Afoot in Valley End.

The Valley End 150 blog was planned to run throughout 2017 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. Saviour’s church. As this is the end of the year, this is therefore the end of the blog.

I have been helped by so many past and present residents of Valley End, and by many local people and organisations. Thank you all very much. We have really appreciated all your information and advice.

I would also like to thank all those who have followed the blog, and supported this project. Thank you for your interest!

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There is a wide variety within a small area at Valley End – from common land to golf courses, from footpaths to a motorway, mansions to cottages.

One of the best ways to see it is on foot. This walk leads through some of the places and scenery of Valley End.

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It  starts outside St Saviour’s Church in Valley End Road. One of the striking things about Valley End is that it has the structure of a village in Valley End Road and Highams Lane – the Church, the School, and the Institute are built close together, and the Cricket Club is few hundred yards down the road. But there is very little housing here; most residents live in Brick Hill or Sparrow Row.

img_0162The church and school were built by Julia Seymour Bathurst, who presumably chose a site based on what land she could enclose from the Common.

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From the church, turn right down Valley End Road. The church will be on your right.

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As the road starts to bear left, take the footpath on the left side of the road. As you walk down it you will see the Vicarage through the trees on your right. It was built by George F. Bodley, the architect who designed the church.

“When Julia Seymour Bathurst commissioned G. F. Bodley to build the church, she also asked him to build the vicarage.

When he designed it Bodley, a leading architect in the Gothic Revival, abandoned any Gothic details and drew his inspiration instead from the solid comfort of Georgian houses.

The result is a large, impressive building. The footprint of the vicarage is roughly equal to that of the church, and grounds exceed the area of the church and churchyard combined.” 

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This area used to be a stopping place for gypsies.The Gypsies used to turn up and park at different places. They were never any trouble. They just used to come and pull up, perhaps with one single caravan. They’d maybe have dogs and a chicken. There were little places where they pulled up all the time, and they’d stay 2 or 3 days and then move on. I don’t think there was any trouble at all. They used to be down by the church, pulling off the road opposite Pembroke House. Or they used to park by the top of Round Pond. When they went you wouldn’t know they’d been. They left it all tidy.”

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The path curves round to the right.

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Where another path joins from the right, bear left, and head towards the motorway.

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When you reach the M3, the path turns right. Walk on with the motorway to your left. You will be passing through silver birch trees.

The Common was clear of trees, but this has changed. “But the Common’s all overgrown now. It’s because of all the silver birch and the trees.”

Turn left over the footbridge. This crosses the M3. This was built in the early 1970s, and runs very close to Brick Hill.

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You pass over the motorway. This has recently been upgraded; “The smart motorway upgrade has added an extra lane in both directions along a 13.4 mile section of the motorway, with emergency areas installed throughout the length of the scheme.”

After the footbridge, go straight ahead, past the black and white post. IMG_1829.JPG

You will see some houses through the trees. You will come out onto an unmade road. Turn right.

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This is Brick Hill, a small community of houses on the Common. Turn right and follow the road around.

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On your right, on a bend in the track, there is an gate across a footpath. This used to be the path to the brick works. Brick making was carried out at Brick Hill from at least the mid 18th century, until the late 19th century. The site of the brick yard now lies under the M3 motorway.

Keep on the unmade road. At the end of the road turn right.

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As the track curves left, there is an entrance on the right.

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Go through the entrance, and follow the track across the field. When Patrick Rolinson described his life as a squatter in the old Military Camp at Brick Hill, he said this field was a gravel football pitch. “Here we watched the PoWs and guards play football. The pitch was comprised of shingle, and today if you move a clump of grass you can still see the shingle…”

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Ron Little remembered the football pitch as well. The Military Camp was used for troops and then Prisoners of War before the squatters moved in.  “On the Brick Hill side of the road, the POW’s had quite a good football pitch. Although it was rather stony, it served its purpose adequately. The POW’s were keen footballers and produced an excellent team which played matches against other POW teams on Sundays. The football played was first class and these matches always attracted many of the local football enthusiasts. Whilst the matches were in progress the rest of the POWs would line the sides of the pitch and in unison would voice their opinions of the referee in the few words of English that they knew. At times this caused considerable embarrassment especially if there happened to be ladies present! They were a first class team and among their players was a pre-war Austrian International player. But the star of their team was the goalkeeper who after the war settled in this country.” 

When you are near the hedge at the other side, look right. There is a footpath on the far right.

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Turn right. Cross to the signposted path on the far side of the field.

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It passes through a wood of silver birch trees. This area used to be the Camp. The 2nd hut in which Patrick Rolinson lived would be to the left. At one time there were cultivated flowers near the path, which had flourished in the squatters’ gardens.

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Silver birch trees have grown on the site. Follow the path. You will come out on the Windsor Road.

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Cross the road, and turn left towards the roundabout. Cross over the next road so that you are on the other side of the roundabout. You should be at the Roundabout car park.

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Patrick Rolinson remembers this being used as an airstrip. “It became busy with light aircraft landing and taking off. Some passengers looked very important. The runway in those days was very short but that type of aircraft was capable of landing on it. To us young ones, this was great fun.” Walk straight across it. There is a path opposite the entrance.

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The path passes a plaque commemorating the Common being made a National Nature Reserve in 1994. “The largest National Nature Reserve in the south-east of England, Chobham Common is an internationally important example of lowland heath habitat.”

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Follow the path down the hill. At the bottom of the hill there is a gravel path leading to the left. Turn left, and take this path across the Common.

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This leads across the common land. There is a memorial to Queen Victoria on the Common. In 1853 the British Army ran a training exercise on Chobham Common. 16,000 troops camped on the Common for a month. Victoria visited and inspected the Camp. Lord Seaton, the Commander in Chief of the Army, was based at Hyams (Highams) during the exercise; which means that for a month the British Army HQ was in Valley End.

