The centenary of The National Trust was celebrated in 1995 by a variety of events taking place right across the nation. In the Southern Region, among other things, we ran a community play highlighting the association of the Trust with that extensive area of heaths and common land around Haslemere and Hindhead, including Waggoners Wells and the Devil's Punchbowl.
One of the three acknowledged founders of the Trust, Sir Robert Hunter, lived in Haslemere. It was he who led the crucial action which so nearly failed at the final hurdle to secure Hindhead Common for the nation. He is the play's leading character, and his achievement at Hindhead provides its climax.
The play's second key character was Sir Jonathan Hutchinson FRS, founder of Haslemere Museum. Since the Trust and the Museum were co-sponsors of the community play project, it was perhaps not surprising that we concentrated initially on the lives of these two men. Fortunately a theme emerged naturally from our research which allowed us to bring together these gentlemen and many other fascinating and famous characters who were around at the time a story of some 50 years of local history, from just before the railway arrived at Haslemere in 1859 up to the transfer of Hindhead Common to the The National Trust in 1905.
Hunter and Hutchinson were both dedicated men and to a great extent both strove towards the same end: Hunter preserving the commons and open spaces for the good of the nation; and Hutchinson encouraging healthy minds and bodies, which included the need for people to get out and live in these open spaces.
But there's the rub if people move into open spaces, they are no longer open; and while Hutchinson was an ardent supporter of the National Trust and a warm friend of Hunter, their different attitudes towards the use of land represent a dilemma which will always be with us a dilemma reflected in the title chosen for the play: A Balance of Trust.
During the play we met these two gentlemen over the course of the years, first as young bachelors and then as married men taking on progressively greater responsibilities. Around and about them appeared such local personalities as Penfold, Hodgson and Etheridge, and more widely recognised celebrities such as the Allinghams, Tyndall, Tennyson and Conan Doyle.
So, Hindhead is Safe! Or is it? They thought it was in 1905, and here we recall the events which led to that bold proclamation.
John Owen Smith
It's strange how the same place can affect different people in completely different ways. To William Cobbett on his Rural Ride of November 1822, Hindhead was "that miserable hill, the most villainous spot that God ever made," which he "distainfully scorned to go over." Yet to John Tyndall in the 1880s, it was "the Switzerland of England" with air as pure as that in the Alps, and the place where he chose to build a "retreat for his old age."
Today, many modern drivers might agree with Cobbett, and seek alternative routes around the congested traffic at Hindhead crossroads - some perhaps finding their way through the side-roads which Cobbett failed to follow all those years ago. Others, less rushed, who find time to stop and explore the heaths and tracks in the area, will be more inclined to Tyndall's view.
The road from London to Portsmouth climbs up the northern spur of Hindhead and at one time ran virtually to the summit, where it turned sharply west. A junction there led down into Haslemere. The road was improved in 1826 by a new cutting made lower down in the Punchbowl, and in which at the time of writing the A3 trunk road still runs. The older route became in effect a bridleway, and the track from the summit down to Haslemere was no longer used, although it can still be followed today and eventually becomes Farnham Lane.
At 895 ft above sea level, the summit at Hindhead is known as Gibbet Hill. It commands views over many miles, especially to north and east, and on a clear day it rivals that from neighbouring Blackdown, which Tennyson described as "green Sussex fading into blue, with one grey glimpse of sea." Surrounded by many hundreds of acres of unspoilt heathland, including the Devil's Punchbowl, the place can seem idyllic on a warm summer's day. But it was not always so.
The name 'Gibbet' gives a clue to the darker side of its history, for this was indeed the spot where criminals were hanged and their tarred bodies left to swing in clanking irons until they rotted. Most famous of these were the three men executed here in 1787 for murdering an anonymous sailor, whose story is told on the nearby Sailor's Stone and whose body now rests in Thursley churchyard.
A sketch made of Hindhead by the artist Turner in 1807 clearly shows the gibbet on the summit, and the wooden upright was apparently still standing here in 1827. Not surprisingly, the place got a reputation for being haunted, and in 1851 Sir William Erle had the present granite Cross erected on the site to try to dispel these fears. Around its base runs a Latin inscription which translated reads: "After death, safety; In death, peace; In life, hope; After the darkness, light."
Shortly afterwards, in 1859, the railway arrived at Haslemere offering an alternative, safer and faster route from London to Portsmouth. It also opened up the area around Haslemere as a commuter belt. Some would say this shook a bit of life into a region which had sunk into lethargy since the first Reform Bill disenfranchised it in 1832; others that it marked the end of the old village of Haslemere and the start of an inevitable progression towards urban sprawl.
