Tag Archives: surrey

Wandering: Box Hill, Surrey

14 Jun

The recent extended Diamond Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend gave my friend Chris and I chance to get out for a walk, unfortunately the less than ideal weather conditions meant that it was only going to be a brief walk.

Short of time we decided to head to Box Hill near the town of Dorking, Surrey. Box Hill is just a short train ride from Horsham and situated on the North Downs. If we didn’t have time to get out onto the South Downs then the North Downs would have to do.

Box Hill is also going to be playing its part in the London Olympics. It is hosting part of the cycling road race (both the womens and mens races) and we were interested to see how preparations were going. The cyclists will be racing up and down Box Hill as part of the road race before heading back into London from whence they came.

They will no doubt appreciate the newly re-surfaced road, but the freshly erected signs will probably be no more than a blur as they whizz past, on the way from Dorking to the top of the hill.

Apart from the new road surface and signs there didn’t seem to be a great deal to indicate that the Olympics were coming. There has been a bit of clearance along the roadside, where spectators will be crowded, but apart from that you could be forgiven for not noticing the approaching furore.

Of course the cyclists will not have time to enjoy the view from the top of Box Hill over the town of Dorking, Surrey. A view made all the better for the presence of a trig point. Nor will they have to experience the steep and slightly treacherous descent down the side of the hill, which was nice and slippery after the recent rainfall. Unfortunately that all means they will miss the joy of having to pick their way across the River Mole on the concrete stepping-stones.

The closest railway station is Box Hill and Westhumble, Westhumble is the village to west of the railway line and Box Hill is east of the station. It is a delightful little station which although short on facilities has quite a reasonable service. It’s survival is probably down to its role as a gateway to the North Downs.

When we visited it was receiving the attention of railworkers, who were busy excavating the southern end of the station, presumably to enable extension of the platforms in anticipation of the increase in traffic that the Olympics will bring.

In a fitting tribute to forthcoming Olympic games the workers were taking part in a their own relay. Taking it in turns to push wheelbarrows full of stones and soil along the length of the platform the skip waiting outside the station.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Walk to Work Week: Horley to Gatwick Airport

17 May

The 14th to 18th May 2012 is Walk to Work Week in the UK and although I would love to walk all the way to work it would probably take me six or seven hours so that is not really practical. This evening I seized the opportunity to make the start of my journey home on foot.

It wasn’t a particularly long walk, possibly 1½ miles at a stretch, but it was different from my usual route (the one I walked on Monday) and I have to confess once I had got beyond the rows of houses it was quite pleasant.

The streets of Horley, Surrey

From Horley town centre the first three-quarters of a mile were along residential streets. Although I had studied the map previously it was an unfamiliar route and I mentally laid myself a trail of breadcrumbs so that I could retrace my steps if needed. It wasn’t particularly inspiring walking, but I have walked along worse streets.

Entrance to Riverside Garden Park

My reason for taking this route was to take a look at Riverside Garden Park. This seems to be one of the few green spaces in Horley, not particularly large, but supposedly a remnant of the old Horley Common. An interesting survivor, sandwiched between the residential streets of Horley and the sprawling Gatwick Airport.

The entrance to Riverside Garden Park is not particularly inspiring, there is a useful noticeboard with a map of the park and a little bit of history. However once over the bridge and into the park things improve dramatically. The park is also part of two longer walks, a Millennium Trail (18 miles) and the East Horley Circular Walk (5.8 miles).

Path through Riverside Garden Park

I took the path heading towards the airport, I am not sure where the other paths go (that is an exploration for another day) but it is a very pleasant walk, following the course of the Gatwick Stream, the river which gives the park its name.

Pond in Riverside Garden Park

There are some nice mature trees and a lovely pond (with geese, ducks and a heron), it seemed to be relatively free from litter but not too neatly manicured. It wasn’t quite possible to forget the presence of the airport and the busy (and elevated) main road running along the south-western edge of the park, but it wasn’t as intrusive as I had imagined it would be.

Underpass to Gatwick Airport

All too quickly I was heading down the narrow underpass (which is a little daunting because it is shared with a cycle path) leading under the A23 and into the concrete and car parks of Gatwick Airport.

In Riverside Garden Park I think I might have inadvertently stumbled on the nicest part of Horley and a much nicer alternative to my usual route between the airport and Horley town centre. It is a little longer, but if time is not an issue then it seems a much better route.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Walk to Work Week: Gatwick Airport to Horley

14 May

The 14th to 18th May 2012 is Walk to Work Week in the UK and although I would love to walk all the way to work it would probably take me six or seven hours so that is not really practical. However I did my bit this morning by getting off the train one station early and walking the last bit.

