On Saturday 30th April 2022, Our Elstead, a sub-committee of Elstead Parish Council unveiled an exciting new addition the village, a stunning wrought iron village sign. Located on the edge of the central village green, the new sign will proudly welcome visitors and those travelling along the busy B3001 in between Farnham and the A3 alike. The sign was funded in its entirety thanks to a very generous donation from the Billmeir Trust to whom Elstead Parish Council is most grateful.
The sign, which was based on an initial design concept from Paul Williams, Creative Director Springetts, was created and made by Nick Bates of Burroughs Lea Forge who has produced a number of village signs in Surrey. Many possible symbols or stories associated with Elstead and its history could have been chosen for the design, but Nick’s advice was clear “less is more.”
The village sign project, which was initially an idea from Diana Mathisen, was overseen by Our Elstead. The project team comprised; Elstead Parish Councillor John Mathisen, Stefan Reynolds, Elstead Parish Councillor, founder and editor of VantagePoint and Paul Williams.
Inspiration for the sign’s design came from Gillian Drew’s book “Elstead Then and Now” and Alan Bott’s book “A History of the Parish Church of St James Elstead.” The project team also visited several local villages and looked at a number of village signs in the surrounding area. Bott’s book has a facsimile of the 1341 copy of the 1128 Foundation Deeds of Waverley Abbey. This records that the Bishop of Winchester gave the Cistercian monks of Waverley Abbey two acres of meadow at Helestede. This is the earliest known mention of the village of Elstead. While the monks devoted themselves to silent worship, the lay brothers toiled on the land – farming, building bridges, barns and fishponds to feed the Abbey community. St James’s Church was built in the early 13th century for the lay brothers to worship while working away.
Taking this as a design lead, the frame of the sign is a symbolic Church window with tracery at the top. The monks built the much loved ancient monument, Elstead Bridge, and this sits proudly spanning the body of the sign. A sheep walks across the bridge on its way to market and this references Elstead’s agricultural past.
It is said Helestede means the place of the elder trees. The parish is certainly blessed with trees – represented here by a bouquet of leaves and berries. The sign would not be complete without a dragonfly – Pudmore Pond, in Elstead Parish is synonymous with these beautiful insects and is a dragonfly hotspot.
We hope the sign will show passers-by that Elstead is an historic village and worth a visit. It will also remind villagers of our history and to look after the village in the way that our forebears have done.