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Population: 13,700

Height above sea level:
470 ft (143.256m)

Haslemere got its name from the hazel trees which surrounded a lake (or mere) which may have been on a site between Derby Road and the High Street. The lake was drained many, many years ago. There is a spring in West Street (source of the original lake) which flows into the river Wey and eventually the river Thames. On the other side of the High Street a spring flows into the river Arun and out into the English Channel. The name was recorded in a document of 1221 as Haselmere. (note spelling).

UK map

To take a closer look at where the town of Haslemere is, dust off your atlas and open the page at Great Britain, next find the co-ordinates (51°05'N) (00°44W) and you should then be looking at the district of Haslemere.

Haslemere is situated in the south west corner of the county of Surrey. It borders the counties of Hampshire and West Sussex. The town lies beneath the prominent hills of Blackdown (920ft) to the south, (it is the second highest hill in Surrey), with the famous Gibbet hill to the north (895ft) where they used to hang highwaymen on the gibbet in days of old. Haslemere is surrounded by natural beauty which is mostly owned by the National Trust, covering over 2,000 acres. This has its advantages in that it can't be destroyed by being built on and is freely open to the public. Woodland and heathland with steep hills and valleys surround the district, consequently there is an abundance of wildlife.

Haslemere and its surrounding area is excellent walking country. You will even find a Youth Hostel deep within the Devil's Punchbowl, where you can eat your meal and rest over night before ascending the next part of your journey of adventure.

The A3 trunk road from Portsmouth to London used to skirt Haslemere by way of Hindhead, where the natural beauty spots of the Gibbet hill and Devil's Punchbowl lie. It was the biggest bottle-neck on the A3 due to the traffic lights at the cross-roads with the A287. The A287 is the main road to the south coast.

The summer of 2011 saw a brand new tunnel opened and now traffic flows freely. I believe that holding the Olympic Games in England during 2011 has been the push to get this tunnel built at long last, after over 30 long years! Note that there hasn't been any protesters to this tunnel. Just shows how much it's needed by all interested parties.

The town of Haslemere is split in two; the High Street to the east with the railway station in the middle and Wey Hill to the west. The main railway line runs between Waterloo, London and Portsmouth, Hampshire with Haslemere approximately between the two. Haslemere has its own Town Hall, library, swimming pool, several post offices, 3 supermarkets, shops and a museum which is well praised for its exhibits. By the end of 1999 we should have another supermarket (Tescos) built where the old swimming pool used to be at Shottermill. Haslemere now has a much larger leisure centre with an Olympic sized pool at the end where Sturt road meets Kings road. The leisure centre was completed in 1998 and is called the Herons.

Haslemere High St. (facing north)

The Haslemere Educational Museum at the north end of the High Street has been around since 1926; founded by Sir Jonathon Hutchinson in his home at Inval in 1888. For a comparatively small building the museum has a tremendous wealth of artefacts on display. There is an Egyptian Mummy lying down with the its toes displaying through the wrapping. A huge stuffed brown bear, an observation beehive, cabinets of birds eggs, stuffed birds, displays of local habitat and stuffed wildlife, geology, archaeology etc., are all on display. Live displays of local wildlife are included too. There are frequent temporary exhibitions, workshops, art displays and lectures to inform the visitor. The museum is now managed by a private charity.

Haslemere High St. (facing south)

As well as being well known for its museum, Haslemere is also known internationally for its music festivals given by the Dolmetsch family which makes musical instruments. Arnold Dolmetsch was a musician and instrument maker who was born in Le Mans, France in 1858 and died in 1940. Before establishing himself and his family in Haslemere they worked in Boston and Paris restoring and making musical instruments. After Arnold died his son Carl took over the reins and the family still make instruments in Haslemere today. The workshops were founded in 1918. Many school children will know of the descant recorder, even if they can't play it; it is the Dolmetsch family who originally created this instrument. Other instruments they make include harpsichords, lute, viols and recorders.

