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Wey Navigation
Newark to Walsham Gates

The 12th century Newark Priory was a powerful and highly influential landowner. The Abbot had royal assent to run a fair in the nearby village of Ripley which added to its considerable income from agriculture and land rents. Ripley itself later became an important staging post for sailors travelling to the south coast ports and their legacy remains even today.

ELSEWHERE LINKS NAVIGATIONS HISTORY OUR IMAGES CHARCOAL MAKING

Wey
Snippets

WEY VALLEY FOOD
OVER THE CENTURIES
Nutmeg Cake
Loseley (Guildford) 17th century recipe
“Rub three quarters of a Pound of Butter and a quarter of a Pound of Sugar into two Pounds of Flour, add a pennyworth of Yeast and half a pint of Lukewarm Milk with two Eggs and a large Nutmeg ground. Put before the fire until it rises up & let it be buttered, & be careful not to have it wetted.” Old Surrey Receipts & Food for Thought. Daphne Grimm

WEY FACTUAL
There are the remains of an ice house in Tilford where the local manor once stored ice and preserved food through the summer months. The local policeman used to use it as a temporary cell in which to sober up drunks, to save him having to walk them all the way to Farnham.

TILE ART SUBWAY GUILDFORD
WEY GHOSTLY
The Oatlands Park Hotel in Weybridge resides in a grand 19th century mansion. The house was built on the foundations of much older manors, and the hotel has inherited a suitable gallery of ghostly figures. These include a grey lady that wanders through the restaurant and accounts department, and a maid that had flung herself from a bell tower after a lovers' tiff.

WEY PECULIAR
A one-acre roadside verge along nearby Effingham Common Road is on the market for a staggering £25,000 despite it being ever likely to receive planning permission for any kind of development.

Mural Gomshall Post Office
click image to enlarge

WEY TINTO
The chief executive of the $20bn global mining company Rio Tinto, Tom Albanese, owns a narrowboat which he moors on the Wey Navigation somewhere between Weybridge and Guildford. The barge is unusual in that it is not constructed of steel but of aluminium making the boat lighter and easier to manouevre.

WEY TRIUMPHANT
Ripley has won the county-wide competition to be selected as representing Surrey in the national Village of the Year Competition which has been running since 1996. The village won the Surrey prize (July 2007) and will now be competing against Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire and Sussex in the Southern England category.

WEY SON
One of Ripley's most famous sons was born in the village.

"My family lived at 1, the Green, a tiny house in Ripley, Surrey, which opened directly onto the village Green. It was part of what had once been almshouses and was divided into four rooms; two poky bedrooms upstairs, and a small front room and kitchen downstairs. The toilet was outside, in a corrugated iron shed at the bottom of the garden, and we had no bathtub, just a big zinc basin that hung on the back door.

"Twice a week my mum used to fill a smaller tin tub with water and sponge me down, and on Sunday afternoons I used to go and have a bath at my Auntie Audrey’s, my dad’s sister, who lived in the new flats on the main road. I lived with Mum and Dad, who slept in the main bedroom overlooking the Green, and my brother, Adrian, who had a room at the back. I slept on a camp bed, sometimes with my parents, sometimes downstairs, depending on who was staying at the time. The house had no electricity, and the gas lamps made a constant hissing sound. It amazes me now to think that whole families lived in these little houses.

"The truth I eventually discovered was that Mum and Dad, Rose and Jack Clapp, were in fact my grandparents, Adrian was my uncle, and Rose’s daughter, Patricia, from an earlier marriage, was my real mother and had given me the name Clapton. "

"In 1944, like many other towns in the south of England, Ripley found itself inundated with troops from the United States and Canada, and at some point Pat, age fifteen, enjoyed a brief affair with Edward Fryer, a Canadian airman stationed nearby. They had met at a dance where he was playing the piano in the band. He turned out to be married, so when she found out she was pregnant, she had to cope on her own. Rose and Jack protected her, and I was born secretly in the upstairs back bedroom of their house on March 30, 1945. As soon as it was practical, when I was in my second year, Pat left Ripley, and my grandparents brought me up as their own child. I was named Eric, but Ric was what they all called me." Source: Eric Clapton The Autobiography - Century : October 2007

MOVE ON
to the next stretch of the Wey Navigation:
WALSHAM TO PYRFORD LOCK


Just downstream from Newark Lock the treated effluent from the Ripley sewage works (GR: TQ043572) is pumped into the river. At the end of the 19th century a boy’s school had a swimming club in the river not far downstream.

