades ( 1988 ). The Sunday School, the Brownies and the Village Library have all used it as their headquarters in the past. We hope that it will continue to serve the community into the twenty-second century.
The Parish Church for Wood Street Village is, of course, St. Mary’s, Worplesdon, the joys and tragedies of life being celebrated there as recorded in the parish records. A large parish, and especially one with a frequently absentee Rector, is likely to allow unhindered growth of Nonconformists. This happened in the seventeenth century, when our tithing was the home of one of the first members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Stephen Smith, a personal friend of the founder, George Fox, owned Whites Farm on the very boundaries of modern Wood Street Village. Fox stayed with Smith in 1677 and held a very large meeting in his house.
Stephen Smith gave a farm as a burial ground for Quakers. In 1739 Worplesdon Ouakers joined to Guildford: the farm was sold some years later and is now known as Fairlands Farm.
Legends about Quakers abound in Wood Street. Anglicans were encouraged to abuse Quakers in any legal fashion, and the Quakers noted incidents such as rough-musicking and damage to their houses in their records. This is probably the root of the enmity between Perry Hill residents and Woodstreeters, which was still evident in 1940.
It is popularly believed that Chapelhouse Farm (demolished and rebuilt in 1921) was once a Quaker meeting place. There are stories of people walking barefoot from Compton, carrying their shoes, in order to be clean shod for worship. The farm was once owned by Thomas Pink and was called Pinks Hill Farm. However, a conveyance of 1870 states that the farm was “now more commonly called Meeting House or Chapelhouse Farm”. The Reverend William Henry Parson had acquired it with Thomas Collins (who had since died) through the will of Thomas Pink. This suggests that Thomas Pink had bequeathed it as a Meeting House. Certainly there is no record of Thomas Pink’s burial in the parish church but, sadly, there are no records of a Worplesdon Quaker Meeting House of this period.
There was also a settlement of French Protestants—Huguenots—in Worplesdon. They would have arrived in England in about 1685. The blanket mill at Rickford and the barn for wool storage at Perry Hill are both attributed to their occupation. An elderly Perry Hill resident, writing in 1945, stated that the blacksmith of his childhood claimed to have slept in Huguenot blankets when apprenticed to John Chitty at Wood Street.
There are those still living in the area today who believe that they are descended from these Huguenots: the Boyer and Marshall families of the 1920s told their children that they were descended from the Boyer and Mareschal immigrants.
The most convincing evidence of Huguenots is the fireback found in Frog Grove House during some renovations. It contained the coat of arms of the Compte de Paris, the Pretender to the French throne who was supported by the persecuted fleeing Protestants. In the 1930s the BBC researched a similar fireback found at Wood Norton: they claimed that a large clan of Huguenots was established in Pirbright, Normandy and Ash. (We should perhaps remind ourselves that all reporters at this time persistently and ignorantly regarded Wood Street as being part of Normandy.)
Others in Wood Street were active in their support of the Parish Church. William Wallis, of Billinghurst (Billhurst) Farm, was one of the nineteenth-century Churchwardens. Three successive occupants of Littlefield were also Churchwardens, but we are pleased to note that no Woodstreet resident was on the committee appointed to “carry out the proposed alterations and improvements to the Parish Church” in 1866. Indeed, the interests of Wood Street residents were so ignored that the grave of James May (d. 1834) of Hillplace was amongst those desecrated by the improvements.
The Vestry, the forerunner of the civil Parish Council, was run from the Vestry Room. John Stedman (senior) and John Chitty (wheelwright, senior) acted as overseers for the poor of West End Tithing for many years. The owners of Littlefield, Whipley, Billhurst, Nightingales and the forge all took their turn as Waywardens. George Stedman was a Parochial Constable for a total of thirteen years.
It was in the minds of these men, perhaps even as they warmed themselves around the village forge, that the idea of a church for Wood Street began to take shape. The presence of a separate school for Wood Street had furthered the concept of a separate ‘village’, and services were held there from the earliest days. (In 1901 the Schoolmistress was allowed to live in the house rent free in return for giving religious instruction in the school on Sundays.) A fund was set up in 1893, entitled ‘The Wood Street Mission Fund’. Perhaps the title reflected the way the initiators felt about the souls of Wood Street! Two pounds and nine shillings, for example, came from a special offertory at a service in St. Mary’s on 26th November 1894.
The Parish Council Minutes of July 1914 state that “a letter from Smallpiece & Co. was received, enclosing a copy of an application to the Board of Agriculture for their consent to enclose three-quarters of an acre of the Common in Wood Street. The application was in connection with the proposed new Church at Wood Street, the Lord of the Manor having previously given his consent.” There is no record, however, of permission being granted or of further action.
