England #6 (Godalming) 5-13

June 11, 2013

The historic town of Godalming in Surrey lays on the banks of the River Wey in a hilly, heavily wooded part southwest of London.

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First mentioned in the will of King Alfred the Great (849 – 899) it probably existed 200 years before that during Saxon times. In the year 1300, Godalming was granted the right to hold a weekly market and an annual fair. This was always a crucial step in the importance of the status of a town during the Middle Ages. Its great location between London and Portsmouth encouraged traders to set up stalls and inns for travelers. Godalming developed into a very prosperous town over the next 500 years with major industries such as woolen cloth production, leatherwork and papermaking.

In September 1881, Godalming came to world attention when it became the first town in the world to have a public electricity supply. It was Calder & Barnet who installed a Siemens AC Alternator and dynamo which were powered by a waterwheel, located at Westbrook Mill, on the river Wey and they made electricity available to consumers. Due to flood damage, the town reverted back to street gaslights in 1884. Electricity returned in 1904.

In a recent survey, Godalming was rated the third most desirable place in England to live. How lucky could we be??

Godalming is quite a charming town.

Church Street: The first building on your right is the oldest Pub in Godalming.

The ancient market hall affectionately called The Pepperpot is the center of town.

Godalming’s former town hall is affectionately called “The Pepperpot”.

This is Godalming's Saint Peter and St Paul's Church and old cemetary.

A church has stood on the site of Saint Peter and Saint Paul since at least the mid-ninth century. The church contains carved stones dating back to 820.

We loved exploring this old fashioned hardware store.

We loved exploring this old fashioned hardware store.

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This looms in the local museum reminds of Godaming’s important past.

A couple more historic tidbits:

On Jan. 16, 1698, Russian Czar Peter the Great stayed at the Kings Arms Hotel in Godalming on his way from London to Portsmouth. And the story goes that he didn’t pay his bill but then, what King in those days would have…..

Czar Peter the Great stayed in this hotel over 300 years ago.

In 1698, Russian Czar Peter the Great stayed at the Kings Arms Hotel in Godalming.

This plaque was placed 300 years after Czar Peter the Great visited Godalming.

This plaque was placed to commemorate Russian Czar Peter the Great’s visit 300 years ago.

In 1732, James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785) of Westbrook, Godalming was the founder of the colony of Georgia in the USA.

Another famous son of Godalming is Jack Phillips (1887-1902). He was the brave radio operator of the ill-fated RMS Titanic, who stayed on his job sending SOS Morse code messages until he drowned on the sinking ship on April 15, 1912.

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Jack Phillips, the brave radio operator on the RMS Titanic, sent SOS morse codes until he met his death.

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), a world reknowned  garden designer who created over 400 gardens in Europe and the United States, lived just outside Godalming.

And last but not least:

In 1726, a Godalming maidservant called Mary Toft hoaxed the town into believing that she had given birth to rabbits. The foremost doctors of the day came to witness the freak event and for a brief time the story caused a national sensation. Eventually Mary was found out after a porter was caught smuggling a dead rabbit into her chamber, she confessed to inserting at least 16 rabbits into herself and faking their birth.

Sources: Wikipedia/town museum

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