Although our story starts with the building of the railway, other changes had occurred around Haslemere in the preceding years which added significantly to the effect of its arrival. Chief among these were the considerable enclosures of neighbouring common land.
G.R. Rolston tells us that until the mid-century all the country from Shottermill to Farnham was "heathy common land" and much of it was contained in the old Woolmer Forest. The roads to Farnham over this waste were said to be so bad that anyone who valued his carriage springs drove via Milford and Elstead. By means of the enclosures, some seven to eight thousand acres of common land were lost to the public. Much of the money received in payment of these lands was allotted to the making of new roads.
Enclosure Acts tended to be raised on a parish by parish basis, and while they were made for the parishes of Frensham and Headley (and Grayshott was in Headley parish at the time), the parish of Witley was left unchanged so most of the Devil's Punchbowl and Hindhead Common were spared the results.
But the outcome in enclosed parishes, where the local population of broomsquires and others had from time immemorial made their living off the 'wastes of the manor', was to take their traditional resources away from them. The land was parcelled up and sold to rich 'incomers', who usually fenced it off and denied them access. At one and the same time then, there arrived both the means of ready access from London and elsewhere, and the incentive for outsiders to come along and buy the recently enclosed plots to build country homes. In short, the area was earmarked for invasion.
From the late 1830s the railway network had been extending from London into Surrey, reaching Woking in 1838, Guildford in 1845, and Godalming in 1849. From there, plans were drawn up for a link through to Portsmouth via Haslemere and Petersfield, which was indeed completed in 1859. Four years earlier, Haslemere had been the scene of a tragedy in which, for the first time, a Surrey police officer was killed on duty.
The 'navvies' who built the railways were generally a hard-living, hard-drinking bunch, putting fear into the communities through which the lines were being pushed, and more particularly when they descended on the town's pubs to spend their pay packets on drink. On the night of Saturday 28th July 1855, the entire Haslemere police force of just two men was occupied enforcing the midnight closing time in and around the High Street. They had particular trouble with a group of five 'navvies' at the King's Arms (then next to the White Horse), one of whom accused Inspector Donaldson of laying a hand on him at the bar. The argument continued outside, in the Market Place, when Constable Freestone stepped in to protect his superior and pushed the protester to the ground.
One thing led to another, and the man, Thomas Woods, eventually returned holding a large iron bolt and hit Donaldson over the head with it. Others kicked him as he lay on the ground, before they finally dispersed. The Inspector was helped home, but lapsed into a coma and died during the night. Woods was arrested and sentenced to 20 years transportation on a charge of unpremeditated manslaughter; his four colleagues were given lesser sentences of 2 to 6 years hard labour.
Once the traumas of actually building the railway had faded in their minds, however, the people of Haslemere would have started to get used to having this new form of transport available to them. Fares to London in 1864 were about 6/- second class or 8/- first class, with five trains in each direction on weekdays and two on Sundays. The fastest scheduled journey time was 1 hour 19 minutes between Haslemere and Waterloo, and the last trains of the day departed from both London and Portsmouth at about 7 pm.
It seems that, at least until the turn of the century, one could also charter a train to run outside these hours. Flora Thompson in her book Heatherley mentions a rich lady living near Grayshott who ordered a night telegraph service to be arranged so that her London specialist might be summoned by special train from Waterloo in the event of her 'interesting event' arriving during the night. As it turned out the arrangement was not needed as the child made its appearance at a time when trains were running normally.
Others found the regular service was sufficient to tempt them to live in the area while still working in London - a thing impracticable before the railway arrived. Among those moving in around this time were four gentlemen cited by E.W. Swanton in his Bygone Haslemere as being particularly closely connected with the progress of Haslemere.
John Wornham Penfold, who had been born in the Thursley district of Haslemere and was now surveyor to the Goldsmiths' Company in London, found he was able to return to his old home at Courts Hill. His name is associated with the reconstruction of St Bartholomew's Church after Haslemere became an independent parish, separating from Chiddingfold in 1868; for the hospital on Shepherd's Hill; and for his diligent recording of Haslemere's historical records.
Allen Chandler moved to Haslemere in 1858, and devoted much of his time to local public works, as well as being a JP at the Guildford bench, and noted for his liberal and sympathetic views. His first son, also named Allen, married Jonathan Hutchinson's daughter Ethel in 1887 and thus connected the two families.
