Farnham

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Farnham is a town in Surrey, England, within the Borough of Waverley. The town is situated some 42 miles (67 km) southwest of London in the extreme west of Surrey, adjacent to the border with Hampshire. By road Guildford is 11 miles (17 km) to the east, Aldershot 4 miles (7 km) to the northeast, the village of Runfold 2 miles (3 km) to the north-northeast and Winchester 28 miles (45 km) to the southwest. It is of historic interest, with many old buildings, including a number of Georgian houses. Farnham Castle overlooks the town. A short distance southeast of the town centre are the ruins of Waverley Abbey, Moor Park House and Mother Ludlam’s Cave. Farnham is twinned with Andernach in Germany.

Farnham’s history and present status are mainly the result of its geography; a combination of river, streams, fresh water springs and varied soils, together with a temperate climate, attracted early man to the area and, even today, the geology of the area greatly influences the town, both in terms of communications, scenic and botanic variety and the main local industries of agriculture and minerals extraction. Farnham Geological Society is an active organisation in the town, and the Museum of Farnham has a collection of geological samples and fossils.

Farnham lies in the valley of the North Branch of the River Wey, which rises near Alton, merges with the South Branch at Tilford, and joins the River Thames at Weybridge. The mainly east-west alignment of the ridges and valleys has influenced the development of road and rail communications. The most prominent geological feature is the chalk of the North Downs which forms a ridge (the Hog’s Back) to the east of the town, and continues through Farnham Park to the north of the town centre, and westwards to form the Hampshire Downs. The land rises to more than 180 metres (591 ft) above sea level (ASL) to the north of the town at Caesar’s Camp which, with the northern part of the Park, lies on gravel beds. There are a number of swallow holes in the Park where this stratum meets the chalk. The historic core of the town lies on gravel beds at an altitude of roughly 70 metres (230 ft) ASL on an underlying geology of Gault Clay and Upper Greensand and the southern part of the town rises to more than 100 metres (328 ft) on the Lower Greensand.

Farnham’s history has been claimed to extend back tens of thousands of years to hunters of the Paleolithic or early Stone Age, on the basis of tools and prehistoric animal bones found together in deep gravel pits. The first known settlement in the area was in the Mesolithic period, some 7,000 years ago; a cluster of pit dwellings and evidence of a flint-knapping industry from that period has been excavated a short distance to the east of the town. Neolithic man left evidence of occupation in the form of a long barrow at nearby Badshot Lea, now destroyed by quarrying. This monument lay on the route of the prehistoric trackway known as the Harrow Way or Harroway, which passes through Farnham Park, and a sarsen stone still stands nearby, which is believed to have marked the safe crossing point of a marshy area near the present Shepherd and Flock roundabout. The parallel Pilgrims’ Way, known as such for linking Canterbury to Winchester, also dates back to prehistory and, like the Harrow Way, may date back to the time when Britain was physically joined to continental Europe.

Occupation of the area continued to grow through the Bronze Age. Two bronze hoards have been discovered on Crooksbury Hill, and further artefacts have been found, particularly at sites in Green Lane and near the Bourne spring in Farnham Park. A significant number of Bronze Age barrows occur in the area, including a triple barrow at Elstead and an urnfield cemetery at Stoneyfield, near the Tilford road.

Hill forts from the early Iron Age exist locally at Botany Hill to the south of the town, and at “Caesar’s Camp” to the north. The latter is a very large earthworks on a high promontory, served by a spring which emerges from between two conglomerate boulders called the Jock and Jenny Stones. “Soldier’s Ring” earthworks on Crooksbury Hill date from the later Iron Age.[citation needed] The final era of the Iron Age, during the 1st century AD, found Farnham within the territory of the Belgic Atrebates tribe led by Commius, a former ally of Caesar, who had brought his tribe to Britain following a dispute with the Romans. A hut dating from this period was discovered at the Bourne Spring and other occupation material has been discovered at various sites, particularly Green Lane.

