THE HISTORY OF A SURREY VILLAGE
William Howard Seth-Smith
William Howard Seth-Smith was the son of William Seth-Smith who purchased the Little Tangley Estate in 1865 from Rt. Hon. Arthur George – the Earl of Onslow. He moved in 1867. He made a purchase of a further parcel of land from John Sparkes the Younger in 1872. Little Tangley was the Manor House of Chinthurst (Chilthurst) with Loseley.
William Howard Seth- Smith’s grandfather was an architect, responsible for buildings in Eaton Square, London. William Howard followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, was articled to a firm of architects, and also attended the South Kensington Art School.
In c.1875 William Howard was given his first “commission” by his father to build four cottages for his estate workers at the south-east corner of his estate in Blackheath. These cottages were later to be named Chestnut Corner when purchased by Frank Cook in 1908. This early work by the young architect is pleasant and simple, and the use of cavity brickwork an early example of such construction. The main roofs have a steep pitch of about 55 degrees.
The Seth-Smith family were part of a staunch Congregational group who held many services in the Great Tangley Manor Farm house, occupied by William Colebrook, and later in the farm barn, until a larger meeting place became necessary.
William Howard was then commissioned by his father to design, and have built, on land donated by him, the Tangley Congregational Chapel [now the United Reform Church] in Wonersh. The Chapel was completed in 1880 and was in Gothic style, the outer walls being of Bargate stone, with Bath dressing. William Howard did not make any charge for his services.
The first marriage at the Chapel was between his sister, Ethel Margaret, and the landscape painter Alfred Hitchens.
It is known that the Seth- Smiths owned the land west of the plot of the original Laurel Cottage, and it is likely that William Howard designed the pair of cottages now known as Gable Cottage and Hazlehurst, which are of similar appearance and construction to Chestnut Corner.
Congregational services were held in these cottages, and land, once part of the garden of Gable Cottage, was given by William Seth- Smith for the building of the Blackheath Congregational Chapel.
William Howard was also responsible for the design and build of the very pleasing late Victorian styled Wonersh Liberal Club [later the Wonersh Working Mens’ Club, and now the Wonersh Club].The foundation stone was laid in 1886 and the Club opened in1887.
Unwins the printers had their premises in Chilworth, near the gunpowder establishments, and many from both places had attended Congregational services at Great Tangley Manor Farm.
William Howard designed a community centre for the Unwins and gunpowder workers, and this was built c.1896 in a pleasing Arts and Crafts style followed by later local architects.
Some five years later it became St. Thomas Church.
William Howard Seth- Smith became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1882.He was successively President of the Society of Architects and of the Architectural Association.
He travelled widely in Europe, and painted watercolours, some of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy.