Life is slowly getting back to something like “normal”. But we know that many things will have changed forever. There is, therefore, some comfort in reflecting on the past. In this week’s Reflection, Jane Woolley reminds us that our little village has a rich heritage. On this website, and within the Heritage archive that Jane keeps at her home, much can be discovered.

Ever wondered what your house used to look like?   The chances are that it was one of Hambledon’s many small cottages, probably with no modern utilities, before it was “developed” to create a fair-sized family home complete with wi-fi and superfast broadband.    Ever imagined what the noise must have been like when the empty expanse of what is now “Nutbourne Park” was a thriving brickworks?  Ever been curious to know whether The Hydons and Hambledon Park always looked the way they do to-day?

Well, thanks to the Hambledon Heritage archive, it’s easy to find the answers to these and many more questions about the village, its activities, its inhabitants and its institutions.   By charting the development of the village over the best part of 200 years, the archive also demonstrates how much the Hambledon of to-day owes to the Hambledon of the past:  there’s nothing new about Hambledon’s community spirit.

The material in the archive has accumulated gradually over the last 60 or so years.  It’s a real social  history, in words and pictures, of families from all walks of life, their homes, their workplaces, their farms;  of the village hubs – the shop, the Post Office (they weren’t always the same thing and the village had more than one shop in the past), the Village Hall, the church and the pub;  the changing landscape; the sporting and social clubs, past and present;  and the institutions (including the Hydestile Hospital and the Hambledon Institute, the predecessors of The Hydons and Hambledon Park respectively – and the Institute was originally the workhouse). 

Disasters (from bombing raids to storms) are recorded;  so are successes such as winning best-kept village competitions and saving the village shop and the school (now the Nursery School).  Village fetes and celebrations of national events ranging from VE Day to jubilees are chronicled in detail.   There are scrapbooks, booklets written by villagers, photographic albums, press cuttings and numerous individual contributions.  On the whole they paint a picture of an ideal village – but don’t be fooled:  less than 10 years ago the Surrey Advertiser reported that “A village regarded by police as one of the safest places to live in Surrey has proved to be the ideal base for two cannabis factories” – which led to the arrest of six people under the Misuse of Drugs Act.   Never let it be said that the archive is a dull read. 

When my mother bought Cobblers, little did she (or I) realise that the two outbuildings that go with it were almost more spacious than the cottage itself.

  This means that I have been able to provide a home for the archive in the sun room.  Anyone is welcome to visit and browse.  You can find a list of all the documents with, in some cases, a list of their contents, on the village web site:  just click on history/historical village documents/the Hambledon heritage albums.  And do please consider whether you can add to this invaluable village resource:  although everything that happens now is media-recorded, that used not to be the case.  Our history is still dependent on paper documents and photographs. 

Hambledon on the BBC

The BBC show this painting, but where is this in Hambledon?
Ian Hislop presents

William Westmore, a National Trust Volunteer at Oakhurst Cottage, sent us this link to BBC iPlayer. It is a 2014 TV programme that features Hambledon (from around 4 minutes in) and it may be of interest to Hambledonians. The painting above is a wonderful illustration of a quieter time in our village… (well maybe not as quiet as it is now)

Click the box to go to BBC iPlayer:

A Little Gem in Hambledon – Oakhurst Cottage

Front of Oakhurst Cottage

The cottage in the oak wood – the National Trust’s Oakhurst Cottage is nestled in the edge of the woodland known as The Hurst just off the cricket green. The word ‘hurst’ meaning a woodland grove or wooded hillock.

During the 2019 season, from April to October, 838 people have visited the little cottage. On Heritage Open Day in September we had over 50 people in one day come to Oakhurst, which was a higher number than last year. 

This year thanks to the piece in the February edition of the Hambledon Parish Magazine, the local website and the inspiring Oakhurst Cottage volunteer guides, three new volunteer guides have been recruited. There are currently 19 volunteers, who contributed over 600 hours during this year’s season. We hope to recruit some more in 2020 – do get in touch if you may have an interest (email or call 01428 687820).

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Oakhurst Cottage needs you!

Do you fancy a different New Year’s resolution? If you’d like to help tell the story of this historic cottage, why not sign up to become a volunteer? We need volunteer guides to help open Oakhurst Cottage to visitors and give guided tours of the property.

Owned by the National Trust since 1954, Oakhurst Cottage was bequeathed to them by the local Allfrey sisters on condition that it was ‘not let to well-to-do people’! The last tenants, Mr and Mrs Jeffery, lived in the cottage until Ted Jeffery died in 1983. Although modernisation had been offered, they only had a cold running tap, a single plug socket, no bathroom and an outside privy. It was this lack of modernisation which makes the cottage a rarity and provides an opportunity to see how a family home for a farm labourer contrasts with that of the country mansions in the region. Opened to the public in 1984, it is furnished as it might have appeared in the mid-19th century and visitors are given guided tours using local volunteers. The cottage is located just beyond the cricket green in the edge of the woodland known as The Hurst.

To give you some idea of what it involves, the season runs from April to October and we open on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday afternoons from 2-5pm. It is run as guided tours by appointment, on the hour at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm (although we don’t run this last one in October as it is too dark). As it is such a small cottage, generally we show round a maximum of 6 people in each one – so we are giving a very personal tour. The Trust would like people to volunteer for several sessions a month and there is a simple online booking system to put your name down for sessions.

Volunteers are given training – when I first started I shadowed one of the experienced volunteers and then developed my own ‘script’ to deliver to the visitors using the information provided to suit my style. Each guide wears a National Trust volunteer badge. You usually show people round on your own but if there are sufficient guides you can sometimes pair up.

