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Book Review: Henley Park In Surrey – The History Of A Royal Manor

Published on: 5 Jan, 2013
Updated on: 8 Jan, 2013

Henley Park in Surrey – The History of a Royal Manor by John Squier

Normandy’s Henley Park has a rich and colouful history that goes right back to Saxon times. So much has happened there, by way of its development and the people associated with down the centuries, that in many instances its events mirror those of Britain’s history.

An early 20th century picture postcard view of Henley Park.

An early 20th century picture postcard view of Henley Park.

The author of this new book is John Squier, a local resident and a founder member of its local history group Normandy Historians. He became fascinated with Henley Park with the discovery in his title deeds that his house had been owned by a certain Henry Joseph Tenison Halsey of Henley Park. He began to look into the man and the park’s history, which turned out to go back 1,000 years.

He says that for 38 years as a Normandy resident he has been fascinated by Henley Park, and for the past 12 years has he meticulously researched its history: the result is this very readable book.

His research has revealed the much-debated location of the medieval royal complex as well as a long-forgotten Jacobean-style mansion that predates the Georgian-style mansion that still stands.

Lord Pirbright.

Lord Pirbright.

John writes that the owners and occupiers of Henley Park have included colourful and abrasive characters; such as the peer of the realm, Lord Pirbright, who was resident there at the turn of the 2oth century. He had a bitter feud with the vicar of Pirbright that changed the landscape of the village itself.

Then there was the widely respected country squire whose eldest son had a penchant for marrying young and even under-age girls. While a king liked Henley Park so much that he moved the tenants out and turned it into his own private park.

In its more recent history many will remember Henley Park as the home of the air-filter manufacturer Vokes Ltd, whose owner Cecil Gordon Vokes moved production there in 1940 during the Second World War after its London factory had been bombed out.

Many people from Guildford and around the area worked at Vokes down the years and will remember it well. Although Vokes sold the mansion in 1982, the factory struggled on for a few more years, and parts of it were in use (although probably not manufacturing anything) until the beginning of 2012 when it was demolished. 

The old house that had fallen into decay has now been renovated as high-class apartments.

Cecil Gordon Vokes.

Cecil Gordon Vokes.

This A4 hardback book weights in at nearly 200 pages. The detail in the book is as complete as one would expect of a serious study of a property and its grounds. But that does not mean it is heavy going. It is written in a lively style – helped no doubt by the extraordinary and fascinating characters who have put their names to Henley Park over the centuries.

John has gathered a good range of illustrations and photographs too (about 120 in total). He has been given kind permission to reproduce images of the house and occupants before the dawn of photography, and photos too of later owners and occupants. There are photos of the house during the Vokes era, before restoration, and current images as well. Many illustration are in colour.

The book costs a very modest £10 (plus £6 p&p UK if delivery is required) and is therefore well worth buying, not just for a slice of local history, but a good look at examples of Britian’s social, royal, and in parts, political history. Best Guildford area local history book for many a year!

Copies can be ordered from the Normandy Historians’ website, click here. Or email John direct for more information at

Local historian John Squier with his new book.

Local historian John Squier with his new book.

Rebuilding of the house in 1988.

Rebuilding of the house in 1998.

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Responses to Book Review: Henley Park In Surrey – The History Of A Royal Manor

  1. Pat Ashworth Reply

    January 15, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    John cannot lay claim to the research that revealed the location of the medieval royal complex or the long forgotten Jacobean mansion.

    David Rose adds: Thank you for your reply. My words in the book review are to blame for the misunderstanding. In hindsight, I should have wrote “New research” rather than “His research”.

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