The West family – a Cobham dynasty

Cobham Remembers

When studying the life of Cobham at the beginning of the 20th century it is impossible not to encounter the West family. For the first quarter of that century with their businesses and marriages they were part of the fabric of the village.

William Henry West was born in Storrington, West Sussex in 1857, and in 1879 he married Martha Brigden at St Andrew’s Parish Church, Cobham. William’s “rank or profession” entered on the marriage certificate was “Corn & coal merchant”, as was his father, by then deceased.

Martha was a daughter of James Brigden, master grocer of Church Cobham, who was himself born in Storrington in about 1817.

The West family lived in Storrington until some time in the 1890’s when they moved to Cobham and the 1901 census shows them living in Church Cobham, with six of their children, close to the Brigdens, where one of their daughters Mabel was living. William is by then listed as a grocer with three of his sons working in the business. Clearly he was a successful businessman although maybe not so good as a family man as by 1911 he was boarding in a Worthing hotel, listed as a “Gentleman, private means”. (He died in 1922 in slightly mysterious circumstances. His probate record shows that he died in Hove where he was last seen alive on 26 June but his body was only found on 19 July!)

But in 1911 his family were well established in the community.

His wife Martha was proprietor of West’s Stores in the High Street, roughly where Knight Frank now stands. Two of her sisters, Elizabeth and Marianne Brigden had a milliners/drapers in the High Street.

The eldest son, Allen, born 1881, was listed on the census as a Grocer. He was a prominent citizen being the Parish Clerk, Verger & Sacristan at St Andrew’s Church and a member of the Church Council 1913 -19. In January 1919 the Cobham Parish Magazine reported that “Mr Allen West was obliged last October to resign as Verger and Vestry Clerk owing to pressure of other work. The duties have been divided between Mr Evans, Mr Millikin and Mrs Matthews. Mr Millikin is appointed Verger for Sunday duty. The week-day duty and Vestry Clerk’s work is being done by Mr W J Evans, 6 Leigh Villas to whom Notices of Banns of Marriages and Funerals should be sent”. Evidently a hard man to replace. He died in 1940 and is buried in Cobham Cemetery.

Allens wife, Edith, was the sub-post mistress in the grocery store on The Tilt, the building now domestic but can still be recognised by the wall Victorian post box.

Ernest, born 1882 was a Master Grocer. He served in the East Surrey Regiment and played in their band. He lived for a time at 13 Freelands Road, which had been developed by his father in 1907/08. He was one of the millions who died in the influenza epidemic that followed the war and his name is recorded on the Cobham War Memorial and Roll of Honour.

Hugh, born 1885, was a photographer with a house and studio in Anyards Road where Majestic Wines now stands. Hugh was married to Kathleen, daughter of Henry Hale who ran the post office and bakery in Downside (That building also still stands – a private house at the corner of The Island.) Many of his photos of local scenes and Cobham people survive.

Mabel (b. 1886). In 1901 she was living with her two aunts, Marianne and Elizabeth Brigden in Church Street, where she was employed as assistant in a confectionery shop. By 1911 she had moved to Clapham High Street and her employment was recorded as “manageress – pastrycooks”.

Ethel (b. 1887), a shop assistant in the1911 census, in 1919 she married Frederick Cornell, watchmaker and jeweller in Church Street, later in the High Street. Frederick served in the war and was a prominent member of the Downside & Cobham Rifle Club.

Colin (1889) was a boot & shoe dealer. Kelly’s Directory for 1913 lists his shop on River Hill as a partnership, Dear & West, but he disappears from that listing by 1918. He survived the war during which he served in the Army Ordnance Corps and is recorded on the Roll of Honour.

Ada (1890) married in 1916 Alfred Ludlow, an estate agent’s clerk. He was a sergeant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the war.

The Mount family of Hatchford

Cobham Remembers

The first name recorded in the St Andrew’s Church Book of Remembrance is that of “Francis Mount, Captain, Royal Berkshire Regiment. Fell in action at the battle of Hulluch, 13th October 1915”. As with many of the names on our memorial there is a story to be discovered behind this brief entry.

The 1913 Kelly’s Directory entry for Cobham & Hatchford lists Poynters as the residence of Mrs Mount, with Francis Mount esq. recorded as lord of the manor. Originally owned by Thomas Page, a local landowner and partner in the 18th century firm of printers of maps and bibles, Page & Mount, Poynters passed into the Mount Family of Wasing Place, Aldermaston following the marriage in 1781 of Jenny Page, Thomas’ daughter, to William Mount.

Francis born in London in 1872 was the seventh of ten children of William and Marianne Mount and the house was given to him, the second eldest surviving son, following his marriage in 1910 to Gladys Mary Dillwyn-Llewelyn the daughter of Sir John Talbot Dillwyn-Llewelyn of Penllergaer, Swansea, Glamorgan.

Gladys’ father’s London house was in Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington and Francis had a house in Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge. He was a Church Warden at St Matthew’s Church, Hatchford and despite his privileged background had worked for years among the lads in the slums of Bethnal Green. Francis and Gladys quickly made their mark on the village with Downside Common being drained “by the generosity of Mr F Mount who married at Eastertide and received over 400 presents” (Cobham Parish Magazine (CPM) May 1910).

