Local History of Wonersh and Blackheath

 Acknowledgements and source material  from :-
 “Our Village” by Wonersh History Society and “History of Blackheath” by Brigadier Dick Hume.  
Victoria History of Surrey Parishes 1911 

  The records of Wonersh & Blackheath churches. 
  History of England (1708), John Aubrey visited Wonersh circa 1690.
anning & Bray Vol. II pages 108-116.

Very many letters and documents are summarised and published online in the Surrey History Centre Archives. It has not been found possible to link specific documents directly, however the document may be found by paging down manually in a relevant collection or else from the ADVANCED SEARCH page (note - deselect all except the SHC Collections box). These collections include :-
 County Records & Deeds relating to Manors of Bramley,  Collection ref: 892 – Including a concise summary of the descent of the title.
  Norton Family – Deeds of Surrey Estates, Collection Refs: G24, G60, G1275, 1229
  Loseley papers, Collection Section LM.
  Wonersh Collections
WON Part 1  and WON Part 2
  Vision of Britain - Parish of Wonersh
  Wonersh and Bramley History Societies & Bramley Parish Council's History
Wonersh History Society was established in 1993 to preserve and build on a quantity of material gathered togher by the late Anthony Fanshaw.

Information can also be found on the folllowing pages:- 
  Local Villages
  Wonersh Church History
  St Martin's Blackheath
  Wonersh Registers & Vicars
  Old Wonersh Families  
Events may be put into wider context by clicking 

Scientists say the age of the earth is some 4.5 billion years; a truly huge number. Stretch out your arms and imagine that the span from the tips of each hand represents this period. If we start from the fingertip of one hand as the beginning, all complex life would be contained on the span of the other hand. A manicure would represent man's presence on earth and a shave of a nail file would obliterate our history in Wonersh. Evolution or creation, or somewhere in between, God's world is a wonderful place.

Early History to the Conquest

Humans have inhabited this area for many years. Pre-historic remains are abundant: Paleolithic flints and Neolithic implements and burial mound have been found at Blackheath and around Chinthurst Hill. 

Timeline  The early history of Surrey indicates that this part of England was sparsely populated with little evidence remaining of much before the Norman Conquest. Christianity arrived in Britain in Roman times and took root in both the new culture and the indigenous Celtic people. At Farley Heath, on the edge of Blackheath, is the site of a Roman Temple and the largest Romano-British settlement in Surrey, situated off Stane Street. After the Romans withdrew from Britain in 410AD Saxons and Jutes invaded and largely displaced the native population. The Saxons divided their state into Shires and Hundreds, with the Hundreds Courts administering justice and collecting taxes. The hundred of Blackheath, or Blackfelde, had its own representative body from local villages. Tax was dependent on “hides” and the number of plough teams in each estate. A “hide” was a unit of land measurement, said to be some 30 acres, based on the amount a team could plough in a year. Originally this area was part of the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia, but changed allegiance to Wessex around 685. It was one of the last areas to be converted to Christianity. The Saxons introduced their own system of church organisation of Bishops, Monasteries and parishes, with parish boundaries largely related to those of the local squire. The oldest church in the Diocese is St Mary’s, Stoke d’Abernon founded in 673AD. In 1011 Surrey was over-run by Danish Vikings; however there is no record of them showing any interest in our village!   Immediately before the Conquest, this Manor belonged to Alnod Cild (younger brother of King Harold), a Saxon landholder with many estates in this and neighbouring counties. He was imprisoned by William the Conqueror in Guildford Castle and carried off to Normandy as a hostage and his fate is unknown. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 estate boundaries were mostly unaltered but were parceled out to his followers. In 1086 commissioners collected information for the Domesday Book. Neither the villages of Wonersh or Blackheath are mentioned but would have been included in the vast Manor of Bramley (Brunlei) which covered the inhabited parts of Surrey from Shalford to the Sussex border: all the Manors were subsequently formed out of it. 

The coming of Christianity to our village was earlier than 1000 for, by then, there was a thriving parish that could both plan and build the first Saxon chapel of flint before the Norman invasion, and traces of this are still to be seen. The church was in the parish of Shalford; however by 1295 the church of St John the Baptist was known as a parish church. 

