The village name of Knaphill was derived from 'la Cnappe', with its earliest reference dating back to 1225. ‘Cnappe’ or 'Knap' actually means 'at the top of the hill’. The hill part of the name came about during the 15th Century and is believed to be a corruption of the old English term of ‘haga’ meaning an enclosure which dates back to Anglo Saxon times. ‘Knaphill’ has previously been spelt in various ways sometimes without the ‘K’ ‘Naphill’ and as ‘Knap Hill.’
The village emerged as part of the ancient parish of Horsell. Horsell formed part of the Manor of Pyrford, which may explain why Horsell is not recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086. This also means that Knaphill along with the rest of Horsell was probably part of the land granted to Westminster Abbey in 956 A.D.
Horsell was the property of the Abbot of Westminster by 1278 but would have passed to Henry VIII when he dissolved the monasteries in the 1530s. There is also some evidence to suggest that Knaphill and Horsell once formed part of Windsor Great Park.
The property, including what is now Knaphill, was owned by Denzil Onslow in 1678 and it continued to be held by the Onslow family into the mid-19th Century when it was sold to the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company.
The Basingstoke Canal was constructed to the south of Knaphill and opened in 1794 and the London & South Western Railway Company came in 1838, the nearest station being built at nearby Brookwood. Knaphill developed slowly but not initially as a commuter village as most people found work locally. An invalid and woman’s prison was established here in 1859 which was later converted into army barracks.
In the mid-19th Century the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company owned much of the land that is now Knaphill. The heathland to the south of the village became ear-marked for the locations of what was to become the Surrey Lunatic Asylum and Woking Prisons (later Inkerman Bararcks) as the company negotiated the sale of huge chunks of its land ....
To continue reading in full: Get yourself a copy of Mal Foster’s Knaphill (All in One Place)
Knaphill (All in One Place) is now published. The paperback price is £7.49 and is available HERE - it’s also available in an e-format for Kindle etc via Amazon. As the title suggests, Mal Foster’s book brings the history of Knaphill all into one single volume. It traces Knaphill’s rich history from as far back as 1225 when the village was known as ‘la Cnappe’ to almost the present day. Find out all about the beginnings of the village itself, Brookwood Hospital, the Woking prisons that later became Inkerman Barracks and much, much more. The book also includes a Foreword by Councillor Melanie Whitehand.
The cover photograph is by Lee Heather
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.....The sprawling Knaphill Common had sat snugly between Horsell and Pirbright Commons and Sheets Heath. In the 1880s neighbouring Brookwood was able to develop as a village in its own right as the railway station slowly became an important hub for the area’s growing population.
At the time the area was treated as low class and inferior. Other pieces of the land were sold off in ‘quick sales’ and a number of small holdings began to appear.
Dwellings were poorly built, with little planning as they popped up in a somewhat sporadic fashion. By the 1870s and 1880s the remaining areas of the common had been sold for further housing and many of these became inhabited by Knaphill’s so-called working class, including those employed at the prisons and the lunatic asylum.
The fertile soils in and around Knaphill proved ideal for the establishment of garden nurseries and these employed large numbers of manual workers. The earliest nursery was founded by John Waterer in the 1760s. In 1809 the nursery started to specialise in rhododendrons and this was where the famous Knaphill strain of Azalea was born. The business continued to be owned by the Waterer family until 1976.
Michael Waterer (1770-1842) produced the 'Nobleanum' Azalea which flowers at Christmas. In 1870 Anthony Waterer (1822-1896) began hybridising using the species and developed hybrids of the deciduous rhododendrons that included hybrids from Belgium and others from eastern North America, China, and Asia. Then in the 1920s they were hybridised even further by Lionel Rothschild of Exbury Gardens in Hampshire. The Knaphill Azalea features on the Woking Borough Council village emblem for Knaphill. Knaphill Football Club has replaced the Azalea with a football for their club badge.
Knaphill Brickfields that was located just off Anchor Hill had been a key employer in the village since the early 1760s. Bricks from the site were used for the construction of the Basingstoke Canal, Surrey County Asylum and Knaphill’s two convict prisons. The works were owned and operated by the Cook Brothers and were situated where the Lansbury Business Park is today. It was accessible from Lower Guildford Road and had an entrance at what is now Hillside Close off Anchor Hill. The distinct ‘yellow’ bricks from the fields were also used to build a number of residential dwellings in and around the village. The business was closed down in 1924/25 because of depleted sand-clay levels and the numerous alternative options that became available in the construction industry around that time, although some ‘red’ bricks were still produced from the pits adjacent to Robin Hood Road and in St Johns right up to 1942.
Nearly all of Knaphill’s residents near the end of the 19th century were new settlers who had come from all over the British Isles and many returning from spells overseas. Out of a total of 52 people, who were mostly children, were said to be born in Knaphill. Only one family, that of John Cheeseman, a nursery worker aged 47, could claim to be ‘Knaphill born and bred,’ while over 50 people given as born in Knaphill, mostly older, had moved away from the village around that time.
According to an advertisement in a copy of the Reading Mercury dated 3 November 1873, the village of Knaphill held a regular cattle market and livestock fair. These dated back at least 200 years and rivalled a similar fair or fayre in Blackwater, near Camberley which ran until the 1920s.
It is not clear where the site of the ‘Knaphill Fair’ actually was, but further investigation shows that there are a number of references to Bisley which suggests that the fair took place on or near the Knaphill/Bisley border, perhaps on the edge of Knaphill Common at Limecroft Road. Rather interestingly, cattle are now regularly grazed near the site at Stafford Lake as part of a Surrey Wildlife Trust project to protect and restore natural habitat.
Knaphill’s first school which was situated in the High Street opened in the early 1860s and by 1881 had expanded to accommodate up to 200 local children. The school was expanded further in 1884 and again in 1906 with enough places available for 450 children. The school was originally run by the Woking School Board from March 1877 before transferring to Surrey County Council in 1903.
At the beginning of the 20th Century Knaphill was a small hamlet of just a few houses and farms clustered at the foot of Anchor Hill. At the top of the hill was the Anchor Hotel with its stables and a small thatched farmhouse. Apart from a few houses that were starting to emerge along the Broadway and what is now Chobham Road there was nothing except common land between the village centre and Brookwood Station. Various tracks and paths led across what remained of Knaphill Common. In summer these tracks were very sandy, but in winter they became extremely muddy. It was an ancient practice to cut gorse, heather and shrubbery from the common to lay upon the tracks to make them suitable for horse traffic.
Squatters, usually gypsies, would pitch little wooden shacks on part of the commonland. If they remained there for a long time without attracting any attention, then they would attempt to legally claim the land from the authorities. By 1905 a number of brand new terraced and semi-detached cottages were selling for an average price of £450. The very same properties now command a selling price of around £300,000.
By the 1920s Knaphill was a detached rural village surrounded by rolling lush countryside, woodland and important heathland. There were still fewer houses in Knaphill itself but it could boast a vibrant village centre that attracted many people from the surrounding areas.
One of four local butchers in the village was Grimditch & Webb in the High Street. They owned two slaughterhouses which meant that cattle, sheep and pigs were a common site as they were herded through the village to meet their fate. To the rear of the High Street was Highclere Farm. Part of the farmhouse still stands today and is currently occupied by Pets Kingdom in the High Street. The farm consisted of stables, cowsheds and agricultural land where it joined with Blue Gates Field at Waterers Nursery (now Waterers Park).
The Co-operative Society owned the small iconic building at the junction of High Street and Broadway where Mann’s estate agents are now situated. The single-storey shop was built around 1905. Other retailers were Mingays the fruiters which also sold fresh fish and vegetables, International Stores, Wilsons and Ruglys the draper’s store, which later became Boormans, the jewellery shop.
Another slaughterhouse in the village centre was Moore’s with livestock pens and a huge yard to the rear. One of the busy village bakers was the Embledon Bakery across the High Street from the Anchor Hotel. Another was Pickards also in the High Street further up towards The Crown Inn. Opposite the Crown stood W.Johnson the greengrocer and fruitier shop which later became Knaphill Butchers. The building still stands today and is now occupied by a takeaway kebab shop. A large furniture store was situated in Anchor Hill and stood at its junction with Barley Mow Lane.
There were also a number of confectioners in the village and the Post Office was called Belchers at the time. Belchers stood between the High Street and Fosters Lane near to where the Total petrol station is situated today. The Post Office contained a telegraph room where telegrams could be sent and a mail sorting office was situated at the side. The village ironmonger was F.G. Rice who sold a huge range of tools and gardening ware, as well as fixings and fastenings, all sold by weight. China and glassware was sold upstairs and there was a coal yard to the rear.
The cycle repair shop was Trotters who also recharged the large crystal batteries that were popular at the time and the cobblers and shoe shop was run by a Mr Hill. The Forcett family owned the village rag-and-bone yard.
