Weybridge was once a small village seemingly bypassed by the bustle of London only a few miles away. That was until Henry VIII made the place fashionable by building a palace here for Anne of Cleaves. At Thames Lock the Wey finishes its long and eventful journey as it joins Britain's premier river.
Weybridge is highlighted (2007) as one of the top three most unaffordable places for key workers to buy property in the UK. The others are Gerrards Cross and Kensington & Chelsea. aboutproperty.co.uk 13th April 2007
The Halifax ranked Weybridge as the most expensive town in Britain (2007) with average property prices slamming in at £543,064 timesonline.co.uk 28th December 2007
Mouseprice in February 2008 listed the following Weybridge streets amongst the highest priced in the UK (average prices in brackets).
East Road in mid-credit crisis and plummeting house prices is ranked by a new Halifax report (November 2008) as the second most expensive residential street outside London with average house prices of £2.8m. South Road weighed in at £2.49m.
& WEY CHEAP
Lambert had a few months prior to his death broken the land speed record at the track achieving a speed of 103.84 mph (167.11 kph).
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Hempleman-Adams is not a novice when it comes to do and daring. He became the first person in history to reach the geographic and magnetic North and South Poles as well as climb the highest peaks in all seven continents. He also already holds a number of other ballooning records, including staging the highest formal dinner party, at 24,262ft, in a specially-designed hot-air balloon in 2005.And in January he broke the 26-year-old world hot-air balloon altitude record, by ascending to 32,500ft over Alberta, Canada. Source: telegraph.co.uk 4th July 2007
" We had been partying at the house when Gordon invited a few of us to go back to see the animals being fed. With drinks in hand we trooped into a shed at the back of the three cages and watched as Gordon went into the middle one which housed two friendly Orangatangs.
"The cages on either side held Gorillas. I was standing quite close to Ollie’s cage in order to view Gordon in the middle one. Presuming that he could only get a finger through the thick meshed wire, I judged my safe distance at about 6 inches from the cage. Suddenly there was a loud bang and a strong tug at knee level. I looked down and was horrified to see Ollie’s one-eyed huge head glaring up at me and his gigantic forearm protruding through an unseen feeding hole at knee level. His twice as big as a human fist, had firm hold of my long wild silk skirt and was pulling me towards him and about to get a better grip!
" My screams alerted the others and after an electric silence, Barry, my ex grabbed me under the armpits from behind and started to pull. There was a sudden ripping noise and we all shot backwards through the open door and landed in a heap, me on top with legs in the air, my glass of champagne intact, and knickers on, thank God! My skirt had mercifully ripped, and Ollie was circling his cage waving his bit of stolen material aloft and banging the bars with his other arm." Blogger: Sylvan Mason 7th January 2007
"... the famous- 'Weybridge Cyclone' and 'Weybridge Tornado' - both of whom flew 500 miles seven times as big winners. And to name another of many - 'Weybridge Tempest '- who flew in the National, 550 miles, three years in a row..." Liam O Comain 'The Old Codger - Old Hand', Elimar Pigeons November 2006
"We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church–it has been replaced by a spire–rose above the trees.
"Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station." H G Wells. War of The Worlds 1898
Another story goes that Paul McCartney in the spring of 1966 was driving from London to meet up with Lennon at his Weybridge house when the idea of Paperback Writer came to him.
“I told John I had this idea of trying to write off to a publishers to become a paperback writer, and I said I think it should be written like a letter," said McCartney. "I took a bit of paper out and I said it should be something like ‘Dear Sir or Madam, as the case may be...' and I proceeded to write it just like a letter in front of him, occasionally rhyming it. And then we went upstairs and put the melody to it. John and I sat down and finished it all up. I had no music, but it's just a little bluesy song, not a lot of melody. Then I had the idea to do the harmonies and we arranged that in the studio.” Source: timesonline.co.uk 11th April 2008
WEY SCHOOL DAYS
"The boarders at St. Maur's Convent had a mystique surrounding them. There was Shirley, whose parents lived on the Gold Coast in Africa. Then there was Marie, whose parents lived in France. We all wore the same uniforms, but Marie always looked more elegant, and her hair was curled in a hundred little blonde curls held together with little black velvet bows, and on her little feet she wore shiny black patent leather shoes.
"When we went home after a day at school, they (the boarders) stayed in the convent all weekend. How lucky they were. What did they do at the school at the weekends? They were the elite.
"It took the Luftwaffe to bring about a change in my status. After a German bomb hit the nearby Hawker Hurricane airplane factory, my father said to his brood of seven, hiding under the dining room table: "We are moving to Edinburgh. There are no targets there." Source: Therese McKenzie, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette USA. 11th September 2007
"I saw my first circus when I was eight years old and loved it. I ran away from school to join the circus at 15 and I've been doing it ever since," said Cottle. gethampshire.co.uk 19th April 2012
After 40 years touring the country with his various circus outfits Cottle retired from the industry around 10 years ago, and settled in Somerset where he and his family run The Wookey Hole Caves and Paper Mill tourist attractions, as well as The Wookey Hole Circus School.
Churches have become a favourite target with the Ecclesiastic Insurance Group reporting 17,000 claims nationwide totalling £5.2m last year relating to stolen metal. St Peter's Church in nearby Hersham has had lead flashing removed from store houses in the churchyard. Source: Surrey Advertiser 22nd January 2008
"Foxes have been digging up the land for as long as I can remember, but I can assure you there's nothing sinister about it. It's what foxes do,” said Reverend Brian Prothero. “What more can you do apart from fill the land back in? I went down on Monday and put the soil back in and it's already been dug up again. Let's just say that Charlie the fox is a nuisance." surreyherald.co.uk 18th February 2009
"One of the most persistent of conscientious objectors is Gerald Ross Whichelo, a gentlemanly looking, black haired man about 25 years of age. He was formerly an assistant at a boys school in Eastbourne carried on by an ultra-patriotic principal. Relinquishing his scholastic work Mr. Whichelo went to work on a farm at Weybridge in Surrey.