Ripley - the Sailors' Village

In return for the gift of a palfrey (1) Henry III granted Newark Priory the right to hold a fair on nearby Ripley Green (GR: TQ054568) on the eve and feast day of St Mary Magdalen on July 22nd each year. The fair ran until interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Today The Ripley Event, organised by the Rotary Club of Ripley and Send, is run on the same date for charitable causes and includes a vintage car gymkhana and dog show.

(1) The term 'palfrey' was used in the Middle Ages to refer to the most expensive and highly-bred horses favoured by nobles, their ladies and knights for riding, hunting and ceremonial use. A palfrey could be of a number of different breeds.

Ripley straddled the busy thoroughfare that connected London with Portsmouth at a time when the British navy was at its zenith. Numerous sailors stopped off at the various inns in Ripley on their way to and from leave, and these hostelries vied with each other to encourage their custom with names such as the Jolly Sailor (later Jovial), the Anchor, and the Ship. The dominance of Ripley as a transport hub in the local area is demonstrated by the fact that it was the all-important post town from 1813 until 1865, even serving Woking in this capacity. Ripley rapidly started to lose its status when the Railway from London had reached Portsmouth in 1859 which lead to a virtual cessation of stagecoach traffic, and nearby Woking which now benefited from the new railway took over as the post town.

The advent of the motorcar right at the end of the 19th century soon led to the London to Portsmouth route becoming popular again, and by the 1950s this small village became choked by the fumes of traffic crawling through its historic High Street. It wasn't until the 1970s that the village was returned to a relatively quiet backwater when the A3 was diverted around Ripley by the building of a bypass.

Audrey Laycock's watercolour of watermeadows at Ripley
click on image to go to artist's website click to visit Audrey Laycock's website

Lord Nelson (1758 – 1805) reputedly used The Talbot in the centre of the village for a liaison with Lady Emma Hamilton, perhaps avoiding the other nautically named pubs to avoid being recognised by his sailors. Two of the country’s earliest brass ale pumps can be found here.

The legendary guitarist Eric Clapton was born at his grandparent’s house in 1 The Green (MORE HERE) and the funeral for his infant son Conor, who died in 1991 in a tragic accident, was at St Mary Magdalen (GR: TQ052566) in the High Street. Lord Baden-Powell (1857 - 1941) once lived in Chapel Farm House behind the church.

Where the church is sited was reputedly the location of the first buildings being constructed in the 12th century by the Augustinians as part of their new priory. However the building work was halted when a more suitable location was provided by the River Wey (where today the ruins of their Newark Priory can still be seen), and was later converted into a chapel of ease along simpler lines. as evidence of this likely provenance the chancel, which was built to an unusually high standard for a parish church in 1160, pre-dates the Newark Priory buildings by some 35 to 40 years. The original building was to become a wayside hospice prior to the site eventually being adopted for the parish church. The Victorian architect Benjamin Ferrey replaced much of the early nave with a neo-gothic structure in 1845/6 and good quality stainglass windows were also installed. The church was popular with cyclists in the late 19th century, of which more below.

Ripley shared in the history of the development of cricket in the 18th century. The first recorded game of cricket in Ripley was in 1749 on the green when the game was played on a five-a-side basis. Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevens played for Ripley and Send and was the team’s much feared bowler. In 1775 he was playing for an England Five against a Hambledon Five when he thrice bowled the ball clean through the stumps without hitting one of them. As a result cricket was played with three stumps thereafter.

Ripley Village 1903
Ripley Village 1903
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection
 

On the western edge of the village are the 62 acre gardens of Dunsborough Park, (GR: TQ048568) a 15th century country manor which today is the private home of Baron and Baroness Sweerts de Landas Wyborg. The formal gardens boast a 70ft gingko hedge, an ancient mulberry tree and Edwardian wooden glasshouses. The gardens are only open for organised events.

