A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Haslemere is a market town and a small parish 9 miles south-west of Godalming, of irregular form about 2 miles in breadth at the south end, and nearly 2 miles at the greatest measurement from north to south. The soil is mainly the Lower Green Sand, but the parish also extends over some of the Atherfield Clay and the Wealden Clay. It includes part of Weydown Common, and Grayshott Common to the north, and open land about East (or Haste) Hill to the east, and other open land; but is mostly agricultural land or woodland. The parish is traversed by the Portsmouth line of the London and South Western Railway, and by the road from Guildford to Midhurst.
It contains 2,253 acres. A part of the town was in the parish of Thursley, but has been transferred to Haslemere by the Local Government Act of 1894. The house called Weycombe was transferred from Chiddingfold to Haslemere by order of the Local Government Board, 1884. (fn. 1)
The woollen industry existed here as elsewhere in West Surrey, and the iron works at Imbhams and in Witley gave employment to charcoal burners, called colliers as elsewhere in Surrey, in Haslemere parish. The names of Foundry Road and Hammer Lane imply ironworks in the parish.
The present industries include brick and tile works, and several handicrafts introduced of late years by artistic and benevolent residents or neighbours, such as the linen, silk, and cotton weaving in Foundry Road, introduced by Mr. and Mrs. King of Witley circa 1895; tapestry, by Mr. and Mrs. Blunt; silk weaving, by Mr. Hooper; artist's wood and cabinet works, by Mr. Romney Green; faience and mosaic works by Mr. Radley Young, in Hammer Lane; weaving of ecclesiastical vestments, etc., by Mr. Hunter, on College Hill. The local museum and library, very far superior in plan and arrangement to the ordinary local museum, is connected with these local industries, as part of a general scheme to revive artistic taste and intellectual interests in a country place. But though Haslemere is a centre for a residential district, which since Professor Tyndall first built a house upon Hindhead has housed a remarkable body of literary, artistic, scientific, and otherwise distinguished residents, from Professor Tyndall and Lord Tennyson downwards, the greater part of the residential district is outside the parish of Haslemere, though a considerable number of houses have been built, or old houses adapted, in the place itself.
The tradition preserved by Aubrey (fn. 2) that Haslemere was a place of ancient importance, once possessing seven churches, but destroyed by the Danes, is of no value. It is unsupported by a scrap of documentary evidence, and is contrary to probability, as the place, unnamed in Domesday, was on the confines of the Wealden Forest, in a generally thinly inhabited country and was neither an ancient parish nor an ancient manor. It was a chapelry of the parish of Chiddingfold and was part of the first royal and then episcopal manor of Godalming. Old Haslemere, on East Hill, also called Haste Hill in deeds, south-east of the town, was merely a tenement in the 14th century, (fn. 3) but the name 'Churchliten field' there (fn. 4) and 'Old church-yard' of Haslemere are suggestive of a church having been on the spot. The place where the present church stands, upon the opposite side of the town, was called Piperham. (fn. 5)
The boundaries of Surrey and Sussex have perhaps been slightly altered here to the loss of Surrey. On 6 September 1616 some forty inhabitants of Haslemere and the neighbourhood sent a letter to Sir George More, lord of the hundred and manor of Godalming, complaining that some two years back John Misselbroke had altered the course of the stream called Houndley's Water, near Carpenter's Heath, where it formed the county boundary, and that Richard Boxell of Linchmere in Sussex had kept up the diversion. (fn. 6) Carpenter's Heath was the name of the land about Shottermill, on the borders of Godalming and Farnham Manors and Hundreds. Though the diversions deprived Sir George of land, no further action appears to have taken place.
Cinerary urns, made on a wheel, with calcined bones in them, and some flints about them, but no bronze or iron, were found in Mr. Rollason's meadow, called Beeches, between Haslemere and Grayshott, and were presented to the local museum in 1902. Close by was the floor of a kiln, with tesserae and burnt stones and charcoal. Neolithic flint implements are fairly common in the neighbourhood.
The town is beautifully placed on the slope of a gentle hill—Black Down ridge—its church lying away from the town on a high spur. There is a market-house, placed in the middle of the wide street on the site of the Town Hall. It is not in itself of any great antiquity or beauty, but it harmonizes with its surroundings. For grouping, colouring, and the artistic setting of trees, creepers, and lovely backgrounds the streets of Haslemere are justly renowned; and the new houses blend on the whole very happily with the old: but considered individually for antiquity or architectural merit they cannot compare with the houses of Godalming. Tile-hanging is the characteristic feature of the houses, which are mostly gabled and of brick or timber and plaster construction, with, in many cases, fine brick chimney stacks, and tiled roofs. Besides the High Street, which contains many picturesque examples of low-pitched gabled houses, there are interesting old houses in Shepherd's Hill (half timber and tile-hanging, to upper story, with plastered cove below) and East Street, which latter has a good moulded brick cornice. Most of these appear to date from early in the 17th century, but there are a few perhaps of earlier date, and a number belonging to the 18th century.