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Where the route bears right, take the path to the left.

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Most of Valley End is common land. The path leads straight across,  up towards Sunningdale.

Chobham Common is the largest National Nature Reserve in the south-east of England and one of the finest remaining examples of lowland heath in the world.

Heathlands are one of the most ancient and characteristic British landscapes, originally created by prehistoric farmers. For over 200 generations rural communities have carefully managed this stunning open countryside resulting in a wonderful, wildlife rich, patchwork of mini-habitats. The few surviving heathlands are very special places providing a living link to our stone-age past.

Chobham Common is recognised across Europe for its variety of bird life with over 100 different species having been recorded here. These include the very rare dartford warbler, the hobby and the nightjar. Over 300 species of wild flower grow here. Sweeps of purple flowering heather and sweet scented gorse dominate the heathland whilst the wetlands harbour insect-eating sundews and rare marsh gentians.”

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The path turns left where it meets the railway line. The parish of Valley End continued on the other side of the railway. Common land lies on the far side of the railway line, as do the Surrey Wildlife Trust reserves of Broomhall Heath and Valley Wood. This part of the common can be accessed from footpaths leading from Onslow Road, Sunningdale.

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Follow the path to the road.

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You will come out on the Chobham Road. Turn right.

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Just before you cross the railway bridge, look at the house on your left. This used to be the London Mothers’ Convalescent Home.

“The Home  was founded by the Hon. Mrs Charles Hay, (Arabella Augusta Hay,) in 1889. The Home was intended for married women. They could visit with babies aged between 3 weeks and 3 months, and could stay for a fortnight. Many were from poor areas, with large families, living in 1 or 2 rooms.”

It was a popular local charity. Hilda Pearce, who worked as a kitchen maid in Titlarks Hill, remembered that “During my time at Middleton, Madam was very interested in a place along Chobham Road which was then called The London Mother’s Convalescent Home, where 10 mothers and babies came from town in turn, usually for a couple of weeks each. Basket prams were provided for the babies, and one would often see the Mums proudly pushing their young around – it was such a change from the East End of London. A lot of ladies in the vicinity, Madam included, used to have the Mums up for tea, and one I remember was a wizard on the piano. She loved getting on the grand piano in the drawing room, (when Madam was away.) “

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Go over the railway bridge. Follow the road on the left hand side. Shortly after you pass Onslow Road on the opposite side of the road, there is a footpath on your left.

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Turn left, and go down the footpath.

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Follow it to the end. It crosses a couple of roads, but stays a footpath. This hamlet was known as Broomhall. and the path is going through what used to be known as  North End.

P. J. Elkins grew up there. “I was born in Broomhall, Sunningdale, that little hamlet of cottages up the Chobham Road, just south of the London Road (A30). At that time, it was part of Chobham Parish known as North End. Broomhall was all alleys and lanes, no more than cart tracks for the tradesmen to deliver their goods by horse and cart: dust and ashes in the summer, and very muddy puddles in the winter.”

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At the top of the path, turn left. (If you turn right, there is a cafe – which may be welcome after a trek across the Common.)

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Follow this path. It will turn right.

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You will come out at the junction of Halfpenny Lane and the A30.

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Opposite is Broomhall Lane. This marks the northern point of the old parish of Valley End. According to Chobham, the northern point of the parish was marked by the Egham Stone, which was about 20 yards up the road. Windlesham said it only reached the junction, and Windlesham won!

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Turn left. Cross over the railway line, passing the station. The original Sunningdale and Bagshot Station opened in 1856.

“The introduction of rail transport changed the area. Frederick Waterer of Bagshot testified to this in 1864, when he gave evidence to a Parliamentary Commission. He claimed that the nurseries around Bagshot had thrived with the help of the trains to move their stock.”

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At the corner of Ridgemount Road turn left. A milestone, announcing 23 miles to London, is at the corner, facing Waitrose. The milestones were added during the 18th century, when this was a toll road.

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The road goes up the hill and bears right.

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On your right you will pass Dormy House. This is the house that caused a dispute when Chobham undertook the beating of the bounds in 1900. Chobham claimed the entire house was in Chobham; Windlesham said a sixth belonged to them Harsh words were exchanged, mainly from Windlesham.

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Sunngdale Golf Course is on the left. When the course was being developed in 1901, Bronze Age burials were found in a barrow 6 feet high and 75 feet in diameter. The barrow was excavated, but unfortunately no one thought to make a note of where the burials were found. The site is now lost. There was a tumulus in the garden of Round Barrow House, now a garden feature. Ridgemount  Road ends at Sunningdale Golf Course. Go through the gates and follow the track – it is a public footpath

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The path curves right to go behind some houses at waypoint 10, where it goes through the greenkeeping facility. The track then goes through a gate, and leads through pine woods.

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The footpath goes across the golf course. Histories of golf courses tend to concentrate on who designed the course, and who played there; but they have a great impact on the local area. Children from Valley End used to play on the golf course, and local people worked there.

We used to go up to the golf course and play in the summer. We would go with our bathing costumes on, and play where the sprinklers came on. Nobody took any notice in those days. That was just after the War.

When the War finished, we had a big party there. All down the fairway there were tables.”

The track then curves left. You will come to a wooden chalet, and a long curved bench.

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Inscribed on the bench is a verse from Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem “So many ways.”

“It’s regal autumn trailing into sight

As summer wafts her last kiss on the air

Earth has so many ways of being fair

It’s sweet young spring It’s summer clothed in light.”

In Wilcox’s version the couplets are in reverse order. (Maybe the seats were assembled  without a poetry book to hand.)

