London to Salisbury part 2 – Wimbledon to Woking

This the second exciting installment of my guide to the train journey from London to Salisbury. Truth to tell, this is probably the section of the journey I know least about. I’m going to add in a couple of sentences about Mercedes-Benz and the racecourse (is it Kempton Park?) but I’d be more than grateful for any contributions.

The posts so far are:

If you’re planning to go on from Salisbury to Stonehenge then you might want to look at:

Wimbledon

A few minutes after Wandsworth you go through Wimbledon, which is famous for the tennis and for the Wombles – a 1970s kids animation about underground creatures who collect and re-use bits of rubbish. Neither the tennis stadium nor any of the Wombles are visible from the train line I’m afraid.

Surbiton

Something you can see from the train though are the waiting rooms at Surbiton station. Surbiton station is a couple of minutes beyond Wimbledon. Typically the train goes through Surbiton fairly quickly so you need to keep your eyes open.

What’s interesting about the Surbiton station waiting rooms?

Two things:

  • They’re beautiful, as railway station waiting rooms go – I’d guess they date from the 1920′s or 1930′s. The corners, both the brickwork and the windows are curved in what I assume is an Art-Deco style.
  • The waiting rooms feature at the very start of the film ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’. Harry is in a railway station cafe – I think he arranges to meet the cafe’s waitress later, but Dumbledore appears on the opposite platform, and they disapparate off to the village where Professor Slughorn is hiding. The exterior of the cafe is the waiting rooms at Surbiton station.

London to Salisbury - Surbiton Harry PotterSurbiton itself is often used as a shorthand to typify English suburbia. Wikipedia has a few examples, ranging from Surbiton being the home-town of the ‘Manic Miner’ to the Monty Pythons to Suburbiton being the location of the comedy Stella Street.

The most famous use of Surbiton in this way is probably ‘The Good Life’. Tom and Barbara Good(e) decide to turn their garden into a small-holding. Much hilarity ensues.

There’s a local news website called Surbiton.com which proclaims Surbiton ‘The Capital of Suburbia’[1].

Esher

Close to Esher, on the left, the train passes Kempton Park racecourse, and Mercedes-Benz World.

Hersham – lace-up boots and corduroys

After Esher is Hersham.

Hersham is either a small town or a large village. It’s on the rather quaintly named River Mole. The name Hersham derives from the Saxon name Haeferick – probably originally being ‘Haeferick’s Hamlet’. According to Wikipedia, the name contracted from Haverichesham, to Haversham, to Hersham[2].

I don’t know whether there is any connection bewteen ‘Haversham’ and the character in Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Hersham includes ‘Whiteleys’ – a village within a village, created with a £1 million bequest by the founder of Whiteleys store in Oxford Street in 1904 for retired shop workers[3]

Hersham is possibly best known as the birthplace of the punk band Sham ’69. The band apparently took their name from some graffiti in the town celebrating the 1969 success of the local football team[4]. Sham ’69 combined punk with their take on working class culture. While the Pistols were singing about the Berlin Wall and the Clash were singing about ‘Spanish Bombs in Andalucia’, Sham created anthems proclaiming ‘If the kids are united, they will never be divided’ and ‘Hurry up Harry, we’re going down the pub’. It’s easy to forget how successful ‘the Sham’ were – between April 1978 and August 1979 they had 5 top 20 singles.

Weybridge – home of the Beatles

Weybridge has 6 of the 10 most expensive roads in the south of England. In 2008, the most expensive was South Ridge, where the average property value was £4,437,700[5].

King Henry VIII, who Dickens called “a spot of blood and grease on the history of England”, built a palace for his fourth wife Anne of Cleves in Weybridge in 1538. After Henry tired of Anne he is rumoured to have married his fifth wife Katherine Parr in the palace chapel. He would later have her killed.

Weybridge has more recently been the home of two of the four Beatles – Ringo Starr and John Lennon. George Harrison lived in Esher, which is close by. McCartney stayed in London.

I found an article on the Surrey Herald website[6] called ‘Why the Beatles were actually a Surrey band’. It explains how ‘Lucy’ from ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ was Lucy O’Donnell a classmate of Julian Lennon, and how a driver taking Paul to John Lennon’s house said he’d been working ’8 Days A Week’.

Weybridge features in HG Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’ – the chapter is entitled ‘What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton’.

M25 motorway

Somewhere between Weybridge and West Byfleet, the railway crosses the M25. The M25 is the ‘orbital motorway’ that goes all the way around London[7]

The M25 was opened by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in 1986. It’s inspired several nicknames, including the ‘London Orbital Car Park’, the ‘Road to Hell’ (in the song by Chris Rea), and my personal favourite – the ‘Magic Roundabout’.

Footnotes

  1. At the time of writing, one of the news items rather wonderfully is headlined Waitrose refurb causes mental turmoil []
  2. Hersham – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  3. Home – Hersham Village Society []
  4. Official Sham 69 Website []
  5. The most expensive streets in the South East, 2008 – Times Online []
  6. Why The Beatles were actually a Surrey band – Surrey Herald []
  7. Technically it goes nearly all the way around London. The Dartford bridge which crosses the River Thames to the east of the city is designated as being the A282 rather than part of the motorway []

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