History of Shere

Sheep stealing was rife in the Shere district during the years 1830 to 1840. The parish constables were unable to cope and horses and sheep that disappeared in the south of the county of which most found their way to London. One of the gang's meeting places was The White Horse Inn, Shere and it was not uncommon to see a great deal of poached game on the premises as the men enjoyed themselves. They appeared immune from punishment but then two of the gang took to housebreaking at a large house at Wonersh. MORE

The cottages in Shere present a mixture of styles from the 15th to 20th centuries, but the central part of the village is still fundamentally 16th and 17th century, with many timber-framed houses. The names of the cottages in Lower Street, indicate the growth of population and increased prosperity during this period, produced by the woollen industry. Lower Street runs alongside the River Tillingbourne to the Ford. Here you can see The Old Forge, The Old Prison, Weavers House and Wheelright Cottage.

Middle Street contains a working forge and village shops and leads to the bridge across the River Tillingbourne, where the wooden Old Fire Station, dated 1885, can be seen. This was the Shere and Albury Volunteer Fire Brigade Station. In 1977, it was converted to public toilets.

The White Horse Inn, opposite Church Square, is an attractive black and white timbered building, which in 1450, was a house called, "Cripps". About 1600, a chimney with stone back-to-back fireplaces, was added. It became an inn in the late 17th century. From 1866 – 1945, it was managed by the Askew family and the inn became frequented by literary and artistic figures.

The William Bray, was once known as the Prince of Wales and formerly Cook's Beer House. It was built in the late 18th century, the frontage being an early 20th century addition.

The Church of St. James has been a place of worship since 1190. The spire, built between 1213 and 1300, is an excellent example of a brooch spire. It was covered with cedar shingles, but in 2000, these had to be replaced and handmade oak shakes were used. There are several brass plaques in the chancel dating from 1412, excellent for those who seek to take brass rubbings.

An intriguing aspect of St. James' Church, is The Anchoress of Shere. Christine Carpenter, in 1329 made a solemn promise to devote her life to God and live in a holy place. On 14th August 1329, the Bishop of Winchester gave permission for her to be enclosed in a cell which was built in the North wall of the chancel. Food and drink was given to her through a grating on the outside wall. On the inside of the church can be seen the Quatrefoil through which she received the bread and wine of communion. Through the squint window, she could see the altar. Not surprisingly, after three years, she decided to leave her cell, but for reasons unknown, it is recorded that on 10th November 1332, the Bishop of Winchester agreed to her request to be returned to the cell so "she may be enabled to achieve her salvation". William Carpenter, her father, it is believed, lived where the Willow and Ash Cottages now stand in Lower Street. These were built about 1475.

The Lych Gate was designed in 1902 by the architect, Edwin Lutyens, who later became Sir Edwin Lutyens and designed the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. He designed various buildings in Shere for the Bray family, who have been Lords of the Manor of Shere since 1487. These include The Manor House Lodge and Western Cottages in Upper Street and the building in Middle Street, now used as the Tea Room, "The Lucky Duck", which was formerly known as Asters Tea Shop.

Extracts taken from the 'Home' page "Shere is..."

 

 


The River Tillingbourne (also known as the Tilling Bourne) runs along the south side of the North Downs and joins the River Wey at Guildford. Its source is near Tilling Springs to the north of Leith Hill at grid reference TQ143437 and it runs through Friday Street, Abinger Hammer, Gomshall, Shere, Albury, Chilworth and Shalford. The source is a semi-natural uninhabited area. The catchment is situated on sandstone which has a low rate of weathering. The Tillingbourne is 18 km (11 mi) in length.

The Tillingbourne initially flows northward for 4 km (2.5 mi) down the northern slopes of Leith Hill over a series of weirs and cascades, before turning west to run for 14 km (8.7 mi) through Abinger Hammer and Chilworth towards the River Wey at Shalford. The river is classified as a subsequent stream, since its course is determined by the direction of the stratum of softer rock for the majority of its length.

The river has four principal tributaries: the Friday Street stream joins at Wootton House; the Holmbury St Mary stream joins at Abinger Hammer; the Sherbourne Brook drains the Silent Pool and Sherbourne Pond and the Law Brook joins near Postford.