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The path continues. It begins to get rougher, leaving the tarmac behind.

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At waypoint 25 there is a signpost. Turn left. This is where you leave the golf course, and make your way across the common land.IMG_1917

Follow it through the woods.  A couple of paths join from the left, but the route goes to the top of the hill. Roy Smithers took photographs of this area, and the bench in his memory stands on the edge of the golf course.

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At the top, there is a waymark sign pointing right. Turn right here and follow it downhill.

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When Agatha Christie wrote her short story set in Sunningdale Golf Course, “The Sunningdale Mystery” she was describing a place she knew well.  This path downhill was “ another of those narrow slips leading to the Windlesham Road…”

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Keep the fence to your right, and follow the path. (At one point it becomes a tarmac drive.) You will find yourself passing houses named Upper Ribsden, Little Ribsden, and Ribsden Cottage. What was the Ribsden estate will be on your right.

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The path comes out by the Brickmakers on the B386, the Chertsey Road leading into Windlesham.

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Turn right here. Pass the Brickmakers. Just beyond the pub are Weyside Cottages, which were used as Princess Louise’s Holiday Home for Poor Children.

“In 1918 the charity Princess Louise’s Holiday Home for Poor Children was founded. It was primarily – but not exclusively – for children from the parish of St Mary Abbotts, Kensington, and gave them a holiday in the countryside.”

 

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Walk along the road past Weyside. You will come to the entrance to Ribsden Holt on the right side of the road, which seems to have been rebuilt on the site of Ribsden.

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Just past Ribsden Holt there is a stone beside the road. This is one of the boundary stones of the original parish of Valley End. Opposite the stone is a bridle path, described as a bridle-road in the 1868 schedule of the parish boundaries.

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This is on the left side of the road, and is bridlepath no. 74. It is immediately in front of Oakwood, a lavish house that used to known as Updown Court. Boasting features such as a heated marble driveway, the house was priced at 70 million pounds before being reputedly sold for 40 million.

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The bridleway runs beside Oakwood. For the first section of the walk the fence for Oakwood is to your right.

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It then bears left, away from the house.

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The path is now following an old parish boundary. The wide path is marked by a ditch on one side..

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… and a bank on the other.

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This is in the area of Highams Farm. There is a story about John Teal, a child who  worked at the farm. His first job was to collect stones after the fields were ploughed, and use them to surface this path.

It would have been a busy place in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was part of a direct route from Brick Hill and Sparrow Row to Ribsden, where many local people would have been employed.

“A lot of girls went into service. Well, they had to, because you didn’t get a bigger house, if you got more children, and girls grew up, and they kept the boys at home to work and it’s what happened. And you got a lot from Wales. But then it was a home, you had to get somewhere.”

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The path would have originally gone behind the Highams Farm buildings, but the M3 has cut across the fields. It now approaches the motorway, and turns left.

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The path runs straight down to Highams Lane.  When you get to the road, turn right.

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This leads under the M3.

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Follow the road for a hundred yards or so. Valley End Road is on the left, and Valley End School is at the junction.

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Turn left down Valley End Road, to get back to the church.

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St. Saviour’s Church – the start and finish of the walk.

 

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Sketch map of the walk.

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THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INTEREST IN VALLEY END.

MANY THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!

 

 

 

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Prisoners

“They’re all the worst Nazis,” I said.

“How do you know?” Dad asked.

I didn’t, of course.

“Well, that’s what I heard,” I lied. “That’s why they were brought here after the war is over and haven’t gone back yet.”

This was fifty years ago, in England, at the close of the Second World War. The hamlet of Brick Hill was less than thirty miles from London, but in those days still definitely rural. Its isolation had been broken first by the building of an army camp on the adjacent common land at the start of the war. The camp was now being used to house German Prisoners of War. My father and I were standing among the tall firs at the top of Fox Hill, overlooking the dozen or so cottages of Brick Hill beyond the road, and surrounded on this side by the clusters of huts of the camp. As we stood at the top of the hill watching them, the German prisoners wandered from hut to hut, or stood singly or in clusters smoking, and looked back at us.

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The Camp at Brick Hill. (Drawing by Peter Reed.)

“That one was a U-Boat commander,” I told Dad.

“How can you tell?”

“Look at his cap. And that’s a navy jacket.”

Who knows what he really was. Most of those we were to come to know subsequently were ordinary soldiers captured in North Africa. They had been taken to prison camps in America and were now, I gathered later, being staged back to Germany through England partly so that there would not be a sudden glut of demobilised men dumped on their shattered cities. The fact that the majority of them had homes in the Russian Zone had something to do with it too, I think.

On this, the day of the Germans’ arrival, we regarded them with suspicion and some enmity. Dad had fought them in one war and been bombed out by them in another. I had slept with the nightmares of a German invasion. Everyone had the grievance of a lost relative, a damaged roof, or just the rationing. The Buzz-Bombs weren’t that long ago. Brick Hill people were not overjoyed at the prospect of these new visitors.

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German POWs repair a barbed wire fence at a Prisoner of War camp, England on Christmas Eve, 1940. (Image courtesy IWM.)

Things got worse quickly. The P.o.W.s were set to work stringing the barbed wire around their own prison camp. For a while it looked as if the invasion had succeeded after all. They set boundaries far beyond the most distant huts, cutting off not just those paths that went through the camp and which the villagers had felt free to use throughout the war, but those that skirted it. For a couple of days, until complaints compelled the guards to order the wire moved, it was as if Brick Hill was the prison camp. The P.o.W.s, meantime, would sit in ranks of hundreds along the slope of Brown’s Hill and sing in German-American accents

“Oh give me land lots of land

Under starry skies above,

Don’t fence me in.”

