One of the children who grew up in Farnborough during the years of the second world war was Graham Wood.  He is mentioned in the book The Alley Kids Remember, but did not live in any of the cottages in the 'Alley', off the High Street.  Instead he was brought up in one of a pair of small houses (but with large gardens) in Farnborough High Street.

These houses no longer exist - see panel to the right.

Ordnancer Survey map of Farnborough 1960, with the house marked, click to enlarge

Below is an article written by John Riches after the death of Graham his childhood friend, in 2016. This is followed by his official obituary.

Professor Graham Wood FRS – RIP

One of Farnborough village’s unsung heroes has died recently. Professor Graham Charles Wood, Fellow of The Royal Society and one of the United Kingdom’s leading corrosion scientists was born during 1934 in a small brick house that stood on the High Street.

His father, local boy Cyril, worked as a plumber and was called to do a job at Down House where the renowned scientist Charles Darwin wrote “On the Origin of Species,” in which he proposed the theory of evolution. Working at Down House at that time was a young cook from Chippenham in Wiltshire called Hilda. Cyril and Hilda fell in love, married, settled down in Farnborough and had two children Brenda and Graham.

All of Graham’s primary education at Farnborough School took place during wartime. He recalled when on 1st September 1940 German aircraft bombed RAF Biggin Hill, a small stray bomb landed on the air raid shelter in nearby Orchard Road and killed four members of the Lawrence family.

After that dreadful experience Hilda and Cyril decided “What would be, would be!” Probably to Charlie Brown the air raid warden’s disgust, they decided not to have an air-raid shelter dug into their large vegetable garden, but would rely instead on a specially constructed reinforced table in their living room. When German bombers dive-bombed Biggin Hill again the resultant explosions caused their door knocker to rattle. So Cyril had it muffled for the duration of the war.
John Riches, Donald Curd, Graham Wood, outside 61 High Street    

Although many Farnborough children were evacuated to places like Stoke-on-Trent and South Wales, the Wood family stayed together in Farnborough. Graham recalled that early in the war Farnborough school was closed and teachers instructed small groups of pupils in homes dotted around the village. Once shelters had been constructed beneath the school playgrounds it stayed open continuously. Despite all the disruptions Graham thrived at the village school and was awarded a place in 1945 at Bromley County Grammar School for Boys.

Despite the austerity and rationing of the immediate post war years he loved school work. In a report one teacher at Bromley wrote that “Graham had a fast and flexible mind, directed by high endeavour. Work to him is an ethic and a joy. My commendation!” 

In Farnborough throughout his childhood he enjoyed going “up the fields” with his friends to climb trees, fire bows and arrows and in his teenage years especially to play cricket where he slogged bad balls delivered by his mates to all corners of the Farm Field. Whilst still a teenager he played for Farnborough Cricket Club where his fine left handed batting was much appreciated. He also played football for The Guild on a number of occasions.

At the age of 18 at a time when only a small proportion of pupils went on to university he was awarded a State Scholarship and entered Christ’s College at Cambridge to study Natural Sciences. He excelled!

At Cambridge he met a young school  teacher, a proud Lancashire lass called Freda. They fell in love, married and had two children Louise and David.

Handwriting was never Graham’s strong point so when he learned he had been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and would have to sign-in using a quill pen on vellum he was concerned that he would literally be the cause of a blot on the record of that august institution. But all went well and he was very proud to join that ancient fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. The Society describes Graham as one of the United Kingdom’s leading corrosion scientists and using terms that few of us would understand, it continues that he explained transient oxidation of major binary and ternary alloys and developed extensive understanding of steady-state oxidation. This has assisted alloy development for gas turbines and power plants.