The river used to power a number of gunpowder, paper and flour mills in the area. The gunpowder mill was at Chilworth. Present day users include a trout farm, watercress beds,a business growing reeds and is often studied by students from nearby field studies centres, such as Sayers Croft.

The River Tillingbourne supports a healthy fish population of both wild brown trout and coarse fish. The Environment Agency has been working with local fishermen to improve the habitat for these fish by recreating a pool and riffle habitat and by cutting back overhanging vegetation.


This page will be updated frequently with new additions - if you would like to add, change or contribute to this or any other page, please contact me - I would love to hear from you.

 

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1329 - Anchoress of Shere

On the north side of St' James' Church is where Christine carpenter was immured for several years in the 14th Century.

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a Above two photos - © Alison Avery

On the north side of Shere's church is where Christine carpenter was immured for several years in the 14th Century.

aphoto ©
Quatrefoil and squint inside St. James' Church
She would receive the Blessed Sacrament through the Quatrefoil and could watch the mass through the squint.
Food was put in by her friends and family through a grating in the outside wall.
Squints were not uncommon in many mediaeval churches where they were used by lepers who could not enter the church itself.

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Four page leaflet: Christine Carpenter, Anchoress of Shere - Available from St James church

 

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Read the Story

 

St James' Church, Shere, was built in 1190 (but its lychgate was designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens). It is a rare example of a church in the Early English Transitional Style (with the round Norman arches giving way to pointed ones). The nave pews have numbers - at one time people paid rent to the church for them.

The Alms Chest in the church dates from about 1200 and was used to collect money for the crusades fought in the Holy Land.

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1671 - Shere Cricket Club

CLUB HISTORY - THE EARLY YEARS

"Why doesn't glue stick to the bottle?", "Whose idea was it to put an "S" in the word 'lisp'"? and "From where and when did Cricket originate?" are just three of life's unanswerable questions. In an attempt to answer the third, some aficionados will point you towards the first recorded game played at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, in 1550. It must have been a particularly long game, as the next definitive reference to a local match crops up in 1671. In the same year that saw King Charles II pardon Colonel Thomas Blood for attempting to pinch the Crown Jewels, a similar criminal was at work on the Sabbath, playing Cricket for Shere. His name was Edward Bound - and he too was pardoned. It should be pointed out that over recent years there have been a number of team performances which can only be described as 'criminal'. However, in a cloth-cap tipping homage to our distant forefathers, the current team also got away with it - without even an ASBO.

Moving swiftly on, the next notable entry can be found in the astonishingly-long diaries of William Bray (1736-1832).

READ MORE

 

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1777 - The Workhouse

A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded three parish workhouses in operation in Guildford — Holy Trinity (for up to 20 inmates), St Mary (24), and St Nicholas (20). There were also parish workhouses in Albury (18), West Clandon (4), Godalming (76), Pirbright [Purbright] (30), Send and Ripley (4), Shiere [Shere] (40), Wisley (8), and Wokeing [Woking] (40).

Shere had a "parish house" — a 17th century cottage known as "Allens" — which was in trust for the use of the poor between 1697 and 1802.

In 1784, the running of the Shere workhouse was contracted out under a system known as "farming the poor". Thomas Hornsby was paid around 2s.6d. per week for maintaining each of the inmates who numbered between twelve and twenty. The experiment appears not to have been successful as the following years, Mrs Pellate resumed as governor. However, a new contractor, James Gadd, was employed from 1786 to 1789 and paid 2s.3d. per head per week. The farming system continued, with a succession on contractors being employed. In the early 1800s, the numbers in the house rose steadily and reached a very overcrowded peak of 44 in 1819.

Conditions in the Shere workhouse were generally comfortable. An 1836 inventory includes "stump" bedsteads (i.e. no headboards), feather beds, flock mattresses, sheets, rugs, bolsters, oak chests, "earthen chambers". A large 15 foot dining-table was used for communal meals which were eaten off wooden trenchers with spoons. The workhouse also had its own bakehouse and brewhouse.

