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Episode 23: Surrey

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Where is Surrey?

In our twenty-fourth episode we talked about lots of interesting places and things in Surrey, so here are some pictures and information to spark your curiosity!

Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

It's not in Surrey, but it is celebrated on 11th September when we've released the episode, and we promised a link to the interesting BBC documentary about it, so here it is!

De Warenne Flag

The flag of Surrey is the blue and gold chequered flag of the traditional county of Surrey and is derived from the coat of arms of William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (heraldic blazon: Chequy Or and Azur).

The Surrey flag was officially registered as a "traditional design" by the Flag Institute on 11 September 2014 following research by Philip Tibbetts on behalf of the Association of British Counties, which showed that the county was linked to an emblem of antiquity.

Prior to this date, the county had no official flag but the banner of the coat of arms of Surrey County Council was frequently used instead.

The Surrey flag is a representation of the arms originally used as a personal heraldic device by William de Warenne, first Earl of Surrey, in 1088 and has since enjoyed a long association with the county itself, as attested to in a 17th-century poem about the Battle of Agincourt.

Guildford Castle

Guildford Castle is thought to have been built by William the Conqueror, or one of his barons, shortly after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Used as a Royal Palace, a prison and a private residence, Guildford Castle and grounds was sold to the Guildford Corporation in 1885. The grounds at Guildford Castle opened as public gardens in 1888 to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.

The castle gardens are famous for their vibrant floral displays, centred on the 11th Century Castle Keep. Other attractions include a life-size statue of Alice Through the Looking Glass, a bowling green and music concerts in the bandstand. The town's war memorial stands in the grounds. Open-air theatre takes place in the summer months.

Barons Caves, Tunnel and Reigate Castle

The story which gave rise to the name “Barons’ Cave” is that the barons met there to draw up the Magna Carta in 1215, before making King John sign it. Unfortunately, this is a romantic story that is certainly not true.

Nobody knows how exactly old the Barons’ Cave is. The oldest reference to it dates from 1586 when Camden describes “an extraordinary passage with a vaulted roof hewn with great labour out of the soft stone.”

Doors and windows with a similar profile to the cave passages were being built from about 1200 onwards, but we must be careful before drawing any conclusions from this.

Richard Barnes' Folly

In 1777 a mock medieval gateway was built over the ruins of the original castle. An inscription is written on the side of the gateway, in English on one side and Latin on the other:

"To save the memory of William Earl Warren who in old days dwelt here and was a loyal champion of our liberties from perishing like his own castle by the ravages of time, Richard Barnes at his own expense erected this gateway in the year 1777."

Farnham Castle

Standing on its hill for nearly 900 years, Farnham Castle is one of the few remaining great medieval houses of England. Historical associations, almost continuous occupancy and careful preservation make the complex of buildings a significant and interesting survivor from the past.

The powerful and wealthy Bishops of Winchester built Farnham Castle. For hundreds of years, it served as an administrative centre, fortress and accommodation, providing a convenient stopping place between London and Winchester.

After 1660, the Palace became the Bishop’s principal residence. Many English monarchs, from King John to Queen Victoria have visited or stayed at Farnham Castle.

Hampton Court Palace and Lady Elizabeth Cheney Vaux

The original Tudor Hampton Court Palace was begun by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 16th century, but it soon attracted the attention of Henry VIII, who brought all his six wives here.

Surrounded by gorgeous gardens and famous features such as the Maze and the Great Vine, the palace has been the setting for many nationally important events.

When William III and Mary II (1689-1702) took the throne in 1689, they commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build an elegant new baroque palace.

Later, Georgian kings and princes occupied the splendid interiors. When the royals left in 1737, impoverished 'grace and favour' aristocrats moved in.

Queen Victoria opened the palace to the public in 1838. It has remained a magnet for millions of visitors, drawn to the grandeur, the ghosts and the fabulous art collection.

Elizabeth Vaux was born in 1509, the daughter of Sir Thomas Cheney, an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII. She became a ward of the 1st Baron Vaux in 1516 and was married to his son Thomas (later 2nd Baron Vaux of Harrowden) before May 1523.

She is depicted looking to the front, wearing a brown dress with ermine, with a jewel at her bossom decorated with the Madonna and Child enthroned. She holds a pink carnation in her right hand, and a cherry in her left.

This is thought to be a competent copy after a lost original by Hans Holbein. The original was painted in 1535. Holbein's preparatory drawing for the original portrait is in the Royal Collection.