And Lilli Marlene.

It was the rich voices of that chorus that began to soften the English reserve.

Indeed, it was those voices that, in the end, broke through all the reserve. And the voices of the children. Singing.

This is how it happened. Every Christmas, there would be a carol service in St. Saviour’s church featuring the children of the elementary school. The parents and the regular congregation from Brick Hill and the rest of Valley End would come, filling more pews than for any other service in the year. This year the Germans came.

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Valley End School. (Drawing by Peter Reed.)

I don’t know who arranged it. As I recall it, we children only knew we were to sing the first verse, be quiet for the second, and come back in for the last. We were at the front, but amidst the usual squirming round to make sure our mums and dads could see us, we were aware of pews of men in the back in the black and brown prisoner garbs that their tailors had dyed and sewn to look as much like civilian clothes as possible. There was a tension.

Christmas was Christmas, but Jerries were Jerries. At best it was different. There had never been anything like this. What would happen?

And then it did happen. We sang the first verse.

“Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright”

Sixty or seventy shyly thin children’s voices, self consciously raised before not just parents and families but these strange foreigners and former enemies.

And then the second verse, and the resonant baritones and over-arching tenors,

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht,

Alles schlaft, einsam wacht”

I think we kids were too riveted by the sound of the almost-familiar words to the long-familiar tune to quite take in what was happening. I only know that when it came to the third verse, with us singing along with the Germans, we could sort of feel that something was happening. I felt a prickle in the hair at the back of my neck even before I stole a glance backwards and saw that our mothers were all crying, that our dads were sort of looking up or off to the side, and that most of the Germans were singing with tears on their cheeks.

That was the end of the suspicion, pretty much. The Germans went to work on farms and nurseries in the area, and soon some were pedalling off to work on their own bicycles rather than going in army trucks. Gaps appeared in the wire and use of the paths through the camp resumed: Germans came out as easily as civilians traversed. Families came to adopt prisoners, and to speak of “our Jerry or “Lovejoys’ Jerry” and Hans and Rudy crept into the conversation as comfortably as Bill or Fred.

The P.o.W.s formed their own soccer team and played prisoners teams from other camps. This at once drew the attention of the locals, who quickly came to appreciate the difference of the quick German style from their own.  Players were soon identified for their skills, and “that little centre forward” or “that Jerry goalie” developed their own followings. When they played Italian prisoners there were cries of, “Come on, the Jerries!” and soon the Germans were the local team, the home games anticipated and well attended.

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A football match on a winter’s day. (Image courtesy of IWM.)

Three Germans were regulars at our house: Rudy, Hans and Wolfgang. Hans would sometimes stay overnight at weekends. He slept in the twin bed next to mine, and we would talk in the dark about whether German or Russian composers were the best (at that age I was enchanted by Tchaikovsky) or  or what Pennsylvania, where he had been held prisoner, was like, or how he had been captured. Wolfie was a teacher. He never wrote after he went back to the Russian Zone. We understood why. Hans went back to the Russian Zone, too. He wrote, however, once telling us how his old father had been arrested for picking up coal that had fallen off a wagon. He always used a fictitious return address, and often addressed the envelope to “GREAT BRITAIN!!” He continued to send Christmas greetings to my sister for the rest of his life. Rudy was a doctor. Many years later his nephew and a student friend came to visit us.

Eventually they all left, most of them to Germany, a few to continue working at the same nurseries, married to English girls. Squatters moved into the empty camp, another new population which once again outnumbered the native one. Besides the memories, the Germans left me with two prized possessions. A hand-carved picture frame with “Sidling Hill, Pennsylvania” carved in its base. And Hans the tame crow, a wonderful companion who taught me forever the rewards to be found in a friendship with another species.

Once before the war, when the local Valley End football team had numbered a player or two from the neighbouring villages of Chobham or Windlesham, a wag observed, “Valley End? It looks more like the League of Bloody Nations.” The war had brought the camp, and with it the unfamiliar accents of soldiers from Yorkshire or Northumberland, the Canadians, and finally the Germans from America. Our lives would never be so isolated again. We had shared unexpected common bonds with strangers, even with those we had feared.

 

 

By Peter  Reed.

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With many thanks to Peter Reed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The buildings and builders of Valley End.

In 1954, Eric Rouffignac and his mother Winifred were living with his grandmother, Granny Daborn. She rented a tied cottage at Brick Hill, and when she died Eric and Winifred had to move.

“When Granny Daborn died we had to leave because it was a bit like Valley End Farm. It  was tied to a person called Chandlers Pole. When that happened he gave us say 2 months or 3 months to look around. And the first thing mother did was she got in touch with George Anscomb, because she was very friendly with him. And he said “Well, go and see Bob Fellows, you know him, he’s got some properties I know over in Chobham, up by Chobham Place.” And that’s where she went, and saw him and he owned all the bungalows up there at Clearmount.”

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Clearmount. (Image courtesy J. End.)

The little settlement at Clearmount had 4 cottages. It is next to Jubilee Mount, originally the Poor Allotments. There were no trees then, but only heather and gorse. It was possible to see straight across to the Cricketers, now the E&O restaurant. Eric went on to become the Honorary Warden of Jubilee Mount for 37 years.

Winifred and Eric walked across the Common to see the houses. “I remember going up to Clearmount, we walked across the Common, no motorways in those days, top of Round Pond, down into the valley, and up. And all there was was this little tiny bungalow. The brambles were all over it, so the first thing we did, we started chopping everything down, so we could get to the door and then further. It was all done by hand.”

The little cottage must have been typical of many dwellings in Valley End. It was tiny; there were two rooms, and a basic kitchen. There was no electricity, no gas, and no sanitation at all. Outside there was an open barn, for a donkey shed.

