Bramley is a village and civil parish about three miles (5 km) south of Guildford in the Borough of Waverley in Surrey, south east England. Most of the parish lies in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In its bounds is evidence of the iron age but documents record a village at the end of Anglo Saxon era of the Kingdom of England and track its expansion and division during the Middle Ages. Much of the housing was linear along the Horsham road: many such buildings have survived and the village has a bulky conservation area. Four named localities cover the south of Bramley: Birtley Green, Thorncombe Street, Grafham and Smithbrook.
Bramley is like most villages Old English (Saxon) (meaning like Bromley, one of its earlier forms, a clearing or lea in the broom). Birtley within the parish in the south and means a clearing in the birch.
Before the Saxons arrived the wider area was lightly settled. The builders of the Iron Age fort at Hascombe (in use from c.200 to 50BC) probably included farmers from the Wintershall and Thorncombe Street areas of present day Bramley, but there is no evidence for early settlement in the village area and no evidence of any Roman settlement.
The settlement appears in six large parcels in the Domesday Book as Brolege and Bronlei. These were held by the Bishop of Bayeux (William the Conqueror's half-brother). Its Domesday Assets were: 39½ hides; 3 churches, 5 mills worth £1 6s 0d, 39 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth 100 hogs. In 1086 its wide definition and well-cultivated, fertile area with valuable mills made Bramley by yearly income the largest and most valuable manor in Surrey. It rendered (in total per year): £83 14s 8d to its feudal overlords. The area comprised most of the western half of the Hundred of Blackheath, extending to the Sussex border and including Shalford, Wonersh, Hascombe and west Cranleigh.
The Anglo-Saxon settlers of neighbouring Wonersh - the name means a crooked field - and any Celts not displaced by them may have been the people who developed the Linish, Bramley. This name means a flax-stubble field and in 1843, when the Tithe Assessment map was drawn, it covered the area now occupied by the Library, Blunden Court and Old Rectory Close. Flax was used to make linen but before spinning and weaving the stems were "retted"; soaking in running water, a procedure which could have used the stream which also powered the mills.
Cranleigh Waters flows through and drains the village. There were two mills - probably both here at the time of the Domesday survey, Bramley Mill and Snowdenham Mill, to the latter of which Lane (now a bridleway) led from the higher land around Wintershall.
Coronation Oak green today is all that remains of the original village green at the centre of the village. It was once the crossroads where Linersh-lane, the road from Wonersh, met Deep Lane, the original route from Wintershall, and the first Mill Lane (moved in the 1820s), which started from the north side of the house now called 'Saddlers', which was previously known as 'Corners' or 'Old Corners'. There is a reference to a moated manor house near the village green, which would probably have dated from the 14th century; it survived to the early 19th century.
At some date during the Middle Ages the village's arterial A281 road through the village leading to Birtley Green around the east slope of Hurst Hill was established as an alternative Horsham and main Loxwood and Billingshurst (all West Sussex) route from Guildford, as was the road from Thorncombe Street to Bramley (Snowdenham Lane) and Wonersh, the village centred immediately east of the street and Cranleigh Waters. Wonersh is only away from Station Road, hence the station with two names later.
By the mid 16th century there were 63 houses in what was called Bramley township, 22 of them within half a mile of the church. Twp of the grandest houses in the village of Tudor architecture remain: East Manor (which faces the rebuilt manor house) and East Water House; its external staircase was added in the 1580s, when it would have been seen from the village green, demonstrating the importance of the owners at a time when domestic staircases were still rare.
History of Holy Trinity Church
Bramley Church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, dates from the 12th century with further additions in the 13th century. The tower and chancel date from the early 13th century with the south transept (now part of the south aisle) added later in the century.
Boundary walls were built and the burial ground was licensed for the first time in 1676. Holy Trinity was a daughter church of Shalford; Bramley only became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1847.
The village would have been growing in the 17th century; many of the houses on the west side of the High Street date from this period. Bramley Manor, opposite East Manor and originally the farm for Bramley Manor, was built in the middle of this century.
The 18th century brought more changes with the road through the village becoming part of the turnpike road from Guildford to Arundel, following an Act of Parliament of 1757; there is still a milestone in Birtley Road. A bridge and causeway were built on the road to Wonersh in the 1770s; the river was then diverted from its original course close to the bottom of Wonersh Hollow into a new straight course to align with the new bridge.
Most villagers would have made their living from agriculture. A house The Nunnery was purchased for the poor of the parish in 1735. This was at the far end of the Bramley millpond; it was sold a century later when the poor had to go to Hambledon Workhouse, in the early part of which century the Jolly Farmer public house was established.