Being just the right distance from London, Ripley became a favoured destination for cycling groups from the city in the late 19th century. Two sisters, who ran the Anchor Inn alongside their mother, became so renowned for their hospitality and homely teas that the cyclists clubbed together to commemorate Annie and Harriet Dibble after Harriet died in 1896, 15 months after her sister. A stained glass window was erected in their memory in the parish church. At their peak the pub was gathering 7,000 signatures a year in its Cyclists Visitors Book, with the author H G Wells also said to have made his mark therein. Such were the numbers of cyclists arriving in the village that the vicar organised special Sunday services for them, and Lord Bury was so impressed having ridden his Humber tricycle there from London that he called Ripley the 'Mecca of all good cyclists', a phrase that stuck. The record breaking cyclist and regular visitor to Ripley Herbert Liddell Cortis, who in 1887 was the first to cycle 20 miles in one hour, had a brass plaque placed in the church to his honour after his death in 1885. The organ was also a gift from the cyclists.

A 16th century cottage in the High Street has been preserved complete with its original oak beams and for many years was an antique shop that specialised on Toby Jugs (2). Toby Cottage was converted into a restaurant in 1979. Other historic buildings in the village include Vintage Cottage, which having been reliably dated to 1391 makes it the area's oldest domestic building and Ripley Court School's 17th century building, both in Rose Lane. The Dutch-gabled building of Manor House, which is opposite The Anchor, dates back to 1650.

(2) Toby Jugs, also known as 'fillpots', are ceramic jugs depicting a seated figure originally popularised by Staffordshire potters in the 1760's.

The old village Fire Station in Rose Lane and the adjoining Dutch barn styled building was fittingly built on land once owned by the Baden-Powell family as both are now occupied by the local Scout group. The plaque above the station door reads "Ripley Fire Station 1911 until 1960. This building was restored to its original form in memory of Don Wood a leader and benefactor of the 1st Ripley Scout Group. Completed 1992"

Gas Storage Debate

Residents in Ripley are concerned about the proposal to build one of the UK's largest underground gas storage facilities in a field at Furze Copse (GR:TQ065537) half a mile (0.8km) east of HM Prison Send. The energy company, Star Energy, is planning to submit formal plans by the end of the summer 2007.

The company has been extracting gas from under the Surrey Hills at Albury near Guildford since 1999 and stores supplies in an underground six billion cubic foot (169 billion cubic metres) reservoir there. The Ripley installation, which will have a 24 million cubic foot (679 billion cubic metres) reservoir at Furze Copse, will be linked to Albury by a six mile (9.7km) pipeline. Gas stored here will be routed into the national grid through a connection at Ockham.

There are two methods used for safely and effectively storing gas underground in natural reservoirs. The first uses man-made salt caverns and the other, which is proposed here, uses natural depleted reservoirs that once held fossil fuels in porous rock over 3,500 ft (1,070m) underground. There are currently only three of these in operation in the UK, but following a government initiative in 2006, there is growing pressure to provide further storage to secure UK supplies and control spiralling prices.

Under the 1965 Gas Act the application will go straight to the department for trade and industry. Surrey County Council will only be able to act in an advisory role.

The facility at Ripley will require plant to extract gas from the reservoir and treat it with silica gel to dry it out and burn off unwanted hydrocarbons that are extracted with the gas. The reservoir here will also back-pump gas over-supplies from the national grid when demand is low.

A briefing was provided (May 2007) by Star Energy which triggered mixed feelings.

"Having come away and thought about it there are quite a lot of environmental issues in terms of noise pollution, light pollution and general pollution," said Colin Ross of Ripley Parish Council. "You have basically got two phases to this: the building, and what happens in the years afterwards. Fter the pipeline is laid it is Ripley that gets left holding the baby. If there are anything like flares or accidents then it has to be on our patch and therefore the consideration of Ripley Parish Council."

Star Energy opened a storage facility in Humbly Grove, near Alton, in 2005.

". . . there was not huge opposition to it locally. The view was that it was a minor scheme. It was done so well there is never any other position," said David O'Donnell, East Hampshire district Council. "This council tends to hear about a lot of complaints and I can honestly say I have not heard a complaint or comment against it."

Sources:
various including Surrey Advertiser 1st June 2007

MORE HERE

Kyaking at Walsham Gates River Wey by Benjamin Gisvold
click on image to go to artist's website
click to visit Audrey Laycock's website


Walsham Gates

In the flat flood meadows not far from Ripley is Walsham Gates (GR: TQ050578) This is the last of the original turf-sided locks opened in 1653 that were common along the full length of the Wey Navigation, and is not a lock in the traditional sense. The gates are only operated as a flood lock to force water over the weir when water levels become too high so are both usually left open. The lock also retains the square structure that was wide enough to accommodate the big barges before the introduction of narrowboats. Walsham Gates is 5.9 miles (9.5 km) from the Thames.