During the Roman period the district became a pottery centre due to the plentiful supply of gault clay, oak woodlands for fuel, and good communications via the Harrow Way and the nearby Roman road from Silchester to Chichester. Kilns dating from about AD 100 have been found throughout the area, including Six Bells (near the Bourne Spring), Snailslynch and Mavins Road, but the main centre of pottery had been Alice Holt Forest, on the edge of the town, since about AD 50, just 7 years after the arrival of the Romans. The Alice Holt potteries continued in use, making mainly domestic wares, until about AD 400. Near the Bourne Spring two Roman buildings were discovered; one was a bath-house dating from about AD 270 and the other a house of later date. The Roman Way housing estate stands on this site. William Stukeley propounded that Farnham is the site of the lost Roman settlement of “Vindomis”, although this is now believed to be at Neatham, near Alton. Large hoards of Roman coins have been discovered some 10 miles (16 km) south-west of Farnham in Woolmer Forest and a temple has been excavated at Wanborough, about 8 miles (13 km) to the east.

It was the Saxons who gave the town its name—Farnham is listed as Fearnhamme in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Fearn refers to the fern and bracken of the land and Hamme to the water meadows. They arrived in the sixth century and, in AD 688, the West Saxon King Caedwalla donated the district around Farnham to the Church, and to the diocese of Winchester. This was the first mention of Farnham in written history. A Saxon community grew up in the valley by the river. By the year 803 Farnham had passed into the ownership of the Bishop of Winchester and the Manor of Farnham remained so (apart from two short breaks) for the next thousand years. Although Farnham is documented in Saxon texts and most of the local names are derived from their language, there is only one fully attested Saxon site in Farnham, just off the lower part of Firgrove Hill, where a road called Saxon Croft is now sited. Here several Saxon weaving huts from about AD 550 were discovered in 1924. At the time of the Danish invasion in the 9th century (probably in 893 or 894) there was a battle on the edge of the settlement when Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, routed the invaders.

A hundred (county subdivision) was an area which had have a general overlord of its lords of the manor, entitled to charge certain rents to certain intermediate lords. Parishes within Farnham hundred were: Frensham (including tything Pitfold with Churt) (partly in the hundred of Alton) Elstead, the liberty of Dockenfield, the liberty of Waverley, Seal (now Seale) the tythings of Badshot, Runfold, Culverlands, Tilford with Culverlands, Farnham, Runwick, Wrecklesham (now Wrecclesham), and Bourne.

In the 14th century, Farnham hundred was owned by the Bishop of Winchester and was one of the wealthiest on the bishop’s rolls.

Farnham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Ferneham, one of the five great “minster” churches in Surrey. Its domesday assets were: 40 hides; 1 church, 6 mills worth £2 6s 0d, 43 ploughs, 35 acres (140,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth 175½ hogs. It rendered £53.

Waverley Abbey, the first Cistercian abbey in England, was founded in 1128 by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester about one mile (1.6 km) south of the town centre. King John visited Waverley in 1208, and Henry III in 1225. The abbey also produced the famous Annals of Waverley, an important reference source for the period. By the end of the thirteenth century the abbey was becoming less important. By the time it was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1536 as part of the dissolution of the monasteries there were only thirteen monks in the community.

The town is midway between Winchester and London and, in 1138, Henry de Blois (grandson of William the Conqueror and brother of King Stephen) started building Farnham Castle to provide accommodation for the Bishop of Winchester in his frequent journeying between his cathedral and the capital. The castle’s garrison provided a market for farms and small industries in the town, accelerating its growth. A large earthwork north-west of the town at Barley (or Badley) Pound may be the ditch and ramparts of a wooden precursor of Farnham Castle built in the 11th century.

Farnham was granted its charter as a town in 1249 by William de Ralegh, then Bishop of Winchester.

The Blind Bishop’s Steps, a series of steps leading along Castle Street up to the Castle, were originally constructed for Bishop Richard Foxe (godfather of Henry VIII).

