Living at the Vicarage.

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. 

It was a strong statement about the status of the vicar, especially when compared to the modest cottage supplied for the Head Teacher of Valley End School.

A book belonging to Mary Selina Bathurst shows just how expensive the statement was.*

Valley End School Payments                          Total £783. 5s. 5d.

Paid on Account of Valley End Church       Total  £3380.8s.1d.

Abstract from Parsonage Account               Total  £3916. 4s. 1d

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Valley End Vicarage.(Image courtesy Surrey Heath Museum.)

The gardens must have been wonderful, but they were not only ornamental. Accounts from 1867 for the new Vicarage garden include payments for fruit trees, potatoes and guano, and  for sowing seed, digging trenches, enclosing the ground, and preparing a bank around it.                           

Julia had given the parish an immense white elephant. It was a burden to the clergy of Valley End for decades. Expensive to maintain and run, it proved an insurmountable problem to successive vicars, who struggled to cover the costs.

Finally, in 1956 the parishes of Valley End and Chobham were combined, and the vicarage was sold.

What was it like after the last vicar moved out? What sort of a house was it like to live in?

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The Vicarage in 1871. (O.S.Map X11, 1871.)

 

Dorothy Herring remembers. She came to live in Valley End Vicarage in 1957, as the live in Nanny for the Hutchinson family and their two sons.

It had been left in a totally decrepit state, and had been all but falling down. The house had been completely refurbished throughout.

Dorothy recalls it as an enormous place. Three different families lived at the same address.

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Valley End Vicarage, 2017.

For a start there was a bungalow, rented by the Westcott family. Mr. Westcott was blind and made baskets, but his wife helped in the main house. They had two children, who were partially sighted.

Upstairs in the main house there was a self contained flat, which was also rented out.

Then there was the main body of the Vicarage, which was vast. There were no separate servant’s quarters, possibly because it was getting hard to find help by this time. Luckily by now there were vacuum cleaners and other mod. cons. available, to help clean this huge home. Downstairs alone there was the kitchen, breakfast room, dining room, nursery and study, which were all big rooms.

Outside the garden was extensive. There was enough space to add new tennis courts.

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Graffiti on the wall by the kitchen entrance.

Valley End itself was a quiet, isolated place. Valley End Road was almost deserted; you could go all day and only see one car. This was a remote, rural area. One evening Dorothy stood by the back door and saw a glow worm shining in the garden – the only time she has ever seen one.

Dorothy was happy living at the Vicarage. Apart from anything else the Hutchinsons were having the house renovated, and Dorothy met Tony Herring, one of the decorators.

The Herrings had lived in Windlesham for many years, and so when Dorothy and Tony married they  simply moved down the road. Dorothy has now lived in Windlesham for 57 years.

She kept up her ties to Valley End. Her two sons, Clive and Steven, went to Valley End School. As they travelled with other Windlesham children on the bus, they would arrive early. One of the teachers, Miss Pinnock, would entertain them before school started by taking them to the farm across the road to look at the animals. Later Dorothy visited Valley End on her own account, when she worked at Brick Hill as a home help.

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The Vicarage from One Tree Hill.

Dorothy still keeps in touch with Mrs. Hutchinson, whom she first met all those years ago at Valley End Vicarage.

*There are 2 ledgers giving detailed accounts of the school, the church and vicarage, all in the same handwriting. As one of the books is marked M.S.B. it implies that it belonged to Mary Selina Bathurst, and possibly that she was keeping the accounts. 

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With many thanks to Dorothy Herring.

With thanks to Chris Curry for a copy of the 1867 accounts for the garden.

Notebook marked “M.S.B.” in Valley End School Archives, uncatalogued.

 

 

 

 

 

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” A large and distinguished company:” remembering St Saviour’s consecration

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Last week St. Saviour’s Church, Valley End, marked the 150th anniversary of its consecration.

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A church consecration in Guildford, 1867. (Image by kind permission of Surrey History Centre.)

