For February’s free walk, which we organise for the first Sunday of the month, we headed off to Farnham. In the winter months we try to organise walks which make use of hard surfaces and hence an exploration of some of Farnham’s hidden delights made an ideal theme. Clearly, others agreed because we had over 40 people who booked to join us for the visit.
The event was led by our two vice-presidents – Chris Howard and Ken Bare – who split the group into two and took us off in different directions around the town.
We all covered the same territory but by having the smaller groups, we could all hear what our leaders had to say about the sights and history we came across along the way. And it was fascinating!
We heard about famous Farnham people such as William Cobbett, JM Barrie, George Sturt (aka George Bourne) and John Henry Knight – plus of course – the Bishop of Winchester.
Farnham Castle, looking out over the town, has been the seat of the Bishop since 1138 and our exploration of the Keep and enjoyment of the views over Surrey from this vantage point was definitely one of the high points (pun intended) of the morning.
But the tour took in much more than the well-known sights. We discovered “mathematical tiles” small tiles which look like bricks and were used to face old buildings when bricks first became fashionable.
Our guides had obviously been doing their homework because another hidden gem which they showed us was the ceiling in a jewellers shop (20a West Street). This a unique 17th century ornate plaster work produced as an example for the Earl of Shaftsbury to enable him to see what his own ceiling would look like. This was worth a visit to Farnham in its own right!
Farnham has a fascinating history. Having become rich from agriculture – and the connections with the Bishop of Winchester – it then had a second period of wealth creation by becoming the centre of hop production. Farnham hops were considered to be the best in the country and were priced accordingly. This led to many of the houses being “improved” by the addition of Georgian frontages although in many cases these were tacked onto the front of much older properties.
There was so much to see. Our guides made the point that we had only had time to look at a small number of the gems which make Farnham such a fascinating town to visit. It is certainly worth going back and spending a whole day just exploring more of what there is to see. Many of the group obviously thought so because several commented that they wanted to return and investigate further.