Dorking from Denbies hillside, Ranmore Common
|Area||6.57 km2 (2.54 sq mi)|
|Population||11,185 town wards 17,098 wider built-up area (2011 census)|
|• Density||1,702/km2 (4,410/sq mi)|
|OS grid reference|
|• London||21 mi (34 km) NNE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
Dorking // is a market town in Surrey, south east England, 21 miles (34 km) south of London. The main axis of the town runs east-west along the northern face of an outcrop of Lower Greensand and parallel to the course of the Pipp Brook. The town is between Box Hill on the North Downs and Leith Hill in the Greensand Ridge.
In the Georgian and Victorian periods six prominent sites in the former parish or on its boundaries became grand country estates: Leith Hill Place, Denbies (today a vineyard/hotel), Norbury Park, Polesden Lacey, Wotton House and Deepdene; five of which along with nearby Box Hill belong to the National Trust. Dorking is a commuter and retirement settlement with three railway stations and a few large offices of multinational companies. Similarly, Malden[clarification needed] noted in 1911 that the place was "almost entirely residential and agricultural, with some lime works on the chalk, though not so extensive as those in neighbouring parishes, a little brick-making, water-mills (corn) at Pixham Mill, and timber and saw-mills". Fine sand, often in veins of pink colour, used for mortar and in glassmaking, was dug, particularly in the 19th century — the Dorking Caves were accordingly excavated under southern parts of the town centre.
Dorking chickens with short five-toed legs are a major local breed. The town has a local government headquarters and hosts repeating loops of the FIA[clarification needed]-ranked London-Surrey cycle classic elite category event every year.
The origins and meaning of the place-name are uncertain, and a subject of scholarly debate. Early spellings include Dorchinges (1086), Doreking' (1138–47), Dorkingg (1219) and other variants. Both principal elements in the name are disputed. The first element may be from a personal name, Deorc, or some variant, which might arguably be of either Brittonic or Old English origin; but it might equally be from a Brittonic word Dorce, a river-name meaning "clear, bright stream"; or possibly from a British word duro, meaning a "fort", "walled town" or "gated place". The second element, if originally plural (–ingas), might mean "(settlement belonging to the) followers of ...", but if singular (–ing) might mean "place", "stream", "wood" or "clump".
History and development
The earliest pieces of evidence of human activity in Dorking are Mesolithic and Neolithic flint tools and flakes found during construction development in South Street. A Bronze Age ring ditch, containing two ceramic urns, was discovered in 2013 during the rebuilding of Waitrose supermarket. Radiocarbon dating of hazelnut shells found at the base suggests that it was dug between 8625 and 8465 BCE and may have enclosed a bowl barrow. Other ditches nearby may indicate the presence of a Bronze Age field system, although the date of these earthworks is less certain. Bowl barrows from the same period have been found at The Glory Wood (to the south of the town centre), on Milton Heath (to the west) and on Box Hill (to the northeast).
No evidence of Iron Age settlement activity has been found in the town centre, however the hillforts at Anstiebury (Leith Hill) and Holmbury Hill, date from the first century BC. Traces of an Iron Age field system and settlement activity have been observed on Mickleham Downs (about 3 kilometres (2 mi) northeast of Dorking).
Roman and Saxon
There is thought to have been a settlement at Dorking in Roman times, although its size and extent are unclear. Coins from the reigns of Hadrian (117-138 AD), Commodus (180-192 AD) and Claudius Gothicus (214-270 AD), as well as tiles and pottery fragments, have been found in the town. Stane Street, the Roman road linking London to Chichester, was constructed during the first century AD. Although it is thought to have run through Dorking, its exact course is not known and no definitive archaeological evidence has been discovered for the road in the 5 km (3 mi) 'gap' between the crossing of the River Mole at the Burford Bridge and North Holmwood. A posting station or mansio is thought to have been located in the area and sites have been proposed in the town centre, at Pixham and at the Burford Bridge, where the road crossed the River Mole.