This is how the original ceremony was conducted in 1867;

“CHOBHAM

“CONSECRATION. – The ceremony of consecrating St. Saviour’s, Valley End, and the churchyard was performed by the Bishop of Winchester on Tuesday last. A large, and distinguished company was present. The Church and Parsonage have been erected at the cost of the Honourable Mrs. Seymour Bathurst, of Hyams, Chobham. The Architect was Mr. G. H. Bodley, of London. Mr. James Harris, of Woking Station, was the Builder, whose excellent execution of the work, has elicited the warmest commendation. We regret that a want of space, compels us to defer a full report of the interesting proceedings.”

Surrey Advertiser, Saturday 27th July 1867.

This is how we celebrated the 150th anniversary with our own interesting proceedings in 2017!

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The church was decorated with wonderful flower arrangements. The plan had been to repeat the lavish floral displays that used to be a feature of church celebrations. In the past, these had been done by the gardeners of the big houses of Valley End. On this occasion it was done by some very talented ladies, Sandra Bedford, Rosemary Cobb, Sue Goldsmith, Cally Siegert, Many Ann Merritt, Clare Reed, Christine Belcher, Kathie Brum, Lavinia Sealy and Elaine Scawn.

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A full church! Many of the guests  had family connections to the church and to Valley End. Some people were descended from the children at the school, who were taken to see the first turfs cut for the site in 1866.

We were also delighted to welcome Earl Bathurst, the great great great grandson of our founder, Julia Bathurst, who came with his cousin, James Bathurst.

Many of those present have helped with this blog and with the booklet on the history of Valley End, and have been extremely generous with their time. We are very grateful to all of them!

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The Bishop of Guildford, the Right Reverend Andrew Watson, took the service together with our priests, the Rev. Chris Bessant and the Rev. Chris Bedford. The choir from Valley End School  sang for us, and were wonderful. Joan Weymouth, who has so many family connections with the church, gave a Bible reading from the original Bible given to St. Saviour’s on the day of its foundation.

At the end of the service a document was signed by the Bishop, the Vicar, and Joan Weymouth. It will be framed as a record of these celebrations.

 

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Cutting the cake! From left to right, James Bathurst,  Bishop Andrew, Earl Bathurst, and Vicar Chris Bessant.

After the service, we had a birthday cake. (It was probably bigger than some of the children!) We had asked Earl Bathurst to cut it, but in his speech he pointed out that since it was the Bishop’s birthday, it would be appropriate for him to do so. In the end Earl Bathurst, his cousin, the Bishop and the Vicar managed to cut it together.

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Everyone was invited to join us for a slice of birthday cake, tea, coffee, and cupcakes. Behind the church, a stall was cooking homemade burgers and sausages. There was a face painting, and a balloon artist. There were tables and gazebos to allow people to sit and eat in comfort.

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There was a display outside the church about the history of the church and parish.

A booklet, “St. Saviour’s Valley End, 150 years; a history of a church, a parish and its people” was written by Sallie Buchanan for this anniversary, and edited and designed by Jennifer Britt Searle. It  was on sale for the first time.

Inside the church there was an exhibition based on the different chapters. There was a section on the school,  demonstrating life in a Victorian classroom.

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It was a wonderful day, and a fantastic celebration of the first 150 years at St. Saviour’s.  What will the next 150 years bring to Valley End?

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The church that Bodley built.

On the 16th. July 2017, we are meeting at St. Saviour’s, Valley End, to celebrate 150 years of the church that Julia Seymour Bathurst founded, and that George Frederick Bodley built.

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St. Saviour’s Church in 1872. (Photo courtesy Hugh Holland.)

It’s a small, friendly place, with a deceptively simple design. It’s been described as: “St. Saviour, Valley End… A real attempt to re-interpret Surrey traditions in 19th century terms” *

If Bodley had introduced local materials and methods of building, it would explain why St. Saviour’s rests so peacefully in the landscape. But what were the traditions which inspired him?

Surrey has always been rich in trees and forest. Even today it remains the most wooded county in England. It is no surprise that builders in the county have always used timber heavily.

When Bodley first arrived at Valley End, he would have been faced by a  fine half timbered farmhouse, Westley Green, opposite the site.