Almost all the names of Surrey towns and villages are Anglo-Saxon in origin, and Wonersh is no exception. Its earliest form, recorded in 1199, was Wogenhers; Wunhers, Unhers, Wogenhersh, Ognersh, Wonarsh, Onersh and even Woronish appeared (though some of these variations must have been clerical errors) and this does not exhaust the list. The familiar spelling first appeared in 1334. Wogenhers is comprised of “Wogen” meaning crooked or winding, and “ersh”, a stubble field, and this depicts the beginnings of the village in the land that winds around the base of Chinthurst Hill, well above the river. It was on the road to Arundel (then a south coast port) and was approached from Guildford via Shalford by Chinthurst Lane. The commons we cross today would have remained marshy until comparatively recent times and the alternative was also far more direct. A bridge and causeway were built on the road to Bramley in the 1770's; the river was then diverted from its original course close to the bottom of Wonersh Hollow into a new straight course to align with the new bridge. There is only one Wonersh in the whole world, perhaps a reflection of the aspirations of the inhabitants over the years.

Lords of the Manor

Timeline  Surrey History Centre Manoral Records describes a Manor as an estate with a court (Court Baron and Court Leet, also known as View of Frankpledge). Court records are a great source of information. 

The title Lord of the Manor of Bramley was granted by William to his half brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, but on William’s death in 1087 it was forfeited when he proved himself disloyal to William Rufus. In 1107 Henry I gave the Manor to his daughter Juliana, as a wedding portion, however it soon reverted to the Crown. Timeline  In 1155 King Henry II granted it to Raoul de la Fay, the uncle of his Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, but he lost it when he joined the rebellion of the King’s sons against their father (the film A Lion in Winter depicted the scene). It is known that in 1196 the Manors were in the possession of John, Count of Mortain, as Prince John was then known. King John later granted it to John de Fay and in 1241 it descended to his two sisters Maud de Clere (d1250) and Philippa de Fay. The manor houses in Bramley for the two parts of the manor were on opposite sides of the road. It was Maud’s part of the Bramley Manor to the east that included amongst others the lands in Wonersh. 
Timeline They passed through her daughter Alice who married Richard de Breus, and then their descendants to Thomas Cokesey (Greville). Timeline On his death the estate was divided with the Surrey part including Bramley passing to the Thomas Howard Earl of Surrey and later Duke of Norfolk. His seat was (and is) at Arundel Castle; Lords would have been remote people with local business being carried out by their officers and Stewards. It is of note that a brass dated 1513 in the chancel is for the daughter of their Steward. The manor reverted to King Henry VIII in 1545, was then restored in 1553 but the title was sold to Richard Carill in 1559. 

Great Tangley was a parcel of the Manor of Bramley East and until the 20th century Wonersh and Tangley were separate settlements. It is sometimes difficult to establish if documents refer to Bramley or Tangley. The tradition of the countryside is that the old house at Great Tangley was supposedly used by King John as the starting point of the chase in the Forest of Anderida (which in those days covered much of southern England between the North and South Downs, where deer and wild boar abounded); Tangley was apparently known as “King John’s hunting lodge”. Richard of Tangley proved his title to Tangley in 1238 and by 1315 it was tenanted by Sir Robert Fitz Pain. By 1367 it had passed to the Burley family and descended finally to John Burley (d1551) and his wife Sybil. At some time after the church's South Chapel was constructed in the 15th century, it became known as the Tangley Chapel. 

