Heath Mill area
Heath Mill was one of 2 mills in Pirbright, both of which were situated on the Hodge Brook. The other mill (near the Manor House) was known as Upper Mill, whilst Heath Mill was known as Lower Mill (until the 1880’s).
Heath mill ranks as one of the oldest known properties at Fox Corner, and indeed in Pirbright itself. This page will deal with the history of the mill, starting with the earliest known reference in 1516, and cover not just the mill itself, but also Heath Mill House and the cottages built in the vicinity (ie Millstream Cottage, Heath Cottage and The Barn).
What buildings existed in the vicinity in earlier times? The 1807 map (below left) shows only one dwelling (coloured pink), which is Heath Mill House. The 6 other (black) buildings comprise the mill itself and other buildings used for mill-related activities (eg storage). Further afield were Bullswater Farm and the predecessor building to The Fox, but the mill would have been a fairly isolated place.
The 1841 Tithe map (below right) shows Heath Mill House and the same 6 mill-related buildings (plus 2 others), but also shows Millstream Cottage as a dwelling set in its own garden.
Heath Cottage was built in the 1870’s, and the same setup (ie The Mill, Heath Mill House, Millstream Cottage and Heath Cottage) remains today, 150 years later, with relatively few changes. The mill has been rebuilt, one of the barns has recently been sympathetically converted into a cottage and named “The Barn”, and some of the outbuildings have been demolished, but otherwise this area remains relatively unspoilt. The 2018 OS map is shown below for comparison, as well as a table giving the dates of the houses.
Some other differences over the years can be seen from comparing the maps:
The millpond has silted up and is now a field/garden with the Hodge Brook running alongside it.
The overflow pond (at the top right) has disappeared and is now the front lawn of Braemar in Heath Mill Lane.
There is now a large bulge in the stream after it passes under Heath Mill Lane – presumably caused by the disappearance of the overflow and the cessation of mill operations.
The current south-west “road” to the Guildford – Pirbright Road was created just after WW2, and joins the main road about 150 yards south of where the original track comes out. The original track can still be traced as a narrow footpath crossing the common to the Guildford – Pirbright Road. Judging by its current state, it must be a few years since it bore any heavy mill-related traffic.
We’ll now deal with Heath Mill and the 4 houses in the vicinity of Heath Mill one-by-one.
Heath Mill was one of 2 mills in Pirbright, both of which were situated on the Hodge Brook. The other mill (near the Manor House) was known as Upper Mill, whilst Heath Mill was known both as Lower Mill (until the 1880’s) and Heath Mill.
The early days (to 1802)
We’ll start by mapping out the early history of the mill. The records start in 1516, but the mill may well predate this. These early records are occasionally confusing, so we have simplified a little...
1516: "Hethe myll" together with "a little island and a croft of island adjacent" is recorded (copied from the Listed Building particulars, though we don’t know the original source)
1528-74: George Colyar holds “a water mill called Hethe Myll with a little island and a croft of land adjacent called Milcroft, formerly John Colyar’s”
1657: Ann Hynde (aged 6) inherited from her late grandfather, John Hynde, “one water mill called Heath Mill, with one isleand (sic) and one croft of land adjoining, 3 acres”. Alo some adjoining land called Sarteland (which in later formed part of the overall Heath Mill property) .
1675: Heath Mill and Sarteland were owned by Henry and Ann Rober. Ann was Ann Hynde (refer above), so there was no real change in ownership here.
1731: Henry Rober died and Heath Mill passed to his son, also called Henry.
1736: Henry Rober became bankrupt! Heath Mill and Sarteland were purchased by Thomas Woods.
1759: Thomas Woods died and Heath Mill passed to his son, Thomas Woods II.
1768: It appears on Rocque’s map as “Heath Mill”.
1766: Thomas Woods II died and Heath Mill passed to his son, Thomas Woods III. In 1777, he paid 17 shillings Poor Rate for the Mill for the half year, plus 9 shillings for Tods and another shilling for a field rented from John Linnard, probably at Gander Hill (now The Fox pub).
1801: Thomas Woods III died and Heath Mill passed to his son, Thomas Woods IV. (Our apologies that this all seems a little repetitive).
1802-04: James Honer II (we will call him this to distinguish him from his father James, who had died in 1789) purchased Heath Mill from Thomas Woods IV for £1,300.
1822: James Honer II sold the mill to his son, James Honer III for £1,400. An unusual sort of transaction, but presumably it worked for both parties.
1837: James Honer II died (this did not alter the ownership of the mill).
1861: James Honer III died.
There’s not a lot we know about these people up to 1820. We do know that Thomas Woods IV was the miller at Upper Mill (what we now call Pirbright Mill) at the time, and it seems likely that his antecedents had been as well.
The Honer years (c1802 – 1869)
We will pick up the story in more detail from 1802. Why did Thomas Woods IV dispose of Heath Mill? Perhaps he found the work of running 2 mills a mile away from each other was too much like hard work. Perhaps he wanted some extra cash for some reason. Or perhaps he thought the business at Heath Mill was fundamentally not very profitable (see below – John Reville). Anyway, he did dispose of it – to James Honer II, so let’s take a look at him.
James Honer II had been born in 1760, son of James Honer I and Ann (nee Huntingford). James I had been born in 1721 at Horsell, but married at Pirbright in 1758, so we presume that he had moved to Pirbright at some time in the mid 1700’s. Ann was the daughter of Richard Huntingford, a wealthy landowner in Worplesdon, who lived at Nightingale Cottage in Rickford. Richard Huntingford’s will makes an interesting start: “I give and bequeath to my son Richard Huntingford one shilling and no more in the month after my decease, I having given him divers sums of money before and my lands in Pirbright”. Just to make it clear, he specifies that the remainder of his estate should be “equally divided between all my children, except my son Richard Huntingford”. A trace of bad feeling between father and eldest son perhaps?
By the late 1700’s James Honer I was living near Pirbright Green. He died in 1789. His will is long (at the time some lawyers were paid according to the number of words they wrote!) and difficult to read, but it is clear that James I was a wealthy man, with a fair amount of property in Pirbright, which he distributed amongst his 3 sons.
James II, being the eldest child, probably benefited the most. One property which he inherited was Hoad’s Fields, which was near Heath Mill. James II also inherited his father’s work ethic and c1802 acquired further property – Heath Mill, which he amalgamated with the adjacent Hoad’s Fields, to enlarge the mill’s grounds from 16 acres to 24 acres.
He had married Ann Jelly, from Worplesdon, in 1784, and they produced 11 children (one of whom was James III). In 1815/16 James II supplied the Pirbright Overseers of the Poor with flour. Below is part of his signed bill. It may have only been £5, but this would be equivalent to some £300 today.
For some reason, James II sold Heath Mill to James III (who was then aged 31) in 1822. We can’t fathom the reason for this transaction, although it did net James II a small profit. Perhaps James II, having reached the age of 62, thought it best to hand the reins over to the younger generation. James II died in 1837 aged 77 followed by Ann in 1839 also aged 77.
James III had married Charlotte (nee Grove), who was from Woking, in 1815, and they had 5 children. Charlotte died in 1829, aged only 32 and James remarried Elizabeth Stevens (also from Woking) in 1834. He continued to operate the mill for the next 27 years until his death in 1861. It also looks as though he demolished his parents’ house shortly after their death and rebuilt the current-day Heath Mill House in its place (see below) c1840.
Until 1861, the owners of the mill (ie the Woods and Honer dynasties) had all been millers, and so there had been no problems with succession. But in 1861, after the death of James Honer III, none of his 3 surviving children – not even James IV - seemed to want to continue in the family profession, and had soon moved away from the area. The name Honer had disappeared from Pirbright for good.
Both James’s (I and II) and their wives (Ann and Charlotte) are buried in Pirbright churchyard (see photos of headstones below).
In 1861, the children of James III put the mill up for auction (as James II’s will had instructed). The auction must have failed, as they held another auction in 1862. This second auction must have also failed, as the children subsequently decided to retain the mill for a few years as an investment.