A definite decision to build a “Church Room or Hall” in Wood Street was again taken at a meeting of the Worplesdon Parochial Church Council (P.C.C.) held in Perry Hill School on 26th November 1921. The initiative came from the Wood Street Social Committee, on which Capt. and Mrs. Abbot of Inholms Farm were leading lights. Mrs. Abbot, who was on the P.C.C., urged that the proposed building be suitable for a library and for “general village purposes”. The ex-servicemen of the village offered a sum of twenty-five pounds towards the building. The 1893 fund had been joined by two others, the total now being one hundred and ninety-seven pounds. The P.C.C. resolved to erect a church building with a sanctuary that could be partitioned off when the ‘room or hall’ was used for purposes other than worship; the Wood Street Social Committee (sometimes referred to as the Wood Street Sports and Recreational Committee) was to be consulted about a suitable site.
It was not until nearly three years later that the Wood Street Social Committee recommended to the P.C.C. the purchase of “a site opposite the Royal Oak for the erection of a Mission Hall”. On 11th October 1924 the P.C.C. empowered Mr. Narroway (Beckdale House) to obtain the site from Mr. Steer, a confectioner and tobacconist, at a cost of one hundred and forty pounds.
In the meantime, efforts continued to raise funds for the new building, both in inviting subscriptions and in organising events. The Parish Magazine of November 1924 advertised “A Working Party” to be” held on Tuesday each week at the Hut on Wood Street Village Green, at 2.30 p.m. Work will be provided. A charge of twopence will be made, and a cup of tea and cake will be provided. The object is to provide goods for a small sale of work, the proceeds of which will be devoted to the Wood Street Mission Building Fund.” It seems that services in the Wood Street School had lapsed, because they were reintroduced on 16th December 1923. The Rector, the Reverend J. C. G. Bruce, took the first service, which was attended by some fifty people. Captain Wallis of the Church Army, a licensed reader, was appointed in 1924 as full-time missioner for Wood Street. He gave the village “three years’ faithful service”.
“A design for a timber and asbestos building with corrugated iron roof and brick and concrete foundations” was presented to the P.C.C. on 7th February 1925. The design, by Mr. Dauber, was contracted to Messrs. Tribe & Robinson, who built the Mission Hall in nine weeks. The cost of the building was six hundred and forty-three pounds; heating apparatus was installed a year later for seventy-six pounds nine shillings and sixpence. The dedication of the Wood Street Church Mission Hall took place on Saturday, 20th June, 1925.
The P.C.C. had rented Old Gables for Captain Wallis at a cost of fifty-two pounds per year. He left on Lady Day 1927 when the lease expired. The Rector had written to Church Army headquarters that “owing to lack of accommodation the services of Captain Wallis must terminate on March 25th.” His departure left such a gap that within months the P.C.C. had decided to build a house for a priest on land lying to the north of the Mission Hall, a ceiling of one thousand two hundred pounds being placed upon building costs. The first occupant of that house was the Reverend Elliot Ostrehan Iredell. The newly-created Diocese of Guildford had set the stipend for assistant clergy at two hundred pounds per year, so the P.C.C. decided to pay him two hundred and fifteen pounds per year, in order to cover the fifteen-pounds-a-year rates on the house. The Diocese wrote to object to this irregularity, a curate being overpaid! The angry and astonishing response of the P.C.C. was to increase his stipend to three hundred and fifteen pounds! The Rev. Iredell must have felt truly blessed, since his former salary as Rector of Chilbolton in Hampshire was only fifty pounds a year. It is hardly surprising that when the time came for the curate to move on there were seventy-two applicants for his position.
The 1925 building was known as the Church Hall or the Mission Hall until 1937. On 23rd February of that year it was rededicated as St. Alban’s Church. It is popularly believed that the church was named after the Wren Church of St. Alban in Wood Street, London (bombed in 1944). Only eight months after the rededication the curate announced that he was convinced that a new church was required. The vision of Curate Bell took thirty years to realise: the present St. Alban’s Church was dedicated on 22nd December 1967 by Bishop Reindorp. The design by David Nye, diocesan architect, was built by Messrs. Jackson & Gocher and the cost was sixteen thousand, three hundred and twelve pounds, seventeen shillings.
The Village Green
The Green, like all Wood Street commons, was sold to Surrey County Council by Lord Onslow in 1964. It is not clear how long it had been used as a green by the inhabitants. We assume that it became a green by “continuous and open use by the inhabitants for sports and pastimes for at least twenty years without protest from the Lord of the Manor”. A book produced in 1828 paints the following delightful picture:–
“At the foot of the hill, southerly, is what is called Woodstreet, with a stately May-pole standing upon a littel green plain, a sad memento of the ‘Merrie days of old England’, when men had not learned to calculate the sum upon which the industrious peasant could exist.”
