THE HISTORY OF A SURREY VILLAGE
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INTERESTING BOUNDARY STONES ON BLACKHEATH COMMON
A large part of Blackheath Common is owned and managed by Waverley Borough Council whereas some is owned and managed by the National Trust and a large part to the north and east is owned and managed by Earl Percy Albury Estate which belongs to the Duke of Northumberland.
Until the early part of the 20th century most of the Waverley and National Trust parts of the common were owned by East Bramley Manor, which no longer exists.
There are parish and district boundaries running through the common for Waverley (Blackheath parish) and Guildford (Albury & St. Martha’s parishes) but these only partially follow the old ownership boundaries.
In former times it was common for landowners to have their initial engraved on their side of boundary stones. This is a typical old boundary stone marking the boundary of some of the Duke of Northumberland’s land in Northumberland. N for (Duke of) Northumberland.
Several boundary stones are marked on an 1870 Ordnance Survey map of Blackheath and some of these and others are marked on this 1897 map (see images above), and I have marked the map showing the 7 stones which still exist today.
The first three indicate the boundary between the Duke of Northumberland’s land and that of East Bramley Manor and are made of moulded concrete. This was probably quite progressive for rich country estates in the middle of the nineteenth century but also overcame the problem of having no suitable local stone for carving.
Although they are now in poor condition they were well made, tapered towards the top and having an iron reinforcing bar. You cannot mistake the N and EBM on opposing sides. Interestingly the third one has an Ordnance Survey brass rivet benchmark on top and the usual OS benchmark arrow chiselled into the side. Curiously I have not found any OS map indicating this benchmark.
The other four are also concrete but more crudely made and taller than the old tapered concrete posts and they only have the N. The two numbered 4 and 5 on the map are also on the 1870 map but number 6 is not on any maps.
The one I have numbered 7 is broken and lying on the ground. I suspect it used to be about 80 metres further north, roughly where GP (Guide Post) is indicated on the map. This would be on the Northumberland boundary line but in recent years that area has been “scraped” to eliminate pine seedlings and it possibly was broken and randomly discarded by the contractors.
At the time of WW2 I believe that most of Blackheath common was treeless open heathland. As you will know from other articles here, from 1940 to 1944 a large military camp was established on the common.
I believe that these taller concrete posts were hastily made, possibly by the military, to replace the older less visible, damaged or missing stones so that military personnel could easily see the boundary of the camp and not stray onto the Duke’s land. They do not have EBM on the other side and East Bramley Manor no longer existed by the time of the war.
The stone I have numbered 6b is not in a location shown on any old maps but is nevertheless on the edge of the camp area. The crudely moulded N seems to have been picked out in red paint, maybe to emphasise the boundary to the soldiers.
Photographs copyright © John Dawson November 2020