The north and east sides of the Guildford-Pirbright Road (starting at the roundabout)
From the 1600’s to the early 1900’s, the only building on this stretch of road was a solitary cottage called Gander Hill Cottage. It was situated where The Fox pub now stands, demolished in 1862, and replaced by The Fox in 1862. The next building work on the road was carried out 50 years later, when 2 sets of semi-detached houses were constructed just south of the corner itself. After that, a flurry of building work in the 20 years after 1955 resulted in the landscape we now have.
We will look at each house in turn, starting from the roundabout. The narrow sliver of land just south of Fox Corner between the Guildford- Pirbright road and the Guildford/Woking boundary was waste land until the early 1900’s, when 4 houses (the “Westbrook Cottages”) were built. By 1915 most of rest of the land in this narrow sliver to the south of the Westbrook Cottages had been converted into an agricultural field of some description (we do not know who owned it – possibly John Frost Sherman of Heath Mill?). It looks as though the land where Tangles now sits remained as woodland though. During the 20th century houses sprang up, one by one, along the road and now there is no waste land (or agricultural field) left.
Before we look at each house, here is the detailed OS map of the area (with thanks to Ordnance Survey), together with a list of the houses, ordered by approximate date of construction.
Tangles was built in 1965 on land that had previously been part of the Malthouse Corn Stores property, owned by the Bailey brothers. Tangles seems to have been built across the Guildford/Woking boundary, but perhaps the boundary was subtly re-routed to avoid any complications (bin collections for example!) In the 19th century there was a pond lying just north of where the roundabout is, but the maps show that most of the pond was on the Woking side of the boundary, and only a small slice of the pond lay on what is now the garden of Tangles.
The first occupants of Tangles that we can trace are Richard and Winifred Crompton and their 2 children from 1970, and therefore we assume the house was built c1970. The Cromptons had previously been living at Nook Cottage in Blackhorse Road, and prior to that in Bournemouth. They stayed at Tangles until 2003.
[There is another house named Tangles in Pirbright. Built in the 1930’s, it is in Mill Lane.]
Originally called Lonnon, this house was first occupied in 1969 by Robert, Queenie and Bruce Turner, but they only stayed for a short time (a year or so). We don’t know who lived at Lonnon after that until 1976-88 (Clifford Beauchamp) and then 2005, when Hilary Blakey moved in and changed the name of the house to The Linney. Hilary had previously been living at Elcombe, but sadly died c2013.
Charles and Edith Gunner occupied Oakdene from 1964, having previously lived at Thatchers Lane in Worplesdon with the impressive-sounding phone number of Worplesdon 60. They were able to transfer this number to Oakdene, albeit with some extra digits (which had been forced on everyone at that time by the GPO). We assume that Oakdene was built around this time. Their son Ronald and his family had moved into next-door Sakura (see below) 6 years earlier, and this must have prompted Charles and Edith to move. The Gunners were obviously a closely-knit family.
Charles died in 1972 and Edith in 1974.
We do not know who owned Oakdene subsequently, except for Dorothy Hellawell (1979-82), Miss K Kilby (1988), Josef and Hendrika Tooste (2008-9) and Peter and Nida Norcliffe (2001-6).
Ronald and Rosemary Gunner moved into Sakura in 1958, and we assume that it was a new-build at that time. The name may have been a reference to the Japanese word for cherry blossoms.
Ronald Gunner was born in 1922. His grandparents, Charles and Patience Gunner, had lived at No 10, Pirbright Cottages between 1936 and 1950 until their deaths in 1950 and 1948 respectively. Ronald’s parents, Charles and Edith Gunner had lived at Thatchers Lane, Worplesdon, before c 1964 moving into Oakdene (next door to Sakura – see above) until their deaths in 1972 and 1974 respectively.
Rosemary (nee Carter in 1926) had been living at The Old Forge in Rickford with her parents until she and Ronald were married in 1948. They then continued living at The Old Forge with Rosemary’s parents until moving into Sakura in 1958.
Ronald and Rosemary took a trip to Bermuda in 1960 for unknown reasons, but I’m sure it must have been very pleasant for them. Rosemary died in 1999, and Ronald remained at Sakura until his death in 2004.
