Section 1 of our walk, around Staines is 1.33 miles. It starts outside the Blue Anchor pub and takes in the Market Square, Thames Path, Staines Bridge, Clarence Street, Church Street, Two Rivers Retail Park, the Colne & Wraysbury Rivers, Hale Street, Staines West Station, Duncroft, St Mary’s Church and the Old Ashby Brewery.
For an interactive map of Part 1 of the Staines Historic Walk visit the link at MapMyWalk.com.
Our walk starts outside what was the Blue Anchor public house which faces onto Clarence Street and is at the entrance to the old Market Square. From the front of the pub, walk into the Market Square and towards the War Memorial.
The Blue Anchor pub has 15th century origins, but the present building is early 18th Century and is Grade II listed. It still retains many of its original features and has five false windows, owing their existence to a “window tax” introduced in 1696 and repealed in 1851. In 1957, whilst carrying out renovations, some marvellous finds were uncovered, including an oak beam estimated to be 650 years old, George III coins and floorboards marked with the date 1498. There have also been earlier finds here and at other the neighbouring buildings which date much earlier back to Roman (43 – 410 AD), Bronze-Age (2,500 – 800 BC) and Neolithic Times (4,000 – 2,500 BC).
The pub closed in 2006 and became The Boundary – a more trendy pub / wine bar. This did not last long and the ground floor is now occupied by a Japanese restaurant and a karaoke club.
For some of the history records from the Blue Angel, and neighbouring buildings, at Exploring Surrey’s Past see HER_5764, HER_5083, HER_2896, HER_2897, HER_2894, HER_2870, and HER_2871. These are just a few of the finds in this small area, if you wish to read more you can play about with the map on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website.
Johnson Iron Foundry
It’s unlikely for a town such as Staines to have its own ironworks as there is no locally sourced iron ore to smelt or coal to power the furnaces. However, Staines had more than one foundry over the years. The local foundries did not use iron ore, they made their products from pig and scrap iron. It seems likely they used smaller “Cupola furnaces” fuelled by coke which was readily available from the Staines and Egham Gas & Coke Company, on The Causeway, just over the River Thames.
On the High Street just east of the Blue Anchor was the site of Johnson & Sharp’s Iron Foundry. This started here in a small ironmongers founded by the Ashby Family in 1790. In 1800 the premises were owned by Edward Ashby. His tenant was Thomas LeFevre who at the time was the only listed ironmonger in Staines. By 1835 the business was run by Ashby in his own name. After he died in 1869, it was bought by the Right Honourable Jesse Collins who had a number of managers and business partners over the years. One manager was a Mr Johnson and he named the business Johnson & Company (1889 – 1894). When managers and partners changed he would also change the name, first to Johnson & Smith, then back to Johnson & Company, later Johnson & Sharp (1905 – c1910) and finally Johnson & Clark.
The products produced were mainly street furniture, such as man-hole & metal drain covers, seats and lamp posts. Some still survive today from the two known foundries in Staines and from the Henry Holmes Foundry in Stanwell. We’ll get information about the other Staines foundry and see some of their surviving products later on our walk. Below is a photo of products of the Johnson & Sharp Foundry which we will also see later. These are two of a number of benches in the Queen Victoria Jubilee Gardens – the plaque on each bench tells the maker, but not the date. The gardens were opened in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in June that year.
The ironmongers continued to thrive here to about 1955. By this time there were a few small shops next to it, including Boots. All were demolished and in 1956 a three story new department store named “Johnson & Clark” was built on the site. However, in 1986 the store was demolished and a new development of office block and shops put up in its place.
In the first photo above (1927) you can make out the horse trough and drinking fountain with a lamp on top on the right. Immediately left of this is Johnson & Clark, and a few building past this, where the pavement breaks and the last building sticks out on this row, you can see where the old narrow entrance to Thames Street. The second photo was taken about ten years earlier from just north of the entrance to Thames Street and looking in the opposite direction. It shows the union between the UK and the USA towards the end of World War I by the two flags flying next to each other from the first floor of a building on the left. The lamp on top of the horse trough / drinking fountain can be seen just left of main window of the white building in the centre.
Johnson & Clark did diversify into selling other products. One which most people may now find a bit strange is advertised below. Today the site is occupied by a modern office block with shops on the ground floor.
The building to the right of The Blue Anchor was County Sports up to 1981. It suffered a disastrous fire in 1979, but thankfully was rebuilt to almost the same design to blend in with the other buildings on this side of the Market Square. Excavations carried out before redevelopment unearthed evidence of a sequence of early to late Roman floors that included part of a circular 1st century building and a 4th century hearth or oven. Also uncovered was a late 2nd century / early 3rd century well, or ritual shaft, with the remains of at least 16 dogs. Other finds here suggest the area may have been abandoned after the Roman occupation and then reoccupied in the 11th century.
Both County Sports and the “Cashbrokers” building next door originally date from the late 19th century and are grade II listed.
Staines Conservative Club
The building closest to the Town Hall, on this side of the square, is now the StainesConservative Club. It was opened in 1887 as the Staines & Egham Constitutional Club. Most of the original features of the building have been preserved and a plaque on its front states:
“This Stone to commemorate the opening of the Staines and Egham Hythe Constitutional Club on 19th May 1887 was laid by Mrs Dixon Hartland and Mrs Hankey the wives of the members of Divisions of Uxbridge & Chertsey.”
Staines War Memorial
The memorial sits in the Market Square and is built of Portland Stone. It was unveiled by George Bingham, 5th Earl of Lucan, in 1920. It originally sat in the Memorial Gardens, but was moved here in 2002 as part of the town redevelopment scheme. It is mounted by a winged figure of Victory holding a torch and a wreath. On each corner is a figure of a serviceman – a soldier in field kit with a rifle; a sailor in day rig with signal flags; an airman in flying rig, and a marine in field kit with rifle stand on arms. It was erected to commemorate those locals who gave their lives during World War I (1914 – 1918). In 2003 a plaque was added to remember those who gave their lives during World War II (1939 – 1945). Remembrance Day services held here, each year on 11th November, remember all who gave their lives in military service over the years. The memorial also acts as a water feature, at its base (when turned on) named “Reflections”.
The peculiar shaped white building behind the war memorial is Cygnet House. It incorporates 2 Market Square and 2 Clarence Street and is presently offices. This was built c1830 and is grade II listed. It started life as a shop named Newman’s, selling hay, straw and flour. Immediately behind it sat the Staines Printing Works, plus the offices of the Middlesex Chronicle during the early part of the 20th century.
From the War Memorial, walk south through the Market Square and towards the Town Hall. Stay left past the Town Hall and under a metal circular arch and into the Riverside Memorial Gardens.
Staines Town Hall
Staines Town Hall was designed by John Johnson, architect and District Surveyor of East Hackney, and was completed in 1880 in a Flemish Renaissance style with Italian and French motifs. It took nine years to build and cost a princely sum of £5,000. To make way for it the old small spired market-house was pulled down, as were a number of buildings to the east. This widened the street to form the Market Square and provided the site for the Memorial Gardens which were completed in 1897. However, there does seem to be a slight flaw - if you look closely at the front dial on the clock you will notice two XI, one at 9 and one at 11.
The reason we have the Town Hall is due to the Rennie Brothers choosing a site 200m upstream from earlier bridges to build the present bridge. It left a dead-end onto the river at a space where the bottom of old High Street led to the bridge. Locals complained by building the Town Hall with its back to the river, Staines had turned its back on the river. We are still lucky to have this wonderful building as in the early 1970s Staines Urban Borough Council voted by just one not to knock it down. It was thanks to a campaign by concerned local residents which tipped the balance. This led to the formation of the Staines Town Society, a charity whose purpose is to protect the old buildings and heritage of the town.
According to Exploring Surrey’s Past:
“HER 777 - Site of Staines Town Hall or Market House (Pre 1603 - Post 1712)
Staines Town Hall, or market house, originally stood in the middle of the highway and was afterwards removed to its later site. There in the Autumn of 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh was indicted before Commissioners and Middlesex jury. The current Town Hall was built in 1880/81 to replace a smaller one in a miserable and low thoroughfare known as Blackboy Lane. The original position has been sited to a widening of the High Street. The site of the meeting house lies just south of this part of the High Street. Sometime post 1712, the town hall or market house was moved to Blackboy Lane, which ran from where the present town hall stands south-eastwards to the river. It may be presumed that the present building stands very near to the site of the earlier one. The 1st edition of the OS 25" does not show it by name, but there is an isolated building in the centre of the roadway on the west side where the present Town Hall stands.”
Sources claim Sir Walter Raleigh was tried here, but this is not correct. It was here he was committed in 1603, before his trial at Winchester.
Over the years the Town Hall was used for many public events, including boxing tournaments, the local archaeological group, opera and stage plays. Famous rock bands who played here during the 1960s and 70s included, The Who, The Yarbirds and The Jaywalkers (with Richie Blackmore). The town hall was used for the court scene in the 1982 film Gandhi, where Judge Bloomfield sentences Ghandi to six years imprisonment for sedition. It also featured in the 2002 film Ali G Indahouse.
Staines Town Hall was mainly occupied by the local council, under different names from it opened until 1972, when Staines Urban District Council moved to new offices at Knowle Green. The local Magistrates Court was based her between October 1967 and March 1976, when it also moved to new offices at Knowle Green. The Old Town Hall opened as new Arts Centre in 1993; officially opened on 15 April 1994 by actor and director Kenneth Branagh. In 2004 the building became a “Smith & Jones” pub. However, when I went there recently at lunchtime, it seemed to have been abandoned and signs on the windows were advertising the leasehold of the building being up for sale.
Both of the red telephone kiosks at the front of the Town Hall, although looking a bit shabby at present, are grade II listed. The Old Fire Engine Shed, at the back right of the hall, was built c1880 and housed Spelthorne’s first museum from 1980 to 2003. You can read more about Staines Town Hall on the British Listed Buildings website.
