'Great Fosters' - 18th April 2011

The Chairman opened the meeting with the usual report of actions undertaken since the last meeting, including highlighting Sue Lambert’s success in coming first in the London Marathon in her age cohort on 17th April; this was Sue’s 66th Marathon! Jill & Richard Williams of Runnymede Historical Society were the main speakers giving an illustrated talk on ‘Great Fosters’, one of the three Grade 1 Listed Buildings in the Borough (the other two being Holloway College and the Ex Holloway Sanitorium). Originally known as ‘Foster House’ and situated in Stroude not Egham, it has probably changed ownership every generation. It was built on marshy land with similar properties nearby, though isolated by today’s standards. Adam Foster, who lived on the property in 15th century Denham House, named after Sir John Denham, was Lord of the Manor at the time; his role then controlled Great Fosters. Denham House has now been demolished under the route of the M25.
In 1550, William Warham, who owned Great Fosters, was knighted by Queen Mary. In the 1600s the Parliamentarians stole 14 properties in order to receive any money that should have belonged to the estate. The owners were therefore denied any revenues from their tenants. Robert Foster, who died in October 1663, gave the property the name it has today. After his death, two of his unmarried daughters, Avis and Margaret, took over the property, though in a dilapidated state. They eventually sold the house to William Woodward for £1,444. He had Jacobean sympathies so the house was frequently raided by the Government.
Great Fosters eventually became a lunatic asylum and in 1767 was subsequently run by a family with the name of ‘Irish’. In 1774, it became necessary to have a licence to run such an establishment. Great Fosters Asylum continued until 1854, nursing 17 patients (with a maximum of 33 patients); some were regularly discharged whilst other died there. Some patients came from Chertsey, including two husbands whose wives sent them there! It eventually became dilapidated and closed when Thomas Holloway had a more up-market establishment at Virginia Water for privileged society.  
Another owner was Thomas Knight who was distantly related to Jane Austen. The Honourable Gerald Montague bought the house after WW1 and spent a large amount of money to restore it. He began the Black Lake Chicken Farm, selling his produce to local people. He sold Great Fosters in 1927 when it became a hotel. One bedroom was furnished in Tudor style. A tithe barn from Ewell was relocated in its present position. Queen Mary, King George VI’s mother, stayed at the hotel in 1931. The building was slightly damaged by bombs in WWII. It is often used today to auction of larger properties or for weddings, TV / Film sets or other large  social gatherings.                 
Stephanie M Hunt














For details of the hotel today see their website.


AGM 2011 with Addlestone Historial Society Talk

Minutes of the AGM are available to members only.

The meeting was followed by a talk on  ‘Addlestone Historical Society - The First 25 years’  by Jocelyn Barker.
Beryl McKenzie began the Addlestone Historical Society ( AHS) in August 1984, after encouragement from Paul Larkin formerly the curator of Chertsey Museum. The Inaugural Meeting, held on 11 September 1984, included a collection during the meeting which raised a sum of  £22.78. Paul Larkin designed the Society’s Logo and Victor Spink contributed with his artwork of the ‘Crouch Oak’. The Society meets at Addlestone Community Centre and has a Social Gathering every December.  It brings together any local history and archaelology in the town and surrounding area. Various members have researched projects of interest of the town i.e. Addlestone’s Public Houses and the Plessey site. An Archaeological site is under investigation in Victory Park, with the possibility of a kiln being discovered.                                                                                              
The Society was represented at the Woking Leisure Centre Exhibition Displays and one of their members was preparing to produce a book on Local War Memorials. The Crouch Oak Tree, probably dating from the 14 century yet not within the old boundaries of Windsor Great Park as has often been suggested, was vandalized a few years ago and fortunately survived the appalling attack. A book was published by Pamela Brush and is now out of print. A branch from this tree was removed or broken by the wind; this branch was analysed and it and was dated to be around 1670. A slice of this branch is on display in the Chertsey Museum and the other half is displayed as a feature at the meeting of their Society. The tree is due to be fenced in sometime in order to protect it.

The AHS meetings are held on the first Tuesday of every month, except August.  

Stephanie M. Hunt  [8th April 2011]


