25 July, 2008

Godalming - gardens and rabbits

Godalming is a pleasant little market town on the way to Portsmouth just outside Guildford. It is full of buildings from the 17th century when it made its fortune from wool and later from knitting stockings. I didn't feel it was very welcoming to visitors. When I said I'd never been there before most people looked with incredulity, although I have to admit that the staff in the museum were pretty good.

Godalming has had several famous residents: one of the first was a Mary Toft, a servant girl looking for the sort of notoriety that the present day version of serving girls seek on Big Brother. She did her own version of the trick where somebody pulls a rabbit out of a hat although she pulled them out of her... well lets say she gave birth to 16 rabbits. Maybe she had lots of eminent doctors fooled - maybe they were just there for the sight of something so freakish - just like big brother really. Anyway before too long she was exposed as a fraud: a porter had been smuggling rabbits into her room.

Other famous people were Jack Phillips, the radio operator on the Titanic and Gertrude Jekyll, the famous garden designer. She also lived in the town and designed the memorial to Jack Phillips. It is a pleasant cloister with lilly pond, but the planting scheme is rather the worse for wear at present.

Another place in the town is the Royal Court, a modern building built from the materials of old cottages previously on the site. I must say it did have me fooled.

The place is attractive and prosperous and must be a fine place to live.

I took part in the walks around the town, seeing the fine church and old stocking knitters houses etc.
The pictures show a former coaching inn, the Jack Phillips Memorial and Royal Court.

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