A pub near Farnham named after the donkeys it has historically kept in its garden it to close permanently in March – and as the above photo below shows, its steep bank has certainly made an ass of a few road users over the years...

The Donkey pub at Charles Hill, between Elstead and Farnham, was converted from two small cottages into a public house in 1850 by Farnham United Breweries.

Originally called The Half-way House, it soon gained the nickname of ‘The Donkey’, as before the days of motor traffic, donkeys were kept tethered outside the inn to help the horses and carts up the hill. In 1947 the name was officially changed.

The sandy soil in and around the Elstead area led to carrots being farmed and becoming an important crop. The Elstead Carrot Diggers were famed for the speed at which they worked, and made their deliveries on a donkey drawn cart. How much of the crop the donkeys ate is not known!

Eventually, powered transport would begin to replace the humble donkeys – but not without incident.

This photograph was taken by J Moorcroft of Charles Hill in about 1906 and shows a scene looking down from the road at Charles Hill into the car park of the then- Half-way House pub.

The scene outside the then Half-way House pub after a steam engine crash in 1906
The scene outside the then Half-way House pub after a steam engine crash in 1906 (J Moorcroft)

The story goes that a threshing set, consisting of threshing drum and elevator presumably hauled by a steam engine suffered brake failure when coming down the steep hill.

The vehicles crashed through the roadside fence and plunged down the bank coming to rest virtually against the wall of the inn. 

Whether this view shows the aftermath of the crash itself or the recovery operation I am unsure. 

A good crowd has gathered to witness this, fortunately rare, event. If this shows the engine that was pulling the set, then the crew were very fortunate to keep the vehicle upright throughout.

They also look remarkably calm if the mishap had just happened to them!