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Preserving fragments of local history

Jun 25, 2020 | 0 comments

Rumour had it that my family had run a boarding house during the war. Until I inherited family paperwork from my mother, no evidence of this could be found, either in local directories or other records at the local museum and archives.

In amongst the paperwork was a visitor’s book which covered the period 1838 to 1961. Most of the boarders stayed during the 1940s and 50s, and included servicemen from home and abroad.

Visitors book for the boarding house at 18 Wathen Road, Dorking, 1938 to 1961
Visitors book for the boarding house at 18 Wathen Road, Dorking, 1938 to 1961

Front page of visitors book, showing first entries beginning August 1938
Front page of visitors book, showing first entries beginning August 1938

In recognition of the service provided my great-grandmother, Mabel Saunders, received a message of appreciation from HM Queen Elizabeth II.

The nondescript envelope the royal message arrived in
The nondescript envelope the royal message arrived in

Message of appreciation to Mabel Saunders from HM Queen Elizabeth II
Message of appreciation to Mabel Saunders from HM Queen Elizabeth II

The visitors’ book will eventually be digitised and a copy sent to any local repository that would like a copy.

If you inherit paperwork from your family, please do not rush into disposing of them without checking through what you have. You never know what gems might pass through your fingers unnoticed.

My grandparents met at the boarding house, my grandfather staying while working on the Shipman & King circuit. His entry dated his earliest arrival in Dorking after the war.

My grandfathers entry, May 10th 1947
My grandfathers entry, May 10th 1947

There were other boarding houses in Dorking, including (at least according to family rumour) Fairfield Drive. Though I have yet to find any evidence to verify other locations.

If you had a family member who stayed in a boarding house in Dorking between 1938 and 1961, please do get in touch, and I can check the visitors book for your relative, and send you a copy of their entry.