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The Formation

The Chertsey Society was formed in Autumn 1960 by a group of likeminded local residents who were concerned that the historic character of the town was being eroded by sequential replacement of notable local landmarks. The threatened demolition, approved by Chertsey UDC but resisted by SCC of Denmark House in Windsor Street in 1957, provided a catalyst.  Eventually a meeting was convened at Curfew House, the home of the Medd family in October 1960. The meeting was extensively reported in The Surrey Herald (see below).







Curfew House (left) and Denmark House, Windsor Street



Extract from the SURREY HERALD 21st OCTOBER 1960


With eyes wide open to the possibility of future disputes between them, Chertsey Council and the newly constituted Chertsey Society set off resolutely down the path to peaceful co-existence at the Society’s first meeting last week.
After lengthy discussion, the Society decided that its objects should be:

  • To encourage preservation, development and improvements of a kind which will ensure Chertsey is a pleasant place in which to live and work.
  • To stimulate public consciousness and appreciation of the beauty, history and character of the neighbourhood and its surroundings.
  • To promote the study of civic design.
  • To pursue these ends by such means as meetings, lectures, study groups, exhibitions and publications.

The society would have no political or religious activities and should be a non-profit making, it was decided.
Among the first to speak at the meeting was Councillor R Lowther, Chairman of the Council’s Public Relations Committee. As a specially invited guest, he conveyed the Council's full blessing on the meeting. He said it was a particular pleasure to address the Society, for he shared its aims and objects. He said no doubt that from time to time, the Council and the Society would have differing viewpoints, but he welcomed it as being unlike so many similar societies which were formed purely to attack the local authority.
Mr Lowther said the objects of the Society fell mainly into two streams: architectural and historic and preceding generations of Chertsey citizens had failed to safeguard the town’s history.

Structure & Activities

From the outset, the Society was organised by a Committee which met monthly to scrutinise planning applications submitted to the local council, initially Chersey Urban District Council (CUDC) and subsequently Runnymede Borough Council (RBC). The Committee has now met over 575 times and has examined thousands of plans and currently dispatches approximately 200 letters and communications per annum on a wide variety of topics. In addition, it organises a regular programme of open meetings during the winter months with speakers covering a wide variety of topics, arranges the Chertsey Town Forum and holds a yearly meeting at the Museum. Newsletters are distributed three times a year to all the members and Affiliated Societies.  Visits and social events also feature in the programme.

Early Successes

Early public meetings were held at The Crown or in the parish rooms which were attached to the Vicarage in London Street. The Parish Rooms were later converted into the vicarage garage.

  • As a result of lobbying by The Chertsey Society, the District Council agreed to The Society’s proposal that residents should have the right to see and comment on the plans.
  • Hard work paid off when proposed alterations to the town theatened the historic view. The Society succeeded in preserving the street line in Guildford Street.
  • Photographic Competition
  • When, in 1963-1964, a scheme was put forward for improvments to the area surrounding Chertsey Bridge, the Society's proposals were  ‘highly commended’ by The Civic Trust, and subsequently implemented by the District Council.




















   The old Parish Rooms, now Vicarage Garage






   Chertsey Bridge


Chertsey Museum

Chertsey Museum opened 45 years ago on 29th November 1965, at the Old Town Hall. Mary Daniels was the first curator.

The Chertsey Society was closely involved with its establishment. The Museum moved to ‘The Cedars’ in 1972.