We do not know the identity of the miller immediately following James IV’s death in 1861, though from 1864 the mill was operated by John Reville, a farmer from Cambridgeshire. But in 1869 (at the age of 66) Mr Reville became bankrupt, citing as reasons “badness of trade and bad debts”. As an aside, having 10 children might not have helped him much (10% of his outstanding debt was attributable to one of his sons). He moved to Hillingdon and in 1871 was a Beerhouse keeper. He died in 1879 – all rather sad, really.
This episode led the Honer children to a decision to sell Heath Mill, and that is what they did in 1869. An ad for the auction, together with a plan and posters are shown below, and we can see some interesting details:
The cutting mentions a “Newly-erected brick and slate dwelling house”. This is Heath Mill House, suggesting that it had not long been built by 1869 (we estimate c1840 – see above)
The cutting also mentions a Miller’s Cottage. This is Millstream Cottage (see below).
All of the fields shown on the plan can be recognised today, with few, if any, changes to the boundaries.
The millpond has completely disappeared. This occurred in the 1960’s, after the mill had stopped operations.
The estate being sold was the entire Heath Mill estate, except for the 7 acres of Hoad’s Fields, which was sold separately (though it was bought by the same purchaser).
Heath Mill House was described as a 5-bedroom house with not just 1 cellar, but 2!
As well as the mill and Heath Mill House, the estate included Millstream Cottage (No 122 on the plan – see below), which at the time was described as a 2-bedroom cottage.
The Sherman years (1869 – 1917)
The auction was won by John Frost Sherman (with the help of a mortgage). He had been born in Lower Street, Shere in 1833, son of a miller (also called John, who had 14 children from 3 wives). John Frost Sherman was his eldest son (Frost being the maiden name of his mother). He followed his father in becoming a miller, and probably took over the family business at Netley Mill, Shere when his father died in 1857. He later built a gardener’s cottage for Waldens (now Avila) in Malthouse Lane, and named it Netley Bungalow as a memory of his earlier life. Alas, the name of Netley Bunglalow has changed 3 times since, and it is now called Annin’s Cottage.
2 years later he married Sarah Tune, from Lincolnshire. They had 4 children in the 1860’s and then John took the decision to bid for Heath Mill – and won the auction. Although the auction excluded Hoad’s Fields, John managed to buy these from the Honers as well, thus restoring Heath Mill back to its 24 acres.
An early decision of the Shermans was to revert to the original name of Heath Mill, which may have given it more of its own identity, away from its senior brother, Upper Mill in Pirbright. It was an early sign of Mr Sherman’s ambitions for the mill, which later manifested themselves in terms of property buying and housebuilding.
John and Sarah had 2 further children, but only one of their 6 children followed their father into the family business – Thomas William Sherman (born in Shere in 1865). Thomas ran the mill for a while (see below) and then moved to Bullswater Lodge, where he ran Bullswater Farm.
John Sherman clearly liked the area, as he stayed for the rest of his life, living initially at Heath Mill House. Here is a summary of some of his achievements and interests:
Purchased various pieces of land adjoining Heath Mill Lane and Malthouse Lane
Built Heath Cottage, 2 properties on Heath Mill Lane, and 5 properties in Malthouse Lane
Purchased 2 properties at Hook Heath and built a further property at Goal Road
Represented Pirbright on the Guildford Board of Guardians, the Highway Board, and the Rural District Council
Member of the Pirbright School Board
Member of the local branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters and the Ripley and Knaphill Hunt
What sort of person was he? Well, judging by some of the reports of committee meetings printed in the local newspapers, John was not shy in speaking on local matters. One of his favourite themes was insisting that the various boards on which he sat sought competitive tenders for major works. It was surprising how frequently this was disagreed with by other board members (I wonder why...). He was also not afraid to pick a (verbal) fight with established members of the local community, which included at times the owner of Pirbright Manor, the minister of the Providence Chapel, the local schoolmaster and the Pirbright vicar. He was not afraid to go to the law courts if he thought someone had not played fair in doing business with him.
One of the newspaper reports mentions his “well-known penetration and readiness for action”. All this leads to the impression that he was an energetic man with a strong commercial instinct, who was forceful in putting his views across, and not afraid to argue his points. All in all, a pretty formidable customer.
c1892 he retired from milling at Heath Mill and moved from Heath Mill House to Pine House in School Lane. He retained ownership of the mill and initially his son, Thomas, carried on the job of running the mill. In 1895 a new mill wheel was installed. It is still there (though it has not turned for many a year) and the maker’s inscription can be clearly seen on the penstock (input sluice): “Weyman & Hitchcock 1895”. Here is a fairly recent photo of it.
An early photo of Heath Mill, taken from the north west is shown below. The millpond in the foreground is very obvious, as is the distinctive roof shape of Heath Mill. Less obvious is the sign belonging to The Fox pub (centre right). An ad for Weyman & Co (the predecessor company to Weyman & Hitchcock) from 1891 is also shown below.
Heath Mill was one of 2 mills in Pirbright, both of which were situated on the Hodge Brook.
Heath Mill was one of 2 mills in Pirbright, both of which were situated on the Hodge Brook.
But in 1899, Thomas decided to call it a day at the mill. Part of the reason for Thomas leaving Heath Mill may have been the unfortunate incident 2 years earlier, when his wife, Anne, had attempted to commit suicide. She had been depressed, and Thomas had to commit to the court that he would see that it did not happen again. With 5 young children this must have been a very difficult time for the family.
After Thomas’s departure to Bullswater Farm in 1899, the running of the mill (and the occupation of Heath Mill House) was rented out to a tenant miller for the first time since the 1500’s and probably the first time ever, thus ending the series of families – the Woods’s, Honers and Shermans – who had operated the mill for the previous 140 years.
The first tenant miller in 1899 was 39 year-old Horace Chaplin. But in April 1900 disaster struck in the form of a fire which destroyed the mill. The press report below gives the details. Just over a year later John Sherman was sued by Horace for not starting to rebuild the mill until nearly a year after the fire, despite having already received the insurance money. Mr Chaplin was awarded 50 guineas for loss of profits. This was a rare case of John Sherman losing an argument.
The mill was rebuilt by John Sherman, but he was not to know that it would be one of the last – if not the last – watermill to be built in Surrey. Horace and John must have made their peace, as Horace continued to run Heath Mill (and live at Heath Mill House) until 1905.
The next miller, Harry Hamlin from Lingfield, had had a receiving order (for bankruptcy) against him in 1902. However he had no better luck at Heath Mill, where he was again made bankrupt in 1906, claiming that “the business was not as good as it was represented to be and that the old tenant had started in business close by with the next mill. All the trade was being taken away”. He had been trading as an undischarged bankrupt without telling his creditors, which was (and is) illegal. In 1911 he was running a restaurant in Windsor. We hope he had better luck with this venture.
Howard Kent was the resident miller 1909-12, but let’s return to the Shermans for a while.
In retirement John reduced his committee activities and embarked on a new career as property developer, building several new properties, as noted above. By 1908 he had left Pine House to live at Heath Cottage.
John Frost Sherman died at Heath Cottage on 23 December 1917, aged 84. The local newspaper described him as “one of the oldest and best known residents of the district”. He is buried in Pirbright churchyard. A photo of his headstone is shown below. He left £7,700 (worth over £500,000 today, so a tidy sum), but additionally he left a significant amount of property which he had acquired over the years.
John’s wife, Sarah moved in with her daughter Isabella in Guildford and died there 3 years later in 1920, also aged 84.
What became of the Sherman children? The eldest, John Peter, died aged only 15 in 1875, shortly after the Shermans moved to Heath Mill. The next 2 children, Sarah (born 1861) and Isabella (born 1863), married a pair of brothers named Force from Devon. Sarah’s husband, Arthur Force, was 9 years older than Sarah and was a draper’s assistant. The family moved to Southsea, where their 1911 census return makes interesting reading: Sarah is (unusually at the time) named as Head of the household, and she has scrawled some comments blatantly across the form, finishing with the words “Does not appeal to us ... (illegible) matter or form”. A touch of the Sherman confrontational nature towards authority perhaps? Arthur Force died in 1913 aged only 58, and Sarah died in 1926, aged 65. Sarah’s sister, Isabella and her husband William Force moved to Plymouth, where William ran a grocer’s shop. After WW1 (and possibly as a result of John Sherman’s death) they returned to Margaret Road in Guildford, just off the Woodbridge Road. William died in 1931 and Isabella in 1947, aged 84 – the last surviving Sherman child of John and Sarah.
