At the time when elsewhere in England thousands of acres were being enclosed by their landowners, The Hurtwood remained accessible common land, where local people could exercise the rights of pasture for cattle, sheep and pigs and also goats and donkey, which were not considered ‘commonable cattle’; estovers – the right to cut underwood or bracken; and turbary - the right to dig turf or peat for use as fuel in the commoner’s house. The land was used and lived in by the cottagers and by Romany gypsies; it provided them with their daily necessities and was a busy place.
Only a few of these rights were ever formally registered but from time immemorial local people exercised unwritten rights and privileges and the Lord of the Manor honoured them: “I am not anxious to sell dead trees, as I want to leave plenty of dead trees for the cottagers to cut up as fuel”; “No stone should be dug where there is grass. What grass there is, besides being ornamental, is very useful for grazing goats. I am most anxious to protect this.” Those words were written by RA. Bray, the Lord of the Manor of Shere not so very long ago - and it was R.A. Bray, ‘Reggie’ to his friends, who gave us The Hurtwood that we know today.
More than 90 years ago, Reggie Bray granted the public a ‘right to roam’ on The Hurtwood – one of the first estates in England to do so, thereby setting a pioneering example of a landowner welcoming the public on to his land and finding a way of working with the public that would benefit both the land and the people. The way to achieve this infinitely desirable goal was to create Hurtwood Control.
The Hurtwood Control
Why Control? It sounds so fierce today, but in the early 1920s when it came into being, ‘control’ was what The Hurtwood most urgently needed, to protect it from the triple perils of Gypsies, motorists and fire. All three problems came to a head after the First World War. First to be tackled were the Gypsies.