Chapter 2


There is no mention of Elstead as such, in that landmark in the history of so many other Parishes, the greatest record of local government in medieval England, the “Domesday Book”, or great census, compiled on the orders of William of Normandy in 1086 – 1087. William wanted a record of his conquered lands – it was of secondary importance when he sent his surveyors out throughout the kingdom what a magnificent record of who owned what, and of what value it was, he was providing for future historians. We know from the two Saxon charters, that the area was in the hand of the Bishops of Winchester, and this did not change after the Conquest. The Victoria County History thinks that of the six mills recorded in Domesday as having belonged to the Bishop in the area, one may have been Elstead and this would suggest that there was already perhaps a small settlement here.

The mills cannot be identified positively, but the site for a water mill needs to be fairly carefully chosen, and, once chosen, is not easily subject to change. This, as Robo says in ‘Medieval Farnham’ creates at least a strong supposition that the mill later known to be at Elstead was one of the same six recorded in Domesday Book. The mill is mentioned in the rent rolls of the Bishopric of Winchester in the thirteenth century: the water mill at “Helstede” had an annual rent of lOs.3d. in 1208. There was a new miller in this year, Osbert by name. In addition to his annual l0s.3d., Osbert paid a. registration fee (purchasia) of 26s.8d. This was not heavy in comparison with some other local mills. There is no further mention of Elstead Mill In the Pipe Rolls of the Manor of Farnham for the thirteenth century, from which we may perhaps gather that everything went smoothly and miller succeeded miller in uninterrupted tranquillity, with rent paid regularly.

The first mention of Elstead by name comes in 1128 when the Bishop of Winchester, Wi11iam Giffard, bestowed on the Cistercian monks from the Abbey of Aumone in Normandy, all the lands at Waverley with meadow and pasture, together with two acres of meadow at “Helestede”, together with pannage, or grazing for their swine, and liberty to cut wood for fuel in his woods at Farnham.

The arrival of the monks at Waver1ey was to exert a profound influence over the surrounding area and one which lasted for another four hundred years. Not only would the Abbey have been the centre of religious life in the area, with brothers going out from it to build and serve in small Churches or Chapelries, of which Elstead was undoubtedly one, but the monks were also great sheep farmers. “England lived off the sheep’s back”, it has been said, with some justification, during most of the medieval period. The great sheep runs owned by the Waverley monks gave rise to the building of massive barns, to store the fleeces, of which the one at Wanborough is a prime surviving example. Roads were needed, and bridges over the Wey, to move flocks and fleeces from place to place – the bridges at Eashing and Tilford still bear witness to this. Finally, of course, the cloth industry to spin and weave the wool into the woollen cloth for which England had an international reputation, arose at Guildford.

Elstead Church suggests by its architecture that it was one of the early Chapelries of Farnham, begun around 1138, only ten years after the Monks received their Charter, and consisting of a Chancel, a Nave, and a low shingled belfry spire at the west-end, supported on very solid axe dressed oak timbers. Eric Parker, one of the most famous Surrey travellers of this century, enthused about the “wonderful ladder”, up to the belfry in the Church. It is, he said, “a single vast plank of oak, black and immovable, sloped up from a crossbeam, and notched for steps. There are magnificent beams in Surrey Churches, but this is the finest ladder of them all.

Scratch Dials were early forms of sun dial. They are basically found on Church walls, and most in Surrey are late medieval, apart from the one at Stoke d’Aberon.

The scratch dial on Elstead Church faces east, rather then south, and can only really have worked in morning light. It lies at the bottom of the north jamb to the fifteenth century east window.

Frensham would seem to be the only other Chapelry of Farnham with a comparably early date. Seale and Bentley were both later. Elstead and Tandridge are the oldest churches in the county to have wooden towers. By 1291, Seale and Elstead are recorded as being chapelries of Farnham, and we may imagine both churches being served by a monk from the Abbey for a few shepherds, swineherds and farm labourers.

We can gather something of at least two Elstead people of this period from their Wills:-

Alice Wheller.

13th August 1486.

To be buried in the churchyard of St. James of Elstead. To the mother church 2d. Residue to John my son.