The Black Death hit Farnham in 1348, killing about 1,300 people, at that time about a third of the population. In 1625 Farnham was again subject to an outbreak of the plague which, together with a severe decline in the local woollen industry (the local downland wool being unsuitable for the newly fashionable worsted) led by the 1640s to a serious economic depression in the area. Local wool merchants were, like merchants throughout the country, heavily taxed by Charles I to pay for his increasingly unpopular policies.

Against this background the English Civil War began, with Farnham playing a major part. Here, support for the Parliamentarians was general. The castle was considered a potential rallying point for Royalists, resulting in the installation of a Roundhead garrison there in 1642. As the King’s forces moved southwards, taking Oxford, Reading and Windsor, the garrison commander at Farnham (and noted poet), Captain George Wither, decided to evacuate the castle; the new High Sheriff of Surrey (John Denham, a Royalist sympathiser and another noted poet) then occupied the vacant castle with 100 armed supporters. With the castle and much of the surrounding area in Royalist hands, Parliament despatched Colonel Sir William Waller to Farnham to retake the castle. The defenders refused to surrender but Waller’s men used a petard to destroy the castle gates and overcame them, with only one fatality, and took the High Sheriff prisoner. The following year, as the Royalists strengthened their position west of Farnham, the garrison at Farnham Castle was strengthened when it became the headquarters of the Farnham regiment of foot or “Greencoats”, with some eight to nine hundred officers and men, supported by a number of troops of horse. Further reinforcement by three regiments from London, 4,000 strong under Waller’s command arrived in Farnham that October prior to an unsuccessful foray to recapture Winchester from the Royalists. Eight thousand Royalists under Ralph Hopton (a former friend of Waller) advanced on Farnham from the west and skirmishes took place on the outskirts of town. Despite further reinforcement for Waller from Kent, Hopton’s entire army gathered on the heathland just outside Farnham Park. There was some skirmishing but Hopton’s men withdrew. Through the next few years Farnham was an important centre of Parliamentary operations and the garrison cost Farnham people dearly in terms of local taxes, provisioning and quartering; even the lead from the Town Hall roof had been requisitioned to make bullets. A number of local women were widowed following the pressing of local men into the militia. The bombardment of Basing House was by a train of heavy cannon assembled at Farnham from other areas and, in 1646, most of the garrison was removed from Farnham to form a brigade to besiege Donnington Castle near Newbury. The King surrendered shortly afterwards at Newark and a small garrison remained at Farnham.

In 1647, having escaped from custody at Hampton Court, the King rode through Farnham at dawn on November 12 with a small party of loyal officers, en route to the Isle of Wight, where he sought sanctuary under the protection of Colonel Robert Hammond, a Parliamentarian officer but with Royalist sympathies. The following March, Oliver Cromwell stayed at Farnham for discussions concerning the marriage of his daughter to a Hampshire gentleman, although some historians have speculated that this was cover for secret negotiations with the King.

Following the rebellion during the summer of 1648 the keep was partially dismantled at the orders of Cromwell, to make further occupation by garrison indefensible. In late November that year Hammond was summoned to Farnham, where he was arrested, and the King was removed under military escort to the mainland. On December 20 the King and his escort entered Farnham, where groups of men, women and children gathered at the roadside to welcome him and touch his hand. That night the King lodged at Culver Hall (now Vernon House) in West Street before the party continued to London for Charles’s trial and execution in January 1649. The King gave his night cap to Henry Vernon, owner of Culver Hall, “as a token of Royal favour”. Records show that the following period of interregnum until restoration of the monarchy in 1660 was a time of prosperity and growth for Farnham. In 1660 the bishops of Winchester were restored to the adjoining Bishops Palace, which remained their residence until 1927. From 1927 until 1955 it was a residence of the bishops of the newly created diocese of Guildford. The castle is currently owned by English Heritage.

Farnham became a successful market town; the author Daniel Defoe wrote that Farnham had the greatest corn-market after London, and describes 1,100 fully laden wagons delivering wheat to the town on market day. During the seventeenth century, other new industries evolved: greenware pottery (a pottery, dating from 1873, still exists on the outskirts of the town), wool and cloth, the processing of wheat into flour, and eventually hops, a key ingredient of beer. The Anglican divine, Augustus Montague Toplady, composer of the hymn Rock of Ages (1763, at Blagston) was born in Farnham in 1740 – a plaque now marks the building on West Street where he was born. Stella Cottage is a 17th century cottage, now a listed building, located at Camp Hill.

