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Farncombe Cross, 1903
Farncombe Cross

Farncombe Cross, although not an official name, is where a number of roads meet. It is the junction of Lower Manor Road, Fern Road (still marked on the 1913 OS map as part of Lower Manor Road), St. John's Street (formerly Farncombe Street) and Hare Lane. The railway's extension meant that Manor Road had been divided into two so was no longer a through road, hence Upper Manor Road and Lower Manor Road.

The old forge and lovely timber framed house stood on the corner at the bottom of Lower Manor Road. The stable door of the smithy was wide open for business in this picture. The building next to it, and probably attached to the smithy, would have been the workshop. The 1873 O.S. map shows a well at the forge and another at the adjacent property. A recreation ground belonging to the smithy was behind the buildings. Access to it, shown on the 1897 map, was at one time on both sides of the smithy; a single access into the ground from Lower Manor Road is still there today.

The sign above the house door reads:

Throughout most of the nineteenth century the property had been the home of members of the Stenning family. Godalming's Parish Register records the marriage of John Stenning and Jemima Lampard on 30 Mar 1813[1]. Their eldest child, Elizabeth, was baptised on 28 March 1815; her father's occupation was blacksmith. The couple had a number of other children and in 1841 were still living at the forge, where their eldest sons worked alongside their father[2]. John and Jemima were buried together at Godalming Parish Church on 16 May 1847, both aged 71 years. John and Richard continued to work as blacksmiths after their parents had died, although the 1851 census is unhelpful regarding which of them was at the forge. John was working as a blacksmith but also had a beer shop, where he lived with his wife Charlotte (nee Buckle) and their children. John Janaway suggested that their beer house was probably housed in the timber framed cottage behind the smithy[3].

In 1859 a piece of freehold land on the west side of the road from Hare Lane to Farncombe Street was transferred between Richard Whitbourn of Godalming, gent and John Stenning of Godalming, blacksmith[4]. John, the eldest brother, passed away in 1860 and was interred at St. John's, Farncombe. His wife Charlotte had died in 1856 and was buried at SS. Peter and Paul, one of the last burials at that churchyard[5].

Richard was at the forge in 1861 and his family lived there until 1911. He and his wife Sarah had a number of daughters - Alice, Kate Maria, Sarah, Annie Jemima, Marian, Santana/Susan E. and Julia Rose. Their son John was born in 1856 and Richard Edward arrived in 1865.

Some of the tasks a blacksmith was asked to do could be hazardous. In 1872 Richard Stenning was "repairing a stove pipe in the Wesleyan Chapel, Farncombe, when he fell from a form which he had placed at the top of some desks, his head coming into violent contact with the floor. Mr. Stenning was taken up insensible, and remained so for some time, but happily his injuries are not considered of a serious character.[6]" No health and safety guidelines in those days!

Another son of John and Jemima passed away in 1903. The Executors of the George Stenning, a baker by trade, were to Sell by an Auction at the Angel Hotel a property called Gowanlea in Wolseley Road that was let to E D Brown and two cottages at 58 and 60 Church Road[7].

Richard Stenning died on 12 February 1911[8] and just under three months later the following notice appeared in the local paper:

exceedingly well situate at Farncombe, close to the Farncombe Railway Station and town of Godalming
THE FARNCOMBE RECREATION GROUND, in extent 4a 0r 30p and Roads, together with the dwelling house, smithy, barn, buildings and garden thereon; this property will first be offered in one lot, and if not sold, in 11 lots."[9].

In the census that year three of the Miss Stennings were living at 22 Lower Manor Road, with the blacksmith's shop next to it. The property numbers were rather inconsistent between one census and the next. Mr. Sex was to take over the forge and was still there in 1913[10], but he moved to Farncombe Street by what is now Station Garage[11].

It was not until Edward Stenning, the last surviving brother, died in 1914 that the fate of the forge began to be commented on: "the forge, until its demolition a few months ago" had been occupied by Stenning family for a great many years[12] - over a hundred years in another report, which the research here agrees with. Somewhat shockingly, a letter from a resident published in 1917 suggested that juvenile marauders were making raids on gardens and private property: "Heretofore, their depredations have been carried on without restraint or interference, as in the case of our old picturesque smithy in Farncombe, which was absolutely demolished without protest[13]". Perhaps what happened was ignored because of the war. An undated inter-war aerial photograph of Farncombe shows the smithy site as a mass of rubble.

The daughters of Richard and Sarah Elizabeth did not move far. Mary Ann (1855-47) and Julia Rose (1860-1846) lived at 3 Manor Road, though Julia died at Eastbourne. Kate Maria had lived with them until her death in 1925.

A single storey shop selling car spares stood on the plot for many years but was eventually demolished. There is housing here today.

Postcard of "Farncombe Cross". Published by F. Frith & Co. Ltd., Reigate, No.49266. Printed in Saxony. First published in 1903. This card posted on 30 Jul 1905 at Godalming. Personal message.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Godalming Parish Register Marriages", show they were married by banns, which was witnessed by William Moon and Ann Mandervill. Jemima was the daughter of William and Sarah Lampard. Her husband John, son of Richard and Susan Stenning, had been christened at Hascombe on 23 Jun 1776. Richard, aged 78, was buried at Hascombe on 5 Mar 1822, whilst Susannah had been buried there on 17 Mar 1808.

[2] 1841 census of England and Wales. The enumerator recorded their surname as Stinning. Sons John (21), Richard (18), William (16), Charles (13), Edward (9) and George (6) were all recorded and being in the house on census night.

[3] Janaway, John (2003) "Godalming and Farncombe Pubs and Breweries", Ammonite Books, Godalming, Surrey. ISBN 1-869866-14-2.

[4] The Surrey History Centre holds the conveyance between the two men, with plan, dated 10 Dec 1859.

[5] The churchyard can be seen on SS. Peter & Paul Church from the River, 1907

[6] "Surrey Advertiser", 23 November 1872. Curious accident at a Chapel.

[7] "West Surrey Times", 16 May 1903.

[8] Several members of Richard's family, including both Richard and his wife Sarah Elizabeth (d. 1891), were buried in the Nonconformist section of the Nightingale Cemetery, Deanery Road.

[9] Advertisement from "West Surrey Times", 4 May 1912, with similar notices in other newspapers. The property was advertised by Messrs. Mellersh of Godalming.
The Recreation Ground was first named on the Surrey Ordnance Survey Map XXXI.11 (Revised: 1895 to 1896, Published: 1897). It was marked as a field belonging to the forge on Surrey Sheet XXXI (Surveyed: 1871, Published: 1873). Football matches were played here in 1888, and probably from before then.
Of the lots on offer in 1912, the Recreation Ground was bought by Canon E. F. Bowring the following year, when he purchased the central portion ("West Sussex Gazette", 16 October 1913). It was re-named the Farncombe Recreation Ground. In 1915 "Surrey Advertiser", 21 Aug., 1915), at a celebration of his 25 years at Farncombe Church a people's warden called Joseph Williams said the Recreation Ground, which Bowring had presented to the parish for the children and for future generations, was a monument to him. The ground had been leased to the parish the previous year. It is known today as Canon Bowring's ground.

[10] "Kelly's Directory of Surrey", 1913

[11] "Memories of Farncombe and Godalming" (1981), The Godalming Trust, ed. David Coombs. Harold Pitt and Ray Martin were major contributors to this booklet.

[12] "Surrey Advertiser", 4 January 1914. Edward Stenning had died at his Chiswick home at the advanced of eighty-three.

[13] "ibid.", 21 July 1917.

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