The town of Godalming is situated in some of the finest countryside in southern England. Narrow attractive streets, lined with many ancient and historic buildings, lie alongside the River Wey. Godalming is a town with many famous sons and daughters, for example, artist, gardener and craftswoman, Gertrude Jekyll, and in 1881 became the first town in the world to have electric public street lighting.
Our suggested day out takes in both the history of the town and its glorious countryside setting, as well as the River Wey.
If you are staying within the town centre, you can enjoy the following walk around places of historical interest.
Across the road from the Station Road car park on the corner of Mint Street, you will see the Georgian property – Brook House. Percy Woods, Godalming historian, was born here in 1842. Cross over Station Road and go behind the railings to enter the cul-de-sac part of Mint Street. Minton Cottage on the corner was originally a Hall House. Next to it, the three storey (pink) house was a knitting factory and Whitehall, on the corner, was built about AD 1500. Turn right into Mill Lane, walk to the bridge and you can observe the interesting old cottages on the right. On the left is Hatch Mill, used until about 40 years ago for grinding and storing grain. Power came from the River Ock, via the mill race on the right.
Retrace your steps and turn right into The Mint. Here you will see the Quaker Meeting House (18th century), attractive cottages (built around the 19th century) and at the far end a terrace of timber framed cottages (16/17th century). At one time there was a lot of industry in the town and it is stated that in the collection of the King of Denmark are two pennies of Ethelred II which were coined in Godalming; perhaps this is where “The Mint” gets its name. From Station Road cross over to The Red Lion; the public bar was the original grammar school, and turn left into the High Street.
The Pepperpot, the symbol of Godalming, was once the market house or Town Hall and dates from 1814 replacing a former timber structure. Opposite is the Godalming Museum, which is worth a visit to learn more about the history of the town.
Continuing down the High Street, on the right is the former Old White Hart Inn (nos. 99 – 103). This 16th century, timber framed, building is reputed to have notorious Highwayman, Dick Turpin, stay the night. As you walk down the High Street, looking on both sides of the street, you will see many interesting features up to roof level. On the left, the area now named Angel Court used to be The Angel Coaching Inn, which faced directly onto the High Street. Properties on the right hand side of Moss Lane date back to the 18th century. On the right, the Bank at no.77 High Street is timber framed (16th/17th century). No. 75 has a timber upper storey and goods hoist. This used to be a wool merchant’s house.
Across the road at nos. 80 and 74 – 76 take note of the brickwork upper storeys of 17th century Flemish influence. 58 – 64 was the site of the 18th century Great George Inn. Opposite between 53 and 57 is Harts Yard, another interesting feature.
Most of the shops in Pound Lane, with the Bank on the corner, were built by the Skinners’ Company and further down the High Street, the big double green doors have the Skinners’ Arms Crest and date. Opposite these is the Crown Court, with the remaining Weavers Cottages on the left.
Walk through to the Crown Court car park. Look ahead at the view over the Lammas Lands towards Frith Hill and, to the left, the properties in Great George Street.
Back on the High Street, you can enjoy a pub lunch at the Jack Phillips, named after local man, John George Phillips (1886 – 1912), who was sometimes known as Jack. Jack Phillips was the Chief Marconi Officer on “RMS Titanic” which was sunk on her maiden voyage after a collision with an iceberg on 15th April 1912. Chief Officer Phillips stayed at his post sending out the signal CQD (at that time the conventional distress call). At the suggestion of the Captain, he switched to the new code of SOS which had been agreed at an International Convention. At 12.45am that SOS call went out for the first time, making maritime history.
Alternatively, you can walk back up the High Street to enjoy traditional ale at The Red Lion.
For those with transport, Secretts Farm shop, at nearby Milford, is a good place to pick up food for a picnic.
From Godalming you can make your way out to Winkworth Arboretum- just follow the brown heritage signs. Owned by the National Trust, the arboretum has over 1,000 different shrubs and trees, many rare species and an impressive display of spring flowers and autumn colour. In the summer it is an ideal place for a picnic or, throughout the year, to enjoy afternoon tea in the tea-room. Admission is: adult £4.50, child £2.00, family £10.00. There is a reduced rate when arriving by public transport, cycle or on foot.
If staying in town, why not walk along the river to Farncombe Boat House on the River Wey where you can take out a rowboat, punt or canoe. You will also find Hector’s Bistro here where you can enjoy Bistro style lunches or afternoon teas. Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm ( open everyday in July and August).