Most Surrey villages had maypoles until the early 1800s. These, of course, were the old English maypoles—tall, permanent masts, which stood on the greens. They would have been hung with flower garlands on May Day and around them circular dances would have been performed, the dancers holding hands. These dances, along with the poles, had been forgotten in the 1880s when the ribbon-plaiting dance around the short maypole was introduced to schools. In Wood Street, though, the old pole was renewed in 1871, the Surrey Advertiser of 6th May 1871 giving the vital report:–
The custom of ‘garlanding’ was also common in Wood Street. This custom was also sometimes called ‘maypoling’. Children went from house to house with a garland or pole decorated with flowers, rather in the fashion of ‘penny for the guy’. Worplesdon School Logbooks show absences on May Day for this purpose in the 1870s and 1880s.
Wood Street’s May Pole—renewed again in 1953—is the only one still standing in the County, and it is thought that the reason why it was not forgotten was because an annual May Fair was held on the Green.
The success of the Fair was reflected in the truancies from school on the First of May during the latter part of the nineteenth century. It is said that the Green was always crowded for these fairs and that Wood Street had a very good band. Council Minutes (1911 to 1920) contain references to the Fair held on the First of May each year and the tolls collected. In 1911 the tolls amounted to seven shillings, and the Council agreed to reduce the tariff for 1912. The new scale of charges for booths at Wood Street Fair was:–
Roundabouts—————————————– each 20s.
Shooting Gallery—————— down from 5s. to 3s.
Coconut Stand———————- down from 5s. to 3s.
Swing Boats————————- down from 5s. to 3s.
Side Shows————————— down from 5s. to 3s.
Ordinary Stand——————– down from 2s. to 1s.
The Clerk visited the Fair on the First of May to collect the tolls of 16s. due, but was only able to collect 11s.: he could not extract the balance from the stall-holders. The Council decided that in future the payment would be collected before allowing stall-holders on to the Green.
In 1915 the Clerk reported that no tolls had been collected because no booths had been erected. A horse and cattle market had been held early in the morning. Was it the war which brought the end of the Fair, or the unusual weather? It snowed!
The Fair was revived in its modern form by Wood Street Horticultural Society in 1947 (Flower Shows were inaugurated in 1936 ( or 1938 ))—a small forerunner horticultural show had been held in a field for four years before the war. New booths were made and run by members of the British Legion and the Horticultural Society, and extra money was earned by hiring them out to other village fêtes.
Cricket in Wood Street was born out of the 1871 renewal of the Maypole, when “a cricket ground was prepared”. It is not known when Wood Street Cricket Club was officially formed, but locals have fathers and grandfathers who were members.
Parish Council Minutes state that on 3rd July 1913 it was reported that Dennis’s Athletic Club had been playing cricket without permission. The secretary of the club apologised and requested permission of the Parish Council to play on the Green, but unfortunately the intervening three weeks had seen the collection of a petition signed by thirty-seven Woodstreet householders objecting to the cricket. (Perhaps thirty-seven members of Wood Street Cricket Club?) Eventually Dennis A.C. were allowed to continue playing for the rest of the season. At the close of the year Drummonds A.C. requested the use of the Green for the following season’s cricket, but they later withdrew their request—one wonders if they were made more welcome elsewhere!
During World War II, the pond outside Inholms was filled in, for security reasons. This pond was always full of frogs in spring, and they were seen migrating down Frog Grove Lane in large numbers: most locals believe that this phenomenon is the origin of the name of the lane. But this is not so—the original name was Forgrove.
In July 1953 a village sign was erected by local people out of the residue of the Coronation Fund. There had been a competition for the design, and all the work was done by Wood Street craftsmen. The photograph on the back cover was taken in about 1955 and shows how long the grass grew without the services of grazing cattle. Wood Street Cricket Club (wsvcc ) now maintain the Green in its excellent condition. ( wsvcc have since moved to Backside Common 1991 )
Map of Wood Street Green in 1841
1841 Census information showing who lived around Wood Street Village Green
“A concert was given in the Schoolroom, on Friday, November 26th, , the management of which Mr. Careless very kindly undertook, himself singing two comic songs in character, which were vociferously encored. The room was very crowded. The proceeds amounted to £2 2s. We owe the success to Mr. Careless, who not only undertook the trouble of getting performers, but very kindly distributed the bills and programmes in all directions, even sending them as far as Flexford.”
Lantern Slide Shows
Mr. and Mrs. Careless of Inholms Farm were well known for their lantern slide shows before 1900. School children enjoyed tea there as well. The shows were such a success that subsequent owners of Inholms continued the practice. In the 1920s they were held in a barn in the field behind the house. This small building became known as Ye Olde Wooden Room and a piano was used for musical entertainment.