Read More

 

OTHER REFERENCE: Book by: Noyes, Anne (1996) Shere Poverty (Twiga Books)

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1830 - Policing the Victorian Countryside

The Early Years

1830-1840: Sheep stealing was rife in the Shere district during the years 1830 to 1840. The parish constables were unable to cope and horses and sheep that disappeared in the south of the county of which most found their way to London. One of the gang's meeting places was The White Horse Inn, Shere and it was not uncommon to see a great deal of poached game on the premises as the men enjoyed themselves. They appeared immune from punishment but then two of the gang took to housebreaking at a large house at Wonersh.

A constable from Godalming believed to be Biddlecombe traced the men concerned to an inn in Sussex. Enlisting the help of local harvesters they came across the suspects and joked with them and somehow Biddlecombe persuaded them to allow him to handcuff them. Once handcuffed the men were arrested for breaking into Squire Spark's place, taken to Guildford where they were convicted.

In addition to the Shere mob there were gangs at Elstead and a team known as the Hut Men at Peper Harow which were broken up soon after the Surrey Constabulary was formed.

Read More

 

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1843 - Sir Henry Cole - The Man who Invented the Christmas Card

Sir HENRY COLE (1808 - 1882) - The man who invented the Christmas card

Autumn of 1843, an English gentleman named Henry Cole, decided to commission and send printed greeting cards with images that would be marked down in history as the man who invented the Christmas card.

This is the first commercial Christmas card issued in London, England in 1843,
illustrated by John Callcott Horsley. Each card sold for one shilling at the time.

READ MORE ON THE SHERE CHRISTMAS CARD WEBPAGE

Henry Cole lived at Elm Cottage, Gomshall Lane, Shere during his retirement (shown below):

CONFUSED? - This is a picture of 'SEAFORTH COTTAGE' in Gomshall Lane (opposite the School)
Well the previous name of 'Seaforth Cottage' was 'ELM COTTAGE' (Thank you to Marsha Walton for correctly pointing this fact out),
when Sir Henry Cole lived there, and...

...not to be confused by the present day 'Elm Cottage' in Upper Street, southside, Shere - formerly Gibbles (Grade II listed)

Henry was also a photographer and the following four internal photos were taken on 18th May 1856 at Elm Cottage.
These were explained in detail during "The Inaugural Henry Cole Lecture by Sir Christopher Frayling.
The whole video can be

Viewed HERE (39 minute mark into the lecture) "The inaugural Henry Cole Lecture, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 30 October 2008. The purpose of the lecture is to celebrate the legacy of the Museum’s founding director, and explore its implications for museums, culture and society today."

Partial TRANSCRIPT:

"But another more personal example of Henry Cole's own tastes in the 1850s is evidenced by a fascinating series of snaps he took on 18 May 1856 of the drawing room and bedroom at Elm Cottage, his country retreat in Shere, Surrey. These photos were made in the year he purchased the very first example of the art of photography for the Museum's collection; and they were acquired by the V& A as recently as 1987 to add to that collection. There are three photos of the drawing room - some with watercolour retouches by Cole - and one of the bedroom. The contrast between daylight and dark isn't always successful but the glimpse of Cole's domestic arrangements is fascinating - very rare to have photographs of domestic interiors of this kind. The interiors are filled with the clutter of pictures and ornaments - plus Cole's

carefully posed daughters: May(on the left), Tishie (in the middle), and Hennie, seated. This one of the drawing room - you can't really see it - but the framed item on the right is a lithograph of the nave of the Crystal Palace, on the floor, a portrait of Cole in his twenties, and behind them, geometrical, flat wallpaper - which he had selected in London, with Richard Redgrave RA for moral support,on 22 February 1856.

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Another of the drawing room has inset fragments of stained glass in the window, and on the table a Parian ware Shakespeare; and one of the rarer products of Felix Summerly's Art Manufactures - the 'Bride's Inkstand' - in the middle. In this one Cole's daughter Mary stands in the bedroom, with its very busy curtains, the wallpaper again, and on the left Shaker-style pegs for hanging things up. Again, not exactly proto-Modernism, although the wallpaper does indeed obey some of the Marlborough House commandments: it doesn't imitate nature, it repeats well, and it takes account of the dimensions of the room. "

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Henry Cole, Cole's daughter May in the Bedroom
Elm Cottage,
Surrey, 1856
image obtained here

 

READ MORE © Copyright, All rights reserved

Research from - Victoria and Albert Museum - The world’s greatest museum of art and design

 


OBITUARY of Sir Henry Cole

As a footnote, 'Elm Cottage' (now Seaforth', was Read and Sons Family Butchers around 1900 - I am unsure as to what the house name

was at this time but a wonderful photo (one from my postcard collection)

Elizabeth Worsfold (1867-1935) whose husband Ernest Worsfold was village butcher at Peaslake from 1910 to 1962. Her father Frederick Read and her eldest brother - James - were village butchers at Shere - two miles away; a younger brother - Jabez - had a butcher's shop at Abinger Hammer.