Some houses had small ‘shops’ in their front rooms and many gardens in the village had plots for vegetables and orchards, while beehives were common in the open spaces between the cottages. Of course it was all so very different from how the village looks now.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
One of the major employers in and around Knaphill until its closure in the mid-1990s was Brookwood Hospital described as a vast, purpose built lunatic asylum that dated from the late Victorian era and constructed on Knaphill Common. The hospital, designed by architect Charles Henry Howell, started life as The Surrey Asylum and formed part of the southern boundary of Knaphill that is denoted by the section of the Basingstoke Canal between Bagshot Road and Hermitage Road adjacent to Brookwood Lye.
The lunatic asylum was established in 1867 by Surrey Quarter Sessions as the second County Asylum (the first being Springfield Asylum in Tooting) and from then until its closure in 1994 it served as the leading mental hospital for the western half of the county.
During World War II, it also served as an emergency war hospital. The surviving records which are held by Surrey County Council are extremely abundant and provide a very full and rich picture of the government and administration of the hospital and of the medical care provided. They also reflect the functioning of this vast institution as a self-contained community with workshops providing practical and therapeutic training, a farm providing food, for internal consumption and sale, and a constantly changing programme of entertainments.
According to reports submitted by Surrey County Council’s ‘Lunatic Asylum Visiting Committee’ on 9 November 1897, there were serious concerns over health and safety at the establishment.
The gas works had been enlarged and improved and better cooking apparatus had been provided. However, continuing problems with drainage and sewage needed to be dealt with urgently. The water supply had been receiving urgent attention and the deep well still had to be constantly tested with regard to its yielding capacity. This was a major problem at the hospital and rain water had to be utilised for washing laundry. In 1897 four cases of Typhoid Fever had been diagnosed among the patients. Surrey County Council went to great lengths to contain the outbreak and prevent reports of it being leaked to the local community and the press.
Although this was a serious problem, the general treatment and management of the patients was found to be ‘careful and considerate’ and carried out in a ‘humane manner’. Despite the hospital’s obvious teething problems and the Typhoid outbreak, Samuel Brooks, Chairman of the visiting committee, deemed that the asylum and all its departments were being run efficiently.
In November 1899 there were a total of 1,106 patients on the wards which led to serious over-crowding, in fact the very problem that resulted in this 2nd asylum being created in the first place. A request was made for additional wards and these were eventually added during 1903/04.
A 1904 audit shows that patient numbers had increased to 1,296. The weekly maintenance charge for each patient was twelve shillings (60p). There were also concerns over staff turnover as less than 50% of nurses stayed to complete over one year of service. The hospital had a very high mortality rate and the audit shows that with 188 new patients admitted, 79 patients had died (47 being women) and just 62 had been discharged following their recovery from illness.
There were also reports of fires on the wards and patients gaining injuries such as fractures from the actions of other patients. Colitis, erysipelas and influenza were rife throughout the hospital. Further outbreaks of Typhoid had also been recorded. Some patients also died from bed-sores.
As bed fires were just one of a number of fire related problems, the hospital had its own dedicated part time fire brigade. One of its fire chiefs between 1974 and 1977 was Harry Sale who lived with his wife and children in the tied cottage, North Lodge which was located where The Vyne community centre and doctor's surgery stand today. Mr Sale who had retired to Oxfordshire sadly passed away in 2011.
The hospital played a key role in the development of Knaphill. It was a major employer in the area for doctors, nurses, ancillary staff as well as maintenance and support workers.
In the hospital grounds was a farm that boasted cows, sheep and a small piggery that was situated just about where The Vyne car park is now. Shire horses also grazed on the farm. Old photographs of the site show that the hospital driveways were lined with rows of impeccably kept rhododendron bushes that were constantly maintained by the patients. A cinema which sometimes opened for use by local residents was a major source of recreation at the hospital.
Each August Bank Holiday the hospital held a large village fete on its main playing field where local people could purchase produce direct from the farm. They could also buy handicrafts made by the patients in the workshops. Many hospital staff lived in designated hospital cottages in Oak Tree Road Spur and in Sparvell Road.
The Surrey Lunatic Asylum’s name was changed to Brookwood Hospital in 1919 to make it easier for patients and visitors travelling by rail to Brookwood Station to locate.
The hospital was run by the Surrey County authorities until 1948. It then came under the National Health Service as the West Surrey and North East Hampshire Health Authority until its eventual closure in 1994.
Most of the hospital grounds have now been redeveloped, the wards having made way for the Sainsbury’s and Homebase superstores and a large number of houses and apartments. The central building, Florence House, which is Grade II listed, has been retained and converted into luxury flats. Several of the new residential roads were named after the old hospital wards or prominent hospital staff.
The former Brookwood Hospital chapel situated in Brushfield Way is now a Buddhist Monastery housing The Dhammakaya International Society of the United Kingdom and its former mortuary now living quarters to the monks. The old water tower which formed an integral part of the Knaphill skyline did not survive the redevelopment of the site although the clock tower at Florence House remains and is still synonymous with Knaphill’s unique identity as we know it today.
It’s interesting to note that the emergence of the asylum and that of the Woking prisons both built on land purchased from the London Necropolis and Mausoleum Company should lead to the devaluation of other properties in Knaphill though.
Knaphill had often been described as a convenient ‘dumping ground’ for those decision makers in local government and, just about far enough away from central Woking to readily accommodate some of the country’s most notorious criminals as well as some of its most insane.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
More on the history of the hospital is available on the Time Chamber website HERE
In the mid-19th Century the Home Office purchased around 65 acres of land in Knaphill from the London Necropolis Company to build a special prison for disabled (mental/physical) convicts. It was designated ‘The Woking Convict Prison’ and was to be the first of its kind. Construction of the site began in 1859. It received its first officers and inmates a year later when they were transferred from Lewes, Carisbrooke and Dartmoor prisons. These male convicts helped construct it to reduce costs. In 1869, one hundred females were transferred from Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight and employed on laundry, cooking, tailoring and other duties. By 1870 its population had grown to an average of 610 and included both male and female miscreants. An additional twenty acres of adjacent land was purchased and building was ongoing until 1892. The disabled wing was given over to the army in 1895 and converted to quarters for infantry troops. The female wing continued to be used until 1895 when, like all the male prisoners who had been transferred to other prisons earlier, the women were sent to Holloway in London.
Many of the inmates at the Knaphill Women’s Prison were convicted of murdering their own children. Some were originally sentenced to death but then had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
One was Mary Hannah Leach who was born around 1864 in Westfield, near Guiting Power. Mary Hannah was spotted walking along a canal towpath towards Cirencester with her daughter Minnie in her arms. There was no sign of her son, Henry who was fathered by Thomas Townsend. After a short search, the body of little Henry was found floating in the canal. At the subsequent trial Mary Hannah was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. However, she was then found to be pregnant again with another of Thomas Townsend’s children and her sentence was reduced to a prison term. In the late spring of 1886, Reuben George Leach was born. Mary Hannah was then sent to Knaphill Prison, where her name appears on the 1891 census.
Another unfortunate soul was Frances Isabella Stallard who was born in Chale in 1856. In 1875 she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter. In 1877 she was found guilty of murdering the child. Her death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and she was sent to serve her time at Knaphill. After being transferred to Holloway she was later released from prison and is known to have died at Brading on the Isle of Wight in 1922.
Lucy Lowe was born in Stagsden in Bedfordshire as Lucy Riddy in 1841 and was one of twelve children. She gave birth to a child in January 1876, whom she then murdered in March the same year before returning to her employment in Hampstead. She was sentenced to be hanged but was shown clemency after she confided her remorse to a chaplain whilst awaiting her fate in Bedford. Lucy was then moved to Knaphill Prison where she appeared in the 1881 census. She was then 39 years old.
One of the most famous inmates at the prison was perhaps Mary Prout who is the subject of a song by Tom Bliss. His haunting song ‘The Sin of Mary Prout’ is included on his album The Whisper. Mary Prout had killed her young baby Rhoda in 1863 following a bout of post natal depression. Mary was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment although this was reduced to ten years of which most was served in Knaphill Prison.
Susannah Hyde, the wife of a shoemaker from Oxfordshire, killed one of her children, a boy of about three years of age, by nearly severing his head from his body with a razor and afterwards trying to kill herself, first by attempting to cut her own throat and then by trying to strangle herself with some pieces of twine. The woman had previously shut another child, a girl a little older than the deceased in the next room. The girl witnessed her brother’s murder and her mother’s attempted suicide through a crack in the door. A verdict of wilful murder against Susannah Hyde was returned. Her trial took place on 2 March 1870 in Oxfordshire where she was tried for murder and sentenced to hang. After a spell at Millbank Prison she was transferred to Knaphill and appeared in the 1881 census. The death sentence was never carried out.
In 1875 Rosina Rue from Pitney, Somerset confessed to the murder of two young children as well as the arson of her then master’s property. The case was widely reported at the time and made the National newspapers. She was tried and found guilty of manslaughter. In March 1876 she was given a life sentence at Taunton. She died aged 25 years old whilst at Knaphill Prison on 8 December 1884 from a kidney inflammation and was buried in a pauper’s grave four days later at Brookwood Cemetery.
Not all the convicts were child murderers though and one of the prison’s most infamous incumbents was Rachel Leverson or Madam Rachel Leverson as she preferred to call herself.