Robert at Hole of Helsted.

10 Jan 1487-8.

To be buried in the churchyard of the Church or Chapel of St. James, Helsted. To the Cathedral Church of St. Swithun Winchester, 4d. To the lights before the Cross and the Trinity in the said Chapel and to the light of St Katherine, one sheep each. To the repair of the torches, one sheep. Residue to William Wheeler and Jean my wife, executors for the welfare of my soul.

Although the woollen industry declined in the area and, indeed throughout the country from the sixteenth century onwards, it is interesting, to note that the Victoria County History of Surrey, published in 1905, speaks of large flocks of sheep having been kept in the Elstead area ‘within living memory” – a throwback to the old days.

The Black Death was a form of bubonic plague which ravaged Europe from end to end between 1347 and 1351. Plague and pestilence were regular occurrences in medieval life. That this one received a special name shows that it must have stood out, certainly in the contemporary mind, as being particularly ferocious. It struck Surrey and one of the first victims in this area may well have been an Elstead man. William Waryn, was Reeve or Steward and managed the affairs of the hundred for the Bishop, but he died in October or November 1348. Maybe his family died with him because his little farm of one virgate, went to his brother, Robert. His successor John Ronewyk, kept the manorial accounts which showed the devastation wrought by the disease in the area. From September 1348 to September 1349 the deaths of 185 heads of households are actually recorded in the manorial rolls. This of course, takes no account of dependents. The average number of deaths of heads of households for the years preceeding the Black Death was just over twelve annually.

Elstead is now beginning to assume an identity as a definite settlement. We find the name appearing in documents of the period – in the subsidy roll of 1334, for example, Elstead is assessed for £2.10.6d. In the previous roll of 1332, there are a long list of individual assessments from the “Villata de Ellestede”, among the more interesting being Petro ate Mulle, possibly Peter the Miller, with the highest individual assessment of 4s. Willelmo ate Sende was the only other individual with a 4s. assessment, and the top rate for the whole area was 6s, a rare assessment from a wealthy individual in Guildford.

In 1435, Elstead got a tax abatement of 5s. in common with many other parishes on account of “the depauperatorum” the area. Why times were so difficult and the area impoverished it is difficult to say, perhaps there was a general relaxation of law and order as a result of the long minority of the King, Henry VI, and the preoccupation of the regency with campaigns in France.

Thundry Farm, at the junction of Cutmill and Farnham Road, was built at about this period. Polshott Farm dates from the fifteenth century and was owned by the Stovold family for 400 years, until they moved to Shackleford. The property has not been a working farm since the 1920’s but constitutes probably one of the finest of the listed buildings in the village. In 1535, the Archdeacon of Surrey held Farnham Church, with the chapelries of Elstead Seale, Frensham and Bentley. Although officially Chapelries, both Elstead and Seale must have been parishes in some sense by 1539, as both have parish registers starting then. The first readable entry in the Elstead register says “Charity Mychenall was crystened in Elstead Church XXIIII die Martil Ano Mo ccccc tricesimo octave (24th march 1538).

It is possible that the Church was restored in the early part of the sixteenth century, as Manning and Bray, writing in the early years of the nineteenth century, say that the roof of the chancel was decorated with “a pelican in her piety”. These were the arms of Bishop Fox (1501 – 1528) and it clearly is likely that the church was restored during his time – the more easterly of the north window is of this date.

The church registers were sometimes used for recording other items of importance than births, marriages and deaths. In 1568, we read:

“Be ye knone that I, Rycharde Grover have fully parsed out of my yerse of prentyst wyth my father John Grover all thyngs payde and dyscharged the XV daye of August”.

The registers from 1693 to 1754 seem to show that Elstead was fast becoming the Gretna Green of the neighbourhood – Marriages of people from no less than 36 different places are recorded during this period.

