This was the fourth Surrey Day and, after the problems of the last two years, it was pleasing that a full schedule of events took place. Both the Lord Lieutenant Mr Michael More-Molyneux and the The High Sheriff were the beneficiaries of an individual schedule of visits to different places across the county.
The High Sheriff’s itinerary began with a visit to The Spike in Guildford, one of the last remaining Victorian workhouses. Councillor John Redpath, a Founder Trustee of the Charlottesville Jubilee Trust, explained how the workhouse has been preserved. A realistic film depicts what a poor person would have experienced in the 19th century upon coming to the premises for a night’s shelter. To see the small and cold single cells, that were locked overnight, with their narrow straw mattress beds, and the bath in which every person washed after their clothes were taken to be fumigated, is a reminder of the horrors of life many faced. To learn the workhouse closed as recently as 1962 was a surprise. It is a museum well worth visiting. The museum is full of interesting items and photographs and is a gem that warrants more publicity.
Greyfriars Vineyard on The Hogs Back held an Artisan Market and among the stalls were fine cheese, chocolates, sauces, cushions, candles, and metal stars of all sizes plus a liquid “BeeSaviour” that can help keep bees healthy. Everything on sale was made in Surrey. Visitors could enjoy wine tasting, with award winning sparkling, white and rosé wines to savour. The High Sheriff and his wife much enjoyed chatting to the artisans and being shown around by Aaron Gilling the Cellar Door and Events Manager.
Next stop was Secretts in Milford, another renowned place where the finest of Surrey produce may be purchased. It is asparagus season and Greg Secrett, the managing director, kindly took the High Sheriff’s party to see it being picked. Appropriately, lunch was asparagus soup and asparagus quiche served in the very popular Eliza’s Tea Room. Having been shown round the abundant Farm Shop by its manager Mel Whythe, and after tasting some cheese and curry, the party was ready for such a delicious locally sourced lunch.
Ken Bare, the official driver for the day (who also knows a lot about wine, as he demonstrated when the party looked over the original small acreage of vines at Greyfriars), and Chris Howard of Visit Surrey, next took the party to The Lightbox in Woking. There was more conversation en route about the Surrey Hills Society, a charity that promotes, enhances, and conserves the physical and natural environment and its natural beauty for public benefit. It organises special events as well as its walks. The hills bring great pleasure throughout the seasons to thousands of people, and not just residents of Surrey. They are indeed a glorious feature of the county.
The new director of this ever-popular gallery is Sarah Brown and, before spending time visiting the several floors of art and sculpture, the party, which now included the Lord Lieutenant, asked her and Peter Hall, Head of Exhibitions, about the many exhibitions that are held, and how they come to be arranged and funded. Surrey is lucky to have such a modern purpose-built gallery and that’s why the works of some of the greatest artists down the centuries can be displayed in it. No wonder it has won awards and its ethos is that art has the power to make you feel good. There is the Heritage Collection and also Woking’s Story. Time must be found by the High Sheriff for a longer visit.
Before heading to Guildford Cathedral, the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff visited the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, the first purpose-built mosque in the UK, dating from 1889. It is a Grade 1 Listed Building that underwent redecoration in 2017. It was a real pleasure to be welcomed to this historic place and to learn much about it, the local Muslim community, and its practices.
At the cathedral, Peachy Productions’ Phillip French explained how the cathedral would be lit up in green once it became dark, his company having lit it up on a number of previous occasions. Then the Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, and Chris Howard were interviewed about their day’s experiences by BBC Radio Surrey.
Surrey Day is an excellent opportunity to enjoy and appreciate much of what is best about the county, it’s scenic beauty, its woods (the most wooded county of England), it’s wealth of attractive towns and villages, with their fine buildings and public spaces. Furthermore, there are the many historic houses and gardens that can be visited. Then there are the thousands of its residents who unselfishly volunteer to help those who need assistance for all sorts of reasons.
The High Sheriff warmly thanks all who sponsored and organised such a wonderful day for the county: in particular, BBC Radio Surrey, Surrey Life, and Visit Surrey, the tourist board: Tracy Carroll, a director of Visit Surrey and Local Food for Britain, and Chris Howard, who is the Chair of Visit Surrey and is President of the Surrey Hills Society. Undoubtedly, very many people of all ages across the county greatly benefited from their hours of work. We can all much look forward to Surrey Day 2023.