Our recent work in Holmbury St Mary comprises three separate and distinct dwelling houses. Planning negotiations with Guildford Planners have benefited from the comprehensive knowledge base we have compiled on the historic development and heritage assetts of the village and in putting this together I am indebted to Sarah Watt of Assett Heritage who has prepared our Heritage Assett report on the village. This post deals with the history of the village and is largely based on Sarah’s work.
The name Holmbury St Mary is first recorded as ‘Homebery’ in the early 15th century, a reference to the Iron Age hillfort on Holmbury Hill (which is depicted on Speed’s map of Surrey of 1610).
In 1911, Holmbury St Mary is described as ‘the name now given to the two hamlets of Felday in Shere, and Pitland Street in Shere and Abinger, which were erected into an ecclesiastical parish, made up from portions of Shere, Ockley, Abinger, Ewhurst, Cranleigh, and Ockham, 28 September 1878’ (Malden, 1911). The description continues, ‘This neighbourhood was formerly one of the wildest in Surrey. Sheep-stealers, smugglers, and poachers found a refuge in these remote hills…Of late years the picturesque neighbourhood has attracted many visitors, who have built large houses’.
The 1871 OS map (above) shows the two hamlets of Felday (to the north) and Pitland Street (to the south), linked by Horsham Road. Felday is focused around a triangular village green, south of which on rising ground stands the Grade I listed Church of StMary, by George Edmund Street (see paragraph 2.6 below), while the Pitland Street hamlet was built around the triangle formed by Horsham Road, Holmbury Hill Road and a road now named Pitland Street.
A Parliamentary Boundary is shown running north-south along Horsham Road on the 1871 map; today, the western side of the village lies within the Guildford Borough local authority area, while land to the east lies within Mole Valley District.
In 1849, the completion of the Reading and Tonbridge branch line of the South Eastern Railway in 1849, which included a station at Gomshall, linking it and its surrounding areas to London, enabled wealthy Londoners to escape to this area from the city with ease, and they began to arrive in numbers and establish country estates with large houses and gardens. One of the first such was the Hon Frederick Leveson-Gower (1819-1907; a barristerand Liberal politician), who built a large country house (‘Holmbury’) in 1860. Other followed suit and within the following two decades another ten or so large houses had been built in clearings in the surrounding woodland, along with smaller cottages forthe workers and tradesmen who were needed to service their occupants.
The architect GE Street visited Holmbury in 1872 and designed and built his own house there (‘Holmdale’) in 1873. In 1879, two years before his death and at his own expense, he built St Mary’s Church for the newly-formed ecclesiastical parish (which, unusually, was named after the church).
Other large houses were built running south-west from the village, including Moxley by Basil Champneys, 1888, and Joldwynds by Philip Webb (rebuilt in 1934 by Oliver Hill). To the east, Pasture Wood (now Beatrice Webb House) was built in 1893 for Sir Frederick Mirrielees (head of the merchant bank, Currie & Co.) by William Flockhart.
Edwin Waterhouse (1841-1917, co-founder, with Samuel Lowell Price, of the accountancy firm Price Waterhouse (now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers)) bought an estate at Holmbury in October 1877 known as Great Inholme, which incorporated Cooper’s Copse, Bullmoor Farm and a brick and tile works (Anderson, 2000); all of these features are shown on the 1873 OS map (Fig.2), east of Horsham Road. Cooper’s Copse and the brick and tile works lay at the northern end of the estate, opposite the village green at Felday, while field enclosures (opposite the application site) lay east of Horsham Road between the copse and Bullmoor Farm (now Bulmer Farm), off Pasture Wood Road.
Waterhouse commissioned his brother-in-law, George Redmayne, an architect, to build him a new house using locally derived materials, and called it Feldemore; the house (now Belmont School), which is shown on the 1897 OS map (above), was situated in Cooper’s Copse, which was part of the much larger area of woodland known as Pasture Wood. It was extended on several occasions and had extensive grounds. The map shows another large house, Hopedene, south of Pasture Wood Road, which was built for Hensleigh Wedgwood (1808-1891, an etymologist,philologist and barrister, cousin of Charles Darwin) by Norman Shaw in 1873.
Edwin Waterhouse immersed himself in local affairs and, in April 1903, was elected to the Abinger Parish Council. He promoted a better water supply for the area and was instrumental in the establishment of the Hurtwood Water Company. Waterhouse invested time and money in the village; he employed a large number of people there and built or renovated houses for them to live in, putting up a village store and improving the water supply and drainage. He sent his gardeners into the village every week to cart away rubbish and remove litter and would then inspect the village himself to ensure it was looking respectable for his weekend guests (Anderson, 2000). He also established the Hollybush Tavern on Horsham Road as a working men’s club.