The radical MP, soldier, farmer, journalist and publisher William Cobbett was born in Farnham in 1763, in a pub called the Jolly Farmer. The pub still stands, and has since been renamed the William Cobbett.

The railway arrived in 1848 and, in 1854, neighbouring Aldershot became the “Home of the British Army”. Both events had a significant effect on Farnham. The fast link with London meant city businessmen could think of having a house in the country and still be in close contact with the office; Farnham thereby became an early example of a ‘commuter town’. Also, the railway did not reach Aldershot until 1870; during the intervening period soldiers would be carried by train to Farnham station and then march to Aldershot. Many officers and their families chose to billet in Farnham itself. The railway was electrified by the Southern Railway company in 1937 as far as Alton, and a carriage shed for the new electric stock was built in Weydon Lane. This building, which carried fading camouflage paint for many years after World War II, was replaced in 2006.

In 1895 Farnham Urban District Council (FUDC) was formed. In 1930 the council purchased Farnham Park, a large park which occupies much of the former castle grounds. The FUDC was abolished in 1973 by the Local Government Act of the previous year. Farnham, together with Hindhead, Haslemere, Cranleigh and surrounding areas were absorbed into the new Waverley District Council (latterly Waverley Borough Council) with its headquarters in Godalming. In 1984 Farnham Parish Council became Farnham Town Council, taking on some of the minor roles of the former FUDC from Waverley.

In 1901, the population of Farnham was about 14,000. Since the end of the Second World War, Farnham has expanded from a population of about 20,000 to the present 38,000. Of that figure, about 15,000 live in the town centre, whilst the remaining 23,000 live in the surrounding suburbs and villages within the town’s administrative boundaries.

Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square was once a tannery; the site expanded to become part of the Farnham United Breweries, which included its own maltings. Taken over by a major brewer (Courage’s) brewing ceased but malting continued into the 1960s, when Courage planned to sell off the site for redevelopment. The people of Farnham raised enough money to buy the building so that it could be converted in to a community centre for the town. Other buildings in Farnham once linked to the Farnham Maltings include The Oasthouse (now offices) in Mead Lane and The Hop Kiln (now private residences) on Weydon Lane.

Farnham railway station is served by South West Trains services between Alton and Waterloo. South West Trains also manage the station. The Alton Line becomes a single track between Farnham and Alton station. The station formerly served as the terminus for the Tongham railway until passenger services ceased in July 1937.

The A31 Farnham bypass links the town by road to Winchester, Alton and Guildford; the A325 links the town to Farnborough and to the A3 (London-Portsmouth) at Greatham. The A287 links Farnham to the M3 at Hook and the A3 at Hindhead.

Farnham is served by several bus routes, with the majority of buses originating from Aldershot bus station and provided by Stagecoach. Fleet Buzz also operate two routes which include parts of Farnham. The Waverley Hoppa service run a scheduled journey from Farnham Station as well as demand-responsive travel within the area.

National Cycle Route 22 passes through Farnham, connecting it to Guildford, East Surrey, Isle of Wight and the New Forest.

Farnham is a market town with many shops located along both sides of the main thoroughfare running through West Street, The Borough and East Street. The town has a significant number of independent retailers, some who have been in business since the nineteenth century, such as Rangers Furnishing Stores (est. 1895), Elphicks department store (est. 1881) and Pullingers (est. 1850). The latter evolved into the Pullingers Art Shop chain and is thought to be Farnham’s oldest surviving business. A more recent independent retailer (est. 1986) is Colours Ltd. situated in the Lion and Lamb Yard. There are also branches of national retailers such as Argos, Robert Dyas, Boots, Waterstone’s and W H Smith. The major supermarkets are represented by Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Iceland in the town centre, and two Tesco Express stores out of town. Sainsbury’s also have a larger Superstore on the outskirts of town towards Badshot Lea. Large garden centres exist nearby at Holt Pound, Frensham and Badshot Lea.