Haslemere, which was originally only a tithing of Godalming, seems to have first gained importance through its market, which was especially mentioned with the manor of Godalming in 1221, (fn. 7) nearly eighty years before the lords of Salisbury had a weekly market in Godalming itself. In point of population it does not seem to have even approached the neighbouring (fn. 8) parishes of Witley and Chiddingfold. Although it was not expressly called a borough in the return of 1315, (fn. 9) it is called 'burgus' in 1377. (fn. 10) In 1394 John Waltham, Bishop of Salisbury, had licence to grant a charter to Haslemere, giving the town a market on Wednesdays and an annual fair on the eve and day of the Holy Cross, and three succeeding days. (fn. 11)
In an account of rents received in Godalming Manor, dated 1543, the 'burgesses' of the 'borough' of Haslemere are said to owe 12s. 2d. rent for certain lands there, (fn. 12) which rent is evidently identical with 12s. 1d. called 'le Burgage Rent' paid to the lord of Godalming by the tenants called the burgage holders in Haslemere. (fn. 13) The inhabitants held by burgage tenure in the 14th century when the Court Rolls of Godalming Manor and Hundred begin.
The tenants of the tithing owed suit to the Hundred Court of Godalming, but a view of frankpledge was held at Hocktide at Haslemere, and a court leet with it, in the 17th century, for the borough. (fn. 14) The town was considered a separate manor from Godalming, after the charter of 1596 at least. (fn. 15) Separate Court Rolls exist for it.
The burgage-rent was collected annually by the bailiff of the borough, who seems to have been the only officer, for in 1596, at the time when the Crown was still holding Godalming Manor, Queen Elizabeth addressed a re-grant of the market and fairs to the bailiff and inhabitants of the borough. (fn. 16) In the preamble to this grant she asserted that the town had sent two burgesses to Parliament from time immemorial, and confirmed their right to do so in the future. She further recited the charter of Richard II, and as the markets and fair had fallen into disuse, restored to them the market on Tuesdays, the fair, now twice a year on St. Philip and St. James's and Holy Cross Day. Tolls were to be levied, a court of pie powder held, and the tolls to be applied by the bailiff and others to the relief of the poor inhabitants. (fn. 17) The original grantees having all died, John Billinghurst of Coldwaltham, co. Sussex, claimed the right to gather the tolls as heir of John Steede, the last surviving grantee. He was accused of misemploying the profits of the fair and market, which seem at that time to have amounted to about £7 yearly, and a decree was issued in 1662 vesting the trust in the lords of the manor of Godalming for the relief of the poor of Haslemere, an account being given at the court leet of the borough. (fn. 18) According to the inscription on the almshouses on the common near Lythe Hill, James Gresham, who represented Haslemere in the Parliament of 1678–9, by his 'care and oversight' caused the almshouses, then called the Toll House, to be built in 1676, for the habitation of decayed inhabitants of the borough, out of the profits of the market. (fn. 19) However, after the death of Sir William More, lord of Godalming, John Billinghurst again tried to make good his claim to the tolls, and obtained a reversal of the former decree, (fn. 20) but in 1691 the grant was found to be in favour of the poor of the borough. (fn. 21) Thomas Molyneux, then lord of Haslemere Manor, the minister of Haslemere, and others, were appointed trustees, (fn. 22) and John Billinghurst ordered to restore £42 11s. which he had collected. (fn. 23) The market produced little, being in the centre of a poor country. The view of frankpledge and court baron, held together in this case as at Godalming, give a few interesting glimpses of town management. So anxious were the burgesses to keep down the poor-rate that they decreed at the court of 4 May 1627 that no one in this leet shall let, devise, grant, &c., any messuage, &c., or room, to any 'forriner,' unless he and they can satisfy the bailiff and overseers that he can maintain himself and family—penalty £10. This was repeated 7 May 1628. Under Charles I the records of the court were kept in Latin. One result of the Commonwealth is that English was used, as was also the case in Guildford. On 30 April 1652 Puritan opinion forbade any person to set up a game called 'nine holes' in this borough—penalty 5s. But cleanliness was some way off godliness, for on 10 April 1654 it was ordered that no one was to keep a dunghill standing in the borough above a month—penalty 12d. On 22 April 1658 the Market House, the Fish Cross, and the Butter Cross, were reported to be very ruinous. Robert Cobden and William Shudd were bound to repair them, under penalty of £10, to be done before the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. This feast survives in all its full sanctity as a date in spite of the opinions then prevailing. After the Restoration Mr. Richard Symmes, the steward of Godalming, had the record of the court kept again in Latin. It is interesting to find that in 1678 among the 'foreign' tradesmen who set up stalls at the market, but who were fined 11s. for doing so without the bailiff's leave, was Robert Smyth of Farnham, bookseller. The old Crosses and Town Hall, ruinous in 1658, were pulled down, the two former after 1735. The Town Hall was not pulled down till 1814, when the present hall was built by the two members. For this date there is a plan of the town, a copy of which is preserved in the present Town Hall.