The fourth Sherman child, Thomas, stayed in the area, and we have already mentioned his work at Heath Mill until 1899. After this he moved to Bullswater Farm, and we cover the rest of his life there. He died in 1920, aged only 55, much respected according to local newspaper reports. The fifth child, George, died in infancy. The youngest child, Arthur (born 1873) was a butcher in the High Street, Bramley. He, his wife May and their son moved to Petersfield in 1925 and Arthur died soon after in 1929.
The Bailey years (1913 – 1953)
As we said above, Howard Kent was the miller between 1911 and 1912, possibly followed by a Harry Pipe. But c1913 James Bailey took over the mill and this marked an upturn in the mill’s fortunes. Below is one of his first adverts, placed in February 1914.
James Bailey was born in 1875 in Dorset, the son of a journeyman miller. He moved around the country a little in his youth, so was probably a journeyman miller like his father. In 1899, he married Annie (nee Francis, also born in 1875, in Sussex), at the delightfully-named Warblington in Hampshire, where he was a foreman miller. Within 11 years they had produced 3 sons, Reg (born 1902 at Emsworth, near Warblington), Charlie (born 1909 at Byfleet) and Ernest (“Dick”, born 1910, also at Byfleet). The onset of a family may have led them to settle down, firstly for a few years in Byfleet, as an employee, but finally, in Pirbright at Heath Mill, running his own business.
James, Annie and their family initially (c1913-18) lived in Heath Mill House (see below). But after John Sherman’s death in 1917, the Sherman family sold Heath Mill House. This marked the end of the close connection between Heath Mill and the house opposite that had lasted for hundreds of years. James and Annie must have thought hard about whether to buy the property in which they had been living, but they had other ideas....
Instead of buying Heath Mill House, James bought Nos 11 and 12 Pirbright Cottages in 1919, and by 1921 they had moved into No 12, while renting out No 11 to the Thompson family. At roughly the same time James also bought (from the Sherman estate) Heath Mill (with the help of a hefty mortgage).
So James ended up with the mill and a nearby place to live, even if it involved a daily trudge up and down Heath Mill Lane. This sounds like a great situation for a hard-working miller like James. 2 early photos of the Bailey family at Heath Mill are shown below.
Judging by the ages of the boys, the photo on the left dates from c1920, while the other one was taken 4 or 5 years later. The left hand photo was taken with Heath Mill House behind the group (L to R: James, Reg, Dick, Charlie, Annie). The part of Heath Mill House in view has barely changed since then – even the iron railings are still there today.
The right hand photo shows the same group (with 2 other unidentified people) standing in front of the mill itself. The 2 windows at the top of the building can still be seen today, almost exactly the same, but everything else has changed. The building on the right has been demolished, and an extension built behind where it stood. Not surprisingly the facade of the mill has changed considerably. It now looks like a house, not a mill. Unfortunately the mill wheel itself is hidden behind the car on the left. Further photos of the Bailey family are shown in the section on No 12, Pirbright Cottages and even more on the page devoted to the Bailey Family.
In case you were wondering about the signs on the photos, Melox Marvels was a brand of dog biscuits, long since discontinued. Thorleys Food originated in the 1850’s and their products were foods for cattle and pigs. The Thorley factory was at Kings Cross and then on the River Thames at Wandsworth. A more interesting point – we can see that James decided to state prominently on the side of his van that his mill was at Worplesdon (although it wasn’t – it was very firmly in the parish of Pirbright). Perhaps he wanted to align himself in peoples’ minds with the nearby Rickford Mill (which definitely was in Worplesdon).
James was an early user of the telephone, and had acquired the number Worplesdon 64 by 1924 (though not as early as others – he did not appear in the 1920 directory). An unusual newspaper article from 1927 highlighting one of James’s skills is reproduced below.
As one would expect, James Bailey was a hard working man. One of the local residents, Dennis Tubb from Malthouse Lane, remembers him as follows:
“Yes, I remember Mr Bailey. He certainly made me work for my money. He’d go upstairs to empty the sacks into the bins and I’d have the job of hooking them on to the hoist. It weren’t so bad with the first few, but then they’d be further away & they were heavy old sacks & I had a sack truck & I were only a little lad & he’d be shouting down for me to get a move on. He showed me the bins once & warned me not to fall in, or I’d end up suffocated. I’d only get threepence, and it was hard-earned, I can tell you.”
Another, more cheerful, memory of James Bailey comes from Bill Pannell, who lived at No 11, Pirbright Cottages:
“I used to work for Old Miller Bailey when the place was a going concern. He used to keep a drop of Scotch stashed away and many an evening he would call me up to the third floor for a nip. He claimed it was the only thing that settled the flour dust.”
Bill Pannell was a regular face at the mill, and we have heard stories of how Reg and Dick Bailey frequently popped down to No 11 for one of Adele Pannell’s jam tarts! The 3 Bailey boys (Reg, Charlie and Dick) continued to work at the mill, and there are several photos of them on the Bailey family page. Judging by the photos they were a cheery lot.
But by the end of the 1930’s James was in his mid-60’s and the job of a miller was hard work, so it is not surprising that James eventually James eventually decided to sell the mill. In 1937 he put it up for sale by auction (the ad is reproduced below).
We think that the buyer was one Heinrich Haendler. Heinrich (born 1893) was a German citizen, whose family had been living in Upper Silesia, in a town called Zabrze (renamed Hindenburg by the Germans in 1915). Zabrze was a small town near Katowice in what since 1945 is southern Poland (but what pre-1914 was Prussia and in the 1930’s was part of Germany). In the late 1930’s the Haendlers left Germany to come to the UK. Heinrich’s father’s first name was Eugen. His middle name (Israel) gives a clue why his family may have made the decision to leave Germany at this particular time.
When the Haendler family first arrived in England c1937, they lived at Dapdune Crescent in Guildford. Heinrich was working as a poultry farmer and smallholder with his wife Herta (born 1897) and his father (born 1863). But Heinrich had been a miller by trade in Upper Silesia, and the family clearly managed to leave Germany with a reasonable amount of money. So it is not surprising that Heinrich chose to buy Heath Mill when it appeared for sale by auction in 1937. In due course, they built another house (now called Braemar) on the property. We have covered the Haendlers’ lives in more detail in the section dealing with Braemar.
Heinrich and Herta decided to let out the mill to a tenant miller. During WW2 the miller was a Harry Gray Jones who is remembered for wearing a fedora hat at work. The business had evidently changed in nature, and, in an effort to reflect this change, its name had become a bit of a tongue twister: “Heath (Health) Mill”. Allegedly the mill supplied wholemeal flour to Queen Mary, the wife of the late King George V.
Anthony Boyd (the son of Eric and Pamela Boyd in Heath Mill House – refer section below) worked for Harry at the mill. He recalls that, after bagging up, the bags of grain were taken to Moor’s Stores at Fox Corner, and then despatched to their final destinations.
Below is an advert for the tongue twister mill, pushing ideas that today seem relatively modern, yet it appeared a full 80 years ago in 1942. The advert also shows (at the foot) that James Bailey had a retail outlet right in the centre of Woking. Possibly this was designed to give one of his sons an opportunity to set up his own business.
But water mills had been gradually disappearing from the English countryside during the 20th century, and (as noted by J Hillier in his 1951 book “Old Surrey Water Mills”) this trend was accelerating. By 1946 James had set up J Bailey Corn Merchants, based at Malthouse Corn Stores on the Bagshot Road, and many local residents remembered buying their chicken feed there. The stores continued long after James’s death in 1953, and carried his name, until the mid-1960’s, as shown by the photo below.
