The Church of St Michael and All Angels, Thursley, has heavy-duty wooden roof beams, added in Henry VII’s time to support a new tower. Its Saxon windows up by the altar on the north wall are the only ones in England with their original timber frames (thin horn or oiled linen was used for window panes). Note also the embroidered kneelers in the pews.
Legend has it that the Devil’s Punch Bowl was formed when the Devil scooped up earth to hurl at Thor, the God of Thunder, who lived in Thor’s Lie (Thursley); the punch bowl refers to the mist that seems to flow over the rim of the bowl.
The heathlands here were among the UK’s earliest cultivated areas, clearings in the forest that were abandoned as the nutrients leached away into the sandy soil. The spring line between the sandstone top layer and the impermeable clay beneath led to erosion of the sandstone, thus creating the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
A sailor in 1786 bought drinks for three men at the pub in Thursley. Later, they were seen murdering him at the Devil’s Punch Bowl. Found guilty, they were hanged in chains on a hill nearby, now known as Gibbet Hill. The outraged and doleful headstone erected for the sailor can be read in the north-west edge of Thursley churchyard. There is also a memorial to the sailor, Sailor’s Stone, near Gibbet Hill.
The A3 used to climb one rim of Gibbet Hill and pass the NT visitor centre. It is now buried in a very expensive tunnel. The former route has been grassed over. Now the NT tea room is at the end of a cul-de-sac, and Hindhead is a quiet village.
Friends of Black Down and Hindhead
Only the tower of St Bartholomew’s Church in Haslemere is ancient, the rest having been boldly demolished by the Victorians. There is a stained glass window here dedicated to the poet Tennyson.
In Tudor and Stuart times Haslemere was a centre for the iron industry. With the coming of the railway in the mid-nineteenth century it became a popular spot for literary people. Tennyson’s house, Aldworth, is on the slopes of Black Down where he loved to walk; and the novelist George Eliot wrote Middlemarch in Shottermill.
The town has an interesting museum up the High Street, just north of Darnleys tearoom. The museum is open 10.00 am to 5.00 pm Tuesday to Saturday, and has important natural history collections. Other highlights include an Egyptian mummy, Zulu beadwork and Eastern European peasant art plus a fine explanatory display of local wild flowers in the foyer.