Brief history of Lightwater

Tim Dodds’ Brief History of Lightwater

The Early years

The area that is now Lightwater was for centuries sparsely populated. This is mostly likely because of the mixture of poor light soil, known as Bagshot sand, and areas of boggy land. The name Lightwater seems not to appear before 1700, and is thought to derive from references to the ponds and pools in the area, possibly what is now know as Hammond’s Pond.

At the time when Lightwater is first mentioned, over three-quarters of the population of England were involved in agriculture, which had evolved from a subsistence-basis to being more of an industry.

New practices in land management and agricultural mechanisation throughout the 18th century were important reasons behind the introduction of the Enclosure Acts. The ‘enclosures’ were a means of consolidating land, such as common, waste, and heathland, into larger units, with the ostensible aim of improving land productivity. Most of the land of Bagshot Heath was ‘enclosed’ by 1812.

Even with land now ‘enclosed’, there is little activity in the development of Lightwater, though nearby Sunningdale and Bagshot had seen the healthy growth of a nursery gardening industry, with the Fromow and Waterers nurseries finding the better acidic and peaty soils in their location, ideal to growing a range of American imported species, such as Azalea and Rhododendron.

The opening of Sunningdale railway station in 1856 gave development impetus to the area. With nursery and farm produce more easily despatched to London than by road, and coal and provisions brought in. Rail eventually arrived at Bagshot in 1878. With the need to house an increasing nursery industry workforce, it seems that the availability of cheap land in Lightwater was the reason it began to grow.

From 1900 to 1950

In 1900, Lightwater parish lay within Windlesham Urban District Council. Windlesham itself had considerable number of gentlemen’s residences; in other words – large houses, In 1903, Mrs Christie of Ribsden Hall, Windlesham, paid for the erection of All Saints Church, as a memorial to her husband.

In 1909 about 100 houses are known of in Lightwater, and by the First World War the number of businesses grew including a baker, butcher, cycle dealer, laundries, and cab proprietor.

After the First World War there was an acute national shortage of quality affordable housing. The then Government, in The Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919, gave responsibility for providing accommodation for working people to local authorities, and required them to submit a list of their housing needs.

In response, Windlesham Urban District Council, during the years 1925 to 1932, and with some financial support from Government, erected 100 houses and flats in The Avenue, Stone Hill Road, and Guildford Road in Lightwater, using a variety of local builders, including Geo. Church & Co, and W.G.Tarrant.

From the 1900’s there were also a number private housing developments in Ambleside and Macdonald Roads. The resulting influx of new people into Lightwater doubled the number of business premises, adding newsagent, hairdressers, and shoe repairer among others.

From 1950 to 2000

Following the Second World War and a period of national reconstruction, the Government addressed the projected population growth of London, and foreseeing the growth of road transport, approved areas for housing expansion in the South East and the construction of new motorways.

In 1971 the M3 Motorway was opened, with a junction adjacent to Lightwater, and in 1977 the Lightwater bypass was opened.

Following local government reorganisation in 1974, Lightwater became part of Surrey Heath Borough, which was formed from the merger of a number of local councils, including Bagshot Rural District Council, which had earlier merged with Windlesham Urban District Council.

Proximity to the M3 motorway was a spur for major growth in housing and commercial development in Lightwater. In the early 1970’s, Robert Shaw developed the land he owned in the village centre, creating the village square as it now appears.

In the mid 1980’s, on the land of the former Paddock Wood Girls Finishing School, over 1500 new houses were built by Charles Church, Barratt’s and others in three large developments, including Paddock Wood, and The Grange.

From 2000 onwards

So, today Lightwater is now highly developed. Though mainly residential, the village has excellent leisure facilities, well-regarded schools, and a thriving commercial centre, all testifying to the desirability of Lightwater as a place to live and work.