The house was condemned, and needed a lot of work to make it habitable. Luckily, Winifred knew builders that she could call on.

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The lorry for Sturt the Builder. (Image courtesy of J. End.)

At that time the main work in the area was in the building trades. “Mother went to school with George Anscomb, Bob Fellows, Sturt, all the builders of the local area.”

The work was done by George Anscomb. He put in sanitation, and completely refurbished it.  Originally, like other houses at Claremount and in Valley End, the cottage had a dirt floor, and this  was cemented over. The old fireplace was altered.

Twenty years later, in 1965, an extension was added to the house, again done by George Anscomb. Eric was unable to get planning permission for a pitched roof. It had to be flat, and it leaked.

It was 1985 before he was given the go-ahead to re-roof. He did the same as his mother; he asked local workmen to do the job.

Tony Fraser did the drawings for a new garage, built first so that it could be used for storage. He had just qualified as a building surveyor. “It turned out to be a difficult build because of the site conditions. The ground was sloping and there needed to be a retaining wall built with a reinforced concrete raft foundation. Also Eric wished to have exposed face brickwork piers and rendered wall panels to be in keeping with the cottage.” (Tony Fraser.)

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Plan of the garage by Tony Fraser. (Image courtesy Tony Fraser.)

The roof on the old cottage had tiles, but underneath the tiles was the remains of the original heather thatch. Eric thought it was a turf roof, which included the roots of heather and some of the soil, left to make it waterproof.

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The old turf roof from the cottage. (Image courtesy of Eric Rouffignac.)

The roof timbers were cut straight off of the Common. They were round lengths of wood, possibly fir, chosen by eye. This made for an uneven roof, with dips in the line. Battens were laid on the timbers, and then the heather was added.

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The rafters and battens in the old roof. (Image courtesy of Eric Rouffignac.)

Tony Lovejoy, a carpenter from Brick Hill,  put a pitched roof on the extension.

After this he replaced the old roof of the cottage by constructing a new one, and then removing the old fabric. This was to allow Winifred to continue to live in her home while the work was done. It was a major task.

“There were ceiling collars going around, and there was a plate on there. So what we did we went off that plate but at a different angle. The plate was 4 by 2 wood. We   nailed these new rafters into those collars, so we picked the ceiling up with the new rafters, and then we cut the old ones out afterwards.

They’d got skilling. As the collars were up there and they’d got that skilling we could do it. (Tony Lovejoy.)

George Brodie did the tiling on the roof, working with Reg Howard.

In 1996, after Winifred had died, Eric wanted to take the old part of the house back to the original.

Again, local builders and craftsmen worked on the house.

Pete Gosden, from West End, did the electrical work, and crawled up in the roof cavity checking the wiring.

Ken Brooks did the brickwork. The old fireplace was made of soft red bricks, probably made locally. There was a section where the bricks had been worn away by all the wood that had been stacked there over the years.

Tony Raynesford worked on the interior of the cottage, and designed and built a porch.

Eric’s friend Mike Lee plastered the interior. He moulded the skirting boards out of cement, which is how they would have been done originally. The old cottages often had damp problems, and wooden skirtings would rot.

The interior walls were made of wooden frames. The uprights were about 3 inches deep. The offcuts of the wood were probably used to divide the sections between the stakes, which were then infilled with rat trap brickwork. Rat trap bond was a rare type of brickwork, dating from the early to mid 19th century. The bricks were laid on edge before being plastered over.

 “What they used to do was to mix goat’s hair or some hair with the lime, and stick it on. The hair used to bind it together.” (Tony Lovejoy.)

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Interior walls of the old cottage, showing wooden frame, rat trap brickwork, and old plastering. (Image courtesy of Eric Rouffignac.)

Eric was able to reclaim and renovate the old part of the cottage, helped entirely by local workmen, George Anscomb, Tony Raynesford, Tony Lovejoy, George Brodie, Reg Howard, Pete Gosden, Ken Brooks, and Mike Lee.

They managed to convert what had been a tiny and derelict cottage into a comfortable and modern home, a sanctuary in the woods at Clearmont.

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Sources.

Quotes by Eric Rouffignac unless otherwise stated.

With many thanks to Eric Rouffignac.

With thanks to Tony Lovejoy.

With thanks to Tony Fraser.

With thanks to Mike Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turf huts and tents; living on the Common.

In the 19th century, Chobham Common was not only a workplace, but a resource for local people – a place where they could get fuel, animal fodder, turf, gravel etc. For some it was also a home.

People tramped across the heath land looking for work, maybe sleeping in barns, or making themselves rough shelters.  Some of the people who were living on the Common were simply too poor to afford a house.

In the 1880s Stanley Alder of West End worked with a Mission run by the Shaftesbury schools in Bisley. They aimed to support poor people who were living on the heath in huts and tents. Alder wrote about his experiences in his book “Work among the gipsies.”

He only mentioned two people by name,  Harry Elston  and James Baker.

Harry Elston had been a navvy at one time, and had worked for many years on the Common. He lived with his wife Mary in a turf hut that he had built 28 years previously. Alder visited them.

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Building in turf – an example of a turf house. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Images.)

“From its peculiar size and shape no one would have suspected that it was built for a man and his wife. It was twelve feet long by six feet wide. On entering, to the right was the bedstead reaching from side to side, with the coarse thatch just above it. Opposite the narrow door was one chair, and a table upon which were neatly placed the cups, plates, a few books, etc., to the left. The hut narrowed off to form an open fire-place. This end was made of layers of clay three feet thick at the bottom and rising to the level of the roof, the rest of the walls were made of turf cut from the neighbouring common.”

