Heath Mill Lane
Heath Mill Lane was almost certainly created just to give Heath Mill access to the outside world to the south. In fact the 1807 and 1841 (Tithe) maps show that Heath Mill had another access route – a track heading in a straight line south west to Bakersgate Farm. The first part of this track still exists in the form of the south-west continuation of Heath Mill Lane (coloured grey in the modern OS map shown below). But the rest of this “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.
In this section we will restrict ourselves to the section of Heath Mill Lane from Fox Corner to Heath Mill itself, not including the cluster of buildings around the mill (see modern OS map below). Heath Mill and the surrounding buildings have their own page on this site.
Before we consider the houses in the lane, we’ll describe what the lane looked like in earlier times. The mill has been around since at least the mid-1600’s, and there must have been access to it since that time (and possibly before then). We can assume that our section of Heath Mill Lane existed as a track from those earlier times in order to provide access by the mill to communities to the south and east, including Bridley, Rickford, Mayford and of course Guildford.
Walking up Heath Mill Lane in the early 1800’s, a traveller would have seen on the west side some heathland and a meadow (belonging to the mill), probably with some cattle grazing on it. On the east side would have been open heath land. This could have been a quiet, idyllic walk in summertime, but probably considerably damper in the winter.
Of this idyllic walk only the meadow on the west side survives today. By the 1870’s, the southern half of the west side (previously heathland) had been acquired by the owner of The Fox, and was being put to use, possibly as an orchard. But the rest was the same as it had been 50 years previously. Nothing much changed for a further 30 years, but then John Frost Sherman (the miller and owner of Heath Mill) thought it would be a good idea to build some houses.
He had bought the heathland on the east hand side in 1897, and initially converted it to fields. But perhaps the land had proved unsuitable for agricultural purposes, or perhaps Mr Sherman had other reasons, but whatever, building work commenced and by the early 1900’s, the triangle of land nearest Fox Corner on that side hosted 2 residential buildings (Heatherlea and Ravensclough/Durlston).
That was the end of John Sherman’s building activities in Heath Mill Lane. It was not until 1939 that another house appeared (also on the east side of the lane) - Braemar - which was built on land that belonged to Heath Mill.
Another 15 years passed and then a spate of building resulted in the creation of 4 houses on the west side of the lane on land that had belonged to the owners of The Fox. It is possible that these 4 houses were all built by the Farminer brothers, who lived nearby (as explained below).
For some reason Heath Mill Lane remains an unadopted road, ie Surrey County Council do not have a duty to maintain it. Perhaps it is because the road historically served a single property (Heath Mill). Whatever the reason, it explains why motorists and pedestrians have to take special care when navigating the lane.
The current name Heath Mill Lane only emerged in the mid-1930’s. Prior to that the lane was referred to as Lower Mill Lane / Road, or Mill Lane / Road. This must have been quite confusing, given that there is another Mill Lane in Pirbright.
We will now look at each of the houses in Heath Mill Lane as far as (but not including) the mill, starting on the west side, and then moving to the east side. A table of the houses and their dates of construction is provided below.
The West side
Keg Cove was probably built in the late 1960’s. The earliest record of the house is in 1970 when the Eric and Kathleen Gosden moved in, having previously been the landlord and landlady at The Fox a few yards away.
The Gosdens stayed at Keg Cove until at least 1981. Its hedges have been subjected to some recent assaults from drivers who have tried to take the corner too fast in the middle of the night and paid the penalty.
The first occupants of The Loders from c1956 were Charles and Mabel (nee Howlett) Farminer, who had previously been living at Holly Bank in Rickford since 1938. Before that, Charles had been brought up in No 1, Pirbright Cottages, where the Farminer family’s story is told more fully.
Charles was a house painter in 1939 and his brother, Fred, was a builder with his own business at Fox Corner. Together they may well have built The Loders. Fred was living just around the corner at Field Place, which had been built a year or 2 earlier - also possibly by the Farminer brothers.
Fred and his wife Elsie emigrated to New Zealand in the 1960’s, but the business FL Farminer Ltd continued to appear in the phone directory with the address The Loders, which suggests that Charles operated the business from The Loders after his brother had emigrated.
Charles died in 1972 and Mabel stayed there until at least 1981, and possibly several years longer. At some stage she moved to Stoughton and died there in 1995. Charles and Mabel are both buried in St Mary’s Worplesdon churchyard (see photo below).
In 1991 the Guest family lived at The Loders.
