Pirbright Village

Pirbright is a small village west of Woking, perhaps best known for the nearby army training establishment. At the centre of the village is a green, a duck pond and a handful of shops.

Brookwood mainline railway station is to the north-west for services to London Waterloo. The M3 can be accessed at junction 3 (Lightwater).

Pirbright is first recorded as 'Perifrith', meaning 'a clearing with a pear tree', in 1166. In the 13th century it was held by Peter de Pirbright but Hugh le Dispenser was the overlord by 1324. As a follower of the unfortunate King Edward II, he was declared a traitor in 1326 and executed. Edward himself was deposed and then murdered in horrible circumstances in 1327. The manor of Pirbright was then granted to Edmund, Earl of Kent, but shortly afterwards he was also found guilty of treason and suffered the same fate as his predecessor. However, Edmund's son, also Edmund, was restored to his father's estates but he died very young and it became the property of his brother, John.

By 1425 Pirbright had passed by marriage to Edmund, Earl of March, who died in that year leaving it to three co-heirs. One of these was the Duke of York, who later acquired full ownership, and via him the manor came to his son, Edward IV (1461-1483). Edward enclosed much of the land creating a hunting park. In 1784 Pirbright was purchased by Henry Halsey and his family continued as lords of the manor into the 20th century.

The parish church of St Michael was rebuilt in 1784 and was described as 'very pretty Georgian' by the architectural historians, Nairn and Pevsner. Georgian churches are very rare in the modern county of Surrey. Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the explorer, lived at Pirbright and he is buried in the churchyard beneath an impressive stone which marks his grave.

The Basingstoke Canal was constructed through the area north of Pirbright village in 1794 and the section to Deepcut has no less than fourteen locks. Deepcut was so named from canal cutting through the hill here which was a 1000 yards long and up to 70 feet deep.

The main railway line from Waterloo via Woking towards both Southampton and also branching here to Aldershot and Farnham passes close to the canal through Pirbright, but the nearest station is Brookwood.

The village of Pirbright was established in a small area of fertile ground next to a stream which feeds into the Stanford Brook and eventually into the River Wey. However, much of the parish of lies on infertile Bagshot Sand of little use to agriculture. In about 1875 over 3000 acres this land, representing nearly three quarters of the parish, were acquired by the Army. Extensive rifle ranges were constructed and a training depot for the Brigade of Guards was also built.

This development brought new residents to Pirbright but, with its attractive green and pond and clusters of houses, it still has a village atmosphere.