Professor Graham Wood, UMIST (1961–2000), Britain's First Professor of Corrosion Science (1972–1997) Stephen Ashurst (b.1956)

When delivering a eulogy at their father’s funeral service in Bury St Edmunds, Louise and David commented that “he was never boastful, despite combining a scientific career as “Britain’s first Professor of Rust,” as The Daily Mail styled him, running the university department he established and served terms as Vice-Principal of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Mum and Dad were married for 56 years. She was a great support to him and Dad was totally dependent on her for everything non-work related.   Dad was a Farnborough boy and always looked forward to visits to his beloved mother. He helped to keep her large garden in check as well as visiting his boyhood haunts.” 

It is fitting that on the final page of his funeral’s service sheet is a picture of Graham striding through the Farnborough fields that he loved.

Goodbye Graham. We will miss you.. 

John Riches – One of the Alley Kids. December 2016.

Published Obituary

Graham Wood:dedicated family man, scholar, and academic administrator, established the Corrosion and Protection Centre at UMIST (now The University of Manchester) and the Corrosion and Protection Centre Industrial Services (CAPCIS –now part of Intertek);born 6th February 1934, died 4th November 2016; survived by his wife Freda and children, Louise and David.  Picture below:© Freda Wood licensed under CC-BY-ND.

Graham Wood was born in Farnborough, Kent, England (some 15 miles south east of London, then a small village adjacent to open countryside)and became a towering figure in the somewhat arcane subject that we know of as corrosion science. Graham’s parents had met at Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin, while it was being run as a school. Graham later ascribed his interest in science to childhood visits to Down House after it had become the Darwin museum.

As a child he attended the local village school, walked and explored the nearby woods and fields, and helped in his parent’s large garden. This early experience developed his lifelong love of hiking and for the vegetables and soft fruit that he grew in his garden.

His parents continued to live in the family home until their deaths and Graham always ensured that he was there to put up the runner bean sticks at the start of the season, to take them down at the end,and to walk in the surrounding fields that he loved. At the age of 11, Graham attended the Bromley Grammar School excelling at cricket and football as well as academically.

He obtained a state scholarship to attend Christ’s College, Cambridge University, the first of his family to attend university, where he graduated in Natural Sciences and narrowly failed to obtain a “blue” (i.e. represent the University) in cricket. He subsequently undertook a PhD with T.P. (Sam) Hoar, collaborated with Ulick Evans and continued as a postdoctoral researcher with Alan Cottrell. He met his wife Freda in Cambridge in 1958 while she was working as a teacher and subsequently moved in 1961 to the then Manchester College of Science and Technology (which became the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, UMIST) as Lecturer in Corrosion Science in the Dept. of Chemical Engineering. Since Freda’s family home was in Bolton, just north of Manchester,it has never been clear whether this move was a result of careful planning or mere serendipity.

The Chemical Engineering department was run in those days by Frank Morton and T.K. (Ken) Ross, who recognised early in his career that corrosion and materials degradation of chemical plant was a major threat to operations and so built up a strong research group in corrosion science, rivalling the then activity at Cambridge. When the “Committee on Corrosion and Protection” under Sam Hoar published its findings in 1971, one of its main recommendations was the establishment of a national corrosion advice service. Ken Ross immediately saw this as an opportunity for Manchester and strongly supported Graham’s appointment in 1972 as Britain’s first Professor of Corrosion Science with a remit to establish and grow an academic-based “Corrosion and Protection Centre”.From 1972 to 1982 Graham built this up to a steady state of around ten academic (faculty) staff with associated support staff, with the MSc programme in Corrosion Science and Engineering (established earlier in 1961) feeding into PhD research. He also set up the Corrosion and Protection Centre Industrial Service (CAPCIS, now part of Intertek), under the direction of David Gearey,when it became apparent that the demand from industry for consultancy services far exceeded the capacity of academic staff to deliver. In the early days of CAPCIS, an enquiry on a high temperature corrosion problem appeared from one of the larger chemical processing companies and Graham was invited by David to attend the initial site meeting. While Graham had extensive academic experience and an enviable publishing track record he did not, at that time, have a great deal of industrial experience. Evidently somewhat daunted by the size of the plant as they approached the main gates, Graham quietly asked David to: “just call me Mr. Wood”. From that day onwards Graham was always referred to affectionately within CAPCIS as “Mr. Wood”.

