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The history of Oakhurst Cottage

Oakhurst Cottage and thriving garden full of sprawling and leafy green plants
16th-century Oakhurst Cottage and garden | © National Trust/Chris Lacey

Oakhurst Cottage is a humble agricultural labourer’s cottage in the heart of rural West Surrey. The cottage dates from the late 16th to early 17th century and like many domestic buildings has evolved as a product of its surroundings.

This little cottage, in an affluent and populous part of England, is an unusual survival because it has come through the twentieth century not entirely unaltered but certainly not modernised.

The cottage was given to the National Trust in 1954 by Miss Vera Margaret and Miss Beatrice Evelyn Allfrey. The sisters acquired the cottage in 1937 to supplement a number of cottages they owned within the village of Hambledon. They acquired multiple cottages within the village to save the tenants from eviction and to allow them to remain in their homes. The Allfrey sisters, in turn, passed this portfolio to the National Trust upon the condition that the cottages were “not let to well-to-do people”. Oakhurst Cottage was lived in by Mr and Mrs Jeffery until Ted Jeffery’s death in 1983. The only hints of modernity were a single plug socket and a cold running tap.

It was this lack of modernisation which made the cottage a rarity, a direct link back to the social history of the region and the rural way of life now almost passed from memory.

The back kitchen was used for washing up in the stone sink and laundry
The back kitchen at Oakhurst Cottage | © Simon Rankin

A step back in time

The cottage has been furnished as it might have appeared in the mid 19th century, as the family home of a farm labourer, offering a contrast to the country mansion houses of the region and providing an authentic impression of working-class rural life of the period.

There is simple practical furniture in the cottage, patchwork quilts, a smock, bread oven, rush light candle-holders and kitchen ware. A fire basket has been made by a local blacksmith and sits in the hearth which would have been the Centre of cottage home life. Most of the cooking apparatus here comes from Gertrude Jekyll’s own collection which she left to the Surrey Archaeological Society.

Restoration and conservation

In 2015, Oakhurst Cottage underwent extensive conservation work thanks to a generous donation from West Surrey National Trust Centre & Association and the support of the Oakhurst Cottage Advisory Committee and Hambledon Parish Council.

The works at Oakhurst Cottage included repairs to the roof structure on the front of the cottage, including the rafters, ceiling joists and dormer window. Traditional materials such as lime plaster and riven lathes were used and the process has revealed fascinating clues of past craftsmanship.

In 2022, further restoration works took place to repair the foundations due to subsidence and the upper floor was re-informed.

A valued part of the community

Oakhurst collage sits in the heart of the village of Hambledon and is a much-loved part of the community. It is thanks to the members of the parish and other local volunteers that we can open the cottage to the public. They offer their support by acting as tour guides and maintaining the garden.

Front of Oakhurst Cottage with path leading through the garden to its green door.

Discover more at Oakhurst Cottage

Find out when Oakhurst Cottage is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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