Trafalgar Way Plaque
On the side of the Town Hall, as we pass, look up to see a plaque which remembers “The Trafalgar Way”. This is the 271 mile route taken “express by post-chaise” by Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere between 4th & 6th November 1805. He travelled from Falmouth to the Admiralty in London, carrying the news of the momentous victory and the death in action of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. In total he took 37 hours and made 21 stops at coaching inns to change horses; the 20th of these stops was at the Bush Inn at Staines. The Bush was behind where the Town Hall no sits and next to the old Staines Bridge. Ironically, as you can see from the second plaque below, Lord Nelson stayed at the Bush Inn (apparently with Lady Hamilton) in July 1801 and just four years before his death.
This is one of two Swan Arches which mark entrances to the riverside Memorial Gardens. They were hand-made from stainless steel by Anthony & Simon Robinson. The motifs on the legs were designed by pupils of Kingscroft Junior School, each depicting images of the town. Both arches have a single swan in flight at the top – the swan represents the symbol of Staines. Kingscroft Junior School was amalgamated with Knowle Park Infant School and Shortwood Infant School in September 2011 to form Riverbridge Primary School.
After passing through the Swan Arch turn right, away from the main footpath, onto a semi-circular path leading to the back of the Town Hall and towards the River Thames. Soon there is a water feature to your left hand side (LHS) and on approaching the river an old stone sitting on a layered base.
Dancing Fountains with Five Swimmers (or Water Nymphs) Sculpture
The Dancing Fountains were erected here in 2006. The centre-piece is a sculpture of five swimmers mounted on a plinth. It was created by David Wynne in 1980, originally as the centre-piece to the Elmsleigh Shopping Centre which was opened the same year by Queen Elizabeth II. Some locals found the naked figures in the sculpture distasteful and downright rude. The council decided to remove it and put it into storage, at one point it came close to being disposed of. Luckily, this didn’t happen and it stayed in storage until it was placed here as important part of the Memorial Gardens. Apparently, before it was moved here, the male appendages were reduced – I suppose to keep some residents happy.
On the river behind The Town Hall sits a replica of the London Stone. The original stone is thought to be a Roman Altar stone and stood in Staines near this same spot since 1285. It marked the Corporation of City of London’s former limit of jurisdiction on the Thames. They gained these rights in 1197, during the reign of Richard I, and held them until the formation of the Thames Conservancy in 1857. This was the highest point at which the tide could be detected (that pleasure now belongs to Teddington Lock). In the 18th Century the stone was moved upstream, to what is now Lammas Park, and this in turn was replaced by the replica in 1986. In 2003 I found the original London Stone sitting unprotected under some scaffolding in what seemed to be an abandoned Town Hall. In 2012 the replica was moved back down river to where it is now, between the Town Hall and the Town Pier, and near to its original site. You can now see the original stone in Spelthorne Museum, behind the library on Thames Street. According to the display at the museum:
“… The London Stone is actually a stack of six layers of stones, of varying dates. The topmost one was reputed to be a Roman altar stone, although its actual origin is unknown. On the top part are the words “God preserve ye City of London AD 1285””
At the London Stone turn right and follow the footpath along the river, soon over a wooden footbridge and towards Staines Bridge. We have now joined a National Trail named the Thames Path.
The Thames Path is a long distance “National Trail” opened in 1996. It follows the River Thames for 184 miles, from its source near Kemble in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich. The route comes along the Thames from the west through Egham, crosses over Staines Bridge and continues along the northern bank, through Staines and on towards London.
Staines Town Pier
On the riverbank next to the London Stone is “Staines Town Pier”, opened in 2002. This has steps and stone ramps leading down to a planked mooring area. The pier has been a really positive addition as it means Staines has now a docking station for river cruises. From June 18th to August 30th, on Monday, Tuesdays & Thursdays, French Brothers provide boat trips from here to Hampton Court and back. The boats depart the Town Pier at 10am and return at 5.45pm.
Old Bridge Head
On passing Staines Pier, look across the river and you can see the remains of an old bridgehead at The Hythe. It forms a wall onto the opposite towpath and is mostly covered with ivy. The bridge is question is part of a late 18th century or early 19th century bridge – one of those which failed. According to the Surrey History Centre:
“HER 10365 - REMAINS OF BRIDGE ON RIVER THAMES TOWPATH (SOUTH BANK), The Hythe, EghamStone bridge abutments of earlier Staines Bridge by Thomas Sandby, 1791. Along the rear of Old Bridge Cottage, along river towpath and along rear of White Lodge now forming stone boundary wall. Listing NGR: TQ0326871438”
Footbridge over River Colne
The wooden footbridge was built in the mid-1980s and takes the Thames Path over the mouth of the River Colne as it enters the Thames. It allowed a continuous path to the Lammas. A plaque on the bridge states “Manufactured by Laminated Wood Ltd, Clovelly Road, Bideford”.
The statue down steps, immediately past the footbridge and next to the River Thames is a Heron carved from Portland Limestone by sculptor Simon Buchanan. It sits as a guardian overlooking and representing the river and is a benign marker for river traffic and pedestrians on the Thames Path. As you can see from the photos below, it also provides a peaceful place to get closer to the river and enjoy the boats cruising past.
Thames Edge Court
The building is on the site of the old ABC Cinema (aka Regal Cinema) and was completed in 2003. It contains 65 residential apartments with food and drink outlets on the ground floor. Overlooking the Thames, are the Slug & Lettuce Pub and Jimmy Spices Restaurant. Around the side and the front on Clarence Street is Roshnis Indian Restaurant. Just along Clarence Street and on the west side of Thames Edge Court is a footpath back to the Thames along the edge of the River Colne, and past the entrance to another restaurant & bar, named The Soirée – translated from French as “a formal evening party”.
Regal / ABC Cinema
The Regal Cinema was on the site of the now Thames Edge Court. It opened on 20th February 1939 and seated 1,103 in the stalls and 510 in the circle. It remained virtually unaltered until the late 1960 when it changed name to the ABC Cinema. In 1971 it was converted to a two theatre cinema and in 1972 to three theatres. After the redevelopment in 1971, the cinema hosted the world premiere of the movie “Up Pompeii” starring Frankie Howard. It was taken over by the Cannon Group in 1986 and renamed Cannon. From April 1993 to 1998 it was named MGM. It was then taken over in a management buy-out and became ABC again. However, with plans for a new multiplex to be built in the town, the old ABC finally closed on 14th January 2001 and was demolished in August 2001.
In my first years of knowing Staines, c1980, I remember that on the north side of the River Thames, the towpath was not accessible from the bridge and you had to walk along Clarence Street and then down the western side of the cinema to get back to the river. If I also remember right, there was a pub next to the bridge and behind the cinema. However, I have been unable to find information about this on the Internet apart from the letters PH on old maps and this maybe the building facing the river in the RHS photo above. Some locals tell me it may have been called the Riverside Country Carvery Restaurant.
The history of a bridge across the Thames at Staines dates back to almost two millenniums. Geology has a large part to play here as Staines is the only place on the Thames above London where you can cross the river without leaving a gravel base and not come upon the more unstable alluvial soils. During the Bronze Age (2,500 – 800 BC) and well before the Romans came to Britain, there is evidence people crossed the Thames at Staines. We know the Romans built a bridge here around 43 AD to carry their main road from London to the south-west. In 1009 there are records of an invading Danish Army (The Vikings) crossing the river at Staines to avoid an English force assembling in London. After Roman Times, the first mention of a bridge here was in 1222, when the King (Henry III who reigned from 1216 – 1272) gave a tree from Windsor Forest for the repair of the bridge. For centuries the bridge was an important part of the route from London to the south-west and it underwent many changes, through royal grants, alms acquired from the surrounding areas and finance from merchants who used the bridge for their goods. Tolls were levied on traffic to maintain it and by 1376 these were also taken from boats passing it. An Act of 1597 included the Egham Causeway as part of that maintained. The quote below is from British History Online and tells us some more of the story of Staines Bridge up until 1832:
In 1549 the people of Staines prayed the Privy Council that they might not be compelled to break down the bridge to impede the rebels. Since the rebels, who had risen in the west country against the prayer book, did not in the event march on London, it is probable that Staines Bridge was spared, but a century later it was destroyed in the Civil War. In 1671 it was said that after the bridge was broken down in the war, the bridge-masters had replaced it by a ferry. A wooden bridge was mentioned in 1669 and 1675 but about 1684-7, when the bridge was rebuilt, a ferry was still working and had been doing so since the bridge was demolished. The bridge was again threatened with destruction in 1688 to impede William of Orange's advance on London. It was still made of wood in 1708.
Under an Act of 1791 a new stone bridge was built. It was designed by Thomas Sandby and opened in 1797, but part of it collapsed almost immediately and it was replaced in succession by a cast-iron bridge, opened in 1803, and a wooden and iron one opened in 1807. The old wooden bridge remained by the side of its successive replacements and was used while they were built. All these bridges spanned the river between the present Memorial Gardens and the Hythe, with Staines High Street extending to the foot of the bridge across the Town Hall site. The last iron bridge became unsafe in its turn and under Acts of 1828, 1829, and 1832 the present bridge was built and Clarence Street, Bridge Street, and the approaches were laid out.
Below is a drawing of the old wooden Staines Bridge by Samuel Ireland from 1792.
Staines Bridge, as we now know it, was designed by George Rennie (1791 – 1866) and his younger brother John. They got their gift from their father and uncle who had achieved many great engineering fetes before them, including building other bridges over the Thames. The first stone was laid by Prince William, 1st Duke of Clarence on 14th September 1829. He later returned on 23rd April 1832, as William IV with his wife Queen Adelaide, to officially open the new bridge in great ceremony. In total the bridge cost over £40,000 to build. Up to now recent attempts to build a new bridge at Staines had failed disastrously. These had been had been further downstream, around the area of the town hall and where earlier bridges were. You can read more about this and see some lovely drawings and photos of older bridges at Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide.
Under Emperor Claudius the Romans invaded Britain in AD43 and in the same year Staines was established as a Roman settlement, a fort and a crossing point of the Thames. It was the first crossing point upstream from London. The Roman settlement was named “Ad Pontes” (“by the bridges”) and suggests in Roman Times at least two bridges at Staines. However, this may also refer to a bridge over the Thames and another over the River Colne, which enters the Thames just downstream from the current Staines Bridge (another theory as to why “Ad Pontes” comes later when we pass Church Island).