David Drury's watercolour of Walsham Gates
click on image to go to artist's website click on image to visit David Drury's web site

The original sluice gearing that was used on the Wey when the Navigation was first built is still in place at Walsham. This is where a board fixed to the top of the paddle has a series of holes in which pegs are fixed to hold the paddle as it is gradually raised, hole by hole, with a crowbar, quite a dangerous operation with the bargee sitting straddling the gates with swirling floodwater all around. Barges had to operate all year round even at the height of flooding, so the lock was operated in the normal way to allow a vessel through but probably only with a difference in water level of an inch (2.5 cm) or so as the function was to hold back flood water and not to raise or lower a vessel.

The modern rack-and-pinion gearing was introduced on all other locks along the Wey Navigations to provide ease of operation and make operation safer for amateur pleasure-boaters.

The bridge built here in 1785 has special shallow steps to allow the heavy river horses to easily traverse it. The digging of a new channel for the weir in 1932 gave Welsh labourers a break during the big depression and greatly improved flood control. Prior to this it was quite common for the lock-keeper to have to ferry his children to their school across the meadows by boat due to regular flooding. A lock-keepers cottage was originally built here in 1653 but the present house dates from 1896. The building had remedial work undertaken to its foundations by the National Trust in 1989 to stop it sliding into the river.

Narrowboats near Walsham Gates

The weir forms a large pool here and there was an operational vertical roller sited on the spur between the weir and the Navigation to guide the towrope away from the hazard enabling the horse to keep the vessel away from the weir. There was no wharf located here as the one at Pyrford was substantial enough to cater for the area’s needs.

The Navigation here commences its longest continuous and most ambitious cut, over five miles ( 8 km) in length, all the more remarkable given the fact that in the 17th century Weston’s team of navvies had only shovels and wheelbarrows assisting raw muscle to achieve this. The river doesn’t rejoin until it reaches the wharf pool below Town Lock in Weybridge.

Ockham, The Hautboy
& Hatchford Ice House

Two miles away from Ripley lies the small hamlet of Ockham and it is here that one William, the First Earl of Lovelace, built the Hautboy Hotel (GR: TQ074567) in 1864. The Earl, who at the time was the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey and owner of nearby Ockham Park, adopted his favourite and fanciful neo-Gothic style for the building, which he had used for many of his projects locally. The Earl used local Ockham bricks baked in the brickyards off Long reach for the structure.

Ockham, The Hautboy Hotel c1938.  (Neg. O6303)   Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2008. http://www.francisfrith.com
The Hautboy Hotel c1938
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection
 

The building, which overlooks the cricket green, was until recently a small working hotel with five bedrooms and a restaurant. Its impressive first floor Chapel Bar complete with a high vaulted roof, Gothic windows, minstrel gallery and Italian style wall frescoes without fail always draws an intake of breath from first time visitors. A room below housed the 100-seat Oboe restaurant.

In 1899 Lady Harberton, in a well publicised case, was refused service at the hotel by the proprietor for wearing 'rational' cycling dress when she stopped for refreshment. The Cycle Touring Club took up her case but lost.

The County Society for Paranormal Investigation and Research (CaSPIR) has reported (2007) unusual activity in the building including the unexplained sounds of footsteps, whispering, murmuring, singing and bells, together with doors opening and closing unaided, furniture being moved and the sighting of dark, shadowy figures.

The Hautboy's future however is currently in doubt as the business is closed and the Grade II building boarded up whilst the local council considers various planning applications that have been submitted. Conversion into offices and a separate application for the building of four cottages in the one acre grounds have both been rejected (January 2008).

Ockham, the Hautboy Hotel, Dining Room c1938.  (Neg. O6302)   Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2008. http://www.francisfrith.com
The Hautboy Chapel c1938
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection
 

The council is appealing for investors to come forward to reopen the hotel, although there have not to date been any proposals with the high cost of renovation cited and the fact that the 60 seater Chapel bar and restaurant is also used for functions thereby closing it to the general public preventing continuity of service for regulars and hence is difficult to manage as a public bar. The hotel was licensed for civil marriage ceremonies.