Castle Street’s market stalls have been replaced by semi-permanent “orangery” style buildings one flower market, one sweet market and a delicatssen. Once a month a Farmers’ market is held in the central car park where produce from farms in Farnham and the surrounding area is sold. The Farnham Maltings also hosts a monthly market selling arts, crafts, antiques and bric-a-brac; with specialist fairs and festivals held there on a less regular basis.

Farnham Public Library is a community facility that provides a free lending library service to local residents and workers of a wide range of books, audiobooks, periodicals, DVDs and videos. It includes a children’s section. The library was refurbished in November 2005. The library also provides IT facilities and a reference library for research purposes. The library is housed in the historic Vernon House at which King Charles I slept on his way to his trial and execution in London in 1649, a situation commemorated by a plaque on the building wall. The library also features public gardens with sculptures provided by local artists.

Willmer House, an eighteenth-century town house with a decorative brickwork facade in West Street, houses an extensive collection of artefacts from all periods of the town’s history and prehistory. The museum has active support from both the Friends of the Museum of Farnham and The Farnham and District Museum Society. In addition to permanent displays such as “Discover the History of Farnham”, “On the road to Winchester”, Farnham motoring links, Farnham Greenware Pottery, William Cobbett, George Sturt and Harold Falkner, it features a changing range of activities and exhibitions, many of which are aimed to be of particular interest to children and families. The museum has received awards, including a special commendation in the European Museum of the Year awards in 1994. The museum also has a Local Studies Library to support family tree and house detectives, school projects & local history queries. The museum also has a club for children.

There are two main parks in Farnham town centre: Farnham Park and Gostrey Meadow. Farnham Park is adjacent to Farnham Castle. Gostrey Meadow is in the centre of Farnham town next to the river, and includes a fenced children’s play area.

The town has a number of attractive houses from various periods and many passages which reveal hidden parts of the town including old workshops, historic cottages and hidden gardens. Farnham Castle was built by the Normans and updated over the years as the Palace of the Bishops of Winchester. The former Bishops’ Palace of the castle is now a training and conference centre, which also manages the keep, which, funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant has been made much more accessible. The keep is open to the public, and there are organised tours of the palace once a week.

Many of the places mentioned in the books of George Sturt can be seen, and Waverley, the first Cistercian Abbey in England is open to the public. Farnham Park is attractive for walks and wildlife and there is a variety of attractive scenery – Farnham borders on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the North Downs Way long-distance path starts here. Alice Holt Forest is nearby, as are Frensham Ponds and many heaths and downland scenery. The Rural Life Centre is nearby at Tilford, and the town is a suitable touring base for Winchester, the Mid-Hants Railway and canal trips on the Basingstoke Canal and Wey Navigation.

Farnham has long had a strong association with the creative arts. Farnham School of Art opened in 1866 and was associated with the Arts and crafts movement when architects such as Edwin Lutyens and Harold Falkner, painters such as George Watts and W.H. Allen, potters such as Mary Watts and landscape gardeners (Gertrude Jekyll) worked in the area. Lewen Tugwell, a Farnham sculptor in the 1960s, invented a technique for production of a unique craft product made from resin, Shattaline. Items made by this process in his workshops in Long Garden Walk are now very collectable. Farnham has several art galleries – the New Ashgate Gallery in Lower Church Lane has exhibitions by established and new artists in a variety of media, the exhibition changing on the first Saturday of each month. The gallery at Farnham Maltings also has frequent exhibitions.

Farnham Maltings has diverse concerts including opera, folk and acoustic music gigs, band evenings and stand up comedy nights, as well as shows and workshops for younger people. There is a cinema run every Wednesday at the Maltings. The Maltings also hosts a successful “Acoustic Fridays” evening once a month, and this has a student following because many students play sets there. A regular blues night takes place in the “Cellar Bar” and the whole venue is taken over for the annual Blues Festival. In keeping with the town’s historical link with hop-growing and beer, the Farnham Maltings also plays host to the Farnham Beer Exhibition, an annual event that started in 1977. There are many pubs in Farnham including The Plough, The William Cobbett, The Lamb, and The Alma all of which have live music regularly. Farnham is also home to the Farnham Youth Choir.