As with previous bridges, traffic using the Rennie Brothers’ Bridge had to pay a toll to cross. This continued up until 1871, when to the delight of local people and road users the toll was removed. However, I did read at Staines Museum, that prior to 1878 every pedestrian was charged a toll of half of one penny to cross Staines Bridge.
With the outbreak of World War II, a wooden Bailey bridge was built just upstream from Staines Bridge (as can be seen in the photo above). Its purpose was to carry the extra wartime traffic and to act as a spare if the main bridge was damaged by enemy bombs. It closed to traffic 1847, but remained opened to pedestrians until 1959, when widening of the main bridge had been completed.
Immediately before Staines Bridge, turn right between the bridge and Thames Edge. You soon come to and climb some steps to Clarence Street. At the top turn right and along the pavement past the front of Thames Edge and soon over the River Colne.
Clarence Street was built around the same time as the current Staines Bridge (c1832) and has some well-preserved Georgian houses. It is named after Prince William, 1st Duke of Clarence & Munster. The street was mainly residential and the elegant Georgian houses provided homes to wealthy people of the area such as merchants, industrialists, bankers. Many of the old houses still remain, especially along the north side of the street, and some are grade II listed. Most now have shop fronts to their ground floor with flats or offices above. The listed buildings include numbers 2, 15, 17, 25, 27, 29, 33 & 35. The photos below show Clarence Street in 2012 and a hunt starting from here in 1890.
The largest house on Clarence Street was Bridge House, and built (c1832) on land left over from the building of Staines Bridge. This occupied the prime site, between Staines Bridge and the Colne Bridge, with gardens backing onto the Thames. In 1898 it was bought by Tom Taylor, a well-known boat-builder, who converted it to a grand hotel named the Bridge House Hotel (the link is to a photo at the Francis Frith website, dated 1907). It was the one of the first buildings in Staines to have been powered by electricity. For three decades the hotel became the main social hub of the town with open air dances and concerts taking place in the sprawling riverside gardens. Marie Lloyd (1870 – 1922), a famous and lewd musical hall singer of the time, often visited. Taylor built a boathouse between the hotel and the bridge. However, the hotel ran into financial difficulties, was closed in 1937 and demolished the following year. It was replaced by the Regal Cinema which opened two years later. Although Taylor no longer had the hotel, his boatyard did continue to successfully trade for decades afterwards.
Across the Colne from the Bridge House was a large detached house named Colne Lodge. It was built in 1868 and demolished in 1966 to make way for more shops under an office block, still named Colne Lodge. It’s not a very pleasant looking building, and is now unoccupied for let.
Through the years Clarence Street can also boast to having Staines first telephone exchange and first co-operative. An aerial photo of the Staines Bridge and Clarence Street, taken in 1928, can be viewed by following the link to “Britain from Above”.
The photo above shows a herd of elephants marching out of Clarence Street and into the High Street c1904. When I first saw this, I thought they had escaped from a zoo. However, the locals didn’t look too worried and some children are very close to them. There are also camels and other animals in the photo and, not clear to me, are bears, plus horses pulling cages with lions and tigers in them. This was the circus coming to town. In these days they would walk their animals from one place to the next as it was the cheapest means of transport. At Staines they displayed in fields to the north of the railway.
Bridge over River Colne
The bridge is grade II listed and dates from around 1832. It was most probably built by the Rennie Brothers, who also built the present Staines Bridge over the River Thames. In later years the bridge was widened to cope with increasing volumes of traffic. According to the Austin Harris website an old motor time trial started from the bridge and was named the “MCC London to Exeter Time Trial”. It took place from 1921 to 1934 and there are some great photos on the time trial website.
Once over the Colne, and outside Colne Lodge, turn left to cross Clarence Street via the pelican crossing. At the other side, turn right along the pavement.
As you cross the road, look slightly to your left and next to the River Colne Bridge. You’ll see one of the Georgian houses which sits at important point of the best Georgian façade in the town and totally spoils it. This house has been boarded up for decades and has fallen into decay. In a document by Spelthorne Borough Council, dated March 1991 and entitled “Conservation Area Preservation and Enhancement”, it states on Clarence Street: “One particular eyesore needing attention is the vacant boarded premises …” This is not just an eyesore; it’s also a health hazard and takes away so much from this street. The owner must not know it belongs to them, and after over two decades, having known about the building, the local council have still not acted.
Soon to your right is the Blue Anchor, where we started our walk from, next to it the red office and shop block which replaced Johnson & Clark. The photo below is one of the earliest of Staines. It shows this area of Staines High Street, looking north past the Blue Anchor, in 1865.
After just a short walk, cross over the entrance to Church Street, at The George, then turn left into Church Street.
Clarence Street / Church Street Corner
This striking early 19th century building (thought to be 1824, by British Listed Buildings) occupies the corner of Clarence Street and Church Street. It looks onto Thames Street, the High Street and dominates an important old part of the town. Below are photos of this area of Staines from 1910 and 2012. As you can see from the photo above, about the circus coming to town, between 1904 and 1910 the ornate first floor conservatory was added by a local butcher, Mr Perkins, whose shop occupied the building at this time. The ground floor is now home to a small Japanese restaurant named Momo Café with “The Beauty Zone” parlour above.
The George at 2 - 8 High Street, is owned by JD Wetherspoon and opened on 11th September 1996. It is named after the Old George Inn which traded on this site from at least the 15th century to the late 18th century. Tesco occupied 2 High Street Staines during the 1930s and after the World War II expanded to occupy the whole site and opened Staines’ first supermarket here c1957. In 1995, before the site was redeveloped, archaeological excavations here uncovered evidence of Iron Age and early Roman occupation, plus a 13th century chalk lined well and at least three late medieval tile-on-edge hearths – see HER_5007 at Exploring Surrey’s Past.
The photos below are taken from in front of The George and show the Town Hall Square and the Blue Anchor, the first from 2012, the second from 1907 and the third a very busy market in the square in 1955.
Church Street is divided into two sections, this one we are in now and the one leading from The Cock to St Mary’s Church. The latter (western end) has been better preserved over the years. It’s a shame some older buildings have given way to office blocks along this section of the street, but I suppose that’s progress. However, many old buildings do still survive here. The attached row of four houses (21 – 27 Church Street and next to Gorings Square) are late 17th century and are grade II listed. Their ground floors have been modified to cater for shops. They include, Blowers, KW Dunster, Cheques Cashed and Blue Star Cars, yet their upper floors are preserved. Goring’s Square takes its name from a family of butchers who were in Staines from at least 1790. This was the site of their slaughterhouse. There are a many other listed buildings along this old street and I’ll mention them below or refer to them later when we walk along the western end of Church Street.
Two Rivers Engraving
Our walk continues straight on along Church Street, but you divert just a few yards between nos. 19 and 21 Church Street into Gorings Square, Here you can see engraving on the side of Vue Cinema depicts a swan going into flight and is subscribed “Two Rivers”.
Permission to build “Two Rivers” shopping and leisure centre was given in 1996. It opened in 2002 and consists of many retail outlets, cafés, restaurants, a multiplex cinema and a health club, all surrounding large open air car parks. Mustard Mill Road divides it in two, the River Colne flows through it and the Wraysbury River around its southern and western boundary.
The Hobgoblin was originally a coaching inn, named the Duke of Clarence. It dates back to the early 19th century and for a while had frontage on both Church Street and Clarence Street. Before the opening of Staines Bridge in 1932, Church Street was a main thoroughfare, but with most passing traffic diverted via Clarence Street, the inn was extended backwards to also have a front onto Clarence Street. This way it attracted passing trade from the busier street leading to the bridge. It seems likely where a strange looking one storey building now sits on Clarence Street (Kebab Elite – see photo below) was the other entrance to the inn for coaches. 1851 the Clarence Street side of the pub was converted to a private dwelling named Colne House.
Next to the pub you can still see the old coaching arch leading from Church Street to what now is named “The Wicked Wall Garden”. In 2003 the pub was taken over by the Wychwood Brewery and renamed The Hobgoblin.
Church Street Bridge over the River Colne
Shortly after The Hobgoblin, Church Street passes over the River Colne. This is the third time we have crossed the Colne. There were anciently three lesser bridges here. There was mention of a bridge which crossed the Colne at Church Street in 1503 named Longford Bridge. In 1826 it was said to have formerly taken foot-passengers only, while carriages had used a ford beside it.
On the side wall of Kings Lettings Agency, and next to the Colne is a flooding history marker – notice the highest recorded flood is in 1947.
Footbridge over River Colne
Turn right over a wooden footbridge, once again over the Colne and into the Two Rivers Shopping Centre. Each year from here Midas Plus hold a charity duck race. People buy plastic ducks and drop them into the Colne to finish where the Colne enters the River Thames.
I find this footbridge one of the things which Spelthorne Borough Council should be proud of. Whoever came up with the idea and the person who designed it and built it should also take satisfaction from what they have done here. I can’t find much history about this, but believe it was built at the same time of the Two Rivers Development
Two Rivers Join
On walking over the footbridge look down to the left and you can see two rivers merge (first photo below). The main river is to the right and is the River Colne and joining it here is the Wraysbury River. It is from these two rivers where the name of the shopping centre originates.
Once over the bridge, to your RHS, you can see what looks like another cut going off from the Colne, but this time dried up. This was from where the Colne fed Sweeps Ditch, which you can read about below.
The photos above were taken in 2012. They show a male sawn seducing a female at the confluence of the two rivers. It was amazing to watch, which I did for ages, and he won over here at the end. The second shows the now dry bed of where Sweeps Ditch joined the River Colne.