" District Court Martial was held at Stoughton Barracks, Guildford, the depot of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, on Thursday, when Mr. Whichelo was charged with refusing to obey the command of his superior officer to undress for medical inspection at the Barracks on September 23. He pleaded guilty.
"He had asked for exemption on condition that he undertook work of national importance but the East Sussex Appeal Tribunal dismissed his application. He then obtained work on the land and applied for the variation of his certificate, but the application was dismissed with the result that he appeared there a day later as a prisoner. He was not a soldier before the eyes of God, and in view of all the circumstances he asked to be released and allowed to continue his civil work. Prisoner was found guilty and the sentence will be known in due course.” Eastbourne Gazette 18th October 1916 sourced from outofbattle.blogspot.com
The judge granted leave for the disputing neighbour to appeal but then berated both parties with a stinging attack against the entire legal action.
"This is another of that hideous form of litigation called the boundary dispute, a form of litigation which is best not pursued," said Lord Justice Ward. "Just how much is this stupid piece of land worth? What you are arguing over is a few rhododendron bushes. If you live in St George's Hill you've got money to throw away, presumably. But why throw it away like this? You're all potty. Disputes of this kind are a most hateful form of litigation. Go away and sort it out." Source: thisislondon.co.uk 17th April 2008
"I've lived in Burwood Park, near Weybridge, for 14 years now; in fact, I've actually got two houses here. It's a private gated estate with a golf course and a lake set in the grounds of one of King Henry VIII's deer parks. My partner Jo and I get the best of both worlds here because the whole area is handy for town and the airports, but is still only a few minutes drive from picturesque farms and villages. It is an ideal location for me because I like the greenery and wouldn't live in London if you paid me." Source: independent.co.uk 21st May 2008
Adventure racing might have been dreamt up by a masochist. Races are multi-discipline events in which mixed teams run, mountain-bike and kayak around remote locations, navigating between checkpoints with a map and compass and eating only the high-energy supplies they can carry on their backs. Source: Tarquin Cooper telegraph.co.uk 21st June 2008.
"We initially applied the process for its intended purpose of saving trees from being removed, as a response to subsidence claims," said David Munro of SCC. "But in the wider context, establishing a tree's value is useful to aid decision-making, such as when existing trees are under pressure from development. The real value is its history and contribution to the environment and the amount of pleasure it gives our residents, which is considerable." Source: bbc.co.uk 14th July 2008
"The Weybridge community consists of the three married Beatles; they live there among the wooded hills and the stockbrokers. They have not worked since Christmas and their existence is secluded and curiously timeless. 'What day is it?' John Lennon asks with interest when you ring up with news from outside. The fans are still at the gates but The Beatles see only each other. They are better friends than ever before.
"Ringo and his wife, Maureen, may drop in on John and Cyn; John may drop in on Ringo; George and Pattie may drop in on John and Cyn and they might all go round to Ringo's, by car of course. Outdoors is for holidays.
'Weybridge,' he (John Lennon) said, 'won't do at all. I'm just stopping at it, like a bus stop. Bankers and stockbrokers live there; they can add figures and Weybridge is what they live in and they think it's the end, they really do. I think of it every day-me in my Hansel and Gretel house. I'll take my time; I'll get my real house when I know what I want." Source: How Does a Beatle Live. Maureen Cleave. London Evening Standard 1966
“The viability of local and regional titles is under such threat due to steeply falling revenues that we do not expect to return to previous levels even when economic conditions improve,” explained a spokesman for the publishers Guardian Media Group. “Publishers therefore need to find a sustainable new model if they are to survive.” Elmbridgeguardian.co.uk 12th March 2009
“The guy, who looked drunk, was sleeping by a bench. He wasn’t causing any trouble. He got up a couple of times but never interrupted the game and would go back over to the bench and lie down,” said Rob Taylor, Weybridge captain. “All of a sudden there were lots of police and a helicopter; they were around the whole green and were there for more than an hour. People were laughing. It was pretty pathetic of the police to send out that many officers.”
A police spokesman said: “In this incident there were concerns for the welfare and general safety of the individual and police carried out an effective and proportionate response to locate him as quickly as possible.” The man was later detained under the Mental Health Act. Source:
"The lunch went really well. The Mayor was entertaining and lovely and posed for several photos, as well as pretending to drop his tea on the floor,” said Wendy Gibbs, the home’s manager. "Violet is a really sprightly 100 year old and I think she really enjoyed her day. We put on a beautiful party for her in the evening." Source: Surrey Herald 24th April 2009
"Back in the mid '70s a duo called 'Trousers' played Wednesday nights at the Flintgate pub in Weybridge, Surrey to an enthusiastic following. They were called Trousers because they were a pair, and tended to get a bit dirty. Roger and Tim played guitar and banjo respectively, and were a superb and very talented act. Songs included standards like Whiskey in the Jar, San Fransisco Bay Blues, The Barley Mow, The Old Dun Cow, Lobster song, O'Reilley's Daughter as well as self penned items such as Wilfred the Parrot, Bubonic Blues and The Abortive Love Affair of Constable McLaggan and WPC Sadie Stick...
"They appeared on TV on Opportunity Knocks with a rather anodyne song entitled Bottoms, and produced a cassette themselves. Where are they now?" Mash 16th March 2010
"People here are very helpful and generous, but a lot of them are from the US." Mo The Caller
"It is staggering to find out how much power is required just to cool a data centre, so it's hugely reassuring that the facility in Weybridge is leading the way by being truly innovative and using clever technology to dramatically reduce consumption," said Weybridge MP Philip Hammond. Surrey Advertiser 9th April 2010
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Henry VIII makes
Although difficult to believe today Weybridge was once a small hamlet. Real growth started in the 16th century, the building of Oatlands Palace by Henry VIII in 1538 for his fourth wife, the German born Anne of Cleves (1515 - 1557) acting as the catalyst.
With Henry's favourite home Hampton Court Palace only 4 miles (6.4 km) away the site for Oatlands was perfect for a home for his new queen, and it is rumoured that the king may have secretly married his next queen, Katherine Howard, in its chapel. The king around this time had also created the Chase of Hampton Court which effectively enclosed most of the villages and land within an area today known as Elmbridge. The Chase was to serve as a hunting park for the royal household and unsurprisingly was extremely unpopular with the local population at the time. The land was returned to the people in 1547 after Henry's death.