Haslemere ceased to be a borough after the Municipal Reform Act of 1835. (fn. 24)
Although the charter of 1596 asserts that Haslemere sent two burgesses to Parliament from time immemorial, (fn. 25) the first extant return of burgesses for the town dates from 1584, only twelve years before. (fn. 26) It is evident, therefore, that Haslemere was one of the towns which Elizabeth caused to return members in order to increase her influence in the House, a supposition strengthened by her own statement that she granted the market and fairs in the hope that if the inhabitants of the town should thereby enjoy greater prosperity they would feel themselves the more bound to do all possible service to her and her successors.
The electors were inhabitant freeholders, whether paying rent to the lord of the manor or not, the burgage holders in fact. (fn. 27) Tenants of land which had been part of the waste of the manor, or of houses upon it, could not vote from such qualification only. The number of such burgage holders varied considerably, because as different owners represented different interests the burgages were deliberately divided into small parts to multiply votes. Haslemere was a rotten borough in the sense of being thoroughly penetrated with corruption, and was the scene of very violent electoral contests, (fn. 28) till in 1784 Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of Lonsdale, bought the manor and many freeholds in it, and made it a close borough, though a rival interest, that of the Burrell family, existed. The second Earl of Lonsdale in fact abolished many of the freeholds, creating them only for the purpose of an election, when the burgages required are said to have been conveyed to the charcoal-burners and others of the neighbourhood, or to servants of his friends, with the understanding that they should be surrendered for a consideration when the need was over. But there were a few distinguished members for Haslemere. Carew Raleigh, son of Sir Walter, was elected to fill the vacancy in the Long Parliament caused by the death of Sir Poynings More in 1649, and the famous General Oglethorpe sat from 1722 to 1754. The Rt. Hon. Sir John Beckett was one of the last two members. It was among the forty-six boroughs whose population stood lowest at the time of the Reform Bill of 1832, and accordingly was then disfranchished. (fn. 29)
The manor of HASLEMERE descended with the hundred and manor of Godalming till 1784, when the sisters of Thomas More-Molyneux and their trustees sold to Sir James Lowther under a private Act. (fn. 30) Sir James was created Earl of Lonsdale the same year, and died in 1802. The manor passed to his cousin Sir William Lowther, who inherited the title of Viscount Lowther, and was created Earl of Lonsdale in 1807. He died in 1844. The manor was purchased from his heirs by James Stewart Hodgson of Lythe Hill, Haslemere, in 1870. His widow held it, and died 1907. Mr. J. Whateley Simmonds, J.P. has lately bought the manor. A description of the manor in 1814 says that 'the manor was held by burgage tenure, the Burgesses paying for their several tenements a burgage rent of 12s. 1d. to the lord of Godalming. The Borough and Manor are not co-extensive, as some of the lands in the borough are in the manor of Godalming. Officers are elected at a Court Leet in April or May, a Bailiff, a Constable, Searchers and Sealers of Leather and and an Ale taster. No Court Baron has been held since 1694.'
The court leet was held up to 1839, when the practice was discontinued. (fn. 31)
The manor of IMBHAMS (Imbeham xiii–xv cents.; Imbhams and Embornes, xvi cent.) was parcel of Loseley Manor, held of the honour of Gloucester, but adjacent land bearing the same name was held of the Bishop of Salisbury's manor of Godalming.