Sweeps Ditch is an ancient man-made mill stream which flowed through Staines. In Roman & Medieval Times it formed the western and northern boundary of Town Island (sometimes referred to as High Street Island). Originally it was fed by the Clone, but with the building of the Elmsleigh Centre and the redevelopment of the town centre in the 1970s the water source was cut. A new water source was provided by Thames Water in 1982, when it installed a pump house (photo later) in the Riverside car park and this takes water from the Thames. However, the stream no longer goes through the centre of the town, instead it goes underground in a pipe across Thames Street and South Street. It then goes in a straight line for 300m under the south side of South Street to feed an older channel between the Elmsleigh Shopping Centre car park and the railway. The water course is on view from here as it heads south to enter the Thames, just below Penton Hook Lock.
Below is a photo I took at Spelthorne Museum of an educational reconstruction of Roman Staines (Ad Pontes) from archaeological excavations. The High Street and course of the old Roman Road divides the Roman town in two. A bridge (labelled 1) is showing crossing over the Thames. In the right bottom corner you can see the River Colne being joined by the Wraysbury River from the right and feeding Sweeps Ditch to its left. Sweeps Ditch flows around AD Pontes, forming Town Island, and enters the Thames a few hundred yards downstream. The blue spots on the photo represent evidence found by Wessex Archaeology excavations, and the red spots are from previous archaeology finds. The dotted line shows the approximate limits of the gravel island. The numbers represent Roman buildings which may have existed: 2 = Riverside Warehouse; 3 Public Baths; 4, Town Villa with bath house; 5, Forum (Market Place); 6, Basilica (Town Hall); 7, Temple; 8, Mansio, or Inn; 9, Parade of shops; 10, Shops and warehouses; 11, 12 and 13 are not in the photo, but represent a Cemetery and two farms. You can enlarge the photo as the resolution is higher than shown below, and for a full size photo which shows all of the points above, you can download here.
There are a few extra words on a caption of this model at the museum. It states
“This model, built in the early 1980s was based on archaeological evidence at the time, plus information from similar Roman towns. More recent work has indicated that Roman Staines was not as extensive as this model shows. It does however, give some idea of the importance of the town for the surrounding areas at this early date”.
The Sweeps Ditch Stone (pictured below) is just a few yards off our walk and outside the entrance to VUE Cinema. The stone and 15 round plaques, found on the ground throughout the Two Rivers car park, indicate the original route of Sweeps Ditch.
Once over the wooden footbridge turn left along the pavement (Mustard Mill Road), and keeping the River Colne to your LHS.
Two Rivers Pub, (was The Phoenix)
Very soon, to our left, and just over the River Colne, is the rear beer garden of the Two Rivers Pub. It sits at the confluence of the Colne and Wraysbury Rivers and is bordered by both. It is accessed from the pub by two footbridges over the Wraysbury River. There is also a small riverside walk from the beer garden to the confluence of the two rivers. Up until recently the pub was named The Phoenix. This was licensed in 1790, but the present building dates from the 19th century. The photo in the middle shows the new footbridge from the car park to the beer garden, the one on the right shows the old footbridge from the pub to the beer garden.
Over River Colne at Mustard Mill Road
The pavement soon leads to a roundabout and then turns left to cross over the River Colne for our 5th time. There are four roads going off the roundabout, all are named Mustard Mill Road. Up to the mid-1990s, and before permission was given to build the Two Rivers development, Mustard Mill Road formed a circular loop around what was the Staines Central Industrial Estate, and could only be accessed by motor vehicles from Hale Street. The road layout has since been changed and now Mustard Mill Road is a through road, from Hale Street to the Iron Bridge on the High Street. It cuts the retail park in half and separates the two large car parks around which Two Rivers is built. The branch roads leading to the entrance to car parks and the service road, along which we have just walked, are also all named Mustard Mill Road.
From the bridge you can see the whole of the Two Rivers development stretching out around its central car parks and cut in two by Mustard Mill Road. Between the car parks and to the left of the road, you can see the River Colne surrounded by narrow green areas on both sides and crossed by two footbridges. What you can’t see is these green areas are fenced off from the public, have many “Keep off the grass” / “Danger Deep water” and “No Fishing” signs, plus lifesaving rings to throw to anyone who doesn’t heed the warnings and falls in. I personally believe it’s such a shame as this small and beautiful stretch of the River Colne sits in the middle of everything here, but in a no-man’s land and only seen by people walking between the car parks. Surely, with a bit of thought and planning this area could be put to much better use and provide something attractive to break up the monotony of this vast central space.
The photos below show a wooden footbridge and the Mustard Mill Road bridge going over the River Colne in the central area of Two Rivers. If you wish you can walk an extra loop of 0.25 miles around the outside of the fenced off river area here. Just follow the LINK for details.
Mills have existed in Staines since at least the Domesday Book of 1086, which records six mills here. However, some of these may have been in the surrounding areas, such as Yeoveney Mill on Staines Moor. It is most likely there was at least one mill, and probably more, at Staines during Roman Times. Early mills would have used the waters from the rivers Colne and Wraysbury to provide the power to turn their wheels.
Most of the information below is from British History Online,
Hale Mill on the River Colne existed in the 13th century and was partly owned by John le Hale and partly by Westminster Abbey. By 1755 it was owned by John Finch, who also owned Pound Mill as you will read below, and whose descendants retained it until the mid-19th century (14th August 1868, according to The London Gazette). However, from 1826 the Finch family no longer operated the Hale Mill, at this time it was occupied by a papier-mâché company, also in 1864 and two years before Finch’s ownership of Hale Mill was dissolved, the Lino Company already occupied site. For at least 700 years Hale Mill existed on the site centred where the drive-thru’ McDonald and the north end of the western retail park is now. During this time it was probably the most important mill in the town, but was most likely to have been re-build at times.
New Mill is first mentioned in 1388 and in 1503 the water is said to have run from it to Moor Bridge which crossed the Wraysbury River at Hale Street. This suggests New Mill was situated just upriver from Hale Street.
Pound Mill, on the Wraysbury River existed at least as early as 1682, but is first referred to in 1747 when it was acquired by John Finch. It seems likely that New Mill and Pound Mill may have been the same, or were situated on the same site.
By the early 19th century Pound Mill continued to grind flour, but the main business of the two Finch family mills, Hale Mill and Pound Mill, was making mustard and this continued later under the name Finch, Rickman & Company – hence the name Mustard Mill Road. Pound Mill became one of the major employers in the town and although sold in 1900, continued to work until 1912. We pass the site of Pound Mill later in the walk.
Linoleum was invented by local businessman Fredrick Walton (b1834 – d1928) in 1855. It is made from flax (or linseed) and oil, the name is derived from the Latin for the two products “linon” and “oleum”. Walton took a few years to perfect his invention, but in 1864 he established the Linoleum Manufacturing Company and set up his lino factory at Hale Mustard Mill in Staines. Within just a few years Staines became famous for its easily available floor covering and exported lino all over the world. By 1930 the factory covered an area of 45 acres on land which is now Two Rivers Shopping Centre and the Moormede Estate. This was the main employer in the town and continued to produce for over a hundred years until its closure in 1970. A metal statue we pass later in the High Street shows two workmen carrying a roll of lino. Two aerial photos of the Staines Linoleum Company Works, taken in 1928, can be viewed by following the links to “Britain from Above1” and “Britain from Above2”.
Within a few years of Walton opening the factory, others also started to manufacture lino. Walton brought a lawsuit against one company for trademark infringement on the use of the name “Linoleum”. However, he had not trademarked the name and lost the suit. The opinion of the court was also, that even if the name had been registered as a trademark, it was now so widely used it had become generic. This is considered the first product name to become a generic term.
Over the two days of 25 – 26 March 1969 a music documentary film, named “Supershow” was filmed in Hale Mill at the old lino factory. This was intended as Britain’s first music “super session” with many famous blues, jazz and rock artists coming together to perform. The whole project was planned in great secrecy and artists included: Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Buddy Miles, Stephen Stills, plus many others. Allegedly, Jimi Hendrix was due to appear, but missed his plane from New York. You can read more about the film at Wikipedia and listen to Led Zeppelin (Dazed and Confused); Buddy Guy (Stormy Monday Blues); Eric Clapton v Buddy Guy (on guitar), Stephen Still (Black Queen) and more by following the links at YouTube.
As you turn left into Hale Street look straight ahead to see the old Ashby Brewery Tower which we pass later in the walk. The street itself could be described as one with two sides. Across the road are the modern buildings of Travelodge Hotel and Frankie & Benny’s restaurant, yet as we continue along the left hand side of the street, you’ll see how this has remained practically unchanged in well over a century. Most the buildings along this side of Hale Street are listed grade II, and all are even numbered. With the layout of the road and two bridges crossing the Wraysbury River on its west side, it does make you think about where the odd numbers on the opposite side may have been sited.
The first building to our right, as we walk along Hale Street, is a peculiar looking red brick house which backs onto the River Colne. It dates from c1835 and is now divided into three houses, numbers 22, 24 & 26. All three are listed grade II and 24–26 was originally one house. For many years it was home to the manager of the lino factory. A report by Spelthorne Borough Council, dated March 1991, and entitled “Conservation Area Preservation and Enhancement” stated:
“One of the earliest roadways to the north of the old town centre, Hale Street contains some very attractive Victorian buildings (Nos. 18-26). Links with Staines’ history as an important linoleum manufacturing centre are present in the former manager’s house (Nos. 24-26) and the sluices on the Colne and Wraysbury rivers. The restored 18th century malthouse to the west of the northern terrace of Nos. 9-15 give an attractive sense of enclosure, which would be enhanced by tree planting between No. 26 and the Colne Bridge to screen the trading estate. Some improvement is needed around Hale Street Hall and pumping station, also to the open space by the Wraysbury River. Period street lamps should be retained within Hale Street.”
The excerpt above gives a slight insight of what occupied the opposite side of Hale Street and what the odd numbered houses may have been. However, the report was issued well before the redevelopment of the industrial estate and the north side of the street.