We referred to Hillier’s book above, so let’s see what he wrote about Heath Mill. “It is a pity that Heath Mill which should be of a half-timbered rusticity to match the surroundings, is a very formal little brick-and-slated mill with no more pretensions to architecture than a sentry-box.” He goes on to acknowledge the fire in 1900, but clearly he did not approve of John Sherman’s rebuilding work. He continues that the “old overshoot trough had survived the fire and rebuilding. Most uncommonly it bears the maker’s name, James Horner, 1832.” Without wishing to contradict the learned Mr Hillier, this is surely James Honer II, who was the miller in 1832.
Derek Stidder in his 1990 book “The Water Mills of Surrey (Craft and Industry)” was kinder than Mr Hillier. He wrote that “the yellow-coloured brick offsets the harshness of the building line quite nicely.”
James Bailey had probably sold the mill by the time of Mr Hillier’s research (he would have been in his early 70’s), but was still working as the stone dresser (ie the skilled person who kept the stones in good shape). Mr Hillier also noted that Heath Mill produced whole-wheat flour (“husk an’ all” as James Bailey put it), which was rare. Some of the Heath Mill flour was “sent to all parts and even to Scotland”, whatever that implies. Wholewheat flour? Heath Mill was ahead of its time by at least 30 years, and fully justifying the name Heath (Health) Mill.
By 1948, the Haendlers took the decision to sell the mill and also Barbara’s Cottage (now Braemar) next door on Heath Mill Lane. We are fortunate to have a copy of the sale particulars. Harry Gray Jones was still the miller and he had a tenancy until 1950. The mill included 8 acres of grazing land (the fields to the north-west of the mill, which had been let to Henry Alles of Blanket Mill Farm in Rickford.
The post-Bailey years (1953 – date)
So by the early 1950’s it seems that the Baileys had finished their association with Heath Mill. We assume that Harry Gray Jones saw out his lease to keep the mill going until 1950, and possibly kept it going until c1956. Unfortunately Queen Mary died in 1953, which would not have helped the mill’s trade.
Derek Stidder claims that the mill ceased operations in 1956, but after that we don’t know what happened to it. Who owned the mill during the 1950’s? It is quite possible that no-one bought the mill from the Baileys in their 1948 sale, and so the mill itself was left untended after 1956. The next things we know about the mill were in 1959, but first, let’s look at what happened to the various members of the Bailey family at this time.
James Bailey had died in 1953, and at that time Reg, Charlie and Dick were still living with their parents at 12 Pirbright Cottages. Charlie was the first to move out of 12, Pirbright Cottages. In 1954 he married Violet (“Nance”) Gosden (born in 1918, who was working behind the bar at The Cricketers on Pirbright Green. [We don’t think that Nance was related to Eric Gosden, who became the landlord of The Fox c1946. Eric’s family came from Reading, and he only moved to Pirbright c1946.] By 1957 Charlie and Nance had moved to Red Brae in Berry Lane, where they stayed for a few years until c1962. Below is a photo of Charlie and Nance in later years.
c1953 Annie, Reg and Dick moved into The Bungalow, Malthouse Corn Stores on the Bagshot Road. The Corn Stores themselves had been owned by James Bailey for some years, so it was a natural move to use the land behind to build a dwelling on, and move into this. Below is a photo of the Bailey family (including James) in front of The Bungalow.
Annie died of a fall in a Guidford nursing home in 1960, and the 2 remaining brothers moved out soon afterwards.
By 1967, Reg was still living at the bungalow (now renamed Openview), with the phone no Worplesdon 64 (the same number that James had at Heath Mill back in the 1920’s). Reg died in Aldershot in 1974. Charlie died in 1988, living at Westfield Avenue in Woking. He and Nance had no children. Dick died in Walton in 1986. As far as we know neither Reg nor Dick married.
Now, back to Heath Mill. One drizzly November afternoon in 1959, Eric and Alice Cuming arrived for a viewing. Eric (who told his story to a local magazine) wrote: “Alice and I looked at each other, and then at this derelict old dump, and simultaneously we both said “Let’s have it". That night I lay awake thinking I must be mad.” But, mad or not, they went ahead and bought it anyway.
The mill needed a new roof, there was water in the foundations, rising damp, no drains, several tons of old stones and bits of rusting machinery. Eric was a probation officer aged 53, with little cash, and he realised that he and Alice would have to do most of the renovation work themselves. Eric had been brought up in London, but the couple had met and married in Canada in the 1930’s (Alice was Canadian, having been born in Alberta in 1908).
The first thing they did was to remove much of the mill machinery – some to Surrey University, and some to Reading Museum – to create space. Then they set about the house and the “swamp” (which involved converting the old millpond into a garden). They were helped a great deal by Bill Pannell, aged 60 – his wife Adele was mentioned earlier on this page for the quality of her jam tarts - who had wandered up from his house (11, Pirbright Cottages) one day, and stayed helping out for the next 12 years.
Within a year of buying the mill, Eric and Alice had moved in – having just one room, one light and a cold water tap. Eric’s mother then turned up, announcing that she had sold her house, and was coming to live with them. I’m not sure how welcoming Eric and Alice would have been.... Anyway, mother or not, the renovation work continued for at least 8 of the 12 years during which the Cumings lived there.
Having made the mill habitable, Eric and Alice then sold the renovated Heath Mill in 1971. They bought a motorised caravan, and after driving around Europe and the Far East, they settled down in New Zealand, living near Auckland until Eric’s death in 1978.
By 1973 Kevin and Joan Memery had bought the mill and they stayed there until at least 1984. The Memerys had been living in Eltham, and the peace and quiet of Heath Mill must have been quite a change for them. They were very wary about the risk of flooding, which makes it seem odd that they chose to buy a house right next to a millstream....
By 2005 Dr and Mrs Rutter and their family lived at the mill, moving out in the mid-2010’s. We are lucky to have the estate agent’s particulars and photos of the property (which comprised 5.5 acres) from 2003, and we have shown 2 of their pictures below. The photo of the garden shows what a good job Alice had done 35 years previously in draining the old millpond.
Today the mill is a restful place. Hearing the sound of water rushing under the bridge and looking at the old mill wheel, it’s easy to let one’s mind drift off and imagine the working days of the mill, with regular horse-drawn traffic coming in and out in the muddy yard, and James Bailey and John Sherman barking out orders to their teams. Less easy is to try to imagine how the mill would have been 500 years ago.
Heath Mill House
Heath Mill House is a Grade II listed building. The Listing Particulars (shown at the end of this section) date the house as the 1830’s, and who are we to argue with this? However there was already a house at that location, as shown on the 1807 map, and we can assume that there was some sort of dwelling there ever since the mill itself was built (c1516 or earlier). We can also assume that the owner/occupant of the house at any time was also the miller and his family. We have listed the millers in the section on Heath Mill (above).
We will pick up the story in the 1830’s when the “new” house was built. The house itself, built in the Georgian style, would have been mightily impressive for the area at the time. The person who had it built and was its first owner was probably James Honer III, the son of James Honer II, who had bought Lower Mill back in 1807. The Honer history is detailed in the section on Heath Mill (above), so we will not repeat it here, but pick out relevant bits.
In 1829 James III’s first wife, Charlotte had died, aged only 32. James III remarried in 1834, to Elizabeth Stevens (who was 20 years younger than him), and perhaps the new house was built by James II as some sort of present to his second wife? This would be a romantic gesture, but seems rather far-fetched, as his parents would have been living in the old house, aged in their 70’s, and would have been none too pleased with being uprooted from their home while a new house was built.
James II died a few years later in 1837, and his wife, Ann, followed in 1839, so it is more likely that the new house was built by James II following his parents’ deaths. We will probably never know for sure unless the deeds offer some clarification.
In 1841 James III was living at the new house with his second wife, Elizabeth, their 2 children from his first marriage, and a couple of servants. One of the servants, the 15-year-old Ann Pantling, is an interesting girl. A lifelong spinster spent in service, she scrimped and saved all her life (she died in 1891) to set up a charity in Pirbright for seven old people in the winter months, which, although amalgamated with two others and decimated by inflation, still exists today.
