Amy Anderson saves the Castle
In 1927 it was agreed that the Diocese of Winchester would be divided to produce two new dioceses and thus two new bishops. Farnham now became part of the new Diocese of Guildford. Farnham Castle’s condition and position were not considered ideal for a Bishop of Guildford’s residency. Many voices in the Church believed that money spent on making it suitable for this new role, an estimated £20,000, would be wasted when building an entirely new cathedral was also planned. In 1930 Amy Anderson OBE became Chair of a committee set up to promote the use of the Castle as a place of residence for the new Bishop of Guildford, at the same time saving the fabric of the Bishop’s Palace. The idea was acceptable to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners only if the budget required could be raised by the committee within six months. On today’s terms the target to be raised would be about £1.25 million. As someone with considerable personal and family connections in the Farnham area, Amy set about meeting the challenge. Using her influence to get the support of wealthy friends she succeeded in meeting the demanding timings set by the Church and work on the Bishop’s Palace commenced. Part of it was cleared and renovated for the Bishop’s family use and part for use as by religious retreats. A now rather dilapidated Tudor wing was made suitable accommodation for visitors.
In 1914 few families in the country committed their personal situations so totally to the war effort as the Andersons. Mrs. Amy and Major Rupert Anderson converted their family home, Waverley Abbey House, Farnham in which they had lived since the turn of the century, into a military hospital. Amy became a Commandant of the Red Cross before the war and took control over the hospital she had created. Her four daughters served as nurses and her son, Rupert, fought as a Second-Lieutenant. Her husband Rupert served the Tilford and Farnham community in a variety of committees and posts. The house was restored to the Anderson family’s use in 1919, but their service to the community continued.
Unlike Bishop George Morley, Amy Anderson’s contribution to the history of Farnham Castle and the Bishop’s Palace was not for personal benefit or advancement. Her focus was on retaining it as the main part of Farnham’s history. Money spent on repairing roofs and windows, renovating stonework and woodwork, and making the buildings habitable and suitable for specific practical uses is largely invisible. But all of the work her money-raising efforts facilitated was invaluable. Today’s Palace visitors might now be trying to imagine a building in its former glory rather than enjoying it as others for centuries have done. It is easy to pass the two small features recognising Amy Anderson when in the Palace. Her painted portrait by Peggy Bell hangs halfway up Morley’s fine staircase, but not obviously so. A wooden commemorative plaque hangs in the Norman Chapel, perhaps the part of the Palace that benefited most from the work done at this time, but that too is easily passed or overlooked without prior knowledge of, or interest in her contribution.
Amy Anderson was someone who lived in Farnham for many decades and who contributed so much, not just to the Castle, but also to the community as a whole and, through her wartime efforts, to the country. In her own time those contributions were recognised. In the intervening years that recognition has declined and now needs to be redressed.