Although Elstead did not figure in the Domesday Book, it certainly must have felt the force of the next upheaval, which was to reach out and touch the lives of every man, woman and child in the land The dissolution of the monasteries, and the granting of their lands to a new rich class – those who would support the King against the Catholic Church, who welcomed the breach with Rome and wanted a country estate to go with their often newly acquired wealth -this was the greatest social upheaval the country had seen for five hundred years. That very English of figures, the country squire or gentleman, strongly rooted in his native earth, tied in by self interest as well as conviction to the national church – this was the dawn of his age – and he often built a new house, or extended his existing one, to justify to the rest of the world how he was in the ascendant. In 1537, the lands which Waverley Abbey had held, were granted to Sir William FitzWilliam. Elstead was probably passed on as part of the “site and possessions of the late dissolved abbey” to the Browne family. The Brownes held Waverley and “lands, tenements and appurtenances in Elstead”. Other land in the area was held by various local landowners – in 1583, John Byrche conveyed two messuages in Elstead to Sir Thomas Bowyer, who held the manor of Frensham Beale.

From 1147 to 1536 Oxenford Grange was attached to Waverley Abbey. It may be that the Grange, as the name implies, was a centre of wool collection for the trade and in 1548 it was passed to Sir Anthony Browne, half-brother of the Earl of Southampton, who had received it at the dissolution in 1536. According to the Losely Manuscripts there was a house there occupied by Anthony Garnett, Secretary to Lord Montacute, son of Sir Anthony Browne. After Anthony Garnett, the house was leased by his nephew, Mr. Lusshe, then by Mr. Spencer, who was considered to be a Romanist, of doubtful loyalty. Certainly as the wool trade declined in the area so did Oxenford. On a map of 1594, Oxenford is marked with a Church and Elstead Church is not marked. Similarly, in 1610 Oxenford is marked as larger than Elstead. By 1768 however, Elstead appears with it’s Church, and there is no mention of Oxenford.

Litigation has possibly never been out of fashion, but it certainly flourished at this period. Disputes over minority rights were, as ever, the most numerous and two of them in particular affected Elstead. In 1533, William Bromham and Alice his wife were in dispute with William Fillyp and Alice his wife, daughter and heir of William Westbroke. A messuage (house), 2 orchards, 40 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 2 acres of wood, 30 acres of heath and furze, 30 acres of moor and 8 acres of marsh were in question, making it a fairly substantial property.

There was a larger property at stake in 1555, when Lawrence Ellyott and Richard Strowde went to court about 2 messuages, a barn, a water mill, a garden, an orchard, 50 acres of land, 13 acres of meadow, 30 acres of pasture, 5 acres of wood, 30 acres of heath and furze and 6 acres of moor. It did not only lie in Elstead, however, but also in “Godalmyng, Puttenham, Shakelford and Chedingfold”

The new Church had a somewhat stormy passage, lurching from one extreme to another before it settled into the safe, middle of the road, Protestant orthodoxy, which was the Elizabethan religious settlement. In 1547 under Henry’s son the boy King Edward extreme Protestantism was the order of the day. Henry VIII in his own mind anyway, probably never entirely lost touch with the Catholic Church which had bred him, and awarded him the title “Fidel Defensor” – defender of the faith.

He broke with the Papacy because it was politically and personally expedient to do so. It was otherwise with Edward, Duke of Somerset, whom he left as Lord Protector during the minority of his infant son. Somerset aligned with England with the extreme Protestant faction in Europe, and set up Commissions to take inventories of goods, plate and jewels belonging to all the Churches and Chapels in the land They also turned their attention to abolishing chantry chapels, normally founded as a result of the wills of the devout, who left money to pay a priest to say masses for the repose of their souls, and those of their families. In 1553, by which time Somerset, after the uncertain fashion of those days, had fallen from power, another Commission turned its attention to Church goods – to make more inventories to compare with the previous ones, and to enquire upon oath about property which might have been concealed or embezzled. Parishes were allowed to keep one chalice for use at Communion, and all other goods were to be sold.

The list of ornaments noted by the commission at Elstead were:

I      silver chalice

II    Coopes, the one red sattyn of Briddgis, and the other a Sangwyne colored coope of sattyn of Briddgis very ollde.

I     Sattyn Crosse

I     Ollde Crosse of Grene Silke

I     Aulter clothe of Lynnen

III     Belles in the Steple waing bie Estimacon – the best iiiiC the second bell iiiC the third bell iiC

II     surplusis of lynnyn clothe.