The Tithe Apportionment in 1841 shows that, besides the Mill, Heath Mill House, Millstream Cottage and the surrounding land, James Honer III also owned East End Cottages in Hogsty (now Chapel) Lane and Briar and Pear Tree cottages (now Goose Green Cottage) on the Green. In total he held 24 acres.
The family stayed there until James died in 1861 at the age of 70. Immediately following his father’s death in 1861, Young James (ie James IV) was still living at the house, and he probably stayed there - in spite of efforts to auction the property off in 1861 & 1862 - until the family’s decision to sell the mill and its property finally in 1869.
The successful bidder at the auction was John Frost Sherman, a miller from Shere, and so began a new chapter in the history of Lower Mill. We have described his history and his life in the section on Heath Mill (above).
The Shermans lived in Heath Mill House until 1899, but, with his son Thomas wanting to leave the business, John Sherman invited tenant millers in to run the mill, and threw in Heath Mill House as part of the deal, which would have been quite a nice perk of the job, really. These tenant millers are discussed in the Heath Mill section above.
One intriguing resident at Heath Mill House was Harris Caplan in 1909. He may have been a 58-year old Russian immigrant who described himself as a carpenter or a boot maker. Harris Caplan (or Aron Kaplin as he was originally named) and his wife Rebecca were 2 of the 2 million Russian jews who left their mother country at the end of the 19th century in response to persecution. They lived in Brick Lane (East London) in 1901 along with several other Russian immigrants. By 1911 Harris (now widowed) was living at Mile End with his 3 children. It seems decidedly odd that he should have been living at Heath Mill House in 1909, but there do not seem to be any other candidates. The advert below placed in the local newspaper makes it even odder. Where would a recent Russian immigrant have acquired such fine furniture and would he really have used a 4-wheel phaeton (which is a sporty riding carriage)? A bit of a mystery which we will probably never unravel.
In 1915, the tenant miller, Harry Pipe, placed an ad to sell the stock and appliances of “Worplesdon Poultry Farm” at Heath Mill House, on account of Mr Pipe leaving the neighbourhood. The items included 15 poultry houses and 450 animals, so it was a sizeable (and probably rather noisy) business. A cow and 3 sows were thrown in for good measure.
But James Bailey’s arrival as the tenant miller c1913, shortly followed by John Sherman’s death in 1917 changed things. The Baileys stayed at Heath Mill House until 1921, when they bought Nos 11 & 12, Pirbright Cottages and moved into No 12. The Sherman family sold Heath Mill House after John’s death, which marked the end of the close connection which had been in existence for over 400 years between Heath Mill and the house opposite. A photo of the house (with the Baileys standing outside) is shown below.
By 1925 Thomas and Ada Cottington had purchased the house (including land of 6.5 acres, which was the large field on the south-east side of the house). The Cottingtons had previously been living in Old Woking High Street.
Thomas Cottington was born in Cobham in 1874, the son of a carpenter. In 1899 he married Ada Mundy, from Wiltshire, the daughter of a shepherd. Thomas must have had considerable drive and energy, as by 1911 he was running his own cab business in Old Woking, and just 14 years later the family were able to buy (we think) a large house: Heath Mill House. They had to suffer immense personal tragedies however: Ada bore twins in 1908, but neither survived more than 4 weeks. Then in 1920, their second child, George, died aged just 17, leaving just one surviving child, Milly (born in 1899). Milly later married Maurice Verheys, and the couple lived in Heath Mill House with Milly’s parents for a few years.
By 1935 the Cottingtons had moved to Weston Road in Guildford. Today this sits very close to the elevated A3, but back in 1935 it would have been relatively quiet, and not far from the river. Ada died in 1949, and Thomas in 1951. In 1935 Heath Mill House was put up for sale by the Cottingtons (refer newspaper ad below).
We are not sure who bought the house at this auction. But the house was occupied (presumably as tenants) by Eric and Pamela Boyd in 1935, the beginning of a long period of residence by the Boyd family. We don’t know if it was coincidence or not, but both Eric and Pamela (nee Wood) were born in India (in 1901 and 1909 respectively). It may well be that their fathers were army officers and knew each other. Or (more likely we think) it could just be coincidence. Eric’s father died in South Africa in 1913, and so Eric and his mother returned to England, living briefly at The Elms in Rickford in the mid-1920’s. Eric had a Royal Aero Club certificate in 1929, so at that time he may have been with the RAF.
Eric and Pamela were married on the Isle of Wight in 1929 and moved to Heath Mill House in 1936 (with Pamela’s widowed mother). By 1937, Eric was a ‘Motor Company Branch Manager’, and clearly the family were reasonably well off. Eric and Pamela had 2 children, one of whom, Halcyon (born 1939), was to live in Heath Mill House for a long while.
Pamela was a keen horsewoman. She was field master of the local hunt In the 1940’s and 1950’s. The hunt would meet on the lawn of Heath Mill House under the leadership of a Mr Goschen (probably Geoffrey Goschen, who lived in Woking).
Halcyon’s elder brother, Anthony, remembers attending a kindergarten run by a Miss Gardener, near where the mini-roundabout at the south end of Pirbright Village is today. He also remembers fishing as a child, in the Hoe Stream (at Dell Quay, which was George and Ellen Moor’s house), Stanford Brook, and at Hockford Farm. Over the next few years, he (unsurprisingly) developed a friendship with the young girl next door at Braemar, Barbara Haendler. We will tell the story of how this friendship developed in the section dealing with Braemar. It’s well worth reading!
In 1940 Eric was aboard the ship, RMS Lancastria when it was sunk by German airplanes in the English Channel. It is thought that between 4,000 and 7,000 people died during the sinking — the largest single-ship loss of life in British maritime history. The ship had sailed to France to evacuate British troops and civilians. Unfortunately it was on its return journey to England, and hence fully laden. One small positive aspect was that there were nearly 2,500 survivors (which included Eric), but it remains a huge tragedy, one which the British government refused to announce at first. A full description of the tragedy is provided at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Lancastria
The Boyds used a german nanny during the war. She was found to be sending secret information back to Germany and was arrested. Halcyon remembered hearing the noise of the bomb dropped on the heath a few hundred yards away during WW2.
In 1945 the Boyds bought Heath Mill House from the people who had purchased it in 1935. Halcyon soon developed her mother’s love of horses and rode regularly. Below we have shown a photo of Halcyon in mid-jump.
During the 1950’s, Pamela and Eric threw several parties at Heath Mill House. Guests would include John and Phyllis Moir (John was the local GP), Neville and Stella Girardot (who lived at Hockford Farmhouse), the Rathbones, who lived on the Bagshot Road), Ben and Marguerite Suter (who lived in Malthouse Lane), and the de Carterets from Heather Lodge.
Halcyon married Stewart Broadwood in 1958. Stewart had the distinction of being one of several great-great-great grandchildren of John Broadwood, who had founded Broadwood pianos. The oldest piano company in the world, its instruments have been played by Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Beethoven and Liszt, amongst others. That is a heck of a pedigree. Here’s a pretty picture: It’s Queen Victoria’s Broadwood piano. Next to it is a photo of Halcyon around the time of her wedding.
Stewart and Halcyon moved into nearby Rickford Cottage (which they owned), had 2 children, and were married for 19 years. In 1978 Stewart moved out of Rickford Cottage, leaving Halcyon with the 2 children, and moved into a house in Send with Shirley Helm. He subsequently married Shirley in 1980, but their marriage didn’t last. After leaving Shirley, Stewart rented a property in the village of Crondall near Farnham. It was here that he met Pauline Shannon (nee Taylor), whom he married in 1983. Stewart died in 2011.
Halcyon returned to Heath Mill House sometime between 1980-1982 after selling Rickford Cottage to help care for her elderly parents. Eric died in 1982 and Pamela in 1987. One of Halcyon’s children moved to Poole, while the other worked away from home and only stayed sporadically at Heath Mill House before getting married in 1983 and moving to Shalford.
Halcyon converted the land behind the house into a market garden (which she named “Horti Halcyon”) and was an early adopter of polytunnels. We have shown 2 photos of Halcyon at work below.
But in later years the garden fell into disuse. A picture of Heath Mill House at this time is shown below. c2008 the business was closed due to the impact of Foot and mouth disease, the 2008 financial crash and poor health.
