History of Abbotswood

By Niels Laub

Abbotswood was built in the early part of the 20th century on approximately 50 acres of arable farmland forming part of the Stoke Park Farm (originally part of the Onslow estate) on land previously known as Ganghill Common, an area of high ground overlooking the water meadows of the River Wey. The original farmhouse and outbuildings still survive and are included within the Conservation Area boundary.

(Main image) ‘Abbots Lodge’ was one of the first houses to be built on Abbotswood in 1914.(Above) The entrance to Abbotswood from London Road (A3100) and (below) a close up of the Abbotswood name.

Abbotswood was conceived as an early 20th Century Garden Suburb and is a fine representative of its period. It originally consisted of 46 houses built mainly before and after the First World War for the professional and more affluent residents of Guildford.

Abbotswood was conceived as an early 20th Century Garden Suburb and is a fine representative of its period.

The developer Alfred Taylor employed the services of a young architect called Alfred Claude Burlingham who was an enthusiastic disciple of Lutyens and Baillie Scott and had already designed houses in Sutton for Taylor in the Arts and Crafts style. He created several different designs for large and medium sized houses, in some cases with space for servants’ quarters.

The development commenced in 1912 and took place over two main periods. The first phase up to and including the war provided larger houses for the gentry.

The second phase, immediately following the war, offered smaller properties (including bungalows) resulting in a mix of properties, appealing to a varied community.

In recognition of its architectural quality, No 46 Abbotswood was listed by English Heritage in 1998. A further house designed by Burlingham, ‘St Martha’s Lodge’ on St Martha’s Hill near Guildford, was listed in 2009.

The Abbotswood Estate itself was designated a Conservation Area in 2011. A full history of the estate, complete with appraisals of each of the individual properties, can be found in ‘A History of Abbotswood’ by Michael Drakeford published by Phillimore & Co Ltd.

Alfred Claude Burlingham

Alfred Claude Burlingham, the architect of Abbotswood, was born in 1885. He attended the Birmingham Municipal School of Arts and Crafts and, as part of his tutelage, he travelled to Italy, visiting Milan, Venice and Verona.

From 1904 to 1908 he was articled to Mansell and Mansell in Birmingham. On completion of his architectural studies, he applied for membership of the Royal Institute of British Architects. At that time Burlingham lived in Evesham.

Moving south, he practiced with Alfred Taylor in Sutton from 1909. His earliest work included 24 private houses around Sutton, Purley and Wallington. He also designed a Memorial Home for nurses in Evesham and carried out work on Lord Falmouth’s estates in Kent.

Working in Guildford, it seems likely that the young Burlingham visited houses in the area designed by architects he much admired, such as Lutyens, Baillie Scott, Voysey and Norman Shaw, which clearly were to influence his designs for the houses on Abbotswood which he completed while still in his twenties.

Following the completion of Abbotswood, Burlingham and Taylor went on to develop other significant residential estates in Guildford at Fairway, Trodds Lane, Ganghill, Meads Road and Green Lane, and a number of charming cottages in Orchard Road, Burpham. Burlingham should not however be viewed solely as an architect for domestic properties. He designed a series of shops in Cheam which became a hallmark for the area; a series of flint fronted houses and a church, also in Cheam and the impressive clubhouse at Cuddington Golf Club built by Tarrant, the builder and developer of St Georges hill, Weybridge.

Later in his career he designed a very large office building for London & Manchester Insurance at Finsbury in the City of London, which was very similar in style to Lutyen’s building for the Midland Bank at Poultry. The office block was demolished in 1972, despite many objections at the time.