© Wonersh History Society - www.wonershhistory.co.uk   (WHS)
LAWNSMEAD The   twenty-three   houses   and   a   reading   room   were   built in     1872     for     Edwin     Ellis      who     owned     Summersbury Tannery    (sometimes    called    Gosden    Tannery)    between Wonersh    and    Bramley    (which    is    why    there    is    a    rather large   letter   ‘E’   on   the   Reading   Room).      They   were   designed by Henry Peak and built by John Mitchell of Godalming. Ellis   was   a   powerful   man   who   had   started   work   at   the tannery   when   he   was   fifteen   becoming   sole   proprietor   by the   age   of   thirty.      The   firm   was   well   known   for   producing sole   leather   and   it   was   said   the   British   Army   marched   on Shalford   leather.      During   WW1   the   British   Army   took   the firm’s   whole   output   and   the   skilled   tannery   workers   were exempted from military service. The   houses   were   built   primarily   for   the   tannery   workers   at   a   cost   of   £3404.      This   was   for   all   twenty-three   houses.      Ellis’s   own   house, Summersbury   House   in   Shalford,   was   also   designed   by   Henry   Peak   and   cost   £6500 to   build.      By   the   time   of   the   1891   census,   132   people   were   recorded   as   living   in Lawnsmead   with   occupations   including   gunpowder   maker,   stone   mason,   tanner, tanner’s   labourer,   silk   weaver,   agricultural   labourer,   printer,   bricklayer,   plasterer, game keeper, painter and railway signalman. ALL MOD CONS Not   really,   the   facilities   in   the   houses   were   rather   basic   -   no   running   water,   no toilets.      There   was   one   stand   pipe   for   water   and   night   soil   was   lodged   in   small recesses    for    collection.        Despite    this    the    houses    were    considered    to    be    very desirable   and   were   soon   occupied.      A   case   of   diphtheria   at   No.   7   Lawnsmead   in 1913   was   instrumental   in   the   connection   of   the   houses   to   the   sewers   and   to   a better    water    supply.        Today    the    houses    are    still    desirable    and    do    now    have considerably improved facilities. A   Lawnsmead   resident,   Minnie   Ireland    (nee   Gray)   remembered   when   much   indignation   was   aroused   when   Mrs   Cook    of   Barnett   Hill suggested   that   a   row   of   trees   might   be   planted   on   the   common   at   the   front   of   the   Lawnsmead   gardens,   to   screen   them   from   the   road   and from   the   sight   of   the   passers-by.      Mrs   Ireland’s   mother,   Mary   Gray,    was   specially   indignant   at   this   and   led   the   attack   at   a   parish   meeting.     Reverend   Algernon   Brown   was   sympathetic   to   the   claim   that   ‘no-one   had   the   right   to   cut   off   God’s   sunlight   from   the   cottages’   and   the matter was dropped (and presumably picked up again at a later date judging by the trees there now). The   tannery   closed   around   1933,   became   an   ice   cream   factory   until   1939,   then   a   uniform   factory   during   WW2   and   later   a   light   engineering factory.
West Surrey Times 23 March 1872
Maidstone Journal & Kentish Advertiser 4 December 1871