Situated just 4 miles east of Guildford; Surrey, Silent Pool is a picturesque attraction nestled between woodland and the North Downs Way. It’s the kind of place that you only find out about from a friend or an older & wiser relative (in my case, my Nan), and it is steeped in history that goes back hundreds of years. There’s also a few spooky legends tied to the location, but more about that shortly…
The lake, which is split up into two parts; Silent Pool and Sherbourne Pond, is spring-fed, and sits at the foot of the North Downs. A survey back in 2006 suggested that the southern half of the pool was dug out at the same time as Sherbourne Pond in 1662. As for the other half, it is believed to be prehistoric.
Silent Pool is famous for its rich green / blue colours due to natural filtration of chalk and clay, making it crystal clear to view the algae and weed below. Juxtaposed with the beauty is a rather eerie silence (where the pool gets its moniker). Despite being a mere stones-throw from the nearby A25, you’ll hear no cars, practically no birds – in fact nothing at all except for the trickle of the nearby stream.
There’s a short walk that takes you around the pool and where you can view the colours from different angles. If you can, try and visit on a sunny day, as it brings out the colours even more!
Legends of the Silent Pool
The story goes that there was an orphaned boy (Stephen Langton; the famous 13th century Archbishop of Canterbury) who lived in the nearby hamlet of Friday Street. His father was killed in the crusades and his mother soon afterwards. As young Stephen had a good singing voice, some local monks took him under their protection and educated and cared for him. When his voice broke, Stephen has no further value to the monks, and when he was 18 years old, he went to live with his Aunt in the village of Albury, where he fell in love with his cousin, Alice.
One summer’s evening, whilst the pair were walking in the woods between St Martha’s Chapel and the Silent Pool, the young lovers were seized by a band of thugs led by none other than Prince John; the future King John! Alice was taken away and Stephen was beaten senseless. When he came to, he assumed that Alice was dead and rushed off in despair to devote himself to a life in the church. Alice, meanwhile escaped from John and thinking that Stephen was also dead, became a Nun.
Another tale focuses on a beautiful young woman named Emma, who took to bathing naked in the Silent Pool. Prince John, who had heard of the maiden’s ritual, rode to see her himself. When he arrived, he found Emma hanging from the branch of a tree, dipping in and out of the clear water. Emma, who had seen John and his men arriving, tried to escape by wading deeper into the pool. John pursued on horse until Emma was out of her depth, and she sank beneath the water. Her brother, who had heard her cries of distress, is reported to have tried to rescue her and drowned in the attempt.
Stephen Langton, heard of the tragedy, and by this point knew that Alice was a Nun and would never be his. His hatred for King John made him lead a revolt and subsequently a group of barons to force the King to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.
Emma’s ghost is said to haunt the Silent Pool, with some who have seen a pale figure floating on the surface of the water. Others have heard dying screams and pleas for help. Legend also states that the pool is bottomless in places…
The disappearance of Agatha Christie
In more recent times, the pool was the focus of the unexplained disappearance of author, Agatha Christie, who vanished for 11 days in 1926. On the evening of 3rd December 1926, Christie disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary, stating she was going to Yorkshire. Christie’s car, a Morris Cowley, was later found at Newlands Corner (near the entrance of the Silent Pool), with clothes and an expired driving licence inside. It was at first feared that she had drowned in the Pool, but after an inspection of the pool she was not found.
Her disappearance made national headlines, and even featured on the front page of the New York Times. Despite an extensive manhunt which included over 15,000 volunteers, over 1000 police officers and a number of aeroplanes, Christie wasn’t found until 10 days later. On 14th December 1926, she was found safe at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel (now the Old Swan Hotel) in Harrogate; Yorkshire, registered as Mrs Teresa Neele. Christie alleged that she had no memory of the event and Doctors diagnosed her as suffering from Amnesia.
The Silent Pool was a favourite place that poet Alfred Tennyson used to visit often. It would be fitting to end this article with his thoughts on the pool:
“The splendour and ripply play of light on the stream as it gushes from the chalk over the greensand borrow, the mackerel colours which flit about in the sunshine, and the network of the current on the surface of the pool like crystal smoke”
– Alfred Tennyson
[With thanks to Maureen Brook (Nan) for letting me know about this fantastic location!]
Silent Pool & Sherbourne Pond, Surrey · OS Grid Ref: TQ060485 · Price: £FREE