The Old Police House
The Old Police House (or “Police Cottage” as it was known originally – not surprisingly) was built in 1936. It was the first house to be built on this stretch of the road since the Westbrook Cottages in 1909-10, and was sited at the northerly end of the field which ran alongside that part of the road.
The plans for the house were drawn up by the “Surrey Standing Joint Committee, Police Housing Scheme”, a scheme started in February 1936 to house members of the Surrey County Constabulary. 2 of the sketches are shown below.
John and Agnes Berry were the lucky first couple to live in the house in 1936. Agnes had been born Agnes Middleton in 1909, had lived near Camberley, and had married John in 1931. John was originally from Camberley (born 1908), and was indeed a police constable. One of his exploits was recorded in that august journal, The News of the World in 1945 (see cutting below left).
They stayed at Police Cottage until 1951, when they moved to Pyrford. John retired in 1959, and the warm tribute below (right) appeared in the local press. He and his family are pictured below (middle). Agnes died in 1971, and John at Knaphill in 1990.
The Berrys were followed by Kenneth and Ivy Crafter between 1952 and 1955. Ivy was the daughter of a police constable in Chelsea, but seems to have been admitted to the Chelsea Union in 1929, which suggests that she may have fallen on hard times. Kenneth and Ivy were married in Chelsea in 1940, after which they lived in Battersea. We do not know whether Kenneth was also a policeman, but after leaving Fox Corner, they moved to Farnham. Kenneth died in Woking in 2008, but I cannot trace when Ivy died.
Between 1958 and 1961 George and Violet Garrad lived in Police Cottage. In 1970, a Gerald and Kathleen Moore were living there. The next owners were Graham and Jennifer Taylor (from 1981). By 1999 (and possibly a few years earlier) the name had been changed to The Old Police House, with the Taylors still living there. Between 2002 and 2009 it was owned by Eleanor Prince.
These 4 houses were all built at the same time, and so we will start off by looking at the early days of St Brelade, Westbrook, Barossa and Laurel Cottage together, and refer to them by their original name, Westbrook Cottages. Then we will consider each of the 4 houses individually.
The 4 Westbrook Cottages were built during 1909-1910 under the ownership of James Findlay of Merrow. The 2 cottages nearest to Fox Corner (Laurel Cottage and Barossa) were built in 1909, followed the next year by St Brelade and Westbrook. The plans for each pair of cottages are shown below.
James Findlay sold them promptly in 1910, Laurel Cottage and Barossa to a Mr Kemp, and the other 2 to two brothers named Terry.
Who were these people? James Findlay was a 30 year-old carpenter from Dallas (not the Texas city – he was from a small town in Morayshire near Inverness). He lived with his wife Mabel (born in Redhill) and their daughter in High Path Road, Merrow, near to Guildford Golf Club, which had opened in 1886. A Scotsman living near to a golf club? There’s a surprise. And his wife’s father (William Buckle) was a golf professional (at Church Stretton). I think we can guess what James liked to do in his free time. James and Mabel (and their family) emigrated to New South Wales, Australia and lived there for the rest of their lives.
[You’ll be wondering if the William Buckle above (the golf professional) is the same William Buckle who owned the land where Rose and Laburnham Cottages are now, shown on the plans above (and who was also the landlord of the New Inn, now the White Lyon, in Worplesdon). The answer is no, and they are not closely related: Golf William was the son of John Buckle, from a dynasty of Buckles in Godalming. But pub William was born in Finchley, the son of a Suffolk man by the name of William Buckle.]
We know nothing for certain about Mr Kemp (except his surname). It could, however, have been James Kemp, a farmer at Ellis Place Mayford. He was born in Elgin, Morayshire, just 7 miles away from where James Findlay had been born, and he had previously farmed at Burdenshott Farm. It’s a possibility, but I wouldn’t stake the mortgage on it.
We can be much more certain about the Terry brothers. They were Arthur and Silas Terry, who lived at Worplesdon, and had recently inherited money from the death of their father (in 1900). Their families subsequently moved into the 2 houses they had bought, but let’s not jump the gun...
The sequence of the 1911 census suggests who lived in which of the 4 cottages, and we will proceed on that basis.