There is very little else in the way of industry today, so the majority of people commute to their work. It was different in the past as Haslemere and the surrounding area used to produce 'shot' for the cannons, hence the name Shottermill which is a district attached to the west side of Haslemere. Other industries used to include leather curing, glass blowing, paper making, braid for army uniforms, spinning, weaving and cloth making. Later the making of bricks, pottery and chestnut fencing diversified the job market. Baskets made from rushes and brooms made from silver birch trees and heather used to be supplied to the big houses such as Hampton Court and Windsor Castle. The employers were known as 'broom squires' and apparently were quite wealthy. There is evidence today of the broom squires by several houses named as such in the area.

It would seem the only industry still surviving today in the district is the chestnut fencing and coppicing of the trees. Coopers, who made walking sticks for well over a hundred years was taken over by an American firm in 1995 and in late 1996 it was relocated to the Midlands.

During the mid 1960's when I was in the Royal Navy, I was drafted to Commodore Naval Drafting for about 6 months. This shore establishment was based at the top of Lythe Hill near Blackdown, in a big house with beautiful grounds alongside the Services Valve Laboratory. In the spacious grounds, near the front entrance, stood the mast where I used to hoist the white ensign of a morning and take it down again at sunset when I was on duty. It was a common site to see deer roaming on the lawns. On the site now are rural industries. CND shortly afterwards moved to Portsmouth.

Since 1930 Clembro's has been manufacturing steel window frames, doors, balustrades and general iron work. The workshops are in what used to be a lockup garage at the beginning of this century where owners of cars could safely leave them in rented cubicles. After which it was purchased by the Aldershot & District Traction Company in April 1914 and was known as the Clay Hill Garage. Clay Hill is now known as Wey Hill, named after the river Wey where one of its tributaries flows across the bottom of Wey Hill. As the garage was only big enough for single deck buses they had a garage built next to it which could take the double decker buses. Apparently at the opening ceremony the directors looked on in horror as a driver of a double decker bus drove into the wrong garage causing a lot of damage! The bus company moved up the road to Hindhead in 1931 when Clement Brothers (Clembro's) bought the premises for workshops. I used to work as a fitter/engineer for this company from 1978 to 1987 when I had to leave due to ill health.

Haslemere has even had a preacher who supplemented his income by becoming a highwayman, holding up the coaches from Portsmouth to London as they crossed over the Hindhead heath.

Famous people who have lived here included authors and poets. Lord Tennyson, Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), George Bernard Shaw, George Elliot and professor J Tyndall are just some of the previous residents who have enjoyed living here.

One of Haslemere's former MP's (Member of Parliament) was James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785) who was a soldier for 12 years before becoming an MP. He had a duel in Haslemere High Street two days before the election. He had ran his opponent through the stomach and even wounded the hand of someone who had tried to intervene and stop the fight. One month later he killed a man in London who had robbed him of a guinea. He then took his seat in Parliament. The Town House, opposite the museum, was just one of his residences.

He will probably be better known (especially in the USA) for colonising the state of Georgia.

Haslemere's Coat of Arms
(life is more satisfying through the muses or arts)

The intention by the British was that Georgia would become a buffer state against Spanish Florida. Oglethorpe obtained a charter for the colony of Georgia; its early inhabitants were debtors who were imprisoned and given the choice of staying there or emigrating to Georgia. Oglethorpe served as Georgia's first colonial governor 1733-34. In 1743, frustrated by settlers' complaints, he returned to England.

Another notable is Paul Goble who is an author, illustrator and artist. He was born in Haslemere in 1933. He wrote and illustrated 'The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses', winner of the 1979 Caldecott Medal. Paul became interested in American Indians and lived in South Dakota.

Facing east along England's South Downs and overlooking the "Glorious Goodwood" racecourse (middle right) in West Sussex. Goodwood is about a half hours drive from Haslemere and sixteen miles south.

Come and see Haslemere for yourself - you'll be glad you did

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