Fox Corner:  An overall picture

Scope

This website contains a history of the area immediately surrounding Fox Corner, near Pirbright, Surrey. 

“Surrounding” has been taken to mean within roughly half a mile.  It is easier to define what lies outside the scope of this document, than what is covered:  Specifically, Stanford, Ford’s Farm, Burner’s Farm, Chapel Lane, Rowe Lane, Pirbright Green, Worplesdon Golf Course and Brookwood Cemetery are all outside scope, and are only mentioned to provide context where appropriate.

Introduction

This page provides a broad brush of how the area developed through the years.  Other pages comprise a property-by-property analysis, with greater detail of the families and individuals who shaped our local history.

The old records of Pirbright Manor, kept by the Surrey History Centre, are an invaluable source of information from the 1600’s onwards.  Old maps, census records, electoral rolls and directories provide good information from the 1800’s until the 1960’s.  Curiously, more recent information is harder to come by, but personal memories from some residents have more than made up for this.

Many of the properties in our area have house names, rather than numbers.  Laura Wright (2020) has categorised British house names into 5 groups as follows (with her examples):

  • The transferred place name (eg Hanover Lodge)

  • The nostalgically rural (eg Orchard House)

  • Commemorative (eg Albert Villa)

  • Names linked to nobility (eg Grosvenor House)

  • Fads (eg Dunroamin’)

She concludes that all show a striving to talk up the owner’s social standing.  Do you agree with her categories and conclusions?  As you read through the pages on this website, see how many you can categorise in our area.

Development of Fox Corner

The earliest (large-scale) maps from 1729, 1768 and 1779 show what we now call Rickford Bridge, the Bagshot Road, the Guildford-Pirbright road, the Ash Road, Malthouse Lane and Heath Mill Lane.  They are all shown as being generally in their current positions (though the two lanes have moved a little).  Ostend is also shown, which is perhaps a surprise, since today Ostend is not a particularly significant building (my apologies to anyone who disagrees).

We have devoted a separate page to the early maps of the area

Up to the late 1800’s the Fox Corner area was largely agricultural and must have been pretty quiet.  It was dominated by 2 mills (Heath Mill and Rickford Mill), a few farms, and of course (from the 1860’s) The Fox pub.

One large house – Alpine Lodge (now Norfolk House and The Squirrels) - was built in the 1860’s, but things only significantly changed in the 1890’s, with a sudden burst of residential housing (of which the most visible would have been Pirbright Cottages).

 

This mirrored what was happening nationwide.  The most important driver for this UK-wide housing boom was a rising population:  The population of the UK doubled between 1851 and 1911, and that meant that more housing was required.  The mid 1890’s saw an economic recovery in the UK from 1894, after some fallow years, and so this period saw something of a housing boom.

This surge in house-building helped to maintain a long-term trend of falling house prices.  Housing had been relatively expensive in Victorian times – the ratio of median house prices to average earnings was similar to, or even higher than, today (8:1).  As a result, the vast majority of housing before the mid 20th century was rented, not owned. 

From the 1930’s to the 1990’s, excluding the war years, the ratio in the paragraph above was half of what it had been previously, and this caused a trend towards home ownership, which gathered pace in the 1950’s.

What did this mean for Fox Corner?  During the 50 years after the 1890’s, a few houses sprang up in our area, for example in Lawford’s Hill Road and Malthouse Lane.  But generally the level of housebuilding stayed low, compared to the 1890’s.

But in the late 1950’s and 1960’s housebuilding surged again at Fox Corner.  Houses were built in areas which had previously been green spaces, such as along the Ash Road, Bullswater Common Road, and The Fairway.  Additional houses were built on Berry Lane, Bagshot Road, and between the roundabout and Fox Corner itself.  At the time, this would have made a huge difference to the look and character of the area.

Fox Corner has changed relatively little since.  With a shortage of space for new houses, house extensions have been more popular than new builds.

One small oddity:  Although Fox Corner lies clearly in the parish of Pirbright, some individuals and newspaper references referred to their houses as being in Worplesdon.  This is despite the fact that the Pirbright-Worplesdon parish boundary follows the course of the Hoe Stream and has done so since the 1800’s.  It is true that for electoral purposes Pirbright was for some time in the Electoral Division of Worplesdon.  But it appears that some residents simply preferred to think of themselves as living in Worplesdon rather than in Pirbright, perhaps because they had a previous attachment to Worplesdon.

We’ll finish this section with a teaser:  When was Fox Corner first called Fox Corner?  The answer is later than one might imagine.  The first documentary evidence we have found of the name “Fox Corner” is in a newspaper of 1911.  But this was not an official name at that time - the electoral roll of 1915 describes the area rather confusingly as “Rickford, Worplesdon”.  Just to confuse further, the OS map of 1915 clearly marks the corner as “Fox Corner”.   I assume that the name derives from The Fox pub, which had been established in the 1860’s.  Or maybe it was because of the wildlife in the neighbourhood?