   Mary Daniels








   The Old Town Hall, Frank Galsworthy watercolour, 1960s







   The Cedars, Windsor Street



Gravel Raising

On a number of occasions, local residents lead by The Chertsey Society campaigned against gravel raising on inappropriate locations close to Chertsey. 
In 1970 Rosalind Wyke led the Gravel Action Group and managed to prevent gravel raising on The Hollows and Abbey Mead together with Chertsey Meads.  In the 1980’s at the SCC Minerals Plan - Gravel Raising public enquiry - the Society’s representations were led by George Elfer. Malcolm Loveday pleaded that Dumsey Meadow was an integral part of Chertsey Meads on the other side of the River Thames which at that time was a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and therefore should not be dug for gravel.
Applications for gravel raising will be an ongoing issue for many years to come and the SCC Minerals Plan is currently under review with land near Hamm Court being considered as a possible Preferred Mineral Zone (PMZ). However, it is pleasing to note that in 2010 CEMEX (the successor to Ready Mixed Concrete) auctioned the The Hollows to a consortium of local residents, and the adjacent land was bought by a farmer, since CEMEX recognised that they would never get permission to dig up the gravel.         








    Surrey Herald 1970










  Extract from The Surrey Herald, 21/10/1982.
   SCRAM (Surrey Committee of Residents Against Gravel)










   George Elfer



Wheelers Green

In  the early 1970’s, the Department of Transport proposed to build a link road south of Chertsey to join Junction 11 of the M25 with the local road infrastructure, the road now being known as St Peter’s Way. The DoT’s proposed route ran over the top of a 16th century listed cottage, ‘Wheelers Green’, off Bittams Lane.









   'Wheelers Green' cottage


The Health Authority had previously bought the building and rented it out to staff from St Peter’s Hospital. When the proposed demolition was announced The Chertsey Society, together with local residents and the occupants, campaigned to prevent its obliteration and sought to get the line of the road altered.  A ‘sit in’ was held and national press and TV followed the activities with great interest. Due to an administrative mixup bordering on farce the Listed Building plaque had been sent to be affixed to a council house at the other end of Bittams Lane! In 1976, following a Public Enquiry held in the Old Town Hall, the Inspector agreed that  the road should be diverted and the building was saved. Our Vice Chairman, who became a Conservative Local Councillor, featured on the front page of the Daily Mirror!









   Drawings by Victor Spink


















   Front Page 'Daily Mirror'



The Health authority subsequently sold the building at an Auction held in the Constitutional Hall, Guildford Street, on 27th June 1979.
 About 100 people attended and it fetched a Sale Price of  £78,000.












   Sale advertisement



Conservation Area and Ian Atkins

The Society collaborated closely with Chertsey UDC and its successor RBC in establishing the Town Centre Conservation Area and preparing the Guideline leaflets. In addition the Society assisted in drafting the RBC Guidelines for Shop Fronts. 







   Old Town Hall



The Society erected a replica lamp on the existing Victorian bracket under the centre arch under the Old Town Hall, together with a plaque, in memory of Ian Atkins (Chairman 1972-1979).







   Replica lamp in Victorian bracket








   Ian Atkins Plaque




21 Years The Chertsey Society

The Society celebrated its 21st birthday in 1981 by holding the first event in the newly built Chertsey Hall in Heriot Road. A splendid cake was cut by the Chairman, Mrs Freda Atkins. During the 1970s, the Society’s meetings were mainly held at The Old Town Hall, hence the model made by Victor Spink which surmounted the cake. 











Lock Keeper's Cottage (1982)

A major campaign in the 1980s, led by Dorothy Everall, concerned the proposed demolition of the Lock Keeper’s Cottage near Chertsey lock on the River Thames. The newly appointed lock keeper’s wife was disabled and the steps to the front door of the cottage made access very difficult so the Thames Conservancy proposed to demolish the building and replace it with a modern bungalow. The Society objected to this proposal and managed to get the building, which was built in 1812 when the lock was constructed, listed. The house may have also functioned as a tollhouse, collecting a levy from ships transporting goods along the Thames. In 1982 a new house for the lock keeper was subsequently built alongside the old building, the latter being sold in to private ownership.











   and Lock



Chertsey Bridge Anniversary (1985)

In June 1985, members of The Society participated in the 200th Anniversary of the building of Chertsey Bridge organised by Victor Spink. It included a memorable duck race when hundreds of numbered yellow plastic ducks were launched.







