Shere, Gomshall and Peaslake Local History Society


Feb 06 The Reigate Hoard

Nov 05 In Living Memory

Oct 05 Shere School

Sep 05 The bells of St James'

Jul 05 Dr Isaac Rising Cory

Jun 05 Eltham Palace

May 05 Dating old houses using tree rings

Apr 05 The Cokelers Society of Dependants

Mar 05 AGM and Beekeeping

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Shere, Gomshall and Peaslake Local History Society

Meeting Reports for 2005-2006

Who could resist the chance of finding treasure? Well Roger Mintey did just that on 22 September 1990 on an ancient trackway halfway up Reigate Hill. His find of over 6,000 gold and silver coins became known as 'The Reigate Hoard' and was the largest post 1350 cache ever recorded in the UK.
Before showing us the actual finds, we saw bronze ingots from Bletchingley, Celtic coins, lead tokens, groats, nobles & Roman silver denarii with clear markings which assist in dating. Coins were not dated before 1540 but had mint marks such as pinecones, amulets or rosettes. Roger has formed the East Surrey Research and Recovery Group and is keen to promote high standards in metal detecting by informing others of historical finds. The landowner's permission must be sought before work can start and any finds reported to a Finds Liaison Officer within 14 days. Roger's haul resulted in the police, the Surrey FLO and the Coroner all playing a part in the meticulous recording of the find. The two jugs in which the hoard was found were made in the Reigate area and experts believe they belonged to a wealthy merchant travelling from London. The face value of the coins at the time was around £120, whereas today they would be worth around £500,000. The British Museum took 301 coins, Guildford Museum has 1 coin, Roger has 27 and the rest were sold in 1992.
Roger and his group would welcome invitations to search land - they have an excellent track record and impeccable references. If anything were found they would record carefully, photograph finds and guide the owner as to how to proceed further. He is well aware that unscrupulous detectors have given the activity a poor reputation - something he strives hard to dispel.
We meet next on Tuesday 14 March at 8pm in Shere Village Hall for the brief AGM followed by an illustrated lecture on the restoration of 18th century Painshill Park at Cobham. Do join us then.
Barbara Karlsson


The mass and individual tragedies of the two World Wars were underlined by the talk 'In Living Memory' given by Sandy Maxwell-Eve at Shere Village Hall on the evening of Tuesday 8th November 2005.
Research into war-time Peaslake, originally undertaken for the book 'Peaslake: Story of a Surrey Village', has been subsequently expanded by details gathered from documents such as census returns, church records (baptisms, marriages, deaths) and school registers, to construct a picture of the lives of those Peaslake men (boys, some of them) whose names appear on the 1914-18, 1939-45 village war memorial. The plaque inside St. Mark's Church additionally indicates their regiments, and so a painstaking trawl amongst the one million seven hundred thousand names on the War Graves' Commission website was able to provide further information. These records have been enhanced by some photographs kindly provided by relatives, and now the whole archive has been collected in a volume which can be consulted in the church.
The 1911 census records 352 inhabitants for Peaslake: 17 men were killed in the Great War (four of them on the Somme), one-sixth of the adult male population, including two pairs of brothers and two pairs of cousins. Hitler's War also killed two Peaslake brothers, and one family suffered losses in both World Wars.
Sandy also mentioned the work of the War Graves' Commission, which overcame many difficulties and dilemmas in its early days, and which now cares for military cemeteries across the world.
Mr Ted Emmings (at this Remembrance-tide) gave a poignant vote of thanks.


For their October meeting Shere, Gomshall & Peaslake Local History Society were taken back to school - by Barbara Colmer, who taught at Shere School for 29 years and told us about its history. The first mention of schooling in the parish was in 1746 when the income from an endowment was directed to educational use. This small scale of provision, contributed to by pupils, continued for 100 years until the first purpose built school was erected in Gomshall Lane in 1842, through the efforts of local gentry and supported by public subscription. In 1845 it accommodated 86 boys and 66 girls.
From this confident beginning the numbers at Shere School have ebbed and flowed and its official name has changed many times. Severe health problems occurred at the end of the 19th century; the school was closed for a week for scarlet fever, there were outbreaks of diphtheria, measles, jaundice and TB. How times have changed!
Until 1949, the majority of pupils completed their education there, leaving at 14, or earlier if they attained the right standard; from1949 and the introduction of the 11+ exam, pupils moved on to secondary education outside the village. In 1974 came the most radical - and difficult - change. From an infant and primary school (5 -11) to an infant school only (5 -7). Mrs Colmer told of the highlights of the school year; Christmas, Easter, the Summer Fair and the Sports Day; there was swimming in the cold Shere pool, there were outings, there was music and dancing. She also mentioned some of the changes during her time there; in 1962, the majority of the children walked to school.
We were left with the impression of a happy, purposeful school, with a long record of serving the community. The vote of thanks was given by David Hicks, a former pupil.
Ann Noyes

