Farming in Valley End

Alan Richardson and his family have farmed in Valley End for many years.

“I ran a farm with up to 300 acres, not all in Valley End of course, the land was all around the village. There were a lot of farms in Valley End and Chobham before the 1950s.

“The big farms were like Windlesham Park, which was 375 acres. It was farmed by Henderson, and at one time he had over 40 people working on that property. He was a great benefactor to the villages of Windlesham and Valley End.

“Some of the farms were very small. If you had 40 acres you had a biggish farm. If you had 4 acres or more it was called it a farm.

“People who had cottages and gardens or these small farms, turned their hand to anything to make extra money. Shrubbs Farm did carting in order to earn extra money, and Sturts the brickmakers used to run a taxi service as well. Nothing was specialised in quite the same way as today.



Goats on the Common. (Photo courtesy David Hizzey.)

“You had to have something of everything in the farming line. You had to have poultry, you had to have a couple of sties of pigs, possibly less, just one sow sometimes, and she would have pigs each year, and they would be killed in the autumn. If you had a cow who had a calf each year, the family was kept in milk, and probably even sold some or gave it away maybe to other people. But I expect they made cheese and cream cheese with the milk, as well, but some was given away, or sold, just as a little extra.

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Feeding the chickens at Valley Wood Farm. (Image courtesy J. End.)

“The war prolonged farming in Chobham. Because everything was saleable, everything made quite a good price, and people could keep going on quite small acreages.

“During the war, everything was used, everything was ploughed up. The War Agricultural Committee would come round and tell you what they wanted you to grow, and you had to do it. Whether the ground was suitable or not didn’t always matter. They wanted more of, say, potatoes, cabbages, or brassica, and you had to comply and grow what they said.


“To enjoy the fruits of victory, save now.” A farming scene on a National Savings Committee poster, Second World War. (Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum.)

“My father used to complain, when they came round, “Another bloody failed farmer coming round and telling me what to do, I know that field won’t grow what we’re being told to grow.”

“We used to take the corn down to Chobham Mill. They would crush it or grind it. Oats were a great favourite in those days. More oats were grown because it was considered the right thing for feeding cattle and horses.


The Town Mill, Chobham. (Image courtesy of Chobham Village.)

“Mechanisation started around Chobham in the 1950s. Rolfe used to come round with a big Massey Harris tractor and threshing drum, and he used to come to us.

“The Greens used to have someone who came, and they lived in a caravan on wheels. A lot of people did. They travelled in caravans, but they weren’t gypsies. It was because they travelled quite long distances and they didn’t have cars in those days. They would bring the kids quite often.

“They came in autumn, and it was an exciting time of the year. You’d already reaped the harvest. You were taking the proceeds of what you’d planted in the spring. Everything happened in late autumn. That was the end of your farming year. Then you went into winter and everything sort of shut down. You’d look after the stock you hadn’t killed, and if you had cows obviously you’d still milk those.

Black and white photograph of apple pickers at Spratts Farm, Ottershaw, 1916 Chertesy Museum

Apple pickers at Spratt’s Farm, Ottershaw, 1916.  From left to right; Henry Spong, Benny, George Smith, Sonny Bolton, and Bill West. (Image courtesy Chertsey Museum.)

“The land use has changed totally. Look at the local shows before 1955. They would have mangels, swedes, turnips, and all sorts of produce, like sheaves of corn, to be judged. But after the 50s that all disappeared because there were no more farms producing it.

“In the end of course, even the nurseries went. Containerisation came in and open field nursery work stopped to a large extent. There are only a few little bits here and there. They are all sold up now.

Black and white photograph of 3 men loading a horse pulled hay wagon, at Botleys Park, Ottershaw, Surrey. Chertesy Museum.jpg

Hay wagon at Botleys Park, Ottershaw. (Image courtesy Chertsey Museum.)

“I was the last one with cattle in the village. When I sold up that was it. I sold up about 2010. I never went above a 100 head of cattle, but it was mostly it was round about 60 or 70 head. I used to drive cattle through Chobham along the Woking Road.