Coronation Festivities 1911
The Parish Council Minute Book records that Mr. Careless told Councillors that “the Wood Street residents wished to have the festivities for those persons living in that district at Wood Street on Coronation Day”. The Parish Council decided otherwise, even though Mrs. Careless offered to entertain Wood Street children at her own expense if the adults did not attend the Worplesdon entertainment. A grand celebration at Merrist Wood (Worplesdon had no Memorial Hall or other suitable gathering place) was planned for all Worplesdon Parish residents. The Worplesdon Band (which seems to be called the Wood Street Band in personal memoirs) was booked to entertain them. Every child was to be given a Coronation mug.
The area was decorated with flags and there were sports with prizes; caterers were employed to provide food, beer and minerals, and the evening ended with a bonfire and fireworks. The accounts showed that seven hundred and fifty-six adults partook of the cold dinner at one shilling and nine pence per head. One hundred and fifty-four gallons of beer was drunk!
The first known shop existed before 1877. Groceries were sold from a small room at the back of the White Hart. The young conscripts of 1916 sent the children of the village from the mustering point on the Green with pennies to buy sweets there. In 1899 Benjamin Potter owned a cottage shop at 4, Broad Street Cottages (now 70, Broad Street) and later there was one near the Hare and Hounds public house, which closed in the 1960s.
The first reference to a post office appears on a map of 1870. It seems that George Stedman, the blacksmith, took on yet another public service, and successive blacksmiths advertised themselves as sub-postmasters. By 1914 the post office had removed to the north side of the pair of cottages which now form Willow Cottage on the Green: Mr. Arthur Brown and then, after his call-up, his wife Alice ran it in conjunction with a small shop. By 1922 it was run by Mr. Boyton from the south side of the Green. In 1927 Mr. Woodhams opened the post office in a wooden hut next to the present post office; Ernest Grinstead moved it into the house when he took over. Mrs. Ethel Crick was the village post-woman from 1926 until 1947. The mail was delivered to Wood Street, whence she delivered it on a four-and-a-half-mile round. She had no official uniform, merely a hat and armband.
Next to the present post office, on the site of Wealden Court, was a haberdasher’s, run for three decades by Miss Goodchild. From 1965 it was run for a short time by Mrs. Bayliss, but it was sold in about 1969 and later redeveloped.
Hillbrow, the house which stands between New House Farm Lane and the school, was once used as a second-hand clothes shop. Between the wars Mr. and Mrs. Hammond (née Mitchell) ran a fish and chip shop there.
Jubilee Stores was built in 1935 as a small grocery store. Both village shops stand on land owned by the Hester family, who own all the land occupied by traders in Oak Hill. The garage was started as a couple of petrol pumps for one of the Hester family and developed in the 1960s by Jack Lyons.
Nineteenth-century parish roads were maintained and repaired much as they had been for the previous three hundred years. Flint was dug out in the area between Hollybush Farm and Pound Lane and carried to the roadside, where it was broken up. Getting to Guildford by carriage had been much improved in the late eighteenth century when the Rector of Worplesdon built up a causeway to the Wooden Bridge. The General Highways Act of 1835 relieved individuals of the task of actually working on the roads for a set period each year. Much of Wood Street’s flint went elsewhere, since the road to Wood Street petered out at the Royal Oak and deteriorated into a rough track as late as 1920.
There were occasions, such as in 1853, when the Vestry did consider “whether the road from Frog Grove and Woodstreet Road to Russell Place Farm should be made up or not”. They decided against it. The Vestry, formerly responsible for road maintenance, disliked the new system so much that they were unanimous in condemning it in their reply to a Government questionnaire of 1869. In 1873 Worplesdon Vestry members were the moving force behind the dissolution of the Guildford Highway District Board and then in the chairmanship of the new Highway Board. Improvements were not enough and the poor state of the roads was reported again in 1880.
If the Vestry was exercised over roads, their patience was exhausted over the railway. No part of the parish benefited from it (Worplesdon Station was built much later). Negotiations over the rates continued for twelve years, and they were finally settled in court. The railway through Wood Street was opened in 1849: the peace of the village was shattered, with the advantage of just two residents gaining employment. A signal box was later built beneath Pinks Hill Bridge, subsequently being replaced by one at Pound Lane called Pinks Hill Crossing. A cottage for the signal-man was built there too.
There was much local and national amusement in 1964 when British Rail closed Pinks Hill Crossing: they provided an access road for use by the owner of Wildfields Farm at a cost exceeding the value of his property. The signal box and house were demolished soon afterwards.
Footpaths were a problem to the Vestry and continue to trouble the Parish Council. The clay soil frequently caused breakdown, and paths were often churned up by the Hunt.
