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Woking
The Great War monument, Jubilee Square, Woking England.jpg
Jubilee Square, Woking Town Centre
Woking shown within Surrey
Area 63.57 km2 (24.54 sq mi)
Population 62,796 (Town)
99,500 (Borough)
• Density 988/km2 (2,560/sq mi)
OS grid reference TQ003584
• London 23 mi (37 km) NE
District
  • Woking
Shire county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WOKING
Postcode district GU21, GU22
Dialling code 01483
Police Surrey
Fire Surrey
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
  • Woking
List of places
UK
England
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Woking (/ˈwkɪŋ/) is a town that shares its name with the surrounding local government district, located in the northwest of Surrey, England. It is at the southwestern edge of the Greater London Urban Area and is a part of the London commuter belt, with frequent trains and a journey time of approximately 24 minutes to Waterloo station. Woking is 23 miles (37 km) southwest of Charing Cross in central London. Woking town itself, excluding the surrounding district, has a population of 62,796, with the whole local government district (the borough of Woking) having a population of 99,500 (mid-2011 estimate). Woking has been a Conservative area since the constituency was created in 1950, with Jonathan Lord re-elected as its Member of Parliament in the 2015 General Election.

History

Woking Palace, near Old Woking - geograph.org.uk - 40278
The ruins of Woking Palace

Though Woking's earliest written appearance is in the Domesday Book, it is mentioned as the site of a monastery in an 8th-century context, as Wochingas. In the Domesday Book it appears as Wochinges, being held in 1086 by King William the Conqueror, Walter FitzOther, Constable of Windsor Castle, and Ansgot and Godfrey from Osbern FitzOsbern, then bishop of Exeter.

Modern Woking was formed in the area to the south of the Basingstoke Canal (opened in 1794) around the railway station, built in 1838 at the junction between lines to London, the south coast, and the south-west of England, and the private railway to Brookwood Cemetery, which was developed by the London Necropolis Company as an overflow burial ground for London's dead. As a result, the original settlement 1 mile to the south-east, on the River Wey, became known as "Old Woking". Later, Woking Crematorium at St John's became the first crematorium in the United Kingdom.

Shah Jahan Mosque TQ0159 214
Shah Jahan Mosque, the oldest in England

The first purpose-built mosque in the UK, the Shah Jahan Mosque on Oriental Road, was commissioned by Shahjehan, Begum of Bhopal (1868–1901), one of the four female Muslim rulers of Bhopal who reigned between 1819 and 1926.

The Martinsyde aircraft company operated a major aircraft factory in the town during World War I and used nearby Brooklands Aerodrome for test flying and deliveries, but it was closed in the mid-1920s. This site was then the home of the engineering firm James Walker & Company for many years. Known as 'The Lion Works', this area was finally redeveloped in the 1990s into today's Lion Retail Park.

Hoe Valley Scheme

This was a £40 million project to take hundreds of Woking homes away from the flood plain of the Hoe Stream. It has also provided new community facilities and roads. Woking Borough Council had been planning this scheme, which was approved in September 2010, for over 20 years. It was being run in conjunction with the Environment Agency.

The Council has received finance from: the Public Works Loan Board; a number of grants, including £3.7 million from the Environment Agency; proceeds from the sale of new homes and of other assets. The Council expects the scheme to be fully funded by 2014 with no ongoing costs incurred by the Council. The scheme was completed on schedule in 2012.

Geography

Woking postal area has several villages, including: Knaphill, Horsell, Hook Heath, Mount Hermon, Barnsbury, Maybury, Sheerwater, Goldsworth Park, St John's, Pyrford, Kingfield, Westfield and Ridgway, some being contiguous which can be described now as suburbs. Further villages are: Old Woking traditionally a separate village with its own large conservation area verging towards the Wey, Mayford; Bisley and Sutton Green to the south nearer the border between Woking and Guildford and West Byfleet to the east is a post town with Byfleet and adjoins to the north-east.

