Our current Object in Focus display looks at Zouch's Monument, a tower which once stood on Monument Hill in Woking. The history of the monument is shrouded in mystery, but our heritage researchers Richard and Rosemary dug up some incredible glimpses into Woking's past, so in this week's blog we had a chat with them to find out more.

Who was Zouch?

Sir Edward Zouch (1556?-1634) was a member of an ancient family which had land in Hampshire and in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, including the barony of Zouche. Sir Edward was knight marshal at the court of King James I, and as such enjoyed several favours, including a monopoly patent on glass making and being one of the proprietors of the Plymouth Colony in America and the North Virginia Company. He was first keeper of Woking Park, including the Palace, and in 1620 acquired it from a cash-strapped crown for a rent of £100 a year and the duty of serving the first dish to the king on a feast on St James’s Day. 

By this time the place was in disrepair and even before he owned it Zouch may have begun to plunder it to build his new house at Hoe Bridge. It was here that the king would come to enjoy revels with Zouch playing the fool, singing bawdy songs and telling bawdy tales. In 1631, not long before he died, his tenants set forth a long list of grievances and exploitations by Zouch, and it is perhaps no surprise that although he contributed to the maintenance of Old Woking church, his will requested that he was to be buried at night.

A model of Woking Palace

Where was the monument?

Monument Road gives a hint as to where it lay, but not entirely accurately. It was on a small hill nearly opposite Hoe Place (now Hoe Bridge School) and now within Hoebridge golf course.

Who built the monument and when?

Traditionally Sir Edward Zouch is said to have built it, but there is no mention of it in any accounts or in the complaints of 1631. The first indication of it is in a map of Woking Park drawn by John Holmes in 1709 where it appears as an unnamed building in ‘Banqueting House Field’. It is first named as ‘Zouch’s Monument’ on John Senex’s map of Surrey of 1729.

Why was it built?

Holmes’ map shows not only the building, but also four double lines of trees leading up to it and the name of the field as ‘Banqueting House Field’ seems to indicate that this was where festivities were held by Zouch or his successors. The tower, which reached 60’ or more, had a cupola within which a fire was lit to illuminate the entertainment. However, Manning and Bray’s History of Surrey, 1804 (and repeated ever since), refers to a long tradition that the fire in the tower was a beacon to light travellers over the heath to Woking, whether urgent messengers from court, James I coming from Oatlands for entertainment, or hunters lost in the dark. The gazebo or folly ‘function’ may be the most plausible solution.

What happened to it?

Even though its fall was in the time of local newspapers, there have been varying accounts. Piecing these together it seems that after a period of decay the cupola fell down in a storm in about 1852 and the tower developed a list and cracks; some sources say that the central stair column was filled in. John Hassell’s drawing of 1824 inaccurately shows the tower tapering about halfway up, but does show the cupola.

A painting of the 1850s and a photograph of between 1861 and 1867 show it with its list and no cupola and the ‘Surrey Comet’ reported its fall in a gale on 8 January 1867. The author of an article in ‘Notes and Queries’ in 1883 reports that he had heard that the ruins had finally been blown up in about 1876. A trial excavation in 1960-61 found nothing of the monument remaining.

Detail, Zouch's Monument model

Where did the model come from?

This was built by Alfred Colbourne in 1851. He was then a hairdresser in Ripley, but later became a carpenter and joiner in Send and Woking, dying in 1924. The model has remained in the family ever since, and in the 1930s a former worker on Lord Iveagh’s estate, which covered the site of the tower, wished to acquire the model. This was refused but Alfred’s son, Christopher, made two copies, the exact whereabouts of which are not now known.

We'd love to know more about Zouch's Monument! If you have any information or evidence to share with us, do send an email to [email protected]

See the Zouch's Monument display free until 18 June 2017. 

Banner image: The Tower at Beacon Hill (near Hoe Place), Old Woking, Photographed by Patrick Dalgarno, Woking