Rummaging in the archive

The library holds about 2000 books and hundreds of pamphlets. The Local History papers number in the thousands. One gem is the diary of Newnham Worley, covering the years 1860 to 1865 when he was entering adulthood. He talks of the family farming in the Brockham area and mentions the gruesome death of his grandfather, killed in a ditch by his own boar.

Smiley face     Charles Worley's shop  

Newnham's younger brother Charles (1856-1934) worked at Mitchells' upholstery business in Reigate. Subsequently he took over the company and with a son, Frederick, traded from 59 and 63 High Street (at the time of writing Nandos and Thrive respectively). Adding cabinet making, antique and furniture dealing and removal contracting the enterprise continued to the 1950s. Charles' other issue enjoyed, if that is the word, very contrasting fortunes. One son died in Belgium in 1917 and another in Malta having been wounded at Gallipoli in 1915, the two daughters' respective fiancé and husband also perished at the front. The married couple never met again after their honeymoon. The youngest son, another Newnham, became the Chief Justice of both Kenya and The Bahamas and was knighted.

Charles was an active councillor and property developer and played a part in giving the borough some of its attractions: the acquisition of the greensand ridge above Priory Park, the old town hall and Reigate Heath plus many architecturally attractive houses built on the former estates of Great Doods and High Trees among others.

This is just one of potentially thousands of stories that can be pieced together from an hour or two of hunting through the archives which cover not just Redhill and Reigate but the surrounding area and extending to neighbouring counties. Those with interests in local aspects of biology and natural history, geology, archaeology, history, technology and medicine and maps, ancient and modern, are welcome to delve in this treasure trove - just attend a lecture meeting or an open day and make a date with a subject secretary, the curator or the librarian.

John Austin

To find out more about the Holmesdale Natural History Club and our collections, or if you are interested in joining, please email us at Holmesdale Natural History Club