Gladys soon became involved in the life of the village as would have been expected of a lady of her class. As reported in the CPM of August 1910 “Mrs Mount invited local members of the Mother’s Union to Poynters to be addressed by the secretary of the London Diocesan branch. After tea the more adventurous ladies went out on a punt on the river. The vicar who got out to pull the craft across the shallows, fell backwards into the water, thus adding considerably to the enjoyment of the ladies”. By 1914 Gladys was President of the Mother’s Union and she hosted many meetings of that group at Poynters throughout the war years..

Their world was soon to change and the Hatchford & Downside Notes in the CPM (December 1914) printed a list of names of “Those who have responded to the call of their King and Country since the beginning of the War” including “F Mount (Lieut)”. He was then aged 42 and had at first been turned down for active service on medical grounds. But he persisted and joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and by June 1915 “nearly all our Hatchford and Downside soldiers of the new army, including Captain F Mount have now gone to the front” (CPM).

In October 1915 Francis Mount was reported “missing”. Lieutenant-Colonel F W Foley, Captain Mount’s Commanding Officer, wrote to Mrs Mount “It is with the greatest regret I write to tell you that poor Frank is missing and I fear there is little hope of his being alive …

Major Bayley and your husband led the attack in the most gallant manner. Unfortunately before they reached the trench, the Germans had retaken it and brought a very severe machine gun fire to bear on them.”

Captain Mount’s body was never found and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial in France as well as the memorial in St Andrew’s Church.

But life had to go on and both Mrs Mount and Elizabeth, Francis’ eldest sister who took up residence at Poynters, played an active role in the village. Mrs Mount’s support was mainly financial, her name appearing in almost all lists of donors to good causes. Elizabeth sat on many committees relating to Downside School, the District Nurse Fund, Hatchford & Downside Bed Fund, Cobham War Relief Fund and the Coal & Clothing Club. As a member of the Soldiers & Sailors Families Association she was supportive of the wives of those serving overseas and a number of her letters to help obtain medals for widows survive in the national archives. She was also active in helping provide parcels for the troops. In the CPM May 1915, Hatchford & Downside notes it was reported that “small acts of sympathy are appreciated while more solid gifts such as water boots and other clothing sent by Miss Mount as her own personal gifts have been acknowledged in letters of most touching gratitude”, and in August 1915 “From the offerings given on Easter Day we have sent out some 35 parcels, most of them costing 2/6d each, from the Church to our soldiers and sailors at the front. Miss Mount selected the gifts and together with Miss Chubb packed and despatched them. The children of the school and our energetic work party under Miss Mount’s supervision have made and despatched about 200 sandbags for which Capt. Mount appealed from the trenches and of which our soldiers are badly in need”.

Elizabeth died in 1953 and was buried at St Matthews Church, Hatchford. Gladys died in Reading in 1968.

Able Seaman Harvey Clee Langford

Cobham Remembers

Able Seaman Harvey Clee Langford, aged 27, was one of 86 who died from a crew of 92 when HMS Shark was sunk by torpedo after being crippled by heavy gunfire. He was the adopted son of Henry, a garden labourer, and Annie Clee of the Garden Cottages, Cobham Park. (The 1911 census shows that Harvey was listed amongst the crew of HMS Swiftsure stationed in the Grand Harbour, Malta.)

The Cobham Parish Magazine of July 1916 reported “A third to die a hero’s death has been Joseph Clee, who was a gunner on the “Shark”, the destroyer whose commander and crew have won an immortality of fame for their magnificent self-sacrifice and heroic daring. We are loth to lose so splendid a lad as Joseph Clee, who also had been given rapid promotion for one so young, having been chosen for the very responsible post of helmsman, as well as gunner, but his parents may indeed be proud of his splendid record.”

The Jordan Brothers – a Cobham family

Cobham Remembers

Written by Ian Thomas.

William Jordan was born in Great Bookham on 27 April 1855 (just 50 years after the Battle of Trafalgar). Eventually he moved and worked as a general labourer at the gravel pit on Leigh Hill, Cobham. He married Emily in Cobham on 19 April 1879. Their 9 children born between 1879 and 1897 included second son James (aka Jim) born March 1887 and fourth son Edward born December 1894.

William died in November 1912. Two years later on 4 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. James was then 27, Edward was 19.

James worked as a gardener for a Cobham family. He met and later married a Hatchford girl, Lucy Emily in St Andrew’s Church, Cobham on 28 November 1914. (I would like to think that Edward was at their wedding as he was never to have the chance to be at his own). Sadly it has not yet been possible to locate much detail of his army service or his short life.

James enlisted for military service in Guildford and his Attestation Form is dated 8 December 1915 when he was 28 and then living in Anyards Road, Cobham. Probably because of his age he was listed for non-combative duty and was enrolled into the army reserve. James and Emily became parents of their only child, a daughter Jessie who was born on 30 June 1916.

James was called up on 2 August 1916 on Regiment Number T4/232199 and posted to the Reserve Horse Transport Depot (a branch of the RASC – Royal Army Service Corps) at Park Royal, London NW10. On 9 January 1917, after 5 months of presumed training, he sailed from Devonport, Plymouth on the horse transport ship H.T. Shropshire on a 3 week voyage to Salonica (now Thessoloniki, Greece). On arrival he was allocated to the British Horse Transport Division (BHTD) which was operating under the umbrella of ‘The Army of the Black Sea’ formerly known as the Salonikan Army. According to his Statement of Service, he was based in Salonica as a driver and was transferred between the various companies within this division during his tour.

