Farnham is a town in Surrey, England, within the Borough of Waverley. The town is WSW of London in the extreme west of Surrey, adjacent to the border with Hampshire. By road Guildford is 11 miles (17 km) to the east and Winchester a further 28 miles (45 km) along the same axis as London. Farnham is the largest town in Waverley, and one of the top five conurbations in Surrey. It is of historic interest, with many old buildings, including a number of Georgian houses. Farnham Castle overlooks the town. A short distance southeast of the town centre are the ruins of Waverley Abbey, Moor Park House and Mother Ludlam's Cave. Farnham is twinned with Andernach in Germany. It is drained by the River Wey (North Branch) which is navigable only to canoes at this point.
Farnham's history has been claimed to extend back tens of thousands of years to hunters of the Paleolithic or early Stone Age, on the basis of tools and prehistoric animal bones found together in deep gravel pits. The first known settlement in the area was in the Mesolithic period, some 7,000 years ago; a cluster of pit dwellings and evidence of a flint-knapping industry from that period has been excavated a short distance to the east of the town. There is a Neolithic long barrow at nearby Badshot Lea, now destroyed by quarrying. This monument lay on the route of the prehistoric trackway known as the Harrow Way or Harroway, which passes through Farnham Park, and a sarsen stone still stands nearby, which is believed to have marked the safe crossing point of a marshy area near the present Shepherd and Flock roundabout. The parallel Pilgrims' Way, known as such for linking Canterbury to Winchester, also dates back to prehistory and, like the Harrow Way, may date back to the time when Britain was physically joined to continental Europe.
Occupation of the area continued to grow through the Bronze Age. Two bronze hoards have been discovered on Crooksbury Hill, and further artefacts have been found, particularly at sites in Green Lane and near the Bourne spring in Farnham Park. A significant number of Bronze Age barrows occur in the area, including a triple barrow at Elstead and an urnfield cemetery at Stoneyfield, near the Tilford road.
Hill forts from the early Iron Age exist locally at Botany Hill to the south of the town, and at Caesar's Camp to the north. The latter is a very large earthworks on a high promontory, served by a spring which emerges from between two conglomerate boulders called the Jock and Jenny Stones. "Soldier's Ring" earthworks on Crooksbury Hill date from the later Iron Age. The final era of the Iron Age, during the 1st century AD, found Farnham within the territory of the Belgic Atrebates tribe led by Commius, a former ally of Caesar, who had brought his tribe to Britain following a dispute with the Romans. A hut dating from this period was discovered at the Bourne Spring and other occupation material has been discovered at various sites, particularly Green Lane.
During the Roman period the district became a pottery centre due to the plentiful supply of gault clay, oak woodlands for fuel, and good communications via the Harrow Way and the nearby Roman road from Silchester to Chichester. Kilns dating from about AD 100 have been found throughout the area, including Six Bells (near the Bourne Spring), Snailslynch and Mavins Road, but the main centre of pottery had been Alice Holt Forest, on the edge of the town, since about AD 50, just 7 years after the arrival of the Romans. The Alice Holt potteries continued in use, making mainly domestic wares, until about AD 400. Near the Bourne Spring two Roman buildings were discovered; one was a bath-house dating from about AD 270 and the other a house of later date. The Roman Way housing estate stands on this site. William Stukeley propounded that Farnham is the site of the lost Roman settlement of "Vindomis", although this is now believed to be at Neatham, near Alton. Large hoards of Roman coins have been discovered some south-west of Farnham in Woolmer Forest and a temple has been excavated at Wanborough, about to the east.
The Anglo-Saxon period
It was the Saxons who gave the town its name—Farnham is listed as Fearnhamme in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Fearn refers to the fern and bracken of the land and Hamme to the water meadows. They arrived in the sixth century and, in AD 688, the West Saxon King Caedwalla donated the district around Farnham to the Church, and to the diocese of Winchester. This was the first mention of Farnham in written history. A Saxon community grew up in the valley by the river. By the year 803 Farnham had passed into the ownership of the Bishop of Winchester and the Manor of Farnham remained so (apart from two short breaks) for the next thousand years. Although Farnham is documented in Saxon texts and most of the local names are derived from their language, there is only one fully attested Saxon site in Farnham, just off the lower part of Firgrove Hill, where a road called Saxon Croft is now sited. Here several Saxon weaving huts from about AD 550 were discovered in 1924. At the time of the Danish invasion in the 9th century (probably in 893 or 894) there was a battle on the edge of the settlement when Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, routed the invaders.
