Stories 1 – The War of the Worlds

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These extracts come from the War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. Set in real locations in and around Woking and London Ordnance Survey and other maps are used to show the locations of parts of the book.

‘No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world. It must be…older than our world; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its course…Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that it is not only more distant from life’s beginning but nearer its end…’

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The journeys of the inner planets around the Sun, taken from The Solar System, A1 (38)

‘That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet…’

‘Then came the night of the first falling star…By very early in the morning poor Ogilvy, who had seen the shooting star, and who was persuaded that a meteorite lay somewhere on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and Woking…’

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The 6″ sheet, Surrey XVI N.W., by the Ordnance Survey, dated 1920. This is the western part of Horsell Common.  The map is sufficiently detailed to show the different types of trees planted. The pine-woods into which the second cylinder fell would be similar to Coxhill Green.

‘A few seconds after midnight a crowd in the Chertsey road, Woking, saw a star fall from heaven into the pine-woods to the north-west. It had a greenish colour and caused a silent brightness like summer lightning. This was the second cylinder’.

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The eastern half of Horsell Common, from Surrey XVII N.W., dated 1920. On this map places in the text; the Chertsey Road leading north out of Woking, the Common itself and the Oriental College can be seen.

‘About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the summer-house …I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately after a gust of firing. Close on the heels of that came a violent, rattling crash quite close to us, that shook the ground; and, starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about the Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the little church beside it slide down into ruin. The pinnacle of the mosque had vanished, and the roofline of the college itself looked as if a hundred-ton gun had worked upon it. One of our chimneys cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came clattering down the tiles…my wife and I stood amazed. Then I realized that the crest of Maybury Hill must be within range of the Martians’ Heat-Ray now the college was cleared out of the way’.

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The Oriental College, with mosque and church with Maybury to the south, from sheet Surrey XVII.5 of the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 County Series, 1914.

These extracts come from the War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. First published in 1898 after appearing in magazine form a year earlier it is generally regarded as one of the first books of alien invasion.

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The title and first pages from the first edition of the book, published in 1898 by William Heinmann, Walpole e.746.

War of the Worlds was first published in serial form in Pearson’s magazine in 1897

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Pearson’s Magazine, 1897. Per 2705 d.69