The palace was built on what Henry knew as Chertsey Meads from part of his childhood at Byfleet and from where he had hunted. It is said that Henry had forced one John Rede to exchange Oatlands for the Manor of Tandridge in Sussex to enable the king to start his grand construction. The palace was constructed in red brick with buildings surrounding open courtyards each connected by gateways flanked by octagonal towers. The palace sprawled over nine acres of land.
The palace in reality was rarely visited by the king or queen, although it was later used at various times by Elizabeth I who spent time and money on enhancing the property. James I made Oatlands a favoured home with his queen Anne of Denmark and it was there as part of a major redevelopment of the gardens and vineyards that James established The King's Silk Works where silk worms were kept to provide silk for weaving.
Charles I enjoyed staying at Oatlands and his queen lived here whilst Charles was away doing battle with the Scots in various campaigns. It was at Oatlands that their son Prince Henry was born and in 1647 Charles was imprisoned at the house by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.
Dotted around the town in plots that were originally set in parkland are a number of buildings that were built to serve as hunting lodges for Henry VIII and his entourage. One, the Lincoln Arms (now The Minnow) in Thames Street, was owned by the Earl of Lincoln, and the king was entertained there quite frequently. The King’s Manor located in Oatlands Chase also served as a hunting lodge, and local historians claim that the king had a number of his extramarital dalliances here with Anne Boleyn whilst married to Catherine of Aragon.
Oatlands Palace was eventually demolished in 1649 at the end of the Civil War having been sold to one Robert Turbridge of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for £4,023 18s 0d. Much of the fabric of the building was used in new building projects throughout the Valley, and bricks from the palace have been found lining some of the locks built when the Wey Navigation was being constructed from 1651. Apart from a single gate in the form of a brick archway little remains of the palace today.
After the Restoration, Oatlands reverted to the Crown. In 1689 the diarist John Evelyn records that Sir Edward Herbert, the Lord Chief Justice, was living in a house on the estate of the demolished palace. This house had been recorded in the Parliamentary Survey of the estate in 1652 and it seems that the surveyors had recommended that it should not be pulled down but let as it would raise a higher income than being sold off as rubble. Sir Edward retired into exile with James II and his estate was forfeited to the crown and the house was to become the home of Lord Torrington who was the Admiral in command of the English and Dutch Fleets at the Battle of Beachy Head. Although the disastrous naval engagement resulted in Torrington being court martialled he was granted the house by William III as a gesture of royal support. Sir Edward Herbert was Lord Torrington's brother - his family name being Arthur Herbert.
In the early 18th century Oatlands House and the surrounding park was constructed by the ninth Earl of Lincoln on the former royal estate. The Earl was later to become the Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Duke of York bought the house in 1788 and was to exploit the Enclosure Acts of 1788 to significantly enlarge the Oatlands Estate. Although the house was burned down in 1794 it was rebuilt in the popular Gothic style of the period. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1804 to enable the Duke to acquire the freehold of the estate from the Crown. The Duke sold Oatlands in 1824 after the death of his wife to Edward Hughes, popularly known as 'The Golden Ball' in recognition of his notoriously decadent ways, and who quickly fell into financial difficulties. After a quick succession of short lets the estate was broken up into 46 lots and sold off in 1846.
The house itself was bought by the South Western Hotel Company and became the Oatlands Park Hotel (GR: TQ086653) in 1856 marked by the building of the brick lodge at the entrance from Monument Green. The hotel is set in landscaped gardens on the banks of Broad Water Lake and was used during the First World War to treat injured ANZAC (1) troops. It is said that the cedar tree that stands in the grounds was that which was planted by Charles I to commemorate the birth of his son Henry. It is also believed that this and other Cedar of Lebanon trees planted in the grounds of the original Oatlands Palace were the first to be imported into England. In 1922 the council built the Oatlands House Estate on part of the site. The hotel today is owned by Oatlands Investments who acquired it in 1986 and undertook significant restoration and refurbishment. The grounds are listed in the Register of Gardens and Parks of Special Historic Interest.
(1) ANZAC - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
Famous guests at the South Western Hotel included Fanny Kemble (actress and author), Emile Zola (French novelist), Charles Dilke (politician and writer), Anthony Trollope (satirist) and Edward Lear (poet and artist) who stayed at the hotel to use the magnificent cedar trees planted there as reference for his nine feet (2.7m) wide painting Cedars of the Lebanon.
The Parish of Oatlands is served by St Mary's Church which was built alongside an Iron Age burial ground in 1862 to serve the needs of the rapidly growing local population and residents from the Metropolitan Convalescent Institution in nearby Walton. The Parish of Oatlands was established in 1869 cementing the future of the church which saw considerable expansion afterwards. The North Aisle was added in 1873 and an organ installed. The impressive tower was built in 1905 but lacks the clock that is said to have been promised by a wealthy parishioner to commemorate the birth of his first son. Unfortunately his wife only ever bore him daughters.
The eight bells were originally commissioned for the celebration of the Indian Durbar in 1911, but following the cancellation of the celebration were subsequently used in the Festival of The Empire at the Crystal Palace and then at an epic performance of Max Reinhart's The Miracle performed at Olympia. It was at this performance that the vicar of St Mary's heard the bells and was so taken with their sound that an offer was made to the founders John Warner to secure them for the church. At a cost of £550 10s 0d the peal was hung in the tower in 1913.
Weybridge's Military Connections
Weybridge has had a good number of worthy residents in its time. These include Arthur Herbert, the Earl of Torrington (1648-1716) who lived at Oatlands Park, and who as Admiral was court-martialled for signalling his Anglo-Dutch fleet to retreat in the Battle of Beachy Head (1690) when defeated by the French. He was acquitted. Admiral Sir Thomas Hopson (d1717), became a national hero when at the Battle of Vigo Bay (1702) he used his ship The Torbay to break through a nine foot (2.7 metres) thick boom the Spanish had laid down allowing passage into the bay and on to victory. His house stood where the hospital now is.