In the legal section of The Graphic dated Saturday 23 October 1880, the following was reported: Madame Rachel, the person who became notorious a few years ago as claiming the power to make people "beautiful for ever" and who, after suffering seven years penal servitude for fraud, was convicted a second time in 1878, died in Woking Prison, Knaphill last week from dropsy. An inquest was heard and the jury returned a verdict of “Died by the Visitation of God".
Madame Rachel (aka Sarah Rachel Leverson or Levison and Sarah Russell) was a British criminal and con artist in Victorian-era London during the late 19th Century. Operating a prominent beauty salon from which she personally guaranteed her clientele everlasting youth (using grandiose sounding concoctions comprising of everyday ingredients such as bran and water) she would blackmail many wives of London's so-called upper class.
The female prison was also ‘home’ to the infamous Florence Maybrick, who was convicted of poisoning her husband James Maybrick with arsenic in Liverpool in 1889. Over 100 people lined the streets of the village when she was transferred here in August that year. Nowadays it is her husband who attracts the most interest as one of the main ‘Jack the Ripper’ suspects.
On her journey into Knaphill Prison Florence Maybrick famously wrote..... “We drove through lovely woods, the scent of flowers was wafted by the breeze into what seemed to be a hearse that was bearing me on toward my living tomb”.....
During the 1870s Dr William Orange, a senior doctor at Broadmoor in Berkshire recommended that many of their patients would be best accommodated at the Woking Invalid Prison at Knaphill as their personal status had declined due to ill-health.
The names of those transferred do not exist in any known public record but one Thomas Dixon is a perfect example of the type of person that ended up in Knaphill. In 1861 he was charged with attempting to murder his wife at Parr, Lancashire. He was found guilty and sentenced to penal servitude for life. Thomas Dixon who was a watchmaker by trade ultimately died at the prison.
Another infamous inmate was the Irish Republican leader Charles J. Kickham who was born on 9 May 1828. Kickham joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) or the Fenians in 1860. On 15 September 1865 the Dublin Police took possession of the Irish People headquarters at 12 Parliament Street and seized the entire contents of the office. The few members of the staff still on the premises were arrested and others were picked up on the street or in their homes. The Irish People documents revealed Kickham’s role in the Fenian conspiracy. On 11 November 1865 he was arrested. Nearly blind and almost completely deaf, Kickham was charged for writing ‘treasonous’ articles and for committing high treason. He was tried before Judge William Keogh and sentenced to fourteen years penal servitude. He was sent to Mountjoy prison. On 10 February 1865 he was transferred to Pentonville Prison near London. During this time his health deteriorated and this was blamed on a poor prison diet. On 14 May 1866 he was transferred to Portland Prison and later to Knaphill where he spent the remainder of his term. He was released in 1869 with his health severely impaired and returned to Mullinahone, Co. Tipperary.
Two American brothers who swindled the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, London were also incarcerated at the Invalid Prison. In 1873, George and Austin Bidwell stole an incredible £500,000 from the bank. They achieved this by simply writing false cheques in the name of Horton & Co and convinced the institution that they were running a reputable business. Their story was highlighted in the New York Times of 1892 as their sister fought tirelessly for their release.
In 1877, Harriet Staunton's husband Patrick and three others were accused of starving her to death at Penge and lurid newspaper reports of the ‘Penge Murder Mystery’ trial as it became known held the nation's rapt attention. Patrick Staunton died of consumption in Knaphill Invalid Prison in 1881 at the age of 28. A bestselling novel about the murder – written in 1934 by Elizabeth Jenkins has recently been republished.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
* Recommended: Corrine Garstang’s Woking Prisons Blogspot - CLICK HERE
Inkerman Barracks was so-named after a battle in a place of the same name in the Crimea, Russia in 1854. Now it housed the 2nd Battalion Royal West Surrey Regiment, also known as 'The Queen’s Regiment'.
The former prison’s conversion to a barracks was completed in 1903, when the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment moved in. They were replaced by the 1st Battalion Royal Scottish Regiment from 1904 to 1905, followed by the 2nd Battalion Royal West Sussex Regiment (1912 to 1914). The barracks was then used as a military hospital during World War I and then remained vacant until the 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment moved in from 1925 to 1927.
The 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment occupied the barracks from 1930 until 1935. They handed over to the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who left Inkerman in 1937. During World War II, a cinema (later called the 'Globe'), some wooden 'Spider’ huts and other temporary structures like the gym, were added at the rear of the main buildings.
In the spring of 1947, when the Military Police Training School moved from Mychett it was decided to include an Special Investigation Branch (SIB) training school, and the first course of 10 men completed their six weeks training just before Christmas 1947. The Military Police gained their ‘Royal’ title in September the same year.
The training school was situated in a building at the side of the Officer’s Mess, just outside the main barracks and its students were accommodated in the four rooms on the first floor. As Inkerman Barracks had previously been a prison, there were still wrought iron bars fixed across some windows which added to its foreboding and gloomy appearance. Needless to say, the ablutions there were very basic.
All the SIB students wore civilian clothes and were all ex-civilian policemen or had been recruited from British Army units cross the globe and at the end of the course, some of the senior Non Commissioned Officers were promoted to Lieutenants and went on to later become Deputy Assistant Provost Marshall's within the SIB.
For all recruits, apart from the parade ground and assault course, the barracks had classrooms for basic learning such as map reading, how to handle prisoners, Corps history, discipline, the army organisation and its acts, powers of arrest, judge's rules, court martials, factual report writing, road traffic accidents, investigation techniques of probe and search, physical training in the gym and unarmed combat. All of this with a view to each new soldier gaining proficiency points.
The regiment’s sleeping quarters were sombre with walls painted a very drab green with 30 young men to a room. Each man had a small wooden locker plus a wooden bed box placed at the foot of the bed. Kit was arranged in typical military fashion and inspections were frequent.
In 1965, local opposition to the demolition of this historic site was ignored by the then Woking Urban District Council and the bulldozers and wrecking ball were sent in to do their worst. It had been hoped that the iconic clock tower and arch might be saved as it was a local landmark but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
The whole site was eventually sold to the Woking Urban District Council and The Guinness Trust who began developing it as a housing estate in the early 1970s. Building continued until the 1990s. All that remains of the original buildings is the prison officer's quarters on Wellington Terrace and Raglan Road. These were fully restored and sold for occupation. Queens Road and Sussex Road (both in Knaphill) are named after two regiments that were based at Inkerman Barracks.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
The Holy Trinity Church was built here in 1885. Known affectionately as ‘the old tin church’ it was a corrugated iron structure lit by oil lamps and heated by two large round iron stoves. Because Knaphill was so small the church didn’t have a parish of its own and was part of the St John’s parish and remained so until 1967. In 1896 a small Church Room was built which later became the end of the Hall, roughly where the stage and cloakrooms are now. However, the church community had a much more ambitious vision. Plans for a new, more substantial building had been drawn up in 1893 by the architect, J. Henry Ball. The original plans included a spire although this was never added during construction.
The foundation stone was laid on 23 March, 1907 by H.R.H. Helen, the Duchess of Albany, wife of Queen Victoria’s youngest son. Apparently there was much excitement as the Duchess was driven in a carriage from Woking railway station to Knaphill. Members of Woking Fire Brigade formed an arch across Goldsworth Road and triumphal arches had been placed at the entrance to Goldsworth Road, Kiln Bridge and Knaphill High Street. The foundation stone was laid in the low wall at the chancel steps where it can be seen today inscribed, ‘a symbol of Christ who alone is the foundation of all our life and of all our worship’.
On the back of the wall you can see names carved by some of the bricklayers who used the less common red bricks from the Knaphill Brickworks. If you look closely you’ll see that there are different bricks in the west wall facing the road. This is because of changes in the original plans which saved £1,200. Out of the old building came the wooden pulpit, reading desk and font. The bell was relocated on the front wall of the new church where it is still occasionally used. The alabaster font now in the church was presented by the Wigan family and finally, the new building was consecrated on 25 September, 1907. There was still work to do on the building however. In 1915 a £300 organ was installed and in 1923 the pulpit, designed of alabaster to match the font, was dedicated as a Memorial to the fallen of the 1914-18 Great War.
During World War II there was little change except that the church was licensed for the solemnisation of marriages on 30 December 1941. Up until that date all weddings had taken place at St. Johns, the then Knaphill parish church.
In July 1948 the 1939-1945 Roll of Honour plaque was dedicated to the men and one woman of the village who had perished. It can be found on the low wall to the right of the World War I memorial pulpit.
Early members of the Knaphill Methodist Church held open air services on Anchor Hill from 1865, partly in an attempt to dissuade people from playing cricket there on a Sunday. Help in conducting these services was given by local preachers from Guildford. Soon Wesleyan Ministers formed a Sunday school which met first in a barn and then in The Royal Oak public house at the foot of Anchor Hill.
The membership of the new Methodist Society grew and a chapel was erected at the top of the hill and opened in 1867. It prospered and ten years later a hall was built for the use of the Sunday school.
