SIHG is involved in a number of projects. We have helped to preserve a wind pump from Capel which has been moved to the Rural Life Centre, Tilford. The gantry crane from Thames Ditton Statue Foundry was moved by the Group to the Rural Life Centre and this has recently gone to a collection in Essex. Another project we have been involved in is the preservation and conservation of Brockham/Betchworth Lime Kilns (in collaboration with Surrey County Council).
Individual SIHG members took part in the excavation at Downside Mill in 2008. We shall be surveying a pump at Cobham when vegetation dies down in the Autumn. Volunteers are always welcome to help with projects (and the Surrey Defences Survey below). If you are interested email firstname.lastname@example.org
Vale End Waterwheel Project
This project grew, as many of the best do, from an original interest of one of our members in the waterwheel at Vale End, Albury. The wheel is of a type thought to be unique in Britain, a Poncelet wheel. There were many built in France and Germany to this design as it worked at a much increased efficiency to former models and also would function with a small drop of water level.
Research took several forms, documentary research in the archives of the Albury estate, in the firms involved with setting up and maintaining the wheel and the subsequent water supply to the estate, and into the career of Poncelet himself. At the same time a small group of SIHG members cleared the site around the wheel, to the appreciation of the angling club which now uses the dammed pond. A thorough recording of the site was also completed and a plan drawn. Inevitably, each answered question led to further avenues to explore, and so the project continues at the present time. If anyone is interested in carrying out similar research on a favourite project, please contact Pam Taylor at SIHG (01252 715218). There may well be volunteers eager to help you.
Surrey Defences Survey
SIHG has an on-going project to record remains of defences erected in Surrey. In particular the group is recording the many hundreds of pill-boxes, tank traps and other items erected in Surrey during the Second World War. Another aspect of this work is listed below with the hope that it might establish contact with some who were involved with the Canadian troops in West Surrey.
Canadian Troops Research
The county of Surrey was inundated with Canadian troops during the two World Wars, with many thousands billeted in the superb countryside so ideally suited for training prior to action. It is therefore rather surprising that not much has been written about these, generally, most welcome of invaders.
The group has initiated a project to investigate the 'temporary residents' and the impact they had on the Surrey scene. To this end a detailed survey is under way of just one of the camps used by the Canadian troops. This is Tweedsmuir Camp, situated between Elstead and Thursley to the north-west of Godalming.
Much the camp layout is still visible on Ministry of Defence land for, although all buildings have been demolished, the road layout and parade ground along with the building foundations still survive. The major artefact left complete is the concrete camp water tower, erected high on a hillside overlooking the site.
We hope to reconstruct the camp on paper, with the purpose of every building noted and the units that passed through recorded. However, much more than this, we want to record the personal recollections of those based at Tweedsmuir and their memories of life in and around the camp. If anyone reading this can help, please get in touch, either via email or traditional post.
Already information is coming to light, and fascinating it is too. The units based here seem to have been mainly tank regiments which used the nearby commons for training. How different they must have looked then, when churned up completely by the myriad of caterpillar tracks, compared with the sandy heathland nature reserve of today. There are reports of at least one Sherman tank sinking without trace on a marshy part of the common, perhaps one day it will resurface? Other tanks were involved in trials to breach the defences of Hitler's Atlantic Wall, a replica of which was built on nearby Hankley Common.
Probably the strangest, though, is the story of the 'Wigwam Murder' when a Canadian soldier, one August Sangret, took a local Thursley girl as his common-law wife and lived with her in the Thursley cricket pavilion and camps made on the common. They obviously fell out, for he was later charged with her murder and sentenced to death in 1943 following the discovery of her body.