Sir Home Riggs Popham (1762 - 1820), is attributed with implementing the Semaphore Telegraph Stations (referred to as Popham’s Semaphore) in 1816. A line of semaphore towers were constructed between London and the coast to allow urgent naval messages to be sent up the line by the use of two signalling arms that allowed a combination of 48 characters to be transmitted. The author John Austin (1790 - 1859) was an intellectual who made considerable contribution to the study of legal philosophy.
The Plight of America's Slaves
Fanny Kemble (1809 - 1893) was a highly successful actress from a renowned theatrical family who toured the stages of Britain and America. In America she met and married a wealthy planter, and having joined him to live on one of his estates was horrified to see with her own eyes the suffering of slaves that provided the basis of his wealth. She played an important part in publicising their plight with her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation which was widely distributed by slavery abolitionists in 1863.
Theatre & Books
Local man R.C. Sherriff (1896 – 1975) became immortalised through his gripping account of life in the trenches on the Western Front in the First World War. Journey’s End was his seventh play written in 1928, and we can thank nearby Kingston Rowing Club for kick-starting his playwrighting skills as he wrote his first play to help raise funds for the club. Always preferring to bill himself as ‘RC’ I can reveal here that his full billing would have been Robert Cedric. Another writer adopting the habit of hiding behind his initials was E.M. Forster (1879 - 1970) who wrote A Passage to India, Howard’s End and A Room with a View at his house on Weybridge Green near the Ship Inn.
The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company has its headquarters on Eyot Island (GR: TQ076660) on the Thames approachable by a footbridge. Richard D’Oyly Carte (1844-1901) was a theatrical manager and theatre owner famous at the end of the 19th century for his productions of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operas which were hugely popular at the time. D’Oyly Carte was the brainchild behind the Savoy Theatre which he had built to his own specifications.
A passenger ferry operates during the summer months across the Thames just upstream of Eyot Island.
In 1694 a monument was erected at the converging point of seven streets in St Giles, London. Constructed by the sculptor Edward Pierce the column was commissioned for the Seven Dials rebuilding in the area after the Great Fire of London (1666). On the pinnacle of the column was a Dial Stone with six facets each engraved with a sundial. The column was dismantled and sold in 1773 and removed to Sayes Court, the Addlestone home of one James Paine, a stonemason and architect.
Frederica, Duchess of York (1767 - 1820) who had a residence in Oatlands, Weybridge was a high profile figure in high society circles and had become a popular benefactress. She was the only daughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia and married Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany in 1791 whereupon she moved to Oatlands. The marriage was shortlived although the Duchess continued to live in Oatlands for thirty years. The Duchess was buried in Weybridge Old Church. Her tomb today can be found on the left-hand side of the path linking Church Street to St James Church.
The monument was re-erected in Weybridge in 1822 by voluntary subscription after the death of the Duchess of York two years previously. The landlord of the Ship Inn by Monument Green organised coillection of the donated funds. The Dial Stone, now deemed to be too heavy to be returned to its original position at the top of the column, was replaced with a ducal coronet.
With a dedication on the other:
The Dial Stone became neglected and was used at one time as a mounting block for horse riders before being displayed at the old premises of the Weybridge Council Offices. It was moved finally to Weybridge Library.
Monument Green, with the historic Ship Inn (now a hotel) was originally called Bull Ring Square up until the end of the 18th century in recognition of the bull-baiting (1) that took place on the Green. Rocque's map of c1770 shows the Green with a large expanse of open ground alongside much of which was parkland and estates owned by the Earl of Portmore and the Duke of Newcastle. A village pump stood by the green to the front of the Ship Inn.
(1) Bull-baiting involved setting game dogs upon the unfortunate animal which had been enraged by the blowing of strong pepper up its nose. The 'sport' was not banned until the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.
Monument Green had been identified in 1990 as a conservation area by Elmbridge Borough Council under the definition: “an area of special architectural or historic interest the character or
The area which lies around the greens was proposed for conservation because of its distinctive character straddling what was once the main access from the village to the confluence of the River Wey and the Thames. Buildings within the conservation area date mainly to the 19th century with only one modern structure, no. 5 Monument Green which dates to the 1960s. Apart from the Ship Inn the oldest is The Old House (no. 23) which is late 17th century. EM Forster the writer lived with his mother at Monument Green from 1904 with his mother and is said to have written A Room with a View, Howard's End and A Passage to India in the house. The area is surrounded by suburban housing of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Monument green is also designated as an Area of High Archaelogical Potential.
The Ship Inn retains some of the original 16th century fabric although most of the building was constructed in the 18th. It's name possibly derives from the medieval term 'shippin' which referred to a cattle shed. At the time of the Manor of Byfleet and Weybridge being granted to the Duke of Newcastle in 1760 the Inn was used for meetings of the manorial courts. Historic records show that cockfighting (2) was organised in a shed behind the Inn. The Ship was a busy coaching inn acting as a terminus and providing stables for a daily coach service to London with departures at 8.15 am and arrivals at 7.15 pm. During the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century the Inn was used as a recruitment centre for the army.
(2) Cockfighting was a blood sport which involved a fight between two gamecocks (roosters) upon which wagers were placed on the outcome. The birds were specially bred for their aggression and stamina. Cockfighting was banned in England in 1849.
Further up Monument Hill where Hanger Hill joins Queens Road is a WWI memorial column guarding the northern boundary of Weybridge Green where cricket matches have been played at least since 1814 when the landlord of the Stag and Hounds public house opposite was given permission to level part of the gravel pits to form a 'Cricketing Ground'. Contemporary illustrations show players sporting top hats as they fielded attempted strikes to the boundary on a field that was so rough there were continual complaints from visiting players. At the end of the 19th century two clubs used the ground for matches, the Weybridge Albion and St Michael's Church Cricket Club, the latter restricting membership to young men under the age of 18. Charity matches organised by the Albion before WWI were hugely popular attracting large crowds who came to see famous players of the time and regularly raised over £100 for donation to the local hospital, a considerable amount at the time.