On 30 September 1917 his brother Edward was killed in action whilst serving with The Royal Field Artillery during the major Passchendaele Campaign. He was just 22 years of age. His remains are buried in the Brandhoek Cemetery at Ypres (now Leper) in Belgium. His name is recorded on the memorial plaque in St Andrew’s Church along with 86 names of other Cobham men who had been fellow comrades in arms that lost their lives.

When James became aware of his brother’s death is unknown but he went on to serve through 1917 and into 1918. In fact he was still in Greece when Turkey ended their involvement in the war, 30 October, also when Germany signed the Armistice Document ending the war, 11 November 1918.

However, the record shows that he remained in service into 1919 as it is recorded that on 1 February 1919 he was ‘selected for retention’ with a bonus of 10 shillings and 6 pence (£0.53) to be paid (per week, month or annum is not clear because the handwritten entry is obscure). In July 1919 he was transferred to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). After 4 months there he was repatriated, sailing home to arrive on 28 November. This completed an overseas tour of duty of almost 2 years with no home leave.

Before returning to Cobham he spent Class Z army time at Crystal Palace and Woolwich and his actual demobilization date is given as 27 December 1919 when he was 31 years of age.

Once home he returned to his pre-war occupation and his family continued to reside in the same house in Anyards Road. His wife Lucy died in 1956 aged 65; James himself died in 1964 aged 77. Jessie Jordan married George Thomas, also from Cobham and were parents of my brother and I. Therefore James and Lucy were our grandparents and Edward our great uncle.

Our father died in 1993 aged 80 and our mother in 2007 aged 91.

My wife and I have spent our married lives here and I worked within the local community for 40 years. Our 2 daughters were born and grew up in Cobham . Our eldest and her husband both live and work in Cobham and have a young son born in 2014 who will shortly be starting school in Cobham.

In all 6 generations spanning 160+ years with roots in Cobham.


The Cobham (YMCA) Hut in Flanders

Cobham Remembers

As reported in the Cobham Parish Magazine in February 1916, the idea of a place where soldiers from the front could find some rest and relaxation originated from a letter received by Edwin Cawston from a Captain Wreford Brown as follows:

Sitting here in my tent looking out in a sea of mud and deluge of rain, thinking of my men who have been marched out five miles to a fatigue at which they will find it quite impossible to work, it strikes me that what is really wanted out here is some place adjoining each camp where the men can adjourn for a meal of sorts; in fact a YMCA hut or tent, any place in fact where they could get warm, and perhaps dry their clothes. It would be a really grand work if something of that sort could be organised.”

A man of decisive action, upon receipt of this letter Mr Cawston notified the Secretary of the YMCA that if a hut could be erected in that neighbourhood, he would guarantee to raise the funds to pay for it. Arrangements were then made to start the building, a site having been approved by the Military authorities, and a letter dated 9th January from France said: “the hut is now being built on the site chosen in the Ypres salient, on a spot surrounded by men and where the whole country is a mass of mud and water. I shall write to you later when the hut is in full running order.”

A list of subscribers towards the £600 needed included Sir Henry Samuelson of Hatchford Park (£50) and Mr T Sopwith (£20).

The hut was officially opened on 22nd February, 1916 by Brigadier General Carroll of the 17th Brigade of the 24th Division. A vivid report of the event was sent back in a letter to Mrs Cawston.

Long before the time of opening which was fixed to take place at 5.30 p.m., a long queue of men, four deep, was lined up waiting for admission, and in ten minutes after the door was opened, not a single inch of space was left unoccupied, so dense was the throng that over 100 officers, for whom seats were reserved near the platform, had to make their entrance by way of the nearest window to their seats, much to the amusement of the men, and the officers themselves. At 5.30 prompt the General briefly declared the hut open, then immediately followed a first-class concert given by Mr Harrison Hill and party who were chartered for this work by HRH Princess Victoria.”

The concert was unique in many respects; this was the first concert given by civilians so near to the actual firing line, and I assure you every item was enjoyed to the utmost extent, encore after encore being demanded by the men. Also a more than ordinary heavy artillery bombardment of the line had been in progress all day and continued through the whole entertainment; so loud was the cannonade that several of the items were rendered absolutely inaudible to more than half of the audience! In spite of all this the men greatly enjoyed the proceedings and at the close gave three hearty cheers in expression of their gratitude for the splendid prospects of “Somewhere to go” during the time they are out of the trenches and the inevitable mud.”

I have endeavoured to draw you a word picture of the great boon these places are to our brave fellows.”

Every night this hut is so densely packed that there is no room to move about and hundreds are compelled to return to their billets being unable to get in. Sundays are devoted to Services, C of E, Wesleyan, and in fact all denominations. On Sunday next I shall commence my P.S.A. Bible Classes, and every Sunday evening we have our favourite service of all, a free and easy sing-song, at which the men revel in their favourite hymns and the perfect eagerness to hear ‘The Message’ is encouraging to the utmost degree, and the words of appreciation one may hear afterwards is something to be treasured among the most sacred memories of this great work.” Victor Wm. Kane, Leader-in-charge.

