Chilworth

This village is in the valley of the River Tillingbourne, around three and a half miles outside Guildford on the A248 road.

Although gunpowder was manufactured along the river banks from 1626, the village itself is basically a 1900s ribbon development either side of the road. It does not appear on early maps and the Victoria County History published in 1911 comments that “there is an ancient manor and a few houses usually called Chilworth, partly in the parish of St Martha’s and partly in Shalford”. House building was discouraged by the landowners and building in the vicinity of the gunpowder factory was dangerous.

Ownership of the land was divided between the Duke of Northumberland in Albury and the Godwin Austen family in Shalford. The division still exists as the village possesses two parish councils and two Members of Parliament.

Employment took place in the gunpowder factory and on farms: Lockner, Old Halfpenny, East Shalford Lane, Hornhatch and Sample Oak Lane.

The attraction of being in easy reach of London amongst beautiful countryside led the rich to build houses in the area. The oldest house, Powder Mill (now Old Manor house) was built around 1606 while Chilworth Manor traces its roots back to an 11th century monastic order. Postford House was built by paper makers in 1806 and Tangley Mere by gunpowder makers Sharpe and Son in 1851. Lockner Holt was built in 1860 by a retired East India Company character. Brantyshay, on the edge of Blackheath, was built in 1885.

The Reading to Redhill railway line, passing through Chilworth, opened in 1849 providing transport not only for people but farm animals and produce, wood and gunpowder which was previously transported by horse and cart to Shalford and from there on barges up the River Wey.

In 1871, Unwins, the printers, moved out of London to set up works near the gunpowder site. Their workers lodged with the locals and became part of the village scene. The director George Unwin was a philanthropic gentleman who ran science and art classes for the workers in the Gresham (or Greshambury) Institute. A disastrous fire in 1895 totally destroyed the works, and the company moved to Woking.

After the sale of the Duke of Northumberland’s land in 1922, house building began in earnest.

Places of Worship

St. Martha’s Church is situated on the hill overlooking the valley. It was rebuilt on 12th century ruins in 1848.

A tin tabernacle church erected in fields near the railway was later sold to become the present Village Hall. During the war it accommodated evacuee children for school classes. In 1954 the Chilworth Free Church opened in a wooden building in Brooks Wood.

The Gresham Institute was donated by George Unwin, and became St Thomas’ Church.

Click here to see the catalogue of the St Thomas, Chilworth, Parish Records (1894-1970) held at the Surrey History Centre.

The Percy Arms (Percy being the family name of the Northumberlands) existed in the 1880s. It was to become a hostelry with stables and a public house near the railway station. Next door was the village shop, now residences called Aston Villas.

Chilworth Church of England infant school opened in 1873 with around 60 pupils aged from 5-9. it moved to its present site in 1967.

Further information

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  • For more information about the gunpowder works, please see

bookCrocker, Glenys and Alan. Damnable Inventions, 2000. Bristol: J W Arrowsmith

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