After the war the club appears to have fallen into decline and faced competition from a new club organised by the employees of the New Weybridge Electric Company. In 1921 the local council decided to lend support by employing local unemployed servicemen and levelled the playing field and the banking surrounding it. The work filled a depression in the ground which had often filled with water forming a shallow pond providing an unintentional water feature. Three years later the Weybridge Albion and Weybridge Electric amalgamated to form Weybridge Cricket Club which plays on the ground to this day.
One of Britain’s most exclusive residential estates nestles to the south of the town in a wooded landscaped setting with its own golf course, one of the first developments in Britain to provide this as a feature. St George’s Hill (GR: TQ080625), established in 1911 on 964 acres by a local developer W. G. Tarrant to provide 'country retreats for the wealthy gentlemen of London', attracts the rich and famous and is home to Sir Cliff Richard.
Tarrant became renowned for his vision and enterprise and was much admired for creating property of note. This extract was published in a contemporary publication which featured the designs of 20 houses on the estate designed by various architects:
At the focus of Tarrant's plans for the new estate was an 18-hole golf course designed by H.S. Colt, a respected golf course architect. Tarrant devised an economic building method whereby a gang of 100 men working under a foreman erected three houses at a time. Starting with houses at the entrance lodge at Byfleet Road (now Brooklands Road) the builders worked 56 hour weeks with labourers paid 6d an hour, bricklayers and carpenters 8 1/2d, plasterers 9d and thatchers 1/-. By the early 1920s Tarrant's workforce had grown to 5,000 administered by an office of 70.
Tarrant hit the headlines when towards the end of WWI he designed and constructed a giant wooden-framed aeroplane he intended to be used to bomb Berlin. The tri-plane he named the Tarrant Tabor was over 73ft (22m) in length, 37ft (11m) in height and had a wingspan of 131ft (40m) and was built at his works in Byfleet. By the time the plane had been assembled the war was over and sadly crashed on its maiden flight in 1919 killing both pilots. Tarrant was also called upon during the war to build portable wooden huts for the British Expeditionary Force, a contract for which he employed and trained women carpenters.
After the war there was a need to provide cheaper housing and Tarrant took up the challenge with plans published in 1920 for 'standardised permanent wood and brick cottages ensuring quick erection at least possible cost'. The semi-detached houses, which consisted of living room, parlour, scullery, WC and fuel store on the ground floor, and three bedrooms, bathroom with WC and box-room on the first floor, were also to be erected in France and Belgium following the devastating destruction of WWI. Three were built in Ellesmere Road, St George's Hill and were used by wealthy owners on the estate to house their chauffers and gardeners. Tarrant was also to win the contract to build low-cost housing at Stoughton in Guildford. MORE HERE
In 1964 John Lennon bought Kenwood in St George's Hill for an estimated £20,000 and lived there with his first wife Cynthia.Their son, Julian, at the age of five went to school at nearby Heath House. It was in 1966 that a reporter from The London Evening Standard arrived at Kenwood and afterwoods published an interview with Lennon that almost saw the demise of The Beatles, certainly in the eyes of their new American fans. The interview, which was repeated in the American magazine Datebook and transcribed by the media right across the USA, quoted Lennon as saying that The Beatles were 'more popular than Jesus' and unleashed a massive backlash. The furore only subsided when Lennon publically apologised for his words during a tour of the States later that year. The article's offending sentence stated:
A bootleg (1) CD Lost in Weybridge featuring unreleased John Lennon sessions recorded at the house in 1968 was circulating in 2003.
(1) A bootleg is an illegally made recording by unauthorised parties.
Other notables include Tom Jones and Ringo Starr, who lived in his mansion Sunny Heights with a large bar he'd named The Flying Cow. American actor Tommy Lee Jones of Men in Black fame has also been a resident here.
It is often said that the rich and famous settling in St George's Hill are dismayed to learn that simply owning a house on the estate doesn't automatically entitle them to membership of the exclusive St George's Golf Club.
The 900-acre estate has managed to develop a reputation for exclusivity and provides for a secure and private enclave with manned security gates. Each property is of at least an acre in size, a stipulation written into law by an Act of Parliament which also states that buildings can occupy no more than one fifth of the plot of land it stands in. Land on the hill is now (2007) commanding prices of around £3m per acre. One recently constructed (2005) mansion, Hartlands, now retains a market value of £14.5m for its seven-bedroom and five-reception room facilities. The house also boasts Europe's largest privately-owned sauna through which pure oxygen is reportedly pumped. Another new house, Waverley, currently (2007) being constructed has at its heart a 1,400 sq ft (130 sq m) kitchen, approximating to the size of a standard three-bedroomed house. The new mansions tend now to have as standard home cinemas, wine cellars and vaulted halls.
One such property described by the estate agent handling the sale (March 2008) as an "individually designed luxurious family and entertaining home incorporating an array of the latest state of the art facilities" is Medomsley. The house provides its owners with a 'passive' infrared security system and CCTV, a 'seven speaker' cinema room, plasma screens, a 'temperature control bath', surround-sound system and 'ouside speakers'. The property also boasts an all-weather tennis court, hot-tub on the terrace and 'enjoys pleasant views towards St George's Hill golf course' - just as well given the price tag of £4,950,000.
Properties in St George's Hill despite the ‘credit crunch’ still command (2008) eye watering prices. A house in Camp End Road, described as ‘ultra-contemporary’ by Country Life magazine, is on the market at £8.5m. Highclere , which was completed in 2008, offers 14,607 sq ft (1,357 sq m) of accommodation and ‘has flowing open-plan interiors that blend seamlessly with its 1.14 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds’.
Dragonwyck on Old Avenue, one of the original houses built in St George’s Hill by W.G. Tarrant in the early 1990s, was sold in 2008 for £4.5m reportedly to an eastern-European buyer. On the prestigious Golf Club Road Crickets Hill, which was built for Sir Joseph Leese by Kenneth Wood in 1914, is on offer for £8.95m. The Penthouse, a 6 ensuite bedroom mansion with swimming pool in Old Avenue, was on the market for £6.5m in December 2008. Still at an eye-watering price, but perhaps reflecting the effects of the slump in the market the five bedroom three bathroom mansion Keeston, with staff annexe and indoor swimming pool and gym complex, was on the market (May 2009) for a mere £3.5m.
