Spotlight on Wok­ing

Surrey Life - - Over The Airwaves - WORDS: James Knighton PHO­TOS: Andy New­bold

Aquick pe­rusal of Wok­ing’s his­tory and you’ll find a town that’s al­ways had one eye on the fu­ture. Whether it’s the mus­ings of the author HG Wells in his world-fa­mous War of the Worlds, the state-ofthe-art For­mula 1 and su­per­car en­gi­neer­ing at Mclaren or the town’s im­pres­sive abil­ity to trans­form it­self into a dream des­ti­na­tion for food lovers for the an­nual Wok­ing Food and Drink Fes­ti­val, Wok­ing is a for­ward­think­ing place that’s con­stantly evolv­ing.

And yet, this in­no­va­tion and re­lent­less dream­ing is deeply rooted in his­tory. For one, Wok­ing is home to Sur­rey His­tory Cen­tre and its seem­ingly end­less shelves of doc­u­ments and cu­riosi­ties, which paint the story of our county.

There’s also the Shah Ja­han Mosque, which, built in 1889, was Eng­land’s first mosque; the at­mo­spheric Brook­wood Ceme­tery, which first opened in 1854 and was at one time the largest ceme­tery in the world (some have likened its evoca­tive na­ture to Paris’ fa­mous Père Lachaise); and the re­mains of Wok­ing Palace, which was once a coun­try­side re­treat for roy­als.

It’s fair to say that over the years, like many Sur­rey towns, Wok­ing strug­gled to find the bal­ance be­tween pre­serv­ing its his­toric char­ac­ter and meet­ing the de­mands of modern Bri­tain and ever-in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion growth. The past decade or so, how­ever, has seen mon­u­men­tal ef­forts to trans­form Wok­ing’s town cen­tre into a more cos­mopoli­tan des­ti­na­tion – and those ef­forts con­tinue to­day.

As these words hit the page, they are reach­ing for the stars in Wok­ing and a cityscape sky­line con­tin­ues to take shape. The tallest tower in the new Vic­to­ria Square devel­op­ment, for ex­am­ple, reaches some 34 floors high. When com­pleted, in the next year or so, this will in­tro­duce two gi­ant apart­ment blocks and a Hil­ton Ho­tel (with a Sky­bar on the 22nd floor) into the mix of Wok­ing life.

These are by no means the only modern high rises com­ing to town. Suf­fice to say, such blue-sky think­ing means that it’s go­ing to get busy in the fu­ture. Some have even sug­gested that Wok­ing could make a bid to be­come Sur­rey’s first city…

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