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Godalming, Surrey : A selection of interesting facts about the town
A country town in Southern England
» Godalming's last public executions | More on Godalming: Our Picture Gallery


Below are just some of the things we find interesting about our home town.

  • The old Market House in the High Street was demolished and was replaced in 1814 by the unique building shown in our photograph above. This was used as the Town Hall in the nineteenth century and is affectionately nick-named the 'Pepperpot' or 'Pepperbox'.
    See The Old Town Hall in 1905
  • Godalming was the first place in the World to have a public and private electricity supply - which was introduced to the town on 26 Sept 1881. The current was generated by an auxiliary face water-wheel at Westbrook Mills.

  • A large water turbine, manufactured by Macadam Bros, Belfast, was installed at the Catteshall paper mill in 1869. The paper mill closed in 1928 and in 1981 the turbine was moved to Westbrook Mills for storage. It had been hoped that this oldest example of a Fourneyron type water turbine would be restored locally, but for several reasons it was donated to the Ironbridge Museum in Shropshire at the end of July 2004.
    Search Ironbridge Archaeology Blogspot for one small picture of it - in the snow.

  • The town spreads up two hills separated by the River Wey, whose ancient flood plain is known as the Lammas Lands. Old maps mark the Lammas Lands as "liable to flood" and after particularly heavy rains the Lands sometime transform into a huge lake; it can look very picturesque.
  • The parish church, of SS. Peter and Paul, pictured right, overlooks the Lammas Lands. Opposite the church, in Church Street, there are some of the town's oldest houses. Several buildings in the High Street are also very old. Tudor architecture can be seen at first floor level and two particularly lovely buildings are to be found above a building society and a booksellers/newsagents. Godalming has around 230 listed buildings.


Parish church
SS. Peter & Paul from Frith Hill
See SS. Peter & Paul, 1907

Hatch Mill
Hatch Mill, Mill Lane
See The Mint & Mill Lane

  • Godalming was a major centre, alongside London and the East Midlands, for the framework knitting industry. On the right is a photograph of the upper floors of a typical framework knitter's home. The knitters would have worked in the room on the top floor of the property, under the eaves. The upstairs rooms provided them with the maximum daylight. Two knitters' cottages remain in the town; this beautifully kept early nineteenth century cottage is in Mint Street and the second on is round the corner at the top of Mill Lane, next to the Rose and Crown pub.

  • Admiral Sir John Balchin was one of the longest serving officers of the Royal Navy. He was born in Godalming on 4 Feb 1669/70. According to the portrait of him in John Janaway's "The Story of Godalming" (1983) he was "of very humble parentage". He was to perish at sea on his last voyage in 1744 when his warship, "Victory", was caught in a storm en route for home on 7th October that year and went down near the Isle of Alderney with the loss of nearly 1200 lives.
    John Balchen's marble memorial in Westminster Abbey
    Three quarter length portrait of him at the Royal Museums, Greenwich
    Loss of HMS 'Victory', 4 October 1744 by Peter Monamy (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)
    Godalming's other martime hero (article in Vantage Point, August 2022).

    The Balchin Family History provides a different possible birth date and place (Brook).
    Balchin Family Society > Family History > Sir John Balchin

  • General James Oglethorpe, founder of the State of Georgia, USA, lived at Westbrook House. The townspeople still have many friends in Georgia. The town is also "twinned" with Joigny in France and Mayen in Germany. Oglethorpe's former home was bought by the Countess of Meath in 1892 and she converted the property to care for women and girls with epilepsy.
  FWK's cottage
Frameworker knitter's cottage,
Mint Street
  • Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, lodged at the King's Arms Inn in 1698. Peter was an experienced ship builder and founded the Russian Navy; he passed through Godalming on his way back from viewing English naval vessels at Portsmouth. He and his entourage had rather a lot to eat and drink whilst they lodged at the King's Arms, according to the records of the feast held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The townsfolk must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Russians left as they were renowned for bad behaviour, to put it mildly.
    The King's Arms

  • "The Rabbit Woman of Godalming" was so named because she was reputed to have given birth to 18 rabbits in 1726. Poor Mary Tofts; she was immortalised in a Hogarth cartoon and was the talk of the entire country. Mary endured a spell in prison, after which she bore a normal child as opposed to a mythical rabbit.