The first regular transport to Guildford was by carrier’s cart; Hobbs, the carrier, merely extending the idea of the traditional lift given as part of his delivery service. People still remember that the cart had a big white canvas top. It is said that later he put a few wooden forms on a lorry used for carrying coal and other merchandise. Mr. Hobbs was still in business as a carrier in 1930.
The Blue Bus Service was the first autobus service from Wood Street to Guildford. The depot was at Stoughton Road, and the driver was Mr. T. Denton, who lived in Wood Street. The last Saturday night bus from Guildford was always so overcrowded that the engine would not pull up Woodbridge Hill; the male passengers were obliged to get out and push. The owner, Mr. Crouch of Stoughton, also had a taxi service, for which he used a taxi and a hansom cab. These were popularly referred to as ‘Crouch’s Funeral Car’.
In 1928 Messrs. Hutchins & Hayter put two Dennis vehicles into service between Guildford and Camberley via Wood Street, in the livery of their Yellow Bus Service. The service provided ten return journeys on weekdays, with an extra journey on Tuesday mornings. On Sunday mornings there was a short journey from Wood Street Green at ten-thirty, returning at twelve-thirty. Late theatre buses ran on Tuesdays and Saturdays to Wood Street Green.
It was not unusual to see the extra Tuesday bus carrying crates of chickens on their way to market.
In foggy weather the conductress would walk in front of the bus to guide it with a torch; a passenger volunteered to guide when the bus became one-man-operated.
The Yellow Bus Service was withdrawn in 1954 when Aldershot and District Company took over the route.
The first car in the village was reputedly a Dion owned in 1910 by Mr. Cheeseman of Frog Grove House.
Arthur Drummond and Drummond Engineering
Arthur Drummond (1871–1951) was a painter of historical and other figure subjects. He was the son of John Drummond, a marine painter, and was born in Bristol. He was an artist of talent and repute, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from the age of nineteen years. At this time he was living at ‘Artolar’, Wood Street Green, but when he exhibited again at the Royal Academy, in 1899, he lived at Old Gables, Pinks Hill.
His recreation was model engineering, which he fully developed whilst living in Wood Street. As he found it difficult to obtain a small lathe suitable for model-making at a reasonable price, he designed and built his own in 1896. He went on to design and make two more lathes, which had beds of a special form whereby the use of a gap piece was eliminated but the advantages of a gap-bed lathe were retained.
Arthur and his brother Frank, who had been apprenticed as an engineer, made these lathes in their workshop adjacent to Old Gables. It is considered that Arthur had a remarkably inventive mind and a natural flair for designing machinery. Accidents did happen—one elderly Wood Street man recalled that on one occasion “he and his brother put themselves into hospital”!
Within a few years the brothers had developed a very popular range of small lathes from the original three designs. In 1902 a limited liability company was formed and land acquired on the site of former brickfields at Broadstreet. At this time a 3½-in. screwcutting lathe was introduced, which sold well to both model engineers and small engineering works. One of these lathes was included in the equipment of Captain Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912.
The first of a range which became known as ‘round bed’ machines was developed in 1906. These lathes sold for only five pounds and were exported in large quantities to Australia, Canada and India. A foundry was added and larger lathes—5-in., 6-in. and 7-in. screwcutting lathes— were built and sold on a considerable scale, principally to garages.
The outbreak of war in 1914 brought large Government orders for 3½-in. and 5-in. lathes, the 3½-in. for use in destroyers and submarines. The larger lathes were for the Mechanised Section of the Army Service Corps. The factory operated day and night until May 1915, when a fire destroyed the majority of the buildings and plant. The rebuilding and re-equipment of the works were undertaken with great urgency.
The growth of the motor vehicle industry led to a demand for machines for high-production turning operations. Production began in 1925 of a new generation of larger lathes, which sold in large quantities to the motor vehicle and aircraft industries. Modifications and additions to the range resulted in the extension of the factory on numerous occasions. During the Second World War all Bristol engine crankshafts and propeller shafts were made on Drummond lathes; modifications had been made in 1938 to the Drummond No.1 Maxicut Lathe to make it suitable for turning shells. Production of small-centre lathes was discontinued during the war to allow the company to concentrate on the building of multi-tool lathes and gear shapers.
After the war a completely new range of Maxicut machines was developed. Arthur Drummond continued as Managing Director and was largely responsible for the design of machines until 1942. He continued as a director of the company until 1946 and died, aged eighty-six, in 1951.
By the 1960s there were about three hundred employees, including apprentices, drawing office and welfare staff. Drummond (Sales) had been a separate company since 1933. The foundry had been closed, but the buildings contained a production area of about forty thousand square feet, a pattern shop, drawing office, paint shop, fettling shop, heat treatment department and an induction-hardening installation for beds, as well as a canteen and social club. The pride of the factory was the Standards Room, which was designed and fitted with the latest scientific testing equipment to ensure accurate measurement and testing.
