In olden times Horsell was a scattered community of farms and cottages, with just a few properties in the area of the present village centre. Of these Escairs, in the High Street, is often claimed to be the oldest, dating from the late 15th century (with 16th and 17th century additions), but outside the ’core’ can be found places such as Well Farm (part 15th century), and the equally old (and more ’original’), Whittles Farm in Cheapside. This was once an ’open-hall’ house – the smoke from a central fire drifting up to blacken the timbers in the roof space above. All these properties are ‘listed’ buildings – buildings considered by English Heritage to be of national importance that should be preserved.
They are not the only ones in the area – others include: Scotchers Farm (16th century – Horsell Common), Beetle Cottage (16th century – Carthouse Lane), and Birch Farm (Early 18th century – Horsell Birch), to name just a few. At the back of this booklet is a note of all the listed buildings and locally listed buildings in the area. Added to these there are five Conservation Areas in the village – the Basingstoke Canal, Holyoake Crescent, Church Hill/Waldens Park Road, Horsell Birch, and the Broomhall Road/The Grove area. In these areas properties are subject to certain planning conditions designed to preserve as much as possible the unique character of the district.
KETTLEWELL HILL AND WOODHAM ROAD AREA
The Woodham Road area in the early 1870s
Woodham Rise was originally known as Albany Road – taking its name from the Duchess of Albany who lived at Claremont House, Esher. The road was probably laid out in 1887 – the year that the Duchess came to Woking to lay the foundation stone for the new Christ Church. Several old properties from this era still survive, many built on land developed by the ‘National Land Co.’ a company set up in the late 19th century to take advantage of the recent expansion of the nearby new town of Woking. Properties such as ‘Ruthven House (now part of the Nuffield Hospital ) built in 1888, and ‘Lanstead’ built in 1892 still survive, together with several large Edwardian properties. Of course not all the old houses have survived and one of the first to be redeveloped was ‘Woodham Hall’ in Woodham Lane. The Ridings, The Gateway and Woodham Way were developed between 1932 and 1935 on the site of the house, although as the map here shows, the old house was not immediately demolished.
When these attractive ‘country cottages’ were first built by Thomas Higgs to the design of Stanley A Bull, they ranged in price from a three-bedroom, two reception room ‘cottage’ at £1,000, to four bedroom, two bathroom and two reception room properties at £1,950. The brochure pointed out that the estate could never be ‘encroached upon or spoiled by further surrounding developments’ and noted that with the ‘pine, fir, birch and oak trees as well as the rhododendrons and other shrubs, the sylvan beauties of old Woodham Hall have been retained’.
The Woodham Hall area in the mid 1930's before the old house was demolished
Other 1930 s developments include Kettlewell Close and Common Close, the latter being built in 1935- 8 by Mr E Ricks, from Kingfield.. Of course there has been much ‘infill’ in recent years but the character of the area – large houses with many mature trees – has been retained in places such as Heathlands, The Channings and Fairlawn Park (off Kettlewell Hill), or The Pines (Woodham Road).
HORSELL RISE AND THE RIDGEWAY
The history of the Horsell Rise and Ridgeway area began in the late 19th century when the Rev. Back started to buy portions of land from various farmers and landowners in the area. In the early part of the 20th century his widow decided to sell the land for development and the ‘Horsell Land Co.’ was formed to develop the estate. In February 1901, 73 acres of land were put up for sale in plots of varying size, with extra land being added to the estate in 1907 when the area towards Cheapside (including the Woking High School site) was added.
Southcote, Church Road - from the builder's catalogue of 1907
Indeed the original plans for the estate at that time show roads cutting across the school site, linking to Morton Road, with other roads (also unbuilt), on the western slopes of Ridgeway hill. However, although considerable progress was made in the early Edwardian period, with many fine houses being built such as Horsell Dene, Meadow Lea and Hillside , the company went into receivership in 1913. Southcote, Church Road - from the builder's catalogue of 1907 Fletcher Road – has been changed to Horsell Vale, the new name presumably sounding more ‘rural’ and attractive than the original. Again several of the old properties have subsequently been divided, re-developed or converted – such as St Andrews School and Throwleigh Lodge in the Ridgeway, or indeed Southcote in Church Road - now the site of a 1960s ‘close’ of the same name. Even relatively modest homes – such as the former home of the children’s book illustrator and author, Molly Brett – have been demolished and replaced by modern houses.