And what do you get for your money at this end of the market? Buy ‘ambassadorial’ Highclere and you’ll rattle around in a house with six bedroom suites, five reception rooms, a double-galleried reception hall, an 18-seat cinema, a 1,060-bottle wine cellar, roof gardens, an indoor-pool complex – oh, and a self-contained two-bedroom flat to house a couple of members of staff you’ll need to be regularly despatched to help you find your way back to the bathroom. However it appears that even St George’s Hill is not totally immune to the effects of the crunch with offers of 15 – 20% below guide prices being accepted (October 2008).
The Indian cricketer Raj Kundra was reported (April 2009) as having bought a £5m seven-bedroom mansion in St Georges Hill, where he was intending to live with his wife and parents after his marriage to Bollywood film star Shilpa Shetty in 2010. Shetty achieved fame in Britain when she appeared alongside the late British reality TV star Jade Goody in Celebrity Big Brother, winning the 2007 series.
St George's Hill estate residents are up in arms (March 2012) over plans to build a powerplant nearby. The new facility will have a gasification plant that will generate electricity from the burning of 30,000 tonnes of imported waste wood every year. According to the application the station will genertae enough renewable energy to supply over 6,000 homes and would save 8,600 tonnes of CO2 annually.
The planning application, which is being vigorously opposed by action group Surrey Environmental Guardians (of which the St George's Hill Residents Association are members), applies to a site on Redhill Road where Barnes Wallis had developed his wartime 'bouncing bombs'. The incinerating power station is projected to have a maximum of eight heavy vehicles servicing the plant daily. There are air quality concerns from local residents too.
Templemere (GR: TQ087654) in Oatlands Village is set in 16.5 acres of lush gardens with a lake at its focal point. Designed in 1963 by architect Eric Lyons these Span houses are set in the grandest of the development company's developments in London and the South East and were designed to sit in harmony with their environment.
The houses were very high-tech for their time, as the son of one of the architects on the design team explains.
Another private residential estate in a picturesque setting is that built in the grounds of Harduemont House. Lakeside (GR: TQ090657), as the name implies, has at its focus Broadwater Lake above which a development of 19 town houses were erected by Span Developments and were put up for sale for £8,900 in 1965. The original house was built in the 1800s. The cedar tree standing by the entrance to Lakeside is said to be one of the original trees remaining from Oatlands Palace at the time of Charles I.
Broadwater Lake or Broad Water (GR: TQ085654) as it is known locally was created and landscaped by the Duke of Newcastle in the 18th century. It is nearly a mile in length and was designed to mimic the look of a river although its original shape has been changed in ensuing centuries. The lake became severely polluted in the 19th century by discharges made from Weybridge's town sewage, although by 1875 an Inspector of Nuisances report indicates that the problem had been corrected. In colder times the lake was popular with ice skaters and today is a haven for wildlife.
Backing on to Broad Water is an exclusive enclave of houses in Oatlands Mere (GR: TQ088655). Of two newly-built properties, which both have their own woodland and a private jetty on the lake, one was being marketed (June 2008) for £1,595,000. The three-storey house, which is set in just over half an acre, boasts 'a long woodland walk of approximately 330ft (100m) leading to a superb ten acre stretch of water boasting a mature head of carp'.
Whiteley Village (GR: TQ094625) is a model settlement near Hersham constructed in the early 1900’s on instructions and money left in the will of millionaire store owner William Whiteley. Whiteley, who owned a large Bayswater department store, was shot dead in 1907 by a young man claiming to be his illegitimate son.
His bequest specified that £1m, a huge amount of money at the time, be used to purchase freehold land to be used 'as a site for the erection thereon of buildings to be used and occupied as homes for aged poor persons'.
In 1911 the 225-acre Burhill Estate was bought for £40,000, the delay in part due to dissention between the eight trustees which included Whiteley's two sons. He had been very clear as to exactly what the scheme should provide with the will stating that the site was to 'be in as bright, cheerful and healthy spot as possible' and that the buildings were to be of 'good and substantial character and of a plain and useful design and shall be well lighted, ventilated and drained and so placed as to be protected as far as possible from the north and east winds'.
Walter Cave, the consulting architect, invited six renowned architects to submit plans for the village layout with those created by one R Frank Atkinson finally being selected. However by the time the trustees had made final agreement the plans finally employed bore very little resemblance to the architect's, with only the octagonal layout of the village being faithful to the original.
The single-storey Model Cottages designed by Walter Cave and built alongside the West Avenue approach to the village in 1913 are to his design, although at the time were deemed to be too spacious for elderly residents and influenced the construction of much smaller cottages in the rest of the village. Six architects, including three involved in the original planning and Cave, were commissioned to each design a block of cottages. Eight were built to fill the octagonal village centre, with the employment of individual architects ensuring that the settlement did not have the uniformity of an institution. Each block or 'section' provides 16 single-occupance cottages, four two-storey cottages, six double cottages and a nurse's cottage.
Building began in 1914 at which time the foundation stone for the imposing monument to William Whiteley was laid in the centre of the village. In 1917 application forms were sent to 376 pensioners who had responded to an advertisement distributed by the trustees. However of the 244 applicants returning their forms the majority were rejected as failing to meet Whiteley's strict entrance requirement of 'persons of good character and of sound mind and not affected by an infectious or contagious disease and not having been convicted of any criminal offence and being male of not less than 65 years and being female of not less than 60 years of age' and additionally they needed to be 'persons or the wives of persons who have been engaged in commercial or agricultural pursuits'.
A retired nurse became the village's first resident later in the year to be joined by 41 other pensioners. By the early 1920s 200 people lived in the village and the community was thriving attracting the attention of King George V and Queen Mary. The royal visit, which was made in 1921, provided for the opening of the clubhouse and concluded with the planting of two Swiss pines in the churchyard of St Marks. One of the pines was blown down in the storms of 1987 and a replacement was planted in the same spot by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester in 1996. To mark the centenary of the death of William Whiteley in 2007 HRH Prince Charles visited the village.