 

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Westley Green Farmhouse. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

This is not the only half timbered house in Valley End. Fosters Farm is another one, and there are more timbered buildings along the Windlesham Road, such as Biddles Farm and Buckstone Farm.

Did this style inspire Bodley? It’s possible. He added a half timbered porch to St. Saviour’s, which is unique among his designs.

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The porch at St. Saviour’s Valley End. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

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The west wall at St. Saviour’s. showing the beams. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

Wood had been used heavily in Surrey churches for centuries, and Bodley was probably aware of this. There are over 40 churches in the county which retain their medieval wooden towers, and they are often clad in wooden shingles.

This is what Bodley did at Valley End. The steeple was covered in wooden shingles, which have just been replaced.

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The wooden shingles at St. Saviour’s. (Image courtesy Parish of Chobham with Valley End.)

At St. Saviour’s the timber is teamed with brick. Bricks had been made in Surrey for hundreds of years, and Chobham has some wonderful examples, such as the 17th century Brook Place. Bodley would have seen Rose Cottage at Valley End, glowing with the subtle shades of local brick.

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Rose Cottage. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

Valley End  had it’s own brickfields on the Common, but it seems that Bodley decided that the quality was too poor, and brought materials in from elsewhere.

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Brickwork inside St. Saviour’s. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

 

Tiles have been made in Surrey for generations. In the 13th century nearby Chertsey Abbey was producing the best floor tiles in England. During later centuries roofing tiles became so good in the county that thatched houses  are unusual in Surrey.

In Surrey, and in Sussex and Kent, another use of tiles developed. From the late 17th century tiles were hung vertically to protect the upper floors.

Bodley must have been aware of this. He added a small panel of vertical tile hanging to the exterior of St. Saviour’s, but tucked it away at the back, beside the vestry.

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Small section of tile hanging at St. Saviour’s.

But the church wasn’t the only building he designed at Valley End. Julia Seymour Bathurst also asked him to build the vicarage, and here he included sweeps of vertical tile hanging, an acknowledgment of the local building traditions that had inspired his  work on the church of St. Saviour’s, Valley End.

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Vertical tile hanging at Valley End Vicarage.

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*“St Saviour, Valley End. 1867. By Bodley. The standard chapel of ease, but done sensitively. Brick with a shingled belfry and well-managed Whipped gable. Honest interior with exposed bricks and big iron tie-rods. A real attempt to re-interpret Surrey traditions in 19th century terms; a great pity that it had to have Gothic detail.”

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One of the red and green tie-rods at St. Saviour’s. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

“The buildings of England, Surrey.” By Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, revised by Bridget Cherry. Penguin books. 2nd edition 1971.

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Sources.

“The buildings of England, Surrey.” By Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, revised by Bridget Cherry. Penguin books. 2nd edition 1971.

“The churches of Surrey.” Mervyn Blatch. Phillimore, 1997.

With many thanks to David Fettes.

 

The Windlesham and Valley End Cottage Hospital.

Valley End once had it’s own hospital, the Windlesham and Valley End Cottage Hospital.

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Hatton Hill Nursery, once the Cottage Hospital.

The story began in 1897, when Windlesham decided to build a Nurse’s House, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

When it opened in 1898, the date of the Jubilee was incised above the door. It was set out as home for the nurse to live in, and equipped with an “abundance of cupboards” including one for the Loan Blankets.

Oak seats were built in the porch, because “Invalid parishioners might walk up to the house before breakfast and have a glass of water from the Chalybeate Spring, as patients do at Harrogate, and the porch would supply a comfortable resting place while drinking their tumblers.”*

Things change; we no longer lend blankets to those who can’t afford them, or prescribe a glass of water.

The Nurse’s House gradually became a Nursing Home, and the idea began to grow that a local hospital would be invaluable.

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Windlesham Hospital Parade, 1910. (Image courtesy J. End.)

So in April 1921 the Nursing Home submitted plans for improvements to Windlesham Urban District Council. Then a letter was sent to the Charity Commissioners, asking them to “to administer a charity for residents of poorer classes and for a Cottage Hospital at Windlesham.”