Old School House
The next building we pass is the “Old School House” at 20 Hale Road. Again, probably Victorian and the blue window shutters give a European look to it. A schoolmaster at Staines is mentioned in 1353 and at various dates between 1580 and 1673. As for the history of the “Old School House”, the excerpt below from British History Online may provide some answers:
“The first regular school to be established was the boys' British school, which was founded in 1808. It was later said to be in Church Street, but it may in fact have been the building just round the corner in Hale Street which is now the Hale Street Mission Room. It consisted of one schoolroom and had one master. The number of pupils seems to have fallen from about 100 in the early days to 35 in 1852. A British school for girls, frequently referred to as a school of industry, was in existence by 1831, apparently in Hale Street too.”
The house to the right of the Old School House (no. 18 Hale Street) dates from the mid-19th century and is listed as being of historical interest.
Baptist Church & the Old Bakehouse
Staines Baptist Church sits next to the Wraysbury River and was first opened here in 1880. It is home to Staines Street Angels, a group of local volunteers who are out and about in the town centre late at night to give a helping hand to vulnerable people. Behind the church, on the opposite side of the river, is The Old Bakehouse.
Over Wraysbury River
At the end of Hale Street we stay left to cross over the Wraysbury River via a narrow bridge.
There is mention of a bridge over the more westerly of the two mill streams (Clone & Wraysbury) at Hale Street in 1503, named Moor Bridge.
On reaching the road (Wraysbury Road), turn right along the pavement and soon over what is now the main road along Hale Street. As you may notice to your right Hale Street also crosses the Wraysbury River for a second time via a bridge parallel to the one we have just crossed. This seems to be more modern and is much wider to give access to “Two Rivers”.
Just a few yards along Wraysbury Road, after crossing Hale Street, turn right, along a footpath, with a metal fence and the river to your right hand side. At this point across the road is the old malthouse, now Cygnet Orthodontics, and just past this are the old mill cottages. The footpath goes between the Wraysbury River and a small green with a sculpture in its centre.
The redbrick building on the opposite side of Wraysbury Road, immediately after crossing over the entrance to Hale Road, is a mid-19th century malt house which once formed part of the Staines Ashby Brewery. For a large building it has only five small windows and two small doors to the front. Looking at the brickwork, the door on the right is original and the one on the left was a later addition. The building retains almost all of its original external features and the blackboard under the right upper window was most likely to have been a door with a hoist where hops, malt and cereals were brought in through. Now used as offices, but so well preserved and grade II listed.
The five cottages facing onto the Wraysbury Road were built c1880. They take their name from the old mill which stood across the road on the Wraysbury River. These well preserved and listed cottages look straight across at the former Staines West Station, once home to the mill owner.
Pound Mill & Sculpture
The Pound Mill Sculpture on a lawn in front of the Old Station was placed here in February 2006. It was commissioned by Spelthorne Borough Council and designed by John Atkin. It sits close to the Wraysbury River and near the site of the old mustard mill.
According to British History Online:
Pound Mill derived its name from the neighbouring parish pound. The first reference found to it dates from 1747, when it was acquired by John Finch, meal-man. Although, it was then said to be newly erected, its ownership can be traced back to 1682, and in 1916 part of the machinery was dated 1712. Unlike Hale Mill, Pound Mill continued to be worked by the Finch family until it passed out of their hands. In the 19th century part of the mill was used to grind flour, but its chief business, carried on latterly under the name of Finch, Rickman & Co., was making mustard. The mill employed a considerable number of people in the mid-19th century, but its business seems to have declined by 1900, when it was sold. It continued to be used as a mill until 1912, and in 1916 it was purchased by the Linoleum Manufacturing Company who soon afterwards demolished it.
Also, according to British History Online:
Poor relief was naturally the vestry's chief preoccupation, though it also maintained fire engines from the 18th century, and parish cage, stocks, engine house, and pound. The pound, which stood near Pound Mill, was sold in 1824 with the workhouse, but a new one was inexistence by 1895 beside the bridge leading over the railway to the moor.
The photo below was taken in 1909, during what looks to be the depths of winter. It shows Staines West Station on the left and Pound Mill on the right. The Wraysbury River can be seen reappearing from under the mill after having supplied the mill with its power.
Just north of the sculpture and to the right is a footbridge over the Wraysbury River. From the bridge, look down and you will see a small weir. This was approximately the site of the waterwheel which provided the power for Pound Mill from the 17th century until it ceased working in 1912.
If time permits go over the footbridge and turn left, follow a footpath keeping the Wraysbury River to your LHS. You will soon come upon an information board entitled “Escape to Staines Moor”. It is tastefully designed and gives information about wildlife, history and who can use the Moor. The path continues along the river and behind the large warehouse shops of Two Rivers, soon over a railway level-crossing and onto the Moor. However, I have chosen not to go this way as we’ll come across many more places of interest before we reach the Moor on our walk.
If you do get to the information board, then have a look at this link to Britain From Above. It shows you are standing in at a point in the centre of what was Staines industrial past.
After passing the sculpture stay straight on along the footpath between the old station and the river. Where the footpath comes out onto a residential road (Wraysbury Gardens) turn left for just a few yards, then at the T-junction, turn left along the pavement (Moor Lane). On reaching the T-junction with Wraysbury Road, turn right to cross over the entrance to Moor Land and continue straight on along the pavement.
Staines West Station
Staines West Station was originally an old Georgian house built for Charles Finch and completed in 1820. He was owner of the adjacent thriving Pound Mustard Mill. The Great Western Railway (GWR) bought the house from his son Charles Waring Finch and opened the terminus station here on 2nd November 1885. Although not obvious now, the front gardens of the house were at what is now the back of the building. These provided space to build tracks and a platform. This picturesque line ran north through Yeoveney, Poyle, and Colnbrook to West Drayton, where it joined the main line from Paddington to Reading. As well as passenger trains it also served the local industry such as the Lino Factory and the mills. As a consequence of the famous Beeching Axe, it closed to passengers on 29th March 1965. In 1964 the sidings and the goods yard was demolished and a rail accessed oil storage depot built in their place. On 19th June 1964 the new Shell Mex and BP private siding opened, and in October of that year a service of oil trains were introduced between Purfleet and Staines. However, construction of the M25 motorway resulted in the complete closure of the south end of the line, and the last working train ran into Staines West in January 1981. A connection was then laid between the oil depot and the Southern Region Line, but this closed ten years later and was subsequently removed and the depot demolished. The site of the oil depot is now a residential area named Wraysbury Gardens.
The old station house still remains and has been converted to the offices of a Creative Design Agency named Orckid. You can view photos of the old station at Disused Stations and you can also see what remains of the line at Abandoned Stations.
On TimeBus, there are some wonderful photos of old RTL (Regent Low Height) double-decker buses at a rally on 13th October 2002 at Staines West. RTLs were only 13ft 4ins tall (shorter than conventional double-deckers) which meant they could navigate lower old railway bridges.
Below is excerpt from Keith Jaggers, an ex-Staines resident, who as a 16 year old boy witnessed the first oil tanker train arrive at Staines West.
“On 19 June 1964, while my school colleagues were undergoing a GCE "O" level examination in History, I had a free morning, and so encountered quite by chance the first oil‑tanker train to come down the branch, with large prairie tank 6143 in charge; even more fortunately, I had a camera with me..…
The engine‑men could not comprehend my interest in the train at all and were much more concerned to impart to me the revelation that Christine Keeler, woman of ill‑repute in the recent "Profumo" government scandal, lived in one of the "Great Western Cottages" not 20 yards from where we were standing. This I did not believe, but later read to be absolutely correct.”
According to The Telegraph, an article dated 8th November 2007 claims, “Christine Keeler used to entertain John Profumo in a disused railway carriage near here”. Great Western Cottages still sits just 200 yards north along Mill Lane from the old Staines West Station.
At the rear of Staines West Station the car park covers what were the line and the platform. The station wall still stands and bears the sign “Staines West”. Part of the platform still exists and a section of the rail is embedded in the floor of the car park. Two of the cast iron supports for the canopy have been retained and now support the lights of the car park. A railway buffer sits outside against a wall and next to the pavement.
Continue along the pavement on the north side of Wraysbury Road, After 200 yards then turn right into Vicarage Road and in just a few yards you’ll come to the entrance of Duncroft Manor. Retrace your steps back to Wraysbury Road and turn right along the pavement.
Duncroft House / Manor
Duncroft Manor can tell lots of stories, and holds many secrets from over the centuries. The present building dates from 1631 but has been changed through the years. The original house on the site is thought to have been Saxon and according to “Exploring Surrey’s Past” there is evidence of activity here during the Bronze Age and from Roman Times (see HER_5058). Some sources claim that King John stayed here before sealing Magna Carta in 1215 at Runnymede. However, tradition claims it is more likely the Bishops and Barons stayed here the night before meeting King John at Runnymede on 15th June 1215 to seal Magna Carta. The Domesday Book (1086) mentions the Manor of Staines, and often the Manor House is referred to in other sources. However, there is no conclusive evidence to where the Manor House was. Duncroft is one place which could lay a claim, and excavations over the years have not disproved this.
Through the years Duncroft has been owned by many influential people including members of the Ashby brewing and banking family. Between 1948 and 1982 Duncroft was both a home and an approved school for girls. It was originally run by the Home Office, then the local authority and in October 1976 was then taken over by Dr Barnardo’s.
The girls here came from troubled backgrounds and from reading reports, plus blogs from girls who attended, many had high IQs. It was a requirement that girls entering Duncroft between 1962 and 1972 had an IQ in the top 10% of the population. Girls were either on care and protection orders, which indicated they were either promiscuous or from troubled backgrounds, or they had broken the law, usually some quite petty breach. It was considered by the Home Office to be a revolutionary approach to helping ‘troubled girls’. It was often visited by celebrities and even Royalty, most well-meaning and trying to help and encourage them. However, many of those who were “kept” here have unhappy memories of the place. I have read blogs and memories of girls who spent time here during the 1960s and 1970s, some do remember good times, but (and there is a but), society put them here against their will, locked them up and took away their independence. In a few cases girls appreciated being removed from their abusive homes but the lack of freedom within Duncroft caused other problems. Some have happy memories of the staff, but most of their happy memories seem to come from the other girls they befriended here. However, there were personality clashes amongst the young girls – this will always happen and still does in schools. From the websites and blogs I’ve read, most of the girls at Duncroft went on to make a life for themselves, and well done to them. The quote below is from a young girl who managed to put her experiences at Duncroft behind her and made a good life for herself. However, from her words you may understand what this place was about (source www.JackpotJewellPublications.com and a huge thanks to Françoise Jewell for her quotes below and her additions here):
“This was the 'school' I was locked up in 1964. It was surrounded by a high stone wall topped off with jagged glass to prevent our escape. In the attic were the solitary cells where 'naughty' girls were isolated after absconsion. I didn't get caught so I can't say what they were like. I do remember girls in the kitchen preparing meals for those in solitary and for some perverse reason, they were smearing squashed ants into the dishes. It is now luxury apartments near Staines, Middlesex, England.”
