By Edgar Tunnell 1904-1988)
Edgar Tunnell was born in Merrow Street in 1904 and lived there until his death in 1988. He was born at No 1 Coxhall Cottages and later moved, with his sisters Irene and Zoë, next door into Coxhall, which used to be the stables on the Coxhall Estate. Irene and Zoë moved to Lime Grove, East Horsley, in 1997.
Many of Edgar’s relatives lived in Merrow during the early 1900’s. His great uncle, William James Swayne, was a butcher and grocer living at Mayor House until he sold the Business to Mr Kimber. His uncle, Arthur Wigman Swayne, lived at Garden Cottage and was in the choir at St. John’s. Arthur’s wife, Florence, was the schoolmistress at St John’s (Merrow Street) School. Edgar’s Uncle, Frank Gould, was the village Blacksmith and, with his son, John, lived at the Old Forge, next door to Mayor House.
Edgar Tunnell probably wrote these notes shortly before his death in 1988.
In my early days, I knew everyone in Merrow and knew every house in the village although none of the streets had numbers. Merrow Street still has not.
As Boys, we used to spend a lot of time around Merrow Lake,. There was, on the east bank, a changing area, constructed of wood. There was no roof. Swimming in the lake was very popular with the young. There was also fishing, and in winter, if the ice was thick enough, people came up from miles around to skate or slide. Sadly it fell into decay, the banks crumbled, and some trees fell into the water.
Many years later, when Merrow Park was built, the builders promised to restore the pond to a beautiful new pleasure spot. The trouble seems to be that a new drain was put in the south end for the water to flow into the pond, and a similar one at the other end, for the water to flow out. As the pipes were at the same level, no water stayed to fill the pond, but it went on through a narrow ditch across the centre, and out of the north end. So the landing stage, built about 5 feet high, has never been used, because there is no water for the Boats except perhaps very small toy ones.
Our family of six children, all went to St John’s Merrow School, as did about three families of Grover. Later on some of us left to go to different schools in Guildford. Such as the Archbishop Abbots School which was in the grounds of Abbots Hospital. Two of my brothers went there, and one changed to the Grammar School in Upper High Street or Spital Street, as it used to be. I went to the Technical Institute in Park Street, before starting work at the Drummond Brother’s works in Broad Street, near Rydes Hill, where I worked in several departments for 50 years before retiring. Bicycles were the main transport in those days, and we had six or seven of them in our shed.
My father was a Boot Maker, as was his father before him. He made boots and shoes, complete, by hand and also did the repairs for all around Merrow. I remember him telling me, he left school at 15 and was sent to Albury to take back some shoes, which had been repaired, only to discover that there was nobody at home, and he had to bring the shoes back.
Merrow was in those days self-contained, and people got together. They had their own Band, Cricket Club, Golf Club (in conjunction with Guildford). There was a Concert Party, a Horticultural Group, a Rifle Club, an Amateur Dramatic Society, where many Merrow and other people from Clandon, Horsley etc. joined in. Now there is now no band, no Rifle Club no concert party, but the drama group still exists.
Once a year, there was the Merrow Fete, supported by Clandon. It lasted the whole day, and there were either three or four marquees, in which were on show handicrafts of all kinds. I remember one year, after the First World War, a man winning the needlework section, with his army badge on a cushion. The women were all against that,. However it was pointed out to them, there was no rule against a man.
There were children’s sports in the afternoon, and adult sports in the evening including the high jump which was mostly won by Mr Mumford who lived at Newlands Corner. This man had lost a leg in the war, and they told he had others at a disadvantage because he was not as heavy with one cork leg.
I remember Mathews came with all the fun of the Fair (often spelt Fayre) and they paid for each item they set up, for the day. Ripley charged £1 per wheel. I do not know what Merrow charged.
Sometimes Merrow Show would be held in Clandon Park, near the House. Once a balloon came over very low, to have a look, then dropped sand to rise again. Some people got the sand on them.
I have been around since January 28th, 1904, so I have seen many changes in my Lifetime.The first buses came to Merrow Church from Guildford and back. It cost 2d from Horse and Groom in Merrow, to Horse and Groom in North Street Guildford or 3d to the main Railway Station.