WHEATSHEAF CLOSE AND CHOBHAM ROAD
As has been mentioned earlier, part of the Chobham Road area is designated a ‘Conservation Area’ with the early 18th century ‘Crofters Cottage’ on the corner with Broomhall Road , apparently once being three small thatched cottages! The area developed as a result of the growth of Woking with The Grove and Ferndale Road starting to be developed in the 1890s by a company called the ‘National Land Corporation’ on land that had once been part of Cobbett’s Nursery. In 1895 they laid out the initial 25 plots for development, although others were later added when the ‘estate’ was extended eastward.
Wheatsheaf Close, when Orchard Drive was still an orchard
Of course not all the properties were built as houses – the one on the corner of Chobham Road and Ferndale Road being a ‘Preparatory School for Boys’ - now converted into a home and renamed ‘The Old Schoolhouse’. Some of the properties of Broomhall Road also date from about this time, although many have been divided or ‘modernised’. The Grove was not the only area to be built on former nursery-grounds, and eventually the orchards, fields and nurseries further along Chobham Road gave way to roads. The orchards became Orchard Drive whilst in the 1930s the ‘Wheatsheaf Rustic and Horticultural Works‘ gave way to the houses of Wheatsheaf Close.
Sale particulars for The Grove estate in September, 1899
The war brought house building to a halt, and it was not until the 1960s that any large-scale development took place. The houses and flats on the west side of Chobham Road – Broomhall End, Thurlston Court and Laleham Court being the main developments of that time. The latter of these won a Department of Housing Award in 1963 for the architects ‘Hartry, Grover and Halter’. Across the road some older residents may remember the old Fenns Farm House and Barn jutting out into the middle of Chobham Road, and the roadside pond – now replaced by the houses of Fenns Way.
BREWERY ROAD, HORSELL MOOR AND HORSELL PARK
The hopfields of the brewery are commemorated in Old Malt Way and Hopfields, whilst across the road at the Cricket Ground hops can still be found growing in the hedge. Horsell Moor, 1896. The houses of Horsell Moor are not actually in Horsell as the road marked the old boundary between the village and Woking . Indeed the land upon which the houses are built was once part of the ‘poor’ allotments of Woking , the Victorian and Edwardian villas being built by a variety of mainly local builders (see the names on the manhole covers – an excellent source of local history research)! The Horsell Park area however was, and is, far from the ‘poor’ part of town, with many large houses still surviving from the roads development in the inter-war and early post war years.
That is not to say that none of the old houses have been redeveloped – Graylands, of course, being the prime example. But if you think that the flats of that estate are not ‘in keeping’ with the area, think what would have happened if the original plans of 1962 for ‘108 flats, in three, ten storey blocks’ had been approved.
WALDENS PARK ROAD AND CHURCH HILL
Moor Hatch from a sales brochure of December 1907.
Although Church Hill is a conservation area there are, in fact, few listed buildings in the road (apart from the Church and a couple of its tombs!) Several houses are locally listed however, including Hillcrest (an early 19th century house opposite the church), Bowness (late 18th century, on the corner with Waldens Park Road) and ’The Cottage’ (also 18th century). ‘Kalmia’, across the road, was originally built as two small cottages in the 18th century. At the bottom of the hill is the youngest of the locally listed properties in the road – Moor Hatch – built in the early 20th century by Drowley & Co of Church Street, Woking . Waldens Road and Waldens Park Road were built on the land of Waldens Farm, the latter being developed between 1898 and 1900. By then local farmers were rapidly realising that the best ‘crop’ they could have on their land was houses, with the nearby Abbey Farm already making way for Abbey Road between 1892 and 1896. Nevertheless not all of the farmland was built upon straight away and in the early 1920s Woking Council built some of its first council houses in Horsell in Kirby Road and St Mary’s Road. Modern developments off the latter road have taken on the names of the two daughter chapels to St Mary’s – St Thomas ’ (still at Littlewick Common) and St Andrews (once off Viggory Lane). Lych Way, just below the church, dates from the 1970s, with the slightly earlier Pares Close and Wilson Way on the other side of the church. Pares Close takes its name from a former vicar of Horsell, Canon Norman Pares, whilst Wilson Way was named after his nephew (Geoffrey Wilson), who tragically died of polio when he was only twelve.
