Horsell Common is a peaceful green space on the outskirts of the Surrey town of Woking. Much of the forest in the Common orbits the central sandpit, which for centuries was used for sand and gravel extraction. The sandpit is now popular with those wishing to picture themselves on sunny sandy beaches much closer to home. It was in this tranquil space, however, that in the last years of the 19th century another visitor wishing for a change of scene arrived.
“…not far from the sand-pits. An enormous hole had been made by the impact of the projectile, and the sand and gravel had been flung violently in every direction over the heath, forming heaps visible a mile and a half away. The heather was on fire eastward, and a thin blue smoke rose against the dawn.” In H.G. Wells’s 1897 novel The War of the Worlds, it was in the sandpit of Horsell Common that the first Cylinder landed, from which a Martian appeared.
H.G. Wells’s choice of landing site for the martian spacecraft is only one and a half miles from 141 Maybury Road, the house where Wells lived while he was writing the novel, as well as another of his famous stories, The Invisible Man. The local literary landmarks of the Horsell Common Sandpit and Wells’s house, alongside the town center’s statue of Wells and its towering Tripod, have made Woking a key destination for many a sci-fi sightseer.