THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
As England entered the new century there was a watershed as complete and final as anyone could wish for to make the beginning of the new era. In 1603, the old Queen Elizabeth, died, after a reign of 45 years, as long as most people could remember. It had been the longest period of peace and stable government England had known for many years, although not without its alarms. The new Stuart dynasty was very much an unknown factor, and people awaited the new era and the new century. Bridges were causing some trouble in Elstead. There was also evidence, however, of growing organisation of local government to deal with local needs. A rent of 2/- per year was set aside for the repair of Somerset Bridge, over the Wey, on the road from Elstead to Shackleford. We begin to see a few more people coming onto the stage.
John Chesterton, who then owned Oxenford, died, and the estate was divided between his three daughters. Two shares were purchased by Sir John Platt of Westbrook, in Godalming and the other third held by Chesterton Fox of Godalming. John Platt finally sold his shares to Denzil, Lord Helles in 1676. When this spendthrift nobleman died, an Act of Parliament was passed authorising the sale of the estate to pay his debts, and in 1699 it was bought by Philip Froude, Esq.
The stable government of Elizabethan England was not to endure long into the new century. The first two Stuart Kings, although not without learning, and culture, were to prove lamentably lacking in political acumen. “This I count the greatest glory of my reign” the old Queen Elizabeth told her Parliament, “that I have reigned with your loves”. Her relations with her Parliaments were by no means always loving, but she knew just how to manage them to her best advantage. James I and his son Charles were not nearly so sure. Both were in urgent need of money, both were inclined to favour the cause of Spain in Europe and both had very little respect for the sensitive feelings of the thrusting, aggressive Country Squires and Merchants who largely comprised the House of Commons and who would never vote the King money to support a Catholic power, and, worse still, in the case of Charles I, a “Papish’ wife.
Ship money was one of the more resented taxes imposed by Charles I and is commonly quoted in the school text books as being one of the causes of the boiling over of frustration and anger which led to the Civil War. Elstead was assessed for £13 in 1636 compared with Seale at £14.13.4d., £13.2.6d in Peperharrow, £13 for Puttenham, and for Thursley – an interesting sidelight on the relative size of these villages.
Flushed with the success of its victory over the Monarchy after some five years of conflict, Parliament was not without its own ideas for civil administration. Time was to prove that they lacked the machinery and perhaps the consensus to carry them out, but they started out in fine style, by dividing the counties into classes of a certain geographical extent, and nominating ministers and elders in each of the classes. These people were to preside ever the parochial election of elders, to certify the fitness of those named, and then to give place to the naturally formed classis of delegates from the parishes On February 16, 1648 the “classical” scheme was sanctioned for Surrey. The first classis included Farnham, Elstead and Seale, but it is doubtful whether it ever existed in its entirety. The machinery as has been said, was lacking, and there was also opposition from several quarters, particularly the Secretaries, a sect who were very strong in Surrey, and as much against Puritan discipline as anyone. There might also have been popular opposition, reacting against the excessive taxation imposed on the area by Parliament during the later years of the Civil War. The Churchwarden’s Accounts show extraordinary expenses – on 5th May 1644, Elstead was assessed for four months taxes at £6l. l2. 4d. by the Parliamentary garrison at Farnham Castle. In 1645, 25th April, there was £14 for two months for the army of Sir Thomas Fairfax. Then there was £7. 10s. for six months for the “British Army”; by 1650, 28th September, this had become, interestingly, the ‘Scottish Army”, with the abortive invasion by Charles II that year, and the calling of Scottish troops to English assistance. £8.6.2d was wanted for the ‘Malishra”, In December, 1648 money was wanted for three months for the “Association” of English and Scottish troops. From May 1644 to January 1646, Elstead was paying £11 a month to military purposes. What effect, it may be asked, did this extremely high level of expenditure have on a small poor agricultural community? It was, obviously, considerable.
Several receipts for the Billeting of Troops in Elstead are preserved, particularly from the Paynes, at Dyhouse Farm –
“September the 4: 1647. Thes ar to certifi that I James Payne quartered Liftenant Evans and his man, and 2 horse 16 days, which were under the comand of Capt. Freemanne in Col.Ockley Reagment
Witness my hand
“Thes are to sertify that the quartered 3 horse and men 3 days at ffree quarter at James Paine having had 5 bushell of otes whoe belong to Capt. Ffreeman in Col. Okley Reagement.
