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

 Andrew Windsor's Alms Houses Image: Richard Purkiss

Andrew Windsor’s Alms Houses Image: Richard Purkiss

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

The Castle, showing the sundial, pre. 1929, Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 8149 SHC ref 7828/2/64/76

The Castle, showing the sundial, pre. 1929, Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 8149 SHC ref 7828/2/64/76

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.

Farnham Town Hall, Image: Richard Purkiss

Farnham Town Hall, Image: Richard Purkiss

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).

Ivy House, Image: Richard Purkiss

Ivy House, Image: Richard Purkiss

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.

Georgian Farnham

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.

United Reform Church, Image: Richard Purkiss

United Reform Church, Image: Richard Purkiss

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.

Farnham Liberal Club, by Lutyens, Image: Richard Purkiss

Farnham Liberal Club, by Lutyens, Image: Richard Purkiss

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.

43 thoughts on “Farnham: The Later Historic Period from 1500 to the present”

  1. margaret hughes says:

    Any information on two address from 1913 would be fantastic Beach Villas Park Road and Figgs Yard Long Garden Walk any picturs available?

  2. margaret hughes says:

    once again any information and old photos of two addresses I am searching for Figgs Yard Long Garden Walk Beach Villas Park Road will help me piece together my mothers life

  3. Jimmy Goostree says:

    My last name was originally Gostrey. Do you have or know where I can find any history on my Gostrey ancestry family. I appreciate your help.

    Thank you,
    Jimmy Goostree
    555 Rapids Road
    Franklin, Kentucky 42134-8395
    Email: [email protected]

    1. Sylvia McMaster says:

      I don’t know if you are still looking for information on the family of Gostrey but to let you know that we have the Gostrey Meadows here in Farnham. If I can help any more please come back to me

  4. Pam Gittins says:

    Born at 66 east street, farnham in 1940. Would love to know the history of the house.

  5. Roze says:

    Would anyone have help, advise or information regarding houses built in Sumner Road, Farnham. Particularly looking for some old house plans from approximately the 1900’s?

    1. Jerry Hyman says:

      I suggest you

      You ought to spend half a day at Farnham Museum, they have lots of records, a mine of information. Or you could start by looking for existing plans, some of which are online within recent planning application records relating to Sumner Road (9 since 2005) on the Council website (search the postcode GU9 7JU at http://waverweb.waverley.gov.uk/live/wbc/pwl.nsf/webdisplaypubliclist?openform)

  6. Daryl stubbs says:

    I’m tracing the Chitty family in Farnham. I have william Henry being born to John Henry and Rhoda (Pond) in 1886. He was recorded at his baptism as living at Park Place, Farnham. I can’t find any records of this street now. Can any help?

    1. Jerry Hyman says:

      I expect that ‘Park Place’ was a house, not a street, Daryl. I’ve found no Park Place in Farnham (though house names do change), but there is a Park Place in Back Lane, Elstead, a few miles south of Farnham. As far as the surname Chitty is concerned, there is an Edith Chitty living in Wrecclesham, though she may be no relation.

  7. Richard says:

    I am trying to find the precise location of the Pilgrim Motor Company which existed in Farnham from about 1904 to the 1960s. I have a note that it was located in Red Lion Lane. But a photograph of the factory taken from a higher-up position, with St Andrews spire in the background suggests it was the otherside of the A31 dual carriageway (near Weydon Lane). Does anyone know more about this pioneering business and its location?

    1. James says:

      Weydon Lane is a continuation of Red Lion Lane – the bypass chopped it in half. I believe it is where the Pilgrims Way School is now.

      1. Richard says:

        Thank you James.
        I have since discover that Farnham Business Park was built on the site of the old Pilgrim works. The old picture I have looks like it was taken on a footbridge crossing the railway line there.

    2. Peter Minett says:

      I have written an article about the Pilgrim’s Way Motor Co. which was published in the Journal of the Farnham & District Museum Society, and also in the newsletter of the Surrey Industrial History Group. The entire article has appeared on the internet since 2017.

      1. Richard says:

        Hi Peter
        I would really like to read that article – but can’t find it on the internet.
        Regards Richard

  8. Rod Anderson says:

    ive been trying to locate any information regarding my father William Anderson who owned the Farnham Taxi rank in East Street in 1944ish. What happened to him once he sold the business to the Brain Hellier family. Any clues will be greatly appreciated

  9. Noelle Simmons says:

    I am interested in the name of the school that existed at 7 Lower Weybourne Lane, Farnham about 1960 and can you please tell me when it started and closed down. If not a school then, what was there during that time?

  10. Danielle says:

    I work in candy twist ( the cafe if lion and lamb walk) it’s clearly very old. But would love to know the history…

  11. David says:

    I am trying to find out the location of Hartendale, a house in Frensham Rd that was the residence of the Dutton Family from approx 1890 to 1915. John Dutton was a Draper.

  12. David says:

    Regarding the house by the name Hartendale I enquired about above. On recent reading of the 1911Census, it makes me wonder if Hartendale may not have been in Frensham rather than Farnham.

  13. Amanda Bachrach says:

    I found out that my father was born in Farnham workhouse his mother being unmarried and about 16 years old at the time . His birth year was 1929.Do you know anything about the workhouse or where I can find out more information?

  14. Gwyneth says:

    Can anyone tell me the name of the bookshop in Farnham in the 1980s which preceded Waterstones please?