Up in the salient” wrote an officer “ the life a man leads is a terrible strain, and he is apt to get run down, depressed – and this to my mind is fatal. If a man gets like that, he takes less care of himself and probably gets picked off…The money spent by you people at Cobham will bear good fruit. It will keep many a man on his legs. I can assure you, it positively saves men’s lives…This is a hard war – far harder than anyone at home can possibly realise. It is positively miraculous how anyone can possibly come safely through a real bombardment…. A hut of this sort is an absolute God-send – bringing comfort, and change, and cheer. I hope you will let the givers know how much appreciated is their generosity.”

On Boxing Day 1916 the Hut was beautifully decorated with holly, ivy and mistletoe. 700 men responded to the invitation to present themselves at the counter and draw tea, cakes and cigarettes. At 6.30 the counter was closed and a first class concert was given with the aid of the Regimental Band. “I know you will be glad to hear how the little event passed off, how crowded the hut was, and how thoroughly the men enjoyed themselves.”

At Christmas 1917 Mr. Cawston arranged that on Christmas Day those who visited the Hut received refreshments, etc., without charge. The Manager wrote expressing the men’s enthusiastic appreciation of this kindness on the part of ” their host.” And he adds “It was a great joy to be able, in some small measure, to bring a little pleasure and brightness to the brave men who visited our Hut on Christmas Day. Every man who came into the building on that day was heartily welcomed and the counter was thrown open, and each man received free gifts of tea or cocoa, biscuits, chocolate, apples, and cigarettes. Many of the men were just down from the line, and you can imagine how they appreciated this kindness. There was Service in the Hut in the morning, with a sing-song and games in the afternoon, followed by a grand ‘concert by a Divisional Concert Party in the evening. The Cobham Hut continues to be crowded day and night, and I can assure you that it never did better service than at the present time.”

Who was the benefactor behind this initiative? Born in Clapham Park, London in 1866, the son of a stockbroker, Edwin Cawston emigrated to the USA where he established the Cawston Ostrich Farm in California, the first such in the USA and the basis of his fortune. As well as producing the feathers prized amongst the fashion conscious ladies of the time the farm became a great tourist attraction featuring bare-back ostrich riding by the farm workers.

He returned to England in 1901 and the 1911 census records him as living in Leigh Court, then off Leigh Hill Road, with his third wife, Edith, and two children. A son by a previous marriage, George, then a boarder at Sandroyds School, subsequently served as a Second Lieutenant with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and then the Royal Air Force and died in 1918. During the war years Edwin is mentioned many times in the Parish Magazine as chairman of various wartime committees and donating to good causes. He died in 1920.

Source: Cobham Parish Church Magazines 1916-18

Belgian refugees in Cobham

Cobham Remembers

Official records estimate that 250,000 refugees came to the UK from Belgium during WW1, the largest single influx in the country’s history (BBC News magazine September 2014) and most were taken in to private homes.

The exodus started in August and the Cobham Parish Magazine (October 1914) reported that the secretary of the Cobham War Relief Fund Committee had just received from the Local Government Board a notice saying that further help in providing for Belgian Refugees would be welcomed by the Government. “They feel sure that there are many persons in this country who would wish to show their sympathy for the sufferings which Belgium has endured, as well as their admiration for the valour and courage of her army, and who would be willing to give temporary accommodation to some of these refugees”. Readers who were willing to help were asked to contact the Honorary Secretary L G Evans, Doonside, Cobham clearly stating “(1) the number of adults or children, or both, for whom they are ready to provide, and also (2) the period of time during which the offered hospitality may be counted upon”.

Sir Henry and Lady Samuelson provided a home at Hatchford to some eighteen Belgian refugees, most of whom were women and children with some married men who came with their wives after acting as civic guards but who were disarmed by order of the Government. It was made clear to avoid criticism that they were running away from the fight that two men who came had since gone back, one to fight in Belgium and one in France.

The Vicar wrote “It is a great pleasure to us all to have representatives of this splendidly heroic little nation here in our midst and we cannot show in a better way the gratitude we owe to Belgium for what they have done for us and for indeed the whole of Europe than by joining in this warm welcome that is being given to these representatives of the nation in our midst. Some, in their ignorance, might imagine that all able-bodied Belgians could go back and join their army, but this is not easy to arrange in a small country that is harried by the enemy from end to end, and nearly the whole country overrun with soldiers, burning, pillaging and shooting, all men and women being driven out or shot down”.

In November 1914 it was noted that Sir Henry and Lady Samuelson had, in addition to providing a home for refugees, converted the two best bedrooms and the billiard room in their house at Hatchford into a convalescent home for wounded Belgian Soldiers.

By February 1915 Colonel Trollope, a member of the committee of the Cobham War Relief Fund, was able to report “It will probably be a matter of great interest to have some record of what is being done in our midst for those of that unhappy country Belgium who have come to us as welcome guests taking refuge from the frightful and merciless persecution so many of their fellow countrymen and women have experienced at the ruthless hands of the German soldiers. The largest community is probably that located at “Fairfield” [Green Lane], which excellent house was placed at the disposal of a small committee of ladies by the family of our late neighbour, Mr H Sanderson Poole. As soon as the scheme was mooted and made known a most generous response was made both to the request for a loan of the necessary furniture and also for funds sufficient to sustain a party of 20 persons for 6 months. Everything so far has worked smoothly and the committee were very fortunate in securing the gratuitous services of a lady, Miss Prout, who resides at Fairfield and superintends the housekeeping and general arrangements.”

The party at Fairfield comprised:

Madame Van den Eynde (age 70)

Monsieur and Madame Bogaert, son-in-law and daughter.

