WONERSH
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HISTORY SOCIETY
REMINISCENCES OF AN OLD HOUSE, ASHLANDS From the Wonersh Women’s Institute scrapbook of 1949 “I think my position has enabled me to observe most of the many changes that have taken place in Wonersh in the last 120 years. I was built about 1827, a small brick house standing alone in a field a few hundred yards from the centre of the village. My windows one way looked across the common and the pond to a peep of the Dower House, shaded by its tall horse chestnut trees. Across the fields towards the village I could see the Grantley Arms and Grantley Cottages and the village shop and the little old weaver’s cottage opposite the old inn. I was myself a beer shop, I have been told they drank their beer under the big old tree in the front, of which only an ancient stump remains. There was a well by the door and inside at the back of the house was a small cellar just sufficiently sunk below the ground for the beer barrels to be kept cool; there is just such a cellar at the Grantley Arms. At the side of the house was a small stable, coach house and a harness room with a little cobbled yard in front. The first change came in 1850 when I was bought by Mr. Virgo, the nursery gardener who added to me two large rooms and a pleasing staircase and surrounded me with a verandah. He also planted many fruit trees, some of which are bearing fruit to this day and he built a greenhouse which contained a number of choice plants even including orchids. The change in my surroundings began in 1872 when an influx of workers to the Tannery at Gosden induced the owner, Mr. Edwin Ellis of Summersbury in Shalford, to build Lawnsmead Buildings. Doubtless the large windows seemed an improvement on the 300 years old cottages of our village but it was a sad change for me to look out on such a block of houses. Luckily Mr. Virgo had surrounded me with a thick holly hedge so I preserved my privacy. In 1880 the Congregational Church was built between me and the collection of farm cottages and the old barn near Little Tangley. And now my solitude steadily disappeared. The go-ahead manager of the village shop, Mr. Wheeler, was looked upon with suspicion for his modernising tendencies and was given six months’ notice. What a surprise when it was found that on the expiry of that time he had bought Fern Cottage with its large garden on which he proceeded to build the shop which is now Forrest Stores. He also built the present row of houses adjoining, finishing them in about 1906. About this time the village pond vanished with the coming of main drainage, its only trace being a damp clayey patch where quoits were played until recently. In 1890 the population had increased so much that Lawnsmead School was built just opposite me. Then came the First World War and for four years an end to building. When that war was over, I was finally surrounded. First came the Memorial Hall in 1924 hard against my garden hedge and finally the row of villas between me and the Chapel which were completed in 1928. The latest buildings in Wonersh, New Road, can be seen in winter from my gate, but the screen of alders preserves, in that direction, a little illusion of my solitude.”