Category Archives: 2. The Pool and Albury in the 19th Century

2. The Pool and Albury in the 19th Century

Further Historical and Literary Background

After my first visit to the Pool I researched further. Albury History Society has a wonderful website with links to much fascinating information about the Village, its history and connections with famous people including visitations by William Cobbett (1763-1835) who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He had an adventurous life and strong political views, becoming a passionate Radical.  Cobbett wrote a weekly Political Register (1802-35), books and election speeches and had a deep sympathy for agricultural workers – supporting and working for the Great Reform Bill and standing for Parliament in 1832. He is probably best known for his book Rural Rides (1830) during which he took a keen interest in gardens, farms, vegetables, and all facets of rural life. On November 30th  1822 he visited the residence of Mr Drummond, the owner of Albury Park, and was allowed to see the gardens, being very impressed by its layout including ‘a spring coming out of the hill’ ( 2001:65), although much less impressed by the uses the water was put to on its further journey and the perversion of the valley, “ [ …] in carrying into execution two of the most damnable inventions that ever sprung from the minds of man under the influence of the devil! Namely the making of gunpowderand of bank-notes!”

I doubt Cobbett would have come across Martin Tupper who would have been a child at the time.

Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810-1889)

Tupper was born in London and later lived (and died) in Albury parish.  Summary information can be found in Wikipedia (of course) . It seems that he was a man of many and varied interests – poetry, literature, music and history although, apparently, not to a high standard.  According to Wikipedia, Tupper vanished into obscurity, despite the words on his gravestone in Albury churchyard: “Although he is dead, he will speak”. I disagree with this because Tupper wrote a book in 1858 that had quite an effect on both Albury and the Pool.

This was a biographical novel regarding Stephen Langton (c.1150 – July 1228). Langton was a Cardinal of the English Roman Catholic Church, being Archbishop of Canterbury between 1207 and his death.  The dispute between King John of England and Pope Innocent III over his election was a major factor in the crisis which produced Magna Carta in 1215.

I actually have two old copies of this book – the twenty-first and twenty-second editions, because I have an idea to create an altered book at some point. A copy of it can also be accessed on-line.  In his preface to the twenty-second edition Tupper writes:-

 My objects in writing “Stephan Langton” were, first, to add a new interest to Albury and its neighbourhood, by representing truly and historically our aspects in the reign of King John; next to bring to modern memory the grand character of a great and good Archbishop who long antedated Luther in his opposition to Popery, and who stood up for English freedom, culminating in Magna Charta, many centuries before these our latter days.

Tupper gives a list of all the reference books he has used, referring to, “ […]  more than twenty historical characters honestly (as I think) depicted; and some fifteen ideal ones fairly enough invented as accessories”. Also stating that, for etymological and archaeological reasons, he preferred Stephan to the commoner Stephen as it is nearer to the Greek and spelt so in historical records. I won’t go into detail on the book especially as it can be accessed on-line here , but, basically Tupper aimed to link Stephen Langton strongly with his own neighbourhood and prove the treachery of King John.  As part of this he weaves in the story of Hal the woodcutter and his motherless children, including the two older ones Tetbert and Emma. (pp 55-62 and 65-72).

This video will give a little 13thCentury atmosphere.

Tupper paints a picture of Emma as the ‘nut-brown maid, with ruddy cheeks and coal-black eyes and hair” admired by many who meet her.  News of her beauty soon comes to two of Prince John’s attendants who then lead the Prince to Hals’ well to, “taste a cup of innocent cold water at the hands of the forest Diana’. He then describes the clear lakelet within a mile.

“Whatever then be its origin, there still exists in wonderful calm beauty our “Silent Pool” – with its deep, clear water and large trout; the water being some twenty feet deep in the centre – “perhaps in those troglodytic times, our mole-like ancestors unexpectedly tapped a strong spring which overwhelmed them and inundated all their little world”.  Emma often bathed there; one of the attendants finds this out and informs the Prince who then finds her in the pool. He prevents her from reaching her clothes; Emma goes deeper in into the deeper centre of the pool and drowns, whilst the Prince rides off and leaves her. Tetbert, who had followed on, tries to save her but he also drowns – “and you may see the trout shoaling among the still green weeds around that naked rave-haired Sabrina, and her poor drowned brother in his cow-skin tunic”.

In his autobiography (1886) Tupper wrote:-

One curious matter is that my ideal scenes have taken such a hold upon my neighbourhood that streams of tourists come constantly through Albury to visit “The Silent Pool” and other sites of scenes invented by me, and have thereby enriched our village inn and the flymen, as well as given to us a new sort of fame” (Loc 2144/6136).

Thereafter, the Pool became generally known as “The Silent Pool” and was said to be a favourite of Alfred Lord Tennyson.


The artist Helen Allingham visited Albury in the Summer of 1878 and one off her Watercolours was titled “By the Silent Pool” – picturing the cottage which lies just before the entrance. It can be seen on this website, although you have to scroll quite a way down.

Below is an 1888 Sketch of Silent Pool by the artist Lewis Pinhorn Wood

(Wikimedia Commons,_Albury,_Surrey_%281888%29_by_Lewis_Pinhorn_Wood.jpg)


My next post will concern Photographers and Postcards in the 20thCentury.


Cobbett, W. (1830) Rural Rides. London: 2001 Penguin Books Ltd

Rideout E.H. & Brown, K.A. (1980) Curious Albury

Tupper, M. F. (1858) Stephan Langton Or The Days of King John22ndEdition. Guildford: Biddles Ltd.

Tupper, M.F. (1886) Biography:My Life As An Author. Kindle Edition