Woking's Oral History
Since the early 90s volunteers and staff at The Lightbox have been collecting people’s memories of living and working in this borough.
John Paul Bland
With over 200 interviews we now have a wealth of spoken memories.
Stories range from playing by the canal or on the common, to working in the nurseries or in the Lion Works, having fun in the cinema or the old swimming pool, or coming and living here from London or Pakistan… the list is almost endless.
Below are links to a sample of those spoken memories, under 8 themed headings. From time to time we will refresh this sample with a new selection of interview extracts. You can also listen to selected recordings when visiting Woking’s Story in The Lightbox, the museum of the town's history.
In 2007 we released the first in a series of publications of peoples memories of Woking Woking Living Words Volume 1. It can be purchased for our gift shop for £9.99. In time we plan to produce further volumes looking at life in Brookwood Hospital and Childhood in Woking.
The Lightbox uses oral history to support education programmes. For more information please see the Learning section of this website.
The Lightbox's oral history project has been generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Please click on the links below to listen to selected oral history recordings.
To listen to people talking, and to see photos of local people and places, please click on one of the topics below.
Woking has a long tradition of performance and performers, from the Public Hall to the Atalanta to the Ambassadors.
Following the coming of the railway the proportion of people in the borough working in agriculture began to fall. In the 20th century Martinsydes and James Walker were both important industrial employers. McLaren Technology Centre is a stunning architectural and technological 21st-century achievement.
This was the first purpose-built mosque in Britain. It was built next to the Institute of Oriental Learning and Literature (now demolished). It is the spiritual focus for a large local Muslim community.
Listen to a variety of Woking people talking about their lives.
The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment can trace its origins back to the time of Charles II.
Shopping used to be a much slower, more personal experience. There were no supermarkets or out-of-town shopping complexes. Nothing was ready-made and all payments were in cash.
Woking is renowned for its golf clubs, and its many famous sportsmen include the Bedser twins.
Brookwood Asylum (later Brookwood Hospital) was opened in 1867. It was run as a self-contained community, rather like an enclosed village. It closed in 1994, when Care in the Community had become the main approach to caring for people with mental health problems.
Have you ever wondered about what life in Woking used to be like? Or how the town came to be the way it is today? Explore the fascinating history of the borough in Woking's Story...
Click on the below links to find out more.
Card players on steam trains, growers of chrysanthemums, parachute makers, laundry workers, taxi drivers and stories of people coming from all parts of the country and corners of the globe – just a few of the themes in a book about Woking's history published by The Lightbox.