Here are 25 facts about Surrey that you probably didn't know
PUBLISHED: 11:54 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:54 14 August 2018
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.