Halcyon died in 2019 and so (we initially thought) ended over 80 years of ownership of Heath Mill House by the Boyd family. Well, no actually. One of the 2 new owners learned only when buying the house in 2021 that his grandfather (the son of Eric and Pamela Boyd, ie Halcyon’s brother Anthony) had been brought up there in the 1940s and 1950s. What a coincidence - the sort of thing one normally only encounters in films. And to add to it, Anthony Boyd had married (in 1960) Barbara Haendler, who lived next door at Braemar. The original name of Braemar was Barbara’s Cottage (named after her). We have provided more detail on this story in the section dealing with Braemar.
So ownership of Heath Mill House by the Boyd family continues, heading now towards its 90th year. A photo of the house c2019 is shown below. Next to it is a recent view from the back of the house, looking towards Millstream House (refer section below).
[These are the Grade II Listing Particulars for Heath Mill House:
Mill house, now house. Early C19, probably built in 1830s and certainly occupied by 1841 Census. Built of red brick with hipped slate roof and two end brick chimneystacks flush with the rear elevation. Two storeys and basement with three windows to front and rear.
EXTERIOR: North or entrance front has brickwork in Flemish bond and stone plinth. 16-pane sashes and central doorcase with cornice and pilasters with incised acanthus leaf decoration, six fielded panelled door and two steps. All the other elevations have Sussex bond brickwork. The south or rear elevation has three 12-pane sashes, one similar window to ground floor right and a central doorcase with cornice, pilasters and the upper part is glazed with marginal glazing bars. The east elevation has one cambered casement on each floor and a blank window opening with tiled pattern provided for architectural effect. The west elevation has one casement, the ground floor window a C20 replacement and cambered doorcase with half-glazed door.
INTERIOR: Original staircase with stick balusters and column newel post and a number of six-panelled doors. The ground floor right hand room retains the original moulded cornice and an early C19 wooden fireplace with pilasters and cast iron firegrate. The front left side room has a C19 marble fireplace with cast iron firegrate and tiled surround and side cupboards. The rear rooms were service rooms with plainer plank doors. The rear left room has a wooden mantelpiece, later converted to a cupboard, and brick tiled floor with cat and kitten pawmarks. The kitchen to rear right retains the cambered opening which originally held a range, bacon loft in the chimney including hooks for holding the sides of bacon, stone flagged floor and has an internal partition wall with thin timbers including diagonal tension braces. The maid's room was originally above the kitchen and originally had a separate steep staircase and trapdoor. One bedroom retains the original moulded cornice. The basement retains two round-headed alcoves on each side helping to support the chimneystack and tiled floor.
HISTORY: "Hethe myll" together with "a little island and a croft of island adjacent" is recorded as early as 1516. Census Returns of 1841 show the current mill house was occupied by this date. In the early C20 personal recollection by a mill owner's son is that the cellars were used as a dairy. By 1929 Lower Mill and the mill house were no longer in the same ownership. The adjoining mill ceased producing flour in 1956.]
The Barn (which belongs to Heath Mill House) is a few yards to the west of Heath Mill House, and appears on the 1841 Tithe map (not quite in the right position, mind you). From the outside, it looks as though it was built several years prior to 1841, though we have no way of knowing. We can assume that it was originally used as a storage area for the mill.
Fast-forwarding to the middle of the 20th century, it was used as a stable for Lily, Pamela Boyd’s horse (Pamela lived in Heath Mill House, and was field master of the local hunt).
Fast-forwarding again to c2001, the barn was converted into a dwelling and named “The Barn” (perhaps not surprisingly). It was let to Nigel Devenish, an IT consultant, who remained there until c2021. A photo of The Barn is shown below.
We know from the early maps that what we now call Millstream Cottage was originally 2 separate cottages, built very close to each other between 1807 and 1841 on land which belonged to Heath Mill (owned by one of the James Honers, depending on the exact date). It is difficult to work out in the 1841 census who occupied the cottages: Apart from James Honer III (who probably lived in Heath Mill House), 4 families lived near Lower Mill, and the census does not specify exactly where they lived. Since “Millstream Cottages” (if we can refer to them in such a way) were the only other dwellings in the vicinity, we can assume that they all lived there in what were probably two 2-roomed houses. The families concerned are listed below, together with a few comments about them.
1. The Faggetters (1): Mary Faggetter (aged 47) and 4 children.
2. The Faggeters (2): William (aged 26) and his wife Mary and their 4 young children
3. The Boyletts
4. The Saunders
As one might expect, the Faggetters (1 and 2 above) were related to each other. The Mary Faggetter in the census was the second wife of Henry Faggetter (1783 – 1838), a bricklayer. William was the son of the aforesaid Henry Faggetter by his first wife. So Mary was William’s stepmother. One of Henry’s grandsons was John Faggetter, who built Pirbright Cottages.
The Boyletts (No 3 above) comprised 40 year-old William Boylett (youngest of 12 children of Henry and Jane Boylett and a blacksmith by trade) and his 30 year-old wife Hannah and their 2 children. Oh yes, and 2 of Hannah’s children from a previous marriage, and Hannah’s 64 year-old mother Patience.
James and Hannah Saunders (No 4 above) lived with one of their 4 children. James was an agricultural labourer.
In 1851 the situation is much clearer. One of the cottages was unoccupied, but “Mill Cottage” was occupied by John Pelling, a miller, his wife Mary and their daughter, Fanny. John was born at Rudgwick, near Horsham in 1817, the son of an agricultural labourer. In 1841 he was living at Rudgwick, but in 1847 he married Mary Knight (who was born at Ewhurst c1822) at Stoke (the area north of Guildford), where he was living. By 1851 he was installed as the miller at Lower Mill, a post he was to hold for some years.
In 1869 John Frost Sherman had bought the Cottages (presumably from the executors of James Honer III) with the help of a mortgage. They formed part of the purchase by John Sherman of Heath Mill at the same time.
In 1871 the Pellings were still living at “Lower Mill Cottage”. James and Mary Seymour and their 2 young children were living in the other cottage. James was a “Miller’s carman”, which presumably meant that he was the Mill’s delivery man.
At some stage during the next 10 years the Pellings moved to West End, where they lived the rest of their lives, John dying in 1898 and Mary in 1891.
By 1881 Arthur Burberry was installed as the miller at Heath Mill and was living in one of the cottages. He had been born in Capel in 1852, the son of a farmer, and had married Mary Whittington (born in Bramley) in 1873 in Abinger, where they were both living. Mary was 10 years his senior. Their stay in Pirbright was a short one, as they left Pirbright in 1883, returning to Abinger.
From the 1880’s to the onset of WW1 there was a succession of different occupants in each of the 2 cottages (and next door Heath Cottage, which had been built in the 1870’s). The average tenure was only 2 or 3 years. Why did people working at the mill only stay such short lengths of time? There are many possible reasons. But the main cause was surely the “Great Depression of British Agriculture” of 1873-96, which itself was caused by a series of bad harvests in the late 1870’s, importation of cheap grain from the US (which had recently opened up the prairies to agriculture and provided rail transport) and cheaper transatlantic shipping costs. Other possible causes could be: poor working conditions, poor pay, or a demanding boss (John Sherman). We invite the reader to take their pick. [In the present day such a list would include factors such as lack of learning and development opportunities poor environmental or social responsibility, and lack of diversity or inclusion, but we doubt that these featured highly in peoples’ minds at the time].
We won’t list every occupant during this period, but we will highlight a few:
Joseph Hankins (1883-84) was born in Bramley in 1833, and was probably the younger brother of John Hankins, landlord of The Fox between 1870 and 1878.
Horace Chaplin (1899-1904) leased the mill from John Frost Sherman and was the miller at the time the mill caught fire in 1900. This story is told in the Heath Mill section above.
William and David Marshall (1906-08). The Marshall brothers were sons of David Marshall, who was a gamekeeper on Merrist Wood Farm. David Marshall became a gamekeeper at Ockford Cottage, and we tell his story there.
John and Emma Stevens (1909-14) lived at Heath Mill Cottage as a general labourer, prior to moving to No 2, Malthouse Lane. Their story is told there.
