Dating back tens of thousands of years, Farnham has a rich and colourful history. Archaeological evidence has been discovered of Farnham’s occupations through the ages: from Roman potteries of 100 AD, to Iron Age hill forts, Bronze Age barrows and flint-knapping tools of the Neolithic age. However, Farnham’s first mention in written history was at the hands of West Saxon King Caedwella when he donated the district surrounding the town to the Church. At the time of the Danish invasion in the 9th century (probably in 893 or 894) there was a major battle on the edge of the settlement ( then called Fearnhamme meaning ‘fern’ and ‘watermeadow’) when Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, routed the invaders.
Farnham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Ferneham, one of the five great “minster” churches in Surrey.
In 1128, William Giffard the Bishop of Winchester, founded the first Cistercian Monastery, Waverley Abbey, which is located about 2 miles south of the town centre. Despite being the first Cistercian abbey in England, records show the monks of Waverley having endured poverty and famine. However, the abbey did receive royal attention and was visited by King John and King Henry III. Its last royal visitor, King Henry VIII, was not warmly received: the King closed the abbey in 1536 as part of the dissolution of the monasteries, which was followed by its demolition. Ruins of the abbey can still be seen today and are open to the public as part of the English Heritage.
At a similar time to the construction of Waverley Abbey, Henry de Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, began building Farnham Castle to accommodate the Bishops of Winchester during his travels to and from London. Farnham’s strategic positioning between London, Winchester and the coast created perfect trading conditions and opportunities.
In the 17th century, Farnham oversaw a booming cereal and wool trade and later, in the 18th century the growth of hops became the main attraction; once the most expensive in England, they guaranteed the towns prosperity. Due to the castle, its occupants and its positioning, Farnham received further royal guests including King James I and Queen Elizabeth I as well as King Charles I. It is said that Charles rode through town at dawn on November 12th seeking sanctuary at Vernon House after escaping custody. After he was removed by military escort, the King made a second journey back through Farnham but this time it was en route to his trial and execution in London. Before his departure, King Charles I bestowed his morning cap, made of blue silk and gold and silver threadwork, to his host Sir Henry Vernon as a thanks for his hospitality, which can now be seen in the Museum of Farnham.
Since the 18th and 19th century, Farnham has become a very wealthy market town, with Daniel Defoe having written that Farnham had ‘the greatest corn-market outside of London’. Not just a market town, Farnham was also home to John Henry Knight, a wealthy engineer, inventor and the first man to receive a driving prosecution. Another contributor to daily life was William Willet, whose tireless promotion of British Summertime aided in the passing of the 1925 Summer Time Act. One of Farnham’s most famous sons was the motor racing legend Mike Hawthorn, who was Formula 1 World Champion in 1958. He was tragically killed in a crash on the ‘Hogs Back’ road between Farnham and Guildford in 1959 aged just 29, and is buried in Farnham Cemetery.
Since the arrival of the railway in 1848 and the presence of the Army in Aldershot, Farnham has grown evermore. With its population doubling over the past 100 years, Farnham is now a thriving commuter town.
Things to do
Our team has built a strong reputation for providing outstanding service to leisure visitors and business travellers alike. If you are visiting for a quiet break, attending a local celebration, or just visiting friends, we are an ideal base. For the business traveller we have a reputation for working with, and supporting, local companies and visitors to the area to make this a ‘home from home’ that allows you to focus on the business in hand. We also cater for a wide range of functions, meeting rooms, and conference hire.
The M3 and M25 motorways are easily reached within about 25 minutes. Rail links to London (52 minutes) and the south east, together with the hotel’s proximity to Heathrow (35 minutes), Gatwick (55 minutes), Farnborough (15 minutes) airports makes the Bishop’s Table Hotel the ideal base for either business trip within the thriving M3 / M4 technology triangle or quiet restful weekend in the beautiful Surrey countryside on our doorstep!
Places to visit
Hampshire and Surrey are brimming with history and places of interest. Here are just some of the key places within easy travelling from the Bishops Table: Jane Austin’s Birthplace, Thorpe Park, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth Dockyard, Windsor Castle, Winchester Cathedral, Chessington World of Adventures, Birdworld Bird Park.
We’ll be delighted to advise on any other local tourist information.The Bishops Table Hotel is also the ideal venue for walkers, and sits very conveniently at the start of the beautiful and historic North Downs Way.
The hotel is the ideal stay over for visiting local events, including Farnborough International Airshow, Goodwood, Royal Ascot, Aldershot Army Show, Farnham Maltings, Guilfest Rock Festival, Southampton Boat Show, Weyfest Music Festival.
We can also discuss preferential packages for groups and corporate visitors attending these events.