Farnham is a Georgian market town in Surrey, thirty eight miles from London, on the Surrey Hampshire border. A milestone in the Woolmead area of the town states the distance from London. At one time, the stone was a toll bar at the entrance to Farnham. Many visitors are attracted by the number and range of shops. There are both small independent retailers and well known high street names. Lion and Lamb Yard is a cobbled area, containing shops, restaurants and cafes. It takes its name from the hotel which stood in this yard.
The Farnham Maltings, on the River Wey, is a community arts centre. The building was used to malt grain when beer was brewed here. Courage Brewery, the owners of the building, intended to demolish it, but the residents purchased it in the 1960s in order to save it.
William Cobbett, the leading political journalist of his time, 1763-1835, was born in Farnham at The Jolly Farmer pub, where his father was the inn-keeper. It has been renamed The William Cobbett after him. He visited America several times, but retained an affection for his home town. In 1819, he commented that, as a town, Farnham was “the neatest in England and, I believe, in the whole world”. His most famous book is Rural Rides, in which he wrote about the hardships of the farm labourers. His tomb and that of his wife, Nancy, is outside the porch at the entrance to St. Andrew’s Church in Farnham.
St. Andrew’s Church dates from the 12th century. The chancel was constructed between 1150 and 1170, but the remains of a wooden Saxon church have been found. The nave, constructed in the 15th century, is one of the largest and highest in Surrey. The church tower was raised to its current height of 115 feet in 1865. The perpendicular window at the east end of the church, dates from 1399. In the church is a memorial to Augustus Toplady, who wrote the hymn, Rock of Ages. He was born in West Street, Farnham, where there is a plaque on the wall of Elphick’s Department Store. The cottages in Middle Church Lane have been used for filming television programmes, including Foyle’s War.
Castle Street, as its name suggests, leads up to Farnham Castle, which dates from the 12th century and was home to the Bishop of Winchester for over eight hundred years. The Castle is also known as The Bishop’s Palace. The Castle Keep is maintained by English Heritage and open daily. The steps leading to the Castle were built in blocks of seven steps and seven paces to allow Bishop Richard Fox, who was blind, to walk into town. He died in 1528. Next to the Castle is Farnham Park, which is a 320 acre medieval deer park, which overlooks the town. It was the former hunting land for the Castle which adjoins the Park. Five hundred years ago, kings and queens rode here. The boundary has remained unchanged for over six hundred years and has the feel of open countryside. It was enclosed in 1376 by the Bishop of Winchester. There is a golf course, large children’s play area and cafe. Kings Avenue, in the Park, is a tree lined avenue. James I and Queen Victoria, were frequent visitors.
Gostrey Meadow is a park linking Farnham Maltings and the River Wey to the town centre. There is a children’s playground, access to paddling in the River Wey, the War Memorial and a bandstand, where numerous musical events are held in the summer. In the 17th century, Gostrey Meadow was part of The Bush Hotel Estate, which was known as Gostreeds, but it was not until 1910, that Gostrey Meadow was opened to the public. The Bush Hotel is Farnham’s oldest licensed premises, where alcohol has been served for over five hundred years. It was a coaching inn.
Waverley Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery in England, dates from 1128 and is only two miles from Farnham town centre.