Monday 27 March saw the official opening of the Tillingbourne Gallery by the Mayor of Guildford, Councillor Gordon Jackson. The new gallery sited in Shere Museum provides a dedicated space to showcase the large amount of historical research undertaken through the Tillingbourne Tales Heritage Lottery funded project.
The project has worked with the parishes of Shalford, St Martha’s, Albury, Shere, Gomshall and Abinger to reveal the rich social history of the Tillingbourne Valley which was one of the most industrialised river valleys in 17th century England. With approximately 50 water wheels at its height, powering at least 24 mills and supporting over 12 different industries, including weaving, tanning, iron-working, paper-milling and gun powder production, the valley’s idyllic landscape held a significant legacy of cultural heritage.
The project has given the local communities along the Tillingbourne an understanding and greater knowledge of the area they live in and helped create a lasting legacy for future generations.
Dr Anne Sassin, Project Co-ordinator comments;
“The success of the project has really stemmed from tapping into the different groups of people who have some interest in the heritage of the Tillingbourne, but who wish to engage further – young and old, those who are interested in the natural beauty and those who want to undertake serious research on the industries. It’s been particularly wonderful to engage children in the project, and we’ve managed to achieve this through working models of some of the milling mechanisms, as well as of course bringing to life the seven historical characters we chose to represent their villages through transforming them into puppets: John Lambert the miller of Shalford, Job the gunpowder worker at Chilworth, John Parkhurst the Tudor clothier of Shere, and more. The Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre Group also did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life through their living history workshops, and really painting a vivid picture of what day-to-day activities were like”.
The Tillingbourne Tales project has not only looked at the heritage of the area but also the long term conservation of the river, through training and recruiting River Wardens. This active group of volunteers trained by Surrey Wildlife Trust help to monitor the health of the river and its wildlife.
Chairman of the Surrey Hills Board, Councillor David Wright comments;
“This imaginative project has revealed so much about the rich heritage of the Tillingbourne Valley. It has given local residents, schools and visitors to the area the opportunity to discover why the Surrey Hills is such a special place”.
Christine Howard, Chairman of the Surrey Hills Society comments;
“The aim of this project was to engage local people in their local history to hand down what we uncover to future generations and we are delighted to have delivered this. Without the support and dedication of our band of volunteers this would not have been possible and I thank them for all their hard work.”
The new Tillingbourne Gallery will house a display on the project which includes a 3D map of the Tillingbourne Valley, factual books and videos. Also created through the project are a series of walks leaflets with different length walks which guide you through the Valley, allowing you to see first hand the remaining industrial heritage. Visit http://www.tillingbournetales.co.uk/places/trails/ for further information.