Monsieur and Madame Van Boxel, son-in-law and daughter

Rene and Maria Van Boxel, their children.

Monsieur and Madame Leclercq (ages 69 and 67)

Monsieur and Madame Leclercq, junior

Mlle Germains (sic) Leclercq, their daughter

Madame Brigode (nee Leclercq) husband in Brussels

Helene and Horace Brigode, their children

Monsieur J Schmidt, who has a little employment in London

Madame Schmidt; Joseph, Charles and Fernand Schmidt, their children.

All these people came to Fairfield through HRH the Duchess of Vendome’s Hostel at Wimbledon, and they arrived in this country with little more than the clothes they had on. All are learning English and the children of suitable age attend the National Schools. The men of the party are seeking suitable employment and hope soon to be successful.”

According to a Rates List of 1915 flats were made available for use of refugees over what is now part of Farrants (see accompanying Post Card image) and on the other side of the Cobham High Street above what is now Savilles.

Knowle Hill: From peace to war

Cobham Remembers

Written by Stephen Spark. Article first published in the Cobham Conservation & Heritage Trust magazine – August 2017

In November 1910 Knowle Hill House became Britain’s first permanent home of recovery. The hired motor ambulance carried post-operative patients several times a week from metropolitan hospitals to recuperate in the fresh air of Cobham. For those who had never ventured outside the capital’s sooty streets, the tranquillity of Knowle Hill’s sweeping parkland must have seemed like Elysium.

Recognising that good nutrition plays a crucial role in convalescence, the farm and kitchen garden were developed to supply fresh milk, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Each ward had its own kitchen, so meals went straight to the patient’s bedside and were tailored to individual dietary requirements – quite a contrast to the modern hospital experience.

One sister, five staff nurses and six probationers looked after around 60 patients under the supervision of secretary-superintendent Lt Col John Willoughby Wray. For £50 a year the Rector of St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, the Rev Blackburne, provided spiritual sustenance. Margaret Traill was appointed the Home’s first matron, but proved unsatisfactory, being replaced in 1911 by Miss Sandifer.

The matron problem – which persisted for decades – is a clue that even Col Wray found it hard to keep the Home on track. Without regular injections of cash from its deep-pocketed benefactor, Sir Ernest Schiff, it is doubtful the institution could have survived for long.

Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 4 August 1914 gave the Home a role its founders could never have foreseen: the post-operative care of wounded soldiers. The War Office gratefully accepted Sir Ernest’s prompt offer of 20 beds for military use, and on 19 September the Home became the first outside London to accept military convalescents. Between this date and 1 April 1920, when the last batch departed, some 2,000 British and Belgian servicemen passed through Knowle Hill.

Local people were keen to help, bringing gifts of illustrated papers, cigarettes, tobacco, boots and games, but eventually the constant round of visits proved counter-productive. In 1915, the managing committee ruled:

that no entertainments, except amongst the staff and the patients themselves, be allowed without the previous consent of the Committee, and that the matron be reminded that the regulations of the War Office discountenanced the promiscuous visiting of the patients by the general public.”

The following year it became necessary to add a new injunction:

As the grounds are exceptionally large and commodious, the patients are not to be allowed to go for drives or to entertainments, public or private.”

An exception was made for Rev Blackburne, who was allowed to entertain two soldiers to tea, accompanied by a nurse, every Friday. In 1917, the vicar went off to act as a chaplain to the Forces, and was replaced by Rev G D Brookes of Fairmile.

Even at Knowle Hill the soldiers could not entirely escape the conflict. Local historian T E Conway Walker recalled hearing the guns in France from Blundell Hill (the top of Polyapes), and armoured cars destined for the battlefields were tested in Water Lane. By 1915, the committee was debating whether to insure against damage from the air, and even Schiff’s philanthropy and his knighthood in 1911 could not entirely shield him from anti-Germanic prejudice. He died on 5 November 1918 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery six days later – which, perhaps appropriately, was Armistice Day

Two years earlier, “a kindly but rather frightening bearded man”, 6ft 5in tall, visited the Home and was so impressed by what he saw that he bequeathed the Schiff his own house, Stilemans, near Compton, for use as an annexe.

This was Ernest Penrose Arnold, headmaster of Wixenford School near Wokingham, a feeder for Eton. Ernest was related to both Thomas Arnold of Rugby School and the poet Matthew Arnold, who had lived at Pain’s Hill Cottage, Cobham. Another Compton resident was the artist G F Watts, who just happened to be married to Mary, sister of Etheldred Fraser-Tytler, who had conceived the home of recovery concept back in 1904. It is not hard to see how Arnold came to be involved with the Schiff Home.

Arnold died in 1917, but for legal and practical reasons Stilemans could not be used as a home, so the property was sold. The £9,000 raised was used to build a new wing at Knowle Hill, designed, in a style sympathetic to John Earley Cook’s old house, by Robert Thomson of Wimbledon. The 40 beds in the Clara Arnold and Penrose Arnold wards received their first patients in February 1919.

One man’s recollections – A lane long ago

Cobham Remembers

Submitted by Marilyn Eyles. Original text by T E Conway Walker.