Named “Westbrook Cottage” at the time, the most southerly house was first occupied in 1910 by a Herbert Smith, about whom we know nothing. By the following year, it was occupied by Ernest Willie Bailey (a coachman then a farm labourer, born at Goldsworth in Woking c 1876) and Rosa Bailey (nee Keam in Whitstable c1870) and their family of 5 children. Ernest’s father had been a gardener, probably at one of the Goldsworth nurseries (which at the time were extensive). Rosa’s father was a shipbuilder. The couple married in 1902 and lived in St John’s, Brookwood and Wood Street before moving to the newly-built Westbrook Cottage. They soon moved to White’s Farm, and then left the area. In 1939 they were living at Whitstable, which was Rosa’s home town. They both died in Whitstable in 1962.
Between 1912 and 1932, we cannot be 100% sure who was living at St Brelade. However the Strudwick family were living at 4 Westbrook Cottages between 1912 and 1931, which fits with the gap at St Brelade very nicely. And the principle that the highest house numbers in a street are on the houses furthest from the local town (Pirbright) also points to St Brelade. So that is what we will assume.
John Strudwick was born in 1859 in Mayford. He was the son of an agricultural labourer also called John Strudwick, who had no less than 15 children, and was from a line of Woking Strudwicks, most of whom were called John.
Back to our John Strudwick: He was a farm labourer at Bridley and then Lawfords before moving to St Brelade. His wife Ann (nee Pearce) had also been born in Woking, and they produced 5 children. Most of these bore rather extravagant Christian names, the grandest of which were bestowed on the youngest - Hector Adolphus Livingston Strudwick.
Ann died in 1928, and by 1932 John decided to move to Jacob’s Well, to live with his son Harold Leopold Alexander Strudwick and his family. This is an interesting decision, as one of his many sisters-in-law, Sarah Strudwick, had recently (only 2 years previously) moved into No 1, Malthouse Lane, just around the corner. Sarah was 58 and John 70 at that time, and maybe they weren’t very fond of each other.
In 1932 Janet Terry moved to St Brelade, Fox Corner. Janet (nee Horne near Andover c1875) was the wife of Arthur Terry, one of the 2 Terry Brothers who had purchased St Brelade and Westbrook in 1910. Arthur sadly died, aged only 42, in 1916. Arthur’s story is told here. After Arthur’s death Janet had remained at their house, Waltham, near the Providence Chapel in Rickford, but then decided (in 1932) to move to the family-owned house at Fox Corner, which she named St Brelade. St Brelade is a parish at the south-west tip of Jersey which must have held some special significance for her. Janet was the elder sister of Fanny Horne, who had married Silas Terry, Arthur’s younger brother. Fanny and Silas had moved into next-door Westbrook (below) 3 years earlier, and it is rather heart-warming to think of two sisters living next door to each other, aged in their 50’s.
George Gunner and his family also lived in the house with Janet. Was this George Gunner any relation to Charles Gunner (who lived a No 10, Pirbright Cottages 1936-1945, and whose children subsequently lived at Oakdene and Sakura a few doors from St Brelade - see above)? The answer is – possibly, but I don’t know. I can’t find a direct link between the Gunner families. George’s Gunner line came from White Rose Lane in Woking, whereas Charles’s line came from Worplesdon. But further back, who knows?
In 1940 George Gunner died, and his funeral notice in local newspaper recorded that “the family also wish to thank Mrs Terry for her great kindness towards their father”. Janet died in 1942.
There followed several short-term occupants: John & Phyllis Hilton 1949-55, Kenneth and Sylvia Robb (1956-58), Frank and Margaret Worthington (1960), which suggests that Silas Terry (the surviving Terry brother who lived next door decided to let out St Brelade after Janet’s death, rather than sell it.
In 1962 Geoffrey and Janet Farminer moved into St Brelade. Geoffrey was the 25 year-old son of Geoffrey and Eileen Farminer, who were living at No 16, Pirbright Cottages for over 20 years. His father had run a building business for many years.
When Geoffrey (the elder) and Eileen died in 1969, it looks as though Geoffrey (the younger) took over the business, briefly running it from St Brelade, until (in the early 1970’s) before moving to Church Lane and changing the name to “GE Farminer & Sons (Building Contractors)”.
Between 1979 and 1982 the house was occupied by Alan and Annette Powell.