During the 1870s the chapel remained evangelical. By the early 1880s there were several qualified local preachers in the village. The 25th anniversary of the Sunday school was celebrated in 1890 and in 1897 a Wesley Guild was formed.
In 1912 the Trustees realised that improvements to the chapel were necessary and fund raising efforts began. The renovations were completed by 1917 and a formal re-opening was held.
After the war the chapel continued to thrive. In 1924 a Sunshine League for young people was formed and in 1926 a Primary Department to the Sunday school was started. It soon became obvious that an extension was needed in order to cope with all the chapel activities. However building work had scarcely begun when it was discovered that the original hall was unsafe and a completely new school would have to be built. This was opened in 1928.
During 1933 the church itself was found to be beyond repair. One of the Trustees, Frank Derry, made a generous offer to finance a new church and this was opened in November 1935.
The founder of Knaphill’s Baptist Church was Robert Lloyd, who came to Knaphill with his wife and four young children in June 1867. Robert Lloyd came from Rugby, Warwickshire, to be head gardener at the newly opened Surrey County Asylum. He was responsible for the laying out of the grounds and gardens and planned many of the building developments. He later became well known as a local horticulturist and landscape gardener and was consulted on the layout of the grounds of other hospitals in the region.
Robert Lloyd was a committed Christian, a member of the Churches of Christ and had a passion to share his own living faith with others.
In 1882 Hope Chapel, as the new building in the High Street was called, was something of a landmark in the village. The solid brick construction of the church was described at the time as ‘the most modern building in Knaphill.’
It is believed that the land was given by John Potts, one of the founder members, who was also Governor of the women’s prison in Knaphill around that time.
The cost of the building, which included the present sanctuary, the vestry, and a small ‘lean-to’ at the back with earth closets, a store and sink, was £370. The church was helped by a loan from Robert Black, in whose Chelsea home the first converts had been baptised. A successful businessman, he encouraged the founding of Churches of Christ congregations in the London area and had helped the Knaphill ‘venture’ from the start.
In 1892, membership of the church stood at 78. In the January of the same year, the building was registered for marriages, and the first wedding, that of Miss E. T. Lloyd and Mr. F. W. Halsey, took place on the following 30 June.
In December 1911 members of the church along with auxiliary workers from the nearby Lunatic Asylum helped form the Knaphill Working Men’s Club in Highclere Road.
Another Baptist Church is the Providence Baptist Church in Robin Hood Road, Knaphill. The site has been that of a Baptist church in various forms for over 140 years, however, the present church was only officially formed in 1933. The building has undergone various changes through its history. In 1998 the old side room was demolished and replaced by a larger multi-purpose area which is now used for worship and many other activities.
The earliest records of the St Hugh of Lincoln Catholic Church in Knaphill is that of a hermitage, (13th Century), owned by the Dominican Friary of Guildford. The Countess of Richmond and mother of King Henry VII often stayed at the Royal Manor in Woking. St John Fisher was her confessor, 1497 – 1509. He is thought to have lived at Fisher’s Farm, Old Woking and it is possible that he had a retreat house at the St Johns Lye end near the Hermitage. It is said that there was a bargee’s beer house there in late Victorian times known as the Fisher’s Retreat.
In 1908, St Hugh’s Church and Presbytery were built by Father Henry Drage. He was Knaphill’s first resident priest. He moved to Walworth in 1912 and was succeeded by Father Stanley Mason. In 1914 Father Mason became an army chaplain attached to Inkerman Barracks, a post he held until 1922 when he was appointed to Sutton Place.
As the congregation grew, St Hugh’s church became too small and Mass was celebrated at various venues, among them were Brookwood Hospital, Inkerman Barracks and the British Legion Hall in the Broadway. The present church in Victoria Road was built in 1971.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
Although the main settlement of Knaphill is now centred on Anchor Hill and the High Street, this area did not really develop until the mid 19th Century through the prosperity of the local brickworks. The remnants of the much smaller and older settlement are notably at Lower Knaphill where Anchor Hill joins Barrs Lane.
During the early 19th Century this area was known as Whitfield. The area has a strong character with several statutory listed buildings from the 16th and 17th Centuries together with a number of 18th Century properties on the ‘Local List’, all situated in a tight knit group. It comprises of Anchor Hill from the Royal Oak public house through to Littlewick Road eastwards up to 'Whitfield Court Barn', together with a small section of Robin Hood Road up to ‘Nuthurst’. The area is visually important as it marks the entrance into the centre of Knaphill.
Whitfield Court in Littlewick Road is Grade II listed and is still a prominent feature in Knaphill today which dates from the 16th Century although it was partially rebuilt with extensions in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It is a prominent brick building with a timber framed core and consists of three bays with a large lobby entrance. It was also once the subject of a detailed book by local author Philip Arnold. Its barn is also Grade II listed and goes back to the 18th century.
Barely visible to the casual passer-by these days is Bluegates also in Littlewick Road, a 16th Century timber framed private residence with late 19th Century additions. Its interior consists of a visible timber framing with substantial ceiling joists and a renovated brick fireplace with wooden lintel. Once part of a much larger expanse of land, Bluegates field is now known as Waterers Park. Bluegates was Grade II listed in October 1973.
Also in Littlewick Road near the junction with Barrs Lane, is Inwoods, which dates back to the 16th Century with an 18th Century restoration to its left hand gable at the front. It is timber framed with a brick infill and has three bays with cross wings at either end with a lobby entrance. Inwoods has two storeys with an attic in the left gable.
Nuthurst in Robin Hood Road is a late mid 18th Century former farmhouse with Flemish bond brick with first-floor tile hanging to rear, gabled old plain tile roofs, brick stacks, including symmetrical end stacks to front and lateral stacks to rear service wings. The building was Grade II listed in December 1969 and is most noted for its connection with the alleged murder of its lodger Hilary Rougier in 1926
Brookwood Farm House in Robin Hood Road at its junction with Locksley Drive was listed in September 1975 whilst “still in a dilapidated state”. The farm house dates back to the 16th Century with extensions recorded as being made in the 19th Century.
The Barley Mow Inn which closed down in 1921 still exists as a private dwelling now called Barley Mow House, at the junction of Barley Mow Lane and Chobham Road. The old pub dated back to the 17th Century and is now a Grade II listed building. Its landlord in 1785 was one Thomas Blackman. It is said that the house was once a royal hunting lodge that was part of Windsor Great Forest. A fireplace in the house bears the coat of arms of Charles I and is the only other known example to exist outside Windsor Castle itself.
The ghost of a headless man, thought to be a soldier killed in a drunken brawl outside the pub is said to walk in the road with his head tucked under his arm. His head was cut off apparently to prevent his identity from being known. The ghost of a woman dressed in brown has also been seen and it is said that she quickly disappears when approached. Neither of these sightings is recent though.
Across the road from the former Barley Mow pub is Stillwell Cottage in Chobham Road which dates back to the 16th/17th Century and is timber framed with brick cladding below and plain tiled above with a plain tiled roof. Its ground floor windows feature cambered heads. Still quite easy to view from the road, it has a door to right to lobby entrance and an under pent roof porch on wooden supports.
Longcroft Cottage in Barrs Lane dates back to the 18th Century and is a timber framed building that has brick cladding. It has a tiled roof with end chimney stacks. It is two storeys with a ‘cat slide’ type extension that was added to the rear during the mid 20th Century.
Some other buildings in Knaphill are listed as ‘buildings of architectural significance’ and these include: Nursery House in Barrs Lane, Holy Trinity Church in Chobham Road and The Royal Oak at the foot of Anchor Hill. Other buildings are listed as ‘buildings of townscape merit’ and these include Brookwood Farm Cottage in Bagshot Road, Lipscombe Farm in Chobham Road, The Anchor public house in Lower Guildford Road, Haven House in Limecroft Road, Daphne Cottage and The Robin Hood public house in Robin Hood Road. Also included are No’s 31-105, Seymour Court in Raglan Road, Wellington Terrace in Victoria Road (formerly Barrack Road) and No’s 67,69,71,73, 75 and 93 in the High Street.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
The Anchor at the junction of High Street and Lower Guildford Road, in Knaphill enjoyed a healthy clientele during the late Victorian era mainly due to the development around the village and the emergence of other various institutions.
In 1851 the pub was being run by a James Lee aged 42. By 1861 his widow, Sarah who was now 48 was in charge. They had one son and three daughters. The 1881 census shows that the landlord then was a 34 year old David Stevens. He and his wife Jane also 34, had two sons and seven daughters.
The Anchor Hotel, as it was originally known was the site of the annual ‘Whit Fair’. Across the road in Highclere Road was a cricket field where an annual cricket match between teams from the top and bottom of the village was held. The original drayman’s store for taking deliveries still exists and is located next to where the New Haweli Express Indian takeaway is now situated in the High Street.
The Royal Oak situated at the bottom of Anchor Hill is the only survivor of three pubs in ‘Lower Knaphill’ and dates back to the 17th Century. In the mid 19th Century Wesleyan Ministers formed a Sunday school which met there until the completion of the original Methodist church in 1867.
