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Bisley, Surrey


St John the Baptist Church

Bisley Camp
Bisley is located in Surrey
 Bisley shown within Surrey
Area  3.66 km2 (1.41 sq mi)
Population 3,965 (Civil Parish)[1]
   – density  1,083/km2 (2,800/sq mi)
OS grid reference
Civil parish Bisley
District Surrey Heath
Shire county Surrey
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Woking
Postcode district GU24
Dialling code 01483
Police Surrey
Fire Surrey
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Surrey Heath
List of places

Bisley is a village and civil parish in the borough of Surrey Heath in Surrey, England. It is located around three and a half miles west of Woking and just south of West End. According to the 2011 Census, the population of the parish was 3,965.

Much of the west of the parish is covered by higher acidic heath, which is owned and used or leased by the Ministry of Defence and is noted for its rifle shooting ranges. The National Shooting Centre, the headquarters of the National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom, is nearby. Other landmarks include Coldingley men's prison and the factory of Bisley Office Furniture, one of the largest office furniture manufacturers in Europe.


  • History 1
  • Economy 2
    • Bisley Office Furniture 2.1
    • Coldingley Prison 2.2
  • Amenities 3
    • School 3.1
    • Playing field 3.2
    • National Shooting Centre 3.3
  • Sport 4
  • Demography and housing 5
  • Further reading 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The name 'Bisley' was first recorded in the 10th century as 'Busseleghe' when its most powerful men would have met strategically at Chertsey as part of Godley Hundred. It is derived from the old English words 'Bysc', meaning bushes, and 'Leah', a clearing. Therefore, it means the 'clearing where bushes grow'.[2] The versions recorded in the 13th century were Busheley and Bussley, from such Westminster and Lambeth Palace rolls as the Assize Rolls.[3]

In medieval times, the village continued to be the southern holding of the Chertsey Abbey estate. The late 12th century church (much of its nave), St John the Baptist, was invested as a proper church in the village by the Abbey monks in the 15th century, who built its mixed brick and timber chancel, since replaced.[3] The church features a medieval bell and a 15th-century porch which is said to have been built from a single oak tree. A nearby spring was once known as the 'Holy Well of St John the Baptist', and was said to have medicinal powers. Its waters were used for local baptisms until the early 20th century.[4] The building is Grade II* listed.[5]

The late Tudor period Royal grant (having seized the lands from the Dissolution of the Monasteries to Sir Edward Zouch included the manors of Woking, Chobham, and Bagshot. Henceforth the descent of Bisley was identical to the other two, and all were by 1911 in the possession of the Earl of Onslow, heirs to many of the lands of the original Earldom of Surrey and Arundel.[3]

Actor Barry Evans attended Bisley boys' school which was an orphanage run by The Shaftesbury Homes.[6]


Bisley Office Furniture

The factory and offices of Bisley Office Furniture, the largest manufacturer of office furniture in the UK and one of the largest in the European Union, was a local landmark and major employer in the village for over 70 years.

Bisley Office Furniture was founded in 1931 by Freddy Brown, a tradesman sheet metal worker, who started his one-man business repairing damaged cars in a garage in St John's, Woking, Surrey. In 1941 the company moved to its Queen's Road site, near Snowdrop Way, when a 400 square metre manufacturing facility was built and various wartime defence contracts were undertaken. It was responsible for designing and manufacturing the first containers to be dropped by parachute, which were widely used by airborne forces throughout the war.

During its tenure in the village, Bisley went from strength to strength and achieved a unique status in the office furniture industry by being granted two prestigious Queen's Award for Export Achievement, in 1992 and 1997.

In 2012 the decision was made to consolidate all manufacturing on a single 60,000 square metres site in Newport, South Wales and the Queen's Road property sold for redevelopment. The last staff vacated the site in July 2015 and moved to offices in nearby Bagshot.

Coldingley Prison

Coldingley Prison – a Category C prison – is also in Bisley, and a number of the local estates were originally built to house prison officers.



