Farnham is associated with a number of famous sons and daughters.
Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745)
Jonathan Swift is best known as the author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. He was a relative of Lady Dorothy Temple and came to Moor Park in 1689 as secretary and literary assistant to Sir William Temple. It was there that he met eight year old Esther Johnson, who was living in the Moor Park household. Swift undertook some of the child’s education and gave her the name of Stella which he immortalised in his writings. Several of Swift’s best known works were written at Moor Park, including ‘Tale of a Tub’ (1696) and ‘The Battle of the Books’ (1697). Temple left Swift all his papers on his death, which the latter compiled and published as ‘The Works of William Temple’ in two volumes.
Jonathan Swift left Moor Park when Sir William Temple died in 1699.
Augustus Montague Toplady (1740 – 1778)
Augustus Toplady is mainly remembered today as author of the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ although in his short life time he became a noted theologian. Toplady’s father was an army officer and it is thought the Toplady family were travelling to Portsmouth where Major Toplady joined his ship taking him for service in Columbia. Whilst in Farnham, Mrs Toplady went into labour and she was taken into a small cottage which formerly stood on the site of 10 and 11 West Street. Augustus was christened in St. Andrew’s Parish Church where there is a plaque to his memory. Major Toplady was unfortunately killed at the siege of Cartagena in 1741. Augustus Toplady was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College Dublin. He became a vehement critic of John Wesley and an extreme Calvinist.
William Cobbett (1763 – 1835)
William Cobbett is arguably the most influential person Farnham has ever produced. Cobbett was born into a comparatively humble family, and as a small boy began his working life scaring the birds in the fields. He had little formal education but eventually became Member of Parliament for Oldham. Between these two occupations he was at various times; a professional soldier, farmer, publisher, author, journalist, pamphleteer, business man and one of the greatest of all political agitators. Generally remembered for his ‘Rural Rides’ and as the founder of ‘Hansard’, Cobbett, as a political journalist, was a thorn in the flesh of successive governments. For nearly 40 years he occupied a unique position of power using his brilliant pen to support the labouring poor by exposing corruption and dishonesty, earning himself the name, ‘The Poor Man’s Friend’. No ordinary individual before or since has had such a dominating influence in public affairs on both sides of the Atlantic. William Cobbett is buried at St Andrew’s Church.
John Frederick La Trobe Bateman (1810 – 1889)
Bateman was a water engineer extraordinaire. Elected as a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in June 1840 and made its president in 1878 and 1879. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in June 1860 and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Geographical Society, the Geological Society, the Society of Arts, and the Royal Institution.
The greatest waterworks project undertaken by Bateman was bringing water to the taps of Tameside and Manchester by constructing the six mile chain of reservoirs in Longdendale from 1848.
On 1 September 1841 he married Anne, only daughter of Sir William Fairbairn, and they had three sons and four daughters. In 1883 he assumed by Royal Licence the prefix, surname and arms of La Trobe, as a compliment to his grandfather. Bateman died on 10 June 1889 at his home, Moor Park in Farnham, an estate he had bought in 1859. In 1955 a street in Sa Pobla, Mallorca was given the name Bateman commemorating his works in Albufera de Mallorca.
Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910)
Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of nursing reform, had a connection with Farnham through her aunt, Ann, who had married George Nicholson the owner of Waverley Abbey House. Whilst staying in this area, Florence is recorded as taking an interest in the welfare of the poor and became friendly with the Reverend Richard Garth who lived at Lowlands, later renamed Brightwells and subsequently the home of the former Redgrave Theatre just off East Street. One other tangible connection with Florence Nightingale is a travelling Holy Communion set which she presented to Farnham Hospital. It is inscribed ‘For the use of the Nurses and Patients at Farnham Hospital from Florence Nightingale of the Crimea’. A further gift of a similar set and crucifix is also recorded.
John Henry Knight (1847 – 1917)
John Henry Knight came from a wealthy family and was able to pursue a wide variety of interests. He was born at Weybourne House but later lived at Barfield. Amongst his many inventions was what is believed to be the first ever British petrol-driven car to run on the road. It was whilst his chauffeur was driving this car in Castle Street in 1897 that he was summonsed for driving a locomotive without a licence and for speeding. John Henry Knight was a founder member of the Automobile Association and entertained them at Barfield on the first club ‘run’. He was also a keen photographer and pioneer of early colour photography. His photographs are an important record of Farnham and the surrounding countryside in the early years of the 20th century. His interest in technology and change is also reflected in his writing with such publications as, ‘Electric Light for Country Houses’ and ‘Reminiscences of a Country Town’.
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Arthur Conan Doyle was educated at Stonyhurst and Edinburgh before becoming a doctor and practising in Southsea from 1882 – 1890. He expected to be remembered for his many historical writings rather than for the creation of Sherlock Holmes. In 1897, after his wife Louisa was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Conan Doyle built ‘Undershaw’ at Hindhead where he hoped she would benefit from the healthy climate. They lived there for ten years until her death and it was at ‘Undershaw’ that he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle wrote two novels set in the 14th century, in which the village of Tilford features. Firstly, ‘The White Company’ which introduced Sir Nigel Loring of Tilford and the sequel, ‘Sir Nigel’ which takes the reader back to an earlier period and the events leading up to those recounted in ‘The White Company’.
