Fascinated by history? Try the Historical Association’s West Surrey branch

If you’re fascinated by history, be it local, or more worldly, then there are places to accommodate your interests.

With a programme of quality talks, the West Surrey branch of the Historical Association, should be considered. Click on the image to enlarge and link to the website.

For more information and talks about local history, and that means Surrey Heath, then  the Surrey Heath Local History Club is where you should visit.

Not forgetting, of course the regular lunch time talks at the Heritage Gallery in Camberley.

An Insight Talk at Gordon’s School by Jeremy Paxman

Gordon’s School in West End host occasional Insight Talks, which they describe as,

giving students, parents, and staff the opportunity to meet, listen to, and ask questions of experienced professionals.

It’s to the school’s credit that they’ve attracted such impressive past speaker’s. As a Friend of Gordon’s School, we can be in the audience for these talks. And so it was that we listened to Jeremy Paxman’s talk yesterday evening, Nice camel, but was Charles Gordon really a hero?

Having described the exploits of General Gordon within his documentary series on the history of the British Empire. His talk was a deeper examination of General Gordon’s career, character and actions.

In typical Paxman style he surmised that while brave, and being an outstanding leader, Gordon was a deeply flawed character, and was involved in some of Great Britain’s more shameful wars and actions. Jeremy concluded that Gordon is part of our national past, and we should not expunge him from our history, but should reflect on the good and the bad of the man. Here are a few photos from the evening – click on images to expand.

Mrs Rosette Savill’s story told in the country of her birth

One must respect the dedication, perseverance, and determination of those involved in historical research. I know of one such person, and it’s Pippa Anderson, whose resolve has been to promote an appreciation of the life and work of Mrs Rosette Savill.

I’ve reported, HERE and HERE, on the unveiling of a blue plaque on the original building of the Free French Rehabilitation Centre, and subsequent Paddock Wood Girls Finishing School, which the blue plaque acknowledged.

So that Mrs Savill’s story is more widely known in Monaco, the country of her birth, Martine and her husband Robert (former PW tennis & music teacher), who live in Monaco, organised that Pippa Anderson’s article appeared in Monaco Life.  You can read the article HERE, or by clicking on the image below. It’s fitting that Monegasques should know about her, and know that she lived in Lightwater. [Note: this article has been updated to include Martine and Robert Frost’s conribution].

Milestone Miscellany Day No.4: Heritage Lottery funded Milepost restoration project

Last Saturday I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Milestone Society.

The meeting was held in the village hall in Long Compton on the A3400 road, not far from Chipping Norton. The location was chosen as the hall is on the former Stratford-upon-Avon to Long Compton Turnpike. It’s on this road the Milestone Society’s National Lottery funded project restored the remaining six mileposts to their functioning state.

The project is called Finding the Way, described in the leaflet below, and a dedicated website HERE. My photo of the village hall and one of the restored mileposts, click on photo to expand.

Click on upward pointing arrow in bottom right-hand corner of image below to expand.

Milestone Miscellany Day No.3: The Mayor thanks us

On Monday this week, Reg Davis and I were invited to be at the milestone on the A30 adjacent to Martins VW car showroom, where the Mayor of the Borough, Cllr Valerie White, gave a short speech thanking us for our work restoring the milestones in Surrey Heath. Gillian Riding, of Surrey Heath Museum, gave the mayor a small present to hand to each of us.

I should report that Reg and I were surprised to receive thanks and, even more so, the little pressie. We were pleased to have completed our project and weren’t expecting a thank you ceremony. Here’s a photo of Reg Davis, the Mayor, and Matthew Thorne – Manager of Martins, who was helpful to us both. [Click on image to expand]


Milestone Miscellany Day No.2: We complete our milestone restoration project

In Surrey Heath Borough, the Exeter Road [A30] has seven milestones, and the Portsmouth Road [A325] has three. Apart from one recently replaced with a replica, all were in need of refurbishment; some more in need than others. At the instigation of Surrey Heath Museum, museum volunteer Reg Davis and I spent two weeks cleaning and repainting the milestones.

Sixteen Portland stone milestones on the A30, six feet high and one and a half feet wide, were ordered by the Bedfont and Bagshot Turnpike Trust in 1743 from Chertsey mason Stephen, at a cost of £2 10s 0d each.

We tackled the task by firstly cutting back encroaching vegetation, followed by scrubbing them all with a mild detergent. We applied weed killer to their bases, adding a geotextile membrane, and then covering with Portland stone chippings after we painted them. We used white masonry paint, following up by picking out all the letters in black masonry paint.

In our hi-viz wear many people stopped to talk to us and cheer us on. We received a visit from a Police patrol car, with the officer approaching us saying, “We’ve had reports of people stealing a milestone.” Oh, how we laughed [Click on image to enlarge].

It shouldn’t be ignored that, apart from an odd dissenting voice, our work is widely admired, adding to the sense of community civic pride. Volunteers both, Reg and I, were happy to do the restoration, though our aging knees [well, mine actually] didn’t take kindly to kneeling to carefully paint the letters.

Milestone Miscellany Day No.1: About milestones

Lots to report about milestones this week. You’ll have read here that myself and chum Reg Davis having been refurbishing nine milestones in Surrey Heath.

Thought I’d begin with a bit of history, naturally taken from a Milestone Society document. Yours truly is a member of the society.

Here goes, in a little over 300 words, plus one photo from the A30 adjacent to Martins VW Showroom – this before our cleaning [click on image to expand].

The Romans laid good metalled roads to move soldiers and supplies quickly across their Empire: they measured distance to aid timing and efficiency, marking every thousandth double-step with a large cylindrical stone. 117 still survive in the UK. After Roman times roads developed to meet local community needs and by the middle of the c16th local parishes were made responsible for their upkeep.

At this time travel by road was slow and difficult. The sunken lanes became quagmires in wet weather and occasionally both horses and riders were drowned. It took 16 days to cover 400 miles from London to Edinburgh. So Turnpike Trusts were set up, by Acts of Parliament from 1706 to the 1840’s. Groups of local worthies raised money to build stretches of road and then charged the users tolls to pay for it. The name ‘turnpike’ comes from the spiked barrier at the Toll Gate or Booth. The poor bitterly resented having to pay to use the roads and there were anti-turnpike riots.

From the 1840s, rail travel overtook road for longer journeys and many turnpike trusts were wound up. In 1888, the new County Councils were given responsibility for main roads and rural district councils for minor routes. As faster motorised transport developed so the importance of the milestones waned.

‘Milestone’ is a generic term, including mileposts made of cast iron. Such waymarkers are fast disappearing; around 9000 are thought to survive in the UK. Most were removed or defaced in World War II to baffle potential German invaders and not all were replaced afterwards. Many have been demolished as roads have been widened, or have been victims of collision damage, or have been smashed by hedge-cutters or flails. Nowadays, roadside milestones generally fall within the remit of the local Highways Authority or the Highways Agency and their contractors.