Seaforth Cottage - Shere - alongside what was then her father's shop - was Elizabeth's birthplace and her life was lived out in this cluster of Surrey villages and shaped by what was expected of a Victorian daughter - an Edwardian wife. READ MORE


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1851 - William Biddlecombe - Surrey's First Detective

Surrey Constabulary History
In the time just before Biddlecombe arrived in the county Godalming Borough Police were responsible for an area larger than the town and included villages as distant as Shere. Sheep stealing was rife in the Shere district during the years 1830 to 1840. The parish constables were unable to cope and additionally horses and sheep disappeared in the south of the county of which most found their way to London.

One of the gang’s meeting places was The White Horse Inn, Shere and it was not uncommon to see a great deal of poached game on the premises as the men enjoyed themselves. They appeared immune from punishment but then two of the gang took to housebreaking at a large house at Wonersh. A constable from Godalming believed to be Biddlecombe traced the men concerned to an inn in Sussex. Enlisting the help of local harvesters they came across the suspects and joked with them and somehow Biddlecombe persuaded them to allow him to handcuff them. Once handcuffed the men were arrested for breaking into Squire Spark’s house, taken to Guildford where they were convicted.

READ MORE

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1856 - Charles Goodwin Norton

(1856 - 1940)

British lanternist, filmmaker, projectionist

C. Goodwin Norton was born 8 April 1856 in Shere, Guildford, Surrey and in 1899 made a film:

Fire Brigade turn-out in the Country (c. 1899) - BFI

Volunteer firemen at Shere, Surrey, harness a fire engine and ride away.

Archive format 35MM

Original format 35mm Film

Thanks to Don Longhurst for the information - Cheers Don

CHARLES GOODWIN NORTON - READ MORE

 

 

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1883

The Illustrating Sporting and Dramatic News - January 27th 1883
A Surrey Village in Winter - LARGER VIEW

A Surrey Village in Winter Description - LARGER VIEW

 

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1884

November 21st 1884 - The Building News

View Detail

 

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1886


© photo copyright

There is a small Drinking Fountain situated opposite the Post Office in Middle Street, Shere.

This was given to the village in 1886 by two maiden ladies (Misses Spottiswoode of Drydown). They were very religious and saw alcohol as the devil. They wanted visitors to the nearby White Horse Pub to have an alternative 'local' drink and thought water was a good option.

The well, 286 feet in depth. A plaque states that water flowed here until the 1970s, when Thames Water sunk fresh bore holes in the area, thus lowering the water table 18 inches. and stopping the spring.

In 1984 many local people subscribed to the refurbishment of the well as an ornamental asset to the village and its many visitors.

 

 

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1893 - The Pilgrim's Way

Title: 'SHERE'

Print measure 9 inches by 7 inches.  

The art is by the highly acclaimed and hugely prolific artist, A. R. Quinton.

 Source: The Pilgrims' Way, 1893. 

BOOK PLATE - 1893

 

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1898

Shere Museum

Shere Parish Hall in Surrey, which was built to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1898.

When the men of Shere returned from serving in the First World War the Parish wished to honour them, by building and completing the present Village Hall in 1922 (the white building in photo above). The then Original Parish Hall (the current location of the Shere Museum), was built to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1898 then became available for The Shere Working Men's Club. The Shere Working Men's Club closed in 1997 and the hall lay empty until 2006 when a team of volunteers started work on converting the building to house the museum collection.

 

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1904 - Train Crash

1904, March: A serious railway accident occurred as a troop train was passing through Gomshall Station. Although the engine and two coaches were overturned and smashed after the engine had left the rails, no one was killed but several soldiers and the driver and fireman of the train were severely injured.