Suburbs

Hook Heath - geograph.org.uk - 45763
Unable to find an agent for the sale of their surplus land at Hook Heath, the London Necropolis Company themselves developed the area into a prosperous suburb of large detached houses.

The Barnsbury Estate is a housing estate of approximately 400 households. Begun in 1936, it is a self-contained estate of bungalows, housing and flats mostly built in the 1950s along with several small shops. Barnsbury is bordered by the Hoe Valley and is located to the south of Woking on the A320.

As part of Woking's proposed Priority Homes PFI submission, back gardens of a significant number of houses were at risk of development. From January to September 2007 this resulted in an extensive community engagement to see if and how these back gardens could be used for development. The scheme was eventually cancelled.

Barnsbury also has a primary school. Many of Barnsbury's students attend Woking High for their secondary education.

In the 1800s the London Necropolis Company acquired land here on a prospective basis but built Brookwood Cemetery instead; no suitable agent of could be found to oversee the sale of the third portion of excess land at Hook Heath and as a consequence Cyril Tubbs ensured its retention and oversaw its development himself. The London Necropolis society decided to take action. Over the 1890s the site was subdivided into plots for large detached houses, and a golf course was built to attract residents and visitors. The LNC redeveloped its lands at Hook Heath into housing and a golf course, creating a new suburb of Woking and providing a steady income from rentals.

Climate

Woking, along with the majority of the British Isles experiences a maritime climate, characterised by cool summers and mild winters. The nearest weather station for which data is readily available is Wisley, located approximately 6 km east of Woking. Temperature extremes recorded in the area range from 37.8 °C (100.0 °F) during August 2003 down to −15.1 °C (4.8 °F) during January 1982. The weather station also holds the UK July record high of 36.5 °C (97.7 °F)(2006).

Demography

2001 United Kingdom Census
Country of birth Population
United Kingdom 77,577
Pakistan 1,748
Republic of Ireland 925
Italy 737
South Africa 709
India 686
Netherlands 601
Germany 590
United States 576
Australia 326

Ethnic groups

Woking is a multicultural town, according to the Office for National Statistics, based on 2004 estimates, 89.5 per cent of the 62,796 inhabitants of Woking were white, with 84.15 per cent White British, 1.37 per cent White Irish and 5.76 per cent classified as Other White. Some 6.5 per cent are of South Asian descent, with Pakistanis making up 5.3 per cent of Woking's population (compared to 0.73 and 1.44 for the South East and the UK respectively), followed by Indians at 1.2 per cent. 0.50 per cent of Woking's population are Black which compares with 2.3 per cent nationally. 1.37 per cent of Woking residents are of mixed race, leaving the final 2.0 per cent belonging to another ethnic group.

There has long been a large tightly-knit Italian community in Woking, most of whom originated from the Sicilian town of Mussomeli. The majority of the original arrivals worked in the Britax factory in Byfleet. Others worked on the mushroom farms in Chobham or for the James Walker company. Many started their own landscaping or ice cream businesses. St Dunstan's Catholic Church in Woking holds masses in Italian. The Italian population in Woking, including second and third generation members, number between two and three thousand. There is a large Pakistani population in Woking, centred on the suburbs of Maybury and Sheerwater, near the Shah Jahan Mosque. This partly originates from workers at the then nearby Sorbo Rubber factory. Recently there has been an influx of eastern European immigrants, mostly from Poland. Many Nepalis are also now settling in the suburbs of Woking as part of the Aldershot overspill.