Museum Visit February 2011

The Chertsey Society’s monthly meeting on Monday 28th February 2011, held at Chertsey Museum, opened with a welcome from the Society’s Chairman, Malcolm Loveday to the members present, new members and visitors.
Emma Warren, Curator of the Museum, then introduced us to the Museum - although she was convinced we knew more about the Museum than she did! She spoke about the various projects she had planned which would encourage youngsters to visit the Museum. Already the Museum’s garden had a variety of ‘bug’ traps to persuade the insects inside and give the visitors a ‘close’ view of what had been caught. Emma said the schools are regular users of the Museum’s facilities. Continuing her ‘news’, she told us that Mr Ron Taylor had kindly donated the legal purchase transactions of his family’ greengrocers shop in London Street, now closed after over a century in business. The Museum had hoped to save the shop's ‘façade’ before it was converted into a hairdressers but the new owners sadly told them it was due to be ‘painted over’!! The meeting continued with a presentation from Victor Spink, who showed film footage from the television/film sets which had taken place in Chertsey over many years, including ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ and ‘Public Eye’, the latter being the eighth episode of the series featuring the town as its centre. Alfred Burke, the actor performing the main role, died on 16 February 2011. There were many reflections of the town in the 1970’s, even showing the site of the ‘old toilets’ which were below the old ‘Town Hall’, now the ‘Bar 163’ restaurant. Victor concluded the evening with his personal footage of the ‘Black Cherry Fair’ in 1978, covering glimpses of some well known people of the town. It was fascinating how the town had changed in over thirty years, especially the absence of traffic.
The members, visitors and guests then made a “walkabout” through the Museum before going home.
Stephanie M. Hunt


Town Forum January 2011

The Town Forum is the annual opportunity to air views relating to local matters with representatives from Surrey County Council, Runnymede Borough Council, and other local official and voluntary organisations.  This year there was an update of progress on some of the following issues in addition to other matters:

  1. SCC-RBC Issues
  2. SCC Minerals Plan
  3. SCC Waste Plan
  4. public toilets in the town
  5. London Street – lamp posts
  6. Magna Carta Anniversary  


Second Half 2010 Involvement with Other Groups

Between the Summer 2010 and Winter 2010/11 newsletters, representatives from the Society have attended :
•    Runnymede Local Strategic Partnership
•    Environmental Task Group
•    Housing Task Group
•    Planning Liaison Group
•    AIR Management committee
•    The Meads Management Group



Land Speed Records - 25th October 2010

On Monday 25 October 2010 in St Peter’s Church, Donald Wales from Addlestone spoke to an audience of seventy people at a meeting hosted jointly by The Chertsey Society, The Chertsey Rotary Club and Friends of Chertsey Museum.
The Presenter for the evening, Donald Wales, was introduced to the meeting by Chairman Malcolm Loveday. The subject was 'World Speed Records by British Steam/Electric Cars and Lawnmowers'. The speaker started with an overview of what he and his family have achieved in the name of speed and with the emphasis on British Engineering. Donald Wales is the grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell and the nephew of Donald Campbell. He has attempted and achieved a speed of 148.308 mph on 26th August 2009 in a steam powered car.  They have trialled these cars on the Pendine Sands in Wales and Edwards Air Force Base in California, at the latter working in unbelievable temperatures under a thin canvas awning! Reflecting on his Grandfather and Uncle’s efforts, he felt they were never fully acknowledged, as all that people remembered was the accident that killed his Uncle in 1967 on Coniston Water. Both of these men had achieved similar records in 1920 and 1960 respectively for Land and Water Speed Trials. His Grandfather had also been heavily involved with the infancy of Motor Racing Days on the Brooklands Circuit in Weybridge.                           
Stephanie M.Hunt


'Dunkirk Little Ships' - 27th September 2010

On Monday 27th September 2010, our Autumn Programme started with the talk ‘Dunkirk Little Ships: restoration of boats and the 70th anniversary crossing in May 2010’, presented by Steve and Heather Dennett and  David Cherrett.  Over the years, Michael Dennett- Boat Builders at the local boat yard on the River Thames at Laleham Reach have restored a number of the‘little ships’ which helped rescue many of the troops from Dunkirk. For more information see their website.








   'Little Ship' before and after restoration



From May 27-30, 1940, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) consolidated around Dunkirk, along with half of the French First Army. Five French Divisions set up a roadblock at Lille, where they held out for four days against seven German Panzer divisions. This allowed the British and the French in Dunkirk to set up a defensive perimeter and wait for evacuation. The possibility of the total evacuation of the BEF was first raised on May 19, only nine days after the first German attack. Codenamed Operation Dynamo, Admiral Ramsay was delegated to secure small and large craft from civilians for the evacuation. Secrecy was maintained as Naval Officers scoured the docks of London and other cities for small boats to take troops from the shore to the waiting transports. By May 27, they were on the way to France.

Many of the boats on the upper reaches of the Thames were gathered together, checked over and towed by Toughs and other tugs down river to Sheerness. Here they were fuelled and taken to Ramsgate where Naval Officers, Ratings and experienced volunteers were put aboard and directed to Dunkirk.









   'Little Ships' being tower down the Thames



As a result of the Operation of the Little Ships and the considerable fleet of Naval and Merchant Marine vessels which operated off the Dunkirk beaches and harbour between the May 28 and the June 4, 1940, no less than 338,000 British and French troops were evacuated.









   Rescue operation at Dunkirk



Mike Dennett and his son Steve together with their staff have restored over nine of the surviving ‘little ships’  based on the Thames and have participated in the reunion voyages to Dunkirk.








   Reunion Crossing



The excellent talk was supplemented with a collection of memorabilia and illustrated with photographs.