The hospital opened in a fanfare of celebration. HRH Princess Christian laid the foundation stone on Sept. 14th 1921, while the Windlesham Scouts provided a guard of honour.

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The Cottage Hospital in Hatton Hill. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)

It was a small place. In March 1934 it was found to be too small to be affiliated with a London hospital, which affected the payment given to probationer nurses. Space was limited.

The hospital did not provide free care. There was a contributory scheme, with fees for patients who were not members. Where payment was difficult, people could apply to the House Committee.

Perhaps because it had to support itself, there was a huge range of fund raising activities,  from rummage sales to subscription children’s parties, and carnivals to bridge tournaments. Local people supported the local hospital, and gave gifts.

In 1934 the Valley End schoolchildren gave 202 eggs on Ascension Day, and the following year Pound Day brought in groceries and 16s in cash. There were presents; a clock for the nurses’ room, a gramophone, and a bed and a mattress.

In 1939, the hospital prepared for war. Sand bags were filled, and a hand pump acquired in case of fire. It was to be a casualty receiving hospital in the area.

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“How to deal with incendiary bomb.” Poster by Dennis Colbron Pearse. (Image courtesy of the I.W.M.)

The war years were difficult, and by 1944 strains were beginning to show.

In Jan. 1944 a special meeting was called to decide on the procedure if the Matron and doctor disagreed about admitting a patient. A year later the Matron was complaining about the District Nurse. The District Nurse was asked to leave, whereupon a letter arrived, signed by twenty members of the contributory scheme, demanding to know why?

In September 1945 the staff shortage was so acute that the Matron was requested to refuse to accept any new patients. The following month it was suggested that the hospital be closed for a month.

The lack of medical and domestic staff continued to be a problem. In April 1946 the committee minutes explain that the hospital has been closed since Feb 30th (sic) due to this. However, at least the Matron was able to take a holiday, her first since starting work in January 1945.

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The Cottage Hospital. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)

In September 1946 it was suggested that the hospital should be closed due to shortage of staff. The situation had been acerbated by a nursemaid, sourly described in the committee minutes as hysterical and unsatisfactory, and prone to epileptic fits

On 13th September 1946 “The Committee decided that the Hospital be closed as soon as the three patients could be discharged or removed.”

In July 1947 a letter was sent to the Charity Commissioners, suggesting that the hospital be passed to the Berkshire Red Cross.

The hospital was handed over, but the world was changing for small local hospitals.

On the 5th July 1948 the Welfare State, including the National Health Service, began.

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The gardens of the Cottage Hospital. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)

Under the NHS, the hospital became a Maternity Home, and the place where so many Chobham and Valley End people were born. It was tiny. There were only 8 beds, although at a pinch they could squeeze in 10.

The mothers stayed for a fortnight after having their babies. According to Kath Nemestothy, the Matron was lovely, and “all of us enjoyed it there.”

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The entrance to the old Cottage Hospital.

Sadly, this closed. The building was empty for three years before being sold to Surrey County Council. It became Freemantles School, for children with communication difficulties. Freemantles moved in August 1996, and Hatton Hill Day Nursery opened on the site.

The hospital building remains on Hatton Hill, the present home of the nursery. It still has the date 1897 over the porch commemorating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

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The date of 1897 inscribed over the main entrance.

*Chalybeate Water – a mineral water tasting of iron. These waters were thought to be medicinal. In Harrogate the first mineral well was discovered in 1571, and people searching for cures drank and bathed in the waters from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Harrogate as a working spa did not decline until World War 1, and it still sells spa water.

If the Cottage Hospital was recommending Chalybeate water as a cure in 1899, it was in tune with contemporary medical thinking. The water was found in  wells in the area, such as those on One Tree Hill near Sparrow Row, or near the Round Pond.  It is possible that 18th century Chobham could have become a spa.

According to the Ordnance Survey map for 1896, (X 10) there was a well in what became the grounds of the hospital. Could this have been the Chalybeate Spring?

