Things to do in Godalming - where to eat, shop and visit
PUBLISHED: 14:48 15 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:24 02 May 2018
Pete Gardner Photography
One of Surrey’s prettiest towns, Godalming offers everything from riverside strolls to a host of great independent shops and links to the Titanic...
A potted history...
First recorded in Saxon times and also in the Domesday Book as Godalminge, the town’s position on the River Wey resulted in it becoming a thriving hub for trade with a number of local industries – wool, paper manufacture and tanning amongst them.
Godalming is perhaps best- known though for being the first town in the world to have a public electricity supply, installed in 1881 and powered by a huge waterwheel at Westbrook Mill.
On another point of interest, Jack Phillips, the telegraphist on The Titanic during its ill-fated voyage, came from the town and was a pupil at the local grammar school – which at the time was housed in what is now The Red Lion pub in Mill Street.
Elsewhere, the world-famous Charterhouse School, built from the local Bargate stone and Grade II listed, opened in Godalming in 1872 and has seen many celebrated names pass through its doors, including most of the rock band Genesis (and hands up if you knew that the chapel in the school was designed by the same chap who devised the red telephone box – Sir Giles Gilbert Scott).
Today, Godalming is regarded as one of Surrey’s most picturesque towns with plenty of independent shops to browse and a strong community spirit.
Out & about…
Located at the far end of the High Street, one of the best- known buildings in the town is the appropriately named Pepperpot. A landmark difficult to miss, it was used until 1908 for borough council meetings.
Just opposite the Pepperpot, you’ll find Godalming Museum, which as well as providing a fascinating insight into the history of the town, has a wealth of information on Jack Phillips and the Titanic (see above left for more on that).
With the River Wey wending its way through the town, there are some lovely riverside walks to enjoy too.
If you are up for a short(ish) stroll then the place to start is by the wharf on the Wey Navigation Trail. There are nearly always a few narrow-boats moored alongside for a good photo opportunity – but beware the ducks who will follow you everywhere.
Stroll along the towpath towards the town and you come across a lovely riverside walk past delightful weeping willows by Lammas Lands. Just in case you get too carried away by the tranquil beauty though, remember it was near here that the last public hanging in Surrey took place – on August 14, 1818, when two convicted murderers met their fate.
Finally, no trip to Godalming would be complete without a trip to the nearby Winkworth Arboretum, a National Trust area of woodland and rare shrubs a few miles south of the town. Attractive at any time of the year, it is particularly stunning in the springtime when the azalea staircase is in full flower (be sure to take your sunglasses!). See nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum.
Shop till you drop
The town’s strength lies in its collection of independent retailers – it doesn’t take too long to walk the length of the main High Street but you’ll be constantly sidetracked by all the shops along the way.
Record Corner in Pound Lane, just off the High Street (01483 422006), has been serving the community for over 50 years and can supply just about anything music-related – whether classical, jazz, pop or simply sheet music. They can also source limited vinyl releases not normally available through bigger chains.
Another independent vying for longest established status in the town is Cornmeter (01483 415571) – an incredible DIY shop in Church Street that has just about the lot – so no excuse for not getting the decorating done.
There is also that rare thing nowadays, a traditional greengrocer, Amylou’s, at 41 Bridge Street. Packed with everything you could want and overflowing onto the pavement, you’ll be treated to fresh fruit and veg in abundance.
While we are on the subject of fruit and veg, why not pay a visit to the town’s popular Friday Market? Located on the land between Great George Street and Moss Lane, stalls galore vie for your attention – and parking is handy too in the Crown Court Car Park right next door.
Grab a bite…
There’s plenty of places to deal with the hunger pangs here…
Describing itself as “borne of a desire to bring the best French dining experience to the heart of Surrey”, Fleurie in Wharf Street (01483 429969) offers delicious lunchtime and evening menus. How about the Birtley Farm three-bone rack of lamb with minted potato puree and red wine jus? Mmmm…
What is more, their chef Mark Harrison was a finalist in the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2013. For more on this year's awards, click here.
Right opposite is La Luna (01483 414155) – a staple in national eating out guides. This bright modern Italian restaurant with an extensive menu for that special night out… and their traditional tiramisu comes highly recommended.
For a bit of history, there’s also the Kings Arms and Royal Hotel in the High Street (01483 421545), which offers more than just beds for the night – there is a 1920’s themed restaurant and bar with high beamed ceilings, open fireplaces and stone flagged floors. Oh, and if you DO stay the night keep a lookout for the resident ghost – we won’t tell you which room it occupies though...
Last but not least, back to Jack Phillips again (he gets around…), there is a pub of the same name in the town centre (01483 521750) where you can sit out, continental style, on the pavement and watch the world go by.
There are good connections by road and rail. Located just a couple of miles south of the main London to Portsmouth A3 trunk road, the town is served by a number of bus routes and there is plenty of parking too – the Crown Court car park is rarely completely full. Just tap in GU7 1EE to your sat nav. The train station is on the Portsmouth to Waterloo line and only a short trot to the town centre.
My favourite Godalming...
Co-owner of The Wey Gallery, Clare Richards reveals her five favourite things to do in the area...
1. I really enjoy walking my two dogs down by the River Wey – my dogs love the long grass and little paddling areas. The river is so clear and leads right through the allotments – the field is where the town bonfire takes place, so in the autumn a pile of wood starts to collect. You can walk along the towpath and see some really cool houseboats too.
2. The COOK store in Bridge Street is amazing – it’s such a busy shop with lots of tasters and all home-style cooked food that’s good enough to impress your friends. I also have an intolerance to gluten and find their specialised diet section and advice is really good.
3. I’ve been having lunch at The Stag on the River in Eashing on my last couple of days off. Again, they cater for gluten-free and it’s so nice just sitting on the patio listening to the river. Great service and dog friendly too!
4. My two dogs get groomed in Church Street at Animal Magic. The groomer is a fantastic chap called Stoica Costyn – he greets the dogs with cuddles and a cheery voice, putting them at ease straight away. They come out looking and, most importantly, smelling fantastic! A must for all dog owners!
5. Lastly, there’s my gallery – I’m so proud to have opened it over four years ago with my business partner and good friend Julie. We are independent and choose all of the artists ourselves from across the UK – no big corporate companies dictating the style. We are constantly sourcing new work, so there’s always something new to see, and we offer a ‘home loan’ service so you can buy in confidence. We have collections by Tracey Emin, Peter Blake and Henry Moore as well as local artists Ben Payne, Nicky Chubb and Jean Haines, among many more.