The first occupants of Westbrook in 1910 were William and Amy Hill and their family. William was a gardener aged 25 who had been born in Catford. His father was a house decorator, and prior to moving into Westbrook, William had been living with his parents in Pirbright Terrace. Amy was born Amy Ralph in Tongham c1889.
Amy’s father was a farm bailiff, living in Elstead in a house named Westbrook. This gives us a pretty broad hint as to why the house at Fox Corner was called Westbrook. It may well have been the first of the 4 “Westbrook Cottages” to have a specific name, and thus all 4 were collectively referred to as Westbrook Cottages (until they were named individually). William and Amy didn’t stay at Westbrook very long, but at least they left a legacy, ie the name.
After the Hills left, a Frederick Collins moved into Westbrook (at least we assume this is the case, using the house numbering principle described above, as he gave his address as 3, Westbrook Cottages). This is probably Frederick Collins (born Farnham c1844), who in 1911 was a Police pensioner, living with his wife Lucina at West Heath. He retired as a police constable in 1883 with an annual pension of just £26 10s (worth £3,200 today). Lucina (nee Norris) was the daughter of a bricklayer and was born near Elephant & Castle c1856. They had moved around Surrey a lot during their working life (it seemed to come with the job of being a policeman in those days). On the 1911 census, they wrote that had 3 children, but did not know how many were still alive, which must have been very sad for them.
The couple moved quite soon afterwards to Redhill, where Lucina died in 1917, and Frederick in 1922. I wonder if their children came to their funerals.
We do not know who lived at Westbrook between 1917 and 1929, but in 1929 Silas and Fanny Terry started living in their own property. Initially they described it as “Westbrook Cottages”, but by 1931 they used the name “Westbrook”, which is still in use today.
Silas came from a long line of Terrys who were well-known in Worplesdon. His and their stories are told here. Silas had married Fanny Horne in 1902. Fanny was the younger sister of Janet Horne, who had married Silas’s elder brother, Arthur. Arthur had died in 1916, and Janet decided to move next door to her sister and her husband in 1932, surely a sign of a strong family relationship.
Silas was obviously quite a craftsman, as he placed a newspaper ad in 1931, advertising home-made wheelbarrows, ladders, garden lights and frames “all painted 3 coats”. Silas and Fanny had 2 daughters and lived the rest of their lives at Westbrook, both dying in 1960 after 58 years of married life.
Winifred remained unmarried, but Norah married James Meredith, and all 3 of them (together with Norah and James’s son) continued to live at Westbrook. James died in 1977, Winifred in 1982, and Norah in 1990. It was at this point that the house left the Terry family after 80 years of ownership.
By 1992 Julian and Laura Bohling and their family moved into Westbrook. Julian was an architect, and sat on Pirbright Parish Council for a number of years. They left Westbrook c2012.
Amos Nash was the first occupant of Barossa (which was unnamed at the time) in 1909. Despite his rather unusual name, we cannot find any other definite references to him.
By 1911 Bill and Jane Wright were living in the house (which at the time was simply known as “Westbrook Cottages”). Bill was a 50 year-old police constable who had been born in Gateshead. In 1881 he had married Jane Giles in Windsor, and they had 3 children. In 1901 Bill was stationed in Chertsey, but the following year Jane died, aged only 37.
After a short spell in Pirbright, Bill returned to the north-east, marrying Jane Gilbey (who was 35 years younger than him) in Gateshead in 1917, having a further 3 children, and dying in Durham in 1943. 2 photos of Bill are shown below. The picture on the right is with the second of his 2 wives named Jane (who died in 1972).
We do not know who lived at Barossa between 1917 and 1929. But in 1929 George and Rhoda Chandler moved in (and immediately named the house “Barossa Cottage”. Much as we might like it to have been named after the wonderful wine-growing area in South Australia, I think it more probable that it was named after the heathland area called Barossa Common in Camberley just the other side of the M3 (now a partly restricted site used by the military). If you are still doubtful, you may like to know that Rhoda’s mother (Minnie Avenell, nee Hiscock) had spent her youth living at a house called Barossa Lodge on the edge of Barossa Common back in the late 19th century.