“There is no farming worth talking about in Chobham now. There is no one in Chobham who is relying on farming for their income.

“The horses came in when ordinary people could afford to have a horse. It started with the 60s. Prior to that if people had horses for pleasure it would only have been wealthier people.

“Chobham is growing horses and houses now.”


With many thanks to Alan Richardson.


Memory or maps? Beating the bounds of Valley End.


Beating of the Bounds in a town, 1900 – 1919. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

The tradition of beating the bounds, in which villagers walked the boundaries of their parish, was undertaken in Chobham during the 19th century. We do not know when the custom started.

There was a serious reason behind it. At a time when boundaries were vital for local administration walking the boundaries, or bounds, taught residents where they were. As an aid to memory lads were told to beat the boundary markers with sticks, which gave the tradition its name.

Valley End had been given its own parish boundaries. But as it remained part of the civil parish of Chobham, when Chobham beat the bounds it included Valley End.

In this area the beaters were called meersmen, and were led by a flag bearer. The boundary markers were Maltese crosses, cut into the ground or into trees.

It was a raucous occasion. Boys were dispatched to wade through ponds. Tony Lovejoy’s father described a lad having to go through a house by climbing in one window, and out at another.

He may have been remembering Ridge Mount, near Sunningdale, which was then in Valley End. This was the house that triggered a debate on memory versus maps, and changed the parish boundaries forever.

On the 22nd May 1900 Chobham was beating the bounds, and following their traditional route west of Sunningdale.

They were on what had been a scrubby, ignored patch of land. But recently a large house, Ridge Mount, had been built there. The annual rateable value, assessed by Chobham, was £200. This was a large amount in those days.


Ridge Mount in 1912. The boundary line is shown going straight through Ridge Mount House, the Dormy House of Sunningdale Golf Club. O.S. 25″ map, sheet X.6 (With thanks to the Surrey History Centre.)

Which is why the meersmen were met by officials from Windlesham. Chobham had claimed the whole house as part of their parish. Windlesham said no. A sixth of the house was theirs.

Windlesham later took credit for trying to prevent a quarrel. If they had tried, they had failed.

Surrey County Council was finally obliged to call an Inquiry, held at the Sunningdale Hotel on 7th February 1902.

Chobham’s argument was that they had followed this route every 7 years since at least 1851. Chobhamers testified that they had taken this line since they were children, and that the bounds had been established for generations.

This argument over a sixth of a house mattered. Chobham protested that it would lose rates and voters along with this sliver of land.


Ridge Mount is now the Dormy House Nursing Home on Ridge Mount Road, Sunningdale.

Harsh words were exchanged. There were protests that “It was not right for Chobham to mask in a Windlesham garment.”

It was a difficult decision for Surrey County Council. The maps that Windlesham so confidently displayed had not been intended to define a boundary. Chobham had never bothered with maps, as their route was “only supported by Chobham traditions, which were founded on custom, and the information of the inhabitants.”

At one time the unbroken tradition of Chobham could have been sufficient. But the dawn of the 20th century was a more bureaucratic age. Surrey decided in favour of Windlesham.

Chobham accepted the ruling, and with it the implication that the customs and traditions of the village were worthless. Chobham never beat the bounds again. The parish thought that there was no point.  

The tradition of Beating the Bounds continues in other areas. This film follows a group beating the bounds in Oxford.



Surrey History Centre. Item CC28/33

With thanks to Tony Lovejoy.

Marry in haste

“Marry in haste, repent at leisure.” (English proverb.)

In 1873 Richard Gude, of Valleywood Farm, died.[1] He left an estate worth £2,378, an amount that could be worth up to £3,479,000.00 today. Gude left one executrix, Harriet Hone, who had been his cook.

Harriet came from a farming family in West End. She was always a bit economical with the truth where her exact age was concerned, but at this point she was 39 years old, and a spinster.

Her marital status was important. A wife’s legal identity was submerged into her husband’s, so that on marriage the man was absolutely entitled to all his wife’s belongings.