The sound of the bells of St. James' are a familiar and reassuring part of village life. Eric Thornton's meticulous research through parish records, Parish Magazines and church records, explained in great detail their history. We have 8 bells - one octave, in the key of E flat. The heaviest bell, the tenor, weighs just over 15 ½ cwts. and the smallest, the treble, 5 ¼ cwts. In 1895 6 bells were overhauled and 2 newly cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, established in 1570, the oldest continuous private manufacturing company in the world, most famous for Big Ben and the Liberty Bell.
The spire has been dated to 'after 1213' because secret notched lapjoints were used, but first mention of a bell is in 1513 in the Book of Reckonings (1500-1612). Eric described the construction, theory and practice of ringing. We heard how ringers (c.1712) would be strong young men. With no piped water, beer was the usual drink and tales of conflict between overimbibed ringers and rectors abound, but not in Shere of course!
Eric explained 'A Peal'. This consists of all the possible changes set to the method decided. A peal of grandsire triples will be 5,040 changes and will take 3 hours. This brief report cannot do justice to the fascinating and entertaining talk that members enjoyed - we look forward to the book!
Thank you Eric and all the Shere bellringers for continuing to ring the changes!
Barbara Karlsson


On July 12th Mark Cory gave the History Society an illustrated talk about his uncle, famous Shere resident Dr. Isaac Rising Cory, who combined his work as the village doctor with being a church warden, the choir master, the scout master, a benefactor and a designer of local landmarks.
Dr. Cory was born in Kensington in 1860, one of 13 children. Meals in the Cory household were taken in total silence but only after their father had a satisfactory answer from his wife to the daily question “Has anybody died today, dear?....No? Then we will eat.” At the age of 4 Isaac Cory caught diphtheria which left him with a permanently ulcerated throat. Whooping cough, measles, scarlet fever and chicken pox followed in the next two years.
At the age of 18 he developed further throat problems which prevented him training to be a surgeon so instead he opted for general practice. Some years later he was kicked in the throat while playing football. He caught the train to visit a London hospital but on the journey realised his throat was closing up. He then got out his penknife with a view to performing self-tracheotomy but hesitated fearing his fellow passengers would think he was going to cut his own throat. Fortunately at that moment his breathing returned to normal and he continued the journey to London.
Our speaker then talked warmly of his own childhood holidays in the 1930s spent with Dr. Cory during his retirement in Devonshire. The beach was visited every day, often with the clinker dingy which Dr. Cory built himself and which was housed in a special barn built with some of the £350 retirement present donated by the people of Shere. This was a very large sum of money in those days and further evidence of his popularity was the motor car given to him by Shere residents to carry out his work. This was the first car in Shere.
Dr. Cory lived at Pilgrims Garth in Upper Street where he put on pageants and winter story readings. In 1898 he designed the Open Air Swimming Pool. He also designed the War Memorial by the church and the Village Hall, the turret of which cost one third of the whole amount. There was also a foldaway stage. In the church he designed the stained glass window commemorating the war fallen and carved the now vanished wooden screen.
Dr. Cory took the choir on many trips and put on musical productions and festivals. He took the scouts to camp at Goring (a two-day walk) and jamborees at the Alexandra Palace, Wembley and Denbies. Dr. Cory did not marry and had no children but his legacies and memory will live on in Shere for many years to come, a remarkable man.
Alex Dod


Shere, Gomshall & Peaslake Local History Society enjoyed their annual outing on June 8th - a rare, warm, summer’s day.
In the morning we visited Eltham Palace in south east London and found it full of interest and surprises. It was a well-used royal palace in medieval times, large enough to accommodate the whole court and its entourage. The great hall, with its magnificent hammer-beqm roof, was built for Edward IV in the 1470s and still survives. Elizabeth I was the last monarch to visit the palace and in the seventeenth century it fell into ruin. What remains now are parts of the moat, a stone bridge across it and sections of wall, all on this high point looking down to the Thames.
The big surprise is the Courtauld house, built in the 1930s and incorporating the great hall. The building itself was not universally welcomed, in a letter to The Times it was compared to ‘an admirably designed but unfortunately sited cigarette factory’. Inside it is a different matter, an example of 1930s taste and décor lovingly recreated by English Heritage. Stephen Courtauld and his wife Ginie planned and furnished the house with work by the leading artists and designers of the day and incorporated the latest technology, central heating, centralized vacuum cleaning, internal telephones and a loud speaker system which could broadcast records throughout the ground floor. The en suite bathrooms were an example of spectacular luxury and inventive design.

After lunch and time to explore the gardens we went on to see Down House, the home of Charles Darwin and his family in the mid nineteenth century. This house and garden was also full of interest, in a very different style. It is presented as a comfortable family home, where the many children were allowed to slide down the stairs on a board and could question and share in their father’s experiments.
Darwin’s small study is shown as it is thought to have been and upstairs there is a comprehensive display explaining his theories and how they were received. It was a thrill to go a short distance along the ‘Sand Walk’, where Darwin walked every day developing his ideas.
Ann Noyes