When ‘Baa Black Sheep’ was my favourite nursery rhyme the only black sheep I knew were the flock in front of the Stoke D’Abernon manor house and I was a little boy who lived down the lane. Above the lane was a view of Ranmore Church and the old grandstand at Epsom, and it was Epsom Rural Council that looked after our roads. Only a muddy track led to Oxshott, so soft that armoured cars were tested there before being sent to Russia to confront the Germans in the 1914 – 1918 war.

We used Cobham Station in the winter, and daily I was carried even further on the carrier of my mother’s bicycle to Nursery School at what was the Old Rectory on the Glebe at Stoke. The solicitor to the London and South Western Railway lived there, and his only unmarried daughter taught us. Billy Bristowe who wrote the King Penguin book on Spiders, lived next door, opposite the Polo Ground, still a sports field.

Our first house was a little box, built for the bailiff of Knowle Hill Park, the seat of Mr. Hay. He had advertised in a newspaper for a country place ‘Fancy Price Paid’. We were allowed to wander around his woods at the end of our garden, and this continued when the mansion became the Schiff Home. I remember the Surrey Foxhounds meeting there, and later the ‘Three Cheers for Mr. Schiff’ when the hospital opened. This was as soon as patients could be comfortably brought from London by motor ambulance, and only a few years after Harrods motorvan regularly visited Water Lane.

Colonel Wray, the first superintendant, used to invite us to the Christmas entertainment, and, dressed in a black suit, used to ride round the lanes on a nag he had first noticed drawing a coal cart in Cardiff. The Colonel’s funeral procession was headed by the Cobham Brass Band.

Opposite the entrance lodge of the Home lived Dr. Kitching, handy for us before telephones were common. When I was laid on the nursery table and nearly suffocated with chloroform, Kitching was assisted by Dr. Blackwell (of the Crosse and Blackwell family) from Oxshott to hold my yelling body down. Fortunately my physical injuries were few and slight, such as grazing my knee when I fell on the road, running to meet the postman on his Sunday morning delivery.

Our Rubbish was taken to the Schiff Home dump and later to a brickfield on the site of Pony Chase there I saw the lumps of clay being moulded one by one and smelled the burning of the bricks.

Water Lane was a sort of cul-de-sac before the road was made up to Oxshott, and was once closed altogether when a bomb made a crater in the middle of the road. The deep hole was soon attended to, but I remember a smart private car being stuck in the soft infill having ignored a warning sign.

BALLOON Not all that comes from above was perilous, I remember afternoon tea being carried to Balloonists who had descended on Little Heath. This was before World War 1 when we could walk up to Polyapes, now the Scouts camp, to hear the guns in France.

The railway was electrified in 1925 and up to then I could lie in bed and listen to the trains, rumbling over the Mole to Effingham, over the bridge I had walked with the beagles. A Horsebus ran from the White Lion in Street Cobham to the Station. <scribbled out> of course Cobham Station itself is in Stoke Parish and the long straight road to Cobham Village was laid out at the time of the enclosures in the late 18th century). I usually walked to the shops over orchards and fields to the Tilt and back to the village by another path, now a series of (miserable) squeezes past back gardens. We had to tread out a path anew after each ploughing and after that I remember the broadcast sewing of the corn

(now a lost art). My destination in the village was Mrs Harris’s Newsagents shop, now Forbes where I have dealt for 80 years. My weekly penny could buy a satisfactory toy. We might call at the Mill for flour or chicken corn and the rumbling and shaking of the interior was quite an experience.

So narrow was the road here that the Canadian troops at Oxshott in World War 2 had to be banned from driving (their lorries) past the building to wash their lorries in the Mole. All that remains now is the little extension built between 1809 – 1820. It was at River Hill that I last saw the last Water cart in operation. The tarring of the roads has made watering a needless operation.

When we came to Cobham in 1907 the Vicar, Canon Grove who rode a horse around the parish and was wont to travel to (holiday in) Wisley (?) with luggage on the pillion and his wife following on a bicycle.

I (seem to) have nearly forgotten the Ambulance train of World War 1, crawling through Cobham station with patients sitting below, those on stretchers above. The train would have caused congestion on the main line and I wonder how long it would take even to reach Oxshott.

But Oxshott is another story.

Gunner Frederick James Cornell

Cobham Remembers.

Photographs and information reproduced courtesy of Peter F. Cornell, author of Cobham from Old Photographs (Amberley, 2013).

Frederick James Cornell, watchmaker and jeweller with a shop in Church Street, Cobham, joined the army in the First World War. Medically examined at Guildford late 1915 and sent to Bisley Camp, Brookwood, early in 1916, he was enrolled in the Machine-Gun Corps where he was trained with machine guns. He was sent to a secret camp at Elveden for training in what turned out to be the first batch of tanks. In September 1916 he was posted to France but was wounded in the head and right eye by enemy shellfire in action near Messines in June 1917. He spent two and a half months in hospitals in France and returned to his unit until he was demobilised in 1919. Machine-Gun Corps, Motors, changed its name to 1st Battalion, Tank Corps, in Juy 1917. After the war, Cornell returned to civilian life in his shop in Church Street. He was secretary of the Downside and Cobham Rifle Club before and after the war.

