Fringe Box



Book Review: Life And Times Of A Gentleman Of Surrey

Published on: 26 Aug, 2015
Updated on: 27 Aug, 2015

Harry Worsfold was an interesting man. A gentleman of Surrey, no less.

He had a remarkable life, as Janet Hilderley has recounted in a delightful new book all about her great-grandfather.

She recalls his tales of old Surrey as he saw it, adding lots of details about his life and family as well as much local and national history of the time.

Harry WorsfoldThe exact date of his birth appears to be unknown – about 1839 or 40. However, he was baptised on March 20, 1842, at the church of St John the Evangelist, Stoke-next-Guildford.

As a boy he witnessed a public hanging, threw stones at passing coaches and in 1852 tolled the bell at St Mary’s church in Ripley to mark the funeral in London of the Duke of Wellington.

When he married, Hannah Sale, “a pretty, 23-year-old Ripley girl,” their marriage licence was dated January 2, 1864.

Janet’s writing in telling his story is exquisite. For example: “He kept his savings: £5 note by £5 note, hidden behind the painted hangings on the wall of his cottage. Fortunately, he never had to rely on his children, all twelve grew into healthy adults.”

Of the copious amounts of local history facts Janet adds, a good example is: “Guildford remained Harry’s market town. Animals were sold at the bottom of the High Street until 1865, when the market moved to North Street. Harry. as a stockman, always did his business over a pint in the farmers’ inn, the Bull’s Head, opposite Tunsgate.” And: “The brewery [founded by Thomas Taunton, later the Friary Brewery] became one of Guildford’s largest employers, and the smell of malted barley filled Harry’s nostrils as he walked around the town.”

She writes that Harry claimed to be the last surviving parish constable (in Ripley) and was also sexton of Ripley parish church.

The cyclists’ refreshment stop at the Anchor Inn is mentioned with Harry saying he had no time for such “contraptions”. He was a bit of a storyteller including ghost stories, including three that haunted Loseley House.

Into the 1900s and Janet writes about those time in Guildford and prominent local people. And it seems Harry approved of George V when he came to the throne in 1910.

The First World War effected most people, not least Harry’s family. When his son-in-law left the Royal Horticultural Society in Wisley to fight, Harry, now a widower, joined his daughter and her baby son in their RHS cottage.

On February 19, 1939, George wrote in the family Bible: “Today Harry Worsfold (1839 to 1939) died. He was the last of the parish constables. He was certainly the last of a breed of men.”

The book, Harry Worsfold (1839-1939) The life and times of a gentleman of Surrey, is published by Alpha Press and costs £12.99.

It is well worth reading if you enjoy history, particularly that of West Surrey.

It can be bought locally at Guildford’s tourist information centre in Guildford House, High Street, and is also available online via Amazon.

Janet Hilderley will be giving a talk about Harry at Guildford Institute on Wednesday, March 2, 1016.

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