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Shalford - a Brief History


Over the last two centuries Shalford has grown from a small rural community into a semi-urban suburb of Guildford. Its focus has moved south from the old village by the parish church and the Mill down to the area around Kings Road and the Common. The part of the old parish north of the Tillingbourne was taken into Guildford Borough in 1933.

Originally two hamlets grew up on the banks of the Tillingbourne at Shalford – West Shalford and East Shalford. East Shalford was the Shalford or ‘Scaldefor’ of Domesday Book. West Shalford was included in the large estate of Bramley. West Shalford eventually developed into the medieval village by the parish church, close to where the Tillingbourne flows into the Wey. Even at the beginning of the seventeenth century it was still referred to as West Shalford or West Shalford Street. Its position beside the church and its little marketplace, on the main road close to Guildford, must have been once reason why it eclipsed its sister hamlet. East Shalford remained isolated and rural while West Shalford became the busy hub of the parish. Beside the Mill on the Tillingbourne there was a clothier’s and fuller’s premises, which later became a maltings, a tannery, a blacksmith’s, and a brickyard. Tiles were manufactured at Tilehouse Farm in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Although the other industries disappeared over time, Shalford Mill continued as a working flour mill until 1914.

The village consisted of not much more than two rows of cottages below the church. These were occupied by craftsmen and small husbandmen. All had strips of land in the village’s open or Common Fields, which lay to either side of Pilgrims Way. Over time the cottages became much subdivided and extended. Some were used as shops or alehouses. Most of the houses are seventeenth century in origin but would have replaced earlier buildings. In the 1820s a programme of improvements to properties on the Austen estate saw the timbered frontages rendered over to give a more fashionable Georgian appearance.

The village industries and the inhabitants of the cottages co-existed side-by-side with wealthier people: four large houses in the village - Debnershe, Beech House, the Mill House and Whitnorth - were occupied by branches of local gentry families such as the Duncumbes, Heaths, Carylls and Grantleys - until purchased by the Austen estate and let to service and professional people coming mainly from outside the local area.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the Godwin-Austen estate owned all the land between the Guildford border down to the Common, and from St Catherine’s in the west to St Martha’s in the east. The family’s mansion, Shalford House, dominated the church and the village. Shalford House was built in 1608-10 by two brothers, George and John Austen, who in 1599 bought the Rectory Manor of Shalford from Sir George More of Loseley. They demolished the existing Parsonage House behind the church and built a large new house. The brothers’ timber- framed, brick built Jacobean house was given a makeover in the 1790s, refronted and with a third storey added, giving it the appearance of a Georgian mansion. Despite being a Grade II* listed building it was demolished in 1967 to make way for a water extraction and treatment works. Still an open space and owned by Guildford Borough Council since 1938, Shalford Park was once the grounds of Shalford House.

By the late nineteenth century the old village had become fossilised, dominated by the Godwin-Austen estate and with no room for development. Arable fields separated the village from the Common and it was the area to the south, around the Common, that now became the new heart of Shalford. The Common was originally the uncultivated land of the manors, where manorial tenants could graze their animals. Cattle were a familiar sight on the Common until the 1960s.


Around the Common were scattered a few cottages on narrow strips of land, an acre or so in extent, enclosed out of the Common a few centuries earlier. As the population increased in the nineteenth century these cottage plots were subdivided and built on, with the result that where there was once one cottage now there might be eleven or more houses. All the properties fronting onto the Common are the result of this type of development. Demand for housing was high as local industries - the gunpowder works and printing works at Chilworth, Summersbury Tannery, Broadford Brewery, Unstead Mill and the brickyard at East Shalford - attracted workers and their families to Shalford.

When the railway came to Shalford in 1849 it stimulated the area round the Common. The Reading to Redhill line cut across the parish from west to east and Shalford Station was built just north of the Common. But development in this part of the parish started before the railway arrived, and was spurred by another form of transport – the Navigation. The Wey Navigation from the Thames to Guildford was extended by the Godalming Navigation in 1764, with a wharf at Stonebridge in Shalford shipping timber and gunpowder downstream to London. The opening of the Wey and Arun Canal in 1816 added to the business of the wharf, and a little hamlet grew up beside the river at Broadford. The brewery at Broadford relied on the wharf for deliveries of coal for its steam engines. The brewery site eventually became part of the Vulcanised Fibreworks whose tall chimney, a conspicuous landmark, was demolished in 1982. The Fibreworks site was redeveloped as Broadford Business Park.

During the twentieth century much of Shalford’s farmland was covered with housing: the old Common Fields either side of Pilgrims Way, the fields between the old village and the Common, and the Poplar Farm and Summersbury Farm area between Chinthurst Lane and the A281. Shalford is nevertheless still surrounded by open countryside – the woodland of The Chantries and Chinthurst Hill, National Trust land along the Wey, and the great expanse of Commons. The old village became a Conservation Area in 1973.

©Margaret Dierden 2012