  • Marie de g. Eedle, A History of Bagshot and Windlesham, Phillimore & Co, 1977, ISBN 0 85033 276 1
  • A History of the County of Surrey, Vol.3, 1911, Victoria County History
  • Wikipedia

5 thoughts on “Brief history of Lightwater

  1. Hello ! My family moved to Lightwater in 1956. I attended the primary / junior school at Catena Rise, from then, till 1959, when I transferred to Frimley & Camberly County Grammar School (FCCGS). I remember Mr Hancock, the gentle art , crafts and history teacher . And Mr. Clarke, the music teacher : he tutored us for a music festival / competition at Camberley (the Drill Hall) : we sang, “Inch Worm”, Surrey With The Fringe On Top” , plus or minus something else….We didn’t win, but word came back later that the judges thought we were “the only choir in tune” (so why didn’t we win? We were word perfect, as I recall ! Ah well. I remember before we went ‘on’, I sat reading a comic…not nervous, as we knew the songs well …..
    I went in for handwriting and art competitions, winning a first (writing) and something else…I think it was a large box of Fry’s Choc’s… painting was of a jungle scene…funny what things you remember, isn’t it.
    Our headmaster was Mr. Scan (who lived just up the road from our bunglaow, where Curley Hill Rd., and High View Rd met), who was stern,(he used to humiliate little Wally, by standing him on a desk, and saying, “be careful you don’t fall in the inkwell” (I thought that uneceesarily cruel…), but I have to thank him for selecting a few of us to receive extra tuition, prior to the 11 Plus in 1959. I might not have succeeded in the 11 Plus if it hadn’t been for the extra tuition : I’d never seen an intelligence test before, and coming to them with a little experience helped a lot. I eventually got through on interview : The 3 (?) interviewers devised a trick question, I suspect, to see if I was well-mannered ?! They said, “Can you read ?” I felt like saying, “Well how do you think I got this far?!” , but answered meekly, “Yes, sir.” (not worth looking sassy at that stage !)
    Anyway, 2 of us went off to Camberley. It would have been a much less tiring day to attend Bagshot Secondary, but that school had a bit of an air of…….(ummm…..) : my father took my brother out of there and got him into a good school at West Byfleet ). I felt sad that Sylvia Adams didn’t pass , as I thought she was very bright, and would have done well…..Muriel Reaper and I trundled to and fro , (best part of an hour each way, since we had to walk nearly a mile to the bus stops : one by the Off Licence, and the other by The Corner Stores, by The Avenue. on the bus for years after, and I left in 1964, having rather ‘had enough’….I don’t know where Muriel went after that : we weren’t proper friends , to be honest……. Sylvia’s Mother used to run ‘The Powder Box’,along the Guildford Road, and put on enjoyable parties. I was ‘Queen of The May’ one year…a very sweet experience, never to be known again ! I still have the photo…..the event was held in a field (?) behind ‘The Powder Box’. In those days, the village was not much developed, but then the M3 came along, and we knew it because my father’s new white Ford Cortina used to get black dust floating down from the motorway : cars’ emmissions etc. were not as clean as they are now….
    Well, enough for now !
    If anyone from that time would like to share a few more memories, please write.
    Crumbs ! It’s 61 years now since we went to Lightwater…..
    Best Wishes,
    Rosemarie Mann.
    (now at Chandlers Ford, near Southampton).
    April 2017.


  2. A relative of mine came over to the UK from Argentina and was looking to find the house that her mother was born and spent her early years. The family name was Birbeck, the address on the birth certificate is The Poplars, Macdonald Road, Lightwater, Bagshot and the birth date was 1924. However, I have been unable to track down the location of the house. The only other information I have is that there was a story that the family had a chicken farm in the area. Can anyone help me track down where The Poplars is or was?


  3. I was wondering if there is any photos of the bike shop called Benge’s on Guildford road in the 70’s many thanks.


  4. There are such photos, taken by Alf Tarry. I do not have any, but if you contact Surrey Heath Museum they will have some photos.


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