“All that lacketh of the former inventory were stollen by thieves when the Church was robbed, except 2 candlesticks which were sold for 5/- and the money used to repair the bridge.

Charles Kerry, writing in 1870 says that during the recent restoration, foundations of a wall were discovered., running across the nave, a little to the east of centre, as if the church had been extended afterwards at some earlier date. An alternative theory could be that the foundations indicate the front of the ancient rood-loft, which might have been constructed entirely within the nave, as in the church at Greywell, near Odiham. This idea is perhaps supported by the smallness of the chancel.

There were three bells in 1549, weighing respectively 2 ½ , 3 and 4 cwt. “by extimacion”. There should have been three bells in 1865, when the new peal was made, at a cost of £46.16.11d. but the churchwardens had sold the second bell, and a fragment of the tenor, to defray some church expenses.

There were no families above yeoman rank in Elstead in the sixteenth century we are told.

Munster Rolls record the stocks of arms available in each parish, and the numbers of men trained to use them in the case of national emergency. The parish of Elstead is not recorded as being in possession of any arms or weapons in 1569.

William Bronham and Richard Avenell were pykemen in Mr Weston’s trained band of 1592. Henry Michinall was a Billman.

The muster of 1596 had 22 names, the others are all struck through. Tribes, Wheelers and Woodhatches are all prominent. Henry Mechemall is presumably Mitchenall, and Henry Wheler, Tayler, is presumably so called to distinguish him from another Henry Wheler on the list.

These men were not regular army members. There was no regular army in the sixteenth century. They stood ready to he called upon in case of need, and in times of emergency would collect their arms, usually stored in the parish church, and be available to fight if necessary.

The Elizabethan age was a great time for house building, extension and refurbishment. Even a yeoman farmer might add a wing to his modest hall house – something in keeping with the prosperous, confident spirit of the times. Several of the houses in the village date, at least in part, from this period. Brookside, in Cutmill Lane, has had an adventurous history. It started life in the sixteenth century, as a small cottage. It was known as Fullbrook Cottage during the early years of this century, when the Chillingworth family operated their hand laundry there, delivering the finished articles around the village in a pony and cart. The property was known as “Brookside by about 1959, when the actor, Peter Sellers, lived there. He it was who diverted the river to flow through the gardens. He was not to be the last famous owner of the property. Ringo Starr, of “Beatles” ‘fame, lived there after him – an extraordinary development of what probably began life as a humble sixteenth century workman’s cottage.

Two cottages in Milford Road also date from this period – “Berries”, formerly “Peacehaven” and “April Cottage” formerly “Lilac Cottage”, and previously the Post Office cottage. The two cottages together formed the Old Post Office and during the 1880’s were the residence of Jemima Blackman, the village postmistress. The firm of Tracy’s adapted “Peacehaven” to house the Telegraph Office, and the Post Office continued there, run first by Mrs. Beatrice Martin, daughter of Jemima Blackman and her husband until it removed to the Green in 1952. Mrs. Martin continued to live sit “Peacehaven”, until she died in 1957, with Bessie Blackman her sister. April Cottage was renovated and modernised by Tracy’s in 1962.

Previous to the occupation by the Blackmans, the properties would appear to have been occupied in the mid-nineteenth century by “H. L. Bowler – Grocer”. An old photograph shows his name board, with a double door on the right hand side, suitable in size for a cart. Once again, a sixteenth century cottage had a chequered later history.

Domford, in Thursley Road, was dated by the Domestic Buildings Research Group to 1550. It was a farm, and has a bread oven, a salt hole and a big open chimney. The owners held tenancy of the land under the Bishops of Winchester until the 1920’s when one could buy land from the ecclesiastical commissioners. In 1795 George Legg’ lived in Domford, which was a farm and included a cottage now called “Little Barn” in Ash Lane. In 1800 George Legg his son, inherited (1) pasture called Heathfield, lying at Staniford in the tithing of Elstead; (2) a parcel of land about 3 acres with cottage called Domford near commonfields called Kampsteate, in the tithing of Elstead – this seems to be near Pot Common; (3) plus a quarter of an acre “known as the same” with cottage now fenced around, and surrendered to James Legg – and his heirs. The later history of “Domford” will be continued in subsequent chapters.