George was the son of Charles and Mary Ann Chandler, who lived on Whitmoor Common. Charles was a gardener. In 1911, aged 19, George was an “under gardener”, but by 1926 he had changed his profession and was a platelayer. In 1939 he described himself as a “Railway Gen Way Lengthman. Our local railway expert tells us that a lengthman would have been responsible for looking after a length of track in a certain area (the up and down lines) checking it for anything untoward. Another job description would be a ‘ganger’ and such a position would involve working on or about the lineside.
Rhoda was born in 1900, the daughter of Mark and Minnie Avenell, who lived at Laburnham Cottage. She and George were married at St Mary’s Worplesdon in 1926. They had one child, but tragically Rhoda died very soon after he was born, aged only 33, in 1933. She was a member of the Worplesdon Women’s Institute, and had been a bellringer at St Mary’s. Her funeral was well attended, and reported in the local newspaper.
George remained at Barossa until 1939, when he moved to Acacia Road in Guildford (near Stoke Park). He died there in 1958.
The next occupants were William and Kate Barnett, who had previously lived at the unfortunately named Purvey Cottage in Gravetts Lane, Worplesdon. William was born in Shalford in 1896 and was a gardener who did “heavy work”. During WW1 he had served with the Hampshire Regiment. Kate was also from Shalford and had been born in 1894 (nee Newman). They were married in June 1918.
In 1950 Peter and Josephine Barnett were living with the Barnetts, and in 1960 John and Jean Farquharson were there with the Barnetts (they stayed there until c1967, at which point they moved into the newly built Barn Brae 2 doors away - see below). I assume that Peter and Jean were children of William and Kate (Jean was William’s executor), but cannot be certain of this.
William Barnett died in 1961. Kate moved out of Barossa with the Farquharsons in the late 1960’s into Barn Brae, but died soon after in 1970.
In 1970, Thomas and Gladys Willey were living at Barossa. Thomas was born in Pontypool in 1912, and Gladys had been born Gladys Tompkins (born Woking also in 1912). They had been living on Courtenay Road, Woking. Gladys died in 1980 and Thomas stayed at Barossa until at least 1982. He died (in Chichester) in 2004.
In 1992-93 David and Joanna Jeffreys were living at Barossa.
James and Ada Blanche Ball were the first occupants of Laurel Cottage in 1909, although at that time it didn’t have a name. They stayed there until c1915, at which point they moved into Ivory Cottage in Malthouse Lane, a house which James had built. James and Ada’s story is told under Ivory Cottage, and also Elcombe and Markham in the same lane (these were 2 further houses which James built).
As with 2 of the other 3 Westbrook Cottages, there is then a gap in our knowledge as to who lived in these houses (until 1929 in the case of Laurel Cottage).
In 1929 Samuel and Ellen Petter moved into the house, and, like the house next door (Barossa), they immediately gave it a name – Laurel Cottage. It’s not obvious why they chose this name. Perhaps there were some laurels growing in the garden, or perhaps they just liked laurel.
Samuel was born in Trotton, a small village between Petworth and Petersfield in 1877. He moved to Pirbright in 1911, and between 1911 and 1915 he lodged with the Lakers at No 15, Pirbright Cottages. During WW1 he served with the 33rd Royal Fusiliers in France, but was discharged in June 1918 as being unfit for service due to “degeneration of spinal cord (lateral sclerosis)”. This was due to “exposure to bad climactic conditions”, and sounds dreadful.
Samuel’s future wife Ellen (nee Hadley in Walsall in 1877) had been working as a cook in 1911 at the house of Mrs Montgomery in Rickford (now the houses called White Lodge and Little Rickford), and it must have been somewhere between 15, Pirbright Cottages and White Lodge that Samuel and Ellen met. My money would be that they met at Rickford bakery, during the morning shop...
In 1917 Samuel and Ellen married in Worplesdon, and they moved to High Path Road, Guildford. This was the road in which James Findlay (who had owned the 4 Westbrook Cottages in 1909-10) lived, and possibly this connection somehow led to Samuel and Ellen moving to Laurel Cottage in 1929. Before that move however, Samuel and Ellen lived at Hockley Lands Lodge (on Burdenshott Road, Worplesdon). They had one child, Ronald, born in 1920, who became a motor mechanic, lived in Park Barn, and died in 1972.