Under the terms of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870, married women had some rights to their own earnings. Later the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 gave women control over property they inherited, or brought into the marriage. But this was 1873. There were ways in which a woman could protect herself financially, but Harriet doesn’t seem to have known them.

Harriet had been given an income and home for life. A friendly letter from John Gude Wenman encouraged her to “enjoy the fresh air of your healthful common, & prepare your House and Garden to receive your nice plants.”


Harriet’s home, Valleywood Farm,in 1947.(Image from Britain from Above, image EAW011887)

All she had to do was to either stay single, or marry wisely.

She did neither. Harriet married Frank Cutler, an 18-year-old waiter from Chobham, on November 13th, 1873.

A notice proclaiming this was proudly put in the London Evening Standard. She must have assumed that she could keep control of her recent wealth and her new husband. Frank was probably accustomed to strong women. (At a time when most women were listed in the census as having no occupation his redoubtable mother, Susannah, had an awestruck note beside her entry in the 1861 census; “Farmer of 40 acres of land employing 2.”)

Frank signed a document allowing Harriet to act independently of him in business matters. Unfortunately we know of this because a year later on 24th November 1874 a letter was sent to Harriet rescinding this. “We beg to inform you that Mr. Frank Cutler has written to us withdrawing his authority for you to continue to act alone as Executrix of the late R Gude.”

By this time the marriage had collapsed, and the couple were living apart. Frank was ensconced at Valleywood, or “Chobham Common”, managing the farm his wife had inherited. She had fled to Southampton, and had taken shelter with friends, Mr and Mrs. Cushen.

Both Frank and Harriet employed solicitors, and bitter letters were flying to and fro. Harriet was desperately attempting to disentangle herself from matrimony, complaining “her life would be a perfect burden to her if she returned to her husband.” She claimed that Frank, still only 19, was idle, living without a proper occupation.

His solicitor replied that Frank had no desire to be separated from his wife, but if she insisted “It is therefore a question of what is a fair allowance for Mr. Cutler.” The problem was greater in that nothing could be done until Frank came of age. He was under 21.

The fact that they were living apart was frowned upon. Even the solicitors believed that they should resume married life; “in every sense of the word it is our duty to effect such an object.”

But Harriet wanted a divorce, which was shocking. Before the Divorce Act of 1857, this could only be granted by a private Act of Parliament. After 1857 it was permitted, but only on grounds of adultery, and the woman had to have added proof of cruelty too. Her solicitors were horrified; it was “better to avoid the scandal of a divorce.”


A ballad about the Divorce Bill of 1857. (From Broadside ballads online from the Bodleian Library.)

Finally, in August 1876, a Deed of Separation was drawn up between the two. Frank had moved out of Valleywood. He got £1000, a vast amount then, and he agreed to pay any of Gude’s outstanding debts. Harriet got £485 under the Deed, and kept her leasehold and freehold property. Frank agreed that his wife could live apart, and that he would not visit her without her consent.

Frank went back to his old trade, and became tavern keeper at the Horn Tavern in the City of London. His purchase left him short of money, sadly a sign of things to come. (His solicitor’s bill had been £535.) By September 1877 he was instituting a bankruptcy case, and was summoned to a meeting of his creditors. Finally he went back to working in hotels.


The Horn Tavern, Knightrider Street, City of London, where Frank was a tavern keeper. It is now the Centre Page. (Image courtesy of Centre Page public house, Knightrider Street.)

Harriet would not have known this. She died in Southampton in January 1877, and was brought back to be buried at West End, where she had been born. Her estate on her death was a fraction of her inheritance from Richard Gude; the wealth had trickled away through her fingers.



Surrey History Centre. 6200/(272) parts 3 and 4 of 17.

Allen Horstman, “Victorian divorce.” Croon and Helm, 1985.

Oxford Companion to the law. Oxford, 1980.

[1] The son of the Richard Gude who had protested about the enclosure of Chobham Place Woods.