WELL LANE AND BULLBEGGARS LANE
With the well in front of the 16th century Well Farm (actually in Bullbeggars Lane) it is obvious how Well Lane got its name, but what of Bullbeggars? The name actually comes from the farm, now called Whopshott Farm (also 16th century), where, according to local legend ‘bullbeggars’ (evil goblin like-creatures) used to live in the barns. The barns have long since gone, and as far as I know, so have the bullbeggars! Several of the houses at the Horsell Birch end of the road were built in the early 1930s by Stephen Silk – a local builder whose yard was on Church Hill (where Streetwise Antiques are). In 1929 he bought 4 acres of land formerlly belonging to Horsell Birch Nursery, and started the development of the lane. By then Well Lane was already largely developed with late Victorian and Edwardian housing. One significant development at that time was the Woking and District Co-operative Society’s ‘Garden Suburb’, built between 1912 and 1914 as ‘Holyoake Crescent’. The land had actually been bought by the Co-op to stable their delivery horses, but with little accommodation in the area for workers, the society decided to develop the land, with thirty houses and a new branch store (in Well Lane) in the ’garden suburb’ style. The whole estate cost just over £9,000 to be built. Holyoak Crescent is now a conservation area, recognising its unique place in the local history of the area. It is debatable whether in years to come the houses of the Bullbeggars Estate (later renamed Lakeview) will become a conservation area, but the distinctive style of Pine Close could merit attention in the future!
COBBETT'S NURSERY & THE HORSELL HIGH STREET ESTATE
As has been mentioned before, there were only a few scattered farms and cottages in this area in the past, but by the late 18th and early 19th century the village centre had started to form.
Davis Estates Ltd development at Horsell High Street in 1939
As well as the church and inns (the Red Lion and later The Crown), other properties began to be concentrated on what soon became known as the ‘High Street’. Benstead’s Cottage and Plat Cottage are two survivors from this period – Plat Cottage being apparently built as a wedding present by the nurseryman, Henry Cobbett, for his son (also called Henry). The main part of the nursery was opposite the cottage. It concentrated on growing roses (hence Rosehill Avenue), and in its heyday employed 21 men and four boys. When Henry junior died in the early 20th century the business started to go into decline and in 1933 the land was put up for sale. It was bought by H.W. Crane, of Thornash Road, for just £4,000, who then developed the ‘Horsell High Street Estate ’Further down the road (beyond Nursery Road), Davis Estates sold their houses along the High Street in the late 1930s for up to £850! In the other direction the houses of Ormonde Road had begun to be built in the mid 1890s by Eli Harris, a labourer and builder from White Rose Lane in Woking. He bought the land on the east side of the road (and part of Manor Road) in 1894, laying out most of the plots for development the following year.
An advertisement for the 'Horsell High Street Estate' in 1934
There has, of course, been much infilling in the High Street with houses, shops and flats from practically every decade since the 1930s, but nothing can compare to the timber-framed Elizabethan house opposite Ormonde Road – built in 1965. If only every 1960s development in the village was of similar design.
HORSELL COMMON ESTATE AND SOUTH ROAD
The area to the north of the High Street was once open fields belonging to long gone farms such as Grove Barrs Farm and Thornash Farm. South Road was just a muddy lane, known as ‘Deep Lane’, whilst the dirt track on the line of Morton Road had the intriging title of ‘Gallows Lane’! Of course all of the roads were originally dirt tracks, and some such as Cheapside, Viggory Lane and Horsell Birch, still are. In Horsell Birch was one of Horsell’s more unusual features – a windmill, built by the Steer family to power their sawmill. The house ‘Mill End’ marks the site. The Victorian and Edwardian villas of South Road were gradually joined by the development of its various side-streets – Thornash Road and Close in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period, and in 1902-4 Russell Road (marketed as the ‘Horsell Common Estate’). Grove Barrs Farm was sold off in the early 1930s – leading eventually to the development of Hammond Road and the Meadway Drive areas.
The farmland of Grove Barrs Farm in the 1920s
Grade ll Listed Buildings
Locally Listed Buildings
Old Malt Way
Waldens Park Road
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