I have to admit that this a route I regularly take when the weather is good and time permits. It is not a particularly long walk (only about 1¼ miles) and not particularly exciting or picturesque, but on a bright sunny day like this morning it a great way to start the day.

To me there is something a bit strange about starting a walk in Gatwick Airport, it is a great place to start a journey, but few people will be making that journey on foot like me. Getting out of the airport building can be a bit challenging if you are not sure where you are going.

I have to admit that descending the unmarked stairs at shuttle terminal always makes me feel a little uneasy, it feels a little like I am going behind the scenes, perhaps somewhere I shouldn’t be going. As passengers wait for the shuttle above I emerge out into a world of concrete and car parks as the shuttle rumbles overhead.

Gatwick Stream

Amongst the concrete however there is one rather unexpected glimpse of nature, a stream carefully funnelled through the grounds of the airport, surprisingly clean although that may just be an indication that a large volume of water has passed through here in the last few weeks, washing any accumulation of rubbish further downstream.

To the mix of concrete and car parks you can also add chain link. For about a third of a mile the path is enclosed by two tall chain link fences. To the west the car parks, to the east the railway line. Surprisingly this path is part of the Sussex Border Path, probably its least glamorous section, but for those tracing the Sussex border relief from the concrete and chain link is not far away across the other side of the railway.

Approaching the West Sussex/Surrey border

For those with an interest in boundaries, passing under the bridge carrying the A23 over the railway line takes you from the county of West Sussex and into Surrey. Not surprisingly there are no signs marking this transition, only lines on a map, however hardly a day goes past without me noticing the crossing.

Horley and the Gatwick Express

The end of the chain link fences marks a watershed, those following the border path head east over the railway footbridge. Those like me heading for Horley turn east and then north and chain link is replaced by wooden garden fences and residential streets. In the far distance, on a clear day, one gets a glimpse of the North Downs in the gaps between the houses, but really the only interest now is the contents of people’s recycling baskets along the side of the pavement.

Above the pavements however there is something else which catches my eye, an unlikely point of interest among these residential streets. A simple but for some reason unexpectedly pleasing wooden finial upon the top of a telegraph pole. This example was not unique, I counted three today, but they must count as a rarity these days.

Telegraph pole

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Personal Research Update: Tuesday 13th September 2011

13 Sep

Where am I now with my research?

Most of my very limited time has been devoted to Henry and Catherine GASSON and in particular their children. I have been trying to find out what happened to all their children, mainly using census returns and various parish register transcriptions.

There have been a few challenges but on the whole this has been pretty straight forward stuff, however I am reaching the stage where I really need to supplement the transcriptions I already have with a trip to the West Sussex Record Office. I can’t remember the last time I paid a visit to an archive, so it is long overdue.

I still have several more of the children to work on so I will probably try to complete the work on them and make sure I have a nice bundle of look-ups to do when I do finally get to the record office.

I don’t want to get dragged too far down these family lines, researching people who are not my direct ancestors, and need to remember that my original plan was to find out more about the migration of Henry and Catherine from Horley, Surrey to Nuthurst, Sussex and identify similar migrations by other GASSONs.

The “other GASSONs” part got unintentionally sidelined, but it is something I still want to pursue so I really need to start doing something about it. The trouble is I am not really sure how it is going to work, but I will probably start by looking at the 1841 census and parish register entries for Nuthurst and see if I can pick out any other GASSONs and see what develops from there.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Boundary significance

3 Aug

I should have been doing some family history last night, but I got side-tracked into fiddling about with the “new” Ordnance Survey getamap website. It is not really that new and is an updated version of the old website where you can view portions of Ordnance Survey mapping.

I have been struggling to get the website to print any more than a few pixels of any map, but I think I have a work-around for that now. I was then trying to work out whether it was worth subscribing to the website (£30 per year at the moment) to get extra features, but I was then distracted into looking at the county boundary that I cross every day to and from work.

I was playing with the route creating facility, it is really quite good as not only will it show you the distance but also the elevation and tell you how long it ought to take to walk (and run or cycle) the distance, practising using the route that I sometimes walk between Horley to Gatwick Airport.