In 1851 the landlord was William Collyer who ran it with his wife Sarah. By 1891 the pub was being run by Alfred and Phoebe Brighton.
The Royal Oak is not Grade II listed but is recorded by Woking Borough Council as a ‘building of architectural significance’.
The other two pubs in Lower Knaphill were The Royal Standard that was tucked away behind the old village forge. It first appeared on the 1861 census and was being run by James and Ann Meetings. The pub closed down in the 1920s. The other pub, the Queens Head in Robin Hood Road ceased trading and was demolished in the mid-1980s.
Formerly known as The Nags Head until the mid-1980s, The Hunters Lodge in Bagshot Road which dates back to the 18th Century was a popular watering hole for the navvies and labourers who worked on the construction of the Basingstoke Canal up to its completion in 1794. Later it became an important social meeting place for those constructing the new London and South Western Railway line, local farm hands and employees from the nearby Surrey Asylum. In 1881 it was being run by Mark and Sarah Juett.
The Robin Hood first appears as a licensed premise in 1861 and, according to that year’s census was being run by Henry Harris. By 1873 the pub appears to have had only a scattering of houses in its immediate vicinity with the engineer and foreman of the prison living close by in quarters towards Anchor Hill. Between Knaphill and the Woking Prison/Inkerman Barracks site there was a large piece of land called Fulk’s Orchard. The Knaphill brickfields were situated on the other side towards Lower Guildford Road and the top of Anchor Hill.
A family record of Albert Jackson, a soldier at the barracks who later became the first man to drive a public service vehicle in the area suggests that The Robin Hood was often frequented by warders from the hospital and labourers from the brickfields. The pub now serves the communities of Lower Knaphill, Goldsworth Park and St Johns.
The Garibaldi was built towards the end of the 1860s. The 1871 census shows it as being run by Charles and Ann Smith who had one son. Its beamed structure, although not listed, is a fine example of late 19th Century public house design.
Its drayman’s delivery store still exists to the side of the pub and can be identified by the high small door at the front of the structure. This is where beer and wine barrels would have been off-loaded from horse-drawn carts. In the late 1990s it was rebranded The Hooden Takes a Knap, but fortunately regained its former identity as The Garibaldi following a further change of ownership in 2005.
The Crown in the High Street first appears as a ‘beer house’ in the 1871 census. Its landlord at the time was William Coombs, aged 56, who ran the premises with his wife Harriett. They had three sons and a daughter. Like many pubs in the area, its two bars are now converted to one following a number of refurbishments since the 1970s.
As recently as 2009 The Crown gained national notoriety when an ‘exotic dancer’ was cleared of allegedly attacking the lease owner and his wife with a stiletto shoe. Needless to say, the pub is now under new ownership.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
The Hurricane fighter crash in Robin Hood Road
In the early hours of 1 November 1940, a Hurricane fighter plane on a training mission crashed into the roof of a house in Robin Hood Road, Knaphill where a woman was still sleeping.
The pilot who was already one of the most distinguished pilots of World War II was Sgt. Laurence Thorogood of RAF 87 Squadron who had baled out safely and came down in gorse bushes at Horsell. However, the hapless pilot was then met on the ground by Bill Ford, a dairy farmer who erroneously thought that the airman was a member of the Luftwaffe.
Incredibly, the pilot was then escorted to Robin Hood Road where he was re-united with his plane that was obviously written off in the crash. He was also then able to apologise to the lady who lived at the house for the damage he had caused. Thankfully she emerged from her cottage unscathed. Laurence Thorogood explained that after flying around trying to find his base he had to bale out as he ran out of fuel. Later the same day he reportedly flew a Miles Magister single-engine monoplane trainer with a passenger from Farnborough back to his squadron’s main base at Exeter.
Squadron Leader Laurence Arthur Thorogood DFC AE joined RAF 87 Squadron on 14 June 1940 and was thrown straight into the Battle of Britain, destroying a Junkers 88 on 25 August. Commissioned in 1941 he was then posted to India and remained in the Far East until the end of the war. He served with No 9 Squadron Indian Air Force (Hurricane IIc) and 67 Squadron RAF (Spitfire VIII) in the campaign down the Arakan Coast.
Staying in the RAF after the war, he later served in Singapore and Sumatra with 155 Squadron before converting to Vampires on 130 Squadron. After two years instructing on Oxfords at Middle Wallop, he was Adjutant with 615 Squadron, Biggin Hill before moving to Germany in 1951 to fly Vampires with 118 and 94 Squadrons. He served on the Thor missile system before finishing his illustrious career as a civilian in Whitehall.
Sadly Laurence Thorogood passed away in December 2005.
Squadron Leader Sir Laurence Thorogood DFC AE
Update: Squadron Leader Sir Laurence Thorogood's Hurricane fighter plane crashed into the roof of a cottage in Robin Hood Road, Knaphill during World War II on the morning of Friday 01 November 1940 – the day after the Battle of Britain was officially declared ‘over’. The house belonged to the Roberts family. Our special thanks to Historical Investigator Frank Phillipson who has now provided us with an in-depth article about the incident which was originally published in the 'Britain at War' magazine in March 2010 VIEW HERE 30/07/13
The 1943 Mosquito bomber crash
During a storm on the afternoon of Saturday 6 November 1943 a Hunsdon (Hertfordshire) based twin-engine DH98 Mosquito from RAF 29 Squadron, Mk XII (Serial no. HK140) was heavily buffeted and began to break up over Brookwood Hospital in Knaphill. The plane spiralled to the ground close to the gates of the old East Lodge in Lower Guildford Road killing both crew members.
Brian Jones who now lives in Australia was a young boy growing up in Knaphill during the war and remembers the ‘big bang’ caused by the impact of the wooden framed aircraft hitting the ground as he sheltered with his mother and grandmother in an air raid shelter nearby. On hearing the ‘all clear’ they raced to the junction of Victoria Road and Lower Guildford Road, only to be told by A.R.P. wardens that it wasn’t an air raid but not to go any further, as there was ‘complete carnage, live ammunition, flames and dead bodies down there’.
Another Knaphill resident John Gray who lived in the Broadway remembers witnessing the whole drama as a boy from Waterers Park. The plane was flying through a ‘dry storm’ when it appeared to be hit by a lightening strike. John’s brother later went to the crash site and retrieved what John described as being a piece of ‘blood splattered wreckage.’ On returning home with his ‘trophy’, his horrified mother ordered him to bury it in their garden, but apparently ended up doing it herself.
The old East Lodge that stood on the edge of the hospital grounds suffered superficial damage. The crash site is very close to where the Cubitt Way children’s playground is now situated. East Lodge was demolished in 1994 when the hospital land was sold for redevelopment.
RAF records name the crew as, Pilot, Flight Sergeant Thomas Henry Mullard, (pictured left) aged just 20, from Morden, Surrey and Navigator, Sergeant Ernest William Knox aged 23 from Normandy, Surrey. Both airmen are buried at the nearby Brookwood Military Cemetery.
We are very indebted to the late pilot’s brother Peter Mullard for allowing us to gain access to information from the original RAF Flight Logs of 6 November 1943 and the events that lead to the untimely death of Flight Sergeant Thomas Henry Mullard and the plane’s navigator Sergeant Ernest William Knox during what was to be their last training flight.
Official RAF Accident Card: The aircraft broke up in a heavy storm, assumed aircraft out of control in cloud, dived and on breaking cloud, pulled out too violently, aircraft breaking up at once.
Accident Investigation Board (AIB) Conclusions: Loss of control in cloud in very turbulent conditions and aircraft broke up due to loads imposed when recovery attempt made. Both wings, fuselage and tail unit had disintegrated in mid-air.
Extract from Squadron 29 Operations Record: Operations heard from HK140 when it was in cloud at 10,000 feet after completing a ‘Ground Control Interception’ (GCI) practice and indications were that the machine broke up fairly low down as the parts were scattered in a fairly small area with the exception of part of the fuselage that had gone into the ground quite deeply. The Mosquito was one of 6,710 of its type built between 1939 & 1945.
The aircraft’s history: HK140 was built as a Mosquito Mk II Night Fighter at De Havilland’s in Watford, Hertfordshire in March 1943 and was then sent to contractors to have an improved type of Airborne Interceptor Radar fitted. This meant it would later be re-classified as a MK XII Night Fighter. It was delivered ready for service to RAF 29 Squadron on 21 May 1943.
In September 1943 the squadron moved to RAF Ford in Sussex and pilot Thomas Mullard and his navigator Ernest Knox were posted to the squadron towards the end of October 1943 to be trained for overseas service. The crew were due to be posted to Italy the week after the crash.
Dog fights & other skirmishes
Many dogfights occurred in the skies above Knaphill during the war and on one particular occasion the Luftwaffe got the upper hand as an RAF Spitfire was shot down.
The plane crashed at Inkerman Barracks sadly costing the lives of a number of Canadian soldiers who were stationed there. Fortunately, the pilot had baled out safely.
