The small town of Farnham in Surrey: a documentary in colour

Typewriter Heritage open day
Typewriter: Heritage open day

Introduction: Farnham in Surrey has recently been chosen as one of the best places to live in the south-east of England. It has a small central area which probably acts as a stage upon which an idea of England and nationhood is enacted. It has lots of little alleyways and is set in lovely countryside: perhaps these help to reinforce a romantic notion of Englishness. However, the spaces of Farnham vary: some are almost non-spaces – spaces through which people simply pass in order to be somewhere else; some are disliked spaces; some are picturesque; some are suffused with history; some are spaces that remember the dead; some are spaces that once lived but are now slowly dying; some are spaces to park cars or motorcycles; some are careless spaces – spaces in which to throw away empty wine bottles or beer cans.

Whatever their nature, as Richard Hill wrote, ‘The spaces we create are alive around us in ways that it is … liberating for us to recognise.

The following pairs of photographs identify some of the spaces which exist in Farnham even if they contradict the idea of Farnham-as-nirvana. The comments under each photograph have been made by local residents who were there (or thereabouts) at the time the photograph was taken. To the extent that this work is a documentary it tries to avoid the pleasure of the image: there isn’t that much glamour to be found in the photographs. [This is a work in progress]

evening light over Farnham
1a. Evening light over Farnham – the historic Beavers Hopfields – Winter

They’re going to build on this field. I give it five years at the most. Then it will be gone – and this view will be lost forever.

Sunset over the beavers hop fields
1b. Sunset – and the historic Beavers Hopfields – Summer

Farnham has seen enough development. Who on earth would be crazy enough to allow this space to be built on?

Rolls Royce, Union Jack
2a. Car Park (1) Rolls Royce and Union Jacks at the annual vintage car show

“I like it when I get people to turn their heads.”

Vintage car show
2b. Car park (2) Tattoos and a black V8 Capri: the annual vintage car show

“Oh Yes: Cool. Black. And very Shiny.”

Supermarket with wheelie bins
3a. Town centre: Supermarket with wheelie bins
Tow centre with passage
3b. Town centre: a way to Interglobal

Blimey: there used to be some shops here. Now they’ve all closed down. Soon there won’t be anything left in the town centre. It’s the stupid council’s fault. The rents the shop-owners have to pay are way too high.

Garage with Lancia
4a. Garage with Lancia

Who’d have thought that an Englishman’s home is his castel, his castillo …

Refurbishing shop
4b. Taste for sale (town centre)

Ooooh – it’s going to be another sort of cafe. Cafe after cafe. Farnham’s full of cafes

Farnham anti dog poo
5a. Micro-politics: A Rain-soaked notice on school gates: ‘Please pick up the dog poo’

It’s a sign of the times – dog poo everywhere, litter too

Repair man with bins
5b. Micro-politics. Don’t nick again

It wasn’t me mate. It’s not my bin. I’m just here to do some odd jobs, some painting…

New Build - with  recycling
6a. High-density space (1): New Builds – with re-cycling bins
Town Centre - smart brick cube
6b. High-density space (2): Path and smart brick cube
7a. Architectural space (1) – from an exhibition in the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham

The drawing was included in an exhibition by the ‘The Blower Foundation (for cultural connection)’, a foundation that was set up in 2004 ‘to support projects that connect people to their cultural heritage which the Trustees believe is an empowering and necessary endeavour in the fragmented world we live in today.

7b. Architectural space (2): Modernist underpass

We’re not allowed to ride our bikes here

The blue chairs
8a. A place to sit: Two blue chairs

A sign on the tennis court reads: ‘Farnham Town Council – the tennis courts are available free of charge’.

The pink bench
8b. A place to sit: The pink bench

This bench is situated at the rear of the Farnham Youth Collective building which is in the town centre

River Wey January 2014
9a. Under a sky in Farnham: The River Wey

Somehow, the willows always remind me of Claude Monet’s Giverny paintings

Mistletoe in early Spring
9b. The structure of nature

A woman said: “I’m not interested in people; I’m only interested in the structure of nature

Farnham Park -  football pitch
10a. Farnham Park – football pitch

The impossibility of finding nature without culture No. 1

The tree - Farnham park
10b. Portrait of a tree, Farnham Park

The impossibility of finding nature without culture No. 2

Cricket scoreboard
11a. Relics (1)
The blue door Farnham Castle
11b. Relics (2)

Farnham’s charm: old walls, old doors – the romance of history


I really do not like the following photograph but since this is a documentary I thought I’d better include it.

Petition the Queen
Saturday Morning – a pavement in West Street: ‘Petition the Queen’

We want to see the return of self-government to Farnham, which fared very well under 725 years of independence from 1249 to 1974.  But the last decade or more has clearly shown that local politics outside Farnham serves others’ interests before ours.

(From a press release authored by a non-partisan  Petition Group (NPG) that is calling on residents to “Stand Up for Farnham!” and gain its independence from Waverley Borough Council.)

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