Peat Farm Cottage, in Red House Lane, is also sixteenth century in origin. It was once a farmhouse with a barn between it and Thursley Road, where the bungalow is now. It was built about 1570 and still has the bacon smoke place, a salt drawer, an inglenook and many original bricks and beams. It was still farmed in the early years of this century by a Jack Cooper, the owner being Col. Rushbrook, of Thursley.

Red House Farm and Barn began life in the sixteenth century, and has seventeenth century additions. Mr. William Pierce, of Cock Hill, was born on the farm in 1903, when it was farmed by his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. May.

The “Old Farmhouse” in Farnham Road, had a sixteenth century origin, and a string of distinguished literary tenants in the early years of this century – among them being the widow of Joseph Conrad, the novelist, A.G. McDonnell, author of “England their England” and Vernon Bartlett, the war correspondent. It was a working farm previous to this, being kept by Mr and Mrs. Chandler, the grandparents of the present owner of Chandler’s Garage in the village. The small roadside cottage at the gateway appears to have had a somewhat bizarre use, as a pickle factory. in the 1930’s. It was also at one period the home of a cobbler, well travelled, from Norfolk, named Seeman. The Old Farmhouse is a hall house of high quality, with later additions, one of which includes an eaves cruck. Crucks, or large triangular shaped wooden braces, are common in some parts of the country, but very rare indeed in Surrey, and this is similar to the one at Littleton near Guildford.

Elstead Bridge is largely sixteenth century, but is thought to have medieval foundations. The importance of the bridge over the Wey to the monks of Waverley has already been mentioned. The original bridge is thought to have been built after the bad floods of 1233, in place of the ford, leaving a small ford on the village side. The brick parapets were added in 1826. There were probably more arches to the bridge at one time, as both banks have cutwaters and buttresses buried in them.

In 1565, the Bridge Commissioners reported – “Somersford (Somerset) Bridge is decayed and downe, and the cawsye thereunto adjoining, which bridge is the Queenes bridge, and by her highnes to be mayneteyned, the stones of which bryda were caryed away by James Bromefelde and by him employed upon his own buyldinges and Peper harowe upon the form of Sir Richard Pexall Knight”.

The present Mill House is sixteenth century in origin, but mention has already been made of Elstead Mill as probably being one of the un-named mills mentioned in the Domesday Book, and as being worth an annual rental of lOs.3d., payable to the Bishop of Winchester, in 1208. Between 1231 – 1346, the Elstead Mill is mentioned fourteen times in the Bishop’s Rent Rolls, and three times in the Farnham Court Rolls from 1574 – 1600.

In 1591, “the XIXth day of Aprell was taken up one at our mylle whose name was Toveth”, the Church register tells us. It would be interesting to know who Toveth was, presumably a vagrant of some kind, and what was he doing at the mill?

In 1600, Robert Aston or Ashton, gent, held the mill, In 1624 Edward Beedle was miller. By 1647 when the mill burnt down, William Trible was the owner, and William Eldridge the tenant. Trible lived at Hambledon, so the Paynes who lived at Pyehouse on the Thursley Road, were responsible for paying the men at the mill.

William Eldridge was paid £15, quite a lot of money, on October 17t to buy a new millstone. The new mill was finished by October 30th.

What of the people of Elstead as the sixteenth century drew to a close? We know something about a few of them from their wills. John Wheeler a yeoman, or small farmer, lived at Westbrook. His will was proved in April 1599, and witnessed by Robert Aursell and John Stovall (Stovold), also yeomen. Annis Belade, and Agnes Peniode were both widows, witness to the fact that women were by means despised in this “pre womens lib” age, and that it was by no means uncommon for a wife to carry on her husband’s business after his death, and to leave considerable property. Great interest can ge gained from the executors of the wills, as well as the testators, in the first case it was margaret Stovall, wife of John Stovall. in March 1597-8, and in the second, Henry Boxoull, yeomen, and John Lufe, yeoman of Frensham, in 1598. Some of these names are still in the area to this day.