    1. Liz anslow says:


  15. Karen Webb says:

    I am after information on my great grandfather, he was Henry William Mardon of Mardon and Ball , Local Builders. I have sketchy reports of him working on Lloyd Georges house in Churt Surrey , ?? Also renovation of the trancepts in Winchester Cathedral. ?? This was around 1900

  16. M Williamson says:

    I am trying to find information about the Rossi family (Biagio and Adelaita), Lodging House Keepers (1911 Census) No83 and No84 West Street, Farnham. Now Cafe Piccolo and Kallkwick printers. Thank you for any info.

  17. Sarah says:

    Interested in any info on Garfath family. Have traced them in Farnham back to 1700’s.
    Where did they come from before this?
    Have been told there is a plaque in the bell tower of St Andrew’s church naming a Garfath as a bell ringing for battle of trafalgher…is this true?
    Many thnx

  18. Barry Tangham says:

    Old family papers tell me that my paternal grandmother’s first husband, Henry Cowell, worked as a groom at Clare Park Mansion up until about 1902. I have a reference for Henry hand-written and signed by Capt A C Birch, RFA, in September 1902. I believe that the Birch family bought Clare park around the middle of the 19th century but sold it some after the end of the First World War. Is there anywhere I can discover a little more about the Birch family and their descendants? Thanks

  19. Ricardo May says:

    My name is Ricardo. My late grand-mother, Ivy Price, born in South Aftica. Her William Femtum PRICE came Farnham, Surrey, UK. He left behind two sisters who we believe were spinsters (never got married). Apparently my GREAT GRAND FATHER left the UK by ship for Australia. He then ended up in South Africa during the period of the diamond rush in Kimberley. Soutj Africa where got married and settled. I see that there is an “Ivy House in Farnham”. My grandma was christianed Ivy Price by her dad. I am searching to know who my great grandpa, Wiliam Fenttum Price was. Some bsvlground. nfo of his linreage im the UK. Also the reason or motive for leaving the UK at the time 1800’s

    Could anybody please assist me.
    Ricatdo Mayl

  20. Jan Whichard says:

    I am seeking information on my family. They lived in Wrecclesham at Charmain’s Corner. I can’t find Charmain’s Corner on any current map. Where would that be?

  21. Bill Brade says:

    A Miss Chitty lived in the first house on the left coming up from Farnham to Folly Hill, after the turn-off to Old Park. I believe she was the post mistress for the village and her office was in the front room of her house. [You have to make allowance for my ageing memory]. I and my brother were born at 8 long Garden Walk, Castle Street. I think both my sisters were born in what is now know as Hog Hatch Lane. We lived in a terrible farm cottage before moving to Moor Park sometime around 1950..

    1. Chinonye Okoli says:

      Hi Bill i wanted to know if the long garden walk was ever a place where they use to make ropes, also how it got the name. i have read up information in Farnham library but cant seem to find this specific information. I wonder if you could help

    2. Maureen Clapson says:

      I am helping my friend to research her family… name of Knight … they too lived in Hoghatch Lane but in the early/mid 1800s, the father and son John and Richard Knight were agricultural labourers. They lived there with their 10 children! Any further info would be gratefully received.
      Thanks Maureen.

  22. Bridget Reed says:

    I would love to find the history of my house in West End Grove which was called Lion Villa, I believe was at one time a hop managers house. I believe the house was built in 1902.

  23. Val says:

    I’m researching the Flutter family. William Flutter (1830-1913) married Clara Elizabeth Chitty (1831-1870) in 1853. Most of their children were born in Farnham. Any connection?

  24. Darren Brady says:

    It’s disgusting how many beautiful buildings they tore down. Even the Town Council Building which we think is nice now, was much much nicer before they tore it down on the 1930’s.

    We should NEVER make this mistake again.

  25. David says:

    Does anyone remember Whistling Jack’s cafe at the top of Downing Street in Farnham? Even better does anyone have any images.

    1. Peter says:

      Was this called Pantiles (I think that was the name)? There was a café a couple of shops up from Lloyd and Keyworth record and TV shop on the left (as you go up to the Borough).

  26. Peter says:

    Does anyone have any information and pictures of Victoria Transport from the ’50s / ’60s? The company was based in what is now the Central Carpark.
    Also I’d be interested in info and pics of Elliott’s of Aldershot who were in Aldershot near the bus depot.

  27. Jeff Wheelerfield says:

    Looking for more information on Farnham Town Clock, which I currently maintain, creating a video on it and it would be useful to start the video with a bit of history, if you have any information please contact me 07925077597, many thanks Jeff Wheeler-Field

  28. Isabel Kerley says:

    I’m looking for more information or a photo of a restaurant which was run by my Great Grandfather around 1910 It was in No. 80 West Street, which from looking at Google maps is now a Guitar shop.

  29. Green says:

    I grew up in Castle Hill House at the top of Castle Street. I am looking for the history of this listed house, when it was built, who lived there etc

  30. LEN HUFF says:


  31. margaret mulholland says:

    In the late 1940’s/early 1950’s we lived at no.1. Upper Weybourne Lane, (Hale End?) Farnham surrey. My father was caretaker of a Large building there called Army College. I think it was a training centre for army officers – but not sure. It had beautiful gardens. It was converted into quality flats. It has since been demolished and a development has been built there called Hillcrest. Do you have any information pre 1950 ish.

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