The Hundred of Farnham
A hundred (county subdivision) was an area that had a general overlord of its lords of the manor, entitled to charge certain rents to certain intermediate lords. Parishes within Farnham hundred were: Frensham (including tything Pitfold with Churt) (partly in the hundred of Alton) Elstead, the liberty of Dockenfield, the liberty of Waverley, Seal (now Seale) the tythings of Badshot, Runfold, Culverlands, Tilford with Culverlands, Farnham, Runwick, Wrecklesham (now Wrecclesham), and Bourne.
In the 14th century, Farnham hundred was owned by the Bishop of Winchester and was one of the wealthiest on the bishop's rolls.
See also, in this context:
After the Norman invasion
Farnham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Ferneham, one of the five great "minster" churches in Surrey. Its domesday assets were: 40 hides; 1 church, 6 mills worth £2 6s 0d, 43 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth 175½ hogs. It rendered £53.
Waverley Abbey, the first Cistercian abbey in England, was founded in 1128 by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester about one mile (1.6 km) south of the town centre. King John visited Waverley in 1208, and Henry III in 1225. The abbey also produced the famous Annals of Waverley, an important reference source for the period. By the end of the thirteenth century the abbey was becoming less important. By the time it was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1536 as part of the dissolution of the monasteries there were only thirteen monks in the community.
The town is midway between Winchester and London and, in 1138, Henry de Blois (grandson of William the Conqueror and brother of King Stephen) started building Farnham Castle to provide accommodation for the Bishop of Winchester in his frequent journeying between his cathedral and the capital. The castle's garrison provided a market for farms and small industries in the town, accelerating its growth. A large earthwork north-west of the town at Barley (or Badley) Pound may be the ditch and ramparts of a wooden precursor of Farnham Castle built in the 11th century.
The Black Death hit Farnham in 1348, killing about 1,300 people, at that time about a third of the population. In 1625 Farnham was again subject to an outbreak of the plague which, together with a severe decline in the local woollen industry (the local downland wool being unsuitable for the newly fashionable worsted) led by the 1640s to a serious economic depression in the area. Local wool merchants were, like merchants throughout the country, heavily taxed by Charles I to pay for his increasingly unpopular policies.
The Civil War
Against this background the English Civil War began, with Farnham playing a major part. Here, support for the Parliamentarians was general. The castle was considered a potential rallying point for Royalists, resulting in the installation of a Roundhead garrison there in 1642. As the King's forces moved southwards, taking Oxford, Reading and Windsor, the garrison commander at Farnham (and noted poet), Captain George Wither, decided to evacuate the castle; the new High Sheriff of Surrey (John Denham, a Royalist sympathiser and another noted poet) then occupied the vacant castle with 100 armed supporters. With the castle and much of the surrounding area in Royalist hands, Parliament despatched Colonel Sir William Waller to Farnham to retake the castle. The defenders refused to surrender but Waller's men used a petard to destroy the castle gates and overcame them, with only one fatality, and took the High Sheriff prisoner. The following year, as the Royalists strengthened their position west of Farnham, the garrison at Farnham Castle was strengthened when it became the headquarters of the Farnham regiment of foot or "Greencoats", with some eight to nine hundred officers and men, supported by a number of troops of horse. Further reinforcement by three regiments from London, 4,000 strong under Waller's command arrived in Farnham that October prior to an unsuccessful foray to recapture Winchester from the Royalists. Eight thousand Royalists under Ralph Hopton (a former friend of Waller) advanced on Farnham from the west and skirmishes took place on the outskirts of town. Despite further reinforcement for Waller from Kent, Hopton's entire army gathered on the heathland just outside Farnham Park. There was some skirmishing but Hopton's men withdrew. Through the next few years Farnham was an important centre of Parliamentary operations and the garrison cost Farnham people dearly in terms of local taxes, provisioning and quartering; even the lead from the Town Hall roof had been requisitioned to make bullets. A number of local women were widowed following the pressing of local men into the militia. The bombardment of Basing House was by a train of heavy cannon assembled at Farnham from other areas and, in 1646, most of the garrison was removed from Farnham to form a brigade to besiege Donnington Castle near Newbury. The King surrendered shortly afterwards at Newark and a small garrison remained at Farnham.