“My Favourite song in Duncroft”
'We gotta get out of
this place if it's the last thing we ever do ....'
I have spent a lot of time researching Duncroft, but there seem to be huge amount of history about this place missing. There have to be more records held during the time of signing Magna Carta and the school for girls, that’s a gap of 750 years and any input is welcomed.
On a darker side, the old manor house has recently come to unveil some of its previously hidden secrets. In 2007 Sir Jimmy Savile (born 1926) was interviewed by Surrey Police, under caution, about an allegation of indecent assault against former pupils at Duncroft in the 1970s when he was a regular visitor. On looking at the case prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence to take further action. However, in October 2012, a year after Savile’s death, it came to light that former staff at the school had not been questioned about the 2007 inquiry into sex claims. Jimmy Savile was one of Britain’s most acclaimed television & radio presenters and charity fund raisers. He died on 29th October 2011 aged 84. During his funeral, at Leeds Cathedral, he was widely praised for his charity work and his achievements as an entertainer. In December 2011 a BBC Newsnight investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Savile was shelved as it clashed with two Savile tribute programmes shown over that Christmas period. On 3rd October 2012 an ITV documentary, Exposure: “The Other Side of Jimmy Savile”, was broadcast. It was researched and presented by Mark Williams-Thomas, an ex-policeman and now TV presenter and it revealed accounts of abuse from five former pupils at Duncroft. The programme was just the tip of the ice-berg and many others started coming forward with claims of abuse. Within days The Metropolitan Police had set up an investigation named “Operation Yewtree” to look into claims of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile and others. By December 2012 at least 589 alleged victims of abuse had come forward, 450 of these claims were against Savile and dated between 1955 and 2009. Of the alleged victims 82% were female and 80% were either children or young people. There were more than 214 offences reported across the UK including 57 at hospitals and hospices, 33 at TV and radio stations and 14 at schools. Overall, although now dead and not convicted, it makes Savile the worst known serial sex-offender this country has ever encountered. It has led to claims of cover-ups, repercussions for the police force, his employers at the BBC, the institutions where he carried out his alleged offences and the people who may have been also been implicated in his crimes. The report into the Savile affair is due to be released soon, but as many people say, we may never know the full extent of his crimes.
You can read more about Jimmy Savile and his life, his works and his crimes at Wikipedia. One of the best TV reports I have watched on the “Savile Affair” is at a daily independent global news hour on DemocracyNow. You can watch the full documentary, Exposure: “The Other Side of Jimmy Savile” at YouTube. The BBC eventually broadcast a Panorama programme in late October 2012 you can also watch this on YouTube.
On a brighter note, below is an excerpt from Jerome K Jerome’s famous and humorous book Three Men in a Boat (written 1889). The book tells the story of three upper class unprepared young gents and a fictional dog, named Montmorency, travelling up the River Thames from Kingston to Oxford on a skiff. Although not always accurate it does tell a hilarious story of what they encounter on their travels. The book was adopted into films in 1920, 1933 & 1936. It also inspired the popular BBC2 comedy / documentary Three Men in a Boat starring Dara O’Briain, Rory McGrath, and Griff Rhys Jones. You can read more and about the three films at Wikipedia or even read the whole book at Forgotten Futures. Duncroft and its role in the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 take an important part in this extract from the book. I have come to know all the places they pass on their journey and I hope you enjoy it.
“Harris proposed that we should have scrambled eggs for breakfast. He said he would cook them. It seemed, from his account, that he was very good at doing scrambled eggs…
It made our mouths water to hear him talk about the things, and we handed him out the stove and the frying-pan and all the eggs that had not smashed and gone over everything in the hamper, and begged him to begin.
He had some trouble in breaking the eggs — or rather not so much trouble in breaking them exactly as in getting them into the frying-pan when broken, and keeping them off his trousers, and preventing them from running up his sleeve; but he fixed some half-a-dozen into the pan at last, and then squatted down by the side of the stove and chivied them about with a fork.
It seemed harassing work, so far as George and I could judge. Whenever he went near the pan he burned himself, and then he would drop everything and dance round the stove, flicking his fingers about and cursing the things. Indeed, every time George and I looked round at him he was sure to be performing this feat. We thought at first that it was a necessary part of the culinary arrangements.
We did not know what scrambled eggs were, and we fancied that it must be some Red Indian or Sandwich Islands sort of dish that required dances and incantations for its proper cooking. Montmorency went and put his nose over it once, and the fat spluttered up and scalded him, and then he began dancing and cursing. Altogether it was one of the most interesting and exciting operations I have ever witnessed. George and I were both quite sorry when it was over.
The result was not altogether the success that Harris had anticipated. There seemed so little to show for the business. Six eggs had gone into the frying-pan, and all that came out was a teaspoonful of burnt and unappetizing looking mess.
Harris said it was the fault of the frying-pan, and thought it would have gone better if we had had a fish-kettle and a gas-stove; and we decided not to attempt the dish again until we had those aids to housekeeping by us.
The sun had got more powerful by the time we had finished breakfast, and the wind had dropped, and it was as lovely a morning as one could desire. Little was in sight to remind us of the nineteenth century; and, as we looked out upon the river in the morning sunlight, we could almost fancy that the centuries between us and that ever-to-be-famous June morning of 1215 had been drawn aside, and that we, English yeomen's sons in homespun cloth, with dirk at belt, were waiting there to witness the writing of that stupendous page of history, the meaning whereof was to be translated to the common people some four hundred and odd years later by one Oliver Cromwell, who had deeply studied it.
It is a fine summer morning — sunny, soft, and still. But through the air there runs a thrill of coming stir. King John has slept at Duncroft Hall, and all the day before the little town of Staines has echoed to the clang of armed men, and the clatter of great horses over its rough stones, and the shouts of captains, and the grim oaths and surly jests of bearded bowmen, billmen, pikemen, and strange-speaking foreign spearmen.
Gay-cloaked companies of knights and squires have ridden in, all travel-stained and dusty. And all the evening long the timid townsmen's doors have had to be quick opened to let in rough groups of soldiers, for whom there must be found both board and lodging, and the best of both, or woe betide the house and all within; for the sword is judge and jury, plaintiff and executioner, in these tempestuous times, and pays for what it takes by sparing those from whom it takes it, if it pleases it to do so.
Round the camp-fire in the market-place gather still more of the Barons' troops, and eat and drink deep, and bellow forth roystering drinking songs, and gamble and quarrel as the evening grows and deepens into night. The firelight sheds quaint shadows on their piled-up arms and on their uncouth forms. The children of the town steal round to watch them, wondering; and brawny country wenches, laughing, draw near to bandy ale- house jest and jibe with the swaggering troopers, so unlike the village swains, who, now despised, stand apart behind, with vacant grins upon their broad, peering faces. And out from the fields around, glitter the faint lights of more distant camps, as here some great lord's followers lie mustered, and there false John's French mercenaries hover like crouching wolves without the town.
And so, with sentinel in each dark street, and twinkling watch-fires on each height around, the night has worn away, and over this fair valley of old Thame has broken the morning of the great day that is to close so big with the fate of ages yet unborn.
Ever since grey dawn, in the lower of the two islands, just above where we are standing, there has been great clamour, and the sound of many workmen. The great pavilion brought there yester eve is being raised, and carpenters are busy nailing tiers of seats, while `prentices from London town are there with many-coloured stuffs and silks and cloth of gold and silver.
And now, lo! down upon the road that winds along the river's bank from Staines there come towards us, laughing and talking together in deep guttural bass, a half-a-score of stalwart halbert-men — Barons' men, these — and halt at a hundred yards or so above us, on the other bank, and lean upon their arms, and wait.
And so, from hour to hour, march up along the road ever fresh groups and bands of armed men, their casques and breastplates flashing back the long low lines of morning sunlight, until, as far as eye can reach, the way seems thick with glittering steel and prancing steeds. And shouting horsemen are galloping from group to group, and little banners are fluttering lazily in the warm breeze, and every now and then there is a deeper stir as the ranks make way on either side, and some great Baron on his war-horse, with his guard of squires around him, passes along to take his station at the head of his serfs and vassals.
And up the slope of Cooper's Hill, just opposite, are gathered the wondering rustics and curious townsfolk, who have run from Staines, and none are quite sure what the bustle is about, but each one has a different version of the great event that they have come to see; and some say that much good to all the people will come from this day's work; but the old men shake their heads, for they have heard such tales before.
And all the river down to Staines is dotted with small craft and boats and tiny coracles — which last are growing out of favour now, and are used only by the poorer folk. Over the rapids, where in after years trim Bell Weir lock will stand, they have been forced or dragged by their sturdy rowers, and now are crowding up as near as they dare come to the great covered barges, which lie in readiness to bear King John to where the fateful Charter waits his signing.
It is noon, and we and all the people have been waiting patient for many an hour, and the rumour has run round that slippery John has again escaped from the Barons' grasp, and has stolen away from Duncroft Hall with his mercenaries at his heels, and will soon be doing other work than signing charters for his people's liberty.
Not so! This time the grip upon him has been one of iron, and he has slid and wriggled in vain. Far down the road a little cloud of dust has risen, and draws nearer and grows larger, and the pattering of many hoofs grows louder, and in and out between the scattered groups of drawn-up men, there pushes on its way a brilliant cavalcade of gay-dressed lords and knights. And front and rear, and either flank, there ride the yeomen of the Barons, and in the midst King John.
