The Society arose out of the Woking Art Club, formed in the 1920s, dissolved during WW2 but reformed in 1943. Among the founder members was Molly Brett (1912-1990) who was notable for her fairy illustrations in childrens' weekly papers and annuals, including various illustrations of books by Enid Blyton. Her work has been produced as childrens' book illustrations. She also wrote several children's books and featured in many radio and television programmes. Another was Marjorie Best whose superb watercolours of flowers were collected widely before her death in the early 90's when she herself was 90. Portrait artist Morse Brown was president in 1959 and was acclaimed for his commissioned portrait of Sir Hopkins Morris, Deputy Speaker at the House of Commons.
In the early days, as now, the Society struggled to find a venue for their annual exhibition. The first was held in the Woking Gas Showrooms and attracted an attendance of 500 people with the prize winning entry, Miss Allen's "A Surrey Farm" later exhibited at Burlington House by the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. Sometimes near-derelict buildings were brought into use for the two weeks duration of the exhibition. In 1949, when the exhibition was opened by Sir Peter Scott, the YMCA was used, coincidentally an exhibitor was Keith Shackelton (decendant of the famous polar explorer). In 1953 the then Chairman of Woking Council, Robert Beldam, said the WSA should have permanent and proper exhibition facilities. There was considerable lobbying in the local press and the Council undertook to pursue the matter. The 1959 Chairman of the Council, Stanley Higgins, proposed that an art gallery be incorporated in the new Civic Centre. We are still waiting! In spite of the lack of a permanent home I am amazed to read of the attendance numbers, in 1973 around 700 catalogues were sold and sales were high.
From 1987 the Society was very fortunate in being able to hold their annual exhibition in the entrance hall of the Phillips Petroleum Building but in 1996 Phillips had to increase their security arrangements and this was no longer possible. During this period David Shepherd OBE was patron of the Society and it enjoyed a high profile, many prominent people attended the exhibitions and thousands of pounds were raised for charities supported by the Mayor. From that time until 2010 our indoor exhibitions were held in the Trinity Methodist Church Hall and outdoor exhibitions have been held under cover in Mercia Walk but for only one or two days at most instead of the one or two weeks duration in the past.
Since October 2010 The Society has been extremely pleased to be able to hold exhibitions at the Lightbox, Woking's premier venue for the Arts. There are two annual indoor exhibitions held in April and October or each year.
The high standard of work produced by members is reflected in their acceptance by such bodies as the Society of Women Artists (Liz Seward, Rosemary de Goede, Christine Taherian and Sera Knight) and John Bunce is a member of both the Society of Limners and the Hilliard Society. Ron Buchanan has had his work displayed in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. A number of members have taken part in the Surrey Artists Open Studios events including Fran Bunting, Ros O'Connor, Carol Taylor, June and Richard Storey, David Drury, Elisabeth Carolan, Jo Quigley, Sarah Walker, Pat Clarke, Basil Slyfield, Kim Page, Liz Seward, Sera Knight, Rosemarie de Goede, John Bunce, Bryan Siggers, and the sculptor, Malcolm West.
The current Patron of the Society is Rhod Lofting DL and membership numbers around 200 consisting of both full members and associate members.