Our Heritage Open Day visit on Saturday was to the Woking Electrical Control Room.
As Southern Railway moved from steam to the electric third-rail system in the 1930’s its expanding electrification needed additional electricity sub stations. The electric power supply from these sub-stations was managed from control rooms, which could reconfigure the electric power in the event of a fault. Of the original five control room Woking is the only one retained in its original condition.
Southern Railway adopted an Art Deco styling to their electrification and station building. Woking has three railway building in the art deco style. It’s station, signal box, and the lesser known Electrical Control Room. Built in 1936, and opened in 1937, the control room continued in operation till 1997, when it was superceded by computer control.
The control room is Grade II listed for the building, control room panels, switches, and lighting. The concrete building has a flat roof with metal-framed casement windows.
Entering the building, past offices still in use, you enter a narrow corridor running around the edge of the building past panel of electro-mechanical switch gear. From the corridor you enter the impressive control room, just as it was when its use ceased in 1997, even the chairs remain.
Operated 24 hours a day, the three attractive copper and iron uplighters were designed to give a soft diffused light. We learned that the original light bulbs have been replaced with LED lights, close to the original lighting effect, though giving off a whiter light than that that I saw when first visiting the control room in 2007.
The inner walls of the control room are a representation, and name of each of the electric sub stations, with coloured lights to indicate the state of operation. The switches allow a controller to divert electric supply to in the event of a fault.
I expect you’ll be wanting to know about how the Jolly Farmer name lives on. Well, the name Jolly Farmer appears on the control panels for the sub station close to what was the Jolly Farmer pub, now American Golf shop. To prove that the Jolly Farmer name is still in use, I hacked through undergrowth to get near the railway line and take a photo of the sub station, which is still named Jolly Farmer.
Here are the photos [click to expand] of our visit, and the Jolly Farmer sub station.
The 49th Photo Quiz asked where this statue could be seen? It’s a sculpture in bronze and cor-ten steel by Sean Henry, entitled Seated Man, 2011. It can be seen on platform 1 in Woking railway station.
I saw it from platform 2, while waiting for a London train, and was initially mildly discomfited by it. Had to visit the statue to find out more about it.
Below the photo of the statue, I’ve posted a photo on the adjacent plaque that gives more information. Click on image to expand.
Many is the time looking out of a train window coming into Woking Station that I spotted the Shah Jahan Mosque.
I don’t know what the reason was that I chose this week for my first visit to the mosque, perhaps it was simply the good weather. Location determined having looked at a map, and off I went. I’d expected to find the mosque easily on Oriental Road in Woking. I drove past the narrow entrance road a couple of times, obviously not as observant as I should have been.
Arriving at the mosque you see the rear of the building and quickly realise how small it is. Sitting in ample peaceful and tranquil grounds away from the hubbub of the nearby trading estate, it’s possible to see almost the entirety of the mosque, due to its small size. It can only hold sixty worshippers, while the single storey building in the grounds can hold, I believe, up to a couple of thousand.
Having taken photos of the exterior, I spoke with a gentleman who’d just left the mosque, and in conversation with him learned that it would be fine to enter the mosque and to take photos. Before I present my photos and the brief history of the mosque, here are some websites about the mosque,
- Shah Jahan Mosque website
- Wikipedia entry
- Exploring Surrey’s Past
- Historic England
- The Victorian Web
Here’s a brief history of the mosque from Historic England
The history of the Shah Jahan Mosque, thought to be the first purpose-built mosque in northern Europe and Britain, is entwined with the growth of Islam in late C19 and early C20 Britain. The mosque was commissioned by Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner (1840-1899), an Hungarian Jewish linguist, who spent most of his working life in British India. His ambition was to establish an educational Oriental Institute to enhance the study of culture and history of India and the Islamic world. In 1880 Leitner purchased the site of the Royal Dramatic College in Woking, a building of 1865 by TR Smith for John Anson set in large grounds, in which he established his Oriental Institute where scholars came to stay and study. The house is clearly shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1896, further east of the current Woking mosque complex, on the site of the existing retail park, and was standing at least until 1914. Leitner approached the Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, the female ruler of the Indian princely state of Bhopal, to contribute funding for the construction of a mosque west of the house, within its grounds. She provided £5,000 and construction started in 1888; the mosque was completed in the autumn of 1889. In addition to the mosque, the Sir Salar Jung Memorial Hall (named after the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad state) was built to the east to accommodate the Imam and hold community functions and meetings. Interestingly, neither the mosque or memorial hall is shown on historic Ordnance Survey maps until 1914.
The mosque was designed by William Isaac Chambers, an English architect based in Woking in the mid-1880s, known for his expressive architectural style, easily adapted to the mosque’s popular ‘Orientalist’ style of the late C19. The architecture of the mosque is generally late-Mughal, with flamboyant architectural elements such as the spherical dome and sculptural treatment of the entrance combined with more traditional devices such as the stepped battlements. The Buildings of England volume for Surrey (1987, 531-532) records that the orientation towards Mecca (Makkah) was set by a ship’s Captain who went to Woking and took the bearings. The Buildings of England also state that Chambers did not design the courtyard and some of the decoration as there was a dispute between him and Leitner. It is assumed that Chambers designed the memorial hall, but this has not been substantiated.
I’ve visited the exhibition, finding much to enjoy and appreciate in his ceramic works. While I understand the way Picasso challenged art convention, and his experimentation in various art forms are outstanding, and much revered, generally his drawings aren’t to my taste. Yes, I admit it, I’m an old fogey.
I like ceramics, especially hand thrown works with artistic designs and in different glazes. I warm to Picasso’s ceramic art, and strangely find much to appreciate in his works in clay and ceramics, even though they have similar artistic forms found in his paintings that I find more difficult to like. I think it’s to do with the fact that the ceramics can be held, and used, leading to a tactile appreciation not possible with his paintings and prints.
Now, the exhibition at The Lightbox has both prints, drawings and ceramics. As I’ve said, I’m unappreciative of the prints and drawings. However, his ceramic works are hugely to be enjoyed. What I learned from the exhibition that much of the works on view were collected, over many years, by filmmaker Lord Attenborough, and gifted to the Leicester Arts & Museum Service.
Here are a couple of the plates. How I’d love to have such plates to hold fruit, or whatever. [Click on image to expand]
This morning I asked the question about who is this statue of, and where can it be seen.
The answer is it’s a statue of Surrey and England cricketer Eric Bedser. The statue is at the Horsell end of the Bedser bridge over the Basingstoke Canal in Woking, near the World Wildlife Fund offices and the Lightbox art gallery.
Eric Bedser, and his twin brother Alec both played cricket for Surrey and England. They both went to school in Woking, and both lived in Woking. Alec Bedser’s statue stands at the town end of the bridge.
The statues were unveiled by Sir John Major in 2015.