Farnham: The Later Historic Period from 1500 to the present
Prosperity after 1500
Farnhams strategic position on a main route ensured that its prosperity was consolidated during the Tudor period. This was due largely to the cloth and wheat trade and to a lesser extent, the pottery industry.
This prosperity was shown by the building of a Market House at the bottom of Castle Street in the 1560s where bailiffs and burgesses could meet and from which business could be done. This attractive building was later demolished by the Victorians. Timber-framed properties, the remnants of which can still be seen in places, would have lined the main streets. The yards of these buildings, mainly in West Street and The Borough, are important features in the townscape.
Andrew Windsor’s almshouses
The Windsor Alms Houses in Castle Street, constructed in 1619 for eight poor people, remain in use today. Of early brick construction with drip stones and bargeboards, they are little changed. The original building fronting the street now houses four residents, additional accommodation was constructed at the rear during the 1980s for a further four people so remaining within the terms of the original trust.
The Civil War and after
By the end of the Civil War in 1648, the Castle was a ruin and the fabric of the town had also suffered damage. The streets were in bad repair and stones were taken from the Castle to repair the damage.
The Bishops had been removed by Parliament but were reinstated on the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. The Castle was repaired and once again it became an important residence of the Bishops, a connection that benefited the town.
Farnhams recovery from the trauma of the Civil War was helped by its good trading position. Although the cloth and pottery industries were no longer important, insecurity in the Channel during the Dutch Wars in the 1670s resulted in a decline in coastal trade and goods were forced onto the roads. Farnham, on the route to London, became a convenient stopping place for coaches and wagons, consequently inns and trade flourished.
A town built of brick
The ample supply of clay led to the development of Farnham as a brick-built town and during the last quarter of the 17th century, brick began to supersede timber-framing as the method for making buildings.
The Bailiffs Hall in The Borough, which dates from that period, incorporates examples of 17th century brick strap work, unique in Farnham. By the time Harold Falkner (18751963), a well known local architect, came to include it in his rebuilding of the Town Hall site in the 1930s, it had suffered considerably but he restored it sympathetically. A fine early brick residence is Ivy House (c.1700).
The hop industry
The wheat market declined in the 18th century and its place was taken by hops. Hops had been grown since the latter half of the 16th century but it was not until the middle 1700s that they became the mainstay of the towns prosperity. They required a substantial capital outlay before any return was seen and were a difficult crop to grow. For those who were successful, the rewards were great and Farnham began to see rebuilding taking place as successful growers and businessmen invested their money in property.
Many of the old timber-framed buildings disappeared and new red brick symmetrical Georgian town houses rose in their place. Often, the earlier cellars were left intact and examples can be seen in 70 Castle Street and 38 West Street.
Complete rebuilding did not always take place and in some cases only a new brick facade was added, with the overhanging jetty of the original timber framed house being cut back. Examples of this can be seen at 30/31 Lower Church Lane and at 110 West Street. Roof lines will often indicate that an earlier property is hidden behind a Georgian brick facade.
19th century railways
The arrival of the railway in 1849 resulted in a wider range of mass-produced goods becoming available to local people. Goods and passengers could be transported quickly and efficiently and in the long term the railway enabled people to work elsewhere whilst living in Farnham. Incoming goods included yellow bricks and slates and these begin to appear as building materials.
Although the popularity of the railway replaced the stage coach, in common with elsewhere, individual local carriers found their business increased as there was a demand for goods to be taken to and from the station. The station soon grew in size, sidings covered the present car park and also the area on the south side of the station now developed as Southern Way. A later extension of the line westwards put Winchester and the south coast within easy reach.
The decline in coach travel had some effect on the town as did the ending of the use of long-haul horse-drawn wagons. However, in 1853 the government of the day decided to construct an army camp close to the little village of Aldershot. With little infrastructure in place for The Camp as it became known, Farnham tradesmen were well placed to provide much in the way of goods and services. Troops and others gravitated to Farnham to shop, seek entertainment or to catch a train. Farnham benefited considerably from this two way traffic.
A feature of Farnham at this period was the large number of pubs, largely due to the influx of soldiers rather, than as is often thought, to the still flourishing hop trade.
One noticeable effect of the construction of Aldershot Camp was the increase in traffic to Farnham station. At that time the way to the station was from the Borough, via Downing Street, on to Abbey Street and then up to the station. This was a tortuous route and there was pressure for a more direct road to the station. After considerable delay, South Street was constructed for this purpose and opened in 1870. At the same time Union Road was laid out to link up with Downing Street. This was the first major change to the medieval street pattern.