  • The last public executions in Godalming was of Chalcraft and Chennell following their trials for murder at Guildford Assizes. Thousands of people watched the event on the Lammas Lands in 1818. The men's names appear on lists of those who were held at Newgate Prison in London.

  • Julius Caesar was born in Godalming in 1830; in 1841 the family were living in Ferncombe [sic] and his father, Benjamin, was working as a Road Surveyor. Julius was a member of the highly successful, i.e. unbeaten, English cricket team who toured Australia in the winter of 1863/4. A few years later, in 1871, Julius was still making his living as "a professional cricketer" and lived on Ockford Road. He became the cricket professional for Charterhouse School the following year. On 13 December 1878 "The York Herald" listed the sportsmen who had died during the year amongst whom was Caesar, Julius, Godalming ; March 6.
    There is a photo of his gravestone on Nightingale Cemetery, Deanery Road.

Bridge Street, 17th century and Grade II listed
See Bridge Street, 1950s
  • Aldous Huxley, author of "Brave New World", was born on Peperharow Road on 26 July 1894; the announcement of his birth in "The Morning Chronicle" just says "Charterhouse". His mother Julia founded Prior's Field School and his father was a Classics Master at Charterhouse. Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout Movement, was educated at the school, presumably moving with them when the school moved to the town from London in 1872.

  • Sir Edwin Lutyens lived at Thursley as a child or six months every year from the age of seven. Lutyens was one of the Principal Architects who worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he supervised the design of the Etaples Military Cemetery, nr. Le Touquet, France, where both of Ann's grandfathers are buried (see our genealogy pages and Picture Gallery). Gertrude Jekyll, the famous gardener who collaborated with Lutyens and who also designed the garden for the Phillips Memorial, lived at Munstead.
  • Near our house runs a footpath that dates from Saxon times. It goes down the hill to the site of a Roman brickfield.
  • In the nearby village of Compton are two buildings dedicated to the memory of George Frederick Watts, the eminent Victorian artist and portrait painter. Watts' most famous portrait is that of his actress first wife and was painted in 1864. Called Ellen Terry (Choosing) the young woman, whom he married when she was only sixteen, is shown with her flowing red hair, smelling camellias. There are five camellias in her hair and a small bunch of wild flowers in her left hand. Watts lived in the village for many years and a great deal of his work is exhibited in the Watts Gallery. His mausoleum, erected by his second wife, is the Watts Memorial Chapel and is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts movement. G.F.W. installed a corner stone on 23 Feb 1903 - his 86th birthday.

Phillips Memorial
Phillips Memorial Cloister

  • The Arts and Crafts cloister memorial garden, between the church and the river and close to Godalming Station, was built following the untimely death of Jack Phillips, the wireless operator who stayed at his post on the ill-fated SS. Titanic until the ship sank, on 15 April 1912. Phillips was born in Farncombe. Money was raised by public donations from Godalming residents, from others in the U.K. and also people from overseas and the memorial was opened in April 1914. The cloister, shown above and below, was designed by Hugh Thackery Turner of Westbrook whilst the garden was designed and planted by Gertrude Jekyll. Jack Phillips is also named on a family grave in the local cemetery and a wild garden has also been created in his memory. The Museum web site has more about Jack Phillips.

    Although it was restored in 1993, the Council were subsequently granted Lottery funding for extensive restoration work, including the repair of the bowl of the fountain.

    Also see The Phillips Memorial Cloister
    Family grave and his memorial at the Nightingale Cemetery

drinking fountain
Drinking fountain provided by the Postal Telegraph Workers Association.
The Association also contributed to the memorial.

A memorial of a different kind was erected not far away on the Bury Fields, next to the church boundary, the bowling green and the bandstand.
This is "In memory of the people of this town who gave their lives in the War 1939 - 1945".

Memorial, WW2

The plaque at the top lists all Godalming's casualties who lost their lives in the Second World War.
A second plaque is in memory of those who fell in the First War, although a tablet inside the church has their names on it.

Also next to the church boundary, and with another wall bounding Borough Road, is one of Godalming's ancient pounds.
Livestock would have been kept here overnight, or until their owner collected his or her animals.

An engraved stone in the wall announced that
"This stone marks the Godalming Rectory Manor Pound,
presented to the Borough by the Rev. M. J. Simmonds, Lord of the Manor, 1933".

Riverside 1
  Riverside 2
Two delightful images of Godalming's riverside walks.
Photographed by and © Peter Tietjen and are reproduced here with his very kind permission.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.