James and Alice Larby (1905-11) had previously been living in No 13, Pirbright Cottages. James was a house painter, and maybe he used Heath Mill Cottage simply as a convenient place to live (and didn’t work at the mill). In 1911 James and Alice moved near to Burners Heath.
Charles and Harriett Lopez (1911-14) and their 6 children only lived at Heath Mill Cottage for a short while before moving to Broad Street and then to Chapel Road, Pirbright, where the family occupied 3 houses. There were members of the Lopez family in Chapel Lane until at least 1981, and possibly after that as well. Harriett (nee Balchin) had been born in Worplesdon and lived at Stonebridge Cottage, Rickford in her youth. Her parents, William and Harriett, later lived at Malthouse Cottages in Berry Lane.
In 1915 John Sherman sold both cottages to Rose Johnston. The tenants at the time (David Lassam and John Stacey) rented the cottages on a weekly basis, so they didn’t stay long. Rose and her husband Thomas immediately merged the 2 cottages and named the new house Millstream Cottage. Evidence of the “join” between the 2 cottages can still be seen, as the doorways on different sides of it don’t align properly. The current owners have also found traces of an earlier thatched roof.
Thomas (“Tom”) was a road contractor, born in Cardiff in 1876, having an Irish father who farmed 60 acres in Wales. Rose (nee Rose Pengelley Scantlebury) was from Buckinghamshire and was 2 years older than her husband. They had 2 children. In 1911 Tom had described himself as a “Granite merchant”, and the family had been living at a large house (Woodruffe) on the Bagshot Road with 2 servants. Hence their ability to buy a property such as Millstream Cottage. What was their reason for moving? Perhaps the traffic on the Bagshot Road was increasing and they wanted somewhere quieter. Apart from the comings and goings at Heath Mill, their new home would have certainly met this criterion.
As well as merging the cottages and renaming them, the Johnstons quickly set about extending the house (in 1915). A drawing from the plans showing the proposed view of the front of the cottage is shown below.
4 years later in 1919 they added the garage (which still stands today and was built by James Ball of Malthouse Lane. Judging by the drawings (pictured below), they were helped to develop the plans by one of their younger children.
Further additions to the rear of the property were made by the Johnstons in 1922, this time by the builder Henry Rance of Holly Bank, Rickford, whose story is told there, along with an accompanying sketch.
The Johnstons were early installers of the telephone, having the number Worplesdon 26 by 1920. However by 1934 the Johnstons moved out of Millstream Cottage, and by 1939 Rose was living on her own in Stroud, while Tom was lodging with a family in Kenilworth, working as a Road contractor superintendent. We fear this may have been a permanent separation, as Tom died in 1958, living in a Kenilworth hotel, while Rose died in Stroud in 1963.
Between 1935 and 1937 Geoffrey and Hope Wilkinson lived at Millstream Cottage. Whether they purchased it or rented it while the Johnstons made other arrangements we do not know. Geoffrey Kedington Wilkinson was born in Cheshire in 1907. His father was a barrister who had been educated at Charterhouse School. He married Elinor Hope Gordon (who was 4 years older than him) in 1929 and had a daughter, Jill, the following year. In 1939 they were living in London – Geoffrey as a stockbroker’s clerk and Hope as a short story writer (though I can’t trace any of her output). After that we don’t know much about them, except that at some stage they lived in the US. Geoffrey died in Grasse, France (a few miles north of Cannes) in 1988.
The next occupants of Millstream Cottage in 1938 were Muriel Goodridge (nee Swayne), a widow born in 1887, and 3 of her 5 children, having moved from Charterhouse Road in Godalming. Muriel’s late husband, Owen Goodridge, had been the manager of Lloyds Bank in Godalming, but had died in 1929 aged only 54. Muriel only lived at Millstream Cottage until the end of WW2, moving back to Godalming and then to Horsham, where she died in 1970.
But their youngest child, Alys (born Tonbridge in 1921) used the time profitably. She met William Henderson, who lived at Bullswater Lodge, and married him in 1941. Their story is told there, but we should mention here that (as we understand it) one of her grandsons married the daughter of Halcyon Broadwood of Heath Mill House (see above) in 1983.
Another of Muriel’s children, Roy, a solicitor, was a partner in the law firm that handled the purchase of Millstream Cottage in the early 1970’s. He enjoyed having look at the house he had played in as a young lad.
Next into Millstream Cottage from 1945 were The Hon Edward Carson, his wife Heather, and their son, Edward. That year Edward had been elected Conservative MP for the Isle of Thanet, and was the “Baby of The House” (an unofficial title awarded to the youngest serving MP of the Parliament). It was a title that he passed to Roy Jenkins 3 years later. Clearly Edward was one of Pirbright’s most distinguished residents, and we’ll tell his story a little later, but first let’s look at his rather interesting background.
His father was even more distinguished: Edward Carson MP, Lord Carson aka Sir Henry Carson. This gentleman was born in Dublin in 1854 into a wealthy family (his father, also named Edward, had been an architect and a freemason). He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, became a barrister and was appointed QC (Ireland) in 1889. His most famous case was to lead the defence for The Marquess of Queensberry against the case brought by Oscar Wilde for libel in 1895. The background and outcome of this case are well known, but the following (summarised with thanks from Wikipedia) gives some insights into Lord Carson.
[Carson and Wilde met as children, playing in the summer along the seashore in Ireland. They also knew each other when they were students at Trinity College, Dublin. When he heard that Carson was to lead the defence, Wilde is quoted as saying that "No doubt he will pursue his case with all the added bitterness of an old friend."
Carson portrayed the playwright as a morally depraved hedonist who seduced naïve young men into a life of homosexuality with lavish gifts and promises of a glamorous artistic lifestyle. Wilde abandoned the case when Carson announced in his opening speech for the defence that he planned to call several male prostitutes who would testify that they had had sex with Wilde, which would have rendered the libel charge unsupportable as the accusation would have been proven true. Wilde was bankrupted when he was then ordered to pay the considerable legal and detective bills Queensberry had incurred in his defence.
Based on the evidence of Queensberry's detectives and Carson's cross-examinations of Wilde at the trial, Wilde was subsequently prosecuted for gross indecency in a second trial. He was eventually found guilty and sentenced to two years' hard labour, after which he moved to France, where he died penniless.
In a 1960 film, The Trials of Oscar Wilde, the part of Sir Edward Carson was played by James Mason.]
His political career began in 1892 when he was appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland. Here are some other highlights of his career:
• Solicitor-General for England & Wales (1900-05)
• Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and the Irish Unionist Parliamentary Party (1910-21)
• Attorney-General for England & Wales (1915)
• Leader of the opposition (1915-16), following Bonar Law, and preceding Asquith
• First Lord of the Admiralty (1916-17) under Lloyd George
• Member of the War Cabinet (1917-18)
• Was created Baron Carson (1921)
He was a very committed Ulster unionist, campaigning against Home Rule, and was at times seen as veering towards extremist.
Lord Carson had 4 children with his first wife, but after she died, remarried Ruby Frewin, a lady from Yorkshire who was 31 years younger than him. In 1920, when Lord Carson was aged 66, they had a son, Edward, who was later to live at Millstream Cottage.
The Carsons bought a house in the Isle of Thanet, and he retired in 1929. A statue to him was erected at Stormont. He died in 1935 and was given a state funeral (in Britain). Baroness Ruby Carson died in 1966.
Below are shown a Vanity Fair cartoon of Lord Carson at the bar, a posed photo, and his statue at Stormont.
That has dealt with Lord Carson. Now let’s turn to his son, Edward, who lived at Millstream Cottage. Edward was educated at Eton, and was only 15 when his illustrious father died. In 1943, when he was 23, he married Heather, daughter of Frank Sclater, OBE MC and Elizabeth Sclater (who lived to the age of 102) of Milford. Heather was only 16 when she married Ned, and was reportedly rather attractive.
Having entered Parliament in 1945 at the tender age of 25, he managed to hold his seat in the 1951 general election (although he was rushed to hospital with gastric influenza within an hour of being elected). However, his political career was surprisingly short. He resigned as an MP for health reasons in 1953.