Religion

Religion in Woking
Religion Percent
Christian
  
69.5%
No religion
  
15.2%
Religion not stated
  
6.9%
Muslim
  
6.7%
Other
  
1.6%
Horsell church - geograph.org.uk - 45606
St Mary's Church, Horsell

The town has many churches including St Mary's Church in Horsell. St. Peter's, in Old Woking has the oldest door in Surrey. It is likely that it is the third oldest door in the British Isles after being dated by dendrochronology. Woking has an Islamic presence, with the Shah Jahan Mosque located just outside the town centre. The mosque was built in 1889 as the first in England by Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner It is built in Bath and Bargate stone in indo-saracenic style commissioned by Shah Jahan, Begum of Bhopal (1868–1901), it has been maintained since then as a Waqf

Culture and community

Woking tripod
The Woking Martian
Pond and sandpit, Horsell Common - site for "The War of the Worlds" - geograph.org.uk - 168459
Horsell Common sandpit, site of the landing of the Martians in H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.
Plane Overhead, Woking - geograph.org.uk - 601375
Hawker Hunter as public art

Culture

Public art

Martian Tripod

Woking has a Wellsian Martian Tripod, designed by Michael Condron, which was unveiled in April 1998. The tripod celebrates H. G. Wells's book, The War of the Worlds, which was written in Woking. The Tripod is 7 m (23 ft) tall. The legs are 17 cm (7″) in diameter. There are three parts of the sculpture: The Tripod, Bacteria, and the cylinder the tripods came to Earth in. The Martian is also shown advancing from Horsell Common.

Hawker Hunter

Another piece of public art is a Hawker Hunter jet fighter mounted on a pole roughly ten metres tall situated outside the Big Apple family entertainment complex. This is the last Hunter built and was used to promote the previous Planets family entertainment complex. Originally black, the plane is now finished in all-over silver.

Lightbox Art and Heritage Centre

Woking is home to an arts and heritage centre called 'The Lightbox'. The modern structure, located between the Basingstoke Canal and Victoria Way, was designed by architects Marks Barfield, the architects of the London Eye. The Lightbox contains many hands hanging from the ceiling, a brief history of Woking and many other exhibitions. Notable past exhibitions include a Wallace and Gromit exhibition and a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

Twin towns

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in the United Kingdom

Woking is twinned with:

In December 2014 the council announced that it would establish a task group to explore potential twinning opportunities with the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Community facilities

Woking has a modern shopping centre called The Peacocks and an older shopping area, Wolsey Place. The Peacocks Centre underwent development work in 2010 to add a new façade in the town square. An extension was added that consisted of adding glass with coloured lights that change in sequence. The Peacocks and Wolsey Place have, at present, been joined by means of a covered walkway to complement the town centre's redevelopment. In commemoration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the town square has been renamed "Jubilee Square".

The main area for evening entertainment is around Chertsey Road which contains restaurants serving a number of cuisines such as Indian and Chinese. There are also numerous bars and pubs along Chertsey Road as well as several nightclubs around the area. The Ambassadors cinemas and New Victoria Theatre can be accessed via the top floor of The Peacocks.

Woking has an indoor swimming pool, "Pool in the Park", and a separate leisure centre which is located at Pool in the Park, opposite Woking Leisure Centre. Outdoor facilities include a skatepark (which is popular with local children), tennis courts, five-a-side football pitches, a cricket pitch (during the summer), bowling greens, a crazy golf course, and a children's adventure playground. These leisure facilities are all located within Woking Park. Woking also has the largest public library in Surrey.

Woking is also to home to the Surrey History Centre, which holds archives and records about the county.

Cultural references

In literature, Woking (or, more precisely, its suburb Horsell Common) is where the Martians first land in the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds. The novel's author H. G. Wells was living in Woking when he wrote the book, and much of the early story is set in the area. The novel, which centres on an alien invasion of Earth, is notable insomuch as its 1938 radio broadcast in the United States caused mass hysteria when many listeners believed that an actual Martian invasion was in progress.

Douglas Adams describes Woking in The Deeper Meaning of Liff (ptcbl. vb.) as:

Standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in here for.

In music, "Town Called Malice" was written about Woking by Paul Weller and recorded by his band The Jam. The song reached No. 1 in the UK Charts.

