Woking's Forgotten Benefactor 

Woking’s Forgotten Benefactor: The Story of William Hamilton and His Family by Richard Langtree

It’s not every day that one of our congregation writes a book, so I was delighted when a small pile of these appeared at the back of church. I’m a great believer that Christians need to read more biographies: it’s so encouraging to learn about those who have gone before us. Richard’s book is a treasure trove of fascinating information which will inspire many people in Woking and further afield, as well as being invaluable for all local history buffs (and there are many).

Richard is well-known at SMOB as the custodian of our church’s history, as there have been Langtrees in the congregation since we were founded in 1907. He more than justifies his reputation here, with an enormous amount of data and illustrations packed into his book. The story of William Hamilton, the clergyman who founded SMOB, is picked through in minute detail. We are reminded repeatedly of many of the challenges of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, whether it’s the many unexplained deaths through illness or the carnage of World War One. The excitement of the rapid development of the new town of Woking is evident as the story unfolds.

Woking’s Forgotten Benefactor has been self-published, so the former editor in me did occasionally bemoan a slightly clunky turn of phrase or misuse of the possessive apostrophe! However, most readers will not be picking this book up expecting Proust, and it takes just a bit of imagination from the reader to put yourself in a world which is both remote and familiar: Woking of yesteryear. It also has enough fun facts to keep any pub bore amused for years.

In these days of church-planting, it is great to be reminded that there are few things new under the sun, and to give thanks for the work of Hamilton and the others who saw the need for new churches in Woking as the town grew. He was truly one of God’s transforming people in what was to become our parish!

Woking’s Forgotten Benefactor: The Story of William Hamilton and His Family by Richard Langtree, published by Twin Bridges and available from Richard or in church, £14.

Mark Wallace, 01/05/2019