The Earl's Ockham Park Estate once boasted a fine Jacobean mansion but which was sadly destroyed by a devastating fire in 1948 which only left the kitchen wing, a solitary Italianate tower, the orangery and stables intact. The Church of All Saints, which stands in the grounds, has a 13th century framework.

Lovelace had married into an extremely wealthy family when he betrothed in 1835 Augusta Ada, the only daughter of the poet Lord Byron. In 1860 he inherited a fortune from his wife's relatives through the family Noel and adopted their name and arms.

An Industrial School set up by Lady Byron was active in the 1850s at Ockham Park. The school was established to provide access for the disadvantaged to vocational training in a range of disciplines including cabinet making and sewing.

The following is an excerpt from a letter written in 1851 where two escaped Georgia slaves William and Ellen Craft were being sought places at the school to teach their practical skills in return for board, lodging and academic education. The writer had been instrumental in supporting the two slaves when they arrived in the country. She subsequently had arranged for the two to undertake a lecture tour on slavery in the same year.

"I have the pleasure to tell you that our friends, the Crafts, are to be gratified, & in the best possible way, in their wish for Education.

I told you I wd apply to Lady Byron, to learn whether they cd be received into one of her Industrial Schools; – they teaching Cabinet-making & sewing in return for Education & maintenance. I heard yesterday from Lady Byron; & the thing can be done.

Her only child is the wife of Lord Lovelace. Their estate is at Ockham, – which is, I think, in Hampshire, – or Surrey, I am not sure which. The Ockham School is the one in which William & Ellen can be received, on payment of a small sum, which can, no doubt, be raised. Lady Byron will herself contribute. One very great advantage will be that they will be under the eye, & the immediate care, of the Lushington family, & of the excellent Dr Lushington himself. He is an illustrious man in various ways; &, among others, as the friend of the slave: & his & Lady Byron’s names are so honoured in America that it will be a gain to the good cause that Wm & Ellen shd be known to be under their immediate protection. – I hope this news will appear as good to you & to them as it does to your friends in this valley. – I have written to tell Mr Estlin, & Mr Bishop of Liverpool.

Now, you must please just let me know whether the Crafts accept this offer: & how soon they will wish to settle at Ockham; & whether they are themselves able to pay any part of the small sum required. I write today to Lady Byron, to inquire how much it is, & more particulars about their settlement. – So I must now wish you good bye. – Your friends here are all well; & we look back with much pleasure on your visit. – Pray give my kind regards to Wm & Ellen, & believe me, dear Mr Brown, very truly yours. Harriet Martineau." Source: The Collected Letters of Harriet Martineau - The Pickering Masters 2007 ISBN 978 1 85196 804 6

Hatchford Park (GR: TQ093582), located at the edge of Chatley Heath and today close to the M25, was taken over by Hatchford Park School. However after the special school was closed in 1990 the original building was destroyed by fire in 2000 during conversion to luxury flats in an £11m development. It took the efforts of 25 fire brigade appliances from across the county several hours to contain the blaze although 95% of the building was lost. The shell of the original 18th century building was subsequently retained with the development eventually being completed as Hatchford Manor.

The first episode (Spearhead from Space) of the BBC TV series Doctor Who featuring Jon Pertwee had a scene filmed at the school in 1963 which stood in for the fictional Ashbridge Cottage Hospital.

The original ice house for Hatchford Park is located close by in Hatchford Wood. The underground structure consists of a brick-built entrance corridor and a large dome shaped building some 20 feet (6m) across and 20 feet tall.

Hatchford Park Ice House
click on image to go to photographer's website

MORE ABOUT ICE HOUSES & ADDITIONAL PICTURES

A copper domed mausoleum was built at Hatchford Park to contain the remains of Sir Bernard Samuelson (1820 - 1905) and his family who lived at the house. Samuelson outlived both his wife Caroline and their daughter Florence who were interred there prior to his death. Now outside of any private grounds the building has been vandalised with the loss of effigies and the copper cladding. The vault beneath now lies eerily empty.

Both buildings are listed (2000) by Elmbridge Borough Council as being of Special Architectural and Historical Interest.

Move on to the next stretch of the Wey Navigation:
WALSHAM TO PYRFORD LOCK

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