Many of you will be familiar with Farnham’s Wall of Fame outside of the Sainsburys store in South Street. There we celebrate Farnham’s Great Names, but did you know that of the 21 people acknowledged on the wall, one third of them are local sporting heroes. So, what better demonstration than through our own Wall of Fame that sport has played a hugely significant part in our town’s rich culture and heritage. We’d like to tell you a tiny bit about each of them…
- The first one is the legendary Billy Beldham who spent all his life in either Wrecclesham, where he was born in 1776, or Tilford, where he died 96 years later. Silver Billy, as he was known, was listed at number 39 in the Times newspaper’s book, ‘One Hundred Greatest Cricketers’. The author writes ‘For much of his career, Beldham was the finest batsman in England. He was everyone’s first pick’. A picture of him [in his smock] hangs in the Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground today, holding his own with many of the other great players of the game on the adjoining walls.
- The second one is the quite phenomenal amateur sailor, Nick Craig. He was born in Farnham and is a member of the Frensham Pond Sailing Club. In 2011, Nick – ahead of all other British sailors including four-time Olympic champion, Ben Ainslie – was awarded the Pantaenius UK Yachtsman of the Year title. He’s now won an incredible 45 World, European and National titles in his sailing class and he was the 2017 world champion.
- The third one is the motor racing great, Mike Hawthorn. He came to Farnham at two years of age when his father took on the Tourist Trophy Garage and he was a well-known personality in the town for the duration of his short yet action-packed life. Hawthorn won the world renowned 24 Hours Le Mans race in 1955 but he is best remembered for being Britain’s first ever Formula One World Champion in 1958. It’s testament to our town that, throughout the world, he was known as the ‘Farnham Flyer’.
- The fourth one is the champion high jumper Barbara Inkpen who was born in Farnham and was a member of the Aldershot, Farnham and District Athletic Club. Amongst her considerable achievements she represented Great Britain in the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games but is best remembered for winning the gold medal at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand.
- The fifth one is the inspirational Paralympian Rachel Morris who lives in Farnham and lost both her legs when she was younger but it hasn’t deterred her from achieving great things. She won the gold medal at hand-cycling at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, and at the London 2012 Games she won a bronze medal. She then changed sports, to rowing, and she not only qualified in her category for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games but she won the individual rowing gold medal.
- The sixth one is the outstanding Surrey and England cricketer, Graham Thorpe. Born in Farnham, he has spent much of his life in the town or in Surrey, the county for whom he played professional cricket for almost 20 years and became one of the great middle order batsman for both his county and his country. He played a phenomenal 700 matches for Surrey and 82 one-day international matches for England, but he’ll mainly be remembered for making an incredible 100 test match appearances for his country.
- The seventh, and final, sporting star is one of England’s all-time rugby greats, Jonny Wilkinson. He grew up in Farnham and played at youth level for Farnham Rugby Club. He was world rugby’s highest points scorer in history until New Zealand’s Dan Carter surpassed him in 2011. Jonny Wilkinson made 91 appearances for England and six for the British and Irish Lions. Who can forget one of the most famous moments in world rugby when he scored a drop-goal in the last minute of extra time to give England a last-gasp win against Australia in the 2003 World Cup final. Amazing!