All Change for Waterloo – Living with the Railway in Cobham

Contributed by Cobham Remembers

All Change for Waterloo

By Stephen Spark

Can you help? The author of this article grew up beside the railway in Stoke and has been researching its history for over 40 years. Official records are incomplete, however, and pre-1970s photographs of Cobham station are scarce. There seem to be no views of the goods yard or of Station Road beyond the Plough before the 1950s. If you have any memories or scraps of information about the railway, or any pictures of trains, stations, staff or structures, the author would love to hear from you. Thank you. You can contact Stephen Spark at [email protected]

Imagine a July afternoon in 1916. After enjoying some welcome refreshment in the Plough at Stoke D’Abernon, you walk past the forge and a few cottages and see before you the long, low outline of the railway station. It still looks a little brash, its red brick only just beginning to mellow after three decades of weathering. On either side of Station Road lies placid farmland, with a footpath branching off through orchards towards the Tilt. Beyond the coal and corn merchants’ huts in the dusty goods yard, meadows stretch down to the river, and if you cross the line by the covered footbridge and walk through the wicket gate on the down platform you will reach the grounds of Stoke Manor.

The train service is irregular, so for much of the day the up platform is a peaceful spot where summer birdsong is disturbed only by the ting-ting of the signalman’s bell code that warns of a train entering his section of line, the clatter of levers being pulled and the lazy clunk of a descending signal arm. So intense is the background silence that from his home in Water Lane the young Conway Walker (who later will take on the role of local historian) can hear the steam trains start off from Effingham Junction and after some minutes rumble over Downside Railway Bridge.

In the booking office, the clerk attends courteously to the trickle of passengers heading towards town. This is still a country branch line and Stoke D’Abernon a rural hamlet, so apart from a handful of season ticket-holders who have business in the City, most journeys by train are local or occasional, leaving the ticket clerk plenty of time to fill out the sheaves of paperwork that are as essential to the running of the early 20th-century railway as coal and steel rails.

The real business gets done in the goods yard, for everything bulky, heavy or travelling any distance arrives or departs by rail. From coal for the gasworks to hops for Cobham Brewery, from horses for Cobham Stud to ‘fancy goods’ for local shops, it all has to be transferred from rail to road in the goods shed, at the coal pens or the carriage dock (a special platform for unloading wheeled vehicles and animals). After the goods train has made its morning delivery of wagons, the yard is animated with railway staff and traders loading and unloading, checking and form-filling, as a succession of horse carts, steam lorries and motor trucks come to deliver and collect.

In the back office, beyond the wooden racks filled with card tickets of different colours, you might catch sight of James Alfred Jerome writing a letter to one of the railway’s customers. He is the station master, but the London & South Western Railway (LSWR) prefers the title ‘agent’. He is the company’s local manager, who oversees the whole operation of its Cobham outpost. Jerome is expected to drum up new business, maintain cordial relations with customers, attend to complaints, manage his staff, ensure that safety rules are obeyed and check that accounts are kept correctly. Last year a clerk, Mr Blanchard, had to resign after £2 18s.7d. went missing; the amount has been deducted from his pension fund.

Five years ago the census recorded James Jerome’s son, Horace, then 21, as employed by the LSWR, as a clerk. Horace was living with his parents at Station House, but may not necessarily have been working at Cobham station. No fewer than four railway clerks were living and presumably working locally. Henry Drake, 34, William Martin, 40, and William Wicks, 38, were all staying in Station Road, but shortage of staff accommodation close to the station meant that Devonshire man Reginald Toze, 25, was lodging in the Tilt. Curiously, no one was listed as a signalman or porter, though at least one must have been living nearby.

Jerome is 60 years old (20 years later his widow was still in the area, living at Old Cottages on the Tilt), and as the year progresses it becomes obvious that there are fewer men in LSWR uniform than before the war. As the younger railway workers ‘join the colours’ only the older men are left. The staffing crisis is so acute that the railway has been recruiting women to clean the carriages, which is such a novelty that they are photographed for the national newspapers.

In total, 27% of the LSWR’s employees join up, of whom 585 never return alive. One casualty is former Cobham station porter F. Fellows, killed in the closing months of the conflict while serving with the 4th East Surrey Regiment. Oxshott porter E. Cathrine is more fortunate, as he only joined in 1918 and soon is back among the pinewoods and heather.

It is not long before the new recruits taste the brutality of the Great War. On 1 July the hellish carnage of the Somme begins, and for the next four months the only sounds the former railwaymen hear are the zip of bullets, the chatter of machine-guns, cries of men and animals, the earth-shaking thunder of mines and mortars, and the whistle and crump of ‘whizz bangs’ (light artillery shells). It may be 200 miles away, but at times the bombardment is so intense that it can be heard and felt in Cobham.

All Britain’s railway companies play a vital role in the war, but the LSWR more than most, as it serves the Channel ports of Southampton and Portsmouth as well as military camps in Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire. From 1914 to 1918, it carries over 20 million men and runs 58,859 special trains for the troops, some of which pass along the Cobham line. Around 1.5 million horses are transported, including many to (appropriately enough) Horsley, where they are assessed for their fitness for duty on the Western Front. The Army has commandeered William Elijah Benton’s Littleheath Brickworks next to Cook’s Crossing as an ammunition dump. As hostilities come to an end, unused (live!) shells are stored in open zinc boxes in corrugated iron sheds before being taken away by road to be dismantled in Banbury. Making up for the loss of brick traffic, Oxshott goods yard is kept busy throughout 1917 loading timber from Oxshott Heath and Esher Common felled by lumberjacks of 114 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps.

