The history of Maybury and our building...
The history of The Maybury Centre building and of Maybury itself is intimately interwoven with the history of Woking as a town. In particular, the school, which the Centre grew out of, has a fascinating tale to tell, which we outline here.
To understand the origins of Maybury School, we also have to look at the early origins of Woking itself; there are three key events in Woking’s history that together unlock the reasons why we have the building and why it was built in Maybury.
The first key event was the opening of Woking Common Station, today simply known as Woking Station; it opened on the 21ˢᵗ May 1838 along a line that extended 23.5 miles from Nine Elms London. Within two years of the line opening, it was extended as far as Southampton and by 1859 you could travel to Portsmouth. Despite these advances with Woking becoming a major railway junction, it was still very underdeveloped with only a small scattering of buildings around the station. The land was predominately still open heathland and woods. Woking as a commercial town was still only a vision in 1859 and apart from some initial outline drawings there was no serious consideration made to build a new town, let alone a school, more than a decade would have to pass before this building saw the light of day.
The second key event occurred in 1850 when an Act of Parliament introduced the ‘Burials Act’. Due to increasing concern that London cemeteries were becoming a health hazard, it was felt necessary for future city burials to be located. The concept of a giant national cemetery known as “Necropolis” (City of the Dead) was proposed. Woking’s reasonable accessibility from London was deemed the ideal location. Other contributing factors making it ideal for a national cemetery were that, in 1850, Woking was one of the few areas outside of London that had good communication links and it had an abundance of undeveloped land.
The London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company was set up as a private company in 1851 and they were instructed under guidance from Parliament to buy the required land needed to create the national cemetery in Woking. By 1854 they had acquired nearly 2,200 acres of land. However, only 400 acres was put aside for cemetery purposes with the remainder of the land found to be excess to requirements. This was mainly due to the fact that the originally expected number of burials was never achieved. Hence, there is a large site in Brookwood but no further. Eventually the surplus land was sold for development, which is effectively how Maybury came about and started on the road to where it is today. Surprisingly, Woking was not considered a good investment venture and even by 1890 much of the land in Woking remained undeveloped.
The third and most significant event was that of the 1870 Education Act, which resulted in the building of Maybury School. The Education Act ensured compulsory elementary schooling for all children from the ages of 5 – 13. The Act established a system of school boards to build and manage schools in areas where they were needed. In Woking there was certainly a desperate need for a school, as the 1870 census showed 200 children in Woking did not attend school.
Older parishes in the outskirts of Woking already had established church schools; however, in 1870, the centre of Woking did not have any. A school board for Woking was approved in 1874 and they began in earnest to build a school. Within a couple of months of forming the board they had purchased land from The London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company and in September 1875 the Maybury Board School was opened. Minutes of the very first School Board meetings, including their resolutions, can be found in the Surrey History Centre.
It is possible that the site for the Maybury Board School was chosen because of its central location, being near to the proposed new town of Woking, although in 1875 building on the town we know today had not yet begun. It is also possible the value of land played a significant factor, as the cost of land in Maybury would be cheaper than the more desirable south side of Woking.
When the school was built there was no road name allocated, however in honour of the school it was named Board School Road. This gives a good indication of how proud Woking was of building their first school and first major building. Today the Maybury Centre is the second oldest building still standing in Woking, only second to The Sovereigns pub (originally the Railway Hotel) on Guildford Road which was built in 1840.
The school survived until 1986 when Surrey County Council found it surplus to requirements, along with quite a few other schools in Surrey. This enabled the long and tortuous process that eventually led to the building surviving and being compulsorily purchased by Woking Borough Council for a community centre for the Maybury area, which it recognised lacked a community meeting place and facilities.
There are many other interesting elements to the history of the Maybury area, but the one that stands out and is still true today, is that it was always incredibly diverse and the first port-of-call for people new to the town.
In 1871, less than half of the population had been born in the area. The sad but splendid War Memorial that was formerly in The Maybury Centre's Lounge lists the names of those from the school who were killed in the First World War. Many of these, however, were not from Woking families, so did not serve in a Surrey regiment but with regiments from all over the country, where they clearly felt their loyalties still laid.
Since 1945 in particular, Maybury has been home to waves of new immigration as different groups were attracted by the prospects of work in local factories and nurseries. In the history project conducted by the schoolchildren on the 100ᵗʰ anniversary of the school in 1975, the count was 10 nationalities attending the school. Again, the Surrey History Centre has a wonderful folder of the children's work. The Maybury Centre today continues to represent and serve diversity, with students and user groups from a wide range of backgrounds.
It has been an interesting journey to here and it shows no sign of getting boring any time soon!
With thanks to Kevin Smith, local historian, who kindly supplied this material.