Another incident still remembered by some senior local residents, is one of a German Bomber that was over Knaphill in broad daylight with RAF fighter planes in hot pursuit. Local children were in their classroom but could hear the bomber jettisoning its bomb cache nearby.
In their uncertainty, worried mothers and other relatives raced to the school fearing that it had been hit but were relieved to find it still intact and their children safe. A house was destroyed in Bagshot Road and a number of the jettisoned bombs reportedly fell onto land at Brookwood Cemetery.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
Knaphill’s Post Office Timeline 1857 to present day...
The post office (GPO/Royal Mail) has historically been responsible for defining the boundaries of our village. Indeed this was always the case until such bodies as Surrey County Council and Woking Council were formed.
Responsible bodies for postal activities in Knaphill
· 1857 11.12.57 UDC issued for Ripley and Knap Hill
· 1860 03.07.60 MO ‘Knapp Hill’
· 1861 18.12.61 SB
· 1865 02.10.65 (Under Woking Station)
· 1870 TO KEA
· 1874 Edward Joy (Coal Merchant)
· 1878 Miss Mercy N. Joy
· 1883 Under Woking
· 1907 Village name altered to Knaphill
· 1909 Miss Mercy N. Joy
· 1911 Thomas Mark Benn, seedman, High Street, Knaphill
· 1915 Frank Belcher, Draper, High Street, Knaphill
· 1934 Frank Belcher, Stationer, 26 High Street, Knaphill
· 1938 Mrs Mercy Elizabeth Belcher, Stationer, 25 High Street, Knaphill
· 1984 Sub Postmaster Saj Hussein, By 1-2 Anchor Crescent, Knaphill
· 2014 1-2 Anchor Crescent, Knaphill GU21 2PD
Note: a separate post office known as ‘The Broadway’ which was probably in or near the Broadway was also known to have existed but its exact location is not known.
View historic Knaphill Postmark stamps HERE
Information supplied - Courtesy Roger C.Vaughan. Surrey Postal History Group
Coming of the Canal
St Johns village takes its name from the Chapel of Ease (now Church) of St John the Baptist, that was built here in 1842. The chapel, designed by George Gilbert Scott, was built to serve the western part of the old parish of St Peter’s, (Old) Woking. By the 1840s the Knaphill/Goldsworth area had begun to develop with the building of the canal (and later the railway) as well as the development of the brick-making and nursery industries.
The Basingstoke Canal was built in the late 1780s and ’90s, with work starting at Woodham in 1788 and the canal being opened to Horsell in 1791 and Pirbright in 1792 (Basingstoke was finally reached in 1794).
It was a mainly agricultural waterway, with timber and flour being carried downstream to London and coal and finished goods carried upstream to the towns and villages along its route.
In 1787 they estimated that over 30,000 tons of goods would be carried each year on the waterway, but on only three occasions did the canal actually carry the projected amount of tonnage - in 1838 (when the canal was used to carry goods for the construction of the railway), and in 1934 and 1935 (just before the transportation of coal to g Gas Works ceased).
After the railway opened the canal started to decline and in 1869 the original company was wound up. It was revived (and failed again) on several occasions in the late 19th century before being bought in 1923 by Mr. A.J. Harmsworth. After he died in 1947, however, the canal once more fell into decline until in the 1970s Hampshire and Surrey County Councils bought their sections of waterway and the Surrey & Hampshire Canal Society set about restoration work.
The work in this section took several years with five locks and two ancient bridges (Langman’s and Woodend) to be restored, as well as the canal bank and towpath. Indeed, in a way, work is still continuing with the provision of a new ‘back-pumping’ scheme at St Johns, designed to maintain the water levels in the canal even in the driest of summers.
The bridge across the canal at St Johns – Kiln Bridge – was one of the first bridges over the canal to be rebuilt. Originally the bridge was a simple brick arch – like Woodend Bridge – but in 1899 Woking Council rebuilt the bridge at the request of the War Department, who feared that the old bridge might collapse with the heavy traffic being carried over it from Woking to Inkerman Barracks. In the event it was Hermitage Bridge that collapsed (in 1904) when a traction engine pulling a wagon of potatoes for the barracks was passing over. Woking Council eventually rebuilt that bridge too, although it took them nearly twenty years to do so!
Kiln Bridge gets its name from the brick kilns that were once situated beside the canal between Robin Hood Road and Copse Road.
The pits here were some of the first to be dug in the area and must have been exhausted soon after the canal was opened. Other brick fields were situated on the site of Winston Churchill School and the Lansbury Estate, Lower Guildford Road (just off Hermitage Hill), with more lower down the canal on what is now part of Goldsworth Park. These were developed by the Jackman and Slocock families as part of their nursery businesses.
St Johns Lye & The Necropolis
The name ‘Lye’ probably derives from the ‘Old English’ word ‘lçah’ meaning ‘a grove’ or a clearing within a wood – often a thin wood. This area was part of Woking Common – a vast area of open common land that stretched from the border with Pyrford (common) in the east to the commons of Bisley and Pirbright to the west.
Woking Common covered over 2,300 acres until in the 1850s when the London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company purchased most of it for their vast cemetery (although only using part at Brookwood for burials before selling most of the rest off in the late 19th and early 20th century).
When the Necropolis Company were negotiating with the lord of the manor of Woking (Lord Onslow) the local Vicar, the Rev, Charles Bradford Bowles, persuaded them to leave 150 acres of common so that the poor people of Woking would still have some land upon which they could exercise their ‘common rights’. That land was St Johns’ and Brookwood Lye.
St Johns Hill & Jackman’s
In 1810 William Jackman founded a nursery on 50 acres of land that was eventually to be known as ‘St. Johns Hill’. William had four sons, two of whom – George and Henry – took over the running of the nursery when William died in 1840. Two years later, however, the partnership was dissolved and George continued to run the business on his own. By 1851 he had 90 acres under cultivation, employing 35 men and six boys.
They specialised in raising clematis, breeding the well-known “clematis jackmanii” in 1859. Other varieties included ‘clematis Beauty of Surrey‘, ‘Countess of Lovelace’ and ‘Belle of Woking’.
Unfortunately George Jackman died in 1869, leaving the nursery to his son, also called George.
He continued to expand the business, so that eventually it covered over 300 acres, including land between Wych Hill and Egley Road, Woking.
Most of the plants grown at St Johns were ‘exported’ from this area via train and in the mid 1880s George Jackman – supported by the Waterer’s of Knaphill and the Slocock’s at Goldsworth – called for a station to be opened at St Johns.
When George Jackman II died in 1889 he left strict instructions in his will, resulting in the forced sale of the St. Johns Hill site – the sale documents noting that the estate was ’situated on high ground, commanding most beautiful scenery and adorned with fine specimen conifers, deciduous and other flowering trees and shrubs of mature growth’ adding to the attractiveness of the area for high class housing development.
The nursery concentrated production on their Egley Road site before moving eventually to Mayford – where Wyevale Garden Centre is today.
Some of the old nursery buildings have survived at St Johns. However, including the old estate office– now called ‘Kelwood’ in Jackman’s Lane. There were packing sheds, storerooms and the company pay office here too, and the old cottages around the corner were most probably the home of nursery workers. The old Jackman family home, known then as The Hollies also survives, although it has been converted into apartments and renamed – Deerstead House.
St Johns Road & Slocock’s
Another well-known nursery on the edge of St Johns was the Goldsworth Nursery of Walter Slocock and Sons.
It was founded some time in the 1760s by James Turner. who grew mainly trees and shrubs. An early catalogue listed up to fifteen varieties of rhododendrons – a plant that had only recently been introduced into this country from the Americas.
By 1804 the nursery was being run by Robert Donald, a well-known nurseryman of his day whose son (also called Robert) took over the running of the nursery in 1848. By 1861 he had built up the nursery business at Goldsworth to cover 200 acres, employing 35 men and 8 boys. Robert Donald Jr. died in 1863 and for a while the property appears to have been owned by branches of the Waterer, Jackman and Chandler families – all well-known local nursery-men.
In 1877 the ‘stock and goodwill’ of the nursery were bought by Walter Charles Slocock for £1,750, with a loan of £1,550 for working capital. Within a few years he had built up the business, so that by the 1890s sales reached almost £14,000 p.a., and when he died (in 1926) his personal fortune amounted to £244,000!
Walter Slocock used a ‘contract’ system giving men seven acres to work for 42 shillings a week with a bonus paid if the land was kept clean and free from weeds. He was apparently very quick tempered, but also quick to forget and on several occasions he was known to ‘sack’ a worker for bad work and then enquire the following day why the man had not turned up for work. One worker had a pet parrot who, it is said, learnt to imitate the voice of Mr. Slocock. It would cause chaos in the fields when the workers thought that the boss was coming, but from Walter Slocock’s point of view it must have helped keep his men on their toes!
W.C. Slocock’s two sons, Walter Ashley and Oliver Charles, both joined the firm, with Oliver’s son, Martin, eventually taking over the business in the 1970s. It was Martin Slocock who eventually sold the land for the building of the Goldsworth Park estate, using the money to buy the old ‘Knaphill Nursery’ - where his grandfather had learnt his trade.