Once Samuel and Ellen had moved to Laurel Cottage they obviously took a liking for it, as they remained there for the rest of lives, dying within 5 months of each other in 1968, both aged 90. Given Samuel’s travails in WW1 and his subsequent work as a gardener, this is a terrific achievement – he must have had a very strong constitution.
After 1968 our knowledge is sporadic: In 1970 Franklin and Heather Bevan were living at Laurel Cottage. In 1981 Stephen and Valerie Budd were there, whilst in 1992-3 Ashley and Anne Pearson were living there. From 2001 (possibly earlier) until c2013 James and Nicola Wood lived there.
Barn Brae was built in 1967. We do not know who owned the land at that time, or what it had been used for during the previous 70 years (during which time several other houses had sprung up around it).
John and Jean Farquharson moved into the new house, together with Kate Barnett, having all been living just 2 doors away at Barossa (refer above). The reason for their move is unclear. Kate Barnett died in 1970, aged 76, and the Farquharsons moved to Sutton Green in 1973. From c1976 to c1983 John and Hazel Hutton lived at Barn Brae.
Now moving around the corner, past Malthouse and Heath Mill Lanes...
The area around where The Fox stands was originally called Gander Hill, which is strange, as there doesn’t seem to be a hill there. Quite possibly there were some ganders though. The original house which stood on the site (Gander Hill Cottage) dates at least as far back to 1673, when it was granted by the Manor to Edward White. In 1685, Edward White mortgaged the property to Katherine Jewer. She was the widow of Thomas Jewer, who had purchased Bones (now Layton House) in Chapel Lane in 1670, and may have also owned property at Burroughs Hill. It seems likely that her late husband was the Thomas Jewer who was born in Pirbright in 1630, and died in Pirbright in 1677. Katherine Jewer died in 1685 and Gander Hill Cottage passed to her son, John Jewer.
John Jewer sold the property 3 years later (in 1688) to William Linnard (aka Leonard), a shoemaker, who owned it copyhold (which included elements of today’s freehold and leasehold). The Jewers then moved out of the Pirbright area, possibly to Guildford. Meanwhile the Cottage stayed with 5 generations of the Linnard family for nearly 160 years, owned by William Linnard (died 1710), then his son William (died 1746), then his son William (died 1767), then his son William (1733-1789), and then his nephew, John (born 1772).
John Linnard, a farmer, continued to live at Gander Hill (which was still owned copyhold) until his death in 1846, one year after his wife Ann (nee Weddington). Copies of the 1807 map and accompanying survey are shown below. In case you are wondering, land coloured green is “either meadow or pasture”. All the land on this section of the map is numbered in black, which means it was privately owned (any land numbered in red belonged to the Manor of Pirbright).
Before we look at each house, here is the detailed
John also owned Whites Farm, courtesy of his great aunt, Mercy Collins, who had acquired it in 1725 before marrying into the Linnard family. John and Ann had 3 daughters, who moved away from the property shortly after John’s death. The next year (1847), Gander Hill Cottage was sold to a William Street, a 72 year-old from Godalming, who mortgaged the property.
The 1841 Tithe map shows it as comprising a house with 2 outbuildings set in 2½ acres. As well as the current footprint of The Fox, the property extended as far to the west as the Hoe Stream (ie it included today’s Field Place and Foxbury), and as far to the north as Dunreyth. It did not, however extend as far as Heath Mill Lane at any point.
In 1851 William Street was living in the cottage and described himself as a farmer (which is impressive for a 71 year-old). He died in 1856 at Godalming, but the previous year, he had advertised Gander Hill Cottage for sale. It was described as 'improvable property for residence or investment within easy distance of the Aldershot camp'. (and we all know what estate agents mean when they describe a property as “improvable”...). The property included fuel house, garden and orchard, and entitlement to allotments of the common 'about to be enclosed'.
It was purchased by a Richard Edmund Mellersh in 1858. This was almost certainly a mis-writing of Robert Edmund Mellersh, a 28 year-old solicitor from Godalming (who also owned a property in Shamley Green which sold “beer and sweets”). With 2 of his brothers, Frederick and Alfred, who variously described themselves as solicitors and bankers, he was a partner in the well known (at the time) Godalming firm of estate agents and auctioneers, Messrs Mellersh, and the Godalming Bank.