He rides to where the barges lie in readiness, and the great Barons step forth from their ranks to meet him. He greets them with a smile and laugh, and pleasant honeyed words, as though it were some feast in his honour to which he had been invited. But as he rises to dismount, he casts one hurried glance from his own French mercenaries drawn up in the rear to the grim ranks of the Barons' men that hem him in.
Is it too late? One fierce blow at the unsuspecting horseman at his side, one cry to his French troops, one desperate charge upon the unready lines before him, and these rebellious Barons might rue the day they dared to thwart his plans! A bolder hand might have turned the game even at that point. Had it been a Richard there! the cup of liberty might have been dashed from England's lips, and the taste of freedom held back for a hundred years.
But the heart of King John sinks before the stern faces of the English fighting men, and the arm of King John drops back on to his rein, and he dismounts and takes his seat in the foremost barge. And the Barons follow in, with each mailed hand upon the sword-hilt, and the word is given to let go.
Slowly the heavy, bright-decked barges leave the shore of Runningmede. Slowly against the swift current they work their ponderous way, till, with a low grumble, they grate against the bank of the little island that from this day will bear the name of Magna Charta Island. And King John has stepped upon the shore, and we wait in breathless silence till a great shout cleaves the air, and the great cornerstone in England's temple of liberty has, now we know, been firmly laid.”
Turn right to cross over Wraysbury Road and enter the churchyard of St. Mary’s. Stay on along the drive and past the main door of the church, then turn left past the south side of the church. The path through the churchyard soon leads to a gate and onto the road. On reaching the road (Vicarage Road) veer right then immediately left past the Bells Pub and along Church Street.
St Marys Church
St Mary’s sits on elevated ground to the north of the River Thames. Traditionally the first stone church on this site was said to have been built by St. Ermingeld, Abbess of Ely, in 685 AD. However, on this site above the Thames, it is believed there were earlier places of worship – one reference from an old article on the Spelthorne Borough Council website states:
“One particular building of interest in Staines Town Centre is St. Mary's Church in Church Street, which is believed to have been built on a site originally used for worship by the ancient Druids.”
The Domesday Book (1086) records that the “Vicarage of Staines was held by the Abbey of St. Peter, that is, Westminster Abbey”. The earliest written evidence of the church building is dated 1179, but little was known of the physical appearance of the medieval church. However, some later engravings offer clues.
In the 1820s Staines featured on the front page of national press, after a large part of the church had collapsed one Sunday morning. Shortly afterwards a private Act of Parliament allowed most of the remaining church to be blown up. It was then, in 1827, that the last Saxon remains of the early St Mary’s disappeared. The present church was begun in 1828. The architect was John Burges Watson (1803 -1881).
The oldest surviving part of the church is the tower. A plaque on the tower claims it was built in 1631 by the great architect, Inigo Jones. However, there is not much evidence to enforce this claim. After the Second World War, the stone pinnacles of the tower were deemed unsafe and removed. This was believed to be caused by a bomb falling nearby on the Wraysbury Road during the war.
Two Angels, St Mary’s
There are many things of interest to see in the church and the churchyard. The eight bells, five of which date from 1734; the organ dates from before 1830; the font is believed to date from the 13th century, it was removed during Cromwell’s Commonwealth, but replaced in 1660; the Trident Memorial Window which commemorates the 1972 Staines Air Disaster where 118 people lost their lives. It was created locally by Sue and Michael Dickinson, of Artemis Decorative Glass and placed here in 2004. The Revd Michael Colclough, Bishop of Kensington, blessed the window during a moving service when the church was full of local dignitaries, relatives, emergency service representatives and locals.
”We are gathered today to remember those who lost their lives and the nobility of those who rushed to help, and indeed, risked their own lives.”
The 118 stars in its border of the window represent those who died. The dove depicts flight and also symbolises peace. The trees and fields below represent the crash site and Staines Moor.
A 19th century window in the apse was donated by the Crown Prince & Princess of Prussia (Queen Victoria’s oldest daughter) in memory of Augusta Maria Byng who was governess to their children (one of which was later to be Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor). Augusta, in later life was a resident of Binbury Row, Staines and is buried in the churchyard.
The inscription on the ornate headstone of her grave reads:
Sacred to the beloved memory of Augusta Maria Byng, daughter of W Bateman Byng of Ipswich and Ann his wife, born October 26 1830 departed this life March 14th 1882. “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord” Saint Matt. xxv 21. This stone is placed in affectionate and grateful remembrance of many years of devotion and faithful service by Frederick William Crown Prince of Germany and Prussia and Victoria Crown Princess of Germany and Prussia, Princess Royal of Great Britain and Ireland, and their children.
There are many prominent local people from through the centuries buried in the churchyard. Graves include: the Gorings, Gardams, Bones, Tothills, Govetts, the Tillys of Tilly's Lane and the Ashbys, who once owned the local brewery. We will come across most of these families later in the walk and see why they were important in the development of the town.
A headstone next to the main entrance to the church is that of General Francois-Henri d’Harcourt (1726 - 1802), a representative of the exiled French King Louis XVIII (see photos below).
Letitia Derby (died 1825, aged 67 years) was a commoner and a colourful character who started life in a brothel, but through her beauty and horse skills rose to the highest level of society, she was mistress of the notorious highwayman John “Sixteen String Jack” Rann, and later mistress of Prince Frederick, Duke of York, she became wife to Sir John Lade, the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) was so besotted by her that he commissioned a painting by George Stubbs – this still remains in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.
The most famous is the tomb belongs to Elizabeth and George Hawkins (died 1761) and is situated south of the porch. This chest tomb is decorated with carved fruits, shields, a skull, scythes and a torch. Placed here in 1761 it is now included on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Historic or Architectural Interest. I honestly have not been able to find out why this is the most important grave.
St Mary’s played a part in the sealing of Magna Carta on the 15th June 1215 as the Barons stayed in Staines before travelling to meet King John at Runnymede. Below is a quote from the St Mary’s website.
“The proud position that St.Mary's held in Staines is again depicted in the stained glass window on the north side of the nave. This is a portrayal of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton who was present with King John at Runnemede in 1215. It was here at St Mary's that he consecrated the bishops of St.David's and Bangor. This was a ceremony that would have been performed only at a church of some importance. In the window can be seen the Charter of Liberties that formed the basis of the Magna Charta and which was drawn up by Henry I, an earlier Norman king. Langton’s was the first name of the witnesses of the Magna Charta. John had refused to accept his appointment as Archbishop and he was kept out of the see until 1213. No love lost there!”
127 Church Street dates from the late 18th / early 19th century and sits between The Bells and the Lammas on a part of Church Street known as Binbury Row or Binbury Street from at least the early 14th century. Church Cottage backs onto the St Mary’s churchyard with graves almost up to the back wall. From 1874 it was occupied by a Mrs Jane Elliott, a widow who ran a private girls school here to provide an income for her family. Later, her two daughters Francis and Mary Jane continued to run the school up until the 1920s and at least one lived here for another decade.
The Bells Pub
The Bells is a traditional old English pub owned by Young’s Brewery. It dates from 1780 with a later 19th century front. However, parts of the interior date from 1630. It was originally an old coaching inn and the stables have now been converted to a function room. As you can see from the pub sign, it takes its name from the bells of the neighbouring St Mary’s Church.
The wisteria clad house on the corner of Vicarage Road and Church Street is named Corner Hall, but may have once been The Vicarage. It dates from the late 18th / early 19th century and was once owned by a member of the local influential Ashby Family. The wisteria which covers it was brought from Japan in the 1870s. However, a later Vicarage did exist on Vicarage Road, immediately north of Duncroft. In old maps it had large grounds and is now a new housing development. On Francis Frith you can see a photo dated 1895 of the Vicarage just north of Duncroft.
Archaeological finds suggest that before Roman Times, Staines appears to have existed as two islands built on gravel deposits. One in an area which now takes in the High Street, Market Square and London Road areas; the other was further west, taking in The Lammas, the area around Duncroft and what is now Church Street. The latter “Binbury Island” was first mentioned in 1336 under the name Binbury Street and soon after referred to as the high ground around the church which apparently seemed to have supported a substantial settlement at the time. In the Middle Ages there are references to Church Street and Church Lane. However, the line of Church Street may have dated further back than this. There is evidence of the Saxon Church in 685 AD and some evidence from the Roman Period. It is known there was Roman activity at Binbury and some sources think the route of the Roman road may have turned right, near the bottom of the High Street, along what is now Church Street towards a possible crossing of the River Thames. This seems feasible as the western end of Church Street leads to Church Island. My own study of Staines history, does open other options, which I may add later.
British History On-line states:
“The Medieval town of Staines grew up south of the St Mary’s Church and beside the bridge. The west and east bars of the town are mentioned in the 13th century. There seem to have been a good many houses there in the 15th century, but in 1593 Norden described the church as standing about a quarter of a mile from the town on a little hill by itself as if it were banished the town. These districts, with the mills to the north of the High Street, comprised the medieval town: the position of the manorial buildings is unknown though they may have been near the church.”
“Another historian: John Ogilby called Staines a well-built town in 1675. Church Street, which contains a number of 17th and 18th century houses and cottages, is almost all that remains from the town as it was before 1828. Nos. 22 and 24 Church Street, which are timber-framed, are probably the oldest houses in the parish. On the outskirts of the town, Duncroft House, now an approved school, was originally built in 1631, though it has been much altered and enlarged. It contains some 17th century work inside, though part of this was probably not in the house originally.”