Sources.

Surrey Advertiser Sept 19th 1921. pg 2 “Windlesham Royal visit to cottage hospital. Stonelaying by Princess Christian.”

Surrey History Centre  352/1/3

Windlesham Parish Magazine, March 1898, October 1898, October 1899.

Windlesham magazine Feb 1996. “Then and Now.”

Windlesham Magazine Oct 1996. “Then and Now.”

Hospital. Minutes. Windlesham and Valley End Cottage Hospital. SHC 7267 /9/1

Windlesham and Valley End Cottage Hospital. Surrey History Centre. SHC 7267/9/1

With thanks to Kath Nemestothy and Ann Wolfe.

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St Agnes Chapel and the butcher at Broomhall.

The area around the junction of Chobham Road and the London Road used to be known as Broomhall. P. J. Elkins lived there as a child, and wrote this account of his memories for the Windlesham magazine.

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Broomhall in 1914. (O.S. Map X7, 1914)

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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The lanes of North End, Sunningdale, today.

The London Road was tarmac, but the Chobham Road was granite chippings bound with a spray of hot tar once a year. The tar was heated in a large tank with a coal fire burning underneath. What a commotion it caused when the tar boiled over and caught fire! Clouds of dense black smoke everywhere. The tank was on two wheels and drawn by a horse. The wet tar after spraying was sprinkled with small granite chippings and rolled in by a large, heavy steam roller. After that it was a gravel road to Burrow Hill.

Up “The Top” at Broomhall was a small corrugated iron church, St. Agnes, (similar to St. Alban’s, the daughter church to Windlesham that stood on the London Road.) We called it the “Tin Tabernacle”. It was a mission chapel of the local Holy Trinity Church, Sunningdale, whose clergy came and preached, either on Sunday afternoons fortnightly, or Thursday evenings each week. Occasionally we were given a treat when someone came along and gave us a Magic Lantern show; don’t forget that this was many many years before TV was even thought of.

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St. Alban’s Church. (Image courtesy of J. End.)

At the junction of our lane and the Chobham Road was “Butlers the Butchers” where we got our meat. In those days meat did not come in refrigerated lorries, but from cattle slaughtered on the premises, in a slaughterhouse in the yard behind the shop. Cattle and sheep were bought in Bracknell Market, brought to Sunningdale Station by goods train and herded into pens on the place which is now the station car park. I used to get a penny (1d) to help drive them from the station to the slaughterhouse yard. Just imagine trying to drive a flock of sheep and cattle along the A30 these days! Mr Butler did the slaughtering. Looking back as a boy, it was most awesome to watch him wield a poleaxe and I am glad that we have more humane methods these days.

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The Butcher of Broomhall. 1907. (Image courtesy of J. End.)

Each year at Christmas time, the shop was show place, with meat and poultry hanging from the roof to the ground level, ready for the feasting due to take place. It was all in the open and without any protection, which the Health Authorities would frown at today.

By  P. J. Elkins.

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A view of Broomhall in the early 20th century. (Image courtesy J. End. Caption by Surrey Heath Museum.)

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The same view today, taken from Ridgemount Road.

First published in Windlesham Magazine  Jan 1995, and reprinted by their kind permission. I was unable to contact Mr. Elkins or his family, but if anyone knows anything about him I would be very glad to hear from them..

Chobham Camp Squatters, 1945 – 1952. By Patrick Rolinson.

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A converted Nissen Hut.*

The camp was situated on Chobham Common; the date it was built is not known. I can only assume that the Ministry of Defence built it in the late 1930s or early 1940s. We do know that prior to 1945 the Canadian Army were in the camp. It was made up mainly of large numbers of Nissan Huts. These were huts with a tin roof, timber frames at each end, and at both ends, two windows and a front rear door whichever way you looked into the hut. The windows were reinforced wire with glass. The interior consisted of one round iron fire with a stack going upwards through the roof. This was mainly a billet for a number of troops, i.e. 20 in all. There were mess halls, built of the same construction, and also concrete huts with proper roofs; these must have been for officers.

