The Huxleys

All of us who have been to Prior’s Field owe him a deep debt of gratitude, both for the garden, nearly all of which he and Mrs Huxley planned and planted, and which has been so important as a background to our life here always.

Beatrice Burton-Brown, remembering Leonard Huxley

The Huxleys and Prior’s Field 

Julia Arnold met Leonard Huxley when they were both studying at Oxford in the 1880s. Julia and Leonard married in 1885 and moved to Godalming where Leonard had been appointed a junior classics master at Charterhouse.

The Huxley’s marriage brought together two of the most pre-eminent intellectual families of late Victorian England. The Arnolds and the Huxleys were numbered amongst and elite group of thinkers and scientists at the forefront of discovery and philosophy.

The founder of the Huxley dynasty was the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley who defended the theory of evolution published in The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859. T H Huxley had little formal education and taught himself Latin and Greek; he became a distinguished professor and president of the Royal Society. His interests were not limited to science and he was a keen advocate of literature and the arts being taught in schools.

Thomas Henry’s son Leonard was to become a renowned editor and literary journalist after many years of teaching. As a school master at Charterhouse he was noted as a “kindly and sympathetic man” unlike many of his contemporaries. At Prior’s Field, Leonard and Julia created a home as well as a school and Leonard was well known to the staff and girls. After Julia’s untimely death he retained his connection with the school for the rest of his life.

Julian and Aldous Huxley

Julian and Leonard Huxley’s children grew up in a home where thought about science, religion and education informed family life. Two of their sons were to become world famous. Sir Julian Huxley was a scientist, Director of UNESCO and founding member of the World Wildlife Fund. Aldous Huxley was famed as a writer, philosopher and novelist. Aldous wrote numerous novels, plays, short stories and poems. His dystopian novel Brave New World includes many references to the Godalming area of Surrey where he grew up.