In 1285 Eleanor widow of Robert de Dol, late lord of Loseley, had dower in Imbhams, (fn. 32) and recovered land in Chiddingfold from various tenants including Alan of Imbhams. (fn. 33) From her time the manor descended with Loseley to her son Robert, at whose death in March 1356–7 it was found that he held two holdings of the name. The one was held of the Earl of Gloucester, and the other of the Bishop of Salisbury for 18s. 8d. and suit of court at Godalming. The manor-house was in that part of Imbhams which was held of the earl. None of the arable land seems to have been profitable, since it lay in the Weald, and the pasture was of no value on account of the great size of the trees. (fn. 34) Imbhams was not included in Robert de Dol's agreement with his daughter Joan de Bures, (fn. 35) but was assigned immediately after his death to his heirs, the same Joan and John Norton. (fn. 36)
Joan died in 1371, her heir being her son William Bures, (fn. 37) who succeeded to the moiety of Loseley, including presumably a moiety of Imbhams, which she held in her own right. The other moiety, afterwards known as NORTH IMBHAMS, passed to John Norton, descended from her sister Margaret, (fn. 38) who must have died almost immediately after her, for in 1375 he had been dead about four years, having been seised of a moiety of a piece of land called 'Imbeham,' held of the king in chief, owing to the vacancy of the see of Salisbury, but formerly held of the bishop at a rent of 6s. (fn. 39) His heir John Norton was under age. This was parcel of the manor of Loseley. It was the portion in Haslemere, and by an unknown process passed to the Coverts. It did not pass first to the Sidneys, to whom the Norton moiety of Loseley proper came, for in the proceedings by which Humphrey Sidney established his claim to the inheritance in 1508, (fn. 40) though land in Chiddingfold (which then of course included Haslemere) is mentioned, this land was held of the manor of Bramley. (fn. 41) The Norton portion was already in the hands of William Covert of Slaugham and Harlcombe, who died in 1494. In 1504 his son John Covert died seised of the manor of Imbhams in Haslemere, Chiddingfold and Alfold, held of the Bishop of Salisbury. (fn. 42) His heir was his cousin Richard, from whom it went to John's nephew Giles, who held at the time of the survey of Godalming made by Edward VI, and died in 1557, (fn. 43) holding of the Crown, which then held the bishop's manor of Godalming. He was succeeded by his brother Richard. He was father of Antony Covert, father of John and Antony, all of whom held it. (fn. 44) John conveyed to Antony in 1625, the conveyance including the pond which supplied the water for the Quenells' iron furnace called Imbhams. (fn. 45) The Coverts sold to Peter Quenell the elder in 1627. (fn. 46)
Quenell had already acquired SOUTH IMBHAMS, the other moiety, which went with the Bures portion of Loseley, probably to the Strodes, who had land in Chiddingfold, (fn. 47) and so to the Westbrooks. John Westbrook was lord of the manor of Imbhams alias Southymbhams, in 1492, and granted land which had escheated to him as lord. When he sold Loseley to Sir Christopher More he did not convey the manor of South Imbhams (fn. 48) specifically, and it continued in his family. He died in 1513, and his son William in 1537. His heirs were his sister Florence Scarlett, widow, and Elizabeth wife of Edward Hull. John, grandson of the former, sold his moiety of South Imbhams to Thomas Quenell in 1568. (fn. 49) Thomas left it, subject to his wife's life interest, to his brother Robert Quenell in 1571, and Scarlett levied a fine to Robert Quenell in 1576. (fn. 50)
Thomas Hull, son of Elizabeth Hull, had sold his share to the same Robert Quenell in 1574. (fn. 51) This Robert was father to Peter, who acquired the other part of Imbhams, vide supra, in 1626. The Quenells were ironmasters, and Peter, a Royalist, cast guns for the king at Imbhams as long as he was allowed. (fn. 52) He died in 1649. His son Peter served in the king's army, and also borrowed money. He died in 1666. Peter Quenell his son held a court in 1669, but under an arrangement to satisfy his father's debts sold with his mother's concurrence in 1677 to Thomas Newton and William Yalden. (fn. 53) The latter took the manor and held a court in 1679. He died in 1740, aged 91. His son William died in 1742, leaving a son William who died in 1796. He had a daughter Elizabeth, wife of Ralph Bennet, and two other daughters. The trustees of the estate sold it to George Oliver of Brentford in 1797. His son George died at a great age after 1870, and the manor was sold to the late Mr. James Stewart Hodgson of Lythe Hill, Haslemere, whose widow died in 1907.
The church of ST. BARTHOLOMEW is embowered in trees, among which the grey stone tower with stoneslated roof has a more venerable aspect than is warranted by its actual age. The churchyard, which is extremely pretty and well kept, abounds in choice shrubs and trees, and has a great number of old and new monuments. Professor Tyndall lies here, but under a gorse and heather-covered mound, without stone or other memorial.