Kitchenmaid at Titlarks

Titlarks Hill, off the Chobham Road, is now in Sunningdale, but this area was once in Valley End. Hilda Pearce was a kitchen maid at Middleton, a house at the top of the road, and wrote about her experiences in 1995.

“I was interviewed for my first job at Middleton, Titlarks Hill, at my home in Shirebrook, was approved, and given the job as kitchenmaid.


Titlarks Hill, in 1934. ( O.S. map X 7, 1934. With thanks to the Surrey History Centre.)

“In due course I left my home with mixed feelings. I had never been more than seven miles from home, and the thought of travelling to London was like going to the end of the world. Very adventurous – and then, arriving in London, having to change stations – from St. Pancras to Waterloo – was another milestone. After all that a TAXI from Sunningdale Station to Middleton, Titlarks Hill. I was really living it up!

“Arriving at the house I was introduced to the rest of the staff – seven in all, by my cousin, the Cook. They included a nanny – a very proper person in charge of one child. I was bewildered, but was soon knocked into shape by my cousin..


Servant’s bell board, from Polesden Lacey House. (Image courtesy of the National Trust, Polesden Lacey.)

“The house was on Sunningdale Golf Links, and when I was at liberty to explore, I thought I was in heaven. After leaving a mining district this was so beautiful, walking over the links. I would just sit and absorb the lovely scenery around me for as long as I could. I spent hours this way, and very often walked to Sunningdale Station to the shops over the links so long as I kept out of the way of the golfers.


Titlarks Hill and Sunningdale Golf Course, Sunningdale, from the south, in 1931. (Image courtesy of Britain from Above).

“After a short while I realised that to get anywhere I ought to have a bicycle. This I aimed for, and eventually bought one on the never-never, paying 2 shillings and 6 pence down and the rest at 10 shillings per month for a year. The bike cost £6.2.6d. I was so proud of it and kept it shining bright – for a while, anyway. I did have outings. One half day a week, and two weeks paid holiday in the year, and when there were dances at Sunningdale Parish Hall, so long as I was accompanied by an adult I was allowed to go – cycling with a long dress pinned up around my waist.

“I had a spate of breakages at one time. It went on and on, and finally, after I had broken six pudding plates all at once, my cousin was so angry with me that she said she would no longer tell Madam about them, I must tell her myself. I waited in fear and trepidation in the scullery and Madam appeared. “Well, Hilda, what have you broken this time?” When I told her and apologised and offered to pay for them – at that time they were 12/6d each! – Madam burst out laughing, turned to go out of the scullery, then said “I will have to buy enamel ones, but there, you would probably chip them!” My cousin was furious, thinking I would have had a severe wigging!


1930s Staffordshire tea set. (Image courtesy of the V&A Museum.)

“Madam was such a sweet lady and attended my wedding a few years later. 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.) I stayed happily at Middleton for two years and then moved on to Royal Lodge.”



This was first published in the Windlesham magazine, Feb. 1995, and is reproduced by the kind permission of the magazine and Lynne and Keith Pearce. Hilda wrote 3 articles about her life in service;

Windlesham Magazine. Jan 1995 “My progress from Middleton to Royal Lodge.” Hilda Pearce.

Windlesham Magazine. Feb 1995 “Kitchen maid at Titlarks Hill.” Hilda Pearce.

Windlesham Magazine. March 1995 “Back to Sunningdale from Royal Lodge – 1929. Hilda Pearce.



Please remember the Garland

On the 6th May 1892 the teacher at Valley End School added a resigned note to the log book.

Many children were absent on Monday “maying.”

The children had gone collecting with a May garland. This tradition was widespread. Flora Thompson knew it at Lark Rise in Oxfordshire in the 1880s.

“The May garland was all that survived …of the old May day festivities. The maypole and the May games and May dances in which whole parishes had joined had long been forgotten.

“..The garland was light wooden framework of uprights supporting graduated hoops, forming a bell shaped structure about four feet high. This frame was covered with flowers.”


Illustration of a May Garland from Hone’s Every-Day Book. A doll, the Lady, was often carried in the Garland. (1826)

The Lark Rise May Garland was an elaborate affair, carried in a procession led by the May Queen and heralded by a girl with a money-box.