My mother used to push a pram with two of us in it, and two more walking, from Merrow Street, all round the shops in High Street, Market street, North Street, Friary Street. If we were good we stopped for a glass of milk 1d in the dairy near Lymposs and Smee, the East end of Spital Street. Then the walk all the way home.
We had our Sunday School, and the once a year Tea and Games, usually at Merrow House, or The Croft, or sometimes at The Grange, which had lots of land. The fact it had all of the land south of Horseshoe Lane (later East and West was added) and the land between Grove Road and High Path Road, which was for vegetables etc.
When High Path and Down Road were built, the latter had an Infant School. When they reached a certain age they left there, and had to go to the St John’s School about 1 1/2 miles away. Also the younger pupils had to leave Burpham for St John’s, which is even further, and all had to walk both ways. There were no cars or buses for schools then. We were lucky, we had a very short walk.
The children and teenagers in those days did not have the chances those get nowadays. Ours only got as far as entertaining the local people. There was no radio, no television and no aircraft. Most of the everyday items of today were not invented then. I remember later customers walking into my friend’s shop and saying “My husband had to go to work without his breakfast, because the toaster broke” or “My husband is down to his last shirt because the washing machine is full of dirty clothes and will not work”.
I remember Mrs Robinson who came from Yorkshire to live in Coxhall Cottage, used a “Dolly” and a washtub in the Yard, every week, and there were yards of lines to hang all the wet things out to dry.
Gypsies came round with hand made pegs to sell. Bread, Meat, Fish, Coal, the Muffin & Crumpet man, and even Sainsbury sent horse and cart round to the houses each week.
Merrow had its own Blacksmith and a Carpenter and Wheelwright and both were kept very busy, but now both have disappeared, and the petrol station is on that site. We even had a parish nurse and I remember her name was Mrs Parish.Of course men and boys made up the Church choir and Bellringers. There was a Butcher and a Grocer and a General Store, plus two small shops, one in High Path and one in Down Road. The latter sold Papers and writing material mostly.
Mrs Clare ran a laundry and, when the weather was fine, there were many lines of bed sheets, tablecloths, etc. Between her place and Peace Cottages there was a pound in which stray horses were impounded until claimed by their owners. Many times gypsies congregated there to see three or four of their horses locked up. When the cottage was sold many years later it was given the name Pound Cottage.
There were also two smaller laundries in High Path Road but now we have a cleaners in the row of shops from Bushy Hill Drive to Garden Cottage, which is almost opposite the Horse and Groom. This was built in 1615 and has been altered, especially inside, over the years. At one time three windows were uncovered that had been covered over to avoid the Window Tax of many years ago.
There were two Post Offices, one run by Mr Harms and Son, two local Postmen and one Policeman.
My father, William Henry Tunnell, had many jobs in the village. He was Parish Clerk, Secretary to the Merrow Down Conservators, Secretary of the Rifle Club, Secretary of the Horticultural Society, Rates and Rent Collector for Merrow and parts of Clandons and the Horsleys, Secretary of the National Deposit Friendly Society, Verger, also Tax Collector. He supplied news to Surrey Advertiser of births, deaths and marriages etc. Agent for Merrow House Estate, Member British Red Cross. My eldest brother was an officer in the Red Cross, and both he and my father helped trains at Guildford and Clandon Stations of wounded Belgians which were taken to Clandon House, which was a Hospital at that time. I was only a boy scout in those days but I spent some time at Clandon Park House and St Lukes which also was a military hospital in 1914 to 1918.
In the Second War, I was in the local Home Guard. I was also in the Drummond Works First Aid and Fire Fighting Sections, and worked mostly at night 72 hours each week. For these duties I had three tin hats and three uniforms.
Merrow is now just part of Guildford and many things have now disappeared, such as the famous Horseshoe over the doorway of the Forge. This horseshoe was so complicated, that the bricks had to be shaped and assembled first on the ground, and then transferred to the wall. It was admired and photographed for many years, until the premises changed hands, and the whole front was knocked down, and, of course, the horseshoe was just a heap of rubble.
Merrow Downs used to be cropped by about 200 sheep which belonged to Reg House, but since he died the Downs is so overgrown it is no longer possible to walk where we played or had picnics as children. We went there one evening to watch Crystal Palace going up in flames.
