OLD WEST SURREY
In the 19th century, this was a sparsely populated and unfashionable rural area. Its people depended upon agriculture, timber and related businesses such as corn-milling, brewing and leather-tanning.
The local people had their own dialect and manner of dress. The roads were few and off the main highway little more than tracks. In the middle of the century railways were built, giving easy access to London. Businessmen moved out of the city with their families, building new houses in spacious grounds or converting and extending old farmhouses. Large estates began to be broken up but new opportunities for employment were created.
The attractive and varied landscape was the setting for ancient buildings - often timber framed with brick infixing, tile-hung on the upper floors and with deep roofs. Artists, like Myles Birkett Foster and Helen Allingham who both lived in Witley, came in search of inspiration. Whilst architects, including pioneers of the Arts and Crafts movement, such as Richard Norman Shaw and Philip Webb
(the latter living for a while in Cranleigh) came to study methods of construction and the use of local materials.
THE ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT
As industry and machinery began to bear down on more and more lives during the 19th century, it was thought that opportunities for personal fulfillment through the practice of the arts and crafts were being lost, as were the skills.
The reaction was led by the writer and artist John Ruskin, who linked ideas of social reform with the revival of hand craftsmanship, the better to improve the lives of individuals. There was an emphasis on local materials, naturally used. Ruskin's most fervent and influential disciple was William Morris, who founded a business to implement these ideas; he was a practical craftsman himself and the designer of wallpapers, furniture and fabrics as well as a manufacturer of tapestries. He commissioned the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones to design stained glass windows of which there are examples in Busbridge Church as well as a Morris embroidery altar frontal.
The revival of interest in Gothic architecture in the 19th century coincided with the need to preserve old examples in their original form. Godalming Parish Church, for example, experienced two bouts of restoration. William Morris, a man of huge energy, founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the first of its kind. He was aided considerably by the architect Hugh Thackeray Turner, who designed his own house and garden at Westbrook in Godalming and the Phillips Memorial by the River Wey. Through his own efforts, Thackeray Turner saved the medieval bridge at Eashing and the old Deanery Farm barn in Charterhouse Road.