Waking up to a grey rainy Friday morning, she could have been forgiven for wondering how many of the members, of our fully booked event, would actually turn up. She needn’t have worried – we had full attendance!
Whilst we all gathered at The Percy Arms for coffee and croissants, the weather improved so that when we left to drive up to a nearby car park, the weather was grey but almost dry. From the car park, we had our first leg stretch as we tackled the walk up to St Martha’s church where we were met by the Verger and had the chance to look round inside and also to identify the tombs of well known locals both within and outside the building. The sky even cleared enough for us to see distant views across Surrey and beyond.
Having walked and driven back to the pub, with many thanks to the members who helped with car sharing, we settled down to a social lunch. This was followed by introductions to our guides for the afternoon, Alan and Glenys Crocker plus Andrew Norris – who gave a synopsis of the history of the Chilworth Gunpowder (and other) mills.
Walking from the Percy Arms we headed back to Blacksmiths Lane and investigated the area around The Lower Works where many of the buildings have been given a new lease of life. Back across the road we then entered the gate to The Middle Works which are owned by Guildford Borough Council and where most of the investigation and conservation work has taken place. As we walked along, Alan and Andrew kept up a double act of providing information and anecdote which brought the whole area to life for us. As we moved through the extensive Middle Works section, Andrew gave us further information and background on the work that he and the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group have been leading on for a number of years and explained the relevance and usage of the various remains and structures along the way.
On several occasions, the wet weather came back to haunt us but our intrepid group just kept going and seemed fascinated by what they were discovering. There were many questions and conversations along the way to the extent that, by the time we reached the Lockner Road end of the site, we were well behind schedule. However, this did not stop most of the group from wanting to follow the rest of the route back towards the tramway swing bridge and the end of the walk.
Having stopped to thank Andrew, we then had the added treat of a brief chat by a local Parish Councillor who lived and played in the community (known locally as Tin Town) which sprung up in the Works between the 1920s and 1960s. From the fascinating picture he painted for us, it looks like we have the makings of a whole new event at some time in the future!
Congratulations to Christine Howard for a marvellous day out, in spite of the variable weather. Everyone seems to have had a wonderful time and learned more about this area which is currently the subject of an intended Heritage Lottery Fund bid supported by the Surrey Hills AONB and Surrey Hills Society.