The severe national and international economic situation of the 1970s resulted in the phased closing of the factory, which by now was under the management of Staveley Tools. Such was the standard of workmanship and training that few local people were unemployed for long after the final closure in 1981.
The site was redeveloped for small factory and warehouse units, mainly devoted to the high-tech. industry. Houses now stand on the area where the canteen and social club once stood.
Wartime Wood Street
To the Glory of God and in proud and grateful memory of those who went out from this village and gave their lives for their country in two World Wars.
Les Goodship was just a boy of twelve when he watched the young men of Wood Street muster on the Green in 1916. Before marching away they sent the boys to buy sweets from the grocer’s at the White Hart. Some were never seen again. It is perhaps significant that many joined the local regiment, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, which had its headquarters at Stoughton. The burial-places of the casualties grimly portray the history of “The Queen’s” at war.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have been helpful in supplying details of most of Wood Street’s War Dead.
Conscription left the village sadly short of manpower. In the Second War several Wood Street women became Land Army Girls. Evacuees added to the amount of work rather than depleting it. Even those who remained can remember little of life in the village, since everyone worked very hard. The twelve-hour day, day and night, seven days a week, operated at Drummonds, day and night shifts alternating fortnightly. Farmers were generally single-handed and also worked long hours. Extra land, such as Broad Street Common, had to be worked for wheat and potatoes. In addition there were initially the Land Defence and, later, the Home Guard duties to be done. At the outbreak of war those left behind were encouraged to prepare sand-bags and to tape windows in just the same way as townspeople did. One of the Borough’s activities was to survey all wells, to be able to provide water should the mains be destroyed. Gradually those with vehicles found themselves unable to purchase petrol.
Most local farmers were encouraged to volunteer as ‘Local Defence Volunteers’ (L.D.V.) to “counteract the dropping of foreign troops into rural areas”. One Wood Street man was issued with an armband (marked LDV), a forage cap and a pike! It is said that the pike came from Windsor Castle! Later this volunteer received a 12-bore double-barrelled shot-gun. The Wood Street Home Guard, when finally formed, consisted of eight or nine sections, and drew men from Fairlands, Liddington Hall, Rydes Hill, Broad Street and Wood Street.
They were mainly men in Reserve Occupations, employed principally at Drummonds. The Headquarters was established in a barn at Pound Farm, the home of Major Baird, who was a senior officer in the Home Guard. The officer in charge of Wood Street was Lt.-Colonel Gordon Browne of Nightingale Old Farm. The Platoon went on duty at 2200 hrs. and stood down at dawn. One of the tasks was to patrol from the Green to the Hare and Hounds public house; another was to act as guards for Cobbets Hill Wireless Station, patrolling with an Army Alsatian dog. There was also training on Sunday mornings. Farmers with livestock got dispensation from the training, but night-shift workers at Drummonds were not so lucky. Instructors were provided from the Guards at Pirbright. Rifle target practice at Bisley or Henley Ranges was followed by the march home, with band accompaniment, in time for the White Hart’s opening at noon.
The patrol from the Green to Clasford Bridge was performed by the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) Unit. Their headquarters, or hut, was the former blacksmith’s home, now the site of the electricity sub-station, on the Green. It was also used as a First Aid Post. The head Warden was Mr. M. Morris of Frog Grove Lane, and its members included a Belgian gentleman and four ladies who acted as Red Cross Nurses. They used an empty house on Pinks Hill for evacuation and rescue practice.
A Fifth Columnist was arrested at Beckdale House. Incendiary bombs and an oil bomb did some damage in Frog Grove Lane, mainly to animals; three very heavy bombs were dropped at Blackwell Farm. Inholms Barn was designated a mortuary. Happily it was only needed on one occasion, when a German plane was brought down at Clasford: two of the occupants were taken to the Royal Surrey County Hospital (now Farnham Road) and two were laid in the barn.
Various collections were made. Many remember scouring around for aluminium jugs, kettles and saucepans for recycling to the aircraft industry. Other theme weeks in which the village took part were War Weapons Week, Warship Week, Wings for Victory and National Savings Week. Red Cross Nurse, Grace Manuel, assisted Sister Willie of the Royal Surrey County Hospital in judging the Baby Show. On another occasion there was a special Church Parade to raise money for anaesthetic tables and a lamp for the Operating Theatre at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. It started from Drummonds and the salute was taken by a General outside the church; there followed a service on the Green. The parade is said to have included an Army Band (was it perhaps our own excellent Home Guard Band?); the Home Guard; Wardens; Red Cross; Drummonds Fire Brigade; the A.R.P. Services of Drummonds; and the A.F.S. Our informant cannot remember if the Member of Parliament was present on this occasion or not: his pep talks were a feature of such gatherings.