Whatever the exact role of this part of Church Street area was in times past, I’m not fully sure. However, there is one thing I do know, this small area of Staines is, from my visits, one of the best preserved part of the town. It is peaceful, has very little traffic, there are lots of old buildings from different eras which have stories to tell, many which remain are grade II listed, and you can really enjoyed the peace and history of the place. Today, Church Street is really two streets, this part and the part mentioned earlier, that from the High Street to the junction with Bridge Street. The second does retain some of its older buildings but much has been disseminated and replaced by modern office blocks. Bridge Street, when built in 1832, cut Church Street in half, but Church Street dates back much earlier and at least back through Saxon, Norman, Medieval, Tudor and later times, maybe even going back to Roman and earlier times. This small street was significant for early travellers on their through the town. Did a Roman road follow the route of this street? We will not know without more archaeological research. Again, was this the road Stephen Langton (Archbishop of Canterbury) and the Lords travelled along in 1215 on their visits to St Mary’s and staying at Duncroft before signing Magna Carta. Did Henry VIII use it on the way to Windsor and did Anne Boleyn, whilst staying at Staines, travel along here to secretly meet Henry at the Old Ankerwycke Yew at Wraysbury, whilst he was still married to another. Some day in the future and with more research we might be able to find out all the answers to these questions. I’ll try and answer a few as we travel along our walk. Just for now, I’ll mention a few things I do know and refer to a few buildings as we pass along this quiet historical road.
In late 2011 some campaigners came together with the idea of giving the Church Street area a new name – Staines Village. They have gone on to form the Staines Village Residents and Traders Association (SVRAT) and have built an informative website as part of the project. You can keep up to date with this at www.stainesvillage.co.uk.
Number 103, Church Street is a pretty two storey red brick house named Bosun’s Hatch and dates from the mid-18th century. It’s like something a young child would draw for a house at school, is grade II listed and its name suggests has connections to someone who worked as a mariner.
Ashby Family Houses - No’s 96 to 104 Church Street
The three storey yellow brick building on the opposite side of the road was originally built in 1823 as two houses for the families of Charles and Thomas Ashby. They were occupied by two generations of the Ashby family, until the death of Henry Ashby in 1880 when they were sold to Gardams (see below). They are now occupied by offices with entry from the side of the building. However, the original facade has been preserved as have the railings and gate piers to their front, all are listed as being of historical interest.
The two photos below show the same scene of St Mary’s from Church Street. They were taken in 1909 and 2012 and what a change a century can make. The stone pinnacles of the tower have gone and the sole horse and cart have been replaced by cars parked bumper to bumper.
Another wonderful view from this part of Church Street, dated c1880, and looking towards St. Mary’s can be seen at Francis Frith. At the link, see how the wisteria at Corner Hall only covers part of the house.
When looking at the cars in the photos above, it is worth mentioning that Wraysbury Road, between Moor Lane and Vicarage Road, was only built in the early 1960s. Up until then all traffic leaving Staines, in this direction, would have had to travel along this section of Church Street and then along Vicarage Road to join Wraysbury Road at the north-east corner of the churchyard.
The white two storey building to the left is just listed as 77 – 79 Church Street. It dates from the mid-19th century and seems to retain almost all of its original form. The coaching arch however, does suggest there is probably more to this than I have found. Again, this is listed as a historical building, but I believe there is more than the records imply.
Harry H. Gardam & Co Ltd
The Staines Business Park sits on what was the site of the Harry H. Gardam (Engineering) Co. Ltd. This was founded c1880 on land acquired from the Ashby family and covered an area of five acres. The premises occupied almost all of the area west of the Ashby Brewery, to the south of Church Street and fronted onto the River Thames. The company was an important employer for the town and specialised in second-hand heavy steam and gas engines, many for export to the Asian market. They also operated the first mentioned local motorised bus c1907. Below is a photo of the Gardam Steam Engine trailing a delivery to Staines West Station, for export, in 1905.
By the middle of the 20th century they adopted to producing smaller plant goods used in the food and chemicals industry. However, with markets becoming more competitive and transports links improving, c1976 the company upped tools and moved to the Poyle Trading Estate at Colnbrook. They changed their name to Gardam Machinery Ltd and continued to be successful, but 40 years later they closed.
By following the link to Britain from Above you can see a photo of their buildings at Staines dating from 1928 - . Harry H. Gardam & Co Ltd. is the large four adjoining buildings near the top left hand corner of the photo.
57 & 59 Church Street - Brewery House & the Old Bank House
By 1676 there were Quakers (aka Friends) living in Staines. Nowadays, Quakers still remain a minority religious community around the world. However, wherever they were based they proved to be great entrepreneurs and had huge influences in setting up businesses in their local communities. Many large companies we still have in the UK were founded by Quakers. They include: Lloyds Bank; Barclays Bank; Friends Provident; Cadbury; Fry’s; Rowntree; Huntley & Palmers; Clarks Shoes and of course Quaker Oats. Through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, although small in number, Quakers played a huge part in the development and expansion of Staines.
The Ashby Brewery was founded by Thomas Ashby at Staines in 1783. He was a Quaker and soon his family would become the most influential in the town. By 1796 the brewery company was sufficiently prosperous for its owners to establish a bank. The brewery expanded and took over most of this area of the town to the north of the River Thames. It soon bought out some other local breweries and owned pubs for many miles around. The bank also grew and later became a company in its own right, even printing its own bank notes. In 1876 the Ashby Bank purchased a Chertsey bank and opened several branches in surrounding areas. As their businesses and their family expanded, the Ashbys also expanded into other industries and became the largest employers here. They were influential in building schools, churches and many large houses here. Not everything was great as some also came into trouble with the locals for closing common land as we’ll see later.
57 & 59 Church Street, Staines are listed as historical buildings on local and national records. The originally building dates from 1737 and was extended later in the 18th century. According to the Surrey’s Historic Environment Record,
“The date of construction was found in the “Records of the Ashby Family” and also that in 1797 one room was being used as the Ashby Family Bank”.
Spelthorne Council states
“Brewery founded by Thomas Ashby, a Quaker, at 57 Church Street”.
The building is also referred to as the “Old Bank House” and “Brewery House” from different sources on the web. On the front is a plaque stating “Staines Town Society Award”.
In recent years both buildings have been extended to the rear and are now used as offices.
It was here (at no. 57) where Thomas Ashby first started the Ashby Brewery and later the bank. The bank moved to new premises on the High Street and this and its other outlets were taken over by Barclays on 1st January 1904. However, the Ashby family remained involved as directors. The brewery was taken over by H. & G. Simonds of Reading in the 1930s, who in turn were bought out by Courage in the 1960s. Brewing ceased here in the 1950s and bottling in the 1970s. Barclays Bank on the High Street has since been rebuilt, but still occupies its original site.
Ashby Brewery Tower
Across Church Street is the 19th century crown topped brewery tower (although plaque on the side states 1903) which formed part of the brewery as it expanded. It’s lucky this striking building still stands and retains most of its original features. In the 1960s the tower was partly converted to offices and in the early 1990s was converted to residential use. Only the top two stories of the front remained fully original with the rest changed to give better light through larger windows and balconies added. See flickr.com for a good detailed photo of the Brewery Tower.
The Cock Inn
The Cock Inn dates from 1832, the same year Staines Bridge was opened. Records show there was an inn on this site in the 15th century. For many years the inn was owned by the Brandon Brewery of Putney, even though it sat under the shadow of the huge Ashby Brewery. The present building was re-fronted in the mid-19th century. “Jack Beard’s at The Cock” (as it was finally named) closed in 2009, and the inside has recently been converted to offices. The flowers and the pub name are no longer present, but the building does retain its original facade and the old plaques from the “Brandon’s Fine Ales” and “Brandon’s Putney Stout” still survive.
Below is a photo of The Cock from around 100 years ago. At the time it was run by the two ladies standing next to the door, Mrs Mary Key and her daughter Rosie. Above them you can see the sign M Key, Wine & Spirit Merchant. At this time it wasn’t uncommon for such inns to be managed by the wives and daughters of local workers.
45 – 55 Church Street
This unusual row of mid-19th century buildings forms the corner of Church Street and Wraysbury Road. Their fronts follow the curve of the street. The ground floors are all now shops, but the first floors have retained their original design and are all very similar with each sash window surmounted by a gothic brick arch and in-filled with fish-scale tiles. The photos below are from 2012 and 1962.
On reaching the junction of Church Street and Bridge Street turn right past The Cock and south along Bridge Street staying on the right hand pavement. We soon pass the large Courage Building to our right and near the end of Bridge Street turn left to cross over the pelican crossing.
The large red building to the right as we walk along Bridge Street is Ashby House. It was built in 1989 as the headquarters of the Courage Brewery Company (later Scottish Courage and finally Scottish & Newcastle) and its clock tower is aptly topped by a cockerel wind vane. It covers part of the site of the old Ashby Brewery. On 29th April 2008 Heineken acquired Scottish & Newcastle for £7.8 billion and S&N’s shares were delisted from the London Stock Exchange. Planning was given in 2012 by the local council to modify the look of the building and refurbish the inside to create 77,000 sq.ft. of office space.
Excavations carried out by Surrey County Archaeological Unit in 1986, to the northwest of the building and near Church Street, uncovered evidence of a Roman building (SHHER_2910), plus a medieval ditch from the 11th / 12th century, medieval pits and several 13th / 14th century features (SHHER_2912).
Old Church Hall
The old red brick building across Bridge Street, and forming part of the China Star restaurant, dates from the 1840s. It was built as a public school for girls and only changed use in 1886 when funds from the educational charity founded by the will of one Martha Romaine were transferred to a Sunday School set up at the building. It later became the Old Church Hall of St Mary’s. In the early 1960s most of the school building was demolished and replaced by the white office building to the left – Provident House and home to the Jobcentre until 2009. The Chinese Restaurant opened in the early 1960s (then named Ting Ting), was the first of its kind in the town and proved popular with locals. The building is still owned by Staines Parish and is rented to China Star.
To the left of the old school building sat the Baptist meeting-house opened in 1837. It replaced an older one in Church Street and was only demolished c1989 and again replaced by an office building.
After crossing over Bridge Street by the pelican crossing, turn right then left past the white / pink building on the corner. Just after a few yards along Clarence Street, turn right to cross over via a pelican crossing and finish the stage at Thames Edge Court and just a short walk from where we started.
So far we have only come one mile and a third. However, we have walked through a lot of what is historical about Staines and I hope you have enjoyed what you have seen. On our next stage we cross over Staines Bridge and see what wonderful delights await us just south of the river.