In 1647, having escaped from custody at Hampton Court, the King rode through Farnham at dawn on 12 November with a small party of loyal officers, en route to the Isle of Wight, where he sought sanctuary under the protection of Colonel Robert Hammond, a Parliamentarian officer but with Royalist sympathies. The following March, Oliver Cromwell stayed at Farnham for discussions concerning the marriage of his daughter to a Hampshire gentleman, although some historians have speculated that this was cover for secret negotiations with the King.
Following the rebellion during the summer of 1648 the keep was partially dismantled at the orders of Cromwell, to make further occupation by garrison indefensible. In late November that year Hammond was summoned to Farnham, where he was arrested, and the King was removed under military escort to the mainland. On 20 December the King and his escort entered Farnham, where groups of men, women and children gathered at the roadside to welcome him and touch his hand. That night the King lodged at Culver Hall (now Vernon House) in West Street before the party continued to London for Charles's trial and execution in January 1649. The King gave his night cap to Henry Vernon, owner of Culver Hall, "as a token of Royal favour". Records show that the following period of interregnum until restoration of the monarchy in 1660 was a time of prosperity and growth for Farnham. In 1660 the bishops of Winchester were restored to the adjoining Bishops Palace, which remained their residence until 1927. From 1927 until 1955 it was a residence of the bishops of the newly created diocese of Guildford. The castle is currently owned by English Heritage.
Farnham became a successful market town; the author Daniel Defoe wrote that Farnham had the greatest corn-market after London, and describes 1,100 fully laden wagons delivering wheat to the town on market day. During the seventeenth century, other new industries evolved: greenware pottery (a pottery, dating from 1873, still exists on the outskirts of the town), wool and cloth, the processing of wheat into flour, and eventually hops, a key ingredient of beer. The Anglican divine, Augustus Montague Toplady, composer of the hymn Rock of Ages (1763, at Blagston) was born in Farnham in 1740 - a plaque now marks the building on West Street where he was born. Stella Cottage is a 17th-century cottage, now a listed building, located at Camp Hill.
The radical MP, soldier, farmer, journalist and publisher William Cobbett was born in Farnham in 1763, in a pub called the Jolly Farmer. The pub still stands, and has since been renamed the William Cobbett.
The railway arrived in 1848 and, in 1854, neighbouring Aldershot became the "Home of the British Army". Both events had a significant effect on Farnham. The fast link with London meant city businessmen could think of having a house in the country and still be in close contact with the office; Farnham thereby became an early example of a 'commuter town'. Also, the railway did not reach Aldershot until 1870; during the intervening period soldiers would be carried by train to Farnham station and then march to Aldershot. Many officers and their families chose to billet in Farnham itself. The railway was electrified by the Southern Railway company in 1937 as far as Alton, and a carriage shed for the new electric stock was built in Weydon Lane. This building, which carried fading camouflage paint for many years after World War II, was replaced in 2006.
In 1895 Farnham Urban District Council (FUDC) was formed. In 1930 the council purchased Farnham Park, a large park which occupies much of the former castle grounds. That same year, St Joan of Arc Church was built on Waverley Lane, It was dedicated to St Joan of Arc because Farnham Castle was a residence of Cardinal Henry Beaufort who was presided at the saint's trial. The FUDC was abolished in 1973 by the Local Government Act of the previous year. Farnham, together with Hindhead, Haslemere, Cranleigh and surrounding areas were absorbed into the new Waverley District Council (latterly Waverley Borough Council) with its headquarters in Godalming. In 1984 Farnham Parish Council became Farnham Town Council, taking on some of the minor roles of the former FUDC from Waverley.
Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square was once a tannery; the site expanded to become part of the Farnham United Breweries, which included its own maltings. Taken over by a major brewer (Courage's) brewing ceased but malting continued into the 1960s, when Courage planned to sell off the site for redevelopment. The people of Farnham raised enough money to buy the building so that it could be converted into a community centre for the town. Other buildings in Farnham once linked to the Farnham Maltings include The Oasthouse (now offices) in Mead Lane and The Hop Kiln (now private residences) on Weydon Lane.