For many centuries, the Bourne was the ‘waste land’ or Common to the Manor of Farnham. Squatters encroached upon the Common, and by 1750 there were probably about 20 families scratching a living from the poor soil. Their homes were turf huts or at best two roomed hovels built from scavenged materials.
By the enclosure of the Common in 1861, there were nearly 600 residents, the majority of the working population being hired for agricultural work in neighbouring villages.
The Farnham-Guildford-London railway line, constructed in 1849, and, the quicker route via Woking by 1870, encouraged the onset of the ‘Back to the Land’ movement in the 1880s. This made the West Surrey Hills with its heathland a favourite location for wealthier people eager to move out from highly polluted London. See George Sturt’s book ‘Change in the Village’ (1912) for an account of the conflict between locals and ‘incomers’.
The Bourne is unique as a village in having the most interesting part of its long history documented by the writer George Sturt (b. 1863 d. 1927). Sturt moved from Farnham to Old Church Lane in 1891 at a time when the old 'folk' way of life was to change irrevocably, as the West Surrey Hills were becoming a fashionable place to live. He was witnessing, as he referred to it, 'the dying embers of the old system'.
Sturt's great advantage was that none of the Bourners realised that he was a writer, recording his conversations with them by writing them up in the evenings. The first three books (in chronological order), 'Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer', 'Lucy Bettesworth' and 'The Bettesworth Book' can be considered as a trilogy, although they were not conceived as such. These were followed in 1912 by 'Change in the Village', which examined the devastating impact that the wealthy incomers ('the resident trippers') had on the local community. Sturt wrote four other books, including the classic 'Wheelwright's Shop'.
The other person who has made the Bourne a place familiar to millions of English-speaking readers is the Farnhamian, William Cobbett, who in 'Rural Rides' explains how he obtained his 'education' on the sand hill above the Bourne Stream.
Only three born and bred Farnhamians are to be found in that most prestigious of all "Who's who"s, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and two of them have this link with the Bourne.
Find out more about the history of the Bourne and other areas in Surrey on the Exploring Surrey's Past website.
The following buildings in the Bourne are listed:
|Nationally listed (by English Heritage)|
The Fox pub
|Locally listed by Waverley Borough Council*|
The Lych Gate, Vicarage Hill
*This list is accurate to the best of our knowledge. The Bourne is the only part of Waverley that has locally listed buildings. If you know of any other locally listed buildings in the Bourne please let us know. Discussions are planned with the diocese to see if we can carry out repairs to the lych gate before it falls down.
English Heritage is responsible for the administration of natnionally listed buildings.
For advice on how to get a building listed or on listing in general, contact:
1 Waterhouse Square
138 – 142 Holborn
London EC1N 2ST