Founders Day, held on the 29th September, was an eagerly awaited annual event as each pensioner received 10 shillings, with Christmas marked with a gift from the trustees from a choice of 'a portion of turkey and ham with potatoes and sprouts; plumb pudding, mince pie, and custard; box of dates or a tin of biscuits and a tin of tea'. Both events were stipulated in Whiteley's will.
With the outbreak of the Second World War air raid shelters were constructed in the grounds, an air raid siren was erected and gas masks were issued. A few buildings suffered minor damage during local bombing in 1944 and the only casualty recorded was that of a nursing sister who fell and injured her knee while running to report an air raid.
Today over 400 pensioners live in Whiteley Village. The oldest to live here was one Mrs Montgomery who died in 1996 at the age of 108. Coincidentally she was working at Whiteley's Bayswater store on the day he was murdered.
The development is regarded of such architectural importance that the whole site is Grade II Listed. The estate of 278 cottages today remains a unique example of radical 1960's architecture and still provides affordable housing for the retired enabling them to lead independent lives in a close community. The entry requirements still restrict application to those retired from the retail and agricultural trades.
The majority of the cottages, all of which have a small garden plot, are for single residents although 69 provide accommodation for couples. Two residential homes and a nursing home provides additional care. A two-storey extra-care housing scheme providing 49 self-contained apartments was built in the village in 2003. Huntley House was designed to complement the Lutyens-style buildings in the village and utilises handmade red and grey facing bricks. The building won the 2004 Best Private Housing Development run by the Brick Development Association.
Two churches provide services for different denominations with the Trust providing a full-time Church of England chaplain who conducts services in St Marks Church. A volunteer Pastor takes non-conformist services under the United Free Church in the Sanctuary.
At the community's centre is a village store, post office, hairdressers, library and launderette. The extensive grounds are actively used by resident's clubs for golf, putting, bowls and fishing in the lake. The village hall, complete with clock tower that chimes ever quarter hour, provides community activities and includes a stage for theatrical performances. A leisure club has a bar, restaurant, pool and snooker tables, swimming pool and conservatory. The village also has a workshop providing tools for woodworking, and allotments provided for the exclusive use of its residents. A guest house offers accommodation for visitors to the village.
The estate is managed by a Trust and employs gardeners and a full time security guard.
A French King in Exile
In Heath Road behind St. Charles Borromeo Church sits the original 19th century chapel built by one James Taylor. A curious looking building, with a dome wedged between four turrets, it was used by the exiled French king Louis-Philippe who used to worship here when staying at nearby Claremont near Esher. Louis was temporarily interred here along with his queen until their bodies could be safely disinterred to Dreux in France.
The Diggers in Weybridge
The location today of some of the grandest houses in the country was once the site where a radical new group of social reformers was formed.
During the English Civil War in 1649 an English group of political agitators based themselves at St George's Hill in Weybridge, then an area of common land, and began to plant vegetables.
The group, founded by Gerrard Winstanton as the True Levellersto differentiate from the group who were demanding the vote, was inspired by their belief in economic equality and wanted to instigate far-fetching social change by 'levelling' property and turning it over to small egalitarian rural communities who were focused on a simple agrarian lifestyle. The activists became known as 'the Diggers' due to the way they started to cultivate the land not owned by them.
The Diggers' radical activities came at a time of great social unrest in England with an ongoing struggle between Charles I and his supporters and those of the Parliamentarians under Cromwell, and food prices having risen to an all-time high, was leading to starvation amongst the poorest families all across the country. The Diggers pulled down all enclosures on the land they occupied and invited the local people to join them and their cause.
Within days of occupying the land at Weybridge their numbers tripled and their activities attracted a lot of support with thousands of people rallying to their cause. Spurred on by their success the Diggers started to occupy other sites including Little Heath in nearby Cobham, and at locations in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire.
However very quickly the authorities and local landowners began to react, alarmed by the anarchist basis of the group's beliefs. The True Levellers contended that if all the common people of England would group into self-supporting communes the ruling classes would collapse and be forced to join them, or starve as there would be no-one left to work on their fields or pay them rent. On April 16th, precisely 16 days after first occupying the land, a letter was sent to the Council of State informing that they had invited “all to come in and help them, and promise them meat, drink, and clothes”, adding that they were planning to pull down all the enclosures and force the local populace to work with them.
Under severe pressure by local landowners the commander of the New Model Army, Sir Thomas Fairfax, arrived at St George's Hill and apprehended Winstanley and his right hand man William Everard, both of whom refused to move their hats, a major slight at the time, regarding Fairfax simply as 'their fellow creature'. Fairfax however withdrew once he had ascertained that the group were doing no physical harm to the local population and directed the landowners to use the courts to evict The Diggers.
The local Lord of the Manor however took the law into his own hands and in an effort to drive them from the land organised gangs to attack the group and destroy the shelters they had built. The group were finally taken to court and in a one-sided trial where they were not allowed to speak in their own defence, were found guilty and ordered to leave the land.
Some of the evicted Diggers moved to nearby Little Heath and at first seemed to be ignored by the Lord of the Manor. Eventually however they were again forcibly driven from the land, where they had managed to successfully cultivate 11 acres harvesting winter crops and building six communal houses. By April 1650 there were no Diggers active in the area.
Today St George's Hill with its exclusive estate of private houses stands almost in defiance of its original history.
In 1999, on the anniversary of the Diggers occupation, a group of Winstanley's modern day supporters attempted to place a stone memorial in a prominent position on the hill. The owners of the land refused them permission so the memorial was placed just outside the walls on the corner of Brooklands Road and Cobbetts Hill near Weybridge Station. the memnorial sculpted by Andrew Whittle has a spade on the reverse with an inscription to the front proclaiming "Worke together, eat bread together - Gerrard Winstanley, a true Leveller, 1649."
