Hambledon Coal Yard – Now…and Then

Small businesses operating out of Hambledon’s former coal yard have grouped together to showcase what they have to offer on a new website which also promotes wider village attractions.

Under the banner of Coal Yard Creatives, the website was set up by Ian and Alpa Cox, after relocating their micro gin distillery to one of the new units.

Currently the yard hosts a range of small enterprises including tile maker, a joinery, party shop, bespoke bakery, catering service, florist and upholsterer, and a martial arts studio, with potentially more to come.

The new website also provides links to a range of activities, houses and gardens open to the public, nearby walks, the village shop and pub. It also links to Hambledon Village website.

Ian and Alpa hope that Coal Yard Creatives will be a shop window to visitors on all that Hambledon has to offer, who may wish to stay on to enjoy a day out in the Surrey Hills.

It can be found at www.coalyardcreatives.com

It is the latest chapter in the history of the yard which once supplied the village with its coal and other heating supplies, before closing in the 1990s.

The village website takes a look back at how things used to be. Please read on.

The yard was run by the Freemantles, a family who could trace back five generations living in Hambledon.  All sons were called either Ephraim or William. An advert in the January 1944 edition of the Parish Magazine shows them trading as a “Wood and Coal Merchant and General Haulage Contractor” from a site called Philpott’s, which was probably in a yard off the Cricket Green.

(Interestingly, an advert on the same page shows a market gardener operating from the Merry Harriers, selling fresh vegetables and “all kinds of plants”, and by 1948 the pub was offering a car hire and repair service.)

Coal was delivered by rail and the Freemantles had their own railway wagon which would be detached at Witley Station, where there was a siding. Coal was collected by horse and cart (later by lorry) and taken to the yard, where it was bagged and delivered around the village.

Ephraim Freemantle acquired land then known as Glebe Meadow, on Hambledon Road between the imposing Glebe House and the 16th Century Merry Harriers pub.

He married Gwen, who he met after she moved from Wales to teach at the village school during the Second World War. In 1948 they were given permission to build a house at the yard, which they called Dares Mead, now Dare Mead. The Freemantle family owned quite a lot of land in the area and built many houses locally.

Later parish magazine adverts show that the Freemantles had added Calor Gas supplies to their range of services.

Colin Beasley, who grew up in the Merry Harriers, becoming its landlord, remembers the yard was immaculately kept by Eph and Gwen Freemantle and they grew vegetables at the rear which were offered for sale.

 

Upon the death of Eph the yard was taken on by his son George and his wife Margaret. In 1999, when Hambledon Parish Council conducted and published a Village Snapshot for the new millennium, Margaret recalled: “My father-in-law hated the name Ephraim and had decided not to pass it on. My husband George went into partnership with his father…and took over the business on his death”.

George will be remembered by long-standing villagers, trundling around the lanes on his steam road roller called Lady Margaret. He also had a steam lorry. He was a skilled engineer and machined all the parts needed to renovate his engines.

Although villagers could expect a friendly toot on the whistle if they waved, dog walkers and campers at the Merry Harriers had to beware if they accidentally strayed onto his land from the adjacent foot path, to where he kept geese. Colin recalls: “There were numerous instances when camper’s dogs and children trespassed on the coal yard back field, usually accompanied by George shouting ‘Margaret, git the gun’, although he never actually used it!”

Tim Coleman remembers fishing with his brother John in Alfrey’s Pond opposite the yard and Glebe House. John fell in and disturbed a large pike, which they endeavoured to catch. Hearing their shouts George emerged with his gun…and shot it.

George employed a coal lady who was known to customers as “Lady Phillipa” and was reputed to have been from a titled family. She was a familiar sight in the village, wearing a flat cap and covered in coal dust as she heaved sacks over her shoulder to make deliveries, rarely stopping to talk.

Sadly, the yard became rather run down, no doubt as a consequence of falling demand for domestic coal and coke.  After George died at a relatively young age it ceased trading. Margaret sold the business but retained the house and yard.

In the early 2000’s, Hambledon Parish Council supported an initiative for a small development of commercial units. The council was keen to support a “hub” of local enterprises and replace the dilapidated buildings. Permission was given and more units at the back of the yard have been added recently.

Gwen, who was involved in many areas of village life, moved back to Wales where she died at the age of 94 in 2009. Margaret and her son Derek moved away. The yard now belongs to local groundworks contractor Richard Field and the units are leased.

Stewart Payne, with thanks to the Parish Magazine archives, the Hambledon Village Snapshot and Heritage albums…and a little shared knowledge from villagers.

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Jane steen
Jane steen

Fantastic article, I had not fully appreciated how many generations the family had lived in the village. I recall visiting regularly to see Liz, George & Margaret’s eldest in the late 80’s, well before the current development. Unfortunately we lost touch and I often wonder how she is getting on. I remember Margaret always had the kettle on. This certainly brings back fond memories from my youth.