The church was originally only a chapel-of-ease to Chiddingfold. The tower at the west end is practically all that remains of ancient date, and there is reason to suppose that this goes no further back than the middle of the 17th century. The nave, north aisle, and chancel, after having been greatly altered about 1837, were partly rebuilt in 1870–1, a south aisle being added at the same time. The style in which the new work was designed is that of the middle of the 13th century. When the rebuilding took place a number of the older gravestones were built into the walls inside and out. There is a good deal of modern glass of varying merit, including a two-light window designed by the late Sir Edward Burne-Jones to the memory of the poet Tennyson, its subject being Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail. Some old glass said to have been brought out of Kent by the Rev. M. Sanderson at the end of the 17th century has been redistributed, part being in the west window of the tower, and the rest in the west window of the north aisle; originally the whole was in the east window of the chancel. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1801 gives the subjects as follows:—
'1. St. Matthew. 2. Our Saviour's Ascension. 3. St. Mark. 4. Adam and Eve in Paradise. 5. The Nativity. 6. Noah going into the Ark. 7. St. Luke. 8. Saul thrown from his horse, and his attendants offering him assistance: "Savl, Savl, qvid persecv'is me?" 9. Offering of the Wise Men. Among the numerous presents, I distinguished some fine hams, poultry and mutton. 10. St. John.'
The same writer describes the nave as 'separated from the transept [i.e. aisle] by four pointed arches resting on low round pillars, part of a wooden screen remaining under the chancel arch. The font is a large octagonal stone supported on a pillar corresponding with it. On one of the bells is inscribed, "Peace and good neighbourhood."'
Another writer says (fn. 54) of the arcade between the nave and north aisle, 'the pillars that support the arches are of oak, and of large dimensions.' Mr. J. W. Penfold, an old resident, in giving his recollections of the church as he remembers it 'in the early days of William IV,' says; 'The north aisle was separated from the nave by huge oak pillars, with heavy carved ribs or struts forming arches to support the low roof, and much obscuring the view into the nave. . . About 1837 the oak pillars were removed, and neat fluted iron columns were substituted.' (fn. 55)
From Cracklow's view of 1823 it would seem probable that the old nave and chancel retained features of 13th-century date, but that the building had been greatly altered in the 16th and following centuries.
The place where the present church stands upon the side of the town opposite to 'Old Haslemere' (vide supra) was called Piperham, and the church here is the 'capella de Piperham' which with Chiddingfold is mentioned in 1180 and 1185 in the Salisbury Registers. (fn. 56) A deed of 1486 in the possession of Mr. J. W. Penfold shows that the road from the upper end of Haslemere Street leading to the present church then led to Piperham Church. A fragment of a Court Roll at Loseley of 6 & 7 James I mentions the road as out of order leading from 'Pepperham's church in Haslemere by Pilemarsh.' Pilemarsh is between the present church and Haslemere Station. There probably was another church, now gone, on East Hill, whence the tradition of seven churches. Also in 1458 John Piperham leased to John Boxfold of Haslemere his tenement called Piperhammes next the church in Haslemere on the understanding that Boxfold should perform all services due to the king, the lord of the fee, and to the church. (fn. 57) There was also a tenement called Howndleswater, otherwise Peperham in Haslemere, of which John Bridger was possessed when he died in February 1580–1. (fn. 58)
The parish was a chapelry in the parish of Chiddingfold, but in 1363 Bishop Edyngton of Winchester granted licence for the consecration of a long-existing chapel and burial-ground at Haslemere in place of the old churchyard near the old church. (fn. 59) The district possessed parish officers and registers of its own, and though a rector was usually, till recently, instituted to the rectory of Chiddingfold with Haslemere, a separate curate was often in residence. It has been in all respects a separate parish since 1869.
The history of the advowson is coincident with that of the mother-church of Chiddingfold till 1868. In that year a rector was instituted to the churches of Chiddingfold and Haslemere on the understanding that he should resign the latter when called upon to do so. This he did in 1869, when Haslemere became a separate rectory.
James Bicknell by will 27 November 1633 left the produce of certain land, of about 13s. 4d. a year, to the churchwardens for the poor James Gresham, lessee of the tolls of the market, left the tolls and an almshouse in 1676. The almshouse exists, but is now unendowed. In 1816 Mr. Shudd, a solicitor of the town, left £350 to the poor.
There is a cottage hospital founded by John Penfold, opened in 1898, in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of the late Queen Victoria; a convalescent home, founded and maintained by Jonathan Hutchinson; and a holiday home at East Hill, established by Mrs. Stewart Hodgson in 1884, for the reception of poor girls from London.