Egham (St. John the Baptist)

EGHAM (St. John the Baptist), a parish, in the union of Windsor, Second division of the hundred of Godley, W. division of Surrey, 4 miles (N. N. W.) from Chertsey, and 20 miles (W. by S.) from London; containing 4448 inhabitants. The village is pleasantly situated on the bank of the river Thames (which here separates the counties of Surrey and Middlesex), and is intersected by the Roman road from Silchester, commencing at the Belvidere, in Shrub's Park, and directing its course to the village, east of Virginia Water. The road becomes conspicuous on the rising grounds, where it is remarkable for the almost entire preservation of its original form, and whence it may be traced, with some intervals, to Ashford, in Middlesex. In this parish, also, is the plain of Runymede, appointed by King John for holding a conference with the barons, who had leagued together for the preservation of their liberty, and celebrated as the spot on which, after a debate of a few days, during which each party encamped as open enemies, the king consented to grant the privileges and exemptions contained in Magna Charta. The village is neatly built, containing many respectable houses, and is connected with the market-town of Staines by a handsome stone bridge, erected in a more direct line with the London road than the old bridge, which has been taken down; it is paved, lighted with gas, and well supplied with water. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway, 6¼ miles in length, to this place, from the SouthWestern line at Weybridge. The parish comprises a considerable portion of Windsor Great Park, and, in addition, 6430 acres, of which 1484 are woodland. There are several handsome seats and villas in the neighbourhood. Cooper's Hill was first celebrated by the muse of Denham, who resided here, and afterwards by Pope and Somerville; Camomile Hill obtained its appellation from the luxuriant growth of that herb, with which it is covered, and which appears to be indigenous to the soil. Races are held in August, on Runymede, and are well attended. There is a fair at Englefield Green, on the 30th of May and the two following days.

The living is a vicarage, partly endowed with the great and small tithes, valued in the king's books at £11. 9. 7., and in the patronage of Benjamin Gostling, Esq., the impropriator of the remainder of the tithes, the whole of which have been commuted for £1250, whereof £1088 are payable to the impropriator, and £162 to the vicar, who has a glebe of 56 acres. The church, an edifice of brick ornamented with stone, was built in 1817-20, at a cost of about £11,000, defrayed by subscription, His Majesty George IV. being a liberal contributor. Over the altar, which is of marble, is a beautiful picture by Westall, representing Elijah Raising the Widow's Son; and on each side of the chancel are splendid monuments, one to the memory of George Gostling, Esq., and the other to his lady, respectively by Flaxman and Bailey: near the vestry is a monument to Thomas Foster, chief justice of the king's bench in the reigns of James I. and Charles I. and II., and who resided in the parish; and on the staircases are monuments to the ladies Denham, and a fine sculptured monument representing in white marble a figure rising from the grave. Christ Church, at Virginia Water, was erected in 1838, by subscription, at a cost of about £2000, and endowed by Miss Irvine with £2000; it is a neat structure in the later style, and a district has been assigned to it, which comprises Portnall, Shrub's-hill, Strode, Trotsworth, Virginia Water, and Wentworth. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. A charity school was founded in 1703, by Henry Strode, Esq., who bequeathed £6000 for that purpose, and for the foundation and endowment of almshouses for twelve aged men and women; the buildings were taken down a few years since, and handsomely rebuilt; the income arising from the endowment is nearly £800 per annum. Five other almshouses were founded in 1627, by Sir John Denham, who endowed them with a rent-charge of £30, and with tenements producing a rental of £8. 8., for aged women; and Mrs. Stewart, in 1834, built five houses for poor women. Viscountess Warren Bulkeley left £1000 for the benefit of the poor, and there are several other charitable bequests.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.