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General Information for Woking
Situated in north-west Surrey, 25 miles from London, Woking was originally a village located at what is now known as Old Woking; the current town centre being open heathland. With the arrival of the Basingstoke Canal and then the railway in 1838, Woking suddenly became more accessible from London and, in the 1800's, the present town started to develop when London had a shortage of land.
Primarily, it was the shortage of land for burials that led to the London Necropolis Company buying 2300 acres of land on Woking Common at Brookwood for use as a cemetery. However, only 400 acres were used for the cemetery (the coffins being transported by special trains directly into the site) and the rest of the land was used for property development. A large part of the town reflects this Victorian origin although, more recently from the 1970's, newer developments of shops, offices and apartments have greatly enhanced the town and its surrounds.
One such development is the Peacock Centre. A splendid indoor shopping centre and cinema/theatre complex. The New Victoria theatre, seating 1300, is known for its great and varied visiting productions whilst the Rhoda McGaw theatre hosts local community productions. The complex also has a six screen cinema.
The Town Square incorporates the Library, entrances to Wolsey Place shopping mall and the Peacock Centre and the large, brick Christ Church, built in 1899.
Market stalls, selling a variety of goods, are to be found between the two malls.
The Town Gate was built in 1992 on the east side of the Town Square. The gate includes representations of the 19th century brick kilns used locally, heathland pine trees, the Canal and the Railway and a spaceship from 'The War Of The Worlds'.
In Oriental Road, south of the Station, is Shah Jehan Mosque, built in 1899, in Indian style, it was the first Mosque in Britain. The Mosque closed for the first twelve years of the 20th century but reopened when a Muslim Missionary set up a trust to finance its running. Now the Mosque is the spiritual focus of Woking's Muslim community.
Because of the Mosque existence, Woking is also the home of Britain's first Muslim Burial Ground, built on Horsell Common in 1917. The War Office commissioned the burial ground to dispel rumours that Muslim troops were not being buried according to their religious customs.
Woking boasts a 'giant killing' football team which plays at Kingsfield and are currently in the Nationwide Conference League.
It is also the home of the Formula One World Championship winners, MacLaren, who have a strong following in the Town.
One of Britain's foremost literary figures, H.G. Wells, lived in Woking and it was here that he wrote 'The War Of The Worlds'. The first episode appeared in April 1897 and the complete novel was published in 1898. The story of Martians invading earth and their rockets or 'cylinders' landing on Woking's Horsell Common, established H.G. Wells as one of the first science fiction writers.
Scenes from H.G. Wells' novel 'The War Of The Worlds' can be seen on a tiled mural in the Victoria Way subway which also includes local landmarks such as the Shah Jehan Mosque and the Maybury Arch. The Planets in Crown Square is a themed entertainment complex and includes a room named in honour of the writer, the H.G. Wells Suite - a conference area which can hold up to 800 people. On the outside can be seen a model 'Martian'.
Woking can also 'claim fame' for The Spice Girls who started their careers, in June 1994, at a Knaphill studio, after being picked from hundreds of hopeful competitors.
Woking Park has extensive formal gardens and lawns and is the home of the Leisure Centre and Pool in the Park, together with other recreational pursuits.
Horsell Common's 750 acres of land make it the largest single open space in the Borough of Woking. The sandpit, where the Martians from H.G. Wells' novel 'The War Of The Worlds' landed, is now home to some rare types of bee and the spider-hunting wasp. Other animals and birds which reside on the Common include roe deer, adders, sparrowhawks and woodcocks. Three different types of heather can be found on Horsell Common; bell and ling heather on dry parts and cross-leaved heather on the wetter parts. Areas of historic interest include the three Bronze Age Burial mounds and the Muslim Burial Ground. The common is available for recreational activities such as walking, riding and picnicking.
In Horsell Village is a 14th century Parish Church; one of the oldest buildings in the Borough.