The Godalming area has supported many trades and industries. Some, like the wool and knitting industries, were important sources of local income over a number of centuries. Evidence of this survives in the town's emblem - a woolsack, which is still in official use today. Farming and other rural trades would have occupied many people, until machinery began to replace human and horse power in the nineteenth century. Some of the agricultural hand tools in the Museum's collection (including the corn dibblers shown here) give an idea of how hard agricultural work could be.

Water-powered machines were used in the leather (or tanning) industry and water from the River Wey was used for washing the hides and skins during the production process. While the products of this industry could be attractive and fashionable, such as fine leather gloves, the work was often dirty and sometimes dangerous (there are accounts of deaths of employees in the Museum's collections and library). Such tragic incidents in the course of work often go unremarked in public life, but one, the death of Jack Phillips (wireless operator on the Titanic) is commemorated in Godalming. The Museum displays a painting of him, which was made after his death in 1912.

The Second World War provided employment for large numbers of women across the country. Godalming was no exception, with the local RFD factory employing a workforce of one thousand (mainly women) day and night. The photograph featured in this exhibit shows an RFD employee working on a barrage balloon in the Godalming factory in Catteshall Lane. It comes from an album of photos showing many aspects of the company's varied activities in Godalming until closure of the factory in the 1980s.

Leisure activities are important providers of jobs in the local area today. It would seem that this would also have been the case during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At that time, Godalming was mid-way on an important horse-drawn coach route connecting London to Portsmouth (on the South coast). The 'hospitality trade', focused around Godalming's coaching inns, must have provided significant employment locally.

Click on the title or image
to see details of the exhibit

Knitting frame

War work

Leather works

Corn dibblers

Coaching trade

Portrait of Jack Phillips



Return to The Collections index