This area was known as Spy Common, and until 1830 the farms were connected by cart tracks that had been cut by centuries of use. Early maps indicate that the tracks came from Alfold Bars through the Loxwood House Estate to Pigbush Farm, across the Merry Hills ridge to Songhurst Farm and then along the back of Spy Farm to link to the Rudgwick Road near Pancake Cottage, which is near the junction of Spy Lane and Station Road.
Merry Hills may have been named after the ancient term for ‘dancing hills’ which were open meeting places. Loxwood didn’t have a dedicated place for meetings until the Reading Room was built in 1897. How this land came to be known as “Spy Common” is not confirmed but investigating some historic documents provides some small clues!
In 1584 a Deed of Tenement recorded land in this area as “Spicers” (Spicers land) and a Settlement Deed of 1635 recorded the area as “Spye Lands” and that deed included numerous tenements and land holdings. The Deed also recorded farmland nearby as “Penlands” which describes a hill or meaning the land below a ridge, with farm animals enclosed by fences or pens.
In the early 19th century, the canal brought prosperity to the businesses in the lower part of the village, but the farms in this area were still worked by poorly paid labour. The turnpike road of 1775 cut through the farmland, to create the Guildford Road and that brought commercial traffic closer to the farms. In 1807 maps show the farm was called “Spye Farm” and around 1830 a link road was formed along the route of a cart track, from the turnpike road to Pancake Lane, and the new road eventually adopted the ancient “Spye” name, to be called Spy Lane.
Spy Farmhouse is one of the oldest properties in the village constructed around c1530. The farm covered large acreage, and maps of the late 19th century indicate Spy Farm land stretched across to the Chapel and possibly beyond. A report on the Farmhouse was completed by the Domestic Buildings Research Group in 2007 and they concluded that Spy Farmhouse was probably originally a two bay, open hall, timber frame farmhouse and possibly one of the last to have been constructed as an open hall.
The report indicated that the original building of c1530 was smaller than the house of today and there may have been other buildings on the farm, which had been removed. The Domestic Buildings Group thought that original building may have been a separate farmhouse or a kitchen for a much larger farmhouse which may have dated from the medieval period.
As with many of the farms in Loxwood, Spy Farm was part of Loxwood Hall Estate, owned by the Kings and Onslows for centuries. In 1813 the farm was owned by General Onslow and when the Loxwood Hall Estate was broken up and sold at auction in 1905, Spy Farm was listed as part of the sale.
In 1928 with the arrival of the telephone service in the village Mr A E Whowell owned Spy Farm and he paid for the connection to the farmhouse and was allocated an early number Loxwood 26.
The earliest photograph of Spy Lane is from c1909 and that shows the lane was still an unsurfaced narrow track. New house building didn’t start along Spy Lane until the mid 1950’s and the main photo, taken in 1950 illustrates how open the land was even at that time.
Box Cottage, Ryley Cottage, Finches
Loxwood Place Farm