Some 40 members and friends gathered at Shere Village Hall on the evening of May 10 to enjoy Rod Wild's talk on Dating Old Houses around Shere Using Tree-rings. Rod explained that by using a hollow drill to extract pencil-size cores of wood from likely places in timber frames and then sanding down the cores, the tree-rings can be revealed. Under a microscope, the widths of those rings can be measured accurately to establish the tree's lifespan and ultimately the year in which it was felled.
This science is called dendrochronology and a programme is under way to examine the timber-framed buildings of Surrey. The latest ones put to the test, the 'East Guildford Cluster', have encompassed the Horsleys and Clandons, Shere, Gomshall and Albury, involving about 20 buildings, and the project is now proceeding with a 'Godalming and Greensands' cluster.
Generally, Shere houses have been found to offer a dearth of timbers for dating with this technique but a number of good results have nevertheless been obtained. Ash and Willow Cottages dated to 1494 and Rookery Nook to 1485; they were originally structures of the Wealden type which spread from Kent and Sussex to Hampshire and enjoyed a late flowering in Shere, both houses being probably by the same builder. The front of Rookery Nook proved to have a rare feature, a particularly narrow doorway (now filled in) characteristic of medieval shops.
At Edmunds Farm in Gomshall, the house dated to 1473 and one of the barns to 1471, though the solar ('posh') wing of the house dated earlier, to 1443. In Albury, Meadow Cottage, Brook, dated to 1515 and is an example of the way that from about 1500 the side-purlin (horizontal mid-rafter tie) was replacing the crown post (central support) in roof construction. Malthouse Cottages in Gomshall dates from 1581and is one of four houses investigated which have very elaborate external timbers; all four come from 1571-82, suggesting a fashion in decoration and perhaps coinciding with a spell of national confidence and affluence. The very earliest house yet found in the Surrey project is at Greens Farm in Newdigate, dating from 1309.
Mrs Marjorie James thanked Rod for his fascinating talk and attractive slides. David Hicks


Our April meeting saw a return visit from Marion May, not to talk about the history of Fashion and Costume, but wearing a different hat this time. Her subject was “The Cokelers Society of Dependants”.
Many of us knew nothing of this local religious brethren until Marion’s talk. She herself has a family connection with the Cokelers and has written a book about them and put on a month-long exhibition at Guildford Museum which was visited by some 1300 people.
The movement was started by William Bridges in 1837 in South London. He broke away from the Methodists and founded the Plumstead Peculiars. Peculiar in this context means “set apart”. Bridges’ two main followers were James Banyard, who went to Essex and whose disciples are still around there now and known as The Union of Evangelical Churches, and John William Sirgood, with whom we are principally concerned.
Sirgood was born in 1821 in Gloucestershire, moved to Kennington, where he became a boot and shoe mender, and in 1845 married Harriet. In 1851 they travelled down through Surrey with all their belongings on a hand cart, mending boots and preaching the word of God. They stayed for a while in Shamley Green at Lord’s Hill, where they built a chapel (now demolished) and then moved down to Loxwood where they settled. Loxwood became the headquarters of “The Society of Dependants”, which means dependent on Christ. The origin of “Cokelers” is uncertain, possibly deriving from Coke’s Hill where a chapel was built or from cuckolders, as women were required to be housekeepers to the men.
Their faith was very simple: they were teetotal, conscientious objectors to the war and were required to remain unmarried, however many families did join. Seven chapels were built in various locations. Those surviving are now private houses.
They started their combination stores around 1879. Some followers disagreed with entering the world of commerce but they were a successful venture, selling everything from soap to suspenders, bacon to bootlaces. They also grew their own produce to sell. All profits were put back in the business or used to help the needy. They also made furniture to sell: attractive, sturdy pieces some of which still survive.
The last service at the Lord’s Hill chapel was in the 1960s. At the height of Sirgood’s ministry the Dependants numbered 2000; by the end of the 1980s this number had dwindled to 30. There is thought to be one remaining Cokeler in Northchapel.
Marion illustrated her talk with many photographs of the Sirgoods, their followers, the chapels, stores and the furniture they made. She also brought along some Cokeler possessions, including a hymn book, prayer book, woman’s bonnet, shawl and sampler.
Some books written about the Cokelers have poked fun at their way of life, but Marion showed that they were worthy people who tended the sick and needy and provided employment in rural and often very poor areas.
Alexandra Dodd


After swiftly dealing with AGM business, members were royally entertained by Malcolm Clarke, who has been a beekeeper for many years.
We heard how bees swarm to reproduce a colony, vigorous specific dances (by bees) are performed to indicate a new site, how the queen mates with male drones on the wing, and how female worker bees clean and prepare the hive for the queen to lay eggs. Malcolm showed us the boxes with no tops and no bottoms and explained how the gaps of 5/16ths of an inch are crucial for the bees to move and prevent the propolis sticking the box layers together.
With a puff of smoke he gently subdues the bees and levers off the lid to examine the cones, without the aid of gloves. He will have 40-50,000 bees in one hive producing 40lbs of honey per tray. Good muscles are required. We heard also about bumble bees, mason bees in straw tubes, and robbing bees who guide hunters to honey in Africa. Malcolm made bee tending sound so therapeutic - no loud noise or quick moves - calm, teamwork between man and bee practising a craft that dates back 3,500 years.
We then enjoyed a tot of mead and honeyed cakes, biscuits and fruit salad.
Barbara Karlsson