As Headof the Corrosion and Protection Centre, Graham was a demanding taskmaster on colleagues but even more so on himself. Famously in January one year, he circulated a set of typewritten memos (no emails in those days) where he insisted that his secretary dated them 25th December “because that’s when I wrote them”. However, away from the direct focus of work he always had time on a personal basis for even the most junior of technical staff ensuring that he was on first name terms with everyone who contributed to his work. From Manchester he kick-started, mentored and supported the careers of innumerable people and was in touch with a world-wide network of corrosionists. After 1982 Graham increasingly took a back seat in the day-to-day operations of the Corrosion and Protection Centre and focussed more on academic administration while ensuring that he kept his hand in guiding and mentoring research students and directing novel research. When I arrived in Manchester in 1983, he wasVice-Principal for Academic Development and over the years to his retirement in 1999 served in various roles up to Dean of Faculty and finally Deputy Principal.

Amongst all of this work his family, and his cricket, still remained a passion and he was a stalwart of the annual staff-student match where his ambition was to smash the clubhouse clock by hitting a six. During one of his overseas trips a chance remark led to the Corrosion and Protection Centre 20th  Anniversary conference as the excuse for a reunion cricket match with former students. The match was held, by special permission of the His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, at the cricket ground of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. While history has failed to record the final score the conference was the most successful ever held in Europe at that time with over 500 delegates.

This is not the place to list all his achievements (academic or otherwise) and his collaborators however, February 1934 was clearly an auspicious time for corrosion science since Graham, Bob Rapp and Roger Staehle were all born within a few weeks of each other..He was a principal consultant to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in collaboration with John Stringerfor many years and was the first Chair from outside North America of the Gordon Research Conference on Corrosion. He spent two periods as President of the predecessor bodies to the UK Institute of Corrosion and was Chair of the International Corrosion Council for many years. His most notable work at Manchester was carried out in collaboration with Howard Stott (in oxidation and hot corrosion) and George Thompson (in passivity and the properties of anodic films). Amongst other prizes and awards, he received the Beilby Medal and Prize from the Society of Chemical Industry in 1972 and in 1983 was presented with the U.R. Evans award of the Institute of Corrosion. In the same year he obtained the Carl Wagner Memorial Award of the Electrochemical Society and was appointed a Life Member. In 1987 the European Federation of Corrosion presented Graham with its premier prize, the Cavallaro Medal and,in 1990, he was elected to the Fellowship of Engineering (now the Royal Academy of Engineering) as FREng. Finally, and following on from Davy, Faraday, Bengough and Evans, in 1997 Graham was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society (FRS) the highest UK scientific honour.

Rather unassuming, intensely private, but unfeasibly talented,Graham was a true “gentlemen scientist”. His passing deserves reflection on a life well lived.


Cyril and Hilda Wood

Graham's parents, Cyril and Hilda, continued to live in No 61 High Street for many years. 

According to a reliable source Hilda was an excellent cook, incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables grown in her own large garden.

She used to donate quantities of her produce to the St. Giles Summer Fete.

Cyril died in 1964 aged 67, but Hilda not until 1986, then aged 87.

They are both buried in the churchyard of St. Giles Farnborough. Their gravestone is pictured above.

Redevelopment of the Site

With Hilda's death the two houses nos 59 and 61 were both vacant

After a period of negotiations with residents nearby, they were demolished, along with Limes Laundry by now also vacant following closure.

They made way for 24 new houses in Orchard Road, Limes Row and the north side of the High Street. 

The narrow former access road between nos 57 and 63 High Street shown on the map is now occupied by garages. There is now a gap in the numbering of the houses along the main road through the village.

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