The area continued to be used for training pilots in low flying. In 1943 Pinks Hill saw its second air crash (see picture on page 74 for the first crash), when two U.S.A.F. fighters collided in fog. One made a crater the size of a double-decker bus. Virtually only the engine remained and it is said that the U.S.A.F. paid to have the road made up in order to be able to remove the wreckage.
Do You Remember When
. . . apprentices at Drummonds were paid ten shillings and sixpence per week, including two shillings and sixpence which was deductible for bad behaviour, lateness’ etc.? This was in 1936: after four years of the apprenticeship, the pay rose to twenty-one shillings.
. . . part of Frog Grove Lane was not included when mains water was brought to Wood Street in 1915? The first bungalow (No. 8) was named Waterslade, and was built using water obtained from the ditch which ran alongside the road. Their first drinking water came via a hose-pipe from the cottage opposite: the lady of the house would put the kettle under the tap and go and make the bed while it filled! In 1926, when Bill Austin and Albert Chitty came to build their homes (Nos. 16 & 14), they had to wait for rain before they could mix the cement!
. . . gas was available, long before electricity? The Gas Company installed the pipe-work and lamps free of charge. (Electricity was not connected until 1936).
. . . cows chewed the cud on the Green?
. . . strawberries grew on the railway banks?
. . . the telephone posts along Broad Street carried the electricity wires? When these were put underground, the Post Office utilised the free poles!
. . . Miss ‘G’ Thorpe celebrated her hundredth birthday? This was 11th February, 1986; she had spent a mere forty-six years in the village. She taught herself to type in her centenary year so that her many friends might read her letters more easily.
Wood Street’s most long-standing resident is Mrs. Page-Smith (née Pierce). She has lived beside the Green since 1906.
. . . nightingales returned to sing, in 1982?
. . . children learnt to swim in the pond on Pink’s Hill? This pond is fed by an underground spring and has never been known to run dry. When it was cleaned out by Surrey County Council in 1983, the Thames Water Authority removed a large number of fish.
. . . many people were hard up? Mr. Goddard, who was headmaster of the school from 1932 to 1950, received the following letter one day from a parent:–
Dear Mr. Goddard
I am writing to say,
May the children have lunches on ‘Tick’ for today?
I’ll pay you tomorrow; I promise I will
You won’t have to send in a blue pencil bill.
Michael will bring up the cash for the week.
He’ll hand it over so mild and meek.
No doubt you are bored reading nonsense, I know.
And for the present I’ll say “Cheerio”.
. . . a family from Wood Street, having burnt even their floorboards for warmth, were forced to travel by cart to the Poor House? This was in the 1920s. (The Poor House is now St. Luke’s Hospital, Guildford.)
. . . Countess Mercia de Belleroche of Hook Farm, Broad Street, kept a tame fox? It was reputed to sleep on her bed!
. . . Vi Thorpe pumped the church organ? She was presented with the handle in 1954, when Raymond Crosby-Cooke, the well-known commercial artist, gave an electric organ in memory of his mother.
. . . the metal-work of the Coronation Flagpole and Village Sign were made by Toby Page-Smith? He was ably assisted by several anonymous villagers.
. . . the Australian Cricket Team played a demonstration match on the Green? This was on Sunday 19th July 1964. Their captain, Bobby Simpson, had opened the Flower Show the previous day. Marilyn Frost was crowned Village Flower Queen and had tea with the Australian captain, Bobby Simpson and fast bowler, Neil Hawke. Australian flowers had been flown in specially for her bouquet. ( edited 15/04/2016 )
… Coronation Day June 1953 – Coronation Programme for the Village of Wood Street in the County of Surrey
…Coronation Gala Day Programme
Broad Street and Backside Commons are designated an area of high ecological importance in the Guildford Borough Local Plan: they are described as “unimproved pasture . . . a rapidly diminishing habitat type in the County”. There is actually a variety of habitats, which provide for a large number of different species of flora and fauna. Probably the most obvious of the latter is the roe deer, which can be seen throughout the year, particularly in the early morning and late evening. Another nine species of mammal make use of the commons as ‘corridors’, even if they do not live in them.
The kestrel is the most striking of the birds, with its characteristic hovering before diving to catch its prey. The forty-four other species of bird must not be forgotten; they include yellowhammers, jays, wood- peckers, mallard and moorhen.
Some of the most important habitats are the ponds, which provide a home for smooth and palmate newts, toads and frogs, a variety of insects, such as pond skaters and diving beetles, dragonflies, from the red-eyed damselfly to the emperor dragonfly, and a variety of aquatic plants, including water mint. Much of the ponds’ contents are enjoyed by heron.