Following the purchase of the Manor by Richard Carill in 1559 the house where he lived at Great Tangley became more important, with considerable alterations carried out in 1582 to improve its status as the manor house. It is mentioned in old documents dated 1554 as a Court of Justice held in Bramlie, with jurisdiction (view of frankpledge) containing the tithings of Shalford, Great, Middle and Little Cranleigh, West Clandon, Dunsfold, Wonersh, Bramley and Smithbrook (see SHC 892/5/... ). George Duncombe is named as Steward at the Court of Bramley from 1617 until his death in 1646. John Carill, his great grandson, mortgaged all his property heavily, and in 1649 the Manor was granted, probably as security, for life to another George Duncombe d1677. Timeline On the death of John Carill in 1656 his “moiety” (half of the original Bramley manor) was divided between his daughters (SHC Ref G24/7/4 &  892/5/4): Lettice Ramsden (East Bramley SHC Ref 892/6 to 10/  ), Margaret Ludlow (West Bramley, including Little Tangley (SHC Ref 892/11/  )) and Elizabeth Fermor (the other third). John’s widow, Hester, remarried to Sir Francis Duncomb and they continued to reside at Tangley (SHC G123/2/1) until his death in 1670.
Great Tangley (East Bramley) was sold in 1673 by Lettice to
Leonard and John Child (Childe), both freemen of Guildford and probably non-resident (noted by Aubrey circa 1690 that Leonard Child of Guildford held court at Tangley). Timeline It passed to John's son, Charles Child (d1754), and then to his sister’s son Charles Searle (of Waverley Abbey). Great Tangley was sold in 1759 to Fletcher Norton but he lived elsewhere, in Wonersh House. 
Elizabeth sold her portion in 1674 to Richard Gwynn; rather dubiously he assumed a role of Lord of his Manor and this too eventually passed down to Fletcher Norton. The 2nd Lord Grantley in 1805 purchased the other half (Bramley West) of the original Bramley Manor from Lord Onslow and for the first time since 1241 there was again a single Lord of the Manor of Bramley. However, Great Tangley survives: "...the house has twice been enlarged, having been rescued by its late owner, Mr Wickham Flower, from the somewhat neglected state into which it had sunk as a mere farm-house...[Victoria County History: "A History of the County of Surrey" vol.3 1911, Edit. H.E.Malden, pp.121-127]

All this division and reuniting caused much confusion, which even the surveyors and legal profession eventually admitted was beyond fathom. The 5th Lord Grantley sold his Surrey properties in 1884 with the title passing to Samuel Barrow (SHC Ref 892/12/ and 892/14/9 ) .



Other Manor Houses

The Manor of Chinthurst (Chilthurst) together with part of Loseley was a dower in 1452 for Tomasine, widow of William Sidney, and passed through various hands to the Sparkes family in 1791 (SHC Ref 5368 and G106). 

Little Tangley was part of Elizabeth Ludlow's portion of Bramley East. It was sold to William Hammond, then c1866 to William Seth-Smith and later to Cowley Lambert (SHC Ref 5368).

 Losterford House was also called a Manor House in 16th century when in 1547 John Scarlet held it as the Manor of Shalford Bradestan (Bradestone), then Thomas Paston and in 1579 William Tycknor (Tickner), whose family held it for many years.  

Rowleys is another reputed Manor House, bought in 1508 by Robert Harding, which then descended to the Onslow family (SHC 892/4/1). In 1806 the Earl sold it to Richard Sparkes. John Aubrey noted circa 1690 that Edward Nicholas of West Horsley held court at Shamley Green. 

Halldish (Aveldershe) was a farm in Shamley Green owned by Bartholomew Haveldersh and wife Joan; they are buried in Wonersh churchyard. In 1626 it passed to George Duncombe (SHC Collection 1322/13/..), remaining with the family until 1841. 

The Cloth Industry

In the 14th century there was the beginnings of a cloth industry in this area which goes back to the settlement of Flemish weavers and dyers during Edward III’s reign. The neighbourhood attracted the trade, for sheep could be farmed on the Downs, water power for the fulling mills could be had from the River Wey, the best fullers earth in the country could be had from Nutfield, and the fullers teazle and woad for dyeing also grew in the district. Several of the cottages in “The Street” were the homes of weavers. The “Old House” and “Medd House” were originally three or four cottages. “Weavers” still retains the old weavers beam in the living room. The material produced was a rough blue woollen cloth, known as Kersey. The tradesmen formed a Guild with a Guild House in the parish on Lords Hill Road known as Yealdhouse (a middle English form of Guild). It is possible that the North Chapel in Wonersh church was originally a Guild Chapel. 

This once thriving cottage industry, probably involving most of the village, was languishing before the end of Elizabeth’s reign (1600-ish), and by the end of 1630 there was serious unemployment in the area (including Guildford, Godalming and Farnham). The demise of the industry was due to the competition with the Company of Merchant Adventurers and the London Drapers Company, who eventually succeeded in getting the cloth trade under their control.