Looking ahead, by 1891 Robert was living in the centre of Godalming with his wife, Sarah, and their 13 children, some of whom were already on the way to developing legal careers. Robert, who had a finger in many pies, died in 1893, leaving £200,000 (worth over £16 million today).
But back to 1858, Robert Mellersh clearly had an eye for business, as in 1861 he had purchased an acre of waste ground next door to Gander Hill, and by 1862 Gander Hill Cottage had been demolished and replaced by The Fox, managed by H&G Simonds Brewery of Reading, very well-known at the time.
After 20 years, Mr Mellersh sold the copyhold to the Simonds Brewery (in 1882), and it continued to operate as a public house, owned by the brewery under a series of different tenants. Times change though: Simonds brewery merged with Courage in 1960, and more recently, as UK breweries have moved out of the pub business, many pubs (including The Fox) have been bought by “pub companies”.
I’m not aware of which particular pub companies owned The Fox after 1986, but in 2015 The Fox was put up for sale. Locals were concerned that it would be bought by a developer, razed to the ground and replaced by a block of flats, but the story had a much happier ending. The bidding process was won by local resident who proceeded to restore the building and run it as a traditional pub with a fine local feel to it, much to the gratitude of the local population.
Now to go into the history in more detail, we are fortunate that the Surrey History Society has a letter written in 1930 from H&G Simonds Ltd (their address is The Brewery, Reading), describing the early history of The Fox. They listed the tenants (ie the landlords) as:
1862 – Henry Craven
1870 – James Haskins
1878 – Samuel Wade
1880 – Edward Dawson
1883 – James Sayers
1900 – Mrs Emma Sayers
1911 – Walter Edwin Liley
We’ve given some more information on Simonds Brewery here. We’ll now look at each of the tenants in turn.
Henry Craven (Landlord 1862-1870) and his wife Ann were both from Norfolk, and Henry was just 28 when he started at The Fox. By 1871 he had been promoted(?) to The Jolly Farmer at Frimley, but by 1881 he had changed career somewhat – he was a brickmaker in Hove. By 1901 Ann had died, and Henry had returned to the Guildford area as a brickmaker, living in Stoughton.
James Haskins (Landlord 1870-1878) was actually called James Hankins, not Haskins as written in the Simonds letter, and was aged 40 when he started at The Fox with his wife, Jane and their 5 children. James was born in Shalford and Jane came from Guildford, so perhaps the Brewery managers had decided that they needed a more mature landlord, and one with some local background. In 1861 James had been a labourer but he stayed 8 years at The Fox. Jane died in 1881, and James was lodging at The Jovial Sailor in Ripley, working as an agricultural labourer. He described himself as unmarried, rather than widowed, on the census of that year. He died in Guildford in 1898.
Samuel Wade (Landlord 1878-1880). No information.
Edward Dawson (1880-1883) was born in Woking in 1848, and in 1871 was living at Prey Heath. In 1880 he moved to The Fox and was living there with his wife Harriett and their family (which included his 91 year-old mother-in-law!). But his stay at The Fox was a short one, which may have had something to do with a little matter reported in the local newspaper (see below) in 1883. By now the local population may have been unimpressed at the seemingly rapid turnover in landlords. That was about to change.
James Sayers (Landlord 1883-1900) was born in Sussex in 1851, and in 1871 was an engine cleaner in Lambeth. 10 years later he was an agricultural labourer living near Pirbright Green with Emma his wife (from Northampton), and 2 years later he was installed at The Fox. At last a truly local landlord!
Early in his tenure James had to face up to what Pirbright youngsters were like (see press cutting below from 1885).
James had been landlord at The Fox for 17 years when their eldest daughter, Emily, married Ernest Tanner in 1900, and the happy couple moved across the road into No 11, Pirbright Cottages. James then sadly died in 1900, aged only 40. This must have been a great hardship to his wife Emma and their 2 daughters, aged 21 and 18, but Emma made the decision to carry on as landlord herself, and she continued in that post until 1911. Emma then moved away from Pirbright and died in Guildford in 1924.
