SURREY LANDSCAPES

ORIGINAL ETCHINGS

BY

PERCY ROBERTSON
A.R.E.

Works by Percy Robertson
rule
Click here to view a larger image. Abinger Hammer

More than half-way on the road from Guildford to Dorking lies the hamlet of Abinger Hammer - a cluster of red-roofed, weather-tiled cottages such as Mrs. Allingham loved to paint in her Witley days :- not merely preserving their best moments in her canvases, but sometimes successfully warding off the ruin menaced by the ineptitude of vandal owners.

Here the Tillingbourne, which runs west-wards between the Leith Hill range and the Downs to meet the Wey at Shalford, is joined by a stream which, passing Abinger village midway in its brief course, rises a couple of miles to the southward, in the high lands of the Pasture Wood - part of the watershed between the Wey and the Arun - the latter river receiving a sister stream from Stony Moor, the other end of the Pasture Wood hill, a stream that well illustrates the way in which names on the Sussex border range from the romantic to the ridiculous, for it passes the fields of Waterland, Squalls, and Fishfull Farms.

The name of Abinger Hammer recalls the ancient industry of this part of Surrey. Where the streams descended through the ironstone country, water wheels were employed to drive the great hammers with which the iron was wrought. The coppices, of birch and hazel for the most part, with which this country is thickly studded, provided the charcoal with which to smelt the ironstone. This was before the days of Dr. Roebuck, and smelting with coal was impracticable. But with his discovery, the substance of the trade departed from its ancient home in the southern counties ; only the shadow remains in such names as Abinger Hammer, the Hammer Farm near Cranleigh, or the Hammer Ponds between Godalming and Hindhead.

A few hundred yards beyond Abinger Hammer, on the Dorking side, lie the wide grounds of Abinger Hall, the red eighteenth-century house just appearing among its woods and lawns. Here once lived Commodore Robinson, who in 1774 surveyed the coasts of the Indian Ocean, unexplored since the voyage of Nearchus, under Alexander the Great ; a service which the writer of the epitaph in Abinger Church seems to have valued most as affording great assistance to the learned Dr. Vincent in his translation of the said Nearchus. Here also lived Sir James Scarlet, lawyer and politician, who became Chief Baron of the Exchequer and Baron Abinger in 1834.

At the present time Abinger Hall belongs to Lord Farrer, the able and distinguished official who made his mark at the Board of Trade.

The village of Abinger itself is, as has been said, a mile away from the Hammer, on the way to Holmbury Hill. The church, a regular Surrey church, with its low square tower and slated spire, is said to stand on a loftier site than any other church in the county ; an elevation paid for by the depth of the well at Abinger Hatch, opposite to the green near the church, from which water was drawn at 137 feet from the surface.


Go to top