Shere is a small picturesque village situated below the North Downs, six miles south-east of Guildford and approximately twenty miles from London. It is regarded by many as the prettiest village in Surrey and is certainly the most photographed. The village is much sought after as a residential location, being within commuting distance of London and accessible to the M25 motorway. It does mean, however, that at weekends Shere becomes congested with visitors enjoying the scenery and facilities offered by this attractive village.
Set in the Tillingbourne Valley, Shere has everything a village should contain. There is a ford, ducks to feed, two pubs, shops, a teashop, blacksmith and an ancient church. It is no wonder that Shere has been chosen as a location for a number of film productions. ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’, starring Renee Zellweger and the 2006 film, ‘The Holiday’, starring Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz, both feature Shere. Shere was chosen to be ‘Pagwell’ for the BBC TV production ‘Professor Branestawm Returns’, starring comedian, Harry Hill.
Shere is mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1087, as ‘Essira’ and notes the church, which probably existed long before the Norman invasion. The cottages in Shere present a mixture of styles from the 15th to 20th centuries, but the central part of the village is still fundamentally 16th and 17th century, with many timber-framed houses. The names of the cottages in Lower Street, indicate the growth of population and increased prosperity during this period, produced by the woollen industry. Lower Street runs alongside the River Tillingbourne to the Ford. Here you can see The Old Forge, The Old Prison, Weavers House and Wheelright Cottage.
Middle Street contains village shops and leads to the bridge across the River Tillingbourne, where the wooden Old Fire Station, dated 1885 can be seen. This was the Shere and Albury Volunteer Fire Brigade Station. In 1977, it was converted to public toilets.
The White Horse Inn, opposite Church Square, is an attractive black and white timbered building, which in 1450, was a house called, “Cripps”. About 1600, a chimney with stone back-to-back fireplaces, was added. It became an inn in the late 17th century. From 1866 – 1945, it was managed by the Askew family and the inn became frequented by literary and artistic figures.
The other pub, The William Bray, was once known as the Prince of Wales and formerly Cook’s Beer House. It was built in the late 18th century, the frontage being an early 20th century addition.
The Church of St. James has been a place of worship since 1190. The spire, built between 1213 and 1300, is an excellent example of a brooch spire. It was covered with cedar shingles, but in 2000, these had to be replaced and handmade oak shakes were used. There are several brass plaques in the chancel dating from 1412, excellent for those who seek to take brass rubbings.
An intriguing aspect of St. James’ Church, is The Anchoress of Shere. Christine Carpenter, in 1329 made a solemn promise to devote her life to God and live in a holy place. On 14th August 1329, the Bishop of Winchester gave permission for her to be enclosed in a cell which was built in the North wall of the chancel. Food and drink was given to her through a grating on the outside wall. On the inside of the church can be seen the Quatrefoil through which she received the bread and wine of communion. Through the squint window, she could see the altar. Not surprisingly, after three years, she decided to leave her cell, but for reasons unknown, it is recorded that on 10th November 1332, the Bishop of Winchester agreed to her request to be returned to the cell so “she may be enabled to achieve her salvation”. William Carpenter, her father, it is believed, lived where the Willow and Ash Cottages now stand in Lower Street. These were built about 1475.
The Lych Gate was designed in 1902 by the architect, Edwin Lutyens, who later became Sir Edwin Lutyens and designed the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. He designed various buildings in Shere for the Bray family, who have been Lords of the Manor of Shere since 1487. These include The Manor House Lodge and Western Cottages in Upper Street and the building in Middle Street, now used as the Tea Room, “The Dabbling Duck”, which was formerly known as “The Lucky Duck” and prior to that, “Asters Tea Shop”.
Visitors to Shere were able to view what was one of the most exciting events of the 2012 Olympic Games. On 28th July 2012, the first day of the Games, the Olympic 2012 Mens’ Cycling Road Race started from The Mall in Central London. The competitors raced for 240 kilometres through Surrey and returned to The Mall in London. The route took in Shere, Gomshall and nine laps of Box Hill.
The following day, the Womens’ Olympic Cycling Road Race followed the same, but a shorter route of 140 kilometres, again including Shere, Gomshall and Box Hill. In the same year, 2012, the village held a street party to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.