At one stage Ned worked for Eric Boyd (of Heath Mill House – refer above). At another time he had to retire to Brookwood Hospital to “dry out” for a while.
The next we hear about him is in 1955 when The Hon Edward Carson was fined and disqualified from driving for 12 months for a series of offences: Failing to stop after an accident, 3 cases of dangerous driving, driving without a licence, and using a car with a dangerous wheel. We have shown an article about the incident below from the front page of a local newspaper. The full article goes into considerable detail about Mr Carson’s journey, and how erratic it was, but is too long to include in fulll here. At the same time he was managing director of Export Trades Ltd, a company set up to expand the country’s export trade. He also became a director of Urban and Commercial Developments Ltd, a company set up to revive an ailing Scottish port at Stranraer.
A later occupant of Millstream Cottage was surprised to receive a letter several years later from the daughter of a lady who had been helped by the Carsons. The lady in question had previously been made homeless (despite having a young daughter in tow), and had begged the Carsons for help. The Carsons had put them both up at Millstream Cottage for a few weeks to help them get their lives back together. A very nice thing to do, and so touching that the daughter remembered the Carsons’ kindness after so many years.
Edward and Heather left Millstream Cottage c1964, and Edward died in 1987, aged 67. His obituary in The Times (see below) makes interesting reading.
The next family to live in Millstream Cottage have remained there ever since. Two further extensions of the front were subsequently made (c1989 and 2007) very much in keeping with the original style, so as to square off the front of the cottage and give it its current elegant appearance. Arthur Croker was the builder, but Halcyon Broadwood of Heath Mill House (above) joined enthusiastically in the building activities. The current owners have clear visions of Halcyon shinning up ladders, busily carrying building materials.
2 pictures of Millstream Cottage are shown below: The left hand photo is from c1970 (before the 2 recent extensions), while the right hand picture is recent, with Heath Cottage in the background.
John Frost Sherman, who had bought Heath Mill in 1869 was responsible for building Heath Cottage. We can work out within a few years when it was built: It does not appear on the 1873 OS map, but in the 1881 census it is listed as “Heath View Cottage”, with a William and Hannah Randell living there with their son. So that dates it to the mid-late 1870’s. William Randell had probably responded to a newspaper ad placed by John Sherman – possibly the one pictured below placed in the Surrey Advertiser in March 1880.
William Randell was born in Chichester in 1852 and had already reached the dizzy heights of “Manager, Singer Sewing Machines Company”. William’s father was a Master tailor, and this could have influenced William’s choice of career.
Singer had opened a UK factory in 1867, and a larger one 6 years later, but these were both in Glasgow. Perhaps Mr Randell was a salesman, tasked with selling sewing machines in the South East of England. Curiously in 1897 another Singer employee moved into No 3, Pirbright Cottages, and we talk a little more about Singer there.
We cannot trace what happened to the Randell family after 1881, but in 1882 John Sherman placed an ad in the local newspaper for a tenant. The house had 6 rooms, a washhouse, a pantry and a good garden. Further ads were placed a year later and also the following year, but additionally the property was now “well-adapted for keeping poultry”. More ads were placed in 1886 and 1888, so tenancies were pretty short-lived. In 1891 Thomas Sherman (aged 25, the son of John Frost Sherman), his wife Ann and their 2 sons were living at what was then called Heath Cottage – a name it has retained ever since. Thomas described himself as a miller and a farmer and his life is covered in the section dealing with Heath Mill (above).
As with Millstream Cottage (above), there was a series of short-term occupants of Heath Cottage – probably mostly labourers at the mill - in the 1880’s and 1890’s, too many to list here.
But in 1903 John Frost Sherman and his wife Sarah extended the house (a copy of 2 of the drawings is shown below [the drawing on the left should be rotated anticlockwise by 75 degrees to align it properly]) and moved into the house until John’s death in 1917. In the 1911 census the house was described as having 6 rooms – probably 2 sitting rooms and a kitchen downstairs, and 3 bedrooms upstairs - and was described by the census enumerator as “The White House”, for reasons which seem obvious today.
We don’t know who purchased Heath Cottage after John Sherman’s death in 1917 – John’s wife Sarah moved to Guildford, where she died in 1920 - nor who lived in it for the next 17 years.
From 1934 Heath Cottage was occupied by Bessie Huber. She was born Bettina Bessie Ann Gutfreund in Vienna on 29 December 1893, and married a John Henry Huber. Her parents were Sigmund and Mathilde Gutfreund. She had 3 brothers, one of whom died in infancy.
c1928 John and Bessie Huber decided to leave Vienna to come to Britain. Why? We are guessing here, but their reason may have been to escape what was happening in Austria at the time. There had been some nasty clashes in Vienna in 1927, leading to a general strike, and further violence.
John and Bessie will have been very glad that they did escape at that time. The Gutfreunds were a Jewish family, and Austria, like Germany was not a good place for Jews to be after 1938. Bessie’s father died at Treblinka in 1942 and one of her brothers, Heinrich, perished at a camp in Belarus the same year. Below are family photos of the Gutfreunds: L to R Bessie as a young girl, Heinrich, Sigmund with 2 of his sons, and Paul (one of Bessie’s brothers).
Bessie and John (who was born c1895 and was a carrier for Thomas Cook) were living at Danes End in Send Marsh (a sizeable house) from at least 1928. However the marriage was not a happy one, and the couple divorced c1934. After their divorce, John Henry remarried Gladys in 1937, and they lived at Burnt Common and then Ripley (both of which are close to Send Marsh). Gladys died in 1955 and John Henry died in 1958.
Bessie however purchased and moved into Heath Cottage (c1934). In the 1939 census Bessie is living with 5 others at Heath Cottage. One of these is Paul Godfrey. 2 others are Jakobi and Hertha Liebert. A fourth is Lucie Horwitz. The fifth and final name has not yet been made public (presumably because the person is still living). This seems a strange collection of companions, and so we will look at them in turn.
Paul Godfrey was Bessie’s brother, who would have been old enough to fight for the Germans in WW1. He came to Britain during the 1930’s and presumably anglicised his name from Gutfreund to Godfrey. He later married a German lady, Ruth Heilbrun, in Hendon in 1944, but Ruth died in 1947. Paul died at Waltham in 1971.
Jakobi Israel Liebert was born in 1892, then in West Prussia but now in northern Poland. Hertha was born in Berlin in 1899 and the couple were married in Berlin in 1921. Like Bessie, the Lieberts had escaped from their home country between the wars. Jakobi was interned in 1940 but released 5 months later just as Heinrich Haendler had been (the background to this can be found here under Braemar). Jakobi’s internment card is shown below.
The Lieberts emigrated to the US in 1946 (giving their last address as Worplesdon, a name which must have puzzled the American immigration staff). They had no children. Jakobi died in Los Angeles in 1972 and Hertha in 1980.
Lucie Horwitz was born near Hamburg in 1907 and in 1945 married Herbert Cohen, also from Germany, in Paddington.
How do we interpret what was going on here? A strong possibility is that Bessie had opened her home to German and Austrian Jewish émigrés from the Nazi regime, giving them an initial place to live and helping them settle in England. She may well have helped the Haendlers the year before, prior to them purchasing nearby Braemar in Heath Mill Lane. This would have required her to establish contacts with emigration authorities in Germany and Austria. We don’t know how long this noble cause went on for, how many families she helped, and the extent to which the British authorities helped her in this worthy cause. But we can only imagine the mutterings that might have been heard in deepest Pirbright during the war about “those Germans round at Bessie Huber’s place”.... But Bessie was clearly a determined woman, and I doubt she would have worried about that.
Bessie did not talk about her wartime exploits after the war, but continued to live at Heath Cottage, accompanied by her faithful maid, Mitzi (whose husband worked at the Australian embassy). Neighbours remember “Aunt Bessie” as a kind, but rather strange, lady. She worked at the dairy in Merrow, and helped one young neighbour with his German studies, until her death in 1983.
A photo of Heath Cottage c1970 is shown below.
The next family to live in Heath Cottage have remained there ever since.