Enthusiasts have established a Diggers Trail that provides key points of interest relating to the short-lived movement in Surrey. Winstanley is commemoarted in the Cobham area by the naming of two roads: Winstanley Close and Winstanley Walk. A mosaic designed by Max Doig and constructed by local school children has been erected (2009) on a wall in Hollyhedge Road off Cobham High Street.
A Channel 4 television programme The Bible - A History featured (March 2010) a discussion led by historian David Taylor about Gerard Winstanley and his Diggers examining the uprising from a religious viewpoint.
Beatle John Lennon's
The house in the exclusive St George's Hill estate where Lennon worked on his songs in the attic using a system of tape recorders is for sale (November 2006) at £6m. Lennon lived at the house Kenwood with his first wife Cynthia and raised their young son Julian there for four years.
Lennon bought the 17-room mock Tudor house for £20,000 in 1964 but moved out in 1968 when he started his affair with artist Yoko Ono. It has seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, a sauna and swimming pool.
Many of the health scares you read about in the press are either confirmed or denied through the work of a world-leading laboratory in New Haw just outside Weybridge. The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) has international reference laboratory status for a wide range of infectious and non-infectious diseases in farm animals.
The lab is the EU's official reference source for avian influenza, the dreaded Asian or bird flu we seem to hear so much about nowadays, and are the experts that other science laboratories throughout Europe and South East Asia turn to for consultancy, advice and reagents.
The VLA, founded in 1995, recently (2005) opened new state-of-the-art laboratories in the Stewart Stockman Building which have provided a ground-breaking service in enhancing the UK's contingency readiness for major animal disease outbreaks.
The latest European outbreak (February 2007) this time in the UK in which 2,600 turkeys died at a poultry farm in Suffolk was confirmed after samples were analysed at the laboratory identifying the virus as the deadly H5N1 avian flu. 160,000 turkeys had to be destroyed in order to contain the outbreak.
Defra has taken the step (November 2007) in a post-F&M Britain to announce that the laboratory is completely safe and will not be the source of any leaks like those seen at Pirbright in Surrey (MORE ON FOOT & MOUTH HERE). The statement was made following the latest outbreak of bird flu in Suffolk, and from where samples of culled animals are transported to the VLA for testing.
It was revealed (April 2009) that two workers at the laboratory were treated with anti-viral drugs after accidently scratching themselves with needles contaminated with the H5N1 bird flu strain. The incidents came to light after the BBC received the report following a Freedom of Information request. The first incident happened when a technician was euthanasing a duck dosed with H5N1, and the second a few days later when another technician was accidently pricked by a needle when injecting eggs with the same flu strain. Both workers were subsequently tested negative.
The same information request revealed that the anthrax unit at the laboratory had been damaged after it was flooded by a leaking pipe. The VLA’s chief executive Peter Boriello emphasised that the lab placed "great importance" on health and safety and biosecurity, and that risk assessments were constantly reviewed as were standard operating procedures. All such incidents are recorded under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) which highlights the risks faced by scientists and technicians working with materials posing a potentially biological hazard.
The outbreak of swine flu (April 2009), that has panicked nations around the world, saw the Weybridge laboratory use its facilities to investigate suspect cases and to assist in the manufacture of antidotes.
The VLA complex in Weybridge has been identified as the most polluting government-owned site in the country in an energy efficiency report on 267 government offices (May 2009). It has an energy rating of 761 and emits 20,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. The majority of buildings monitored score below 200. A spokesman for the Department for the Environment that operates the laboratory said that the department was fully committed to improving energy efficiency.
Founded 42 years ago, the volunteer-run radio station that broadcasts to Weybridge and St Peter’s Hospitals has celebrated (January 2009) its first year of successful internet broadcasting.
Online 24 hours a day throughout the year radiowey.co.uk has chalked up 260,000 unique visits and claims an online audience of 6,000 American listeners to their rock and roll show. The site’s statistics also recorded that listeners from 34 different countries were listening online to the station’s coverage of the 2008 FA Cup match between Staines Town and AFC Wimbledon.
Launched in 1965 by Alan Timbrell, who is still an active member, and the late John Best, broadcasts from the original radio station were limited to two hours a day and were pre-recorded on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder to be played back to patients at Weybridge Hospital on a portable tape recorder.
In 1967 the hospital agreed to loan a room, dubbed The Shoebox because of its extremely cramped conditions, from which Radio Wey could start proper broadcasts using basic equipment. Live presentations provided for 13 hours of programming a week.
Ellesmere and Walton hospitals were added to the broadcast system in 1968. St Peters and Ottershaw hospitals were linked in during 1970, with Ashford hospital joining in 1973. In the same year the station was fully re-equipped with The Shoebox finally abandoned in 1989 when a new home with two engineering suites was found in the grounds of St Peters.
Today Radio Wey broadcasts to three of the original remaining hospitals, Ellesmere, Ottershaw and Walton hospitals having since been closed down. The modern studio uses a fully computerised £15,000 system, installed in 2007, which enables listeners individual requests to be called up and played live almost instantaneously. The refit was made possible by funds raised through a New Studio Appeal started in 2004.
The station launched an online local auction site in November 2007 to help raise funds to help maintain hospital radio and also launched their online ‘magazine’ www.radioweyonline.co.uk.
Hospital Radio Wey has over the years enjoyed the support of many celebrities including Sir Cliff Richard, Max Clifford, Bobby Davro, Russell Grant, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Trevor Brooking, Diana Moran and Theo Paphitis who have all been guests broadcasting from the studio.
The station currently (May 2009) lists 55 presenters who all volunteer their time. Veteran presenter John Charman presented his 1,000th programme on the station on the 21st September 2008. The ex-RAF pilot instructor joined Radio Wey in 1972 and has presented his The Big Band Hour every Sunday. His programme is now also streamed on the station’s internet broadcasts.
From October 16th to November 12th 2008 Radio Wey undertook a trial period broadcasting with a restricted service licence on FM bandwidth 87.9 as a precursor to being awarded full FM status. The station will not know until October 2009 as to whether their application for a full community radio licence has been successful. The station has been renamed simply as Radio Wey to reflect its ambition to become a community station rather than just limiting broadcasts to the three hospitals.
© Wey River 2005 - 2012