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Woking is a town that shares its name with the surrounding local government district, located in the northwest of Surrey. Woking town has a population of 62,796. Woking's earliest written appearance is in the Domesday book and mentioned as the site of a 8th-Century monastery. The Hoe Valley Scheme was a housing project to relocate Woking homes away from the flood plain of the Hoe stream. The Woking borough council had planned this scheme for 20 years. Woking is home to an arts & heritage centre at The Lightbox. The Lightbox contains many hands hanging from the ceiling, a brief history of Woking and many other exhibitions.
Though Woking's earliest written appearance is in the Domesday Book, it is mentioned as the site of a monastery in an 8th-century context, as Wochingas. In the Domesday Book it appears as Wochinges, being held in 1086 by King William the Conqueror, Walter FitzOther, Constable of Windsor Castle, and Ansgot and Godfrey from Osbern FitzOsbern, then bishop of Exeter.
Modern Woking was formed in the area to the south of the Basingstoke Canal (opened in 1794) around the railway station, built in 1838 at the junction between the lines to London, the south coast, and the south-west of England, and the private railway to Brookwood Cemetery, which was developed by the London Necropolis Company as an overflow burial-ground for London's dead. As a result, the original settlement 1 mile to the south-east, on the River Wey, became known as "Old Woking". Later, Woking Crematorium at St John's became the first crematorium in the United Kingdom.
Shah Jahan Mosque, the oldest in England
The first purpose-built mosque in the UK, the Shah Jahan Mosque on Oriental Road, was commissioned by Shahjehan, Begum of Bhopal (1868–1901), one of the four female Muslim rulers of Bhopal who reigned between 1819 and 1926.
The Martinsyde aircraft company operated a major aircraft factory in the town during World War I and used nearby Brooklands Aerodrome for test flying and deliveries, but it was closed in the mid-1920s. This site was then the home of the engineering firm James Walker & Company for many years. Known as 'The Lion Works', this area was finally redeveloped in the 1990s into today's Lion Retail Park. This was a £40 million project to take hundreds of Woking homes away from the flood plain of the Hoe Stream. It has also provided new community facilities and roads. Woking Borough Council had been planning this scheme, which was approved in September 2010, for over 20 years. It was being run in conjunction with the Environment Agency. The Council has received finance from: the Public Works Loan Board; a number of grants, including £3.7 million from the Environment Agency; proceeds from the sale of new homes and of other assets. The Council expects the scheme to be fully funded by 2014 with no ongoing costs incurred by the Council. The scheme was completed on schedule in 2012. The constituency of Woking has historically been a Conservative safe seat, with the Liberal Democrats being the principal opposition in the last five general elections. Its current Member of Parliament is Jonathan Lord.
Elections to the borough council take place in three out of every four years, with one-third elected in each election. The election in 2011 gave the Conservatives an overall majority of seats for the first time in 20 years.
The current Mayor of the borough is councillor Cllr Graham Cubdy. In 2010 the council elected councillor Mohammed Iqbal as the first Asian Mayor of Woking
Woking postal area has several villages, including: Knaphill, Horsell, Hook Heath, Mount Hermon, Barnsbury, Maybury, Sheerwater, Goldsworth Park, St John's, Pyrford, Kingfield, Westfield and Ridgway, some being contiguous which can be described now as suburbs. Further villages are: Old Woking traditionally a separate village with its own large conservation area verging towards the Wey, Mayford; Bisley and Sutton Green to the south nearer the border between Woking and Guildford and West Byfleet to the east is a post town with Byfleet and adjoins to the north-east. The Barnsbury Estate is a housing estate of approximately 400 households. Begun in 1936, it is a self-contained estate of bungalows, housing and flats mostly built in the 1950s along with several small shops. Barnsbury is bordered by the Hoe Valley south of Woking straddling the A320.
As part of Woking's proposed Priority Homes PFI submission, back gardens of a significant number of houses were at risk of development. From January to September 2007 this resulted in an extensive community engagement to see if and how these back gardens could be used for development. The scheme was eventually cancelled.
Barnsbury also has a primary school. Most of Barnsbury's students now attend the newly built Hoe Valley School for their secondary education.
In the 1800s the London Necropolis Company acquired land here on a prospective basis but built Brookwood Cemetery instead; no suitable agent of could be found to oversee the sale of the third portion of excess land at Hook Heath and as a consequence Cyril Tubbs ensured its retention and oversaw its development himself. The London Necropolis society decided to take action. Over the 1890s the site was subdivided into plots for large detached houses, and a golf course was built to attract residents and visitors. The LNC redeveloped its lands at Hook Heath into housing and a golf course, creating a new suburb of Woking and providing a steady income from rentals. Woking, along with the majority of the British Isles experiences a maritime climate, characterised by cool summers and mild winters. The nearest weather station for which data is readily available is Wisley, approximately 6 km east of Woking. Temperature extremes recorded in the area range from 37.8 °C (100.0 °F) during August 2003 down to −15.1 °C (4.8 °F) during January 1982. The weather station also held the UK July record high of 36.5 °C (97.7 °F) from 2006 until 2015. Woking has a modern and successful economy. The local working population is characterised by educational attainment levels well above the UK average. The number of jobs in the borough in the managerial, professional and technical sectors is around 50%, 7% above the UK average. Local Employment is largely in the private sector - Woking is one of the districts in the UK least reliant on Public Sector employment.
The largest employer in Woking is the McLaren Group. The group is responsible for both McLaren Racing, which fields the McLaren Formula One racing cars (currently driven by Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris); and McLaren Automotive, builder of the classic McLaren F1 and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren supercars, and now manufacturing the McLaren P1, McLaren 650S and McLaren 12C high-performance sports cars. During 2010 and 2011 the McLaren technology centre received a £50million extension, which was opened by David Cameron.
Companies with global headquarters in Woking include chemical and assembly materials company Alent plc and Ambassador Theatre Group, a major international theatre organisation. Until it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev with its corporate HQ in Leuven, Belgium, the corporate HQ of multi-national SABMiller was in Woking. The office was still open in early 2017, and would remain open for a transitional period, but is expected to be closed afterwards.
Woking railway station is one of the busiest commuter stations in the London commuter belt, and Woking's position along the M25 motorway facilitates commuting both into London and throughout the Home Counties.
There is a large concentration of office accommodation in Woking town centre. Employers from the IT, FMCG, Engineering Services and Charities sectors are particularly well represented and provide a large number of highly skilled jobs. Significant local employers include Fidessa, Capgemini, Petrofac, John Wood, SABMiller and WWF UK.