Bisley is also home to Bisley C of E Primary School. This school is situated in the centre of the village and its logo is a frog. It was described as delivering a good education to students in its recent Ofsted report.[7]

Playing field

In the latter half of the 20th century the Flowers estate of homes was built, named after flowers of each letter of the alphabet, which adjoins the village's largest playing field. The village's football club is the academy and training part of Farnborough Town F.C.

National Shooting Centre

In 1890, the village became the location for the NRA Imperial Meeting (the Association's National Championship), which moved there from Wimbledon. The competition is hosted on the ranges at Bisley Camp having outgrown the Wimbledon Common ranges which had previously been used. The NRA of the UK also moved its headquarters from London to Bisley Camp.[8] Bisley hosted most of the shooting events in the 1908 Olympic Games, and all the shooting for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.[9] During the 2012 Olympic Games the shooting was held at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich.

As well as the rifle ranges, there are two clay target shooting complexes; The National Clay Shooting Centre, which caters for 'trap' disciplines such as Skeet and DTL, and Bisley Shooting Grounds, which caters for 'sporting', or simulated game shooting. Bisley is famous within shooting circles and has a long history. Some of the buildings within the grounds are from the Victorian era, having been transported there in the re-location from Wimbledon Common. The camp also once had its own railway branch line which ran from nearby Brookwood station, and was known as the 'Bisley Bullet'.

In 1894 Colt, the US firearms manufacturer, introduced and sold the Bisley Model of its famous Single Action Army revolver specifically designed for target shooting. This revolver featured a longer grip, a wider hammer spur, a wider trigger and adjustable sights. It was offered in a variety of calibres including .32–20, .38–40, .45 Colt, .44-40.[10]

It is also the location of The Operational Shooting Competition, in which members of the British army compete for the coveted Queen's Medal for Shooting Excellence.


Bisley is home to Bisley All Stars FC, who are currently a Sunday League club playing in the Surrey & Hants Border League Division 3. They play their home matches at Bisley Recreation Ground

At the Lord Roberts Centre indoors is a purpose-built Inline Hockey Rink which is used for league and national events by BiSHA and BiPHA.

Demography and housing

2011 Census Homes
Output area Detached Semi-detached Terraced Flats and apartments Caravans/temporary/mobile homes shared between households[1]
(Civil Parish) 676 343 201 89 1 0

The average level of accommodation in the region composed of detached houses was 28%, the average that was apartments was 22.6%.

2011 Census Key Statistics
Output area Population Households % Owned outright % Owned with a loan hectares[1]
(Civil Parish) 3,965 1,310 36.3% 51.7% 366

The proportion of households in the civil parish who owned their home outright compares to the regional average of 35.1%. The proportion who owned their home with a loan compares to the regional average of 32.5%. The remaining % is made up of rented dwellings (plus a negligible % of households living rent-free).

Further reading

  • Rosemary F. Cooper St. John the Baptist Church, Bisley: A Guide and Short History


  1. ^ a b c Key Statistics; Quick Statistics: Population Density United Kingdom Census 2011 Office for National Statistics Retrieved 21 November 2013
  2. ^ History
  3. ^ a b c H.E. Malden (editor) (1911). "Parishes: Bisley". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Barbara Aitken, "Holy Wells in Surrey" Folklore 64.2 (June 1953), p. 350.
  5. ^ St John the Baptist, Bisley – Grade II* –  
  6. ^ Barry Evans
  7. ^ Ofsted for Bisley Primary
  8. ^ NRA Official History
  9. ^ 1908 Summer Olympics official report. p. 254.
  10. ^ Model Guns

External links

  • Bisley 'Parishes: Bisley', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3 (1911), pp. 398–399.
  • The National Shooting Centre at Bisley
  • Old pictures
  • Bisley church
  • Stained Glass Windows at St. John the Baptist, Bisley, Surrey
  • Bisley All Stars FC Website
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