At the Brickhill end of the common was a smaller camp and a football pitch. On the hill to the base of the camp was a large water tank that overlooked Brickhill. Electricity, water mains, roads and pathways ran to all huts on the camp, and the main road ran through the camp from Windlesham to the main road leading from Chobham Village to Sunningdale. Down in Brickhill was a small shop that sold most things, mainly cigarettes and tinned foods and vegetables. Chobham village was about two miles away and Sunningdale the same distance. And of course there was Windlesham village, which could be walked to.

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The Camp on Chobham Common. Map by Patrick Rolinson.

My story of Chobham Camp begins after the Canadian Troops had left the camp. The site then became a goldrush for so many families who needed accommodation. I would have been about eight years old, and with my mother, elder brother Jeffrey and my younger sister Mary, we were one of many families that required a place to have of our own.

Mum was informed by her brother Brian that he would go and find us a hut. And he did. He stayed there for several days, keeping guard on the hut until we could get there. It was the middle hut of a group of six, not far from Sunningdale Golf Course. With few possessions, we entered the hut. It was just one big empty space with just a round fireplace, the stack reaching up through the roof.

From this point it was home, but alterations had to be made, such as partitions built with timbers we needed to find. There were several iron beds, so that was a start. We erected the partitions so that there was a room for us boys, one for Mary, and one for Mum, which was where the fire was and where we ate, washed, and if it is the right word, relaxed.

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The Nissen Huts on Chobham Common. Diagram by Patrick Rolinson.

We were not alone. The camp was filling up with families and many children of my own age. We, like everyone else, assumed that our stay there would be short-term, but it would not be many years later that we left. No one in authority prevented the families moving in. To us all it seemed we had been given permission. One thing people noticed was that two compounds at the camp were being guarded by British soldiers, and restriction signs were posted for all to see, one by the main Chertsey road above Brickhill and the other next to the main road leading to Sunningdale. Fences were erected, plus some barbed wire, there were entrances that were guarded with sentries and rising pole barriers, and it was not long before we realised why. Large trucks started arriving at the camp, and it was not long before those on board started to disembark. They were lined up on the parade ground, and still more lorries continued to arrive. It was not long before word got round that these were German Prisoners of War. This was a tense moment for us all. One moment we were listening to broadcasts on what we then called a wireless about the war and the terrible things that were happening, and next we had the same people as neighbours.

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The Camp on Chobham Common. (Image courtesy Surrey Heath Museum.)

The area depicted on the camp diagram is the landing strip, which is now, in 2010, a picnic area. 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.

We were known then as Camp Squatters, and we all got on very well. If you had it, you gave it to those who did not, a bit like the old Eastenders. Life on the Camp was hard but you made the most of it. Schooling was first at the local school, Valley End School, about a mile away. As we grew older we went on to Chobham St Lawrence School, which was a much longer walk. You would start walking to school in the morning, get to Round Pond Woods, and suddenly hear the school bell ringing. With about two more miles to go, you knew you were going to be in trouble. Walking home, especially during the winter months, it was dark, and you still had to walk through Round Pond Woods collecting firewood for the hut stove on the way.

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Round Pond. (Photograph by Roy Smithers, image courtesy Mark Stroud.)

 

Every day our mother would cycle from the camp to a place called Kettlewell Hill just outside Woking, to her job as a domestic servant. The job gave her a little money to help keep us clothed, but it also had its perks, such as food left over by her employers, and not forgetting a small bag of coal she brought back each day for the house. How she managed the trips home in the dark we will never know. I suppose you would say because she was a mother.

I shall always remember one particular night she was returning home. It was very dark. Snow was falling. She approached Round Pond Woods, and had to get off her bike and push it up the hill, head down to avoid the snow. Suddenly a pair of hands grabbed hold of the handlebars. Looking up, petrified, she saw a man dressed in some form of uniform, which she recognised as that of a PoW (Prisoner of war). At that moment a small car arrived, driving up the hill, lights flaring, and the man ran off. The car stopped and the driver asked if she was all right. Shaken, both of them continued their journeys home. Mother’s first thought was to ring her brother in law, Sam, who was on leave from the RAF, and who lived in Chobham. Sam came round and contacted the commanding officer of the PoW camp. He in turn said that the PoWs would parade the next morning so that mum could identify the man.