Henry Elson was buried at Holy Trinity, West End, at the age of 71 on Jan 21st 1890.

Alder wrote about his work with the gypsies who lived at West End. It was very practical – Christmas dinners and other meals were provided. He was appalled at how harsh life was in a tent during a hard winter.

“It is one thing to see a Gipsy sitting outside his tent on the grass smoking his pipe in the summer sun – it is quite another to see them huddled together in a severe winter.”

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Gipsies’ Camp on Chobham Common. (From the Oliver Collection held in the University of London’s Library Depository at Egham, courtesy of the trustees of the S. A. Oliver Charitable Settlement.)

The mission worked hard to persuade the gypsies to move into cottages, but found that some simply preferred to live in a tent.

“Another old man reads his Bible in his tent… he is a widower, his large family are all married, but he prefers his lonely tent, which is one of the most clean and comfortable we see, to the cottages or the tents of his family.”

One young man “was always spoken well of by those in the tents, but he prefers the roaming life to settling down.”

Even when the families moved in to cottages, they still travelled during the summer months, and were usually away from June until October.

“We may note the fact that they paid the rent of their houses the whole of the time they were away in the summer, pea picking, hay and harvest work, and hop picking; in some cases three or four months.”

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Hop pickers at work, in Kent or Surrey. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

The children attended school, but not all the time. Even James Baker’s children only “attended the day schools from time to time.”

Alder thought highly of James Baker. Baker, a gypsy,  worked as a sweep. His wife Eleanor made bee hives, and in 1881 they  had six children under 15, and another on the way. When the Mission helped them to find a cottage they only owned  a butter tub, a few cooking utensils, a donkey cart, and some loose straw for bedding.

The family settled well, and the children began to attend school. Baker was able to continue his work as a chimney sweep. ” The other man, a chimney sweeper… who now has 8 children, has now a fair connection in business, and drives his pony and trap long rounds. This man who is fond of  music and plays a fiddle, may be heard in his own cottage leading his children in singing Sankeys known hymns.”

In 1891 – 92 an influenza epidemic swept through West End. James Baker, the sweep, was one of the victims. He died at the age of 51 and was buried at Holy Trinity Church, West End. “We are sorry to relate that the disease proved fatal to Baker the Sweep, whose family was the first that we placed in cottages. After a brief illness he died, leaving a wife and large family; his wife survived him only a few months, her great grief of losing so a good a husband, and the great trouble into which she was plunged, hastened her death.

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A chimney sweep, c. 1850. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

“Poor Baker, who was in the prime of life, was the most deserving of any we have had to do with. I know no man so much missed and enquired about as “Baker the sweep,” everybody all through the parish spoke well of him. He was courteous and always so cheerful, he was quick and clean in his work, he was a very honest, steady, and sober man, and delighted to make good provision for his family.”

James Baker’s family remained in  Chobham  after his death. One of his daughters lived for many years in Valley End, and his descendants still live in the area.

 

 

Sources.

Stanley Alder. “Work among the gipsies.” Published by Medhurst, Chobham, 1893.

Mary Ann Bennett. “Life and work on Surrey Heath.” 2007.

With thanks to Jeremy Harte and Sallie Buchanan.

Plaster, stone and glass; decoration at Valley End.

Valley End, like many churches, is proud of the art and design it holds. Features such as the stained glass windows were beautifully made by professional firms.

But it also has other things, made by people with local connections.  These have special ties to the church and the community, and deserve to be remembered.

The Piscina.

In 1957 Valley End parish was joined to Chobham, and the Rev. Roney Ackworth was the vicar. He planned some changes to the church fabric. One of his ideas was to add a piscina, or a niche in which to wash the Communion vessels during the service. He persuaded Mike Lee to do it.

Mike was 21, and had just finished his apprenticeship as a plasterer. He already knew Valley End. (On one of his earliest jobs as an apprentice he had been in a team working on a house opposite the church. They were using wooden scaffolding, and every morning it was Mike’s task to climb up and wet the poles, so that they would swell and hold the metal bonds tightly.)

There was already a square opening beside the altar. Mike had to convert this into the piscina. He didn’t need to cut the bricks away, or add the stone sill, which was cut and fitted by another workman.

First, Mike planned and made the template which was then swung into the hole. He then bent some wood around the back of the template.

 

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Design for template. (With thanks to Tony Fraser.)

Then he poured a mixture of sand and cement into the space behind the template to create the first ‘roughing out’ coat.
Finally, the template was removed. Because of the wood at the back there was a about a half to a quarter of an inch of space for the finishing plaster to be dashed on and smoothed using a sharp metal edge.
This method is known as the run solid method. It has a number of variations, and there would have been other ways of making the niche, but the basic method would be the same.
The piscina in the church today is not the one that Mike made. At some point in the last 60 years it has been removed. The plaster work has been replaced by either carved or reconstituted stone, prepared off site and then brought to St. Saviour’s and assembled.
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The piscina at St. Saviour’s.

There is a mystery about our piscina. Where does the water go after the vessels are washed? One belief is that it should feed back directly into the soil, as there might be traces of consecrated wafers and wine, which is considered too precious to go into a waste system – not that there is any chance of that at Valley End, which is not on main drainage.

St. Saviour’s has it’s own solution to the problem. The piscina has a small hole for the water, but no pipes. It is left to evaporate by itself.

The Font.

“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing…” (Austen, “Pride and Prejudice.”) Well brought up Victorian women were taught to play a little music, or to draw.

Working with a pencil or watercolours is one thing. But wielding a mallet and carving stone is another. A sculptor needs specialist equipment, space, and training. A Victorian woman sculptor would need to come from an unusual and supportive family.

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The font at St. Saviour’s. (Image courtesy of David Fettes.)

