Villages of Surrey–Abinger Hammer

Abinger Hammer in Surrey

Next month unless emergency restrictions are reimposed, I expect to be exhibiting at a real exhibition locally. This is due to start on June 21st at Denbies Winery near Dorking. Denbies is the largest vineyard in England, and has been developing its reputation for some years now. Amongst the other buildings in the Denbies complex is a well-known art gallery which is open for group exhibitions. This will be the first time that i have shown here so will be interesting to see how I get on

Looking through the pictures that I have earmarked to show, I see I am short of local pictures, so I thought I would do something like the photograph shown, which is the village of Abinger Hammer on the River Tillingbourne. The Tillingbourne flows from east to west and runs into the River Wey near Guildford, which in turn flows north to join the mighty Thames with access to London. Today the Tillingbourne is idyllic and pastoral. A few hundred years ago, it was an industrial river, powering mills at frequent intervals, mills that ground corn, mills that ground gunpowder and mills that produced paper.

Abinger takes the word Hammer into its name, as it was at the centre of the iron industry until the late 17c. The Tillingbourne was enchannelled into “ponds”to drive the huge hammer which pounded the hot iron in the forge. Forges had been fuelled from charcoal produced from timber from the vast forests in the district known as the Weald, parts of Sussex and Surrey today. Finally the timber gave out, and the industry moved north to Coalbrookdale where Abraham Darby had discovered how to smelt iron from coke. The clock in the photograph was installed in the late 19c to commemorate the village’s connection with the iron industry.

Today the hammer ponds still exist, and are used for growing watercress. There are also trout farms using these old ponds as well, and once they have been relined, are very suitable

The gunpowder mill is at nearby Chilworth, ruined now and standing in woodland, with many tales of terrible accidents and loss of life and limb. There is a heritage trail around the mill buildings which is well worth doing. The strange thing about Chilworth Gunpowder Mill is that during World War I, it was owned by a German company ! If you have ever read any of William Cobbett’s rural rides, you will know that he undertook one along the Tillingbourne, and did a serious rant about the Chilworth Gunpowder mill as well as the paper mill nearby which produced the bank notes. Both he maintained did the devil’s work.

I am partway through the drawing of Abinger. I won’t be able to work on it for a while but will continue as soon as I can

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