© Wonersh History Society - www.wonershhistory.co.uk   (WHS)
REMINISCENCES OF AN OLD HOUSE, ASHLANDS From the Wonersh Women’s Institute scrapbook of 1949 “I   think   my   position   has   enabled   me   to   observe   most   of   the   many   changes   that have taken place in Wonersh in the last 120 years. I    was    built    about    1827,    a    small    brick    house    standing    alone    in    a    field    a    few hundred   yards   from   the   centre   of   the   village.      My   windows   one   way   looked   across the   common   and   the   pond   to   a   peep   of   the   Dower   House,   shaded   by   its   tall horse    chestnut    trees.        Across    the    fields    towards    the    village    I    could    see    the Grantley    Arms    and    Grantley    Cottages    and    the    village    shop    and    the    little    old weaver’s cottage opposite the old inn. I   was   myself   a   beer   shop,   I   have   been   told   they   drank   their   beer   under   the   big   old tree   in   the   front,   of   which   only   an   ancient   stump   remains.      There   was   a   well   by the   door   and   inside   at   the   back   of   the   house   was   a   small   cellar   just   sufficiently sunk   below   the   ground   for   the   beer   barrels   to   be   kept   cool;   there   is   just   such   a cellar   at   the   Grantley   Arms.      At   the   side   of   the   house   was   a   small   stable,   coach house and a harness room with a little cobbled yard in front. The   first   change   came   in   1850   when   I   was   bought   by   Mr.   Virgo,    the   nursery   gardener   who   added   to   me   two   large   rooms   and   a   pleasing staircase   and   surrounded   me   with   a   verandah.      He   also   planted   many   fruit   trees,   some   of   which   are   bearing   fruit   to   this   day   and   he   built   a greenhouse which contained a number of choice plants even including orchids. The   change   in   my   surroundings   began   in   1872   when   an   influx   of   workers   to   the   Tannery   at   Gosden   induced   the   owner,   Mr.   Edwin   Ellis    of Summersbury   in   Shalford,   to   build   Lawnsmead   Buildings.      Doubtless   the   large   windows   seemed   an   improvement   on   the   300   years   old cottages   of   our   village   but   it   was   a   sad   change   for   me   to   look   out   on   such   a   block   of   houses.      Luckily   Mr.   Virgo   had   surrounded   me   with   a thick holly hedge so I preserved my privacy. In   1880   the   Congregational   Church   was   built   between   me   and   the   collection   of   farm   cottages   and   the   old   barn   near   Little   Tangley.      And   now my   solitude   steadily   disappeared.      The   go-ahead   manager   of   the   village   shop,   Mr.   Wheeler,    was   looked   upon   with   suspicion   for   his modernising   tendencies   and   was   given   six   months’   notice.      What   a   surprise   when   it   was   found   that   on   the   expiry   of   that   time   he   had   bought Fern   Cottage   with   its   large   garden   on   which   he   proceeded   to   build   the   shop   which   is   now   Forrest   Stores.      He   also   built   the   present   row   of houses adjoining, finishing them in about 1906. About   this   time   the   village   pond   vanished   with   the   coming   of   main   drainage,   its   only   trace   being   a   damp   clayey   patch   where   quoits   were played until recently. In   1890   the   population   had   increased   so   much   that   Lawnsmead   School   was   built   just   opposite   me.      Then   came   the   First   World   War   and   for four   years   an   end   to   building.      When   that   war   was   over,   I   was   finally   surrounded.      First   came   the   Memorial   Hall   in   1924   hard   against   my garden   hedge   and   finally   the   row   of   villas   between   me   and   the   Chapel   which   were   completed   in   1928.      The   latest   buildings   in   Wonersh,   New Road, can be seen in winter from my gate, but the screen of alders preserves, in that direction, a little illusion of my solitude.”