When asked ‘What is at the south end of Great Bookham High Street?’ many would undoubtedly answer – Ron Fowler’s fish shop (St Nicolas is at the north end). But there is another answer – Grove House. It is an impressive house and retains some of its splendour of past days but has now lost its dignity by being let into apartments. The house was built early in the 1700s and formed a reasonable size estate. What used to be the stable block can still be seen at the side of the house and from the Dorking Road .
If we go back to about 1700 before the house was built the Leatherhead to Guildford road ran across the south end of Bookham High Street, but not where it runs today. The remains of this old road are there. Following the signs to Polesden Lacey from the current Guildford Road part of the old track remains and continues on through what is now Lower Shott. The first part of the road is still called Leatherhead Road. Where the old road crossed the southernmost end of the High Street the ‘White Hart Inn’ stood and is now seen as Grove Cottages.
When Grove House was built the Guildford Road passed too near the house and the road was diverted to allow the area in front of Grove House to be set out in a manner befitting a grand house. The road was diverted around a landscaped garden with lawns and trees and the Guildford Road ran round past the White Hart Inn down past the garden and turned to take its course on to Guildford. In fact an S-bend had been inserted into the road. The front garden to Grove House was much of the area we now know as Lower Shott with its grass, car park and shops. So if you were travelling from Leatherhead to Guildford you would have had to turn right at the White Hart and then go passed the wall of the front garden to Bookham Grove and then turn left back on to the way to Guildford . Much later in 1896 on the corner of the S-bend and the High Street Mrs Chrystie built the Victoria Hotel which still stands. Why Lower Shott? We have two Shotts – Lower and Townshott. There seems to be no great meaning in ‘shott’ – it probably means no more than area or land. Townshott is near the centre of town and Lower describes a more southerly area.
If we go back to 1700 there was another track crossing the area, very much parallel to the High Street but on the west of it. This was called Whiteway. The track no longer exists probably because it crossed close to Grove House and was swallowed up in the development of the house. One end of the track now remains as Townshott Close and southwards it appears as Connicut Lane (now a track off the Polesden Lacey road). Memory of the old track is still retained in a road off Lower Shott called White Way .
Bookham Grove Estate was acquired in 1775 by the Irish peer John Dawnay, Viscount Downe whose family held the house until the late 1890s. In honour of one of his ancestors who had fought in the Crusades the White Hart Inn was renamed the Saracen and Ring. The legend was that he slew a Saracen and also a lion and presented a paw to the king for which he was granted the right to bear a crest. The old inn was bought in 1895 by the temperance worker Mrs Chrystie and converted to private dwellings, Grove Cottages, as we know them today.
Such is the past – come 1947 the Bookham Grove Estate was purchased by the Leatherhead Urban District Council and the cry was for council houses for all. Bookham Grove was cut down to size which released the garden area in front together with the rest of the estate. This has led to the housing estate and shops of Lower Shott. In this ardour for development two precious unique monuments were lost – a hexagonal columbarium and a well house with a horizontal well wheel. With more modern transport the hazard of the rather vicious S-bend was resolved by re-routing the Guildford Road .
Lower Shott is now owned by MVDC and Mole Valley Housing Association (MVHA) and the concern is that no short sighted decisions are made on its future. The Lower Shott area is a continuation of the High Street and must be seen as part and parcel of the village. The easiest thing in the world is to destroy our heritage which can never be restored. Bookham is unique as a village and a true village it must remain.