James Stewart Hodgson arrived in 1864, and by 1889 had become the largest landowner in the area, owning the Lythe Hill Estate and acquiring the manors of Godalming and Haslemere. He associated himself with the welfare of the "village" (as he always referred to Haslemere), and when faced with financial disaster late in life as a result of troubles in the company with which he was a partner, he sold up and retired with 'fine philosophy' to a small manor house.
Jonathan Hutchinson had first visited Haslemere on a walking tour in 1863 with his 'crony', the eminent brain specialist John Hughlings Jackson. By 1866, he had decided to make his summer home here at Inval, and in 1875 moved here permanently despite his onerous schedule of work as surgeon at the London Hospital during the week. After his wife died in 1887 he launched himself into creating what became, and still remains, the Haslemere Educational Museum.
One can perhaps imagine conversations between these men on the station platform or on the train up to Waterloo or did they also hide behind their newspapers in those days?
While there is no doubt that the men just mentioned made a considerable impact in Haslemere, the outside world heard of the area largely as a result of two other personalities moving here.
Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate but not yet Lord, was seeking sanctuary. His fame and popularity had caused any number of sightseers (Cockneys as he called them) to seek him out at his home at Farringford on the Isle of Wight, to such an extent that he no longer felt able to walk outside his garden gate.
He decided to find somewhere more secluded to live, and in the summer of 1866 he and his wife visited Haslemere and the surrounding area looking for land on which to build. After viewing and rejecting a 90 acre site near the Devil's Jumps ("Very dear at the money what is the use of a number of acres if they will not grow anything?"), he was persuaded by Mrs Anne Gilchrist to rent part of Grayshott Farm (now, considerably enlarged, called Grayshott Hall) while he continued his search. "He is very anxious that all this should not be known," she wrote to a friend.
Within a few of months, in June 1867, (having first looked at Meadfield which Hunter bought some years later) Tennyson found and bought a plot called Greenhill which suited him, "in a wooded hollow in Blackdown, on the south side near the top." Here he had Aldworth built to his own design. Mrs Gilchrist commented, "I do think if ever there was a place made for a poet to live in, this Green Hill is the spot. Thirty-six acres half coppice above, three large fields and a little old farmhouse below."
He appears to have been host to many guests at Aldworth, but gained the reputation among locals of being wary if recognised and approached as he strode across Blackdown in his black cape and sombrero. Nevertheless, his move to the Haslemere area gave the town and its surrounding countryside one renowned seal of approval.
The second was from Professor John Tyndall. Having made his name in the world of physics and also in the world of mountaineering, he was looking for somewhere with good air and convenient to London where he, too, could build himself a house. On analysing the air at Hindhead, he found it to be "as pure as alpine", and decided to move there.
For a while, he and his wife occupied a one-room hut in the middle of the common, "surrounded by the purplest of purple heather." They loved the scenery and seclusion it gave them and, as he wrote to a colleague in August 1883, "though I do not suppose we shall be happier than in our hut, we are aiming at having a house erected by next year. I have already sunk a well, and from it we shall draw water soft as the dew and clear as crystal."
They moved into the house in time to celebrate Christmas 1884. Called Hindhead House (now converted into flats), it was then the only building on the common. Sadly for Tyndall, he had proclaimed too loudly the great benefits of the area, and others were quick to recognise its advantages. Soon he had neighbours building on adjoining sites, and his peace was disturbed.
To protect himself he bought up as much surrounding land as he could, and when that failed he resorted, in about 1890, to erecting huge screens, 40 feet high, made of larch poles covered with heather and even including lightning conductors. He was very proud of these screens, but his enthusiasm was not shared generally by his friends and neighbours. Furthermore the matter got into the newspapers, especially those hostile to him on political grounds, and the whole affair acquired a great notoriety and was a recurring source of annoyance to him.
The screens survived Tyndall, one at least being reported as finally collapsing during the first month of 1901. Tyndall died from an accidental overdose of chloral administered by his wife in December 1893.
In December 1884, at about the same time that the Tyndalls moved into their new house, some of the more established residents of Haslemere were gathering at the Swan Inn to voice their concern over a recent enclosure by the lord of the Manor of Frydinghurst. This related to about 30 acres of Hindhead Common at the top of Farnham Lane, mentioned in some references as Frydinghurst Common.
