Godalming is in the valley of the River Wey and there are hills
on either side. This view is looking northwards across
the valley and Charterhouse
School can be seen slightly left of centre at the top
of the opposite hill. Some of its
boarding houses, later demolished, stretch along the
hilltop towards the water tower, which is on the skyline
on the right. Peperharow
Road runs along the foot of the hill.
Immediately below the camera is the bottom of Holloway
Hill, at the point where it meets Ockford Road; Croft Road
can also be seen as it joins Holloway Hill quite close
to the T-junction. Several buildings around this junction
have not survived to the present day.
The very large structure with the tall chimney on its right
(left, slightly below centre) was the Oak Bark Tannery, an
extensive leather dressing factory belonging to Messrs, Rea,
Son and Fisher which tanned "large hides, bullock, stag
and sheep" with the bark used in the process "brought
from Sussex in horse drawn vehicles" before
the First World War. The distinctive buildings of Godalming
Station are just behind the tannery and the London -
Portsmouth line bisects the picture, crossing the Lammas
Lands on an embankment on the far right and reappearing from
just behind the station on the left on its way to the south
coast. The long narrow three storey Solley's Mill is on the
opposite side of Mill Lane, just down from the station; at
this time it was part of the tannery. It is all that remains
of the tannery today.
Enlargement, showing the large building of the Oak Bark Tannery.
Solley's Mill can be seen on the left of this enlargement.
Godalming station, with its steep swiss-style rooves, is
also to the left of the tannery, but behind it.
Sadly for the industry, a devastating fire broke
out on the tannery's premises early in the morning of 7th
It was reported that the large factory was completely gutted,
with the machinery and stock destroyed, although it was the
five storey building that was burned down with the other
buildings surviving. Unfortunately, about an hour after
the fire began the local steam fire engine would not work
properly so Godalming's Fire Brigade had to work with the
manual engine and it was only then that Guildford's Fire
Brigade was called to provide additional assistance.
The two Fire Brigades fought the blaze for around three hours
and several firemen had narrow escapes when one of the building's
large walls collapsed. The damage was estimated to be about £20,000.
Holloway Hill residents would have had a grandstand view
of the conflagration but the fire would have meant that men
would have had no work.
On 20 February 1911 there was a second, even worse, fire
at the site with damage estimated at between £30,000
and £40,000. It was said to have originated in
the boiler-house and the bark mill and tannery, both three-storey
buildings, were gutted.
who would have been around eleven years old at the time,
later recalled that "the flames could be seen from the
bedroom windows of Wolseley Road, Farncombe",
where he lived with his family. The tannery continued to
operate from the Mill Lane premises afterwards, but Harold
Pitt commented that it never really recovered. It was taken
over during World War Two.
Also see The Mint and Mill Lane
 "Memories of Farncombe
and Godalming" (1981), The Godalming Trust.
Principal written contributions by Harold Pitt and Raymond
Evening News", 7 March 1905.
Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser", 5 April 1905. The
Fire Brigade Committee of the Town Council later dismissed
the Brigade's engineer, following an investigation into the
fire. It resulted in the entire Fire Brigade
 "Dundee Evening Telegraph"
and "Portsmouth Evening News", 20 February
 Both the 1901 and the 1911 census
returns show the Pitt family living at 3 Wolseley Road, Farncombe.
Harold would only have been five when the 1905 occurred, so
it is more likely that he was describing the 1911 fire in "Memories ...".