The King's England: Surrey

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The King's England: Surrey

"No other book has done for any county what this book does for Surrey: thus reads the publishers' advertisement for the first edition of this guide to the historic county, first published in 1938. Dubbing it "London's Southern Neighbour, the book describes Surrey in glowing terms: Surrey is one of the smallest counties in the kingdom, but one of the most beautiful, and one of the best known, because there is, year by year, an increasing number of people who wander about its beautiful lanes. It represents the green foliage of England unusually well ...

All Surrey's treasures are laid out in the pages of this book; the valleys of the Wey and Mole, the gentle sweep of the North Downs, with Leith Hill and Hindhead, the Hog's Back, from which you can see England's only 20th century cathedral. Guildford, with its High Street, reckoned by Dickens to be the most lovely in England, Lingfield, with its marvellous church, St George's Hill, where the Diggers left their curious footnote to history, sepia photos of cricket on Ockham Green and Mitcham Common, and Croydon, The Flying Centre of The Empire.

Throughout this alphabetical, anecdotal ramble, we meet the famous and not so famous of the county, from Meredith at Box Hill, through Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead, to George Eliot, John Evelyn and William Cobbett, and Grant Allen. But it is also the county of the Devil's Punch Bowl, Betjeman's Surrey of 1930's arterial roads, and 'motoring on the new Dorking By Pass' which even merits an illustration!

As a good journalist, Arthur Mee never failed to find out the anecdotes and local stories which make his county guides so readable. The first man to find a means of showing moving pictures is buried at Kingston. At Farncombe is a cloister dedicated to the Titanic's wireless operator. Mee catalogues the antics of the Ferguson Gang at Shalford, who actually gave money to save England's heritage, and tells the story of Major Henry Howson of Richmond, who invented and manufactured the ubiquitous poppy which is such a feature of Armistice fundraising, and whose last words to his staff as he lay dying were 'remember lads, if I peg out, I go in the factory van.'

Now this classic guide is once again in print, in a faithful facsimile of the original 1938 edition, so that a whole new generation can marvel at a perfect snapshot of the Surrey landscape as it was on the eve of world war two, a landscape now lost to us, though its stories linger forever in our memories.