Weybrook Park, Burpham

Moira MacQuaide’s history of Burpham

A couple of years ago this column focused on the plan to cut down over 60 trees by Sainsbury’s, but this time the focus is on farming and housing and the land that eventually made way for the Sainsbury’s superstore.

A map showing Pimm’s farmland in 1838 (left). A aerial view showing the same area in 2023 (right).

The name of Bower’s Farm was first mentioned in the 1881 census, but Bower’s Mill had its name from at least the early 18th century. Farmland changed owners and tenants fairly regularly, and many farms changed their boundaries as the landlords bought and sold their lands. We know that William Francis Pimm, who lived at Marlyn’s, farmed the area between Burpham Court Farm and London Road in the early 19th century, but after his death in the 1840s it was split up. Bower’s Farm was run by Arthur Pimm, Thomas Slaughter, George and Percy Gatley, Leo Keene and Dorothy (Keene) Jones over a period of about 100 years. Many of them ran more than one farm, some of which were a distance away from Burpham.

Percy Gatley was recorded in a newspaper in 1905 as being gored by a bull at the Guildford Cattle Market. Luckily, he survived the accident and went on farming in Burpham until 1959.

Gatley sold Bower’s Farm in 1938 and the stock sold included 70 head of cattle, five cart horses, poultry and machinery. These sales show that the farm was mainly dairy but also encompassed some arable fields.

Leo Keene owned Gosden Hill Farm as well as leasing numerous other farms in the area. In 1945 there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease and all his cattle, pigs and sheep had to be slaughtered.

All the cattle at Bower’s Farm were given names beginning with a B, including a pedigree Guernsey bull called Burpham Colonel. In 1958 Leo’s daughter Dorothy took over Bower’s Farm, which was rented from the Duke of Sutherland and later Paul Getty. In the 1960s the farm was described as producing barley, and had 600 pigs as well as calves and poultry.

Bowers Farm from Dorothy Keene’s book ‘Living the Changes in Agriculture’.

A 1981 newspaper ad for Weylea Farm.

In 1970 Dorothy moved to Chippenham, taking the pigs with her. The farm was bought by Sainsbury’s as the site for their new store. In 1974 Leo disappeared for eight days and eventually his body was found in the long grass by the river edge, believed to be Bower’s Farm. It was suspected that he had fallen into the river to help an animal but then drowned because he had never learned to swim.

Planning applications for residential development on the farmland had been turned down in 1963, but in the 1980s Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Asda all wanted to build there.

Planning applications for residential development on the farmland had been turned down in 1963, but in the 1980s Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Asda all wanted to build there. Sainsbury’s won the battle of the supermarkets, but originally they had planned to also build a garden centre and Homebase store on the plot. Eventually they had just the supermarket, which opened in 1985, adding the petrol station in 1997.

Plans for a housing estate first appeared in 1982, and permission was given for Ideal Homes to build a mix of residential homes, and the Miller Group to build 66 dwelling houses with garages. Ideal Homes advertised two bedroom houses from £73,950 in 1987, offering “Country living in a sought after area”. Miller Group advertised 2, 3 and 4 bedroom homes from £104,950 in 1990, stating “Two’s company, three’s a family, four’s a move to Miller”. Today Weybrook Park is a popular housing estate, with easy access to the A3 for commuters.

If you are willing to share your memories and/or photos to tell us more about Burpham then please contact Moira MacQuaide, either by e-mail (moira.macquaide@gmail.com) or by phone or text (07963 756543). My book, Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford is still available from me for £10 (free delivery locally) or on Amazon, but the History of Burpham Primary School 1908-2014 is now out of print (available to borrow at Guildford Library).