John Wornham Penfold

from Bygone Haslemere, Godalming Museum, ref: 942V HAS SWA


John Wornham Penfold (1828-1909), a surveyor, was commissioned by the local authority to assess for taxation purposes a valuation of houses in Godalming and adjacent areas. In c.1863 he made a survey based on the 1845 Tithe Survey. In Godalming Museum Library we have 'The Penfold Survey', which consists of maps and field notebooks, including one of Haslemere. He has recorded details of landlord and tenants and additional information as to number of rooms, whether a baker shop or blacksmiths.

Penfold was born at Courts Hill, Haslemere in 1828, and there is a pedigree and write-up in Bygone Haslemere of John Wornham Penfold.

Penfold studied architecture and surveying in London and was appointed surveyor to the Goldsmiths' Company and took an active part in rebuilding the quarter of the City about Jewin Street. Penfold was one of the founder members and first Honorary Secretary from 1868-1904 of 'The Institution of Surveyors', (granted a royal charter in 1881, and became 'The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors', RICS in 1946). There is a portrait of Penfold in their Lecture Hall in Great George Street.

He was very interested in photography and took many 'before and after' photographs covering his architectural work in the 1870s, 80s and 90s.  In this area he designed the Chiddingfold Institute (1877), alterations to Thursley Church (1884) and cottages in Petworth Road, Witley (1885)

He was better known as the architect of the famous hexagonal pillar box. The Penfold Pillar Box named after him was introduced in 1866, in green which was the standard colour, and that remained until 1874 when they were changed to red to increase visibility. The pillar box was topped with acanthus leaves and ball, made in three sizes, with five distinct types, and the design lasted for 13 years. There are about 100 surviving. A replica box painted in green was erected in Haslemere in 1991, and there was at one time a Penfold Corner where he lived.

The cartoon 'Dangermouse' had a sidekick called 'Penfold' (after JWP) as his secret hideaway entrance was in a pillar box in Baker Street.

John Wornham Penfold died at Sheringham in 1909, aged 80, and was buried in Haslemere churchyard.

Godalming Museum © 2006



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