Hatchlands Park

Hatchlands Park was built in the 1750s for naval hero Admiral Edward Boscawen and his wife Fanny, since then it has housed wealthy families, a finishing school for girls and even a printing press.

The mansion is now a family home, containing tenant Alec Cobbe’s collection of paintings and fine furniture. Also on display is the Cobbe Collection, Europe’s largest collection of keyboard instruments associated with famous composers including JC Bach, Chopin and Elgar.

An early interior design commission for architect Robert Adam, his work can be seen in ceilings and fireplaces throughout the house.

Clandon House

Clandon Park has a long and rich story. Once part-owned by the crusading Knights Templar, the estate was sold to the Onslow family in 1641 on the eve of civil war in England.

The story of the Clandon Park house that we know today began in the 1720s, when the wealth and ambition of Lord Onslow demanded a new and fashionable mansion.

Built in the 1730s, Clandon was designed by the Italian architect Giacomo (also known as James) Leoni, and is a fusion of late Baroque and early English Palladianism.

Polesden Lacey

In the Surrey Hills, just 25 miles from London, Polesden Lacey is ideal for spending time with family and friends. The genius of the garden is its setting with glorious views of Ranmore Common and rolling parkland. A landscape virtually unchanged since medieval times.

The house was the weekend retreat of Margaret Greville. From brewer’s daughter to friend of Kings and Queens, the house is overflowing in rich social history.

Remodelled by architects Mewès and Davis, hot off their successful refurbishment of the Ritz hotel, the house interiors are a showpiece in their own right, brimming with opulence and luxury.

Guildford Cathedral

Guildford Cathedral is a modern Cathedral with a truly remarkable story.

Building work on the Cathedral started in 1936, to a design by Sir Edward Maufe. But work was stopped by the Second World War and its devastating aftermath.

Despite enormous setbacks, regular services were held in the Crypt Chapel (the current Choir practice room) from 1947.

When building restrictions were lifted and materials were available again, there was a renewed sense of determination in the local community to complete the Cathedral. But there were very limited funds.

Eventually, through the Buy a Brick fundraising campaign, work re-started again in 1954. More than 200,000 ordinary people became brick-givers. Their generosity helped ensure the completion of what they thought of as “their Cathedral”. It was an extraordinary act of public support, a demonstration of modern community spirit.

With a resilient and make do and mend approach, the inside of the Cathedral was furnished. Again, much of this was done with the assistance of local people. For example hand making the 1500 kneelers, which remain in place today.

Box Hill

Box Hill is a summit of the North Downs in Surrey, approximately 31 km (19 mi) south-west of London. The hill gets its name from the ancient box woodland found on the steepest west-facing chalk slopes overlooking the River Mole.

The western part of the hill is owned and managed by the National Trust, whilst the village of Box Hill lies on higher ground to the east.

Box Hill lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and forms part of the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The north- and south-facing slopes support an area of chalk downland, noted for its orchids and other rare plant species.

The hill provides a habitat for 38 species of butterfly, and has given its name to a species of squash bug, now found throughout south-east England

Captain Francis Salvin

Francis Henry Salvin was a writer on falconry and cormorant-fishing, born at Croxdale Hall on 4 April 1817.

He was fifth and youngest son of William Thomas Salvin, of Croxdale Hall, Durham, by his wife Anna Maria, daughter of John Webbe-Weston, of Sutton Place, Surrey.

Educated at Ampleforth, a Roman catholic school in Yorkshire, he served for several years in the militia, joining the 3rd battalion of the York and Lancaster regiment in 1839 and retiring with the rank of captain in 1864.

In 1857 he inherited from his uncle, Thomas Monnington Webbe-Weston, the fine old Tudor mansion Sutton Place, near Guildford, but he usually lived at Whitmoor House, another residence on the estate.

An early love of hawking was stimulated by an acquaintance with John Tong, assistant falconer to Col. Thomas Thornton (1757–1823).

The Silent Pool

Silent Pool was probably an old chalk quarry fed by underground springs and would have been a precious source of pure water in days gone by. The pool and nearby Sherbourne Pond became home to many different species of aquatic life and one can often glimpse the blue flash of a kingfisher as it darts across the water.

More recently the pool has had a tendency to dry out due to the springs feeding the Pool suffering from the lower than average annual rainfall.

Silent Pool has always been a popular place to visit and many feel an eerie stillness looking out over the still water surrounded by the evergreen box trees.

Legend has it that this is due to the fate of a woodcutter's daughter who was surprised by a nobleman on a horse as she bathed in the pool.

Having failed to lure her to the bank, he rode his horse into the water and caused the girl to move out to deeper water where she drowned.