The Napoleonic Wars brought concerns for shipping in the English Channel and plans to create an inland waterway between London and Portsmouth led to the building of a canal to connect Guildford to West Sussex and the now traditional port of Littlehampton. This finally opened in 1816. James Stanton was appointed Superintendent of the canal in 1819; by the time of his death in 1857 he had five barges of his own, but by now use of the canal was declining and it finally closed in 1871. Stanton's cottage on the wharf still survives. In 1825 the Earl of Egremont, a great supporter of the canal, had purchased a property in Bramley on the site of the present Park Drive which was soon demolished. He diverted some of the water from the millpond to the canal in an attempt to improve the canal's water supply; this had a lasting effect as the watercourse would define the boundary between the later school and cemetery. The Earl redirected the lane to the mill, roughly to the present Park Drive, and his nephew built Bramley House, now almost completely demolished. This house was later leased by Captain Jekyll and was the childhood home of Gertrude Jekyll. After the Jekyll family left in 1868 the house was considerably extended and the lane to the mill now became a driveway to the house with a third Mill Lane (the present one) put through in 1871.
Development in the village was also influenced by Mrs Charlotte Sutherland, who leased Church House in 1848. She largely financed the building of the north aisle of the Church in 1851, the new Vicarage (now demolished and replaced by Old Rectory Close), the Village School, the cemetery and its chapel (also demolished); her brother, Richard Charles Hussey, was the architect for all these developments.
Various railway companies had built lines in the vicinity and there were stations at Guildford in 1845, Godalming soon after, and Shalford in 1849. Then in 1865 the Cranleigh Line linking Guildford with Horsham opened, and "Bramley & Wonersh station" (initially known as "Bramley") was the last stop on the line before Guildford. This was perhaps the main reason for the increase in population that followed, and there were housing developments including Station Road, Birtley Road and Eastwood Road; the south aisle, incorporating the south transept, was added to the Church in 1875. There were several shops in the village by the 1850s but at the end of the century William Lawn Head re-fronted several of the houses on the west side of the High Street to provide Head's Stores. The Stores have since been split into various premises but Head's elegant shop-fronts remain.
The oldest existing school in the village, now called Bramley Infants School (previously Bramley C of E Primary School) was established in 1850 and at that time consisted of only two classrooms and a clock tower. Two more classrooms were added in 1874 and a further classroom and hall were built in 1894. Architecturally, its clock tower has been well maintained. An extension in 1957 provided indoor toilets and office accommodation. The school has recently been entirely refurbished out of doors and decorated throughout indoors. Originally the school catered for four to fourteen year-olds but in 1973 it became a First School and caters for girls and boys from four to seven years old.
St. Catherine's School was established in 1885, and has grown to have a significant physical presence in the village. Building of the Chapel began in 1893 and it was dedicated in the following year. It is a notable example of the work of Charles Eamer Kempe, who was responsible for much of the interior decoration, especially the stained glass windows.
By the end of the 19th century the local government of the village changed with the establishment of a Parish Council in 1894. This met, as it still does, in the Village Hall whose Victorian exterior and modern additions conceal a barn with timbers dating back to c.1400.
Gertrude Jekyll retained an interest in the area, and her friend, leading Arts and Crafts movement architect Edwin Lutyens designed Millmead House in Snowdenham Lane as a speculative development for her in 1904; she designed the garden. This has coursed and part snecked Bargate sandstone/red brick quoins and dressings and is Grade II listed. Grange Cottages were also built at the beginning of the century as staff cottages for Bramley Grange.
World War I brought deaths and wounded men from the front were also seen in the village as Thorncombe Park was used as a hospital. In 1921 the war memorial at the crossroads was built, designed by architect and local resident Frederick Hodgson.
In 1887 Bramley Grange was built on the site of the earlier White House for Colonel Webster (who would later develop Bramley Golf course). After the Great War it was converted to a popular hotel and remained a hotel until burnt down in 1996. Between the wars there was more housing development, including the start of Linersh Wood.
In the years since World War II there has been considerable development in the centre of the village, much of it on the east side, including shops, Windrush Close, the Catholic Church, the public library, Blunden Court and Old Rectory Close. On the opposite side houses were built in Mill Lane and Home Park Close was built on the old kitchen garden of Bramley House, which had once contained ' a long range of greenhouses and an abundance of peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries and pears.'
As one of the Beeching closures the Cranleigh Line to Horsham, including Bramley & Wonersh railway station, closed in 1965 after serving the village for almost a century. The Bramley Grange Hotel was replaced in 2004 by apartments built in a similar style, after the original building was destroyed by fire.