George Sturt (1863 – 1927)
Local author George Sturt was born in Farnham in 1863 and originally prepared for a career in teaching. On his father’s death in 1884, however, Sturt had to take over the running of the family wheelwright’s business in East Street. Sturt’s true ambition was to become a writer and he found his success in sensitive but unsentimental depictions of rural life in and around the Bourne where he lived. His first success, under the pen name ‘George Bourne’, was The Bettesworth Book (1901) which centered around the character, ‘Bettesworth’ who was his odd-job man and gardener. Other similar books followed. ‘The Wheelwright ‘s Shop’ (1923), a vivid account of the work and workmen was an immediate success. George Sturt’s final published work was ‘A Small Boy in the Sixties’ (1927) in which he recorded details of his early life as a boy growing up in Victorian Farnham. George Sturt is buried in Green Lane cemetery.
Edwin Lutyens (1869 – 1944)
Lutyens’s formative years were spent in the nearby village of Thursley. From here he studied the Surrey countryside and its buildings, giving him an exceptional grasp of vernacular design of originality and inventiveness in which he incorporated local materials. Crooksbury House (1888) was his first real commission and many others were to follow in the Waverley area. His collaboration locally with Gertrude Jekyll the garden designer is well known. The Liberal Club in South Street (1894) is his only building in Farnham. Lutyens was a genius often compared to Wren and although well known locally for his early work, he built many homes and offices in a range of styles and modes. He was also responsible for the building of New Delhi and the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
Harold Falkner (1875-1963)
Local architect Harold Falkner had a profound influence on architectural style in Farnham for much of the 20th century. Falkner had considerable artistic talent and by the time he left school, at the age of 15, he had decided to become an architect. He studied art and wood carving, served an apprenticeship with a local builder and was articled to a London firm of architects. In 1897 he set up his own practice in Farnham. Falkner and his friend Charles Borelli, a wealthy businessman and property owner, campaigned actively for the preservation of local buildings on which Falkner would then do restoration work, often with suitable materials salvaged from other buildings. During his life time, Falkner received only limited recognition but his work is now much sought after. Falkner’s abiding legacy is his influence on the architectural style of Farnham, which stemmed from his love and concern for the town’s historic buildings. Harold Falkner is buried in West Street cemetery.
Madge Green (1927-2017)
Madge Green was the driving force behind the Farnham in Bloom volunteers for so many years. She was an accomplished journalist, a prized gardener and flower arranger who took Farnham to her heart when she moved here in 1955. Amongst Madge’s many claims to fame as a journalist were her interviews with the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister, and Dame Barbara Cartland. Madge also loved flower arranging became a national judge for the National Association of Flower Arrangement Society, and helped establish the society’s hugely successful Aldershot branch.
In Farnham, Madge also founded the Farnham and District Charity Support Group with a group of friends, and it was this same group of friends that Madge would go on to adopt the fledgling Farnham in Bloom project in 1990 with the sole aim of making Farnham a beautiful town in which to live, work and visit. The team cleared litter, watered and deadheaded plants and cleared graffiti giving Farnham the edge over neighbouring towns. Over the next 15 years, Madge and her green-fingered team won numerous awards including prizes from South East in Bloom, a special mention in the Queen Mother’s birthday awards and a nomination to represent South East in Bloom. In 2005, Madge handed over the reins to Farnham Town Council, and Farnham in Bloom has gone from strength to strength thanks to the strong foundations built by Madge and her team.
Jean Parratt MBE (1935 -2016)
Jean Parratt MBE contributed so much to the life of Farnham and had an amazing knowledge of things that had made Farnham what it is today. From 2004 to 2015 Jean, alongside her husband Ted produced a monthly newspaper the Farnham Diary. In 2004, Jean was awarded an MBE for her ‘Service to the Community of Farnham’, characteristically joking that her MBE stood for a Member of Britain’s Eccentrics. In 2010, she was amongst the first to be awarded a Services to Farnham Award presented by the Mayor of Farnham.
For many years, Jean was a familiar face at the Museum of Farnham particularly at the popular Saturday Museum Club, wrote ten illustrated books on Farnham and was also a popular lecturer in schools over a wide area and also to collectors’ and wives’ groups (and even to motorcycle clubs). Jean will be remembered as a pillar of the community, and as a teacher, historian, researcher, journalist, author, and raconteur, Jean is truly deserving of a place on the famous names of Farnham wall and has left a great legacy.
