The current village name ‘Pyrford’ is derived from the Saxon dialect of the Old English combined term ‘Pyrianforde’.
The area has a long history with evidence of habitation from prehistoric times. The Pyrford Stone, which now stands at the corner by Upshot Lane, is thought to be a prehistoric standing stone, and the circular hilltop churchyard of St. Nicholas’ Church is indicative of an early settlement.
The name Pyrford is derived from the Saxon ‘Pyrianforde’ which means “the ford by the pear tree”. The manor of Pyrford is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the current church of St. Nicholas dates from Norman times. Originally, the area was mainly heath and woodland used for grazing and timber. The flood plain of the Rivers Wey and Bourne created spring grazing for cattle. Population was sparse because of poor soil and few roads, the main ones connecting to Chertsey Abbey, Woking Palace, Guildford market and the river crossings. For many centuries Pyrford was owned by the Crown or the Church. St Nicholas’ Church was established in the 12th Century (possibly on a Saxon site) to command the river crossing and water mills.
In the 15th century, two enclosed Deer Parks were created; one for hunting, from Woking Palace, and the other in Pyrford, to breed deer for it. The latter contained the Manor House. Under Forest Law, most people were not allowed into these Parks and, as a consequence, the few farming habitations were established around the church and the edges of the park.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Pyrford land reverted to the Crown and Queen Elizabeth I gave some to the Earl of Lincoln. He rebuilt a Manor House outside the Park and this became Pyrford Place, demolished in the late 20th century for housing. Under the manorial system of the 15th/16th centuries, medieval yeoman created and tenanted farms and houses throughout Pyrford, especially near the church and the manor house. Roads, footpaths, and bridleways were established, linking these habitations and the river crossings. This layout is known as a dispersed village; one without a central cluster of houses.
During the 17th and 18th centuries land and manorial rights were sold to aristocratic families as the growth of London made farming profitable and better transport (including the Wey Navigation canal) put the area within reach of the Capital. Up until the construction of the Wey Navigation Canal in 1651-53, the population of Pyrford was less than 200. The majority of Pyrford was Common Land until The Pyrford Act of Enclosure, which took place in 1815. In 1834, just prior to the building of what was to become the London and South Western Railway, the population of Pyrford was 320. The Agricultural Depression of the 19th century, together with the coming of the railway, saw more and more of the land being sold for housing, especially to the north of Pyrford. Along with other parts of Woking Borough, Pyrford began to be developed in Victorian times with the construction of a number of substantial villas, each centrally located in its own generous garden of two acres or more. Most of these houses had the luxury of servants’ lodges and stabling. In the early years of the twentieth century, more of these villas were constructed by the well-known Surrey builder W G Tarrant Ltd. More modest housing was built around Boltons Lane and Floyds Lane during the inter-war years.
At the beginning of the 20th century Pyrford Court was built as a summer residence of the 1st Lord Iveagh with views over to the North Downs and his wife’s home at Clandon, and the Rev. Hamilton was very active working on behalf of the local people. In 1921 he built the Pyrford Village War Memorial Hall, and this has been a key facility in the village ever since. The remaining farms centred on grassland for dairy herds (rotated with cereals) and market gardens. By the end of the century, these uses of land became uneconomic. Recently, much of the former grassland has been devoted to biofuel production. One consequence of these changes is a major reduction in the number and thickness of hedgerows.
In the 1950’s Pyrford Woods were felled for the construction of residential Pyrford and the population expanded to over 5,000. With the large increase in population came the need for new facilities. The Church of the Good Shepherd, the current Primary School on Coldharbour Road and the Arbor Centre for the young quickly followed.
Early 21st century Pyrford retains much of its dispersed village layout with St Nicholas’ Church, several listed buildings (especially late medieval wooden framed houses), and the historic network of bridleways and footpaths. Fragments of the ditches and fences of Woking Palace Hunting Park are still visible along the western edge of Pyrford Common, and views of the North Downs can still be had. Many of the early and mid-20th century houses with relatively large gardens remain. Local facilities have been added within the residential areas, including the Church of the Good Shepherd, shops, schools, sports facilities, and the Pyrford War Memorial Hall. By the Wey Navigation canal, just downstream of Pyrford Lock, there is a marina. The gardens of Pyrford Court house one of the National Collections of Wisteria.
Pyrford is mentioned in The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, in which it is near the landing site of the third of ten Martian invasion cylinders.
The Pyrford Neighbourhood Forum website can be reached here www.pyrfordforum.org