Next morning, mum, along with Sam, who was dressed in civvies, spent some considerable time walking up and down the men lined up in front of her. But she could not identify anyone. Her words were, “They all look the same.” Sam’s response was to say to her, “pick anyone.” I suppose this was the response of a military man in the RAF who had been fighting these people. Mum refused to do this and that was the end of the matter.

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Nissen Huts on Chobham Common. (Image courtesy Surrey Heath Museum.)

Returning to life on the camp: during the last few years I have returned to the camp on several occasions, and found I remembered the layout of the camp very well from all those years ago. I knew where huts used to stand, the roads leading to them, where the pathways and parade grounds of the PoWs used to be, where mess halls used to stand, the communal toilets and bath areas, football pitch, water tower, right down to where eventually the red telephone box stood. They are all there if you know where to look.

Our second hut on the camp was situated on the Chertsey Road end of the camp, approaching the roundabout, which in our time was a crossroads. Approaching today’s roundabout there is a large road sign indicating roads to Sunningdale, Chertsey and Chobham. Right opposite this sign is where we lived all those years ago. The small, but well-worn bridge over the ditch is still there; remove the moss and leaves and you are standing in the rooms as you did many years ago. When my grandchildren were shown this they showed disbelief that this was our home. It is easy to spot where the homes were: on areas where trees cannot grow, just leaves and moss. Some areas are hard to get to now, but when you do find them, you also find the friends that used to be there.

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Looking from the “small, but well-worn bridge over the ditch” to the site of the Rolinson’s second hut.

Going back to those days; the football pitch as we knew it is still there today, unchanged. It is at he Brickhill end of the camp, just to the right of the Chertsey road. The only difference is that there are now a couple of iron bars over the entry-places to stop high vehicles getting in. 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…

1947 was the year of sunshine and snow. The summer was so hot. But the winter was so bad with snow it was six feet deep in places. This made it very difficult to get to the toilets and washroom. At times we would collect snow in a bowl or bucket, melt it, and use it for washing, cooking and even drinking when the pipes froze. One morning I came into mum’s room to make a cup of tea for her and found that due to the warped door, snow had drifted through the gap. I found mum asleep with a huge drift of snow on her and the bed. And so for a few weeks we called her Snow White.

Christmas was upon us. Paper chains we made ourselves. For presents there were apples, oranges, perhaps a book. And then there was the biggest present ever: a knock at the door and we opened it and standing there was a guard and two prisoners with small parcels wrapped in newspaper with pieces of string. In broken English they wished us a happy Christmas. Times like this you wish you had a camera. Mum had a brooch made from some sort of Perspex, the girls rag dolls, and us boys a jigsaw, all made by the Germans. Well, I suppose they had plenty of time to spare, but it was a lovely gesture, a moment never to be forgotten.

Things began to change within the PoW camps, especially the camp on the Sunningdale road. With a guard escort, we were invited into the Mess Hall on several occasions to eat with the PoWs. We were shown photos of their own families and children. When the time came, many of these prisoners remained in the UK, eventually marrying local ladies and finding work as bus drivers. Many years later, we would meet up with these people, either in the village of Chobham or in Woking.

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A Nissen hut at Brick Hill. (Image courtesy Surrey Heath Museum.)

Another activity we used to engage in was swimming. Where? Well, also built on the camp, at the Brickhill end, was a large water tower. It was located on the highest part of the camp, overlooking the football field and the smaller PoW camp. As shown in the diagram a ladder was fixed to the outside of the tank leading to the top and a hatchway which could be lifted, with a smaller ladder inside which we would climb down and swim in the clear waters. No health and safety in those times! If we did not swim here we would walk over to Sunningdale golf course where they had a small lake on one of their fairways with a walkway made of timber through the middle which would become a diving board into the water. This is still there today.

