The area that is now Lightwater was for centuries sparsely populated. This is mostly likely because of the mixture of poor light soil, known as Bagshot sand, and areas of boggy land. The name Lightwater seems not to appear before 1700, and is thought to derive from references to the ponds and pools in the area, possibly what is now know as Hammond’s Pond.
At the time when Lightwater is first mentioned, over three-quarters of the population of England were involved in agriculture, which had evolved from a subsistence-basis to being more of an industry.
New practices in land management and agricultural mechanisation throughout the 18th century were important reasons behind the introduction of the Enclosure Acts. The ‘enclosures’ were a means of consolidating land, such as common, waste, and heathland, into larger units, with the ostensible aim of improving land productivity. Most of the land of Bagshot Heath was ‘enclosed’ in 1812.
Even with land now ‘enclosed’, there is little activity in the development of Lightwater, though nearby Sunningdale and Bagshot had seen the healthy growth of a nursery gardening industry, with the Fromow and Waterers nurseries finding the better acidic and peaty soils in their location, ideal to growing a range of American imported species, such as Azalea and Rhododendron.
The opening of Sunningdale railway station in 1856 gave development impetus to the area. With nursery and farm produce more easily despatched to London than by road, and coal and provisions brought in. Rail eventually arrived at Bagshot in 1878. With the need to house an increasing nursery industry workforce, it seems that the availability of cheap land in Lightwater was the reason it began to grow.
From 1900 to 1950
In 1900, Lightwater parish lay within Windlesham Urban District Council. Windlesham itself had considerable number of gentlemen’s residences; in other words – large houses, In 1903, Mrs Christie of Ribsden Hall, Windlesham, paid for the erection of All Saints Church, as a memorial to her husband.
In 1909 about 100 houses are known of in Lightwater, and by the First World War the number of businesses grew including a baker, butcher, cycle dealer, laundries, and cab proprietor.
After the First World War there was an acute national shortage of quality affordable housing. The then Government, in The Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919, gave responsibility for providing accommodation for working people to local authorities, and required them to submit a list of their housing needs.
In response, Windlesham Urban District Council, during the years 1925 to 1932, and with some financial support from Government, erected 100 houses and flats in The Avenue, Stone Hill Road, and Guildford Road in Lightwater, using a variety of local builders, including Geo. Church & Co, and W.G.Tarrant.
From the 1900’s there were also a number private housing developments in Ambleside and Macdonald Roads. The resulting influx of new people into Lightwater doubled the number of business premises, adding newsagent, hairdressers, and shoe repairer among others.
From 1950 to 2000
Following the Second World War and a period of national reconstruction, the Government addressed the projected population growth of London, and foreseeing the growth of road transport, approved areas for housing expansion in the South East and the construction of new motorways.
In 1971 the M3 Motorway was opened, with a junction adjacent to Lightwater, and in 1977 the Lightwater bypass was opened.
Following local government reorganisation in 1974, Lightwater became part of Surrey Heath Borough, which was formed from the merger of a number of local councils, including Bagshot Rural District Council, which had earlier merged with Windlesham Urban District Council.
Proximity to the M3 motorway was a spur for major growth in housing and commercial development in Lightwater. In the early 1970’s, David Shaw developed the land he owned in the village centre, creating the village square as it now appears.
In the mid 1980’s, on the land of the former Paddock Wood Girls Finishing School, over 1500 new houses were built by Charles Church, Barratt’s and others in three large developments, including Paddock Wood, and The Grange.
21st Century onwards
So today Lightwater is now highly developed. Though mainly residential, the village has excellent leisure facilities, well-regarded schools, and a thriving commercial centre, all testifying to the desirability of Lightwater as a place to live and work.
Marie de g. Eedle, A History of Bagshot and Windlesham, Phillimore & Co, 1977, ISBN 0 85033 276 1
A History of the County of Surrey, Vol.3, 1911, Victoria County History