Iron Age times Most people in the Leith Hill area would have lived in small isolated groups. Evidence of early settlements has been found at Abinger and Farley Health. Iron Age forts existed at Anstiebury (near the top of Leith Hill) and on nearby Holmbury Hill.
Roman times Stane Street (sometimes known as Stone Street) was built by the Romans between Chichester and London to facilitate the movement of troops, food and materials. Much of the modern A29, including the stretch that passes through Ockley, is built on the foundations of the old Roman Road.
Saxon times Ockley was part of the possessions of Occa who owned a considerable amount of land including the stretch between Ockham (near Woking) and Ockley. The name Ockley is derived from “Occa’s lea” and means ‘Occa’s clearing in the wood’.
In 851 AD, there was a major battle when an army of invading Danes (intent on taking Winchester) met the West Saxons under King Ethelwulf (who had marched up Stane Street to stop them). According to The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Danes were so soundly defeated that none remained to bury their dead. It seems highly likely that this battle took place at Ockley, although not on the village green as legend dictates, but a little further north on the lower slopes of Leith Hill.
11th Century By the reign of Edward the Confessor, most of the land in the Ockley area was owned by Aylmer (sometimes spelt as Almar or Aelmar). The name persists today in local place names such as ‘Elmers Road’, ‘Elmers Farm’ and ‘Elmers Hill’.
After the Norman conquest, all land was considered the property of the Crown and granted to nobles in return for their support. Much of that previously owned by Aylmer was given to Richard of Tonbridge of the de Clare family.
12th Century There is some evidence that a small Norman castle was built in Ockley during the turbulent reign of King Stephen (1135-1154), near where St Margaret’s Church now stands.
13th Century St Margaret’s Church was built at Ockley in about 1291.
14th Century In 1302, King Edward 1 granted permission for Ockley to hold a market on Tuesdays and 3 Annual Fairs. These took place in the vicinity of the Church and Ockley Court which at that time was the centre of the village. One of these fairs was held on July 20th each year to celebrate the festival of St Margaret of Antioch.
15th Century In 1450, Eversheds, probably the oldest surviving house in the area, was built.
16th Century The centre of Ockley village gradually shifted from the area around St Margaret’s Church and Ockley Court area to Stane Street. Many of the houses around the Green date from this time.
17th Century In 1639, Henry Whitfield, Rector of Ockley, lead a party of 25 families out to the New World and founded Guilford, Connecticut. Modern day descendants of these emigrants still visit Ockley.
1663: Stane Street became a turnpike road and coach travel began to develop.
18th Century 1700: John Evershed, Lord of the Manor, was granted permission to hold a weekly market to be held on Ockley Green
1741: Ockley Workhouse was built
1765: Leith Hill tower was built
19th Century 1802: Ockley Windmill was built (and fell down in 1944).
1841: Following a bequest from Jane Scott, Governess to the Arbuthnot family at Elderslie, a Village School was built at Ockley (still going strong after 160 years). A village well and pump were also installed on the Green.
1867: Railway travel became possible following the opening of Ockley & Capel Station on the Portsmouth line of the London, Brighton and South West railway.
20th Century 1901 The funeral train bearing the body of Queen Victoria passed through Ockley on its way to London. Many people stood on Young’s bridge to watch it pass by.
1914-18: The 1st World War claimed the lives of 29 men from Ockley. John Lee-Steere, only son of the Squire of Ockley, was one of those killed in action. In 1923, Ockley Village Hall was built as a war memorial to him and all the Ockley fallen.
1939-45: Just over 20 years later, the Second World War was another major upheaval in people’s lives and another 11 young men from Ockley died in action. During the War, a number of Canadian troops were billeted in the village. Evacuee children from London were also housed in Ockley.
The Winter of 1983 was wet. If you had to go to the surgery on the green (or any place between School Lane and the village hall) – other than by car – you had to walk along the narrow path on the East side of Stane Street. A hazardous walk for both old and young and particularly parents with youngsters in pushchairs – within inches of ever bigger and faster vehicles. A safe footpath on the green was clearly needed and had apparently been talked about for many years – it was time to do something. The concept was put on the agenda of the Parish Council Annual Assembly on 19th March, 1984 and discussed at length.
With nobody against the idea, fund raising suggestions were made. Imagine how many coffee mornings and jumble sales it would have taken to provide the funds needed…and time would slip by risking the loss of motivation. After a call at the meeting for a minimum of 6 volunteers to form a team and commit to seeing the project through to completion, eight hands went up. The Ockley Footpath Action Committee was born.
James Berry-Clarke, Andrew Crighton, Jim Figg, Paul Fisher, Bill Maguire, Dick Thomas (Secretary), David Moir (Treasurer) David Waugh (Chairman) and Parish Council member. It was a volunteer ad hoc committee acting for and with the authority of the Parish Council.
The first meeting of the OCFAC was held on the 2nd April,1984. The bold decision was taken to seek interest free loans and also ask for donations – to get the job done quickly before the Winter - and then fund raise to repay the loans. Motivation enough. During the Summer detailed planning and action involving finance, quotes, materials, equipment and manpower was linked to two more committee meetings on the 18th April and the 21st August. The cost was estimated at £4000.