Other Things

The parish is in what is today prosperous Surrey. This prosperity is relatively recent as this part of England was poor and almost exclusively agricultural in nature. There are consequently relatively few grand historic buildings nearby as are found in the Cotswolds or East Anglia. Inhabitants of Wonersh comprised a very few rich aristocracy, Yeomen (property owners) and a number of agricultural labourers as all other workers on farms were called. 

Those not willing or able to work relied upon charity of the parish which since the 16th century was administered by the Parish Vestry, what would be called the PCC today, with the Vicar & churchwardens having prominent roles. During the 19th century these responsibilities were evolved to Civil Parishes, geographically similar to their ecclesiastical counterparts.

Wonersh Mill dates from the 15th century. Today it is hidden beside Wonersh Park (TQ023 445). The Mill house is understood to have been one of the houses featured in the film "The Holiday". 

Many people drank Ale, a light fermentation of hops which was less risky than drinking contaminated water. Wonersh had at least three “ale houses”: one in Barnett Lane (possibly The Dyehouse or Hector Inn or The George Inn - SHC 1229/12/1), one in what is now Tankards, and the “Fighting Cock” which at some time after 1810 (ref WON/7/1) became known as the Grantley Arms. 

The historic Pilgrim’s Way between Canterbury and Winchester passes along the North Downs, through Shalford and St Martha's, both parishes having close associations with Wonersh. John Bunyan (1628-1688) spent some time in Shalford before writing “A Pilgrim’s Progress", and it is reputed that Shalford meadows are the “Slough of Despond”, Albury Vale is the “Vale of Humiliation”, and the Fair held at Shalford (Beckets Fair) was Vanity Fair. Interesting facts for future “trivia” questions!! 

Timeline The Napoleonic War brought concerns for shipping in the Channel and plans to create an overland connection  between London and Portsmouth resulted in the 1813 Act of Parliament for the construction of the Wey and Arun Canal. It finally opened in 1816 and was an important transport route to the south coast, prospering until the construction of the railways, including in 1865 the Guildford to Horsham railway. There was a station for Wonersh & Bramley. The canal closed in 1871. The railway closed under the Beeching axe in 1965 and the track bed is now part of the Downs Link Cycle Route. 

William Colebrook, whilst renting Tangley Manor from 1852, started religious services in the kitchen then later in Tangley Barn, and this led to the foundation of Wonersh Congregational URC Church (Ref SHC 1717) (see also  William Seth-Smith - Architect),

The School

There is an interesting pamphlet held by the Wonersh History Society (and at the Surrey History Centre) setting out  "A history of parochial schooling in Wonersh and Shamley Green School 1683-1977”. There had been a charity school in Wonersh since 1683 which continued into the 19th century. The National School (mixed and Infants) was erected at Norley Common (roughly in the centre of the parish) in 1840 and enlarged in 1884 for 300 children. This is now Wonersh and Shamley Green Primary SchoolLawnsmead Infants School was opened in 1890 and closed in 1924. 


Blackheath village traces its roots back to 1833, before which there is no record of a ratepaying inhabitant, when the census of that year records just 12 occupants (see also SHC Ref 892/13/  ). It consisted of only a few cottages, including those occupied by workers from Chilworth gunpowder factory. In 1864 the Illustrated London News recorded the visit of Queen Victoria on Easter Monday to witness a Volunteer Review, an exercise conducted by volunteer reservists; during the proceedings the Revd W Earle (vicar of ??) was accidentally shot and died. It was shortly after the Volunteer Review in 1867 that the pub was built, called The Volunteer Arms and later renamed The Villagers. Cricket was first played at Blackheath in 1878. At the end of the nineteenth century several houses were remodelled, enlarged or newly built to the designs of Charles Harrison Townsend, an architect associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. St Martin’s church was built in 1893, the village hall in 1897 and the cemetery chapel in 1900. 


These are independent websites so please be discerning in how you use the information.

Useful websites for history:-

  British History Online
  Parishes: St Martha's or Chilworth | British History Online
  Victoria County History: Surrey
  University of Portsmouth Census 1800-2004
  1837online.com - The place to start tracing your family history
  Britannia: British History
  British History
  Spartacus Educational - Home Page
  British History for tourism, education and research
  BBC - History
  Surrey History Service - Archives Database - Search
  List of Listed Houses in Wonersh

  1841 Census - Enumerators Report Wonersh - Cranley-Hambledon