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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Godalming, Surrey
A selection of photographs and postcards of a Surrey country town
Mill Lane, Leather Workers & the Smith Family Connection
Paper mill staff

William George Smith Senior and his co-workers were photographed at one of Godalming's leather factories around 1910. He was standing in the back row, to the immediate left of the down pipe. The group were photographed outside Rea and Fisher's Oak Bark Tannery on Mill Lane, which was the only tanyard in Godalming tanning large hides[1]. William George was employed as a leather dresser there, so would have worked on the skins once they were tanned.

The group includes boys, men and probably one woman (seated, 4th from right). A tanner is seated 1st left; he is wearing a protective apron held up by braces that was probably padded as well. Two men in the same row are wearing full length aprons whilst others are wearing protective aprons to guard their legs.

On the far side of the wall next to the young man on the far right (wearing overalls that resembles a duster coat) is one of the Mill Lane cottages still standing today. We can see the building's white wall and drainpipe, the roof and the dormer window as well as one of the chimney stacks.

William Henry  

At work

Above is an enlargement
of the main picture, showing
William George Smith, and
on the left is a studio portrait of
him, possibly taken on
his wedding day. He married
Caroline Pincott at St. John's
Church Farncombe on 3rd June
1906[2]. The wedding
portrait was taken by William
George Fudger, a leather bleacher
who became a photographer and
then began to experiment with

William George was born at 13 Bridge Street on 27 July 1884, the son of William Smith and Elizabeth (Lizzie) née Covey[4]; his father William was a paper maker who had been employed at Messrs. A. and H. Spicer's mill. The baby never knew his father and it is possible his father never knew that his wife was pregnant. Unfortunately, William George's father William had died at the Royal Surrey Hospital on 29 December 1883 following the explosion in the boiling room at Catteshall Mill earlier that day. Esparto grass used in the paper making process was mixed with chemicals in this room and a pipe to one boiler was blocked with the grass. He was one of five people who died and others were injured[5]. Those who died were buried at Godalming's Nightingale Cemetery on Deanery Road.

William's widow, Elizabeth, married Andrew Bonner in 1885 and the couple had children of their own, moved to Aldershot and then returned to live in Farncombe[6] which is where William Henry would have met his future wife, Caroline Pincott. By 1901 William Henry was already employed as a leather worker[6].

How many men were laid off following the second major fire at the Oak Bark Tannery in February 1911[7] is not known but a short while later William George, his wife, mother and young son were living in Stoughton, Guildford[8]. He passed away later that year, aged 27; he had contracted tuberculosis. His wife and son (also William George Smith) travelled to Australia in 1912 and his descendants are still there today.

Photo of Caroline Smith, nee Pincott, in Australia[9].
She was to remarry.

Please contact Ann if you know that any of your ancestors/relatives are in the picture of the mill's employees or you are certain of the identity of anyone.

All photographs are in the collection of, provided by and © Chad Smith.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews, also with thanks to Chad for the personal information he provided.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] "Memories of Farncombe and Godalming" (1981), The Godalming Trust. Principal written contributions by Harold Pitt and Raymond Martin.

[2] Marriage certificate information.The witnesses were James White and James Sidney Collins.

[3] "Kinematograph Weekly", 5 March 1953. He gave the first kinematograph exhibitions in Godalming, hiring the Court Room in the Municipal Buildings.

[4] Birth certificate information. The Coveys, William George's grandparents were living in Bridge Street in 1881. In 1891 his grandmother was still there, with some of her children.

[5] There are numerous newspaper references countrywide to the Catteshall explosion including reports in : "Surrey Standard", [undated] Godalming. Terrible Explosion at Catteshall Mill; The "Leeds Mercury", 1 Jan, 1884 The Godalming Boiler Explosion; "The Times", Tuesday, 1 Jan, 1884 . The Fatal Boiler Explosion near Godalming.

[6] The Bonners were living at Church Road, Farncombe in 1901 when William G Smith was recorded as William George Bonner. Lizzie and Andrew Bonner had three children. The eldest, Lily, was buried in the Nightingale Cemetery on 7 Feb 1905.

[7] "Portsmouth Evening News", 20 February 1911. Godalming Tannery Destroyed. Also the "Dundee Evening Telegraph" (same date).and other papers.

[8] 1911 census of England and Wales, taken on 2 Apr 1911.

[9] Caroline Pincott was born at Northbourne Farncombe on 28 March 1884 and was christened at St. John's Church on 25th May. In 1901 she worked as a stitcher of leather boots. Her parents were George and Maria Pincott; George was employed as a labourer at a paper mill.

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Elsewhere on this website
Godalming, Surrey (about)
Godalming, Surrey: Murder, Trial and Execution, 1817-18

From Holloway Hill 1895
(shows tannery)

Mill Lane, Fire at Rea and Fisher's Oak Bark Tannery 1905

From New Way (2), 1907

The Mint & Mill Lane has a photo indicating the mill site (2nd down)

Bridge Street 1907

Nightingale Cemetery