The village is on the Surrey / Sussex border. The name comes from the words old fold meaning a clearing or area for cattle grazing. This area used to be part of the Wealden forest before it was cleared to make way for cultivation of plants and animals. There is no mention of Alfold in the Domesday book as it was probably part of Bramley village. There was no main road in Alfold until 1809.
Alfold has a long history of iron industry and charcoal burning. The area was also used for glass making during the second half of the sixteenth century. This led to more trees being cut in the area to make charcoal to fuel the glass making industry. A glass house, where glass was made, is marked in Sidney Wood on John Speed’s map of Surrey in 1610 and remains of these have been found in the woods. The glass made here was very good quality and some was particularly high status. Examples can be seen on display in the Guildford museum. The glass industry stopped around 1615 when the use of charcoal was banned to make glass.
A marble slab in St Nicholas’ churchyard, Alfold (near to the war memorial), is said to cover the grave of Jean Carre, who died May 1572. Carre was one of the last French glassmakers who worked in Sidney Wood nearby.
The Historic Environment Record (HER) contains details of the archaeological remains of ‘glass houses’ found in the Alfold area. click the links to find out more about the HER and to see the records:
Click here to see the catalogue of the St Nicholas, Alfold, Parish Records (1658-1978) held at the Surrey History Centre.
Buildings to note in the village include the Church of St Nicholas which originally dates back to 1100. The village also has many examples of mathematical tile hung houses. These tiles were made to look like brick and were used to decorate the outside of buildings. Alfold House (click the link to see the HER) is a good example of a half-timber house originally built in early years of 16th century. The term half-timbering refers to the fact that the logs used to create the timber frame were halved, or at least cut down to a square inner section.
Alfold is linked with the history of smuggling in Surrey as the parish lay on one of the smugglers main routes from the sea. Several farmers were rumoured to have stored smugglers goods and the glass houses and woods were also used to store illegal goods.
MAP – click here to see a map of historic buildings and archaeological sites around Alfold.