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Talks and events

Surrey History Trust AGM followed by a talk by Judith Nesbitt 'Searching for Mr Robinson: Gardener and Collaborator with Gertrude Jekyll'

Wednesday 26 June 2024, refreshments from 6.30pm, AGM and talk 7pm to 9pm at Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking GU21 6ND

Irishman William Robinson (1838 to 1935), acclaimed as the original 'wild gardener', had a profound influence on gardening in Britain and beyond in the late 19th century and his ideas still resonate today. Gardener, journalist, editor, publisher, author of The Wild Garden and The English Flower Garden, he was a natural disrupter who made enemies as easily as he made influential friends. A trenchant critic of the gaudy, geometric, designs of Victorian formal bedding, he led a movement towards naturalism and became known as the father of the English flower garden. Gertrude Jekyll was his friend, collaborator and kindred spirit; Vita Sackville-West said, 'he did more to alter the fashions of English gardening than any man of his time'. Angered by the waste of resources and human potential, he wanted to get the nation growing food. In his heart he was an artist intent on getting 'as near the visible beauty of things as it is possible for the artist to go.' He acquired immense wealth and fame, and lived through a century of enormous change, yet this very public, pugnacious, figure was a deeply private man. His silence about the first 23 years of his life in Ireland left many questions unanswered. Whilst researching her biography, Judith Nesbitt discovered some revelatory letters in Surrey History Centre's archives, with details revealed in this talk.

Living in Sussex, Judith Nesbitt became fascinated by William Robinson's story through visiting Gravetye Manor, his home and estate for fifty years, and gave up her museum career to research and write a new biography. As Chief Curator at Tate Britain (2000-2010) and Director of National & International Partnerships (2010-2020) she curated and programmed exhibitions at Tate and across the world. Her curiosity about creative lives and personalities brings insight to Robinson's visual approach to the world around him.


A Snark Celebration! Online Zoom Talk

Wednesday 17 July 2024, 5.30pm to 6.45pm on Zoom

Join us to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's poem 'The Hunting of the Snark'.

In the article 'Alice on the Stage' (1877), Lewis Carroll recalled that on 18 July 1874, while staying in Guildford: 'I was walking on a hillside, alone, one bright summer day, when suddenly there came into my head one line of verse – one solitary line – "For the Snark was a Boojum, you see." That line became the conclusion of his wonderfully nonsensical poem 'The Hunting of the Snark'.

We'll have short talks revealing the history behind the poem and its author, and a chance to discover more about the Lewis Carroll collections held at Surrey History Centre. Featuring:

  • Isabel Sullivan, Senior Archivist Surrey Heritage, 'The Dodgsons at Home: finding Lewis Carroll in his family archive'
  • Dayna Nuhn, editor of 'The Snarkologist', Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 'Just the place for a Snark!'

The event will take place on Zoom. Once payment has been received, the Zoom link will be sent shortly (next working day if booked in the evening or weekend).


Exhibitions and displays

South Asian Heritage Month 2024

British Ugandan Asians at 50: a free touring exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the Ugandan evacuation, 1972-2022

Tuesday 16 July to Thursday 15 August 2024 during normal opening hours at Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND.

On 4th August 1972, the Ugandan dictator, General Idi Amin, served 90 days' notice on around 70,000 Asians to leave the country. The first evacuation flight of Asians fleeing from Uganda landed at London's Stansted Airport on 18 September 1972. Each family was permitted to take only £55 and one suitcase per individual. 28,200 of these who held British passports were admitted to the UK. In total 28,606 came to the UK in the autumn of 1972, around half of whom were accommodated for up to six months at 16 resettlement centres around England and Wales. This touring exhibition tells the traumatic story of the expulsion, evacuation, life in the camps, and the challenges of making a new life in the UK.

Hobbs Barracks, near Lingfield, was one of the camps and to accompany this display Surrey History Centre has used material from the collections to research the story of how Ugandan Asians came to the county.

The exhibition has been kindly loaned by the 'British Ugandan Asians at 50' project which recorded the memories of those involved in the exodus of Ugandan Asian refugees to Britain in 1972/73, as refugees, volunteers or officials.


We regularly showcase free exhibitions and displays inspired by our collection in our foyer. We also host external displays by groups and organisations and would welcome any displays with a Surrey history connection. If you would like to exhibit at Surrey History Centre please contact us.


Recorded talks to purchase

If you missed one of our online talks, why not purchase the talk recording to view in your own time?

The talks available are:

  • Aladdin's Cave: Some Major Family and Estate Archives in Surrey History Centre
  • A Burden on the Parish: sources for the history of Poor Relief in Surrey
  • A 'Great' amongst Victorian Architects? Royal Holloway's W H Crossland
  • Artists, Antiquaries and Collectors: illustrations of Georgian Surrey collected by Robert Barclay of Bury Hill, Dorking, circa.1800 to 1825
  • Bananas: How a Surrey Garden Played a Pivotal Role in the History of the World's Favourite Fruit
  • Behind the Scenes in Conservation - repairing posters, maps and plans
  • Corsets and Cameras
  • Fashion and Folly
  • From Punishment to Pride: LGBTQ+ archives at Surrey History Centre
  • Gertrude Jekyll, Gardener and Craftswoman
  • In the Shadow of the Great War: Surrey 1914 to 1918
  • James Henry Pullen (1835 to 1916) and the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Idiots, Redhill
  • John Evelyn in Surrey
  • Land of my Father's Fathers: Tracing your Welsh ancestors
  • Let the Road Rise to Meet You: Tracing Your Irish Ancestors
  • Life and Labour in a County Village - or learn to love your Ag Labs!
  • Magna Carta, Runnymede and all that
  • Maps for Family Historians
  • Netherne circa 1955: A Surrey Psychiatric Hospital in Focus
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Sources for the History of Surrey's Mental Hospitals, 1700 to circa.1990
  • Planting Ideas: Sources for the History of Gardening in Surrey.
  • Portrait of a Surrey Town between the Wars: the photographic archive of Sidney Francis
  • Reflections on the Lewis Carroll archives, on the 150th anniversary of 'Alice through the Looking Glass'
  • Richard III: A Drama in Three Acts
  • Sir William More of Loseley
  • The Book That Changed My Life
  • The Changing Face of Nursing: Black Nurses in Surrey Hospitals
  • The Gentleman's Magazine: A Panorama of Georgian Surrey for Family and Local Historians
  • The Most Wretched Man in the World: The Life and Loves of the 5th Viscount Midleton
  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Surrey
  • To the Manor Born: An Introduction to Manorial Records for Family Historians
  • What did you do after the war, Grandad? – 1918 to 1925: de-mob, jobs, pensions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the British Legion
  • Where There's a Will
  • Who Do You Think They Were? Discovering the lives and experiences of our ancestors

Most talk descriptions can be found on our Talks and Tours page. Each talk consists of a 45 minute to an hour illustrated presentation followed by questions asked during the live talk. You can also email us with any questions you may have after the talk and we will pass them on to the speaker to answer. Price £6. To purchase a recording please visit the Surrey Heritage Shop. Please note talks may contain references to historical legal terminology, sexual practices and crimes, used in the historical context but which some viewers may find offensive.


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