As far as we can tell, Lea Hurst was called Puck’s Croft until 2007. Puck’s Croft was built c1960 and was first occupied by Addison & Madeleine Bousfield, who had previously lived in New Haw. We can’t be sure, but perhaps the Farminers (refer The Loders above) built the house and the Bousfields purchased it from them.
Addison had been born in 1911, but his father (also called Addison) was killed in action at the Somme in 1918. Addison was married in 1945 but this ended in divorce 5 years later. In 1948 he married Madeleine Balfour, who was from Liverpool. Pictures of Madeleine in her youth and their wedding are shown below.
By 1970 the Bousfields had moved to White Rose Lane in Woking, and then to Sussex. Puck’s Croft was occupied (presumably purchased) by Edith and Reginald Way until at least c1980.
By 1982 Graham and Kathleen Moss were living at Puck’s Croft. They stayed until 2002 when the house was sold to Adam and Clare Wakeford and then sold again in 2007.
5, Heath Mill Lane (Serenity House)
The building between Lea Hurst and Dunreyth is No 5, Heath Mill Lane and named Serenity House. It is the offices of Town and Country Funeral Directors Ltd, who have been in residence since the late 2010’s.
Before then the building had been occupied by a company called Kippertie Ltd, a video production company now based at The Barns, 2-3 Bakersgate Courtyard.
Before Kippertie arrived, the land was a builder’s yard, possibly used by the Farminers as a base from which to build the 4 houses on the same side of Heath Mill Lane. We are not sure when buildings were first erected on the site, but planning applications by a GR and MB Warr in the mid 2000’s suggest that storage buildings existed at that time. There are rumours that certain illegal plants were grown on the premises at one time or another in the past, but we have not seen any written evidence of this.
Dunreyth was built c1956 and the first occupants were David and Margaret Hunt, who had previously been living at Burdenshott Hill. As with the other 3 houses of similar age in Heath Mill Lane, we assume that they were built by the Farminer brothers (refer The Loders above) and sold to the new occupants.
By 1969 the Hunts had sold up. New occupants moved in, and stayed at Dunreyth for at least 40 years.
The field north of Dunreyth
This field, which appears on the 1807 map as being part of the Heath Mill estate, is no longer used to grow crops. Instead it has been turned over to animals – today sheep, but previously horses. And a few moles. The field used to belong to Avila, but was sold to a third party in the 1990’s. Its western boundary is the stream which originates from Bridley Pond on the Worplesdon Golf Course and this may partially explain why it has escaped any development interest thus far. A picture of the lane at this point is shown below.
The East side
Heather Lea now fronts onto Malthouse Lane and is covered in that section. However it is worth noting that when it was built, and for several years afterwards, the house fronted onto Heath Mill Lane. It still has an entrance gate onto Heath Mill Lane.
Durlston and Ravensclough
It is immediately obvious to the casual observer that the building which comprises Ravensclough and Durlston is the oldest building on this section of Heath Mill Lane (apart from Heather Lea, which now fronts onto Malthouse Lane, as noted above). But when were they built? The records are not 100% clear, but it appears that they were built by John Frost Sherman c1905, at about the same time that he built Heather Lea next door. Initially they were referred to as “Sherman’s Cottages” for fairly obvious reasons.
As to their ownership, it is not clear who owned the cottages after John Sherman’s death in 1917. It seems unlikely that the occupants would have been able to buy them at that time, and it is more likely that an investor (or investors) purchased them, probably as a pair. At some later date, the investor may have decided to sell them to the occupants, as happened to some of the Pirbright Cottages and other local houses. 1955 looks a possible date for this to have happened, as there were changes in the occupancy of both cottages that year. Only the deeds will really enlighten us.
The first occupants of Durlston (or No 2, Sherman’s Cottages as it was known) in c1906 were William and Jane Long (nee Clark) and their son Percy, who were from near Petersfield. The family had moved around a bit, but immediately prior to moving to Pirbright, they had lived at Holly Lane, Worplesdon. William was a bricklayer by trade, and Percy a groom.
The Longs moved out of the area c1911, and by 1914 John Ives had moved into the cottage that he renamed Rose Cottage (for a short while). John was a gardener who had been born in Buckinghamshire in 1878. In 1908 he had married Eliza Elkins, daughter of a brickmaker, who was born in 1861 near Dudley and was 17 years older than John. Her age on her marriage was given as 23, instead of 38, which (astonishingly) no-one appears to have noticed at the time. Eliza had a sister, Mary, who was 2 years older than her, and who we shall meet again very shortly...