Last year 4D Studio were granted Full Plannning permission to extend and upgrade 2 Bulmer Cottages and it seems likely that Nos.1 & 2 Bulmer Cottages were erected by Waterhouse. The name Bulmer may indicate that they were built to house workers on his estate farm, Bullmoor (later, Bulmer) Farm, but it isn’t clear when this name was first attached to them. According to the OS maps, Nos.1 & 2 were built between 1897 (Fig.4) and 1915 (Fig.5) as a semi-detached pair of cottages, contemporary with Corner House and Oakhill Cottage on the corner of Horsham Road and Pitland Street; Corner House/Oakhill Cottage carry a date on their Pitland Street elevation of 1903 and, given the very similar style of these houses to Bulmer Cottages, it is likely that all four were built at this time.
A comparison of the 1915 map with the 1871 and 1897 maps shows how the land parcels within the triangle of roads formed by Horsham Road, Pitland Street and Holmbury Hill Road were reconfigured and reallocated to accommodate the new buildings.
In 1871 the site of the two Bulmer cottages formed part of a larger parcel of land planted as an orchard and with a small building in its south-east corner against Horsham Road; the eastern boundary of the land was recessed from the road, with the boundaries of the plots to north and south extending further east. The road itself was little more than an informal track flanked by verges of heath or rough grassland.
The plot to the north contained a large house in gardens while to the south a footpath led through to the King’s Head pub on Holmbury Hill Road, the eastern side of which was built up with cottages. The plot south of the site contained an orchard and small buildings, including a Post Office, fronting onto Pitland Street.
By 1897 the eastern boundary along Horsham Road had been straightened and regularised and the building in the south-eastern corner of the orchard had been demolished and replaced by a new small building standing slightly further north.
By 1915 this had also gone and had been replaced by Bulmer Cottages (not named as such on the maps until 1974). The orchard plot had been subdivided and other plots truncated and reordered to accommodate the cottages and Corner House/Oakhill Cottage to the south.
If the 1906 date of the photograph included as Plate 1 is accurate, then Bulmer Cottages had been erected by this date, which fits with the 1903 date on Corner House/Oakhill Cottage.
Beyond them to the north there is an empty plot where the vehicle repair garage was later to be built (see Plates 2-4, taken in c.1955) and beyond that a house or row of cottages facing west rather than fronting onto the road, which had been replaced by 1955 with Sunnyside.
The cottages are depicted in a rural setting in 1906, with sheep grazing the grass verges against the road. The front boundary to the cottages, and the vacant garage plot, was defined by a post and rail fence, with a hedge shown south of No.1.
The 1915 map shows Bulmer Cottages in plan form as a symmetrical mirrored pair divided along an east-west centre line (although in reality their elevations suggest an asymmetrical detached single dwelling). No garden divisions are shown on this map, the land around the cottages instead shown as a single, shared open space, also open to the land behind Corner House and to the land behind Honeysuckle Cottage.
Unfortunately, the next available OS map at the detailed scale of 1:2500 was not published until 1974 (Fig.6), during which period other changes had inevitably occurred. These included the replacement of the large house to the north with the present Sunnyside, and the erection of the present large garage building (which is not shown on the 1:10,000 1961 map) between Sunnyside and Bulmer Cottages. The gardens to Bulmer Cottages are now shown divided, No.2’s garden containing a small shed against the northern boundary. Since 1974 (and possibly between 1993 and 1999; see Figs.7 & 8), both properties have been extended by infilling recesses in their respective long side elevations.
Plates 2-4 (taken in c.1955) show a similar view to the 1906 view in Plate 1. The main differences to be noted since 1906 are the construction of the vehicle repair garage and Sunnyside north of the cottages, the improvement of the road with a new surface fit for the motor vehicles now using it, and the introduction of telegraph poles carrying electricity cables.
Since 1990 (when Guildford Borough Council designated the Holmbury St Mary Conservation Area), it would appear from the available maps that the side garden to No.1 Bulmer Cottages has been significantly truncated: originally of irregular shape (as shown on the 1974 and 1993 OS maps, and probably also the 1999 aerial photograph; Figs.6-8), land along the south side appears since to have been amalgamated with land associated with The Old Post Office on Pitland Street.