encofexp.jpg (6015 bytes)Ray photo 2012.jpg (689243 bytes) Ray Howgego (Raymond John Howgego, born London, 1946) is an independent traveller, writer and researcher whose interests have taken him to many parts of the world, often following in the explorers' footsteps and seeking out local sources of information. He has travelled in nearly every country between the UK and China, and in the Middle East, the Central Asian republics, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, East and West Africa, South America (from Amazonia to Cape Horn), Iceland and various oceanic islands. He is author of the Encyclopedia of Exploration  (Hordern House, Sydney, 2003-2013), now a standard reference source in libraries and collections throughout the world. The five volumes, which together include over 5157 articles in 4232 pages (some 4.2 million words), have been cited as comprising the longest regularly published book in the English language to have been written by a single author unaided. The fifth and final volume, dealing specifically with apocryphal, invented, imaginary and plagiarized narratives of travel, was published by Hordern House in 2013. These books are no longer held in print by the publisher, but new unused copies are still available from a variety of sources. For further information please go to www.explorersencyclopedia.com



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Ray's The Book of Exploration, a more modestly priced, lavishly illustrated popular history of exploration, was published simultaneously in August 2009 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson (Orion Books) in the UK and Bloomsbury (Walker Publishing) in the USA, and is available from online booksellers and local bookstores throughout the world. A German translation was issued by Primus Verlag in September 2010. In addition, Ray has written the only book-length biography of the prolific lady traveller Gertrude Benham. Entitled A very quiet and harmless traveller: Gertrude Emily Benham 1867-1938, it was published by the Plymouth Museum in July 2009 and is available from the museum's bookshop. Ray's latest book, which further explores the subject of imaginary geography, is an historical study of Atlantic vigias, i.e. islands, rocks, shoals and other dangers to ships that appeared on official charts in the mid-Atlantic but had no real existence. Titled The Historical Encyclopedia of Atlantic Nautical Hazards, the book was published by IB Tauris in 2015.



vigiabk.jpg (8021 bytes)Ray was Consultant Editor for the Illustrated Atlas of Exploration, published by Weldon Owen in 2011 and syndicated elsewhere. He has also contributed a number of articles on 'missing explorers' to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; he has written book reviews for the International Journal of Maritime History; and he has been a consultant to the National Geographic magazine, and to several TV documentaries, including the VPRO film series O'Hanlon's Heroes (2012) and the series Raiders of the Lost Past screened by the Yesterday channel (UK) in 2013. He contributed an article on shipwreck to the program for the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of The Tempest. Ray is fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and an officer of the Hakluyt Society. He writes and maintains the Hakluyt Society's website and edits the the online Journal of the Hakluyt Society. He has worked as series editor for the society's publication of The Journal of William Broughton in the North Pacific, and in 2010 he delivered the Hakluyt Society Annual Lecture at the RGS on the subject of imaginary voyages, printed copies of which are available from the Society.

More recently, Ray's interests have turned towards local history. He is a council member of the Bourne Society, whose website he designs and maintains, and he is on the management committee of the East Surrey Museum whose website he also writes. Ray regularly attends Sunday services at the Caterham United Reformed Church, where he is a serving elder and a member of several church committees. He can often be seen working in the church garden, or found serving tea and coffee after the Sunday service. He also maintains the church's website.

In the field of local history Ray has recently written three books. The first is an illustrated History of Harestone Valley, Caterham which was published by the Bourne Society in November 2015; the second is a 60-page illustrated History of East Surrey Museum, which was published in August 2017; and the third is an Early History of the Congregational Church in Caterham, Surrey. Details of all three publications are given below. Ray also put together an exhibition of old maps and photographs for the East Surrey Museum illustrating the history of Harestone Valley over the past two centuries.