Throughout the common, flowering plants, such as tormentil, ragged robin, and southern marsh and common spotted orchids, can be seen. Seventy different species of plant have been identified, including at least two uncommon and one rare species. The variety of plants provide food for eight species of butterfly, from the numerous meadow browns to the less-often-seen green hairstreak and white admiral. Another sixteen species of insect benefit from the absence of pesticides.
During spring, adders, grass snakes and common lizards can be seen basking in the sun. However, you will have to be very quiet to see them, as the slightest noise will send them into the undergrowth. One must also be very quiet to see the badgers, which reside on the sandy side of the village.
Many houses play host to house martins in summer, although these visitors have sadly diminished in recent years. The ancient hedges, many of which could be five hundred years old, also shelter a rich wildlife.
We hope that the people of Wood Street Village will continue to cherish such a rich inheritance of wildlife.
A Village at Last
The existence of a school at Wood Street can be seen as the key which opened the awakening of a village identity. All schooling took place there, as did various social, cultural and religious events. Mr. and Mrs. Careless, of Inholms, were at least the principal players if not the instigators of the ideal. Wood Street had long had its own representatives on the Vestry and, later, on the Parish Council. At the turn of the century there was a post office; blacksmiths; wheelwrights; a grocery store; at least one dairy; two licensed houses (four in the tithing); a pound; an annual fair; a cricket club; and a sports and recreation committee. In 1911 the corporate identity was expressed as the wish to hold Coronation festivities in Wood Street rather than elsewhere. The building of the Wood Street Mission Church in 1927 meant that all the ingredients associated with a village existed-except the name.
There had been some building in the Pinks Hill area and around the Green in the late nineteenth century.
The Guildford Rural District Council built twelve semi-detached family houses on Oak Hill in the 1920s. Frog Grove Lane was sold as smallholdings in the 1930s, and all this, with ribbon development generally, led to a substantial increase in population. After the war there was another increase following the development of Pound Farm, first as temporary housing, and later as Council houses. New House Farm was developed as private housing.
The Cricket Club and the Horticultural Society were revived with renewed vigour; the Football Club to a lesser extent. The British Legion continued with their excellent welfare work. In 1956 the Wood Street Gleaners was formed, following a collection in the Royal Oak for the family of a chronically sick man. The original one-shilling subscription has never been altered, the profits from the tote being spent mainly on gifts to sick residents, an annual outing and Christmas vouchers for the elderly. The Over-Sixties Club has developed with the rise in the numbers of this age group.
Activities for young people developed in the sixties and seventies. There was a village Boys’ Club in the sixties and there are now Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies. The Playgroup, started in a private house in 1969, and a Toddler Club paralleled the development of national interest in pre-school education.
The building of the British Legion Hall (1954), and later St. Alban’s Church Hall (Christmas 1972) contributed greatly to the amenities necessary for societies and clubs. St. Alban’s Hall is now used by the Playgroup, Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, Church Youth Club, Toddler Club, Mothers’ Union, Over-Sixties Club, Welfare Clinic, British Legion Women’s Section and the Horticultural Society, as well as for Church activities.
But mail continually went astray; visitors and tradesmen continued to drive around Guildford looking for a road named Wood Street. The people of Wood Street grew tired of being a village in all but name. The practice of adding ‘Village’ to the postal address was finally accepted by the local authorities. And in 1985 Wood Street Village was formally recognised as such, and the word ‘Village’ was appended to road signs.
Wood Street Village – How the Village Developed
The following historical documents were consulted during our research:–
Manorial Documents 1573–1922
Land Tax Registers 1780–1832
Poll Books of the Eighteenth Century
Surrey Pipe Roll 1295
Surrey Eyre Roll 1235
Jury Panels 1662–1665
Customs of Worplesdon 1562
Surrey Fines – Sixteenth Century
P.R.O. Chancery Lane Inq. P.M.
Ecclesiastical Parish Records – Baptisms, Marriages, Burials
Ecclesiastical Parish Records – Vestry Minutes (Nineteenth Cent.)
Ecclesiastical Parish Records – Service Books (Nineteenth and
Surrey Musters – Sixteenth Century
Hearth tax returns 1662
Survey of Surrey Licensed Houses 1892, 1904
Victuallers Recognances 1832
Licensing Justices Court Minutes – Nineteenth Century
Population Census of the Nineteenth Century
Register of Church Fences 1678
Guildford Union Workhouse Records
Worplesdon Poor Book Income Books
1910 Survey Field Books
Royal Commission on Common Land
Worplesdon Parish Council Minutes from 1910
Worplesdon Tithe Map & Apportionment
Society of Friends Minute Books
Lay Subsidies – Sixteenth Century
Billeting & Evacuation Returns
Deeds and documents of individual properties in Wood Street
Our research is continuing and further material may be published in the future. The Society is always interested to hear from families who once lived in Wood Street Village. Memories, cuttings, Family Trees and photos are especially welcome.