You may have noticed a small, truncated building on a wooded hill, if you brave the elements and stand on the top floor of the multi-storey carpark near The Mall. This was once known as Norris’s Whim and is something of a mystery.
What is known without a doubt is that it was built sometime between 1765 and 1770 (using old maps as a guide). At the time the land didn’t belong to anyone – it was open heathland and the light, sandy soil meant that it was very unrewarding to farm. It is Grade II listed despite a disastrous fire in the 1880s after which it was reduced in height from about 100ft. No-one knows who built it , or why, nor exactly how it looked.
The most likely candidate is John Norris (1721-1786) who came from a wealthy and very well connected family. He seems to have moved into the area about 1745 and set up house in Hawley Place. There is a very intriguing mention in Richard Deacon’s book (A History of British Secret Service) that he found in family papers the following entry for 3 June 1778 ” Did this day Heliograph intelligence from Dr Franklin in Paris to Wycombe”. Unfortunately, this is the only mention anywhere of anything approaching the obelisk at this time, or its possible use.
For anyone wanting to research further, there is an excellent publication from the Surrey Heath Local History Club – Gordon Wellard’s ‘Camberley’s Mysterious Obelisk’.
Over this week I will be sharing some of my photos and continuing the story after the Frimley Enclosure Act of 1801 which was a very significant piece of legislation for the whole area.