F. Smyth, Henry Rayler”
James Paine seems to have been well and truly squeezed, but he was not averse to applying the screws himself as can be seen in this draft of a letter from him to Henry Martin, about non-payment of tithes.
“Mr. Martin, you are behind toe pay for your own Tyeth that you have detained unto your own custody for seven years past £24. l0. 8d. which I hope will make it good. I never had it and you are too pay halfe the charge of the reparacions of the Barne belonging to the parsonage which cost £7. l0. 3d. glassing of the chancell and all”.
A number of questions leap at once to mind – where was the parsonage, and why should a “barn” have a glassed in ‘chancel” – was this some kind of chapel? Poor Henry Martin seems to have recovered from this burden of debt, anyway, as he was duly elected as Churchwarden in 1655.
In December 1648, £46. 5s. of the money collected for the Association was refunded, on the grounds that the neighbourhood was exhausted by the previous quartering of the whole of Sir William Wallers’s army. There must have been individual cases of severe hardship, and inevitably some popular opposition to military rule. 1647 must have been a year of some drama in the village as in that year the Mill burnt down. It may have had some connection with the quartering of troops in the area. In 1610 when Lawrence Eliot of Godalming sold the rent charge on the three mills to Richard Creswell of Badshot, for a payment of £50, and a yearly rent of £3, there had been a corn, a malt and a fulling mill at Elstead. The tenant was then John Shingleton. Evidence of the importance of the mills to the village is provided by the fact that they were rebuilt in one year, by the Stovolds, and the Chandlers, families still well known in the area. The cost of the new millstone was £9. 15s.
The New Mill was “reared” by October 30 – of 1647 or 1648, when workmen were paid 6s. 2d. (31p) for beer. The “hedsill” was from Cosford and Robert Numan was paid 2/-(10p) for “grub-ing” it. The carter’s beer money for bringing it to Elstead was also 2/-. There is still a crater in the bank of the lane above Cosford Mill which could well be the place from which this very large oak was taken.
By 1674 John Price, “mealman”, of Oking (Woking) was a tenant of the Mill.
“Ingleside” in Back Lane dates from the seventeenth century. It has been altered and possibly as much as trebled in size from the original.
Apple Tree Cottage in Thursley Road, is listed as a seventeenth century cottage, but may have been built even earlier, around 1560. It was originally two back to back cottages, inhabited by the Ellis and the Butters families, but was altered to one in 1937.
It has a very large fireplace, a sunken dairy with cream niches, and a lathe and plaster front covering the timber frame. The ironstone quoins outside remind us that Elstead was on the fringe of the iron producing area, of which Thursley was an important centre. Hammer ponds were connected with the iron works, streams being dammed to create water power for the furnace, and to run the wheel which worked a hammer for the smelted iron. However, after 1615 the use of timber as a fuel was prohibited because it was needed for ships. Coal was substituted for charcoal, and the iron industry moved to the sources of fuel and gradually withered away in Surrey.
The seventeenth century could well have marked a high point in the village’s prosperity as a small agricultural unit, as a fair was held on the Green on St. James’ Day. In 1666 there was a place called the “Dyehouse” out on the Thursley Road, the tenant being one Henry Peto. In fact it was on the right hand side, descending the hill into Thursley from Elstead. It may be evidence of the cultivation of woad in the area. Guildford, Godalming and Farnham were all centres of the production of kersey woollen cloth, and the importance of the wool trade in medieval England has already been mentioned. The “Woolpack” and the “Golden Fleece” suggest the importance of the wool trade in the area, and as late as the nineteenth century, Elstead still had a worsted mill. The wool trade was dwindling in importance by the seventeenth century in the area, however, It was concern for the plight of elderly weavers which led Archbishop George Abbot to found the almshouses, or hospital, in his native Guildford.
There is reference in the Churchwardens Accounts to a “parsonage house” in 1656, but there was certainly none by 1854, when the great ecclesiastical reorganisation of the parish took place. The field south of the Church was called the Vicarage Garden, in the seventeenth century, and perhaps the cottage next doer was the Parsonage house. Stacey’s Farm, in Thursley Road, is substantially a seventeenth century building. It was bought by Walter Ellis in 1919 from Cosford Estates, and run as a farm, supplying milk to the village. It was sold in 1936 to Tracy’s, the builders, who altered it, and eventually Mr. Jack Billmeir of Westbrook House, gave it to the British Legion for use as their Headquarters on 21st May, 1949.
