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GODALMING: Town of Tales and Light



Godalming is a town about 4 miles south of Guildford with a population of twenty-one thousand. My wife and I came to live here three and a half years ago, having moved from North East England. I arrived fairly familiar with the area since my late brother and his family have been resident here for donkey’s years.

Those who have heard of Godalming (and there are plenty who haven’t) but have never visited probably believe it to be a town of rich people driving expensive cars with the head of a typical family (2+2) commuting daily on crowded trains to London which is about forty five minutes away. That’s not altogether true, although the population growth of recent years is almost certainly down to more London-based workers moving in.

Godalming is part of the parliamentary constituency of Waverley and has, at the time of writing, a Tory MP, the famously mispronounced Jeremy Hunt of Radio 4 fame whose recent failure to beat Boris Johnson to the keys to Number 10 Downing Street has left him, for the time being at least, in political limbo. Time to open the  newly constructed flood defences or meet the Godalming Writers Group perhaps.

Godalming is undoubtedly a wealthy town and this can be seen in the number of people driving about in large cars. But there are plenty ordinary, easy-going hard working folk about. A strong sense of community is very evident and this is reflected in the large number of cultural and sporting activies (a vast majority voluntary) which take place year round. Chief amongst these (of course) is the Godalming Writers’ Group of which I am proud to be a member.


The group dates back to 2015, before my arrival. Initially, the enthusiastic members spent time chatting about their own writing experiences but soon they put together a series of short stories. Godalming Tales was published in 2017. The GWG are a mixed bunch of men and women, shopkeepers, teachers, bankers and IT developers. Some are retired. What they share is the need to write so the publication of this first volume spurred them on to even greater effort. Seeing the results of their labours in print resulted in a second volume which was published in late 2018.. A third set of stories is in preparation and is scheduled to hit the shelves in 2020.

All the tales share certain characteristics: they are all about Godalming and the surrounding villages which the town serves and reflect the town’s history, culture, industry, education and diverse population. There’s plenty of fun, a few gloomy moments, real people, fictional people, events that happened and some that didn’t. Half-truths are everywhere: Godalming was the first place in the world to install electric street lighting (true) but that distinction was under threat from New York who sent a spy across before the installation in the hope of stealing a march on the Surrey town (not true). The Russian Tsar Peter the Great stayed at the King’s Arms in Godalming High Street in 1698 (true) but left without paying his bill (not true). Jack Phillips, Radio Operator of the doomed Titanic came from Godalming (true) and returned briefly as a ghost in the 21st. century. ( er not true). Then there’s the legend of the Godalming Teddy Bears who live and love and flourish underground near the River Wey (true or false?).


Inevitably, nostalgia seeps out of some of the tales. ‘Fings ain’t what they used to be’ Max Bygraves once sang and there are plenty of examples in the books and in Godalming itself as to how ‘things’ have changed and not always for the better. Once there were three cinemas and now there are none at all although reasonably recent films are often shown at weekends in the Borough Hall. Where once there were two railway stations there is now but one. A fair number of celebrities were born in and around the town. Amongst them, Julius Caesar (the Surrey cricketer not the Roman dictator), Mick Mills (Ipswich and England footballer), Aldous Huxley and Ben Elton. Godalming was the most frequently mentioned settlement in the Reginald Perrin novels and Charterhouse School is near the town, alma mater of Jeremy Hunt, Peter May (great cricketer) and Simon Raven (very funny writer). Many of the stories in the Godalming Tales are themselves amusing, others laced with irony, some sad and one or two even macabre.

The town is a place of huge contrasts and has wide differences in the cross-section of its population. There are the incomers, folk who work in London but can’t buy a house near to the capital due to the crazy property prices there, farmers, office workers, plenty of small shopkeepers, teachers and other public servants.

High St Godalming

Reading Godalming Tales is far more interesting than ploughing through some dusty history book. The town is surrounded by reminders of the Second World War especially Wanborough Manor in nearby Puttenham where SOE agents were trained before being parachuted into occupied Europe. It’s a fascinating place, well worth a visit and the two volumes of Godalming Tales serve as a fascinating introduction to the town.

The Godalming Writers’ Group (GWG) meets on the first Saturday of each month at 10.00 am in the Jack Phillips pub in Godalming High Street and new members are always welcome. Any changes to the date or venue of the monthly meetings can be found on or

I will announce any changes on my Twitter account


Both books are published by and available from Amazon in paperback and Ebook.

David Lowther is the author of three novels set in London and Berlin immediately before and during the early years of the Second World War as well as an account of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. All four books are published by Sacristy Press of Durham.

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