Other things made life at the camp easier for us all. For example, a fish and chip van would call round on certain evenings, and a vegetable van as well during days of the week. This made life a little easier for our parents.

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One of the roads through the Camp, still to be found opposite Brick Hill.

I suppose if there was a tragic moment in those days it was when we witnessed a large wartime aeroplane crash in the fields above Woodlands Lane, Windlesham. …

Our time in the camp was coming to an end. Many of our parents were rehoused at Brookleys Estate, Chobham, where today many of the children of those parents still live, or even their children. My mother and us children were also rehoused at Brookleys Estate at the end of the road Oakdene. Uncle Sam, whom I mentioned earlier helping mum at the camp, lived with his family in Elm Drive, and another of mum’s sisters lived in Brookleys. My grandparents lived at Little Heath.

Come the summer of 2010 I shall, God willing, go back to the camp…I will once again explore the camp area as in the past, and reminisce at the football ground. Those were the days.

Patrick Rolinson.

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The kitchen in a completed temporary house converted from an army Nissen Hut. (Image courtesy of IMW.)

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*Nissen Hut, Cultybraggan Camp. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

With many thanks to Pat Rolinson.

Also with thanks to Surrey Heath Museum.

 

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The Prisoners of War on Chobham Common. By Ron Little.

 

Prisoners of War on Chobham Common. by Ron Little.

Copy of German prisoner of war at Valley End

Henry, a German Prisoner of war at Brick Hill. He worked at Slococks Nursery, and helped Mr.Millard with his bees, as he had his own bees in Germany. (Image courtesy of J. End.)

The German POW camp was built on Chobham Common during the last war. It was situated to the west of Fox Hill and practically opposite Brick Hill.

 

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A general view of a group of Nissen huts amongst trees at a German Prisoner of War camp, somewhere in Britain.. (Image courtesy of IMW)

During daytime, quite a number of the POW’s were employed under guard working on farms. But they must have spent much of their leisure hours at handicrafts and produced a number of well made articles. Among these were concertina-type sewing boxes. These were sold locally for £1: we still have one of these boxes, still in excellent condition and still in use today.

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German Prisoners of War in Britain; everyday life at a German POW Camp, UK, 1945. (Image courtesy of IMW.)

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 and became a professional footballer – playing as goalkeeper for Manchester City. His name was Bert Trautman.

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Sculpture of Bert Trautmann at the Manchester City Museum, Manchester, UK. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

As time went on they were able to play against local football teams but proved far too good for our lads.

It was 2 – 3 years after the end of hostilities before the POW’s were repatriated. I think it was Christmas 1946 that they were allowed to walk freely around the district. It was at this time that I was visiting my parents who then lived in the shop which is now Suttons the Bakers. Somebody happened to say that there were a couple of POW’s outside. My Father said, “Why not invite them in?” After a while they were eventually persuaded to come indoors where they enjoyed mince pies and a glass of wine. Really it proved rather emotional as one of my brothers who had only just returned from Germany came in and of course the POW’s were very keen to gain first hand knowledge of the state of their country.

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German Prisoners of War mend boots and shoes at their PoW camp, somewhere in Britain. They are working in a Nissen hut which is being used as a cobbler’s shop. (Image courtesy IMW)

 

There were a number of people in the village who befriended the POW’s. Among them were my sister and brother-in-law: they were good friends with a couple of these POW’s, who would often call in for a cup of tea and cakes. What I must mention is how this particular pair of POW’s constructed a lovely wooden rabbit hutch, and pushed it, complete with a young rabbit, on a wheelbarrow all the way from Chobham Common to Chertsey Road, and presented it to my young nephew as a gift in return for the kindness shown to them. Eventually repatriation was completed and the POW’s returned home: but not all of them, as some had met local girls whom they married and settled in this country. I know there were one or two in this district who no doubt could tell many tales of their time as POW’s on Chobham Common.

 

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This article was originally published in the Windlesham Magazine in August, 1991.

Although I have tried to contact Mr. Little or his family, I have not been able to find them. If you know anything about Ron Little, I would be very glad to hear from you.