The lock that you see is the junction between the Wey Navigation and the Godalming Navigation. Sir Richard Weston (of Sutton Green), empowered by a 1651 act of parliament, set about making the Wey navigable between the Town Wharf at Guildford, and the Thames. By 1653 this work was complete, and commerce flourished.
Over a century later, a 1760 act of parliament paved the way to continue the navigation upstream to Godalming. To allow passage of the Wey Barges, the central arch of the Town Bridge was widened, and the original “golden ford” was dredged. Millmead Lock was built in 1762 to raise barges to the millstream, and then on to Godalming.
Water born cargo included timber, coal, corn, chalk, wool, and gunpowder from the gunpowder mills at Chilworth. Though it flourished for two centuries, the extension of the railway line from Woking to Guildford in 1845 saw the start of the end of commercial usage, with the last commercial cargo in 1969. The navigations were presented to the National Trust by their last owner – Harry Stevens. It must be quite cool to owner a river. And, so, this is why they’re called the Wey and Godalming Navigations – being two abutting works of engineering.
Continue over the second bridge, and walk along the alley that’s formed by the Yvonne Arnaud theatre (on your left) and some brick-built buildings on your right – arriving at the front of the theatre.