Saving Farnham Maltings

The role played by the Farnham Building Preservation Trust

This short account of the part played by the Farnham Trust in the saving of Farnham Maltings in the late 1960s has been taken from a document provided by John Wainwright who was Planning Officer for Farnham Urban District Council from 1968 to 1974 and subsequently for Waverley Borough (originally District) Council until 1988. The document, entitled “Maltings Music 1975-85”, records the part he played in supporting the late Alan Fluck in developing the live music programme, and also his experiences, with his wife Carol, of the early years from 1968. He was invited to join the Farnham Trust Council of Management in 1973 and is still a member.

In the late 1960s, Courages, the then owner of Farnham Maltings, indicated that it intended to dispose of the range of buildings and land comprising the former brewery and surrounding cottages. There was a strong possibility that the buildings would be demolished and replaced with housing, but a number of local residents, concerned by the possible loss of this part of Farnham’s architectural heritage, gained the support of the Farnham Society in seeking a way of acquiring the site.

In February 1968 a very full public meeting was held at the Grammar School (now Farnham College) and a resolution was agreed: “That the Maltings be purchased by Farnham for Farnham”. A Maltings committee was formed with local solicitor Raymond Krish as chairman, but a deadline had been set for the sale of the site and Farnham Urban District Council had resolved that it was unable to fund its acquisition. A year later in February 1969 a second public meeting was held, and a motion moved by Brigadier Will Anderson received overwhelming support, “That the Maltings are bought from Courages for £30,000 provided the funds are forthcoming from the people of Farnham by March 31st.”

Raising what was then a very large sum of money in one month was a big challenge.

Among those leading the drive towards saving the future of the buildings was Sir John Verney Bt., a local Independent Councillor and leading light of the Farnham Society. He was already convinced that there was a need for an organisation which could buy and restore threatened buildings, and he took positive action. The Farnham Building Preservation Trust Ltd was first incorporated in October 1968 with the distinguished antiquarian Richard Dufty FSA as chairman and John Verney as secretary. Richard Dufty later recalled: “John Verney had £100; so had I and that was the Trust’s initial capital.”

Incredibly, the money was raised. In a month, local people raised £18,000 and the remaining £12,000 was supplied by the Farnham Trust, which bought most of the Maltings cottages. Richard Dufty recalled that the Trust’s initial £200 capital, augmented by interest-free loans of £10,000 from the Pilgrim Trust and Surrey County Council, enabled the Trust to buy “most of Bridge Square”.

In succeeding years the Farnham Trust gradually restored and sold the Maltings cottages, ending in the 1980s with the restoration of Tanyard House which was converted into two flats and won several awards.

John Wainwright has said he believes that without the purchase of the Maltings cottages by the Farnham Trust, the Maltings project would never have got off the ground.

Summary prepared by Sue Farrow, Trustee and Hon. Secretary, the Farnham Trust, August 2019