Visit the Gamshall and Shere Train Station webpage

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1906

THE TATLER - June 6th 1906

Photo 3: A view of Shere Church, a few miles from Guildford. This photograph is typical of the rural beauty of this neighbourhood

 

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1908 / 1909

Extract from Highways and Byways in Surrey
Shere - The village groups itself with the little brook running through the middle: a low bridge crosses the stream, villagers sit on the bridge,
white ducks paddle about the current and stand upside down among the weeds: beyond the brook are the tiny village green and the shade of
elms; on one side of the village green is the old inn, the White Horse; and on the other the grey tower and the quiet of the churchyard. But it is
the sparkle and the chatter of the Tillingbourne which are the first charm of all.

The White Horse is a pattern of an old village inn, with panelled rooms and dark beams over its ceilings, and a parlour hung with oil paintings,
with the air of the Surrey countryside blowing through them. Your host is the artist, and fellow artists come to the White Horse to sketch with
him. It is the only inn in Surrey I know which also sells a guide to the neighbourhood, and a good guide too, so far as directions for finding
walks among the hills and woods can make a guide-book. Mr. Marriott Watson has written an introduction to it, of which the sum is that all
walks start from the White Horse, and all walkers come back to it.
READ MORE

 

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1910

Published just over 100 years ago in 1910

 

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Bailey's Magazine - The Sportsman's Library - 1910

Roll over the image to take a closer look

 

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1914/18

Shere village war memorial consists on a 'nameless' stone cross to the west of the St James's Church, and a bronze plaque bearing the names of the fallen on the inner northern wall of the church.

It features 33 names. In the 1800's the parish of Shere also encompassed Gomshall and Peaslake, hence some men on the Peaslake War Memorial being referred to as born or resident in Shere.

Visit Website

 

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1926 - Agatha Christie

AGATHA CHRISTIE - The undisputed queen of crime, Agatha Christie has sold millions of books across the world. But in a bizarre case of life imitating art, the strangest story of all concerns the night that she faked her own death at Newlands Corner in December 1926, near Shere, and vanished into thin air...
READ MORE

 

10th December 1926

Daily Mail - Friday 10th December 1926

View

 

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1937 - Gomshall and Shere Railway Station

This photo was taken on 24th July 1937

Closer shot on the Station Platform

Visit the Gamshall and Shere Train Station webpage

 

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1940-45

Does anyone know anything about the following story, posted HERE

Crash at Gomshall, Surrey - 2nd World War?

My Uncle was a fireman on the Southern Railway. I have a photograph of a smashed up locomotive. The story that has been past down to me over the years is roughly as follows: My Uncle was on the footplate of a freight train, carrying shells in a southern direction through Gomshall station. I am lead to believe an express passenger train was given priority and my Uncle's train was diverted off the main line and crashed into a siding at Gomshall. I have trawled the internet and can only find a record of a crash at Gomshall in 1904. This has lead to me questioning the story behind the photo I have in my possession. If anyone has any information on the authenticty of this accident I would love to hear from them, and if there is a possible line of investigation I will download a copy of the photo to aid any research.

Visit the Gamshall and Shere Train Station webpage

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1953

Here is a taste of life back in the early fiftees, as featured in the County Magazine

Surrey County Journal - Portrait of Shere

VIEW PDF of the 'Portrait of Shere' - Published January 1953

 

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1950's

Farming in the 1950s

The Second World War had left its legacy of food rationing and a shortage of houses. It had also altered the way the Surrey Hills
were farmed. There was an ethos of utilitarianism and a continuing sense of urgency driving food production.
Frivolous niche crops like lavender, grown at Shere before the war for essential oils and dried flowers, were jettisoned in favour of food crops. The huge acreage given over to oats – the original bio- fuel powering the thousands of working horses keeping farms going
– was no longer necessary as the tractor took over.

more

 

 

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July 1953 - Traffic Problem

 

12th July 1953 - BRITISH PATHE news - London in comparison to Shere

View

 

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1964 - Steam Train in December

Nº7829 Ramsbury Manor approaching the staggered platforms at Gomshall and Shere on 28th December 1964

 

Visit the Gamshall and Shere Train Station webpage

 

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1966 - Country Life

20th October 1966 - Motorshow Number - Cover photo titled "12th-Century Church, 20th-Century Car: Shere, Surrey"

View - larger image

 

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1967 - Country Life

13th April 1967 - Cover photo titled "Daffodils Under the Willows: Shere, Surrey"

View - larger image

 

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1984 - Pram Race

The website "For Those who policed Surrey" has some amazing stories by the Police in Surrey and makes for some
really interesting reading as well as building a great picture of the past events and life experiences.