Neolithic arrowheads and a 2nd century ‘Samian’ bowl found on the Hermitage estate in the late 1960s point to the fact that this area has been inhabited for thousands of years. The first mention of a ‘Hermitage’ on the site, however, dates from the 14th century when a royal pardon was granted to ‘the chaplain of the Heritage of Brookwood’. Apparently the chaplain had been attacked in Pirbright Church by a man from Horsell called Simon Serle. In an act of self-defence the chaplain had killed Serle, with the result that not only had he to obtain the royal pardon, but the church at Pirbright had to be ‘purged’ by the Bishop of Winchester.
In 1718 John Aubrey noted that ‘in the middle of Broke Wood stood a Hermitage formerly belonging to the Grey Friars at Guildford. Part of the house, built of stone and timber, yet remains – four or five rooms and some parcels of land’.
By this stage the Hermitage was part of the Manor of Woking – granted by James I to Sir Edward Zouch. His grandson – James – granted the Hermitage in 1708 to Mrs Catherine Wood.
In the early 19th century a new house was built on the site – possibly by Joseph White, whose widow (Margaret) sold the property in 1823 to John Gates for £3,600.
In 1851 Henry Wedgwood and his family are recorded in the census returns as living at The Hermitage, but the following year the Necropolis Company bought the property and in 1855 the house was almost destroyed by fire.
In the 1870s Mr Stanley Percival bought the property from the Company for £6,250 – living there until he died in 1902 aged 82. His wife, Charlotte, died in 1919 aged 100, with their daughter (Margaret) dying in 1950 aged 90!
By then the house had been demolished (1935) and the Hermitage Estate built.
The ‘tunnels’ discovered on the site are believed to be ‘level wells’ and not (as some ‘legends’ say) secret tunnels to a nunnery at Guildford, the priory at Newark, or escape tunnels from the nearby prison!
The Crematorium – A Unique History
In 1878 the Cremation Society of England bought an acre of land at St Johns and built the first crematorium in this country. At that stage the law regarding cremation was uncertain, and it was not until March 1885 that the first cremation took place here following a test case in South Wales that found that, because there was no law against cremation, cremation must be legal.
In 1888 a chapel and waiting room was added at a cost of £3,000 – the building being designed by E.F.C. Clarke and constructed by Longley and Co of Crawley using locally produced bricks. By then only 100 cremations had taken place at Woking, but by the 1940s the practice of cremation had gained in popularity with over 10,000 bodies being cremated annually.
One of the most unusual event here was the open-air cremation of a Nepalese Princess, Chamsere Jung.
The princess was a member of the Napalese Embassy in London when she became seriously ill. It was realised that she would die and as Hindu tradition stipulated that she must be cremated on an open-air pyre, the Home Office were asked where such a ceremony could take place. As one of the few Crematoriums in the country at that time it was decided that St. Johns would be the ideal site.
Napalese Hinduism apparently required that a dying person should take their last breath ‘beside a sacred piece of water’ so in early July 1934 the Napalese Government purchased a small bungalow on St Johns Lye, beside the ’sacred waters’ of the Basingstoke Canal!
The funeral took place at 6 o’clock in the evening of Wednesday 13th July 1934 when the princess’s body shrouded in red and gold silk was carried from the house over the canal and into the grounds of the Crematorium. Here a five foot high pyre had been constructed using 400lbs of sandalwood (with 20lbs of camphor incense and other oils, gums and spices) that altogether cost an estimated £400 – £500. As the cortege of two hundred or more mourners crossed walked the route copper and silver coins were scattered on the ground – closely followed by a number of local children intent on picking them up again.
Apparently the four high-caste Hindus carrying the body were forbade from wearing any leather and the story goes that a mad-search was made for rubber soled canvas plimsolls. The funeral taking place on a Wednesday – early closing day in those days – a local shopkeeper had to be found who would open up his shop specially for the mourners.
The Princess was one of only three open-air cremations to take place in this country in modern times– all at St Johns (the others being in December 1935 and February 1937)! After that the new houses of the Hermitage Estate meant that no new pyres could be built as each one was considered a new ‘crematorium’ and thus under the Cremation Act could not be built ‘within 200 yards of a dwelling without the owners/occupiers consent’.
20th Century Development
The early development of St Johns, based on the canal, the nurseries and the brickyards, soon gave way in the late 19th and early 20th century to shops and houses serving the institutions of the area – the prison (later barracks) and asylum at Knaphill.
In the later 20th century it was from the workers in Woking and commuters to the capital that St Johns gained its growth, with several small estates being built in the St Johns Road, Robin Hood Road, Knaphill and Hermitage Road areas.
The 1960s and 70s saw places such as St Johns Rise, Pantiles Close Martin Way, Goldsworth Orchard and Cedar Gardens (all off St Johns Road), with Lansdowne Close and of course the roads of the Hermitage Woods Estate off Hermitage Road.
In the 1980s and 90s several 60s and 70s estates saw extra houses added, so that Ashley Road off Robin Hood Road gained Ashley Court, and Nottingham Close saw more houses built at the end of the road. In the St Johns Road area Dale View likewise saw the land behind the original houses built on, whilst in Beacon Hill it was the steep escarpment in front of the 1970s houses that saw the flats built in the 1990s.
Other 1980s and 90s developments include St Johns Waterside in Copse Road, St Johns Mews in the village centre and St Johns Gardens in St Johns Road – the developers all but exhausting the ‘St Johns’ name in recent years!
On St Johns Hill large houses have been replaced by smaller houses in closes such as ‘Firgrove’, ‘Barricane’ and Holly Close, with developments such as ‘The Mount’ and ‘Glen Court’ continuing the trend into the 1990s.
It is hard to see where the development (or redevelopment) will end, as more and more people want to live near this popular local village, the centre of which was designated as a conservation area in 1991.
Courtesy: Surrey History Chronicles
Courtesy: Surrey History Chronicles
* More on the area's history can be viewed HERE
* More on the area's history can be viewed HERE
Aldershot's first buses arrived during 1906. They were operated by the Aldershot & Farnborough Motor Omnibus Company Ltd. They ran a service between Aldershot and Farnborough using two second-hand Milnes-Daimler's acquired from Hastings. New services were pioneered, and the fleet increased to five vehicles. Expansion was vital for the small operator. New capital arrived when the British Electric Traction Company bought out Aldershot & Farnborough in 1912.
A new company was formed and named the Aldershot & District Traction Co. Ltd. The new company rapidly expanded its network of service in and around the Surrey and Hampshire borders. In 1914 'A&D' was trying to get a foothold in Guildford. They gained licences to run services in competition with Guildford & District, a company formed by bus manufacturers Dennis Bros and Walter Flexman-French the influential bus pioneer.
The Guildford and District operations soon fell into the hands of Aldershot & District. Other small operators were acquired as the years passed by and the network of services expanded, with depots established at Haslemere and Alton followed by new premises at Hindhead and Woking. The war years from 1939-45 proved to be particularly difficult. The heart of the military was based in Aldershot.
This put additional burdens on the company. While services were curtailed, patronage increased. Replacing the worn out fleet of vehicles was almost impossible, with the war effort taking priority. In the post war years the company received new vehicles built by Dennis, the main supplier of the company's vehicles, and services returned to pre-war levels by 1946. High capacity single-deck buses arrived in 1954 when the first AEC Reliance was delivered. Double-deck orders remained with Dennis.
In 1969 the Government formed the National Bus Company and the end was in sight for the traditional green and cream of the Aldershot company. In 1972 the 'Tracco' as it was known, merged with neighbouring company Thames Valley to form Alder Valley.
This article courtesy : Aldershot & District Bus Interest Group www.adbig.co.uk 28/05/12
William Lerwill and his family moved to Nuthurst in Robin Hood Road, Lower Knaphill in June 1926. Lodging with the family was 77 year old Guernsey born bachelor and former farmer, Hilary Rougier who was soon to become a regular patient of the local GP, Doctor A.H. Brewer. On 24 August 1926 the doctor was called to an emergency at the house. The doctor found Rougier in a coma and diagnosed that he had suffered a severe cerebral haemorrhage during the night. He died a few hours later of what the doctor at the time recorded as ‘natural causes’.
The curious case of Hilary Rougier
Following the death and funeral the dead man’s family became concerned over the loss of his fortune, in today’s terms about £200,000 and concerns of fraud and theft surfaced, particularly when Mr Rougier’s bank pass book was found with details of cheques paid out to the Lerwills. In fact, his Last Will and Testament left just £50.
These issues brought about a number of suspicions that Mr Rougier’s death was in fact a murder and in March 1928, some eighteen months after his death, the body was exhumed by Surrey Police from the small churchyard at nearby St. Johns. Enquiries were made in Knaphill and the surrounding area prior to the exhumation and every witness was pledged to the utmost secrecy. Extraordinary precautions were taken to prevent the identity of the person becoming known. At the time of the exhumation a piece of the local common was even dug up as a distraction from the exhumation work itself.
Following the exhumation, Doctor Roche Lynch, Home Office analyst found alkaloid morphine present in the organs, the sample taken indicated that Mr Rougier may have been forced to take a considerable quantity shortly before death.
