Woking: Town

Did You Know?

  • Horsell Common was the scene for H.G.Well’s depiction of the Martian invasion of Earth, in War of the Worlds.
  • Also found on Horsell Common are two fine Bronze Age (2500 700) bell barrows. John Aubrey, the antiquarian, visited the site in 1718 and commented: “On the heath in this Parish are two round Hills or Barrows, supposed to have been the Burial-Place for Men slain in Battles.”
  • Woking is also home to the first mosque in the country, the Shah Jahan Mosque, built in 1889.
  • During the First World War, over 760 people who either lived or worked within the boundaries of the modern Borough of Woking lost their lives.

Click here to see the catalogue of the St Peter’s, Woking, Parish Records (1611-1878) held at the Surrey History Centre.

3 thoughts on “Woking: Town”

  1. JANE FOXON says:

    I have written to Woking Borough Council about the limited information about events in the borough. You mention the following:

    •During the First World War, over 760 people who either lived or worked within the boundaries of the modern Borough of Woking lost their lives.

    But you don’t seem to have mentioned the muslim regiment that were stationed here. I found this on the internet by chance but no borough sites seem to acknowledge the fact. Is it completely wrong? there’s even a photo of the troops on parade!

    this site and the information within which I have read is very ‘dry’ and rather uninspired. could I recommend that more images would create a more engaging impact!?

    I hope to have a response within a reasonable timescale…

    1. Pasky Maina says:

      Look here, on this very website there are details of what you may need.


      Other links here


      Work starts on Woking Horsell Common Muslim burial site

      Restoration work has started on a World War I cemetery in Surrey built for Muslim soldiers killed in combat.

      Horsell Common Preservation Society is aiming to complete the project in time for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI, on 4 August next year.

      The Grade II listed structure in Woking has deteriorated over the years and been vandalised.

      It is hoped the first phase of work, which has been part-funded by English Heritage, will be complete by November.

      The preservation society is also hoping to plant a memorial garden at the site.

      ‘Unique status’
      John Kingsbury, Woking council leader, said the heritage site was important for people locally and for descendants of those who gave their lives in the war.

      English Heritage senior designation adviser Paul Stamper said: “Its architectural interest and unique status as a site of memory for Muslims who died fighting for Britain in two world wars is recognised in its national designation as a Grade II listed structure.”

      David Robbins, chairman of Horsell Common Preservation Society, said he hoped the town would be proud of the “unique war memorial” when work was finished.

      More than one million troops from pre-independence India fought for Great Britain during World War I.

      Wounded soldiers were brought to hospitals in the South East.

      Islamic headstones
      Hindu and Sikh soldiers were taken to crematoriums, but Muslim soldiers did not have a burial ground until 1915. Woking’s site was completed in 1917.

      According to the preservation society, there were 17 burials at the site in 1917 and each was marked with a round arched headstone facing west, in accordance with Islamic tradition.

      A cadet from the Sandhurst military academy was buried there in 1920, before the War Graves Commission took over the ground’s upkeep in 1921.

      During World War II, a further eight Muslim soldiers were interred at the site, including three from the Free French forces.

      In 1968, after a spate of vandalism, all the burials were removed to Brookwood cemetery and the ground was de-consecrated.

      The structure remains a Registered War Memorial.


      Indian Army soldiers wounded on the battlefields in France during 1914-1916 were treated for their injuries back in England. Special hospitals were set up along the South Coast at Brighton, Brockenhurst, New Milton and Bournemouth, and those who died received burial rights according to their religion. A special cremation site was set up at Patcham for Hindu and Sikh soldiers, while Muslim soldiers were buried. However, there were rumours that the Muslim troops were not receiving burial according to their religious customs. To dispel these rumours, the War Office (now the Ministry of Defence) commissioned a special burial ground. Woking was chosen for its location as it had the only purpose built mosque in Britain
      at that time.
      The burial ground was built on Horsell Common near to the Shah Jehan Mosque. It was designed by architect T.H. Winney and built by a local firm, Ashby & Horner Ltd. Its arches, minarets and domed gateway reflect the architectural style of the mosque. The structure was completed in 1917 and received a total of 27 servicemen, primarily from the two World Wars.
      In 1921 The Commonwealth War Graves Commission took responsibility for its care and upkeep, but in 1968, due to vandalism and its remote location, the graves were removed and bodies transferred to Brookwood Military Cemetery. Curiously, ownership of the structure then reverted to the original landowner, The Horsell Common Preservation Society.

      In 1984, English Heritage awarded the structure a Grade II listing due to its unique and special interest in a national context. The original entry noted its historical interest as a rare purpose-built structure for the Muslim community. English Heritage carried out a review in 2010, and whilst its Grade II listing remains, EH reaffirmed the architectural and cultural importance of the building.
      For many years, HCPS had tried without success to find a way to raise funds to renovate and protect this important monument, but then in 2012, and mindful of the centenary commemorations of the commencement of the Great War, English Heritage,n offered to fund 80% of the cost of repairs to the structure. In response, Woking Borough Council agreed to meet the balance to complete the project. So in the autumn of 2013, renovation experts Universal Stone Ltd, commenced repairs to the brickwork and Portland Stone capping under the guidance of chartered architects Radley House Partnership. .
      The final phase of the project will be to create an Islamic style garden within the walled structure for visitors to enjoy its tranquillity, and to reflect on the sacrifices made by those servicemen who gave their lives in battle during two World Wars. The BBC will be filming the work over the coming months in order to produce a 30 minute documentary on the project which is expected to be broadcast in 2015.

      Hope the above info helps with your enquiry, unless they’ve responded to you directly.

  2. Carol Brinson says:

    Does anyone remember The Firs School (private primary) in Midhope Road in the 1950s? I was a pupil there (maiden name Hawkins). The Headmistress was a Mrs Gardiner and my special teacher was Mrs Innes.

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