Neighbouring villages had much simpler traditions. “Some of them, indeed, had nothing worth calling a garland at all; only nosegays tied mopwise on sticks. No lord and lady, no king and queen; only a rabble begging with money-boxes.”

The money boxes were important; it was one of the few occasions children had to get money of their own.


A procession of children carrying May Garlands.

In Surrey the children took the garlands around houses, showing the flowers and singing; one traditional ditty ran:

“The First of May is Garland Day,

So please remember the garland.

We only come here but once a year,

So please remember the garland.”

The custom was beginning to die out by the start of the 20th century. Children were expected to be at school on May morning, not wandering the village with garlands. But the schools solved the problem of absenteeism on May Day by taking over the custom. For example in May 1916 Farnham schools organised  a garlands procession to the castle, led by the Queens of May.

Other schools taught the children maypole dancing. By the 1930s Valley End schoolchildren were celebrating May Day by dancing around the school maypole, plaiting ribbons as they went.


Maypole dance at Winterbourne Houghton, 2006.(Image courtesy of Wikimedia)

May Day was still remembered at Valley End – but this time the pupils celebrating inside the school.

The tradition of May Garlands still continues At Abbotsbury in Dorset. 



Flora Thompson. “Lark Rise to Candleford.” Reprint Society 1948. (All quotes from Flora Thompson.)

Matthew Alexander. “A Surrey Garland: customs, traditions and folk songs from the Surrey of yesteryear.” Countryside Books 2004. (The song is taken from this book.)

Log book 1892, Valley End School.

Surrey Advertiser, Saturday 13th May 1916.

With thanks to Joan Weymouth.

Snow stopped play.

Here is Brick Hill, Valley End, under a thick layer of snow. The surprising fact is the date, April 24th 1908. Did Chobham really have a snowstorm in April? What was happening elsewhere?

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Valley End Chobham, Winter April 24th 1908. (Image courtesy of Dave Hizzey.)

On Easter Monday, 20th April, 1908, snow stopped play at the Oval.

Surrey were playing the Gentlemen of England in a biting north-east wind. When the weather developed into a snowstorm the match was delayed by 35 minutes.

Throughout the country, sporting events continued, despite blizzards. In Brooklands at Weybridge motor races went ahead in snow so thick that competitors on the far side of the track were lost to the sight of the spectators.

The Annual Sports in Cambridge continued regardless of the snowstorms. One of the novelty events, the smoking race – in which the entrants ran 220 yards whilst smoking fat cigars – would have been even less healthy in sleet.

Football was played, and races run, despite the snow; although tobogganing was popular in places – unusual for Bank Holiday Monday.

Elsewhere holidaymakers refused to be diverted by sub zero temperatures. Picnickers still packed hampers and crowded onto the icy grass at Alexandra Palace in London.

The Hampstead Heath Fair was its usual success. Lads shied at the coconuts in a blizzard, and merrymakers carefully picked their way to the roundabouts over freezing paths.

The steamers that ran pleasure trips on the Thames were nearly, but not quite, empty; which implies that some brave souls, having planned to go on a jaunt on the river, went, ignoring the gunmetal skies and Arctic temperatures.

The excursion trains to the seaside still ran. Clacton went ahead with the band concerts on the sea front, refusing to be discouraged by sleet and snow. (Although Ipswich found the Museum, one of the few undercover attractions, had a sudden burst of popularity.)

Newspapers reported with a gloomy relish that Iceland was warmer than England on Easter Monday. There were blizzards in the North and snow in Sussex.

It also hit Surrey, including Valley End. The weather hit Chobham too. An enterprising photographer, (probably Bill Stevens, the Valley End photographer,)  took this picture of Brick Hill, a record of the picturesque and unseasonable snow in  April 1908.

(For a more information on this freak weather, see Weather Online here.)



Cambridge Independent Press, Friday 24th April 1908.

Dundee Evening Telegraph, Monday 20th April 1908.

Evening Star, 21st April 1908.