Tumblers Cottage in Thursley Road, which is 17th and 18th century had a collection of names during this century. In 1937 there were two cottages called 1 and 2 Island Place, because a pool of water would appear after rain between them and the Church. The cottages were made into one and were apparently known as White Cottage in the 194’s. The name Tumblers Cottage had appeared before 1960.
Westbrook Farmhouse and Westbrook Farm Cottages, date from the seventeenth century, or earlier. The farmhouse is now divided into two for employees of the Estate. The farm would probably have been the home of Matilda de Westbrook, who married Richard atte Rigway (Ridgeway) in 1654.
The Churchwardens Accounts of the period show Elstead folk taking interest in national affairs – there is a list of those who subscribed to the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral, after the Great Fire of London, in 1666. This seems to argue that Elstead, in the seventeenth century at least, could not have been quite the tiny settlement of poor agricultural workers it later became – there must have been at least a handful of more prosperous farmers. There is also evidence in the Churchwarden’s Accounts of the very rough and ready social security arrangements of the period.
Ever since the dissolution of the monasteries, the poor had been a serious social problem. There were no longer regular hand-outs of food and clothes to the starving and out-of-work, and reports of bands of vagrants terrorising the countryside, and indeed the towns as well, are extremely common throughout the Elizabethan period. The Poor Law of 1601 was an attempt to remedy this social evil. The methods adopted were somewhat rough and ready perhaps, but they were to survive virtually unchanged until well into the nineteenth century, and in some respects until the coming of the Welfare State in 1945. Each parish was made responsible for the support of its own people who fell on hard times, Thus began the long era of parish officials diligently trying to shuffle off vagrants onto the books of neighbouring parishes. If the home parish was a long way away, vagrants were supplied with passports, by the everseers of the poor, to enable them to travel to their respective homes, which were bound to take them in. Large numbers of these passports were issued, and some survive for Elstead, which rather gives the lie to the commonly accepted idea of a largely static population in those days.
The Churchwardens Accounts, which begin in 1591, give four notices of the punishment of vagrants in Elstead, and their provision with passports to travel to their respective homes. They were Thurstian Blackstone of Kingsley, Dorset; Joan, wife of John Brown, of Yarmouth; Edward Lanaway of Mebourn, Sussex; and Ralph Locke, of Epsom – the year being 1616-17.
The Forge, on the Green, is dated 1686. William Bovington is one Blacksmith whose name we know. He had the Forge from 1870 – 1920, and lived in the adjoining house. He had been apprenticed to William Paine, and managed to buy the Forge from his master’s wife, when Paine died. John Paine, who came from Tilford, had bought the forge in 1821 after he had worked there as a tenant for about twenty years. William Bovington was followed at the Forge by his son Guy, until 1952, when Guy Bovington opened the Post Office after Mrs. Martin ceased to run it at “Peacehaven”. The Forge was rented by A.J. Tracy and Sons until 1965, and afterwards by Mr. Lucas and Mr. Collis
.In 1662 a Hearth Tax, which it’s name implies, was a taxon each hearth, was imposed to provide revenue for the Crown, in desperate need of funds after the Restoration, and the long years of Commonwealth rule. The tax was abolished by William and Mary in 1689 to gain popularity in the wake of their accession to the Throne. £69. 9s. was collected in 1664 for 1359 hearths in the hundred of Farnham. £94. 17s. was collected for 1877 hearths in the hundred of Godalming. The hearths in Elstead were 90 in all, of which 26 were deemed to be “not chargeable” because of the poverty of the inhabitants, in 1664. It was the responsibility of the parish constable to collect the money from the chargeable hearths. One, Henry Brookham, was landed with this thankless task in 1664 and in his list of names of those who paid we can once again find many families who are still prominent in the area – Richard Alexander, Edward Boxall, John Chandler, John Colyer, Thomas Crismas, Richard Denyer, Thomas Machweeke (this is probably Matchwick in Thursley and Madgwick in Puttenham), George Stovell, Widow Tickner.