Farnham also has an annual carnival, normally on the last Saturday in June, organised by two charitable service organisations, the Farnham Lions Club and The Hedgehogs. Castle Street is closed for the evening, with bands playing on a stage in the street, a beer tent, barbecue, and sideshows. A procession of carnival floats, marching bands, tableaux, trade floats and classic vehicles parade through the main streets of the town. Local schools also participate in the parade, which has a different theme each year. Staff of the local Kar Ling Kwong Chinese restaurant traditionally perform the Lion Dance each year as part of the parade. There is also a smaller Hale Carnival which takes place in the village of Hale in the North of Farnham. This is usually held on the first Saturday of July.

William Herbert Allen, the notable English landscape watercolour artist, lived and worked in Farnham for most of his career. He was Master of Farnham Art School from 1889 to 1927 and many of his works depict landscapes of the Farnham area. The artist Charles Bone was born in the town and studied at the Farnham College of Art. A popular fantasy artist, Josephine Wall, was born and educated in the town.

Since Roman times the wealden clay of the area has been exploited for pottery and brickmaking. Pottery continued on a small-scale commercial basis until the closure of Farnham Pottery at Wrecclesham in 1998, when it passed to the Farnham Buildings Preservation Trust. Farnham Pottery, in addition to utility wares, became famous during the Arts and crafts movement for their decorative wares, either hand-thrown or moulded and decorated in a variety of coloured glazes, particularly “Farnham Greenware”. There was close co-operation between the pottery and Farnham School of Art (now a campus of University for the Creative Arts).

The Castle Theatre in Castle Street was replaced by the Redgrave Theatre in 1974 which, itself, closed down in 1998 due to the decline of repertory theatre in England. In 1998 ‘The New Farnham Repertory Company’ was formed to carry on the tradition of repertory theatre in the town. The Farnham Theatre Association campaigns for a theatre in Farnham, either in the form of a restored Redgrave Theatre or a new build.

Productions still regularly take place at the Maltings, which both produces work and receives touring shows as well as occasionally in the grounds of Farnham Library. Various genres of music are also promoted at the Maltings, where there is also a dance studio. Gerald Flood, stage, TV and film actor, lived in Farnham for most of his life; Peter Lupino, a well-known West End actor of the 1930s and 40s, and member of the famous theatrical family, also lived for many years in Farnham, in Red Lion Lane and was a well-known local character in his retirement. Actor Bill Maynard, the Carry On and Heartbeat actor, was born in the town, as was Bill Wallis, who learned his trade on the stage of the Castle Theatre. Opera singer Sir Peter Pears (1910–1986) was born in Farnham and Jessie Matthews, OBE (1907–1981), the popular English actress, dancer, and singer of the 1930s to 1960s, lived in Farnham, where she ran the Alliance public house (now closed). It was in Farnham that J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, whilst living at Black Lake Cottage.

Farnham Cricket Club was established in 1782, originally playing in Holt Pound. The current ground is at the edge of Farnham Park near the former moat of the castle.

Farnham also has a public golf course which is situated next to the cricket ground directly behind Farnham Castle. It was designed by Sir Henry Cotton. It is a nine-hole, par-three golf course.

Farnham is represented by councillors at a county, district and town level. Farnham is represented at Surrey County Council by three councillors. As the town with the largest population in Waverley, Farnham has nine wards and is represented by eighteen councillors at Waverley borough council. Farnham Town Council is composed of 18 councillors.

The Farnham Herald is a newspaper exclusively for Farnham; published by Tindle Newspaper Group. It was established by E.W. Langham in 1892 and bought by the Tindle newspaper group in 1967. Farnham is also covered by Ash & Farnham News & Mail, which is published by Trinity Mirror.

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