Meriel Leicester Warren, Julia Seymour Bathurst’s daughter in law, did. Her family was unusually artistic and creative. The library at Tabley House, her childhood home, had books on art, literature and music as well as sketch books and scrapbooks.

Her grandfather, Sir John Leicester, 1st Lord de Tabley, not only inherited family paintings, and made them the foundation of a major art collection, but was a patron of English artists. He also painted himself, and went sketching with Turner, one of the artists he commissioned. He was deeply offended when Turner then billed him for lessons.

George Warren, her father, the 2nd Baron de Tabley, inherited his father’s artistic skills. When he ordered alterations to Tabley House it seems that he was his own architect, although he engaged Robert Curzon to provide the working drawings.

Meriel was one of 6 children, of whom 5 survived. Her brother John, the 3rd Baron de Tabley, was a writer and poet; her sister Eleanor, (Eleanor Leighton Warren) painted. Her youngest sister, Margaret Cowell-Stepney, was a diarist and letter writer. Eleanor’s daughter, Barbara Sotheby, became a painter and photographer.

Meriel herself was the sculptor. She carved the reredos in St. Peter’s Church, Tabley, and her sister Eleanor painted it.

There is another example of her work in St. Saviour’s, Valley End. When Julia built the church, Meriel carved the font as her contribution. She was obviously a skilled sculptor, and must have been trained, and produced other work. Sadly, these are the only two items that can be traced.

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Plaque on the font at St. Saviour’s. (Image by David Fettes.)

The font is still used, 150 years after it was installed. Meriel herself lies nearby in St. Saviour’s churchyard. She died 12 days after giving birth to her 3rd son Allen Benjamin, and is buried next to one of her babies who was born and died on the 31st December 1870.

The Window.

Many people enjoy doing art as a hobby; they learn painting, drawing – or maybe glass engraving.

Among the glass at the church there is a simple window  engraved with flowers, butterflies and birds; “The Lord God made them all.”

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Engraved window by Les Little. (Image courtesy of David Fettes.)

This was made and given by Les Little, a parishioner, who had learned glass engraving.  He was keen to share this skill, and made presents for his friends.

He was looking for a new project, and chose the church. He designed and engraved a window, and gave it to St. Saviour’s.

He and his wife Sylvia were very involved with the church. Sylvia used to play the organ. When she died, her husband gave silver to the church in her memory – a chalice and a ciborium to hold the wafers.

This means that the church has memorials to them both, which is fitting. “They thought so much of Valley End.”

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Engraved window by Les Little. (Image courtesy of David Fettes.)

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Sources.

Piscina.

With thanks to Mike Lee.

With thanks to Tony Fraser.

(See the article on “Running plaster mouldings” in Old-House Journal, Aug – Sept. 1984.)

Font.

Peter Cannon-Brookes. “Tabley House.” 1991.

“Paintings from Tabley; an exhibition of paintings from Tabley House; edited by Peter Cannon-Brookes.” The Heim Gallery, 10th October 1989 – 21st November 1989.

Window.

With thanks to Joan Weymouth.

 

 

 

 

 

Rare ants and scuba diving engineers; the M3 comes to Valley End.

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Chobham Common.

Chobham Common is the largest National Nature Reserve in the south-east of England and one of the finest remaining examples of lowland heath in the world.”* It stretches over 1,400 acres, a rare and threatened habitat.

In the early 1970s the Ministry of Transport put a motorway, the M3, straight through it. It sliced the Common in two, divided Brick Hill from Chobham, and destroyed the peace of the common land forever.

Why and how was this done?

During World War II plans were optimistically made for post war Britain, including new roads. Sir Patrick Abercrombie produced a plan of new routes radiating out from London. One of these, the Southampton Radial, became the M3. In 1964 the Hampshire and Surrey County Councils were asked to act on behalf of the Ministry of Transport and prepare to build the road.

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A map of the inner ring road for London proposed in Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s 1943 County of London Plan. (Image courtesy Wikimedia.)

So in 1965, 40 engineers and technicians were recruited, and began to plan the new motorway under the management of Fred Johnson.

The route was planned. In 1966 computers were in their infancy, and not always helpful. A program to align the section at Lightwater added an unexpected complete loop in the road. “Which would have been somewhat novel.”

The motorway would take about 30 acres of Common land. In 1968 the South East Road Construction Unit  needed to find 30 acres to replace it. They were faced by recalcitrant landowners, who either refused to sell, or attempted to milk the Ministry by pushing prices too high.

The Unit was finally frustrated by an ant. “Fifteen acres of land are available for purchase, and if it were not for the presence of a very rare species of ant…a further fifteen acres could be obtained, but the owner refuses to sell on these grounds.”**

When the plans were published there was a wave of protest.

Dudley Glanfield was one of the appalled protestors. He had been furious in his objections to a relatively unobtrusive, and certainly quiet, sewer, and was now confronted with a six lane motorway. “He had sprung to attention as the farmer who kept out the Central Electricity Generating Board with a shot gun. He was completely obsessive about the (motorway) scheme and had fences that would have been appropriate for a prison all round his farm.”

 

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Christmas card from Dudley Glanfield, 1966. (With thanks to Joan Weymouth.)

The project was encountering problems that were even more difficult than Dudley Glanfield. Between Lightwater and Sunbury the motorway crossed Chobham Common. South of Sunbury the route crossed flooded gravel pits, and ran for 5 miles over water.

The solution chosen was to build causeways. These were banks of chalk, with a fill area between them, filled with sand taken from the road cuttings.

That is why  the cutting side slopes leading to the motorway on Chobham Common are at a gradual angle of about 1 in 10. This allowed them to be pleasantly landscaped, but it also let the engineers take as much sand as possible for the causeways.