With Henry GASSON in the back of my mind I started to study the route of the Sussex/Surrey border. I am pretty certain that the border has been moved since Henry’s time, and I am positive that Henry wouldn’t have recognised the land surrounding the boundary. I am not convinced that he would have realised that there was a boundary there in the first place, let alone placed any significance on the fact that he was moving his family from one side to the other.

For my own part though the boundary seemingly holds a significance which I can’t really explain. Measuring the distance from my place of work to the boundary I worked out I could make my way back over into my native Sussex in just under 15 minutes. The closest point is just under two-thirds of a mile away, admittedly it is not a particularly appealing part of Sussex, being on the outskirts of Gatwick Airport, but it is Sussex nevertheless.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Henry GASSON – some migration questions

28 Jul

I mentioned the other day that I have a particular fondness for my 4x great-grandfather Henry GASSON because he was the one that brought my particular GASSON line over the border from Surrey into Sussex.

It happened some time around 1830 and as migrations go it wasn’t particularly spectacular, being only about 15 miles or so in distance but even so it was quite a big jump, not just to the neighbouring parish. It wasn’t as if it was only Henry and his family that made the move, there seem to have been several other GASSON families that migrated southwards over the border about the same time, and in the big scheme of things it is just part of the gradual movement of my GASSON line westwards from Kent into Surrey and then southwards into Sussex.

Whilst I am waiting for the two death certificates I ordered to turn up I will take a closer look at this particular migration and try to answer a few questions:

  1. Exactly when did Henry and family move to Sussex?
  2. Was their move straight from Horley, Surrey to Nuthurst, Sussex or was there somewhere in between?
  3. How many other GASSON families moved from Surrey to Sussex around that time?
  4. And what were their relationships to Henry GASSON?
  5. Did any other families that moved from Horley to Nuthurst around that time?
  6. Were there any related GASSON families already living in the Nuthurst area?
  7. Can I identify any particular reason for this relocation?

My main resources for this will be parish registers and census returns, but there may also be some rate books that will help me narrow down some details. The good news is that I work in Horley and travel back home through Horsham, so can make use of the libraries in both of tho se places, although I will probably still need to visit the West Sussex Record Office and the Surrey History Centre to dig a little deeper.

Of course it goes without saying that if the distance is only 15 miles or so then it would make for a good days walk. I may not be able to follow exactly in their footsteps with any certainty, but by using some old maps I could probably find a route that would have been available to them at the time.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Ellen NICHOLLS: the story gets even more complicated

29 Mar

Just when I thought I was starting to get a handle on my 3x great-grandmother Ellen NICHOLLS and her parents Thomas and Martha NICHOLLS, along comes something that has me shaking my head in disbelief.

Thomas died before 1851 and the family (Martha and her daughters Mary and Ellen) appears to have split up. I could find the individual members of the family in 1851 but never knew what became of Mary and Martha or where Ellen was in 1861 (by 1871 Ellen was in Lewes, Sussex).

In all honesty I hadn’t put a lot of effort into finding the family members before, just a few simple searches of the GRO BMD indexes and census returns, but last night I actually sat down and put some time and thought into the search.

When I actually put some thought into what I was doing it didn’t take long to find Martha. I knew her place and year of birth so I was able to search the 1861 census using just that information and her first name. There were only a few results, none with the surname of NICHOLLS or DRAPPER, so it was a simple case of checking for marriages to see if one of them was previously a NICHOLLS.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I checked the census entry for William and Martha GASSON, surely she couldn’t have married a GASSON. I have enough GASSONs in my family tree already, adding another who was probably distantly related would just make things more confusing.

According to the census entry William and Martha’s eldest child was Ellen GASSON aged 14, born in Blean, Kent, better known to me as Ellen NICHOLLS. It was quite easy to confirm William and Martha’s marriage, not in Kent as I had expected but in neighbouring Surrey (Q1 1854 in Godstone Registration District), where Martha’s surname had been recorded as NICKOLS.

The tragic end to the tale is that it looks like Martha died in 1866 aged just 45 years (William is shown as a widower in the 1871). The unfortunate Ellen NICHOLLS had now lost both her parents before reaching 21 years old.

To make things even more complicated the 1871 census shows William GASSON living with Thomas NICHOLLS, who is described as his son in law. I suspect this means that he was the son of Martha NICHOLLS before she and William were married (and after her first husband had died). Interestingly he is shown as Thomas GASSON in the 1861 census, and his age would mean he was born about a year before William and Martha were married.

This family is getting larger and more complicated with every piece of information I discover. It is certainly proving to be the most complicated set of relationships in my direct ancestry and I wonder just how much more complicated it can get.

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