History of Churt
Churt, on the extreme west of Surrey and adjoining Hampshire, is an ancient village. A narrow band of fertile soil in this area of predominantly bleak heathland, enabled man to exist here from pre-historic times. Indeed, within a 5 mile radius archaeologists have discovered a mammoth tusk and bones, flint implements of Neolithic man, burial mounds of Bronze Age man and Roman sites.
When the population of England was around 2 million persons, Churt was significant enough to have its own name, Cert.
In the 7 th century Caedwalla, the pagan King of Wessex, converted to Christianity and ensured the safety of his soul by donating land to the church, including land at Churt. This land became part of the Bishop of Winchester's Great Manor of Farnham so for a thousand years he was Churt's Lord of the Manor. The Winchester Pipe Rolls - rolls of vellum on which the clerks recorded the legal and financial matters of the manor - reveal several centuries of village history. The medieval period in Churt remains visible in its timber houses, mostly of farming origin. Today they have been converted into luxurious private residences. One medieval building open to the public is the old barn at Quinnettes, which can now be booked for private functions.
The vast woodlands in the area provided not only timber for houses but wood for enterprises elsewhere. The roof for the Great Hall at Westminster was "pre-fabricated" near Churt and then shipped by river to London in the later 14 th century.
Farming and hop-growing were the principal means of existence, though in the 16 th century Surrey was a major part of industrial England with its iron workings.
On the edge of Churt lies Hammer Lane, a reminder of the hammer ponds used to provide the power for the hammers used in the smelting process. Two of the three mills situated on the "Shirebrook" (the stream separating the 2 shires of Surrey and Southampton) stand as private homes today.
Frensham Parish Church served for centuries as the only place of worship for many miles south, as far as Shottermill. Not until 1838 did Churt have its own small church and even that was not consecrated until 1868. Over the years it has been enlarged and beautified from its first basic construction. The village school dates from 1871.
Eventually in the mid 19th century the Frensham Enclosure Act resulted in the "sale of the Bishop's waste" when waste land, common land, was sold. This provided the opportunity for the construction of several large properties in Churt employing local staff. Subsequently the residents provided amenities such as the village hall, presented in 1928 by Frank Mason.
The recreation ground, a war memorial to the fallen of World War I was the outcome of an appeal to Churt inhabitants and was opened in 1921.
Progress in modern times has been rapid as can be expected. Churt is known as the Friendly Village; its numerous clubs and societies are proof of the enthusiasms of its inhabitants. Newcomers and visitors are welcomed. A very new development, in April 2003, was the formation of Churt Parish Council whereby the villagers make their own choices.
Books about Churt which can all be purchased from the author or from: www.johnowensmith.co.uk/books/chr.htm
Churt: A Medieval Landscape
Churt, an Oasis through Time
Further Reflections on Churt
The First Ten Years (of the village school)
A Time of Change - a short history of Churt, the period between 1840 and 1880. This describes the development of the modern village following the enclosure of the common land. Price £6, available by ringing 01428 606108.
Churt - one of the buildings at Tilford Rural Life Centre
Of particular interest, externally, are the nine forms of brick-bond used in the various panels. Inside is a DVD portraying Henry Jackson, (founder of “The Old Kiln Museum”, later re-named “The Rural Life Centre”) talking about the rare trees he planted on the site which covers many acres. A section of Churt Building is devoted to the Gibbs Family, makers of agricultural machinery.
Visit the Francis Frith collection of Photographs of Churt - click here