When the woodcutter returned and found her body, he also found the nobleman's hat floating on the water. It bore the crest of none other than Prince John!

Witley Park Underwater Ballroom

Called an 'underwater ballroom,' in reality it was a subterranean smoking room built beneath a roof aquarium. Either way, it was spectacular, and like everything else on Whitaker Wright’s Lea Park estate, it was doomed.

The main house on the estate was a 32-room mansion, and Wright had three artificial lakes constructed, the 9,000+ acres lavishly landscaped and reeking of wealth and means.

Perhaps the most famous addition to the palatial properties was the underground conservatory/smoking room with aquarium windows, an epic statue seemingly rising out of the manufactured lake on the underwater dome that gave the glorious below-ground room a ballroom-like appearance.

West Clandon Dragon

The legend of the Clandon Dragon tells the story of a fire breathing monster that used to terrorise the back lanes of West Clandon and the villagers were very afraid to pass that way.

A soldier who had been condemned to death for desertion promised, if his life was spared, to kill the beast. Accordingly, he took his dog with him and a fierce battle ensued as his dog grabbed the dragon by the throat and the soldier killed it with his bayonet.

The story is thought to have first appeared in an edition of ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ in 1796 and was illustrated by a wood carving that used to hang by the south door of West Clandon Church for many years.

Mary Toft and the rabbits

Mary Toft (née Denyer; c. 1701–1763), also spelled Tofts, was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.

In 1726, Toft became pregnant, but following her reported fascination with the sighting of a rabbit, she miscarried. Her claim to have given birth to various animal parts prompted the arrival of John Howard, a local surgeon, who investigated the matter. He delivered several pieces of animal flesh and duly notified other prominent physicians, which brought the case to the attention of Nathaniel St. André, surgeon to the Royal Household of King George I.

St. André concluded that Toft's case was genuine but the king also sent surgeon Cyriacus Ahlers, who remained skeptical. By then quite famous, Toft was brought to London where she was studied in detail; under intense scrutiny and producing no more rabbits she confessed to the hoax, and was subsequently imprisoned as a fraud.

The resultant public mockery created panic within the medical profession and ruined the careers of several prominent surgeons.

The affair was satirised on many occasions, not least by the pictorial satirist and social critic William Hogarth, who was notably critical of the medical profession's gullibility.

Toft was eventually released without charge and returned home.

Mother Ludlam's Cauldron and Cave

In St Mary’s Church, in the village of Frensham, Surrey, the strangest object can be found.

Propped up on a tripod, near the pews, beneath the arched windows, in among all the other fittings you’d expect in an English country church, stands what appears to be a witch’s cauldron.

There it is, a little battered, but looking as if a knowledgeable practitioner of magic could soon get a fire going and start brewing a potion in it.

But what’s an item many would associate with witchcraft doing in a place of Christian worship?

Unsurprisingly, many legends have grown up around this incongruous object – a heap of intertwined tales involving a chaotic collection of characters.

The cauldron has been linked to the Devil, Saxon chieftains, Celtic and Norse gods, a witch’s cave, burrowing monks, fairies, broomsticks, rustic peasant knees-ups, prehistoric burial mounds, healing waters and sacred wells.

This legend can be traced back to the 17th century, when it is said that a friendly old white witch called Mother Ludlam used to live in a local cave close to the village of Frensham.

Being friendlier than most witches, Mother Ludlam developed quite an enviable reputation by lending local villagers anything they asked for, under the rather peculiar proviso that it should be returned within two days.

Would-be borrowers were required to stand on a boulder on the entrance to Mother Ludlam’s cave and clearly state what they required.

Once they got home they would then find the object of their desire waiting for them on their doorstep… think of it like an olden day, albeit with a mandatory two day returns policy!

The Devil's Jumps and The Devil's Punchbowl

The Devil's Jumps are linked to a variety of local landmarks by folklore, including Mother Ludlam's Cave near the ruins of Waverley Abbey, the Devil's Punch Bowl at Hindhead, the village of Thursley and the parish church at Frensham.

The folklore includes various tales. One states that the Devil used to amuse himself by leaping from the top of each hill to the next. This annoyed the god Thor who picked up a boulder and threw it at the Devil, causing him to flee and leaving the boulder at the Devil's Jumps.

When Thor tried to strike the Devil with thunder and lightning, the Devil retaliated by scooping up a handful of earth and hurling it at Thor. The depression that remained is the Devil's Punch Bowl.

Statue of Blanche Heriot, Chertsey Abbey

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