Our Society was formed in 1968 as the Mayford History Society but we changed our name to Mayford and Woking District History Society in 1983 to reflect our broadened horizons. By 1999, we had members from all over Woking Borough so we changed our name again to Woking History Society. Our primary objective is the education of the Public in the history of the Borough of Woking and nearby parishes and we are a registered charity.
As well as enjoying a programme of talks, members in the early days surveyed old buildings, recorded their history and the stories of inhabitants and undertook limited excavations. A collection of documents, illustrations and artefacts was started although much of what had been excavated went to Guildford Museum.
The minutes of 3rd AGM 0n 6 Dec 1971 records that:
“Several Members expressed support for the Society in the suggestion made by Mr Boarer that it should press for the opening of a museum or room for exhibits in Woking. Mr Boarer again promised that the new committee would pursue the matter urgently with Woking Urban District Council.”
In 1972 a “One Day Museum” held at Mayford Village Hall attracted 500 visitors so was followed by others in Christ Church Hall and Woking Library. Although these, showed that there would be interest in a museum in Woking, it was not until 1990, after pressure from the Woking Arts Council and Iain Wakeford as well as ourselves, that the Council became involved.
From 1992, several sites were considered and in 1994, Woking BC offered the former market house outside the post office, awarded planning consent and appointed a Museum Director. Several town centre sites were subsequently used to store and sort documents and artefacts but not to display them.
In 2001 everything changed when our original idea of a couple of rooms in an existing building suddenly became a major project with a new Director and a prestige building proposed on the present site in Victoria Way. The fighting was not over, however, as there was opposition to such an ambitious scheme but with lottery and other outside funding added to that from the Council, The Lightbox was finally opened in 2007. Director, Marilyn Scott and her team had brought to fruition the project which totally surpassed the expectations of our 1971 members.
Our Society maintains close links with related bodies through membership of various committees. Several members serve on the Woking BC Consultative Panel for Woking Palace, another chairs the Members’ Committee of the Surrey History Trust and is on the Surrey Archaeological Society Library Committee. We are represented on the Surrey Record Society’s Council and, at The Lightbox, two members are Collection Trustees and others serve on new Heritage Exhibitions Advisory Committee. We are also affiliated to Friends of Woking Palace and the Surrey History Centre.