I am one of the volunteers at Oakhurst and I find it fun and rewarding. It is an opportunity to meet all sorts of people – last year one of the visitors was from Taiwan. You get to work in an amazing historic building, telling people all about its extraordinary history – and knowing that you’re helping a great cause! Plus, if you volunteer enough hours, you may be provided with a Volunteer Card which gives you free access to National Trust properties and discounts on purchases in their shops, restaurants and holiday bookings. For more information see
We have a small group of very keen volunteers but we really need more this year. So if you are interested please do get in touch with me – call 01428 687820 or email

Caring for Oakhurst

Are you a student looking for a challenge during the summer holidays? Ever thought about becoming a National Trust Volunteer Conservation Assistant?

It is over 30 years since the National Trust, with the support of Hambledon Parish Council, decided to open Oakhurst Cottage to the public. A dedicated team of volunteer guides, largely recruited from within the village, give visitors a unique insight into the life- styles of Oakhurst’s inhabitants during the last four centuries; but the cottage itself, its fabric and its contents are an equally important part of the story. The contents in particular, many of which date from 19th century, need a lot of TLC – and that includes cleaning and conservation repairs.

Whether it’s a candle snuffer, a rag rug, a stool, a quilt, a piece of pottery, an item of clothing or anything in between, objects get dusty and dirty if they aren’t regular cleaned and, at the end of each season, checked to see if any damage limitation is required. This is where volunteer conservation assistants have a vital role to play.

The National Trust is recruiting Volunteer Conservation Assistants to help care for Oakhurst. From 15 August important repairs to the fabric of the cottage are being carried out, so the initial requirement is for someone to go in for half an hour on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings (at any time that suits up to 12.30) to sweep and tidy and generally remove the dust that will inevitably result from the repair works. But there’s more to it than that. If you volunteer for this task you will be given full NT training that will not only show you what to do for the half-hour cleaning sessions but will also teach you about conservation repair work and give you a set of skills and experience that will make a unique contribution to your CV.

You will be able to put these skills to good use not only at Oakhurst (where you will always be welcome whenever you find yourself in Hambledon) but also at National Trust properties throughout the country, depending on where your studies or interests may take you in the future.

Ready to get involved? If so, please e-mail Should you require further information please get in touch with Jane Woolley, Chair of the Oakhurst Cottage Advisory Committee: or telephone 01428 684213.

The Pleasures of Oakhurst Cottage

Peter Cole thinks it’s well worth while travelling from Chichester to Hambledon to join the team of volunteer guides at Oakhurst. In this article he explains why he is so enthusiastic about the job. He and all his co-volunteers, from within the village and further afield, would love to welcome additions to the team. You can find out more about volunteering by clicking here.

Why did I sign up with the National Trust to be a guide at Oakhurst Cottage?  Because my wife thought that a) it would be a suitable outlet for my verbosity, b) I would enjoy it and c) it would give her some peace at home. She was right on a) and b) and, as for c), you’ll have to ask her. So what pleasure is there in playing estate agent to a damp, draughty, dark old cottage tucked away in a corner of Hambledon? Two things: the place and the people.

oakhurst-cottage-blue-sky-resizedI’m interested in buildings, history fascinates me and I like meeting people. The place is magical but not in a Disney sense – the feeling is far more real than that, and far less romantic. The cottage has been home to some two dozen families: that’s more than a hundred people because long ago families were large. It has stood on the same spot for over 400 years, altered and repaired by local builders (I hesitate to call them craftsmen for their work is crude). You
can still see those layers of history today, exposed, not covered to keep up appearances for that would have cost too much and Oakhurst was owned by people of the middling sort and rented to those with little money.

Before the industrial revolution most of our ancestors lived hard lives in places like this, called it home and made the best of it. Late Victorian artists created idealised images of these rural slums, but gradually the tenants moved to more comfortable homes and the old cottages were modernised into something acceptable to the middle class wife of a commuting husband or demolished. This left Oakhurst a rare survivor, a witness to the harsh reality of the ‘good old days’.oakhurst-cottage-interior

The cottage is special and so too are the people who are associated with it today. First, our cheerful guides, each telling the story of the cottage in their own way, variations on a theme within a symphony. They’re a friendly and helpful bunch. We share our knowledge and our experiences, put the cottage to bed in the autumn and in spring get it ready for the new season. We share the guiding when there are a lot of visitors and still find time to socialise. Then there are the National Trust staff, including the gardeners. I lock up the cottage at the end of my day and return a couple of weeks later to find the garden tidied and the hedges cut. If only my own garden were in the care of the same secret gardeners. The ladies of the National Trust kiosk at the Winkworth Arboretum are our marketing arm, suggesting to visitors that they make the trip to the cottage and giving them directions on how to find us.

The people I only meet once are special too – the visitors, a melange of humanity and another reason for my association with the cottage. Mostly they come from nearby, but some make the trip from the far corners of the earth. They come in all shapes, sizes and ages, singly, couples, families and friends. Some say little, others compensate with their chattiness, maybe remembering a granny who lived in a place like the cottage or asking questions that I can’t always answer. Ever appreciative of the guides’ efforts, our visitors are an endless source of interest and some have remained in my memory, like the Japanese lady whose grandson acted as translator and the couple who left their car at Winkworth and didn’t allow enough time to walk back. I gave them a lift on my way home.

Guiding at Oakhurst Cottage is a pleasure, as are the peripheral activities such as meeting people who are considering volunteering for the National Trust. I’ll be at Winkworth for the coffee morning on Tuesday 15 March between 10.30 and 12.30, hoping for lots of new volunteers – but not so many that I don’t have time for coffee and cake.