Dr Lynch said Superintendent Eric Boshier of Surrey Police had handed him one hundred and nineteen articles taken from the Nuthurst residence in Lower Knaphill. A considerable number of these proved to be food preparation essences. He was reserving examination of the articles until it became necessary to do so.
The body was also examined by Sir Bernard Spilsbury who, in 1910, was involved in the famous case of Dr Crippin. Spilsbury rejected the idea that the cause of death was natural, as a high level of morphine had been found in the body. During his illustrious career Spilsbury also performed thousands of autopsies, not only for murder victims but also of executed criminals. A detailed enquiry lasting months and a lengthy inquest failed to lead to any criminal charges against the Lerwill family or anyone else. It remains that Mr Rougier’s considerable fortune had been dissipated.
His ‘friends’ the Lerwill family later appeared to rise from apparent debt to a sudden state of affluence but there was no evidence of any criminal offences and they were never charged. So, did the Lerwill’s get away with murder?
Well, there is a modern saying that goes “What goes around comes around” and this is so very true so far as William Lerwill was concerned….
There was no point in Mr. Rougier’s relatives pursuing the Lerwills for his money as it had clearly been spent and could not be returned even if litigation was finally successful. As for the big house in Lower Knaphill, the Lerwills decamped having paid only a third of the rent they owed its rightful owner.
William Lerwill, a man always with an eye for the main chance, later sued two newspapers for libel, successfully bringing him the best part of £5,000. He then deserted his wife and children and went to live in Canada. By 1933 he was back in England, virtually broke and leaving one cheque after another bouncing behind him.
One day in March, 1934, he was walking down a street in Coombe Martin in Devon, when a policeman stopped him and challenged him about an unpaid hotel bill. Whatever his failings, Lerwill was never guilty of indecision. He promptly produced a small bottle of prussic acid, swallowed the contents, and fell dead at the officer’s feet. So, was this the suicide of a man tired of running? – Or, was it indeed a bizarre murder confession?
It is important to note that William Lerwill was legally cleared of the murder and also later succeeded with a libel action against the press. A possible if not probable conclusion is that Hilary Rougier, for reasons unknown, may have wished to kill himself.
Surrey Constabulary records show that on 22 December 1924 two men heard screams coming from the Basingstoke Canal near St Johns. They found a woman clinging to a lock gate and pulled her clear. She immediately indicated that she had thrown her baby into the water in a fit of temper. A doctor and the police were called and the canal was dredged. The woman, Flora Derigo was arrested and held at Knaphill Police Station.
Flora's husband was an American soldier who had returned to the USA and although he had made all the arrangements for her to join him, her family had prevented the reunion. She was now living with a Sidney Smith and six weeks before his death, her baby Clifton Barrington Martin Derigo was born. Smith fell out with Flora and moved away on the 18 December and the culmination of all the problems in her life resulted in the baby being thrown into the canal.
During an inquest in January 1925, Flora was committed for trial on a charge of wilful murder. Flora later appeared on 25 March at Surrey Assizes where she pleaded guilty to infanticide. This was accepted by the court and Flora was bound over in the sum of £50.
Alec Storey (Lawrence)
On 11 February 1958, Alec Storey (17) turned up on his motor bike at Knaphill Police Station in Oak Tree Road spur and pulled a .22 pistol from his waist and said that he had shot his foster mother five times in the head.
Originally known as Alec Taylor Lawrence before being adopted, he stated that he had borrowed the gun from a neighbour for target practice. He said that he had accidentally discharged the gun and his mother came to the bedroom to inspect the damage.
Alec Storey wrote in his statement to police that "She then got down on the floor to look at the bullet hole in the carpet. While she was like that I pulled the trigger which resulted in her being hit on the head. I think she jerked forward straight away and fell flat on her tummy, with her head on its left side. I then aimed a second shot at her and emptied the magazine in her head."
Police went to the four hundred year old converted farmhouse on Pirbright Green and found the murdered woman. The juvenile was eventually charged and appeared at the Old Bailey in London. He was expensively educated but was described in court as an extremely disturbed young man who had been dug from a bombed building in London when very small and given over to adoption by a family struggling to make their way. He felt he did not belong to anybody or anywhere.
Evidence was given by Detective Sergeant Henry Helsdon. He was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced to three years.
The former police station in Knaphill still exists but has been converted into a private residence.
According to an article in The Observer on Sunday 8 February 1998 Dodi Fayed had a secret lovechild. The child’s mother Ms Diane Holliday claimed that Dodi’s daughter Marni was nine months old when Mr Fayed died in the Paris car crash alongside Diana, Princess of Wales. Diane Holliday who was 36 at the time was a British hotel consultant from Victoria Road, Knaphill.
Marni, whose photograph is said to bear a striking resemblance to Mr Fayed, was born in an American hospital in November 1996, according to her mother.
Ms Holliday initially handed her baby over for adoption in the United States but then hired a London lawyer, whose clients have included the Duchess of York and Sarah Brightman, in an attempt to win her return.
Her solicitor, Douglas Alexiou, said in a statement to the Observer: “I am instructed by my client to confirm that she is the mother of the child. I have the birth certificate in front of me and the father is the late Dodi Fayed. I am satisfied that the instructions are correct.”
The battle over Marni had become the latest chapter in the long-running feud between Mohammed al-Fayed, Dodi’s father and his bitter rival, Tiny Rowland. Scotland Yard investigated allegations arising from the claim.
Dodi was Mohammed al-Fayed’s eldest son, so his daughter – if paternity was proved – could be an apparent heir to the Harrods fortune. Ms Holliday claimed that she had a series of meetings with Dodi’s father at which he expressed an interest in bringing the child back to Britain, but that she had fallen out with him.
Mr Rowland told The Observer: ‘She told me a long story about Dodi and how he was the father of her baby who was born on 20 November 1996, in America. She said Dodi asked her to have an abortion. The baby was adopted.’
Mr Rowland said he believed there was DNA evidence to prove Dodi was the father. There was then a dispute between Ms Holliday and Mr Rowland, who had made a complaint to the police.
A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed that police had carried out an investigation into an alleged financial deception
Ms Holliday denied any doing wrong. Friends of Ms Holliday, who also had two teenage children, said she met Dodi at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1995. At the time she was separated from her husband pending a divorce. In the next five months, there were frequent meetings at Dodi’s Paris and Mayfair apartments and her former home in Bracknell, Berkshire.
In July 1996 she discovered that she was five months pregnant and broke the news to Dodi. Her friends denied Dodi wanted an abortion at first but said at the time that he went along with her wish for one. However, Ms Holliday later decided not to go through with it. Without telling Dodi, she travelled to the United States, where an agency arranged an adoption.
Diane Holliday again hit the headlines in 2009 after Erkin Guney the owner of Brookwood Cemetery, was comprehensively cleared by a jury of soliciting her murder. The case was to prove that Erkin Guney had become the victim of one of the UK’s biggest ever miscarriages of justice.
In April 2009, Erkin Guney went on trial for soliciting the murder of his late father’s lover, Diane Holliday. Erkin was accused of hiring a hit man to kill her to prevent her from benefiting from his father, Ramadan Guney’s estate. Ms Holliday was to be involved in a serious, in fact, fatal car accident – or so it seemed.
Erkin was one of six children of Ramadan and his wife Suyehla Guney. Suyehla died in 1992. Ramadan, the millionaire owner of Brookwood Cemetery, later had a child with Diane Holliday.
The hit man allegedly hired by Erkin was actually an undercover police officer. Holliday’s supposed car crash was a ruse allegedly concocted by the police. She was not actually involved in an accident. Erkin’s defence was that he knew all along about the undercover plot and was playing along with it. He was sensationally acquitted in May 2009.
There had also been suspicions of foul play concerning Ramadan, whose death in 2006 at the age of 74 was attributed at the time to a heart attack. His body was later exhumed but no charges were ever brought.
Even today, the saga continues.
A schizophrenic serial killer from Knaphill who murdered four people in a number of attacks throughout 2004 was 26 year old Daniel Gonzalez. The murders had sent shock waves around the whole country.
His victims all chosen at random were retired doctor Derek Robinson, 76, and his wife Jean, 68, from Highgate, North London, Kevin Molloy, 46, who was killed in Tottenham, North London and Marie Harding, 73, who was murdered near Worthing in Sussex. Two men survived his attacks, Peter King, 61, who was attacked in Portsmouth, Hampshire and Koumis Constantinou, 59, who was knifed in North London.
Two days before the first murder, Gonzalez gave himself two black eyes by punching himself in the face and proceeded to run naked through the streets of Knaphill, in front of schoolchildren and their parents before running back to his home in Southwood Avenue.
A 2009 report into his mental health care revealed that although he attended nearly 60 appointments with doctors and psychiatrists, more could have been done by the NHS to prevent the tragedies. Gonzalez had been found dead in his Broadmoor cell in August 2007 after slashing his wrists with the shards of plastic from broken compact discs.
Taken from Knaphill (All in One Place) © Mal Foster
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