Community Spotlight:

Unearth Burpham’s past with local historian Moira MacQuaide-Hall

Interview by Paul Nicholls

Continuing with our series of interviews talking to our local community, learning about the many interesting and inspiring people in Burpham and Jacobs Well, we talk to our local historian Moira MacQuaide-Hall.

Moira writes the local history features in Burpham Pages and is the author of two local history books: Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford and A History of Burpham Primary School 1908-2014. Some of our readers have asked if they could find out a little more about the person behind the research so we caught up with Moira recently and turned the spotlight on her, rather than the village.

We asked how long Moira has lived in and around Burpham?
I have never lived in Burpham! I live just the other side of the old AA roundabout, so it’s not far.

What motivated you to move to the area originally?
I moved from Cranleigh in the early 1990s because I was working in Guildford and my husband moved to a job in Guildford, so it seemed sensible to move into the town. I wanted Burpham or Merrow in order to get my little daughter into a good school.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you were brought up, your family and your professional career to date?
I was born and brought up in Northampton, but have moved south gradually over the years. I lived in Oxford for 17 years, then we moved to Surrey. I spent 17 years as a Management Trainer in the NHS, then after redundancy I became the Bursar at Burpham Primary School, which my daughter was attending. I retired in 2012 and now spend a lot of my time doing things with U3A locally. (U3A is a UK-wide movement which brings together people in their ‘third age’ to develop their interests and continue their learning in a friendly and informal environment).

Are you interested in local history generally or was it Burpham that inspired you to start researching your local and surrounding areas?
I was never good at history at school – being thrown out of the O-level class for failing my mock exams! I became interested in the history of Burpham Primary School when I was a parent governor, then Bursar, and that involved finding out quite a lot about the village as well. While selling my book about the school I found that lots of people said “I remember…” or “that reminds me…” and I decided that if someone didn’t gather up the memories then they would be lost.

Do you have any history, writing or journalism qualifications or previous experience?
No, my professional qualifications were all in personnel management, training and then school business management. I had never written any articles or books before, but had to write lots of reports and speak on courses over the years in my various jobs.

What changes have you seen in the village since you’ve lived locally?
When I first moved to Surrey the M25 hadn’t been finished and it seemed to be more rural around the village. I just missed the Green Man being a proper pub rather than a Harvester, but I did enjoy using the pub for many years until it was closed. I was very sad that the village lost such a community facility. It seems daft that the village has grown so much over the last 50 years, but it now has only one pub instead of two – and has inherited traffic problems in place of the pub! I remember Penny’s Hardware, the flower shop and the video shop that also sold lovely hand made cards in the parade. Also St Mary of Pity Catholic Church in New Inn Lane. So much has changed and so much history is lost.

Tell us about the process of writing your books, ‘Burpham: A gateway to Guildford’ and ‘A History of Burpham Primary School’?
I started writing A History of Burpham Primary School shortly after I retired. I was lucky that we had celebrated the Centenary of the school in 2008 and, as I knew I wanted to write a history book, I had contacted lots of ex-pupils, staff and parents, many of whom shared memories and photos with me. So I had a good start. The school had the old School Log Books, dating from 1908 to 1992, which I was able to borrow and use. There were also other old records held in the school, such as the original Admission Book. Then there are records held at the Surrey History Centre in Woking – some of which make fascinating reading. But the most interesting part of researching both books was from talking to people, hearing their memories and stories, or seeing their photos. I do a lot of family history and was able to find out about many of the families living in the area in the 19th/20th centuries through census records. I am very grateful to others who have done research about the area in the past, including Norman Hamilton, Roger Marjoribanks, Karen Robinson and Frank Phillipson.

How easy has it been to unearth the history of the local area?
One of the challenges of researching both family and local history is the amount of information that has been lost – thrown away as deemed to be not useful any more. I always think that writing a history raises as many questions about the past as it does provide answers! There is so much that I would love to know about, but there just don’t seem to be records in existence.

What have you learned about this area and the local community that has had the most impact on you as a local resident?
As a relative newcomer to Burpham I was fascinated to find out that it had been mainly a farming community until World War 2. My mother’s family were farmers and it’s sad that so much farmland has now been developed into housing and we have to import food from abroad. Looking at records going back to the 1500s at St Mary’s Church in Worplesdon, and others records right up to the 20th century, it’s interesting to see that some family names are still in the area – maybe not actually in Burpham, but still fairly local.

I decided that if someone didn’t gather up the memories then they would be lost.

What is the single most interesting fact that you have unearthed about Burpham or Jacobs Well?
I have loved finding out about the oldest buildings – those that were around in the original Manor of Burpham in Tudor times. It’s amazing that houses built in the 1500s and 1600s are still standing and they look so beautiful. In modern Burpham there is only New Inn Farmhouse left that is older than 17th century, but Jacob’s Well has several including Willow Grange and Burpham Court House at the end of Clay Lane. I wish that Burpham Court Farm could be opened up again – the farmhouse is Victorian but parts of the cottages were 17th century and parts of the barns were very old as well.

How have you found the experience of distributing your books online through Amazon?
It’s a good way of getting books to a wider audience. I offer free delivery to anyone buying locally, but if a purchase is through Amazon then they have to pay postage even if I put it through the letterbox!

Do have any plans for further local history books or even books based on a wider area?
I had thought about researching the history of some of the houses in Burpham, but when I floated the idea there was no response. It would need people being willing to share information from their house deeds as well as looking back at census and electoral roll data. At present I am too busy with
U3A, where I give a lot of talks – some about Burpham, some about other local history subjects and some about family history. I get asked to give talks to other groups as well, such as the Burpham Winter Lectures and local history groups. I also write my local history column for Burpham Pages.

What has been the reaction to your books, and your local historical knowledge from the local community?
I have had very positive comments from people who have read my books or heard my talks about Burpham. They are always fascinated by what I have found. Occasionally someone will pick me up on a mistake, and I am more than happy for that to happen. Not everything that is written down is accurate and if that is the source of my information then I will pass on that mistake. I hope that people will still get in touch with me with more memories about the village and the people who have lived here. Burpham is a small community but has a very long and interesting history.

If you are interested in Moira’s two books (‘A History of Burpham Primary School’ and ‘Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford’) they are available from her directly for £10 (free delivery locally), please contact by e-mail ( or by phone or text (07963 756543) or alternatively you can buy them via Amazon.

Also, if you are willing to share your memories and/or photos of Burpham then please also contact her via the above methods.

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