Assignment 3 : Process
I knew of the pool because I’d driven past its sign several times on my way to other places. I imagined the pool to be hidden away somewhere amongst the trees; maybe like a lake, deep and mysterious. At one point I asked my daughter if she’d been there; she hadn’t but knew of it and that there was also a gin distillery there that used the water. Not too long after that I was bought a bottle of the gin for a present – beautifully presented in a blue glass, gold-etched bottle with a glass stopper. The kind of bottle that a person might want to keep afterwards to use for another purpose.
Time passed by and then, one day last summer, passing there again, the sign loomed larger to me – Silent Pool – I knew I had to visit there. I generally prefer not to do too much research on a place before a first visit so that I can keep an open mind. However, I did go online to discover that Silent Pool is a spring-fed pool at the foot of the North Downs and is the only major spring source in the 10.5 miles-long scarp slope of the North Downs between the Wey and Mole Valleys. The pool is managed together with the nearby Newlands Corner (another well-known beauty spot) by Surrey Wildlife Trust, within the privately owned Albury Estate.
(Google Earth Satellite image – accessed 15.5.19)
I also obtained a pamphlet The Tillingbourne Story from a local History Society. The pool is described as the most fiercely contested natural resource in the valley due to the copious flow of pure water from the pool. It seems that the Pool (then known as Sherbourne (Shireburn) springs was enlarged and made deeper in 1662 with an outflow to an adjacent new pond which was dug out – the Shireburn (Sherbourne Pond). Sherbourne Pond feeds Sherbourne Brook, a tributary of the Tilling Bourne . The aim of this was to take the water to supply the fountains at the gardens of Albury Estate which were constructed by John Evelyn. “…. They have command of a spring in this park (the Shireburn) which they bring in a channel to the place where they would have the sand taken away…” (John Aubrey, History of Surrey, quoted p. 28, The Tillingbourne River Story (1985,2006). The final stretch of the river from Albury to the point where it joined the River Wey near Guildford was important for a long time for corn; the making of paper money, paper and gunpowder manufacture. All this due to a spring-fed pool nestling amongst the trees. This pool was recognised as having value which I think is amongst the important ways in which a space becomes a place – more on that later on.
There is also the connection with Albury and Martin F. Tupper, the person who wrote Stephan Langton or the Days of King John: A Romance of the Silent Pool, first published in 1858. This is the book which included the tale of Emma, the woodcutter’s daughter who, along with her brother Tetbert, drowned in the Silent Pool as a result of the actions of the then Prince John.
I spent quite a time there walking around the (fenced) Silent Pool and gazing at Sherbourne Pond from one of its vantage points. Silent Pool has steps leading up to the Gin Distillery on the slope but the gate to it was locked. The distillery itself was closed that day. I also walked up part of the path to the North Downs. I thought it was a shame that the Pool was fenced around but guessed this was to do with health and safety measures. I’d expected to see water gushing out from somewhere but not so – the water must seep in from below. The fence was around three of its sides with no access to the inflow side. I chose 30 from 58 as a first edit plus a composite I created.
My feelings were ambivalent at that stage. On the one hand there was the unusual colour of the pool (apparently a feature of spring-fed pools which have run through chalk) but, somehow, it lacked the drama atmosphere I’d expected. When I discussed my idea with my tutor she suggested I could create an enactment of the story using a model but I didn’t feel too sure about that. There was something in me that resisted the idea of enacting what was essentially actions leading to the deaths of two children.
Instead I downloaded some copyright-free images Wiki Commons images which were mainly Pre-Raphaelite 19thCentury depictions of Ophelia/medieval maidens, as these fitted with Tupper’s tale, and converted some to digital negatives.
What had earlier been in my mind was to utilise some alternative photography methods using ephemera from the pool as a different way of telling the story. As an experiment I created a cyanotype of a maiden and two chlorophyll prints on leaves.
I also created a composite
I wasn’t too sure about these experiments and I think this was because it puzzled me – what was it about this Pool that led Martin Tupper to write his story, and then attracted people to visit the Pool and still want to believe the story even though they knew that’s all it was. How did this Pool encourage such ‘magical thinking’? At this stage I turned back to finding out more about the story, its connections with Albury and other artists and photographers who responded to it.
The Tillingbourne River Story(1984) Shere, Gomshall & Peaslake Local History Society: 2nd Revised edition (2006)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Pool (latest access 15.05.19)