The call went out by letter to all villagers asking for interest free loans with a promise to pay back within 18 months. This raised £2520. Donations provided another £1800. A grant of £200 was given by the Rural Amenities fund of the Surrey Voluntary Services Council. The concept had become a reality.
The path was marked out by mower on the 25th August. The following Saturday, 1st September 1984, the path was constructed with volunteer village labour including John Day on the loader and Robert Charman on the digger from Jayes estate. On the 9th September the tarmac surface was laid by professionals. Stage one was completed - five months from the OCFAC’s inception.
Now the focus was on stage two - pay back of the loans. Spontaneous community activities got into action to raise funds including a ‘man made coffee morning’ (the OCFAC committee) in the village hall on the 16th March 1985 with fund raising stalls from many villagers; a car boot sale and a sponsored children’s walk around the green (Stoolball Club)– using the new footpath.
And then the big one - the first Ocklympics and Fayre on the green on the 22nd June 1985 (with teams from 7 other villages to boost the attendance and 27 stalls and activities!). That evening there was a barbecue and dance in Jayes courtyard. All these efforts produced many community benefits, but two in particular. The first was that sufficient funds were raised to pay back the footpath loans six months earlier than the self-imposed deadline of 18 months (and also make a substantial contribution to new village hall heaters). And the second was that the Ockley Society volunteer committee was formed with the aim of ‘encouraging, developing and supporting community life and spirit’.
The icing on the cake came on the 11th August 1986. The footpath project was awarded first prize by the Surrey Voluntary Services Council for the period 1984-1986 out of a field of 32 village initiative projects. A certificate and a cheque for £250 towards footpath maintenance were presented on the 16th October 1986. The daffodils you can see on the green each Spring were planted in the Autumn of 1984 to celebrate the building of the path.
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When searching for Ockley ancestors in parish records, bear in mind that several ecclesiastical parishes extend into the village and environs of Ockley. Records of some former Ockley residents may therefore be found in the parish registers of Wotton, Okewood, Abinger and Capel rather than in those for Ockley itself. It is also worth remembering that Ockley is only 1-2 miles away from the Sussex border and, since people often moved around in search of work, records of Ockley families (particularly baptisms) sometimes appear in the Sussex parishes of Warnham and Rudgwick.
All original Ockley parish registers and parish chest documents (such as Poor Law books, Overseers Records etc) are held in the County Record Office: The Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 1ND Tel: 01483 594594 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / Website: shs.surreycc.gov.uk
However a considerable amount of material which can help the family history researcher is held locally in our Parish Archives. This includes:
Ockley has a village school; You pass the well and next the pool, When a fair building meets thine eye, Framed with simple symmetry, Above the portal - pass it not - Are writ the words - a name - Jane Scott (From Ockley Parish Magazine, 1881)
Jane Scott was a remarkable benefactor to the village of Ockley. The daughter of ‘gentlefolk’ from Dalston near Hackney, she became the much loved governess to the Arbuthnot family at Elderslie for twenty years. During her time here she became deeply concerned at the hardships faced by the poorer people of Ockley parish and left most of her life savings for their benefit. In her Will she left £400 for a well to be dug on Ockley Green and decreed that the remainder should be used for: "Erecting, building and fitting up a School House in the Parish of Ockley for the use of the poor inhabitants and affording them gratuitous instruction therein."
Any funds left over were to be put: "towards providing proper Instructors Books, Rewards and other necessaries for carrying on the School, believing as I do that proper religious instruction in general is much required and being of the opinion that rewards are generally necessary to excite and encourage the young..."
Jane Scott’s life savings were probably not as much as she anticipated as she died from consumption at the age of 39. However, with help from the Lee Steere family (who gave the land) and the Arbuthnot family who provided some additional financial support, Jane's dream was realised and the School was opened in 1841.
The School Log Books provide a fascinating picture of school life over the next 150 years. In the early days, being a pupil can’t have been much fun. Lessons were monotonous and dull, conditions were austere, discipline was strict and punishments meted out regularly (something which persisted until the 1950s as many of those at the recent Millennium reunions still remember!). Nevertheless, the school gave Ockley children the chance to learn to read and write in the days when this was not an option for everyone. Furthermore, the standard of education was high and widened the employment opportunities for many. Above all, the school became a place where the lifelong bonds and friendships which create a village community were formed - something which remains exactly the same today.
In 1994, Surrey County Council’s Age of Transfer reorganisation meant that Ockley and Capel Schools became ‘infant’ schools (4-7 years) instead of ‘first’ schools (4-8 years). The reduction in pupil numbers meant that neither was viable alone. To avoid closure, they were therefore federated into a single school with one Headteacher and Governing Body. However, they continue to operate on the two village school sites (now called ‘Bases’) and each still retains its unique character and links with its own community. The new school was named “Scott-Broadwood” in recognition of the founders of the two village schools - Jane Scott of Ockley and the Broadwood family of Capel.