History of Abinger Roughs and Netley Park

Veteran beech tree Abinger Roughs Surrey

People have lived in this area for thousands of years and tools have been found here dating from the Stone Age. Much of the woodland on the Roughs was once a series of fields, and heathland before that.

Wilberforce Memorial on the Roughs

On 19 July 1873 Samuel Wilberforce, ‘Soapy Sam’ the Bishop of Winchester, had a tragic accident on the Roughs.
His family erected a granite memorial on the spot where he fell, and you can see this Grade II listed monument near Leasers Barn.

Wilderness garden

The Roughs was formerly part of the Abinger Hall Estate. In the late 19th century the land was planted with specimen trees, plantations and rhododendrons to form open glades with interlinking paths; a wilderness garden. It was created by Thomas Henry Farrer of Abinger Hall, and you can still see some of the original garden today.

Farrer, Darwin and the worm journal

A regular guest of Abinger Hall (demolished c1946) in the 1870s was the naturalist Charles Darwin. Darwin and Farrer walked the Roughs, and Farrer helped Darwin’s research by keeping a worm journal.

The Mayor’s path

The Mayor’s path was named in honour of Darwin’s son, Horace. Horace Darwin was Mayor of Cambridge between 1896 and 1897. He married Farrer’s daughter, Emma Cecilia.

The Roughs and us

We’ve been looking after Abinger Roughs since 1950 and Piney Copse, the small woodland on the western boundary, since 1970.

Piney Copse was given to us by the novelist E M Forster. He lived with his mother for a while at nearby West Hackhurst.

The Copse and Abinger Hall are both mentioned in Forster's book, 'The Creator as Critic and Other Writings'.

Netley Park

Discover the history of Netley Park from 19th century gentleman's estate to its military days, as a First World War hospital and then as a barracks for the Canadian army.

The house is not open to the public.