West End History
The name 'West End' is first recorded on Seller's map of 1680 and it means exactly what it says. It is a settlement which grew up on the west side of the parish of Chobham. But West End has a much longer history for on the common there are four Bronze Age barrows.
The oldest surviving building in the area dates from the 15th century and there are also one or two farms of some antiquity scattered here and there. During the first half of the 19th century a small group of cottages sprang up and they formed the nucleus of West End. The proof of a growing community was the building of Holy Trinity Church in 1842 and the opening of a school here a year later.
The army took over some of the adjacent heath in the 1850s and their presence had a marked influence on the development of West End.
The census of 1861 shows that West End was really established as a community. There were three grocers, a postmaster, a blacksmith, several brickmakers and a shoemaker among the population. The soil at West End was ideal for garden nurseries and many local people were employed cultivating rhododendrons, azaleas and other evergreen shrubs.
There were a number of gipsies living on the heathland and later some of their transitory settlements developed greater permanence. Today, places like 'Donkey Town' and 'The Colony' consist of estates of well-built modern houses, where once there were turf huts, tents and caravans.
In 1887 the Gordon Boys Home was opened at West End. It was named after General Gordon, who perished at Khartoum in the Sudan in 1885. Its aim was to improve the lot of poor boys based on military style discipline. The buildings were designed by the famous Victorian architect, William Butterfield. In 1943 the name of the home was changed to the Gordon Boys School and in 1990 the name was changed yet again to the Gordon School. A major decision was also made at the time to admit girls.
There was extensive residential development in West End in the 20th century. In 1914 there were about 150 houses in the village and this had more than doubled by 1937. By 1977 it had doubled again to over 700. West End had indeed come long way from its humble beginnings of small cottages, turf huts and tents.