Walter Liley (1911-1946) and his wife Edith took over the landlord role from the Sayers in 1911, and it was probably a hard act to follow. But they clearly succeeded, as they stayed at The Fox for 35 years. Walter was born in Devon in 1878, and Edith (nee Munday) in Reading in 1877. Walter started work on the railways (as a parcels porter at Sidmouth Junction in 1895), before being posted to Reading (in 1902), where he was a telegraphist. He was then transferred (in 1907) to Waterloo as a telegraphist, but by then he must have met Edith, and wanted to return to her in Reading.
They married in 1909, and in 1911 they were managing a pub in Reading. It was presumably a Simonds pub, and the Brewery lost little time in asking the Lileys to transfer to Pirbright. Although the Brewery letter states that the Lileys started at The Fox in 1911, other records suggest they may not have started until c1913, but no matter.
One of the pictures below features Walter and Edith. Walter died in 1946, and Edith (who was incapacitated) in 1947.
Eric and Kathleen Gosden (1946-c1965) followed the Lileys, and they too were long stay tenants, remaining at The Fox until the 1960’s. Eric was born at Cove, Farnborough in 1908. He and Kathleen were married in 1939, and took up residence at The Fox on the death of Walter Liley in 1946.
Between at least 1970 and 1981 (and possibly longer), the Gosdens were living at Keg Cove in Heath Mill Lane. Eric died in Farnborough in 1994.
After the Gosdens, we can trace several occupants of The Fox: Leonard and Muriel Shilling (1968-70), Leslie and Maisie Bristow (1970-82), Michael and Elizabeth Smith (1992-93) and Mr and Mrs M Kernot (1993-95).
Here are 6 photos of The Fox spanning 120 years. From top to bottom and left to right:
The earliest known picture of the Fox c 1900.
A shot from 1906. We don’t know who the little girl in the foreground is.
A picture from c1909-11 showing the local bus service. The conductor is William Woolger, while the lady and the gentleman in shirt sleeves are Edith and Walter Liley (the landlord).
Someone getting on the bus in the 1960’s.
A frontal shot from 1987.
A recent photo (2021).
An interesting question is: Was The Fox named after Fox Corner, or was Fox Corner named after The Fox? The first reference to The Fox Inn we can find is the 1871 census, whereas the first reference to Fox Corner is in a 1911 newspaper. So the answer seems clear. But that raises the question: Why was The Fox named The Fox in the first place.....?
Foxbury was built c 1967. As with next-door Field Place (below), it was built on land which had belonged to (and had been sold off by) Simonds Brewery, owners of The Fox.
It has the distinction of still being occupied by the original owner. The owners have played a significant role in the local community, being founder members and strong supporters of the Fox Corner Community Wildlife Area.
Field Place was built c1955 on land owned by (and sold off by) Simonds Brewery, owners of The Fox. It was first occupied by Fred and Elsie Farminer, who had moved out of their family home at 1, Pirbright Cottages, after the death of his father William in 1953.
Fred was a builder by trade, and he may well have built Field Place. Richard Renton (who occupied Heatherside Bungalow until his death in 1963) appointed Fred as his executor, describing him as a licensed victualler (ie a pub landlord). Does this mean that Fred combined his building work with managing The Fox pub? Or did he merely help out at some time (we do not know when Richard’s will was prepared)?
Fred and Elsie emigrated to New Zealand in the 1960’s, living just north of Auckland, where they spent the rest of their lives.
In 1961 Major Frederick and Jacqueline Nicholson moved into Field Place with their daughter. Previously they had been living close to Epsom racecourse. Frederick was retired, and had been awarded the OBE. The Nicholsons left Field Place in the early 1980’s.
In 1993 a Dennis and Eunice Richards were living in the house, as well as a Mr J Yeats.
Occupying a narrow strip between 2 streams (one of which comes from Heath Mill, the other from Bridley Pond on Worplesdon Golf Course), Millstream House was built on land formerly part of the Heath Mill estate (actually a field called “Lower Meadow”).
Building work started in 1968, but by 1969 it “stood partly complete for quite some time”, according to one local resident. The building work was completed within the next couple of years, and by 1972, the house was occupied by a doctor and his family, who remained there for a full 47 years until 2019.
There is a long track from the house to Heath Mill Lane (near Heath Mill itself), but in 2012, a rather heated debate amongst local residents was sparked by a planning application to formalise vehicular access between the house and the Guildford Road. The application was refused, but a subsequent revised application was approved in 2018, and the required works completed soon afterwards.