Since the arrival of the railway, Station Hill has always been a place of commercial activity in Farnham.

One of the businesses that sprung up to provide a service to rail passengers was the Robins Temperance Hotel that can be seen on the left of the photograph featured here.

Temperance hotels were established as part of the Temperance Movement, a social movement that campaigned against the recreational use of alcohol and promoted teetotalism.

The movement was a response to high levels of alcohol consumption and drunkenness that were seen by 19th century social reformers as a cause of social issues such as poverty, child neglect, immorality and economic decline.

Temperance hotels and bars were set up to provide an alternative to the pubs and inns that were often the only meeting place for working people. 

The Robins Temperance Hotel was one of several inter-related businesses founded by entrepreneurial brothers George and Alfred Robins, both carpenters and builders by trade who had relocated to Surrey from their native Dorset.

George was the first to arrive in Farnham. He had a building business with his bricklayer brother-in-law William Foot and in 1875 bought land at Fairfield near the station to develop upmarket housing.  

Alfred followed in 1880, bringing his family plus the entire wheelwrighting and building business he had built up with him.

Robins Hotel in Station Hill, Farnham
Robins Hotel in Station Hill, Farnham (Peeps into the Past)

The two Robins families lived at property fronting on to Station Road where one of their first ventures was to open a sweet shop to make the most of passing trade to and from the station. The Temperance Hotel came later and, like the sweet shop, was run by Alfred’s wife Christian Emma. Alfred, meanwhile, manufactured horse-drawn vehicles in a workshop at the back of the premises.

When the opportunity arose, the brothers bought another, larger, plot of land near the station to develop the Waverley Estate – a move that prompted Alfred to branch out into other connected business opportunities.

He started to supply and transport minerals – flint, gravel and sand – that would be extracted from sites before their development, using his own manufactured tipping carts and this led him into the wider haulage sector and the growth of the Robins haulage fleet.

The development of housing sites brought profits from the sale of plots to third parties and the speculative building and letting of properties and additionally gave rise to the need for a furniture packing, carriage and storage service for the better-off members of society who were buying the houses Alfred and his brother built – and so Robins Removals was born.

Further expansion followed with Alfred’s offspring becoming involved in the running of related ventures. A cab service was developed along with a livery yard and a riding school at Castle View where the horses needed for their businesses were stabled. 

Green Lane Farm and Badshot Lea Farm were leased, leading the Robins family to enter milk production and delivery; and Alfred even started a laundry.   

The Robins name remained a familiar one in Farnham trade for more than 100 years with generations of the family continuing parts of the business before it finally closed in 1996. 

Like the Temperance movement, its time had come and gone.