The foundations of Bookham were laid about one thousand years ago, although it is thought that people have been living in the area since prehistoric times. The earliest mention of Bookham by name (or, rather, “Bocham” in ye olde spelling) was in 647 AD when twenty dwellings at “Bocham cum Effingham” were granted to Chertsey Abbey. It was still owned by the Abbey in the 1086 Domesday Book.
St. Nicholas’ Church was built in the early 1000s and is also mentioned in the Domesday Book. You could think of the site almost as the heart of the community, and even today the bulk of village activity is still located close to it.
For much of its existence, Bookham has been lucky enough to have the best of both worlds; being far enough away from London to create a thriving rural community, but close enough not to be completely isolated. Even so, it has spent most of its life as a traditional farming community, and many of the street names reflect this: Sole Farm, Barn Meadow, Merrylands Road – so named for Merrylands Farm.
On a nice day, a good horse and cart could probably have gotten you to London in time for tea if you left in the morning.
Building of Bookham’s first school was completed in 1858. Designed by William Butterfield, it was commissioned in memory of William Henry Dawnay, 7th Viscount of Downe, and named The Dawnay School in his honour. The school moved to its current site in the 1970s, and the original building was transformed into our beloved Bookham Library.
In 1927, Miss Julia Sweet moved her School of Stitchery and Lace from Leicestershire to Rectory Lane in Bookham. Her goal was to give disabled people the opportunity to earn their own income, particularly nurses injured during WWI. The School’s students quickly developed an excellent reputation, and were even commissioned to create garments to be worn by royalty! Queen Mary in particular was a big fan. The charity’s name was changed to The Grange in the 1970s, and it continues to strive towards Julia’s original goal; helping disabled people find their independence.
Of course, a history of Bookham wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Mrs Mary Chrystie! Mary moved to Bookham in 1858 at the tender age of twenty. She had strict views on the evils of alcohol, and had the finances to do something about them. By the early 1900s, Mary owned much of the property on and around the High Street. She bought and closed at least five pubs, replacing them with either private housing or something she felt would be of more use to the community. Little Bookham Village Hall, for example, was previously The Fox Ale House; and the current site of John Wadsworth Estate Agents was previously The Kings Arms.