Lancashire Evening Post, Monday 20th April 1908.

London Daily News, Tuesday 21st April 1908.

Western Daily Press, Tuesday 21st April 1908.


Growing up at Brick Hill

The Hizzey family has lived at Brick Hill for generations.


“My Granddad had 4 goats, and I think he had more. There were little partitions in the shed and the goats used to go there. My Dad used to go and collect bracken for bedding for them, and then they’d just graze them on the Common. I think they were probably were staked and tied.


Robert Frederick Hizzey and his goats at Brick Hill. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“The old lady round at Vale Farm had cattle. I don’t remember them, that was before my time, but my Dad as a kid remembered a cow’s leg sticking out of the ground. They’d buried it, I don’t know why they didn’t eat it, perhaps they didn’t know what it died of, but they buried it. They didn’t dig the hole deep enough, and he reckoned that for years there was this old dried up cow’s leg sticking out.

“They also had geese that wandered about Brick Hill, a flock of geese, probably 20 or 30 I should think. I don’t remember this either, but apparently all the ditches round here, and I remember all the grass, was beautiful, like a lawn, it was all the geese just nibbling at it and keeping it all flat.

“My Granddad had a pig in a sty at the bottom of our garden. The pigsty was next door to the toilet. When he was a little tot my Dad was afraid to go to it, because the pig was a big black long snouted pig, and it used to go for people, so he was afraid to go to the toilet because the bloody pig would try to bite him.


Emily Snooks outside her cottage in Brick Hill. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“We only had an outside toilet there, at the bottom of the garden, just an earth closet. When you walked down there at night you could hear the crunch as you trod on snails. You didn’t have any light, I remember treading on toads and all sorts.

“These 2 cottages when my Granddad bought them had Common rights, to dig turf and to graze animals, and to cut wood.

“I still pick sticks for the garden. My Dad did more so than me. I’ve bought bamboo canes for runner beans, but he would have just gone and got willow poles off the Common and chop them. He’d have new ones every year. Christmas trees used to come off the Common. They’re a very grotty looking Christmas tree really, because they’re so sparse with branches, but that was Christmas. If you’d had a proper shaped tree it wouldn’t have looked right.

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Brick Hill, with Vale Farm and White’s Farm, and Oaktree Cottages in the background. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“I think there was a lot of animal grazing, and beekeeping. Mrs Millard had bees, her daughter Joan Weymouth and Tom had bees.

“As a kid there was a bit of  land that was always called the nursery. My Granddad had chickens there. They used it like allotments really. My Dad’s garden was like a showpiece, fruit, and vegetables.

“There was one telephone, Mrs Millard, Chobham 7176. I still remember that. That was the only phone on Brick Hill. I came home one day and there was a phone box on the Green, and I thought wow, you know, we’re going up in the world, but it was made of wood, and they were filming. Oliver Reed was in it, it was called R3 gas.

“I remember as a kid that the power cables that went across the middle of Brick Hill, the main power cables, were just bare copper. They weren’t insulated. They were just strands of wire. The power lines come across from Sparrow Row.

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The trees at Fox Hill clump. (Photo courtesy D. Hizzey.)

“If as a kid you wanted flowers you’d go to Mr. Broad to get your flowers. If you wanted eggs you’d go to Mrs Anscombe. If you wanted tomatoes you’d go to Johnny Pipkins.

“They had deliveries. We always had a milkman. I can remember that as a kid. Underwoods, which was the ironmongers in Lightwater, used to come round with a van like a shop with paraffin, and anything really, washing powders and things like that. Suttons the bakers used to come up. But he didn’t just have bread he used to have a van full of produce you could have a look through. The Travelling library used to come out onto the Green.

“They used to have horse and cart deliveries too, before my childhood. I can remember Dad saying they used to bump through the ditch in the bottom of this lane. I think my Dad probably saw the heyday of Brick Hill. Their life style was superb.”

With many thanks to David Hizzey.


Near Chobham.jpg

(Photo courtesy J. End.)


With many thanks to David Hizzey.