    Anniversary programme







   Chertsey Bridge




Freda Atkins Memorial Garden (1986)

Freda Atkins took over as Chairman in 1979 following the death of her husband, Ian. She served as Chairman until she died in 1985. Freda was well known as an actress and periodically may be seen on TV in her role as the office administrator in the 1965 film ‘The Ipcress File’ with Michael Caine.









   Freda Atkins



When she died The Society decided, in collaboration with RBC, to restore the sadly neglected remaining walls of the Chertsey Abbey buildings between Abbey Field and the Abbey site in Colonels Lane, Chertsey.  







   Restored walls

Mrs Beryl Newman, Vice Chairman, led a public appeal to raise the necessary funds to consolidate the walls, landscape the area and backfill the refectory ovens following their archaeological excavation. The Garden was opened by Sir Geoffrey Pattie, MP, and a memorial stone was unveiled. The Chairman, Malcolm Loveday addressed the assembled group in the rain, November 1986.








   Sir Geoffrey Pattie, MP

   unveiling the memorial stone









   The Memorial Stone











  Chairman Malcolm Loveday

   addressing the guests



The Saga of the Abbey Barn (1986-1987)

Abbey Barn had a long and illustrious past. It was probably built to house workers engaged in dismantling the Abbey and transferring the building materials to build Oatlands Palace. It was in the Chapter House that the Book of Common Prayer was drafted in 1548. From that time until 1800 the Barn was probably used as Royal stabling between Hampton Court and Windsor, as part of Beomond Manor Farm (ref. Bernard Pardoe), and in 1900 it was a builder’s yard.
In 1935, J.A. Tulk purchased the Barn and the land around it to stop it being developed as houses. The following year the Abbey Barn Youth Club was formed and thrived for the following thirty years under the Trusteeship of Surrey County Council. Unfortunately, in 1970 the Youth Club closed and moved to the CANLO Club, Abbey Moor, next to The Meads School. The Abbey Barn remained empty until 1975 when it’s sale and redevelopment into two houses was proposed. Mary Fitzhugh lobbied hard for its retention for public use, and formed the Runnymede Association of Arts (RAA) with the intention of securing Abbey Barn as an Arts Centre for the town’s youth.
In 1978, Surrey County Council sold the Barn to the Acorn Children’s Theatre Trust for £10,000. This was below the market value since the Charity Commission agreed that the Acorn’s aims for the building were similar to Tulk’s intentions. The Acorn trustees, chaired by Stanley Davey, included Prof. Alfred and Mrs Therese Kitchen from Shepperton, and Brian Love. In 1981, Abbey Barn Cottage was sold by Acorn for £20,000.
An open air production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was staged in June 1982, and the Barn continued to be used for classes and rehearsals until 1986. During that time an unsuccessful appeal was launched by Acorns for £250,000 to restore barn (1983), but finally in 1987 the building was put up for auction. With the backing of RBC, The Chertsey Society tried to buy Abbey Barn at the auction with a view to restoring the barn and converting it into dwellings which would be sold to recoup the loan used to acquire the Barn, but with the land being retained in public ownership as a butterfly garden. On the day of the auction a Trust Deed was signed between RBC and The Society, and Malcolm Loveday, on behalf of the Trust, bid up to their limit of £235,000, but was outbid. The Trust was dissolved after the auction.
Abbey Barn was purchased by Richard Cook Ltd. for £267,000 with the Abbey Tiles from the Barn interior being donated to Chertsey Museum. From 1990 to the present day the Abbey Barn has been used as offices.










Chertsey Abbey (1988)

The Society lobbied the Surrey Archaeological Unit to write up the 1950’s excavation of Chertsey Abbey. It was finally published in 1988 and The Chertsey Society hosted the launch of the book at a special meeting held in St Peter’s Church.














   Book Cover












   Book Launch Event Poster