Charles G. Harper (1863-1943)


A guide book is useful in finding places of interest, but such books are not so easily found as formerly.  For example, when I was a child in the 1950s my father made good use of Ward Lock's Red Guides as we explored a different section of the south coast year by year.  However, they ceased publication some thirty years ago;  holiday patterns had changed, many people went abroad.  The internet is a patchy source of such information.  One good site covering our area is The River Wey and Navigations, while another that was a goldmine for a weekend tour during autumn 2006 is a Peak District Tourist Information Website.  These are the gems, however;  type some place names into a search engine and you come up with nothing useful.

West Surrey DA CTC, in its early days, added a guide book to its map library:


Selected, Described & Illustrated

Who has personally covered the
whole of the ground in order to
ensure completeness and accuracy.

(All Rights Reserved).
Issued under the auspices of the Touring Department of the
Royal Automobile Club.
Kingsway Information Bureau, 93, Kingsway, London, W.C.2

The book is now a little the worse for wear, having lost its covers and with one or two pages loose.  It appears to be undated, but an internet search turned up the information that "Volume I.  North of the Thames" was published in 1921.  Since Harper was a prolific writer, Volume II probably appeared quite soon afterwards; 1922 perhaps?

Charles G. Harper

Harper wrote a series of histories of the old coach roads.  These are illustrated with old prints and pictures plus many excellent pen and ink drawings by the author.  He wrote many other books conveying similar information, topography, history, places, people, anecdotes etc., all similarly illustrated.  In addition, he wrote many articles in the "C.T.C. Gazette", for example "Old Toll-Houses" in August 1906, three pages with eight of his own drawings of toll-houses.  He also illustrated the articles of other authors and regular columns in the "C.T.C. Gazette" over many years.

Where to cycle in and around West Surrey



See Pilcot.


Odiham Castle

Odiham Castle sketch Odiham Castle photo #1
Above:  Odiham Castle by Charles G. Harper

Above right:  Similar view in April 2007.  The castle is now covered in large signs saying "Keep out!  Danger from falling masonry!" and surrounded by an unsightly metal mesh fence.

Right:  This is about the only view of the castle in which no "Danger" sign is visible.

"The little-known but strange and interesting remains of Odiham Castle will be found ... on the further side of the old Basingstoke Canal.  The walk to the lonely ruin, along the narrow footpath beside the deserted and now beautiful canal, covered with water-lilies and overhung by trees, is delightful.  All that remains of the castle is the roofless octagonal Keep, built of flint and rubble, with walls of enormous thickness.  It stands in a rough pasture, with groups of lofty pine-trees around.  This fortress was besieged for fifteen days in 1216 by French troops, under the Dauphin, who had been invited over by the Barons, to aid them against King John.  On the fifteenth day the garrison surrendered.  There were but thirteen of them, against a host;  so the surrender was no dishonourable one.  Here for a time David Bruce, King of Scotland, captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346, was kept a prisoner."

Odiham Castle photo #2


The hamlet referred to as Pilcot by Charles Harper is part of the parish of Dogmersfield, but nowadays the name seems to have dropped out of use.  As you enter the hamlet from the east the sign says "Dogmersfield", but you have followed Pilcot Road from Crookham Village!

"The pretty village of Crookham is then entered, with the hamlet of Pilcot at its further end:  two of the prettiest places in Hampshire, completely charming in their old timbered and red-brick cottages, heavily thatched, with dormer windows looking out upon old-world gardens.  Picturesque hop-kilns give evidence that this is a hop-growing district.  Keeping to the left at fork of roads, past the "Queen's Head" Inn, a long, tree-shaded lane leads past the modern church of Dogmersfield on the right, and skirts Dogmersfield Park."


It is not possible to photograph Charles Harper's entire view entitled "Pilcot", but the house is still there, now called "Pilcot House".
Pilcot sketch
Pilcot by Charles G. Harper
Pilcot House
Pilcot House

Pilcot Mill

Pilcot Mill sketch Pilcot Mill photo #1
Pilcot Mill photo #2 Above left:  Charles Harper's drawing.

Above:  a photograph taken in April 2007 from roughly the same viewpoint, showing that the core of the mill is the only part still standing, the remainder having been reduced to the foundations.

Left:  a view from the downstream side.



Compton White Hart Compton White Hart
Compton White HartWhite Hart Cottage

"House at Compton, formerly a hostel on the Pilgrims' Way."

"Compton church is worth a visit, for sake of its unique chancel, of the Norman period, in two storeys.  The lower one is finely vaulted in stone, supporting a room above which is thought to have been an anchorite's cell, built about 1180.  Across the upper stage is an Early English wooden screen, supposed to be the earliest example in England."

Compton Church Chancel
Compton White Hart

Books by Charles G. Harper

Histories of the old coach roads:

The Brighton Road :  Speed, Sport and History on the Classic Highway.  (Three editions:  1892, 1906 and 1922.)
The Great North Road :  The Old Mail Road to Scotland :  London to York.
The Great North Road :  The Old Mail Road to Scotland :  York to Edinburgh.
The Dover Road :  Annals of an Ancient Turnpike.
The Bath Road :  History, Fashion and Frivolity on an old Highway.
The Manchester and Glasgow Road :  This Way to Gretna Green :  London to Manchester.
The Manchester and Glasgow Road :  This Way to Gretna Green :  Manchester to Glasgow.
The Holyhead Road :  The Mail-Coach Road to Dublin :  London to Birmingham.
The Holyhead Road :  The Mail-Coach Road to Dublin :  Birmingham to Holyhead.
The Hastings Road :  And the "Happy Springs of Tunbridge".
The Oxford, Gloucester and Milford Haven Road :  The Ready Way to South Wales :  London to Gloucester.
The Oxford, Gloucester and Milford Haven Road :  The Ready Way to South Wales :  Gloucester to Milford Haven.
The Norwich Road :  An East Anglian Highway.
The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford and Cromer Road. :  Sport and History on an East Anglian Turnpike.
The Exeter Road :  The West of England Highway.  (1899)
The Portsmouth Road, and its Tributaries :  Today and in Days of Old.
The Cambridge, Ely and King's Lynn Road :  The Great Fenland Highway.

Other books by Harper:

In addition to the two volumes of Motor Runs Round London referred to above, there are:
Cycle Rides Round London
A Practical Handbook of Drawing for Modern Methods of Reproduction.
Stage-Coach and Mail in Days of Yore.  Two volumes.
The Ingoldsby Country :  Literary Landmarks of "The Ingoldsby Legends".
The Hardy Country :  Literary Landmarks of the Wessex Novels.
The Dorset Coast.
The South Devon Coast.
The North Devon Coast.
The Somerset Coast.
The Old Inns of Old England.  Two volumes.
Love in the Harbour :  a Longshore Comedy.
Rural Nooks Round London  (Middlesex and Surrey).
Haunted Houses :  Tales of the Supernatural.
Tours around Bournemouth, the New Forest, Salisbury and the Dorset Heaths.
From Paddington to Penzance.
Half-Hours with the Highwaymen :  Picturesque Biographies and Traditions of the "Knights of the Road".  Two volumes.

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