Landmarks

Woking Skyline
Woking skyline from St Mary's Church

The tallest building in Woking is Export House, known locally as 'The BAT Building' (Pronounced 'B-A-T' or 'Bat'), from the initials of its first tenant, British American Tobacco. It is 73 metres (240 ft) tall, and has peregrine falcons nesting on top.

Historical monument

Monument Road runs from the far end of Maybury Road to the Addlestone Road, and lies just inside the Woking side of the Woking-Sheerwater boundary. It is commonly thought to be so named because of an unadvertised cemetery for Muslim Indian soldiers who died in the service of the British Empire in the Great War of 1914–1918. The cemetery no longer contains graves, the corpses having been interred in the Pakistani cemetery close to the mosque, however the walls, entrance and corner towers of the cemetery still remain intact, and they bear a clearly oriental Indian style. The cemetery is located several hundred metres from Monument Road itself and remained hidden until the woodland in which it was situated was pruned and thinned.

Monument Way is probably a reference to a much earlier structure in the area that was destroyed by natural causes in the mid-1800s:

"Early in the 17th century Sir Edward Zouch obtained the Manor of Woking and gained permission to demolish the old palace site. He used some of the material to build a new house – Hoe Place (now a private school) – with some of the Tudor bricks apparently being used in buildings such as The Old House in OLD WOKING and 'The Monument' – a tower that once stood on the hill where the Hoe Bridge Golf Course is today. It was Sir Edward's grandson, Sir James Zouch, who obtained the Market Charter for Woking in 1661, with the Market House (opposite the entrance to Church Street) being built in 1665."

Transport

Rail

WokingStation
Woking railway station, Platform 5 (south) side

Woking railway station is on the Alton Line, Portsmouth Direct Line, South Western Main Line and West of England Main Line. There are frequent trains to and from London Waterloo (via Clapham Junction), a journey taking approximately 25–30 minutes. There is also a twice hourly Waterloo–Woking stopping service that calls at many stations between Waterloo and Woking.

Gatwick Airport can be accessed via Guildford railway station or Clapham Junction. London Heathrow Airport has no direct train services from the south west of England, so a RailAir service operates between Woking and Heathrow.

A canopy costing £2.8 million has been built between the station and the main shopping area of the town. It is approximately 34 metres in length and 22.5 metres in width, stretching from the railway station entrance (town, platform 1, side) to Albion House. The project included landscaping and the provision of a new way to the town from the railway station.

Rail Accident Investigation Branch has one of its two operational centres in Woking.

Roads

Woking is accessible from the M25 motorway (junction 11), the M3 motorway (junction 3) and the A3.

The main access road is the A320 between Guildford and Staines, which passes through the town centre and connects to the M25 to the north, and to the A3 to the south at Guildford.

Bus and coach

A RailAir coach service is run by National Express, connecting Woking railway station and London Heathrow Airport, in the absence of a direct train link to Heathrow. The bus services in Woking are mainly operated by Abellio Surrey and Arriva Guildford & West Surrey. Arriva Guildford & West Surrey provide the short-distance to services to the surrounding towns and villages, such as West Byfleet, Byfleet, Camberley, Weybridge and to Guildford. Abellio Surrey provides services to more distant towns including into Greater London. These include Staines, Addlestone and Heathrow T5. The Bustler community transport service, which operates from bases Westfield and St John's, uses a fleet of minibuses to serve people with a transportation disadvantage.

Canal

Lightbox and Basingstoke Canal - geograph.org.uk - 1186672
The Lightbox Art Gallery by the Basingstoke Canal at Woking
See also: Basingstoke Canal

The Basingstoke Canal, completed in 1794, passes through the north of the town and is crossed by several footbridges and road bridges. The Lightbox, an Art Gallery, is sandwiched between the canal and Victoria Way, a dual carriageway. The canal underwent restoration in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with the restoration completed on 10 May 1991.

River and navigation

See also: River Wey and Wey and Godalming Navigations

The River Wey and Wey Navigation run through the Borough of Woking

Images for kids


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