The meeting was chaired by Stewart Hodgson, who proposed the formation of a Haslemere Commons Committee in order to challenge this and other encroachments more effectively than could be done by individuals. The challenge was to be made in the name of the commoners who claimed to have rights there including, significantly, Jonathan Hutchinson.
The stated objective of the committee was "to preserve the commons and wasteland in the neighbourhood of Haslemere in their open condition," and Hodgson had already lined up an executive committee to run it, with appropriate terms of reference. It was to include Robert Hunter, who had moved to Haslemere the previous year while continuing also to work long hours in London, and who had by this time made a name for himself in saving Epping Forest from enclosure on behalf of the national Commons Preservation Society. It was he who had suggested the formation of this Haslemere Committee to Hodgson. Along with Hunter stood Charles Puller, Rayner Storr, and the rector, Sanders Etheridge. They were elected unopposed and gave themselves the following brief.
Firstly, they were to endeavour "to obtain the support of landowners and residents in the district, and other persons interested in the preservation of common lands, so that a representative and influential body opposed to enclosure may be constituted." They also proposed "to obtain exact information as to the legal position of the several commons in the neighbourhood, and with the assistance of the published Ordnance Survey to prepare a good map, which will be accessible to residents interested in the question."
In the longer term, they intended "with the assent of the lords of manors, to place some of the more important commons under statutory regulation, and thus more effectually to prevent nuisances and preserve order thereon."
This particular lord of the manor of Frydinghurst eventually submitted to a judgement, dated St George's Day, 23rd April 1888, whereby "the freehold tenants of the manor are declared to be entitled to rights of common, of pasture, of turbary and of estovers," and the lord was prevented from "enclosing or digging gravel to the injury of the tenants' rights." By this means an important portion of Hindhead came under the care of neighbouring residents.
The fight to preserve commons and open spaces from enclosure, and worse, was being pressed strongly across the whole country. In 1865, George Shaw Lefevre (who became Lord Eversley) had founded the national Commons Preservation Society, which began direct action against lords of the manor who attempted to enclose their land.
Two years later, when aged 23 and working as an articled clerk with a firm of solicitors in Holborn, Robert Hunter had entered a competition to write a 15,000 word essay on "Commons and the best means of preserving them for the public." Though not the winner, he was judged to be one of the six best, his text containing such injunctions as: "Any commoner whose rights are molested is clearly entitled to throw down the whole fencing or other obstruction erected." This caught the eye of Shaw Lefevre, and when the post of honorary solicitor to the Society became vacant, he offered it to Hunter.
Here Hunter met Henry Fawcett, then a Liberal MP, and the partnership between these two proved a powerful force within the Society for fourteen years. They are credited with bringing to an abrupt end the previous systematic enclosure of some 25,000 acres of common land each year. Memorably, they saved Epping Forest from enclosure and, following a legal battle which lasted over three years and involved 16 lords of the manor, scores of witnesses and barrow-loads of information, it was finally opened as a Public Park by Queen Victoria in 1882.
But Hunter's acute legal mind was aware that the legislation of the day was not really adequate to deal with all cases where preservation was required. One particular case highlighted the problem. In 1884, the owner of Sayes Court, a 17th century manor house at Deptford, wished to donate it and its grounds to the public, but there was no authority in existence which could accept and maintain it.
After searching for suitable Acts under which this might be achieved, Hunter decided that the only way forward would be to set up a new Company which would have powers to buy and hold land and buildings for the benefit of the nation. He could not do this immediately indeed it took another ten or so years to achieve and Sayes Court was left to be demolished. But the germ of the idea for the Company was sown, and grew in time to become the National Trust.
During this same period, Hutchinson had taken the opportunity to buy a number of plots of land in and around Haslemere and build on them. He distrusted stocks and shares, and never invested in anything but land and houses. Inval, his original home, was let year on year after 1878 while the family lived successively at one or other of the new houses.
He summed up his attitude to such development in one of his letters to his wife: "I should on principle be prepared to make any sacrifice which would enable a larger number of city residents, for longer periods, to obtain the kind of advantages which we have enjoyed." When a local resident complained about him building on good shooting ground, he commented: "It is a great mistake to think that other people do not enjoy the country, or are not worthy of it; and the desire of the old families about Haslemere to keep it to themselves is simply an unconscious selfishness. Mr W. objects to houses on Stoatley because it is such a good partridge ground. Children are more than partridges."