There were a number of independent yeomen coming onto the scene now in most Surrey villages, possessed of a modest independence, and we can catch a flavour of them from their wills. Thus William Woodhatch of Elstead, yeoman, in 1599, was able to leave money to the poor of Elsted and Thursley, as well as bequests to a numerous family, and to his son Lawrence “the tenement in Thursley bought of Nicholas Kychyll and Alice Fawce”

Thomas Hoycke was interesting in that his occupation is mentioned. He was a bucket maker and leaves to his brother, John Hoycke, “all my timber stuff, my ware, both made and unmade, and all my working tools.” Once again, he made numerous family bequests and had a tenement, this time in Farncombe, to leave, as well as property in Elstead.

Gregorie Langforde of Elsteaad(!) husbandman, left, among other bequests. “a stall of bees” to his god-son Gregorie Boxall, in 1602.

William Chittie, a weaver, left in 1603, five children all under 21 and presumably a certain amount of financial uncertainty to his wife, Elizabeth.

Richard Gosden, who describes himself as a yeoman, is one of the few who mention a servant, Jane Decon, as one of his legatees. Another servant, Richard Ode, is one of the witnesses to the will.

In the Episcopal Visitations 1581 and 1532, the “Elstead Chapelry” had Edward Welshe as Curate. William Bicknoll, John Boxhall and John Collyn are mentioned as Churchwardens. John Collyn died in 1602 and his will is still extant, leaving his property to his son William and daughter Agnes Collyn, ‘with his wife Jeane as executrix.

Edward Barton, Robert Aunsell and William Woodach (Woodhatch) are mentioned as parishioners.

In 1576, John Hampton was living in Elstead. He had a son William, baptized and buried there in that year. A few months afterwards, there is another entry in the register “the XXI day of January was baptysed the douter of Willaim Sporge, sayde to be the chyllde of John Hampton and named Amyss”.

There seems to have been a slight problem in 1598 with intrusions on the Elstead Common Land from neighbouring parishes. Mr. Vyne, of Shackleford, and John Billinghurst senior, of Puttenham, were both brought before the local magistrates, accused of driving their sheep onto Elstead Common, filching the common pasture from their neighbours.

Hookley Cottage in Hookley lane was a largely sixteenth century building, which may have had earlier foundations, and was enlarged and modernised by Mr. A.G. Collyer in 1914. Angus Taylor, carrot grower, was buried from here in 1600. Elstead already had it’s somewhat strange specialisation. A poor, largely agricultural community, it was well known for the growing of carrots. The Victoria County History of Surrey, written in 1905, mentions the great reputation the inhabitants had e1sewhere for their knowledge of carrots, but says that carrot growing was not so common in the village as formerly.

The court rolls of the manor of Farnham contain several presentations related to Elstead, one of the most interesting of which is perhaps the following:

3rd September 1601, the jury present “Mr Willaim Vynes of Shackelforde for keeping of sheepe in oure common, and keeping of a staffered in oure common of Elstead, and so contynueth dailie, the Saboth daie only excepted having no right there so far as we know. And further, William Hampton, one of oure jury, doth affirme that John Billinghurst senr. of Puttenham, did saie that Mr. Beeden and Mistris Vyne of Shakelforde did oftentymes drive theire sheepe to and fro from Shakelforde to a place called Bryttie Hill, in the tithing of Elstede. But upon what rights he could not tell”.

The infamous Vynes were no doubt people of some consequence, probably descended from the Ralph Vyne, who purchased the manor of Poyle in Seale, in 1503. There are twelve entries of Vynes in Elstead registers between 1552 and 1690, the only Christian names being Richard, Thomas and Elizabeth.

William Hampton, the informing juryman, was doubtless from the old established family of Hampton, in Seale. They also had a branch in Worplesdon, and one of their number certainly seems to have been active in Elstead.

The John Billinghurst who started this rumour probably came from Rodsall, between Cutmill and Puttenham. The Billinghursts were certainly there in 1507 and still there a century later in 1658 holding land from the then lord of Puttenham, William Leigh.