Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Haslemere is a town in southern England, with a population of nearly 14,000. It is situated within Surrey, but close to the border with two other counties: Hampshire and West Sussex. The major road between London and Portsmouth, the A3, lies to the west, and a branch of the River Wey to the south. Haslemere is approximately fifteen kilometres south west of Guildford.
It is surrounded by hills, with Blackdown (920ft) to the south and Gibbet Hill to the north (895ft) - the site of executions in past centuries. Many of those to be hanged there were highwaymen, for the roads around Haslemere, particularly alongside the nearby Devil's Punch Bowl, was notoriously dangerous. Today, much of the heathland and woodland is owned and protected by the National Trust, and has become a popular attraction for walkers.
The earliest recorded mention of Haslemere was in 1221 (when it was spelt Haselmere).The name describes hazel trees standing beside a lake, and although the lake doesn’t exist today, there is a natural spring in West Street which is likely to have provided its source.
Haslemere became an important market town in the middle ages, having been granted a charter by Richard II in 1394. This right was confirmed by a new charter issued by Elizabeth I in 1596. Today, this special status is celebrated with the Charter Fair, held twice a year in the High Street.
The town was one of the rotten boroughs, but recovered with the arrival of the London Waterloo to Portsmouth railway line, and it became a fashionable place to live. By the end of the century, Haslemere was a home to a number of well-known artists. Today, Haslemere continues to be a popular commuter town.
The unusually wide High Street remains at the heart of Haslemere, with the Old Town Hall standing at its southern end. Many of the shops are still family-run.
St Bartholomew's Church was originally built in the 14th century, but rebuilt in 1871. It contains memorials to many of the most prominent local residents, including Alfred Lord Tennyson, who lived in nearby Lurgashall and is commemorated in one of the stained glass windows, featuring Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail.
Haslemere is well known locally for its museum, at the northern end of the High Street. It was established by eminent surgeon Sir Jonathon Hutchinson in 1888 to provide educational opportunities to local people, and moved to its present location in 1926 - a house with a Georgian façade, but partly dating back to the 16th century.
The town has also made a name for itself through music, and largely through the contribution of an immigrant family. Arnold Dolmetsch, musician and instrument maker, was born in France in 1858, and it was his family who created the descant recorder, so popular with schoolchildren today. They settled in Haslemere and his son Carl Dolmetsch took over the business. The family firm still manufacture viols, recorders and harpsichords today. Their presence in the town inspired the International Dolmetsch Early Music Festival held every year in the town.
Other well-known residents of Haslemere and the surrounding villages included:
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who lived at Undershaw (now a hotel and restaurant on the A3).
- Novelist George Eliot, who had a cottage at nearby Shottermill Common, where she wrote most of Middlemarch.
- Sir Robert Hunter, one of the founders of the National Trust
- Poet and novelist George Macdonald
- Scientist John Tyndall, who lived in Hindhead, and is buried in an unmarked grave in Haslemere churchyard
- Artist and engraver Josiah Wood Whymper
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