By the late 14th century Haslemere was sufficiently important to be granted, in 1394, a Charter by King Richard II which authorised a weekly market and the 'T' shape of the main street was established . Iron ore smelting, glass making and leather curing were, in addition to agriculture, important local industries in the Middle Ages and brought prosperity to the town.
Queen Elizabeth I created the town a Borough with the right to elect 2 members to Parliament. Shortly afterwards, in 1596, she granted a new Charter confirming the market and permitting two annual fairs. The town still commemorates this by holding a fair, known as the Charter Fair, in the High Street, every other year.
A wealthy ironmaster lived at what is now the Lythe Hill Hotel. Local names such as Furnace Place, Foundry Lane and Hammer, a small hamlet on the road to Liphook, where there is an old "Hammer Pond", reflect these activities. Glass was blown at Chiddingfold, and subsequently Haslemere, making good use of the abundance of local sand. The days of leather curing are remembered by Tanners Lane.
This industrial activity led to the building of more houses and created more shops and commercial outlets. The population of the town was approximately 600 in the 18th century and has grown to 15,000 in the 21st. The Borough of Haslemere continued to send two Members to Parliament until the Reform Act of 1832, when it lost its Borough status. One of the Town's Members, from 1722 to 1754, was General James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of the Colony of Georgia in America.
During the 18th and 19th centuries local activities included spinning and weaving and making of paper, braid for army uniforms, bricks, pottery, chestnut fencing, rush baskets and brooms manufactured from local birch. The latter were supplied to Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace and the makers were known as "Broom squires".
The opening of the London to Portsmouth railway in 1859 was an important landmark in Haslemere's history as it enabled many people to come to Haslemere and district and enjoy the lovely countryside and healthy air. Among these were famous artists, writers and scientists such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, George Eliot and Professor Tyndall.
Many fine houses were built in the area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and, because of the easy access to London by rail, the demand for housing increased steadily.
In 1974, Haslemere became part of the Borough of Waverley. At that time, the Haslemere Town Council, headed by a Town Mayor, replaced the former Haslemere Urban District Council. Today it serves a population of 15,500. It covers a large area stretching from Grayswood in the north east, the old town of Haslemere, through to Weyhill (a busy shopping area), the more modern developments in Shottermill and up the hill to Hindhead and Beacon Hill.
In 1985 Haslemere "twinned" with Bernay in Normandy, France. Ceremonies were held to mark the occasion in Bernay and the Haslemere Hall. A local artist produced an illuminated twinning charter. The monks of Bec-Hellouin Abbey made a plate to mark the occasion. In 1991 Haslemere twinned for a second time with Horb-am-Neckar in Germany. Again a twinning charter was signed and commemorative plaques exchanged at ceremonies held in both towns. The Twinning Association continues to thrive and active links are continued each year with both the towns.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Founded over 100 years ago, the Museum is noted for its geology, archaeology and natural history exhibits. It also provides a useful library and information service. Children love to see Arthur the brown bear and the Egyptian Mummy. The gardens overlook National Trust land and include ponds, gazebo and a ha-ha. Exhibitions, lectures and workshops are run throughout the year. Admission is by donation.
Places of special interest
1. St. Bartholomew's Church.Rebuilt in 1870 on the site of a much older building dating back to at least the 13th century. The imposing interior includes a memorial window to Alfred Lord Tennyson, the poet laureate who lived on Blackdown near Haslemere for nearly 30 years.
2. Town House. The house with its Queen Anne facade was once owned by General Oglethorpe, founder of the American colony of Georgia. He was also the member of Parliament from 1722 - 1754.
4. The Old Town Well and Swan Barn Walk. These can be found at the end of Well Lane off the High Street. From this point there are stunning views across National Trust land.
5. Penfold Pillar Box. This type of green letter box was in use in 1866 and was designed by John Penfold, a local architect.
6. No. 14 Petworth Road. Now a restaurant, this was once the Cow Inn. In the 1754 General Election, the Inn caused a national scandal by subdividing the freehold to create eight votes instead of one.
7. Thursley End. Haslemere was formerly surrounded by the parish of Thursley and this house, dating from 1639, marks the old parish boundary.
8. Half Moon House. This is one of the Town's oldest buildings, dating back to the 15th century. Like many other houses in the town, it is built in typical vernacular style with tile-hung cladding to walls, a clay tile roof and tall brick chimneys.
9. Town Hall Built in 1814, the Hall originally had open arches on the ground floor for market stallholders. The Council Chamber on the first floor with its ornate ceiling is used by Haslemere Town Council, and contains a copy of the Queen Elizabeth II charter to the town and the town twinning charters. Plaques on the outside wall commemorate people associated with the town, including General Oglethorpe, and a policeman who was murdered nearby.
10. Shepherds Hill Cottages These picturesque cottages date back to the 16th. century.
11. Tudor House, Lower Street A cottage built of local stone, formerly called Sheepskin House where skinning and curing of hides took place. Tanners Lane nearby is a reminder of the local tanning activity.
12. Haslemere Hall This large hall, seating 350 people, was built in 1914 by a public benefactor. It is the town's major centre for entertainment.
13. Chestnut Avenue School This imposing building has an interesting late Victorian Gothic facade. It was a school for nearly 100 years up to 1994 and is now used for community purposes.
GUIDED TOWN WALKS
These are available on the first Sunday in the month from May to September starting at 2.15pm from the Museum in the High Street.
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