Mike Hawthorn (1929–1959)
Mike Hawthorn’s father Leslie owned the Tourist Trophy Garage in East Street and from an early age, young Michael was riding motorcycles and driving cars. As a young man he began to make his name in motor racing circles and in 1952 finished fourth in the World Championship. Further successes followed including winning the Drivers’ World Championship title from Stirling Moss. Mike Hawthorn crowned his career by winning the World Motor Racing Championship in 1958 and announced his retirement from racing to concentrate on his other interests. Sadly on 22 January 1959, just three months after his retirement, he was killed in a road accident on the Guildford bypass and was laid to rest in West Street Cemetery. More information on the ‘Farnham Flyer’ as Mike Hawthorn was nicknamed can be found on the Mike Hawthorn website.
Henry Hammond (1904-1986)
Henry Hammond was born in 1914. He studied at the Croydon School of Art until, at the age of 20, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. He is best known for his brush decorated stoneware, but also worked in porcelain and in his early days as a potter.
In 1939 he was offered a job as the pottery instructor at the West Surrey College of Art. He was unable to accept as he had been called to serve his country in the Second World War. After his return from war, Henry Hammond spent some time in St Ives with the studio potter and art teacher Bernard Leach. He later returned to Surrey to take up the role of pottery instructor until he retired in 1980. After the war, Henry Hammond shared a studio in Bentley with colleague and potter Paul Barron. Together they helped to build up the ceramics department at Farnham School of Art.
Henry was awarded the MBE in 1980, six years before his death.
Alun Lewis (1915 – 1944)
A Welsh born poet, he is probably the finest poet to have emerged from the Second World War.
In 1940, while Lewis was stationed at Longmoor with the Royal Engineers, he visited Farnham in order to meet a friend Richard Mills, who was at Sandhurst. It was on one of these visits that he wrote ‘The Public Gardens’, published in ‘Raiders’ Dawn’ (1942). The poem is based on either Farnham Park or the Library Gardens.
Arthur Hackney (1925-2010)
Arthur Hackney who was born in Yorkshire and studied at Burselm School of Art, Yorkshire and later at the Royal College of Art in London. He served in the Royal Navy between 1942 and 1946 and, in 1949 he won a travelling scholarship to Rome with the Royal college of Art. Arthur Hackney later became a teacher followed by head of printmaking at the West Surrey College of Art and Design until he retired. He was honoured as a Senior Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter/Printmakers and member of the Royal Watercolour Society.
His work is held in many public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. See his obituary for more information.
Sir Jeffrey Tate CBE (1943-2017)
Sir Jeffrey Tate CBE attended Wrecclesham Primary School before joining Farnham Grammar School in 1954. He was born with spina bifida but was determined not to let his disability stand in his way. He graduated from Cambridge and, indebted to the medical profession for enabling him to walk, he originally trained and qualified as a doctor.
Sir Jeffrey’s passion for music was evident from a young age and never diminished. It was a chance meeting with the English operatic tenor John Kentish that led to Sir Jeffrey taking up his hobby professionally. He went on to enjoy a distinguished international career, guest conducting almost every major orchestra and opera house in the world. He received a knighthood for his services to British Music Overseas in 2017.
Nick Craig (1969-)
Nick Craig began his sailing career at Frensham Pond Sailing Club. He has gone on to win many of the sailing world’s most respected racing titles and in 2011, it was calculated that he had won an impressive 37 world, European and national titles. Nick is cited as the world’s finest amateur racing sailor.
In 2011, Craig was awarded the Pantaenius UK Yachtsman of the Year, which is a remarkable achievement for an amateur sailor. He earned the award after winning the OK World Championship for a record-equalling fourth time and the Endeavour Championship trophy for the fifth time. The Endeavour Championship is an annual invitation only event to find the overall dinghy champion of champions from the UK’s most popular dinghy racing classes.
Peter Richards (1978-)
Although not born in Farnham, Peter Richards played for Farnham Rugby Club as a mini, attending Lord Wandsworth College nearby and went on the play for the winning England World Cup team in 2003 alongside Jonny Wilkinson. Peter retired in 2010 due to an injury.
Jonny Wilkinson (1979-)
A key player in the winning 2003 Rugby World Cup team and voted BBC’s sports personality of the year that year. Jonny Wilkinson was born locally in Frimley, Surrey then attended Pierrepont School, Frensham and Lord Wandsworth College near Odiham, Hampshire. Jonny played for Farnham Rugby Club juniors as a youngster and returns to his old haunts when the England team are training at Pennyhill Park. For more information on Jonny Wilkinson’s successes on and off the field see his official website.
Rachel Morris (1979-)
Gold medal paralympic champion in Bejing 2008, Rachel Morris road training is a familiar sight in Farnham.
Born in Guildford, Surrey, Rachel grew up in Farnham where she attended St. Peter’s School. Completing a Duke of Edinburgh programme with the Royal Yachting Association (ROA) at Frensham Pond Sailing Club. It was this experience that introduced Rachel to sailing, a sport in which she reached international level before being forced through illness to turn her hand to other sports after her 17th birthday.
Rachel is an inspirational speaker and is the only British hand cyclist to be crowned double world champion. Rachel was awarded BBC Surrey “Sports personality of the Year Award” in July 2009.
See Rachel Morris’s official website for information about her career to date.
More information about Farnham’s famous sons and daughters can be found at the Museum of Farnham.