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Talks and events

Beginning research on your family history

Friday 19 April 2024, 1.30pm, at The Horton, Haven Way, Epsom KT19 8NP

This talk is a 'Who Do You Think You Are?' for everyone.

Jane Lewis will take you step-by-step through the basics of family history: where to start, what to do and, most importantly, how you can get help and advice on what is bound to prove an exciting project. The talk will also include lots of time (and money) saving tips and ideas, and outline some of the ways to store and present your research..

Jane Lewis is a qualified genealogist working at Surrey History Centre, the county archive and local studies library for Surrey. She lives, loves and breathes family history. You can read some of her musings on the Seeking Surrey Ancestors blog.

Surrey Heritage and the East Surrey Family History Society present: Stepping Stones Through the Archives

Thursday 25 April 2024, 2pm to 4.30pm, at Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking GU21 6ND

A Tea and Talk afternoon exploring a range of difference sources that can be used in family history research. Speakers will include Anne Ramon on using DNA to explore ancestry, and Jane Lewis and Julian Pooley who will provide advice on finding names and places in the Surrey History Centre search room and online catalogues to help pin down your ancestors. The combination of paper trails with DNA results is a powerful tool which may clarify family relationships. The event will include a visit to the search room to see a display of documents and practical advice on using the finding aids.

Victorian Memorials event

Saturday 8 June 2024, 11am to 3.30pm at Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking GU21 6ND

Come along to Surrey History Centre for a day of talks and crafternoons, where you can learn about how the Victorians engaged in memorialisation practices and create fun crafts to take home.


  • 11.15am - 15 minute talk: Julian Pooley, 'A Printed Mausoleum: Memorials and Anecdotes in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1780 to 1850'
  • 11.30am - 15 minute talk: Dr Danielle Dove, 'Dead Fashionable: Victorian Mourning dress'
  • 12pm - 15 minute talk: Dr Liz Bahs on her book of poetry, Stay Bones
  • From 1.45pm: Explore display of Victorian letters and memoriam cards from the archives as well as crafternoon activities: mourning handkerchief embroidery and poetry writing with Dr Liz Bahs.

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 (1838-1935), 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.

Exhibitions and displays

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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