CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Here are 25 facts about Surrey that you probably didn't know

PUBLISHED: 11:54 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:54 14 August 2018

Sunset over Surrey by Crash Test Mike (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via Text added with

Sunset over Surrey by Crash Test Mike (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via Text added with

Crash Test Mike (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Here, we bring you 25 things we learnt from The Little Book of Surrey that you probably didn’t know about the area – well, there’s certainly a few that caught us out anyway...

1. Originally an area attached to the Kingdom of the Middle Saxons (Middlesex), the name Surrey itself derives from ‘the southern region’.

2. Guildford is named after a ford of golden sand just south of the town – it was dredged in 1760 when the river was deepened to make it navigable for barges up as far as Godalming.

3. The name Godalming itself, meanwhile, comes from the area belonging to ‘Godhelm’s people’. This Godhelm was, according to local legend, a fierce and bloodthirsty English pagan warrior.

4. Originally a collection of houses, inns and shops for the civilian relatives and tradesmen who served the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, Camberley was once named Cambridge Town, after the Duke of Cambridge. Local authorities eventually renamed it, however, after tiring of confusion with the university town.

5. The three most popular street names in Surrey are High Street, Church Road and Station Road.

6. Bagshot Heath was once reputedly the most dangerous place in England – all because of the activities of a particularly cool, violent and careful highwayman called The Golden Farmer who operated there from about 1647 to 1689.

7. Mary Frith (more famously known as Moll Cutpurse), one of the few highwaywomen on record, also robbed on the heaths of north Surrey.

8. In 1540, King Henry VIII annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves. Anne’s family didn’t want her back, so Henry was left with the problem of what to do with her. Then he hit on the idea of making her his ‘sister’ and building Oatlands Palace for her in Weybridge.

9. Farnham's favourite son William Cobbett – the pub he was born in, in 1783, is named in his honour – was sent to prison in 1810 for seditious libel, but continued his political writings and agitations from prison.

10. There has only been one Duke of Surrey, Thomas Holland, who lived in the 1300s, and he came to such a sticky end that nobody seems to have wanted to follow him in the title.

11. In 1635, Sir Richard Weston had the idea of making the River Wey navigable to large barges. Weston had spent much of his youth in the Netherlands, so when he inherited the family estates near Guildford, it was only natural that he should think of Dutch methods to improve his income.

12. Outwood Windmill is the oldest working windmill in England. It was built in 1665 by Thomas Budgen and was followed, in 1796, by a much larger smock mill next door, which collapsed in high winds in 1960.

13. Reigate Heath Windmill ceased operation in 1862 and was converted into a chapel attached to Reigate parish – it is the only windmill in the world to be consecrated as a place of worship.

14. Tadworth New Mill was built in about 1762, though a windmill has been located on the site since 1295 – the oldest in southern England. It remained in operation until 1902.

15. Bronze Age Barrows – ancient burial places covered with a large mound of earth – can be found at Crooksbury Common, Elstead; Frensham Common, Frensham; Horsell Common, Woking; Newlands Corner, near Shere; and Whitmore Common, Worplesdon.

16. An annual fair was held around St Catherine's Chapel, just south of Guildford, from 1308 to 1914, and was painted by the artist JMW Turner. The chapel fell into ruins about the time of the Reformation, but locals kept it patched up as a scenic ruin and landmark.

17. These days, Benjamin Disraeli is best known as a British Prime Minister, but back in the 1840s his fame was as a novelist. His political novel Coningsby was planned and partly written while he was staying with his friend Henry Hope at Deepdene, a now-demolished mansion that stood on the eastern edge of Dorking.

18. Jane Austen's novel Emma was begun while the novelist was staying with her married cousin Cassandra Cooke in Great Bookham. Jane Austen was a frequent visitor, staying with Cassandra on more than one occasion for some weeks at a time.

19. In 1808, the great playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan rented Randall’s Farm, now a cemetery just outside Leatherhead, for 15 months. He did not produce a single word the whole time he was there, however, as apparently the fishing in the River Mole was so good he couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

20. Chobham Common is the supposed location of the famous Chobham Treacle Mine – a long-standing joke believed to have stemmed from 1852 when an army of 8,129 troops assembled there to be reviewed by Queen Victoria before departing to the Crimea and ultimately leaving behind barrels of buried treacle.

21. In the third week of July each year, the River Thames witnesses the ancient ceremony of Swan Upping: the annual census of the swan population for the Queen. The ceremony has been going on since the 15th century and when Queen Elizabeth attended in 2009 it was the first time a monarch had been at the ceremony for over 350 years.

22. Croydon Airport was the main airfield serving London throughout the 1920s and ’30s.

23. In 1889, largely as a result of a speculative book called The Battle of Reigate, which culminated in a great battle fought at Reigate as the invaders sought to find a route over the North Downs to attack London, the government ordered the construction of a chain of forts along the Downs.

24. While Leith Hill is the highest point in the county, the north end of Ferry Road in Thames Ditton, at 31ft above sea level, is the lowest.

25. For much of its history, Surrey extended further east along the south bank of the Thames to Rotherhithe, east of the City of London.



More from Surrey Life


From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Yesterday, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Yesterday, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Yesterday, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Year 5 pupils at Reigate St Mary’s School (RSM) who designed and carried out a community project as part of a UK wide Make a Difference Challenge, have won the London area competition for their stunning scrapbook record of their project

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search