Farnham Castle: the remain of the keep
Another of our regular walks with Viv & Giles. I have driven through Farnham many times, but never had a close look and I planned this walk by combining a walk on the AA website with the town's Heritage Trail available from the Farnham Town Council website.
We started at the Farnham Park car park and were quickly greeted by a view of the Castle keep. The castle was founded by Henri de Blois in 1138. Henri was a younger brother of King Stephen and was Bishop of Winchester from 1129 until his death. The Castle was held by Parliamentary troops in the Civil War and like Corfe Castle was deliberately put beyond military use after the war.
The Castle remained an official residence of the Bishops of Winchester until 1927 and Farnham Park was originally the smaller of two deer parks which were enclosed around 1376. We started our circuit by following a beautiful avenue of beech trees.
At the far side we turned left and followed the perimeter, turning left again at the Upper Hale entrance to cross the park and emerge below the Castle. We were surprised by how large and how rural-seeming the park was.
We were soon in Castle St, where we turned left towards the town centre to immediately pass the Andrew Windsor Almshouses of 1619. They were initially founded for "eight poor, honest, old and impotent persons", as we were informed by two of the Trustees. There was some suggestion that as an enthusiast for almshouses, I should maybe aspire to live there, but it was agreed that I couldn't meet all the criteria. Pevsner is quite disparaging about these almshouses, finding them homely in comparison with the Georgian splendour down the hill. Perhaps inevitably, I find them rather charming.
We walked down the hill past some fine Georgian buildings, noting that one or two housed shops which were now vacant: we thought it would make sense to return this part of the town to residential use.
Then we turned right and left to find ourselves in the Lion and Lamb centre.
Most of this is a recent invention, but it has some charm, and the houses on the left here look quite old. We now turned right into West St and especially admired a series of Georgian buildings on the right.
After a brief look at the Museum, an unsuccessful foray along a side turning at least produced a wonderful spring sight: this lovely blossom.
We returned to West St and followed Church Passage to reach St Andrew's Church. It is a late 14th and 15th century church "violently" restored by Benjamin Ferrey in 1855. Pevsner, whose judgement this is, thinks that the best part is the tower and I wholly agree. It was just a bit frustrating that I could not fit it all into my photo.
We crossed the River Wey, previously seen at Pyrford and Tilford, but here here quite small and insignificant.
After an most enjoyable lunch at Loch Fyne, we followed Union Road and South St to turn into The Borough. At the junction with Castle Hill is the Town Hall with the familiar, but slightly surprising, market-like stalls outside. The Town Hall actually dates only from 1934 and was built in a neo-Georgian style to replace a "brash" (Pevsner) Victorian one.
The building to its right is the interesting Bailiffs Hall, originally of 1674, but rebuilt after the Town Hall was completed. Only the side remains of the original building.
We climbed the hill to reach the castle again and were delighted to be able to explore the grounds, seeing Bishop Waynefleet's Tower of 1470. Waynflete pioneered the use of red brick, also used in the construction of Hampton Court Palace and many Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. The windows are 18th century and this led us to think the tower must be much later. It is a very impressive structure. The Castle's website says that the two sundials refer to the passing hours with Latin mottos:
• “Practereunt” (“They pass by”) [to my eyes it says "proetereunt]
• “Imputantur” (“They are reckoned unto us”)
We then had a brief look at the keep and enjoyed the view over the inner courtyard with St Andrew's church tower and the Surrey countryside beyond.
Conditions: sunny and quite warm.
Distance: about 4.5 miles.
Rating: four stars. Full of interest. The castle and the almshouses were the highlights for me.