From our house (Coxhall, Merrow Street) we could see the Downs, the Church clock, the Hogs Back, Fox Hills, Worplesdon Church, buildings in Woking, Clandon Park House, and see planes going down at Farnborough. None of which can be seen now, because of trees or buildings.
There were several farms in Merrow, but one by one they have been built on, and only a few of the farm houses exist. Those which come to mind are Great Goodwin’s Farm, Hall Place (Epsom Road), the farm in Park Lane (Back lane) but I do not recall the name. Other farms were Little Goodwin’s in Smoky Hole, Boxgrove Farm, opposite side of Merrow to Great Goodwin’s Farm.
I remember my father telling me that on bonfire night piles of faggots, brushwood and even a farm gate or two, if not removed by the farmer, were collected at the crossroads, where Merrow Street, Trodds (Hodds) Lane and Epsom (Turnpike) Road met. They would wait for the Post Van to pass on its way to Guildford, then the fire was lit.
He also told me of the Merrow Downs Race Course, and even took us children over the Course. It would be hard to find today, but I remember quite a lot of it. It crossed the Road twice. The first crossing was just above the last house on the left of the lane (Newlands Cottage) and the other crossing was about a quarter of a mile further towards Newlands Corner. There used to be posts to prevent cars driving in from the road.
It was along part of this course that farm animals were driven, towards One Tree Corner and on via Warren Road to the North Street (Guildford) cattle market, which was held on the left side of the street. There was a weighbridge at the bottom of North Street (also on the left).
I can remember some of the women of Merrow, going to the Church, dressed in bonnets, and short capes, usually black or dark grey. Two sisters Miss Hitchcock and Mrs Pointer always dressed that way.
Also I remember when the large flintstones were dug up at Newlands Corner and gravel was graded through a grill with varying sizes of mesh. In those days workmen took a pride in their work, and the flints were stacked about one foot high in a rectangle, the sides and top were very straight and level. Fossil hunters used to come from miles around to inspect those piles, and my Father showed us what to look for in the shape of Shepherd’s Crowns, and I still have a few to this day. The stones were spread on the roads and pressed into the surface with heavy steamrollers, which used to be parked by the pond in Merrow, where they sucked up water for the boiler . The driver would put the end of the hose on a shovel to prevent taking in any mud with the water.
Cattle also stopped to drink at this pond. Clandon also had such a pond opposite the Church. Both have since been filled in, because they got rather smelly, and were breeding places for mosquitoes.
Houses and cottages used to get their water from wells, again most of these have gone. There was one for the Windgate cottages, one between Coxhall Cottages, one inside the parlour of Hall Place Farm, one opposite the Old Cottage Trodds Lane and one at the rear of St Catherine’s Cottages. In summer, the water from these wells was beautifully cool, and usually we were jokingly told to look out for frogs. Mother used to live in Church House when young and she said that if the bucket was not fastened well on to the hook it came off, and usually lost.
There were no street lamps in Merrow, and the last one coming home from Guildford was near the Gatehouse by the boundary of Merrow.
“Pariora” was a house with a Lodge and a large piece of land, just one small corner of which was in the parish of Merrow. So the owner had to pay two lots of rates, one to Guildford and one to Merrow.
Merrow Street was flanked with elm trees and that made it very dark, except on moonlight nights, called the parish lantern, by some.
Families used to invite neighbours for whist (card) evenings, but that seems to be a thing of the past, as is the bridge parties of the large houses. Another thing was a musical evening where friends played or sang music. Television kills off a lot of the old-style family life, which is a great pity.
Home handicrafts used to be the thing in those days. Drawings, paintings, needlework, basket work, pen and pencil sketches, ( I have a few around, but out of sight). Cameras have taken that over and I have thousands of photos in colour and black and white.
I used to do all my own developing printing enlarging and mounting. The largest prints 40 cm x 50 cm, but I lost my dark room, and get the work done for me. I took a photo of the Old Rectory before it was pulled down, and my picture was on the front page of the Surrey Times, paper, with a write up about all of the Parsons etc. who had lived there, before the new place was built by the sports Ground.
I no longer know the streets around here let alone the people who live here.