Biographical notes

Ray Howgego was born in East Ham, London, and raised in East Ham and Wanstead, Essex. He was educated at East Ham Grammar School for Boys and at Nottingham University, where he took an honours degree in physics (1968) and qualified as a teacher (1969). In his youth he travelled widely in Europe on both sides of the Iron Curtain, later extending his travels to more remote parts of the earth. He taught for many years at Caterham School, Surrey, and served for twelve years as a captain in the Territorial Army (Queens Regiment), specialising in navigation, radio communication and personal survival. With a particular interest in communications, he was the inventor of a number of original radio and television receiver and transmitter circuits, details of which were published in Practical Wireless, Short Wave Magazine, Television, and Radio Communication. He also designed an early computer aided drawing program (known as Veqtron) for electronic engineers, and he was one of the earliest users of the internet in the UK. He retired from teaching in 1997 to pursue a full-time career as a traveller and writer. Ray has two children and one grandson and currently lives with his wife Pat in Harestone Valley, Caterham, Surrey. His numerous hobbies include collecting recordings of British classical music, amateur radio (as G4DTC), gardening, the renovation of antique electronic equipment, and the repair and maintenance of amplifiers and other stage equipment. Email address: ray@howgego.co.uk

harestonebook.jpg (175254 bytes)The History of Harestone Valley, Caterham, Surrey.

This A5-size book has 70 pages illustrated with 35 old photographs and eight map reproductions. The area covered includes Harestone Valley Road, Loxford Road, Colburn Avenue, Harestone Hill, Harestone Lane, Weald Way and Woodland Way. The text is based on a painstaking search of the archives and includes much information not easily found elsewhere. In addition, the author has taken care not to repeat information found in other local history publications.

The book, which costs a mere £5, is most easily obtained from the East Surrey Museum, which is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Alternatively it may be ordered by post from the Bourne Society (see their website for details) or at Bourne Society stalls at various functions throughout the year. Of the 250 copies printed, only around 30 remain unsold.

Publisher: The Bourne Society
Date: November 2015
ISBN: 978-0-900992-76-6

Cover picture: A rare colour photograph of Harestone Valley in 1908 as seen from the balcony of the United Reformed Church tower.

The History of East Surrey Museum

In this attractively presented 60-page book, Ray Howgego traces year by year the evolution of the museum from the Bourne Society pioneers of the 1970s, through the museum's foundation in 1980, right up to the present day. The author draws on the many thousands of pages of primary documents in the archives of the museum, augmented and enriched with personal reminiscences, to provide an accurate and  readable account of the struggle to gain public and official support, the eternal battle for funding, and the extraordinary dedication of curators, volunteers and friends who gave up so much of their time to ensuring the museum's permanence and development.

Every exhibition ever mounted by the museum receives a mention, while an opening chapter relates the story of the house and its occupants before the building's conversion. Being centred on the museum and those who created and maintained it, many of whom were prominent in the community and had affiliations elsewhere, the book is an important addition to the literature of East Surrey and is essential reading for museum friends and all who are interested in local history.

Copies of the book are available in the museum at a price of £5 each, all profits going to the museum. If you are unable to call at the museum you may order the book by post by sending us a cheque for £6.50, payable to 'East Surrey Museum', and enclosing your name and address.


The Early History of the Congregational Church in Caterham, Surrey 1863-1923

This 54-page book traces the early history of the Caterham Valley Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church) throughout its early years, together with other local chapels in Whyteleafe, Caterham-on-the-Hill, Bletchingley, South Godstone and Warwick Wold. The copiously illustrated text, researched from primary documents in the Surrey History Centre, the author's collection, and elsewhere, corrects many of the errors of previous publications. An Appendix includes an illustrated account of the destruction caused to the church by German incendiary bombs in 1944.

The book was privately printed by the author, and most copies were circulated free of charge to families registered as members of the Caterham Valley United Reformed Church. A reference copy may be found in the display cabinet in the vestibule of the church.

Copies were also deposited in local libraries, and for sale in the East Surrey Museum at a cost of 3, all profits going to the museum.

A few copies remain available (as at October 2019) for purchase from the author.


The rest of this website is nothing more than a repository of occasional articles, mostly biographical, placed there for the benefit of all who would like to read them:

John Thomas Baines
Gertrude Benham
Richard Francis Burton
John Hanning Speke & James Augustus Grant
Edmund Smyth
Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges. A definitive biography
Countess Malmignati