He attended a packed parish meeting when well over eighty, to speak in favour of building a road along the ridge of Blackdown. He described the view there as a national asset, and urged that everything should be done to let the greatest number of people enjoy it. He voted in a minority of three, with all the town, aristocracy, and tradesmen against him. Writing Hutchinson's biography, his son Herbert comments: "He would have forgiven untidiness, and never said a word against the invasion of the countryside. It was all to the good, and a matter of the greatest possible satisfaction."
With the creation of District and Parish Councils in 1894, some of the people most active in promoting the Commons Committee found their time fully occupied with the affairs of these new Councils, and the Commons Committee ceased to meet after 1895. Hunter himself, knighted the previous year for his services to the Post Office, and in the thick of forming the National Trust, was elected chairman of the first Haslemere Parish Council, which met on 2nd January 1895.
However, by 1899 there were grave concerns over what was going on at Hindhead. As the Surrey Times put it on 13th May in an article headed Despoiling Hindhead Common: "Many residents of Hindhead are not a little annoyed, and certainly very much grieved, at the poor respect which the new lord of the manor is apparently showing for the natural beauty and adornments of Hindhead Common and the Punch Bowl." The lord of the manor was a man named Whitaker Wright, and his destiny is tied intimately to the acquisition by the National Trust of Hindhead Common.
The same article relates that: "Residents have observed the recent visits of gangs of workmen and an 'infernal machine' constructed for this special purpose, with which a holly here and a holly there are lifted bodily from their place with a couple of tons of earth, and carted straight away." This soil was being taken to landscape Lea Park (now Witley Park) where Wright lived. The paper noted that "It is believed Mr Whitaker Wright has no personal knowledge of what has been and is being done, and it is hoped that when he is informed, no further spoilation will take place."
Whether or not the work stopped is not recorded, but five years later dramatic events of a completely different nature occurred.
Whitaker Wright seems to have been a colourful character. Born in Cheshire, and purposely retaining his north country accent throughout his life, he emigrated to America in 1866 and became an American citizen ten years later. In Philadelphia he married an American girl and had three children. He also made a fortune there - and lost it, returning to England in 1889 because of "some trouble with his companies." But eight years later he had become a millionaire again and acquired, among other things, the Manor of Witley which included Hindhead Common and the Devil's Punchbowl.
It is said that he kept more than 500 workmen busy with the "improvements" he made to Lea Park. These included a set of three artificial lakes with an underground room under one of them. However, he began to have more "trouble" with his companies over here, and was denounced at an AGM in December 1900 for misuse of invested funds. Slowly but surely the noose tightened, and in March 1902 it was decided that he had a case to answer. By this time, sensing trouble, he had gone to live in Paris, and on hearing the news, he took a boat direct from Le Havre to New York, travelling under an assumed name. But the warrant for his arrest preceded him, and he was arrested on landing. He managed to delay extradition for several months, but in early September 1902 he was brought back to England to face trial.
The trial was held in January 1904, the verdict went against him, and he was given a seven year prison sentence. Prepared for this, Whitaker Wright excused himself, went to the lavatory, and while there slipped a cyanide capsule in his mouth. On coming out, as the Surrey Advertiser reports: "He asked for a cigar, and one was given him from his own case. A match was struck, and he was about to light the cigar when he commenced to breathe heavily, and sank into a chair. A doctor was sent for, but a short examination convinced him that death was imminent. Within a quarter of an hour of his being taken ill, he ceased to breathe." Another source states that he also had a loaded revolver on him obviously he was taking no chances.
As a result of Wright's death, his property was put up for auction by order of the Chancery Division in fifty lots, since it had not been sold as a whole. Lot 47 was "the manorial rights over Hindhead commons, including Devil's Punch Bowl, Gibbet Hill, etc.: 750 acres, timber included."
As The Times reported: "It was to be anticipated that such an opportunity would not be allowed to pass by those who are interested in the preservation of open spaces ... the Commons Preservation Society appealed to the neighbourhood and their appeal met with a warm and ready response." A local committee was set up, chaired inevitably by Hunter, and its members started to gather names of local people who would guarantee to help fund the purchase of Lot 47.
By the time the auction was held, in Godalming on Thursday 26th October 1905, they had received promises totalling just over £2,200. But would this be sufficient?