In the old days Shere staged an annual Pram Race to raise funds for good causes. It hasn’t been held now for many years.
However, we did manage to get Geoff Breckles permission to enter one year. At that time we had an office cleaner called
Jenny Renshaw who sadly died at a very early age from a heart attack. She assisted in the procurement of a pram and the
rest of the officers at Shere created what you see before you with Police signs etc. The team were myself, then Pc 43
together with ex Pc 625 Merv Young the Gomshall Pc, Micky Finch who was at Shalford and a guest appearance from
Mark Hampshire then at Guildford. Jenny is in the pram. The picture was shot as we went through the
River Tillingbourne at Shere at the start of the race and appeared in the Surrey Advertiser. - Jon Smith

View WEBSITE

 

 

 

 

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1988

1988 Shere Pottage

Stapled booklet with 44 pages. Illustrated with b/w photos of local scenes & characters. Collection of Local history with recipes.

 

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1994

1894 to 1994 - A Pictorial Record

This book was pblished to celebrate the centenary of the formation of Parish Council's in general and Shere Parish Council in particular.
The major part of the book comprises old photographs of local scenes together with their modern equivalents

Can be purchased from the Shere Museum - Highly recommended as its packed with over 80 pages.

 

 

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2000

St James' Churchyard

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Given to the village by the Bray Family, Lords of the Manor of Shere

Roll over the image to take a closer look

Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
At all the times you can
As long as ever you can.

John Wesley's Rule 1703 - 1791

 

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2003

A great source, reference and enjoyable read, these suite of three Historical books

Can be purchased from various locations in and around the villages - All revised and reprinted in 2003

Old Houses in the Parish of Shere
First published 1976
Reprinted 1977
Revised and Reprinted 1981
Reprinted 1985, 1992, 1993
Revised and Reprinted 1995
Reprinted 1997
Revised and Reprinted 2003
Reprinted 2005, 2008

Shere, Gomshall and Peaslake - A Short History
First published 1981
Reprinted 1984, 1988, 1989, 1993
Revised and Reprinted 1997
Major revision 2003
Reprinted 2005, 2008

The Tillingbourne Story
First published 1984
Revised and Reprinted 1998
Revised and Reprinted 2003
Reprinted 2006
Reprinted 2010

 

First published version (reprinted 1985 version)

 

First published version (1984)

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2004

The Medieval Combat Society

September 2004 - VIEW LARGER COPY


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Local History Society

Contact - Keith Childs

 

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Shere Museum

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A great and fun place to start finding out more about the village history is by visiting the 'Shere Museum'.

"The extensive displays include objects of daily life - tools, toys, domestic items, wartime and leisure - mainly from Victorian times to the 1950s and some surprising finds from earlier periods. The collection covers all aspects of the history of the parish of Shere, which encompasses the villages of Shere, Gomshall, Peaslake, Holmbury St Mary and parts of Abinger. Visitors can browse the collection in a friendly and informal atmosphere; children are particularly welcome, volunteers are always on hand to answer any questions you may have" - Shere Museum

Shere Museum is now housed in the original Shere Parish Hall in Surrey, which was built to commemorate
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1898.

Shere Museum
Gomshall Lane
Shere
Surrey
GU5 9HE

Tel: 01483 202769 | WEBSITE

 

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The first Reffell brewery was at nearby Gomshall, and was located behind the Black Horse and originates from 1817.
The currently closed Shere Museum is located in an old Malt House that dates from about 1830 and was used in the preparation of
the ingredients for the beer that was brewed at Gomshall.

There are currently two public houses in Shere; the White Horse and the William Bray (previously the Prince of Wales and before
that Cook's Beer House), both of which were at one time supplied with beer from the Gomshall Brewery.

MORE AT THE REFFELL FAMILY HISTORY WEBSITE


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Listed Buildings in Shere

WEBSITE

 

 

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Other links / contacts

Local History Society - Keith Childs

 

exploring surrey's past - Shere

 

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Shere | British History online