Eliza died in 1930 (aged 69), and a year later John had married again - to Ethel Leeks. Ethel was the daughter of Henry and Mary Leeks and had been born in 1891, along with her twin sister Hilda. The twins’ mother, Mary Leeks, had been born Mary Elkins and was the older sister of John’s first wife, Eliza Elkins (see previous paragraph), which means that John had married his wife’s niece. The 1931 Marriage Act had expressly permitted a man to marry his niece, so long as the relevant parent of the niece was dead (previously this had not been allowed). Unfortunately Mary Leeks was still very much alive and living in Farnham (in 1933). Oh dear. As far as I can tell, there were no children from either of John’s marriages.
John died in 1950, aged 72, and soon afterwards Ethel invited her twin sister Hilda to move in with her in Durlston. In 1955 Ethel died, aged 63. Both Ethel and John are buried in Pirbright Churchyard. Hilda Leeks lived at Durlston for a further 30 years until she died in 1985, aged 93. Hilda, too, is buried in Pirbright Churchyard. Thus ended 70 years of the Ives family’s occupation of Durlston.
The first occupants of Ravensclough (or No 1, Sherman’s Cottages as it was known) were John and Alice Guyatt (Guyett) from 1905 to 1908. They were born in 1851 in Kent and Essex respectively. In 1901 John had been the steward of an estate, living with Alice and their family in Sunningdale. In 1908 they moved into 17 Pirbright Cottages, but in 1911 Alice and their children were living at No 17 while John was a gardener near Peterborough.
In 1908 Alfred and Alice Darling moved into No 1, Sherman’s Cottages. Alfred was born at Send in 1880, the son of an agricultural labourer. In 1907 he had married Alice Long, daughter of William and Jane Long, who had moved into next-door No 2 (see above) in 1906. William and Jane no doubt encouraged the young couple to move next to them where they could keep an eye on them, and the young couple probably thought that there would be benefits of having grandparents next door to look after their new-born daughter, Hester. Grandparent duties increased in 1911 with the arrival of another daughter, Gladys.
By 1921 the Darlings had left Pirbright for the delights of Pewsey in Wiltshire, where they were living in 1939 (Alfred working as a pump attendant at RAF Upavon). They were replaced by George Darling, who was Alfred’s cousin and who also hailed from Send (but had moved to Wandsworth). George, a general labourer, married Lydia Knight (from Norwood) in 1905 and they had 2 children, who were (rather curiously) named after themselves (Lydia and George). They stayed at the cottage until 1928, at which time they returned to Wandsworth. Perhaps country life did not appeal to them.
The next occupants of No 1 were Henry and Mary Ann Bradley, who in 1929 had moved all the way from 20, Pirbright Cottages, where their story is told. They only stayed at No 1 for 5 years: Henry died in 1934 at Warren Road, Guildford (a hospital on the site of the old workhouse). His will assigned probate to William Hampton, a Police Sergeant, but I can’t trace who this gentleman was – he doesn’t seem to have been a near relative or a neighbour. Mary Ann went to lodge with a family in Guildford.
Harry and Margaret Thomas were the next to live at the cottage. They were both born in 1903 and were living in Guildford when they married in 1930. Harry was a chauffeur by trade, but we don’t know who his parents were, or where he was born. Margaret was born Margaret Winnel, one of 8 children of Samuel Winnel, a carpenter, in Merthyr Tydfil.
They soon gave their new house a name: Hepste, named after a river near Margaret’s home town of Merthyr Tydfil. A picture of a waterfall on the river (with a path running behind it) is shown below. They were still living at Hepste (the house, not the river) in 1939, at which time Harry described himself as a “Gardener–chauffeur” (presumably meaning he did both jobs). They don’t appear to have had any children.
The Thomas’s left Hepste during WW2, and I can’t trace where they went to. By 1946 Frederick and Clara Voice were living at Hepste. Frederick was born in Wisborough Green, near Billingshurst in Sussex in 1884 and was a gardener. Clara (nee Fielder) was a year younger, and had been born in Cork. They were living in Oxshott and then Claygate before moving to Pirbright. They had one son, Charles, in 1910 and he also became a gardener. The Voices stayed in Pirbright until 1950 and then moved back to Claygate.