And then there is the sad sight of the ambulance train, “crawling through Cobham station with patients sitting below those on stretchers above”, as Conway Walker was to recall decades later. Many of the night-time ambulance trains are heading for Clandon Park, which Lord Onslow offered to the government as a military hospital as soon as war broke out. Other soldiers come by train to Cobham to recuperate at the Schiff Home of Recovery. More happily, soldiers on leave and Londoners escaping the crowds are among those alighting at the station, which has become a popular destination for picnickers and ramblers. The ‘must-see’ is Stoke D’Abernon’s historic St Mary’s Church, with its famous brasses, and the local countryside, threaded by pretty lanes and footpaths, attracts the guidebook-writers’ praise too.

Amongst all the disruption of war, the LSWR is struggling to keep two huge projects on track: the rebuilding of Waterloo station and electrification. For years, the company’s London terminus has been a byword for confusion, inefficiency and shabbiness, so in 1906 the board agreed to begin the massive task of reconstruction while keeping the trains running, of course. That is a hard enough task at the best of times, but now, in 1916, both men and materials are scarce and costs have escalated, so the rebuilding has taken on Herculean dimensions. To the great relief of passengers and staff alike the bulk of the work has been done now, but it will be another six years before Queen Mary can formally open the new station.

No one travelling from Cobham can fail to spot that all the way to the terminus the railway is in a state of upheaval. The most visible work is the long brick viaduct taking shape near Surbiton, with a great steel bowstring span taking the down Hampton Court line across the main lines, right next to the junction for the Cobham line. And in Wimbledon a tall chimney rises like the spire of an industrial cathedral over a new power station.

This is the LSWR’s answer to the menace on its doorstep. Electric trams have spread as far as Kingston and Surbiton and are seducing a million passengers a year away from the railway. Underground lines are eager to eat into the LSWR’s territory too. The company is fighting back by electrifying its lines on the third rail system. This is cutting-edge technology based on American practice that is cheaper and quicker to install than overhead wiring, though critics say it is vulnerable to ice and snow. The stylishly bullet-fronted trains, nicknamed ‘nutcrackers’, are rather a cheat, though, as they are simply old steam-hauled carriages given a new front end and electric motors. Nevertheless, they are proving faster and more reliable than the steam trains they replaced.

The company originally planned to introduce electric trains all the way to Guildford via Cobham, but money and materials must be saved somehow – and besides, no one is likely to build a tramline or Tube to Oxshott and Stoke D’Abernon. So, on 20 November 1916, just two days after the Battle of the Somme ends, two electric trains an hour start running from Waterloo to Claygate in 29 minutes. Passengers for Cobham and beyond must change into a train of elderly carriages pulled or pushed by a steam engine. The hourly service is not ideal, but for the first time Cobham passengers are getting a regular-interval train service. The 21 trains a day each way represents a big improvement on 1909’s weekday service of just 12 trains.

Amid the rapid changes, some things remain the same. The railway still issues permits to landowners and their staff to walk along the line between the station and Downside Bridge – useful when the meadows are flooded. Those who have been given the privilege recently include Major Richard Mortlock and W. Allison of Cobham Stud, and Arthur Lazarus, of Broom Hall, Oxshott.

Petty crime is a constant, too, and even in wartime some travellers still try their luck. A favourite trick is to use a cheap-rate workmen’s ticket between Waterloo and Surbiton and then buy a Cobham-Oxshott single for the return journey. Mr Jerome points to a report in the August 1916 number of the LSWR’s staff publication, the South Western Magazine, concerning three men who were caught in a sting operation: “Mr Wrightson, the booking clerk at Cobham, became curious and suspicious, and had them watched.” Tower Bridge magistrates found the culprits guilty, fining two of them 20 shillings (£1) each, but imposing on John Every, “who was then in the uniform of the Royal Flying Corps” and had pleaded not guilty, a 30s. fine with 42s. costs.

The fitting of a telephone in the booking office has proved a wonderful boon, but passengers keep asking to use it too, so a separate telephone cabinet has been provided in the booking hall. The queues to use it continue to grow, however, so the device has to be moved outside. In the 1920s the General Post Office puts up one of its charmingly ornate wooden K1 boxes for those essential “I’m at the station, can you pick me up?” calls.

When the war ends, neither the railway nor the villages revert to the old order. The telephone removes the need for numerous postal collections and deliveries every day. War surplus motor trucks and an abundance of ex-servicemen able to drive them lay the foundations for a road haulage industry able to undercut the railway’s goods services for everything except heavy bulk goods such as coal. In 1923, the LSWR merges with other companies to form the Southern Railway, which immediately sets about completing the electrification to Guildford via Cobham. The green electric trains running to town every 20 minutes make commuting easy. Following them down the line are the speculative developers who buy up the estates of the old foxhunting squires and build tasteful avenues of mock-Tudor and pebble-dash homes in their place.

At some indeterminate point, Cobham and Stoke D’Abernon cease to be self-sufficient country villages and become enmeshed in the great suburban web of the metropolis.

Truly, the war has changed everything.

Can you help? The author of this article grew up beside the railway in Stoke and has been researching its history for over 40 years. Official records are incomplete, however, and pre-1970s photographs of Cobham station are scarce. There seem to be no views of the goods yard or of Station Road beyond the Plough before the 1950s. If you have any memories or scraps of information about the railway, or any pictures of trains, stations, staff or structures, the author would love to hear from you. Thank you. You can contact Stephen Spark at [email protected]