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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Godalming, Surrey
A selection of photographs and postcards of a Surrey country town
The Mint and Mill Lane, Godalming
Mill Lane and The Mint

The cottage on the right is on the corner of Mint Street and Mill Lane and the short section on the left, between the road junction with Mint Street and the bridge over the River Ock, is The Mint. This view looks down the slope towards where the River Ock, a narrow but relatively fast flowing river, crosses underneath a narrow bridge; the river runs just behind where the car is parked.

These days people use the lane to access the small businesses and offices on Mill Lane as well as Godalming station but years ago tanners, hosiery workers and flour millers would have walked down here to get to work[1].

The seventeenth century flour mill, Hatch Mill, is out of view on the left hand side, just beyond the bridge. Part of the mill building, which has not been a working mill for some sixty years, is shown in the photograph below. The water is the river, which flows partly underneath the building, and joins the Wey a few hundred yards downstream.

Where the trees are, opposite Hatch Mill on the far side of Mill Lane, is the site of Rae and Fisher's Oak Bark Tannery[2]. It was on an extensive plot of about 1½ acres that is also bordered by Station Approach, so opposite Godalming Station and approximately where a modern office block is today. The small cottage in the photo to the right of the trees, mostly obscured in the photo by the mill building, was badly damaged by the disastrous 1905 fire at the Oak Bark Tannery as some of the tannery building collapsed onto it[3]. Hatch Mill, at that time run by Alldens[4], was also damaged by the fire.   Mill, Mill Lane, site of tannery

On the right is the turbine made for the mill by Gilbert, Gilkes and Gordon Limited of Kendall. It replaced the original water wheel and was installed in 1940.

The turbine

Although Kelly's 1855 Directory tells us that many families had "emigrated to Nottingham and Leicester to follow the hosiery trade"[5], a Nottingham firm of hosiers was to open a mill in Godalming that for a time competed with the Langham Mill on Catteshall Lane. This was Allen and Solly's Mill that can just be glimpsed through the trees further along Mill Lane on the black and white postcard above. Allen and Solly's hosiery business[1] [6] came to Godalming in 1860, initially to premises behind Mr. Gammon's shop in Farnden's Yard[7]. In 1873 they moved to a purpose built factory in Mill Lane (photographed, right). Although narrow, the building has a frontage of 76 feet. They produced high class hand-made hosiery and underclothes of every description, including the finest kinds of merino and silk[7].

The firm remained in Mill Lane until at least 1887. Some of its workers eventually also moved to Nottinghamshire; this explains why Godalming born people can be found in Nottingham and Arnold in mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth century census returns.

  Hosiery mill

[Mill Lane] "A Pretty Corner, Godalming". Published by Valentine & Sons, Ltd., Dundee and London. No. 221352 J.V. This is a Real Photograph, registered in 1933. Posted on 7 May 1946 at Guildford.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Photographs and research © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Kelly's Directory of Surrey",1878."There are several mills worked by this stream [actually referring to the River Wey rather than the Ock], which is of great power. The trade of this town consists principally in timber, power, paper and hosiery ... "

[2] "The Standard", 14 July, 1896. Announcement that the Oak Bark Tannery was to become a public company and join forces with Messrs. P. E. Fisher and Co of Bermondsey. The freehold property in Godalming included "a modern freehold factory adjoining the factory and six cottages" as part of the shares sale. There is more information about Thomas Rae on Godalming Bridge and Congregational Church

[3] There were two disastrous fires at the tannery, referred to in John Janaway's "The Story of Godalming". The first was on 7 Mar 1905 and a second fire on 20 Feb 1911.
Godalming Fire Station web site has a section of early photographs and includes several of the tannery.

[4] Alldens advertised in "Kelly's Directory of Surrey", 1913.

[5] "Kelly's Directory of Surrey", 1855.

[6] Although few special references have been found of their factory in Godalming, there are some interesting references to the firm. For example:
i. "The Morning Chronicle", 13 May, 1851.
An article about the Great Exhibition said that "Messrs. Allen and Solly afford us an illustrated history of stockings, with examples of the advance made in style and quality ; stockings made of the finest lace thread (230), and embroidered by hand, all English".
ii. "Nottinghamshire Guardian", 22 October, 1886 - announcement that said Allen & Solly (who had been in Nottingham for a long time) were building a factory at Arnold.

[7] "West Surrey Times", 18 April 1885. Local Enterprises and Industries, No. 5. Messrs. Allen and Solly's Stocking Factory.

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Mill Lane Tannery fire 1905

From New Way (2), 1907

Mill Lane, 1907