In 1955 Violet Croucher moved into Hepste, and promptly changed the name of the cottage to Ravensclough. Violet was one of 5 children of James and Nellie Croucher, who lived in Kingston. James was a travelling salesman (selling tobacco and cigars). By 1939, James had died, and Violet (aged 39) was living unmarried with her mother in Kingston, working as a shorthand typist for a seed merchant. Violet lived at the cottage until 1981, when she returned to Kingston, dying there in 1982.
As an aside, the large-scale OS map shows the house as Ravens Clouch for some reason, a name which Guildford Borough Council sometimes uses as well.
After a stretch of wooded area (which is part of the Avila property) we come to Braemar.
Braemar sits on land that had belonged to Heath Mill for many years – probably since the mill itself had been built. The house was conceived in 1939, when an application by Heinrich Haendler to build a house on a 1-acre plot within the grounds of Heath Mill was approved. Several years previously, this plot had been shown on the 1841 Tithe and 1873 OS maps rather surprisingly as almost entirely water – presumably some form of overflow pond to feed the millwheel. By the 1890’s the water had disappeared, and today the site of the pond forms Braemar’s front lawn.
Who was 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. The Nazi authorities were already asking questions about the family, and so they left hurriedly, via Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Sweden before ending up in England.
When the family first arrived in England c1937, they lived at Dapdune Crescent in Guildford. Heinrich was a Member of The Society of Friends in Guildford, and 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 therefore not surprising that Heinrich chose to buy Heath Mill (LINK) when it appeared for sale by auction in 1937.
It is possible that Heinrich had been alerted of the sale of Heath Mill by Bessie Huber who was living in nearby Heath Cottage and was hosting Austrian and German families who had fled their homeland. This story is told in the Heath Cottage section.
The house was built quickly and named Barbara’s Cottage. Why was it named so? Barbara was the name of Heinrich’s and Herta’s young daughter, who had been born (in England) earlier in 1939. We will hear more of Barbara a little further down this page, so please read on a little. A plan and a sketch of the front of the proposed house are shown below.
But Heinrich’s plans for a quiet life in Pirbright were soon torpedoed. 1939 was not a good time to be a German living in England, and in June 1940, after the fall of France, the UK government legislated to intern all men of German and Austrian nationality between the ages of 16 and 70 who were living in South and Eastern Britain. Herta and Eugen were OK, but Heinrich fell foul of this law. He was interned in the Isle of Man (there would surely have been many worse places in the UK to be interned), but was released 4 months later under “Category 7” (which was for skilled people in agriculture, commercial food-growing or forestry). Lucky Heinrich was able to resume his quiet life, and in 1942 applied for British nationality (see newspaper cutting below).
Further evidence of the Haendlers’ wealth is that by 1939 they had installed a phone line (Worplesdon 112) in their house, which was quite a luxury in those days.
He also sailed back (1st class) from New York to England in early 1948.
But perhaps Heinrich’s quest for British nationality was unsuccessful, as in 1948 the Haendlers decided to leave England. Accordingly they put Braemar, together with Heath Mill, up for sale, as the 2 pages of the brochure below show.
In November 1948 the Haendlers sailed to New York (first class), and thence to Australia, taking 6 trunks and 4 bags with them. A copy of the passenger list is shown below (Heinrich is referred to as a “Company Director”, but we have no idea of what company he was a director).
We know little about the Haendlers’ life in Australia, except that Heinrich ran a shop in a suburb of Sydney called Dover Heights, which is just up the road from Bondi Beach and the Royal Sydney Golf Club – very nice.
One might think that that would be the last of the Haendlers as far as our history of Fox Corner is concerned. But that’s not at all the end of the Haendler story. Barbara Haendler returned to Britain 11 years later in 1959 on a holiday visit (as young Australians often do) and got in touch with “Auntie Bessie” Huber at Heath Cottage. While visiting Aunt Bessie, Barbara just happened to meet Anthony Boyd, whom she had played with (as a young child plays with a next-door neighbour of similar age), up to the age of 9.
We are not privy to exactly what happened next, but very shortly, Anthony proposed to Barbara on the bridge between Heath Mill and Heath Mill House (now known as “Betrothal Bridge” and pictured right). 6 weeks later they were married. Anthony and Barbara now live about 20 miles away from Fox Corner, and celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary just a few years ago. Coincidentally, one of their grandchildren returned to the area 60 years later to buy Heath Mill House (the house his grandfather Anthony had grown up in) in 2021, without knowing anything about the family link to the house. That’s a story Hollywood could use!