The sale was attended by Francis Muir and Mr Miller for the committee, and Laurence Chubb who was secretary of the Commons Preservation Society. The purchase was to be made in the name of Mr A M S Methuen. Let Sir Robert Hunter tell you himself how the bidding went:
"The biddings started at £2,000 and went up very quickly to £3,000, and I am bound to say that the hearts of our representatives for the moment failed. But happily Mr Chubb was able to introduce Mrs Thackeray Turner to Mr Muir and Mr Miller. She with great public spirit and generosity at once said she would be willing to guarantee an additional £500 rather than see this splendid opportunity lost. Upon the basis of that offer the committee proceeded with their bids, and they succeeded in securing the lot at £3,625 a little over £4 10s per acre."
In fact the reserve had been set at that sum. Speaking just after the event, Hunter noted that their guarantees amounted to £2,922, so that roughly speaking there was a balance of about £700 still to find. It seems they had no difficulty in finding this, and the acquisition took place on 30th December 1905.
A local committee was formed to take over the management of the commons from the guarantors, and at their first meeting appointed Hunter as chairman.
It had always been the intention of the purchasers to convey the land to the National Trust, which had been conceived by Hunter for just such a purpose, and this was achieved on 22nd March 1906. Thus, as the Surrey Advertiser announced following the auction: "Hindhead is safe" and would be "preserved in perpetuity for ever."
This confident declaration was given further support the following year, when Parliament passed the National Trust Act of 1907 under which the Trust was given the power to declare land it owned as "inalienable." This protects the property from compulsory purchase by a local authority or by a ministry it can only be taken by a special Act of Parliament.
Hindhead, in 1906, was the first Trust property in the country to be managed by a local committee. Over the years, further land was acquired nearby, including some in neighbouring Sussex, and in 1908 the large expanse of Ludshott Common in Hampshire was added. This prompted the Trust in time to split the local management around the Haslemere area into three separate committees, one for property in Surrey, one for Sussex and one for Hampshire.
In 1919, the beautiful ponds and wooded valley at Waggoner's Wells, adjacent to Ludshott Common, were purchased with money collected by public subscription, and dedicated as a memorial to Sir Robert Hunter who had died in Haslemere six years previously. A stone of Iona granite stands at the head of the top pond with the inscription:
IN GRATEFUL MEMORY
SIR ROBERT HUNTER
AND HIS LIFELONG WORK
for OPEN SPACES
TO THE PUBLIC
BY HIS FRIENDS
The road from London to Portsmouth has always been important to the nation. Initially it linked the seat of Government to one of its principal naval bases every English monarch, it is said, has ridden down Portsmouth High Street. In time the significance of a road link to the naval dockyard may have diminished, but the transport requirements to the civilian docks there have increased enormously.
The National Trust has a statutory duty to protect the land it owns, but with dual carriageway along the whole length of the A3 except for the few miles across Hindhead, it seems that something has to give as the "irresistible" force of the juggernaut meets the "immovable", or at least "inalienable," property of the Trust.
So is Hindhead truly safe? Will it be forced to wear a deep scar, like Butser Hill and Twyford Down will it be tunnelled under like Tyndall's cherished Alps or will some completely novel solution to the problem emerge?
At the time of writing, we can only say: "Watch this (open) space!"
Hampshire: Ludshott to the south and west of Hindhead, comprising Bramshott Chase, Ludshott Common, Waggoner's Wells, Gentles Copse and Passfield Common about 1,000 acres.
Sussex: Blackdown about one mile south-east of Haslemere and partly in Surrey 600 acres of woods and down including the highest point in Sussex (918 feet). Also Marley about two miles south of Haslemere land at Marley Common, a viewpoint on Marley Heights to the south, Kingsley Green Common and Shottermill Ponds.
Surrey: Hindhead about 1,000 acres of connected common, heath and woodland to the north of Haslemere, including Hindhead, Inval and Weydown Commons, the Devil's Punch Bowl, and the viewpoint of Gibbet Hill (895 feet), plus a number of detached areas including Golden Valley, Nutcombe Down and Tyndall Wood. Also Frensham Common with its Great and Little Ponds.
My thanks to Thelma Ede for helping me in my research, and to Diana Hawkes for permission and encouragement to use the resources of Haslemere Museum during the course of the project.
My sources were many and various some drawn from scraps of information accumulated in my head over the years, others from publications which I either read or re-read while writing the play, including a look at some of the works of Tennyson which had previously passed me by.
Letters, biographies, memoirs, newspaper reports they all help create a picture, but in the end the author of a historical work is left with many gaps to fill from his or her own imagination. I hope the story I have described here interests you, and that perhaps you may feel encouraged to add to it with reading and research of your own.
The book A Balance of Trust
The community play A Balance of Trust was performed during October 1995.
This site is maintained by John Owen Smith