West Byfleet is a village in Surrey which grew up around the railway station.
It sits between the two ancient villages of Byfleet and Pyrford and shares two of its boundaries with these villages, along with the River Wey and Godalming Navigations which were built in the 1600s.
Until the middle of the 19th century the area which became West Byfleet was largely undeveloped, with much of the land either woodland or used for the growing of flowers to produce perfume mainly for soaps (this is reflected in the names of some of the roads). At that time it consisted of a few cottages grouped around the junction of roads to Woking, Byfleet, New Haw and Pyrford and was known as Byfleet Corner.
The railway from London to Woking opened in 1838 and even though West Byfleet did not have a station at the time, the railway owners indicated they wanted to open one. In 1887 it duly opened and was called Byfleet & Woodham station. The area was originally developed for high quality housing but many properties were shortly redeveloped to provide shops and commercial premises during the early Edwardian period. In 1906 for example, the grounds of ‘Rosemount’, only 30 years old, were used for road widening and for the shopping parade which bears its name.
Most new homes were detached but some higher density housing of the ‘small villa’ variety was built to the north of the station in Station Road and Claremont Road and to the south of the station in Camphill Road and Lavender Park Road. Elsewhere the building was generally at low densities with large detached houses in tree lined streets and with a good deal of the existing woodland retained for landscaping. Many of the large houses in West Byfleet built in the early 1900s were by the master builder Walter George (W.G.) Tarrant.
Dartnell Park, east of the new village and south of the Basingstoke canal, became one of the most exclusive of the low density estates in the Woking Area. The land was enclosed from the wet heath in 1806 but was too poor to be used for agriculture. By 1870 Dartnell’s Wood, named after a previous owner, was thickly grown with conifers. It was parcelled out into building plots in 1884-98 in several phases.
St John’s Church, designed by W.D. Caroe in 1910, was built in 1912 and the parish of West Byfleet was established in 1917. Our Lady Help of Christians, the Catholic Church, was built between 1955 and 1956.
In 1962 and 1966 SCC re-zoned land in Woking and West Byfleet as a ‘High Density Area’. The zone in West Byfleet covered the area between Old Woking Road, Sheerwater Road and the railway station. Within this area redevelopment by private building firms was actively encouraged, there being a stated preference for flats, maisonettes and terraced housing (although there were strict limitations imposed on the removal of mature trees of the existing properties). TAs well as housing, this area was developed to provide business space, shops, a library and multi-storey offices, the largest building being Sheer House at seven storeys.
Around this time the Brantwood estate, between Old Woking Road and Madeira Road, was built, comprising a mix of three storey flats and terraced two storey homes in the densest building seen in West Byfleet.
Since the 1950s land values have been high enough for homeowners to sell gardens or part thereof to allow infill building, although in the last ten years that process has slowed as fewer potential sites exist.
The West Byfleet Business association website can be reached here www.wbba.org.uk
The West Byfleet Neighbourhood forum website can be reached here wbnf.org