Impressions of Oxted...

PUBLISHED: 17:10 05 October 2010 | UPDATED: 15:47 20 February 2013

Impressions of Oxted

Impressions of Oxted

Take a journey back through time, as Surrey Life's CEIRI O'DRISCOLL visits the streets of Oxted and discovers an attractive, bustling town with a comforting nod to the past

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2009

Take a journey back through time, as Surrey Life's CEIRI O'DRISCOLL visits the streets of Oxted and discovers an attractive, bustling town with a comforting nod to the past

The A25 is a minor wonder of the 20th century, a paean to speed and convenience. Finding Oxted by turning off this frenetic road is doubly a joy - the pretty village could not be more at odds with the route that takes you there.

Entering Oxted, the lush green lawn of Master Park opens up to the left. Across the grass, over sparse wintry trees, the huge square turret of St Mary's Church stands out against the horizon. It looks like a castle, surrounded by rolling fields.

A noticeboard on the edge of the park advertises the Barn Theatre, the Oxted and District History Society and an Astanga yoga class; a harmonious mixture of contemporary and classic, indicative of the village.

Station Road West takes you to Oxted train station, with Station Road East leading away on the other side. This is the 'new' part of Oxted, springing up once the station opened in 1884. The small, terraced shops and restaurants are adorned with the black and white beams of Tudor-style architecture. The turret can still be seen from the pavement, giving me the pleasing feeling of travelling back in time.

This feeling lingers as I take in the businesses along the road. The first is the Stamp Shop, with its window display of antique collections. Next door, however, is an electrical shop: washing machines and food mixers.

Most shops here are independently owned, full of character - and characters. The Oxted Linen Company sits next to Carlos, the hairdresser's. Up Tempo fills its window with spiky electric guitars; someone beats enthusiastically on a drum in the back of the shop. That beautiful Tudor wood effect sits on each like a school uniform - never diminishing the personality of its wearer, but proudly identifying each one as part of a bigger whole.

A bit further on, The Secondhand Bookshop has baskets of books on the pavement outside. Thrillers and romances lure me in. Matthew Foster has worked at the shop for 15 years. "I have always lived in Oxted," he says. "It hasn't changed a great deal over time."

Roger Mines is a regular at the store, travelling from Kent especially. "Oxted is a lovely place to come to," he tells me. "I always have interesting chats with the people in this shop. My wife and I recently saw a ballet at the Barn Theatre, too, which was wonderful - we had a lovely evening."

I buy an F Scott Fitzgerald hardback for 1 and return to the street.

A town of two halves

The Screen is Oxted's cinema, belonging to the independent Everyman group. It offers a more sophisticated experience than its larger, noisier cousins - namely, with a glass of wine in your hand.

Passing on a film or a glass of wine today, I hop back in the car for the next phase of my Oxted tour. It's the end of school and the streets are full of parents and their progeny and the traffic moves at a snail's pace, the perfect speed for sightseeing.

Bluehouse Lane is a spacious, affluent residential street, albeit one with a school on it, rendering it a no-go area during mid-afternoon for anyone in a hurry. As well as educating the local young minds, it caters to the cultural tastes of all inhabitants, hosting the Barn Theatre, the village's much-loved playhouse. Driving around a sharp corner brings me to the base of St Mary's, the spectacular church so often visible from vantage points around the village.

The bustle of home-time follows me to the end of the road, where I enter the competitive sport of rejoining the A25. I dip my toe into the aggression of the national speed limit before immediately swinging back off again on to the High Street, or Old Oxted, a small, winding lane intersecting the main road.

Local folklore has it that a 15th century mayor felt pubs lowered the tone of the town and sent them all packing - and so the four that were there upped sticks and moved just down the road.

The Wheatsheaf is the first, on the corner of the High Street, a small pub with muted lighting from frosted glass lampshades and a purportedly haunted skittles alley out the back. From there, the narrow road meanders uphill to where the George Inn stands, a big, rustic looking pub with heavy wooden furniture and fat, white candles burning on each table. The Crown Inn, a poky traditional pub with well-worn heavily patterned carpets, is slightly further up again, all within five minutes wander of one another. Pretty, cottage-style houses intersperse the pubs, as well as The Old Light Shop. Lastly, The Old Bell, a huge, comfortable pub with a multitude of corners and nooks to ensconce oneself in.

From here, the end of the High Street is visible, leading once more to the ever-present A25, and back firmly into 2009!

  • Images supplied by Stella Scordellis of SMS Creative Photography, 83 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0AX: 01883 722282. For more of Stella's work, see

A treasured landmark of Oxted, The Screen cinema celebrated its 80th birthday in October 2009.

The historic mock Tudor cinema, originally called Oxted Plaza, opened in 1929, and ever since opening, the owners have created not only a lovely place to watch films, but also an original and enjoyable movie-going experience.

Mainline Pictures then took over in 2002, and had a grand opening of the newly refurbished cinema. They gave the cinema its new, present name - The Screen.

At the grand opening, Dame Judi Dench was a guest, and many celebrities have walked through The Screen's doors over the years. Famous songwriter Richard Stilgoe has visited, as well as Davina McCall, and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson.

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