Who We Are

A century of change

“Nowhere in England is richer foliage or wilder downs and fresher woodlands...”
These are the words that the great Victorian novelist and poet George Meredith – and resident of Box Hill until his death there in 1909 –  used to describe our very special location... so it is no surprise that much of the land in the district has historically been owned by the great noble dynastic families... Norfolk and Newcastle, Effingham and de Warenne, and alongside them, successful literati, industrial pioneers, and entrepreneurs; such as Evelyn, Cubitt, and Barclay. Add to this the proximity to London (and the Thames, and Hampton Court Palace) and the area was a magnet for the great and good to put down their roots a mere 25 miles from Charing Cross.

Thus, when in July 1929, a group of 14 residents 'alarmed afresh by injurious changes already inflicted or threatened' met in Shrub Hill House in South Street, they resolved to come together, and thus the Preservation Association was formed. By October that year, they had convened an open public meeting to increase awareness – and the principal speaker was the Earl of Crawford, the President of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England (the CPRE as we now know it).

This both highlighted their intent to create a Society with influence on local matters, and also brought to their immediate attention a raft of those issues covering; the reduction of open spaces, the felling of woodland, the threat to Meadowbank pond and surrounding area, and the route of the Dorking by-pass – on all of which their objections and opinions won the day!
Membership grew quickly into many hundreds as residents sympathised with their aims and efforts.

Photo of Deepdene area of Dorking before the A24 Bypass
The Dorking by-pass in 1931 showing the original narrow lane which…
Vintage Photograph of Dorking by-pass (A24) showing a convey of cars on the open day 1934
led to this very smart bypass, here with the opening convoy in 1934

Certainly much of this initial – and continuing - success was due to the status of the officers of the Society; particularly Lord Farrer and Sir William Lawrence (in the 1930s), Dr Ralph Vaughan-Williams (1940/50s), Lords Pethick-Lawrence and Chuter Ede (1950s), Sir Gordon Touche (1960s), and Captain Broadwood and Lord Wolfenden of Westcott (1970s).  Most of these names are familiar to us still, and no matter how we view the role of the landed gentry and celebrities of those decades, the protection of their quiet and peaceful landscapes was not just paramount in their own interests but gave all residents the continuing certainty of progress without reduction of the area's appeal.

The other link was that those communities also provided them with workers, income and support; opposite ends of the scale balancing the local environment? Today, the landed gentry have much the same problems as their communities but maybe worse? Larger houses needing more expensive maintenance, land costs such as feed and fencing rising, pressures on the use of land escalating, legislation and death duties abounding. Perhaps the lot of the normal two-up-two-down council-tax payer is no longer such a bad one? Returning to those earlier decades, their technology was concentrated on the well-written letter, person-to-person, which always merited a full reply – unheard of today when we have to resort to emails to customer services with, at best, an anonymous covers-all reply.

This is why the old system worked so well; initial exchanges developed, the item at dispute ascended the ladder of authority and, quite often, this resulted in a 'Public Enquiry' being called. Through the decades the Society itself gave representative evidence to no less than 36 Public Enquiries, all dealing with 're-development' of historic buildings or land or the creation of new developments in our area.

Ready for tomorrow

In these modern times, the Society is now both a registered Charity and a Limited Company, and has a Board of Trustees that also functions as the Executive Committee, with the sub-units of Dorking Museum, Dorking Local History Group, and the Conservation, Community & Planning Group, all reporting to it. The current Trustees may be seen below;

Trustees of the Dorking Society

Nigel Arch
also; Chair of Museum

Over 40 years working in the heritage sector as a curator and senior manager. Retired in 2012 as Director of Kensington Palace State Apartments and Kew Palace. Formerly a trustee of the Costume Society, Chairman of The Arts Society Ashtead, and lecturer for The Arts Society. Appointed LVO (Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order) by HM The Queen in 2008.

Peter Camp

Over 50 years in the printing industry – 45 years as Managing Director. The last 35 years spent supplying the printing needs of institutes, associations, societies, and similar organisations – all membership based and registered charities. Four years as chairman of Dorking Local History Group

Mike Gooch
Chair of Community & Planning Unit

My core career was as MD of a service provider to the construction and automotive industries. Then I switched to managing Insurance, Risk, and H&S, for a London Bus operator.  This enhanced my interest in local transport history - which brought me to the Museum, where I now oversee H&S, the volunteers, and the facilities.  But being an amateur radio operator is my real sport!

Jane le Cluse
Chair of Trustees, and Museum Archivist

Spent a long career in information management, mostly in the engineering sector. For personal interest I have been long attracted to local history research in Dorking, Betchworth, Brockham and Buckland. For the Society, I run the Archives section in the Museum, and am currently chairman of the Society.

Andrew Lovett
Treasurer of the Society

As a career accountant I have worked in financial and audit management in a variety of roles in government, commerce, universities and charities, and was a partner in Baker Tilly, one the country's leading practices.  I currently volunteer with the National Trust and the RSPB, and for the last five years I have also been a Trustee and Treasurer of the South Downs Society.

Elaine Simmons
Membership Secretary

Many years in accounting management at Post Office and Royal Mail HQs led to 15 years project managing for CSV, the national volunteering charity.  Then time with the Alzheimer’s Society, before managing a schools mentoring programme for West Sussex CC. I was a governor for Powell Corderoy School and a trustee of the Mentoring & Befriending Foundation.

Pierre Tartari

A long career in tourism marketing (including helping to start Kuoni in the UK in the 1970s), followed by management of cricket officials at the ECB, has lead to a retirement full of varied voluntary roles - one of which has been the Museum and now is the Society, where I am responsible for Marketing and Outreach.

Penny Tomkins
Secretary to the Society

I was born and raised in Dorking and have lived nearby for all of my life. Having worked as a solicitor in the financial services industry, including several years as a regulator and also company secretary to a major insurer, I now, as Secretary of Dorking Society, focus on its governance and strategies, and have a personal passion for textiles and costume.

Gwen Wood
Chair of Dorking Local History Group

I have spent 40 years in education specifically as a mathematics teacher, heading mathematics departments, advisory teams and as an educational consultant. In the 1980’s I was one of the first ‘maths missionaries’ and later a member of the National Strategy for Mathematics. I have written a number of mathematics books. I have had a strong interest in history throughout my life and have used this interest in both my professional and recreational life.

John Woodcock

I was a Dairy Farmer at Brockham for 30 years, and a past Chairman of the Dorking branch of the NFU. My links with Dorking's heritage started with Dorking Rotary Club for 48 years and I was also their President for a few of them. My link with the Dorking Museum also started decades ago when I was a Steward and then Facilities Manager. I am a Trustee of Powell Corderoy School. My early years were spent living above the Alan Woodcock Chemist shop at 136 High Street.