19th century local government
In 1866 Local Government changes resulted in the formation of the Farnham Local Board. The old Market House was demolished together with the Goats Head Inn which had a frontage on to Castle Street and the Borough. A gothic style town hall was constructed on the site. This was eventually found to be unsuitable and in 1903, new Council Offices were constructed in South Street for what had by then become the Urban District Council. The Victorian Town Hall building survived in to the 1930s when it was demolished. The present building with arcaded shops was designed by local architect, Harold Falkner.
19th century buildings
The gothic revival did not take a great hold on Farnham. The examples include, as might be expected, church architecture namely the United Reform Church and Methodist Churches in South Street. St. Andrews School (1860) and adjoining coattages are both built in chalk stone and complement the Parish Church. The Church tower was raised to its present height in 1865 in matching perpendicular style. The former Grammar School, in West Street (1875 and 1894), now the present Adult Education Centre has been described as modified gothic with mullioned and lancet windows.
Other Victorian buildings which survive are the Institute in South Street, the former Police Station in Union Road and the National Westminster Bank (1865 with additions in 1904). W.H. Smith, the Borough entrance to the Bush Hotel and Boots are all fronted in Victorian brick. A number of buildings in The Borough and West Street have Victorian refacings at first-floor level similar in style to the National Westminster Bank and 8 Castle Street.
Castle Street at one time boasted a Norman Shaw building Knights Bank. Constructed in the 1860s it was demolished and replaced by the present Lloyds Bank in 1932. The chimneys were re-erected by Harold Falkner on the Bush Hotel and the Bailiffs Hall.
Notable domestic buildings from the second half of the 19th century include 79 West Street and 8 Castle Street. These are both c.1870 and have connections with hop growers of the period. The stuccoed terrace at the top of Castle Street on the western side also points to Victorian wealth.
Another influential trend was for shopkeepers, who had formerly lived over their business premises, to move outside the town into more prestigious houses. Accommodation over the shop was then let out to staff or used for storage.
In 1894 an aspiring architect, Edwin Lutyens, designed The Liberal Club in South Street.
20th century conservation movement
The fact that Farnham, to all intents and purposes, remained reasonably intact for much of the 20th century was mainly due to the influence of Charles Borelli (1873 – 1950), a wealthy local businessman. An early conservationist, he made it his lifes work to preserve what he identified as the character of the town. To this end he acquired a large property portfolio. If these properties needed restoration, Harold Falkner (18751963), his friend and contemporary, was employed to renovate them. Their first project together was no. 40 The Borough (Bowleys). This structure was hidden behind a Victorian facade but with care and careful re-use of materials it was returned to something like its original 17th century appearance.
Generally, Falkner would opt for a classical neo-Georgian style which would blend in satisfactorily. His principal town centre work was the rebuilding of the town hall buildings. Both Borelli and Falkner had been influenced by W. H. Allen, Head of the Art School from 18891928, who opened their eyes to Farnhams heritage. Falkner also completed other imaginative conversions. Borelli was a councillor for many years and it was said that he and Falkner were in effect a two-man planning committee and able to bring pressure to bear to ensure proposals for development were broadly in sympathy with the townscape.
Other builders and architects were also at work. The Lion and Lamb was sensitively returned to a galleried inn yard in the 1920s by John Kingham. Arthur and Leonard Steadman and Guy Maxwell Aylwin were also making important contributions.
Farnham was fortunate in having a succession of local family building firms employing skilled craftsmen. The Birch family, their successor Thompsett and also Goddard and Sons produced the craftsmen of Victorian times. Mills and Sons, Mardon and Ball, German and Son, Crosby, Wilkinsons and Caesar Brothers of the 20th century all had substantial input into buildings in the town.
After Charles Borellis death, the family ensured that his philosophy continued to prevail in respect of his substantial property holdings. When these eventually came on to the market, the centre of Farnham had become a conservation area.
Decline of the hop industry
From the 1870s onwards, hop growing was in slow decline. Some kilns were demolished but others survived to become office accommodation, making an important contribution to the character and skyline of the town. Surplus hop grounds began to become available for housing development adding to the prosperity of the town. As the population increased and thrived in the post-war years, car owning increased and consequently so did the amount of traffic. This led in 1949 to the decision to build the Central Car Park, which over the years has been expanded. A large range of hop kilns in Wagon Yard was demolished in 1966 to make way for the present car park.
20th century developments
The pressure for development, particularly from the early 1960s, was never absent. In 1962, attractive idiosyncratic properties in Union Road, were replaced at the south-east end by Expedia House, a five-storey office block which was eventually demolished in 1987. The neo-Georgian Wey Court now covers this area and balances the 1885 commercial property opposite.
Union Road also contains Church House, the only town centre example of Arts and Crafts architecture. By the year 2000, the Church wished to realise this asset and it was then at risk. Fortunately it was acquired by Sir Ray Tindle, proprietor of the Farnham Herald, who felt it should continue to play a part in the life of the town. Sir Ray also acquired the adjoining property, the former Police Station, now known as The Old Court House, an important Victorian building dating from 1888. At the end of Union Road, Gostrey House, constructed in 1991, includes Art Deco elements with a varied roofscape.
Gostrey Meadow was acquired by the Farnham UDC and opened in 1910 as a recreation ground. It provides an important open space on the south side of Union Road.
In 1963, a new police station was built in Longbridge on the site of Mills and Sons builders yard. There was much relief that it was sensitive in size and design and the murals on the north elevation depicting scenes from Farnhams history are an attractive addition.
Elsewhere, other sites were being developed. Less satisfactory was the replacement in 1963 of Spencers premises at the junction with The Borough and Downing Street (Elegance). An attractive inn yard, now the west bay of the present Argos premises, was lost in 1964. At the corner of the Hart, in 1967, Guy Maxwell Aylwins imposing neo-Georgian building (Sequel House) replaced a Victorian butchers shop and a small building of possible Tudor origin. In South Street, by the river, the Bridge House development of shops and offices took place in 1969 resulting in the demolition of what Falkner had considered to be one of his best buildings.
In 1969, The Maltings, an important complex of buildings in Bridge Square, which were at risk, were purchased by the community and now fulfil an important role in the towns social life.
The Post Office (1973), in West Street, replaced an older property and incorporates an abstract mural representing the towns features and location. The final design of this building was the result of negotiations by the Local Authority and heritage groups who were appalled at the original design put forward.
Although outside the present Conservation Area, the warning from history is the Woolmead. Approximately 40 medieval, Georgian and Tudor and Victorian buildings were swept away in 1964 to be replaced by a flat-roofed monolithic brick and concrete structure. This development drew much criticism at the time from townspeople and architects, including Falkner and Aylwin who saw it as a complete negation of everything they had tried to achieve in scale and design. At a distance of 40 years it can be seen that they were right. The surroundings of a conservation area can be crucial and a view from the conservation area outwards can be just as important as a view inwards.
In South Street, the positioning of the boundary line of the Conservation Area allowed the demolition of a number of good Victorian properties which added character to the street to be replaced by the present Sainsbury store in 1981.
By the 1980s, attitudes to planning and development were changing both nationally and locally. Farnham UDC had disappeared in 1974 and Farnham came under Waverley Borough Council with a Town Council created subsequently. Development was geared to retaining historic features and new properties were to be sensitive to their surroundings. This was just as well as large swathes of town centre properties released by Borelli Estates and the Farnham Market House and Town Hall Company came on the market in the early 1980s. The Lion and Lamb Yard development, completed in 1986, was a good example of this new philosophy. Borelli Yard and St Georges Yard followed the same criteria with a mix of businesses and shops retaining existing buildings and using local materials.
It is self evident, that a conservation area cannot work in isolation and is inextricably linked to its surroundings. For many years, the town grew organically, and no doubt Borelli and Falkner would find it strange that good quality properties outside the area receive less protection than those inside it. There is a danger that a conservation area, though essential to protect the town from predatory developers, may result in the area outside being seen as expendable almost as an apology for not allowing development within the area. The land to the north of the Hart and to the east of Crondall Lane is not within the conservation area yet the loss of this horizon would be as catastrophic as losing Farnham Park.
No one expects properties within the conservation area to remain completely unchanged, but it is more than just facades. Side alleys, gardens, rooflines, vistas are all interdependent and need to be seen as a whole.
Between 1500 and 2004, the only major change to Farnhams street plan was the construction of South Street and Union Road. During these 500 years, the area covered by the present Conservation Area, changed as medieval timber framed buildings gave way to red brick Georgian town houses built with money made from corn and hops. The Victorians also left their mark whilst 20th century developments owed much to the restraining and sensitive influence of Charles Borelli and Harold Falkner, two local men who were in a position to shape the architectural future of the town. Borelli had acquired considerable town centre property and after his death, the family continued his philosophy of conservation. This kept development at bay until after the establishment of the official Conservation Area to which heightened planning criteria would apply.