The banks would be under water. Two adventurous engineers were trained in scuba diving, so that they could inspect the new construction.

Back on land, it was obvious that the road would need a service area. A Compulsory Purchase Order was put on Trumps Farm in Englefield Green.

The resulting storm of objections lead to a Public Inquiry. Fred Johnson, the manager of the Surrey team, was witness and advocate for the Ministry of Transport. At this time he was himself living in Oak Tree Close, next to Trumps Green, and found himself facing his irate neighbours. One of them confronted him at the Inquiry; “There was unanimous objection to the proposal except from one household – yours!”

The service area at Trumps Green was never built, although part was used as a temporary works depot while the road was being constructed. Other places for services were suggested, including Windlesham, Chobham Common, and Valley End.

Feelings were running high. Fred overheard his 5 year old daughter quarreling with her friend. “I’ll tell my Daddy about you, and he’ll build a Motorway through your garden!”

People wanted the motorway, but not near them. Fred Johnson had to defend the project in the face of virulent opposition. At a meeting in Camberley after he faced an angry crowd of 200 objectors he overheard a man remark, “I wouldn’t have his job.”

His reaction demonstrated the strength of his character, and his motivation. “A remark, which, together with the knowledge that the existing parallel A30 road was then subject to about one fatality per week only spurred the determination to press on to a solution.”

The scheme pressed on. Work began on the M3 in January 1971. The motorway had come to Valley End.

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M25 junction 12 intersection with M3.  Aerial view looking towards Thorpe Park in the distance. (Image courtesy Wikimedia.)

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Quotes.

*Surrey Wildlife Trust.

** Notes of Meeting, South East Road Construction Unit, 24 July 1968. Surrey History Centre CC971/2/5/15

All other quotes by F. D. J. Johnson.

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Sources.

Surrey History Centre. CC971/2/5/15

Memoirs of F. D. J. Johnson OBE Bse (Eng)FICE FIHT. “M3 Motorway Surrey 1965 – 1968.”

Motorway services online.

 

 

The Soft Reds of Brick Hill.

Brick Hill owes its existence to its geology. It stands on the Bracklesham Beds, a geological seam holding sand and brick clays.

From the mid 18th century, bricks were made at Brick Hill, and the industry seems to have grown in the mid 19th century.

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Brick Hill and the brickyard. Ordnance Survey map, X.II. First edition, 1870. (With thanks to Surrey History Centre.)

But in 1902 John Henry Sturt, who had run a brick yard at Brick Hill, leased ground at Parker’s Hill for brick making. This was on the Common, opposite the Runic Cross.

Then there was a major fire at the brick field in 1907, and after this Sturt began his building business. Brick Hill stopped making bricks, and local employment shifted to building.

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The fire at Sturt’s brickyard, 1907. (Photograph by William End. Image courtesy of John End.)

What were the bricks from Valley End like? Why didn’t G. F.Bodley use local bricks for St. Saviour’s? The church was erected in 1867, when the brickfields were in operation, and he was inspired by local architecture in Surrey.

It seems that Valley End bricks were too soft. There is a photograph of bricks being delivered to Brick Hill. This was either done after the yards stopped working, or the builder found the local product inferior.

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Bricks being delivered to Brick Hill. (Image courtesy of John End.)

There are stories about soft bricks at Brick Hill. In one house the bricks in the kitchen were so soft that it was not only possible to poke holes in the wall with a finger, but mice were nibbling through the bricks to raid the cornflakes in the cupboards. The kitchen walls were replaced with some urgency.

In the mid 1980s Rosemary and Andrew James moved to Brick Hill. Rosemary had been born Rosemary Anscomb, and was going to a house on a road known locally as Anscomb Hill, due to the many members of her family who had lived there.

Their cottage was very small. It had been built in 1886,  and was a good example of the older dwellings in Brick Hill,  built by local labour using local materials.

“The rafters were rough. The ceilings were lath and plaster. When my husband went up in the loft there was no wall between us and our neighbour. He bricked it up. They are quite thin walls here. There was an outside toilet here when we moved in. There wasn’t even a bathroom. There were two rooms, the front door, and as you walked in you walked straight into the front room off the doorstep. We had one room with a big chimney breast. Small room there, small room at the front, and they had a winding staircase, it was steep. At the end of the house there was a wooden extension, with windows in. That literally was the kitchen. There was a stone sink, one cold water tap. There was no electricity upstairs. It was tiny. There were fireplaces upstairs in the two bedrooms, but they were small.”

They wanted to extend the house, and preserve the character.

Rosemary’s father, John Anscomb, was able to help. His father Alfred had worked in the brick fields as a child before becoming a builder, and John himself had been a carpenter working for Sturt’s. He got involved.  “He was great; he did it at the age of 70. He was up and down the ladder and on the roof, and we had the roof off and everything else.”

The cottage had been built of bricks called soft reds. They looked for old soft red bricks in reclamation yards, but with no luck.

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Re-used soft reds on Anscomb Hill.

So they demolished the internal walls, and spent one Easter cleaning the bricks. “Trust me, the bricks are very soft. I had to wire brush them and I had to be very careful. We had a few problems when we had to break them, or when we had to cut them.”

They then reused the bricks to face the exterior wall facing Anscomb Hill, where they remain as an example of local materials and a resourceful restoration!

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Brick Hill and the site of the brickyard. Ordnance Survey map, SU9644 – 9764. Published 1971. (With thanks to Surrey History Centre.)

The M3 now obliterates the site of the brick field.

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Sources.

All quotes by Rosemary James.

With many thanks to Rosemary James.

With thanks to Frances Harding.

“St. Saviour’s Valley End 150 years,” by Sallie Buchanan. 2017.