Although the name Dorking implies an established settlement in the years immediately before the Norman conquest, archaeological evidence of Saxon activity in the town centre is limited to pottery sherds. In the late Saxon period, the manor and parish may have been part of a large royal estate centred on Leatherhead. In 2003, during the construction of a pipeline close to Yew Tree Road to the north of the centre, a cemetery containing fourteen skeletons, probably of Saxon date, was discovered.
Dorking appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as the Manor of Dorchinges. It was held by William the Conqueror, who had assumed the lordship in 1075 on the death of Edith of Wessex, widow of Edward the Confessor. The settlement included one church, three mills worth 15s 4d, 16 ploughs, 3 acres (1.2 ha) of meadow, woodland and herbage for 88 hogs and rendered £18 per year in 1086. The residents included 38 villagers, 14 smallholders and 4 villeins, which placed it in the top 20% of settlements in England by population.
In around 1087, William II granted the manor of Dorking to Willam de Warenne, the first Earl of Surrey, and his descendants have held the lordship almost continuously until the present day. By the early 14th century, the manor had been divided for administrative purposes into four tithings: Eastburgh and Chippingburgh (corresponding respectively to the eastern and western halves of the modern town); Foreignburgh (the area covered by the Holmwoods) and Waldburgh (which would later be renamed Capel). On the death of the seventh Earl, John de Warenne, in 1347, the manor passed to his brother-in-law, Richard Fitzalan, the third Earl of Arundel. In 1580 both Earldoms passed through the female line to Phillip Howard, whose father, Thomas Howard, had forfeited the title of Duke of Norfolk and had been executed for his involvement in the Ridolfi plot to assassinate Elizabeth I. The dukedom was restored to the family in 1660, following the accession of Charles II.
As the status of the de Warennes and their descendants increased, they became less interested in the town. In the 14th and 15th centuries, prominent local families (including the Sondes and the Goodwyns) were able to buy the lease on some of the lordship lands.
One such area was Deepdene to the east of the town, first mentioned in a court roll of 1399. This woodland was held by several tenants, before being inherited in 1652 by Charles Howard, the fourth son of the 15th Earl of Arundel, in whose family it remained until 1790. The estate was expanded by successive owners, including the Anglo-Dutch banker Thomas Hope and his eldest son Henry Thomas Hope, who commissioned William Atkinson to remodel the main house as a "sumptuous High Renaissance palazzo".
Similarly, in 1448 Sir Thomas Browne, Sheriff of Kent, purchased the manor of West Betchworth, which included Betchworth Castle. Browne converted the castle into a fortified house, in which his family and their descendants lived until the 1830s, when it was bought by Thomas Hope and added to the Deepdene estate.[note 1]
Under the local government reforms in the Tudor period, the importance of the manorial court decreased and the administration of the town was left to the vestry of the parish church. A local board of health (LBH) was established in 1881, which assumed responsibility for much of the town's infrastructure, including roads, street lighting and drainage. The LBH organised the first regular domestic refuse collection and, by mid-1888, had created a new sewerage system (including a treatment works at Pixham).
The Local Government Act 1888 transferred many administrative responsibilities to the newly formed Surrey County Council and was followed by an 1894 Act that created the Dorking Urban District Council (UDC). Initially the offices of the UDC were in South Street; however in 1931 the Council moved to Pippbrook House, a Gothic country house to the north east of the town centre, which had been designed as a private residence by George Gilbert Scott in 1856.[note 2]
The Local Government Act 1972 created Mole Valley District Council (MVDC), by combining the UDCs of Dorking and Leatherhead with the majority of the Dorking and Horley Rural District. In 1984, the new council moved into purpose-built offices, designed by Michael Innes, at the east end of the town.
Transport and communications
In 1750, the construction of a turnpike road made Dorking a staging post on the route to Brighton and the coast. The Bull's Head in South Street had a famous coachman, William Broad, whose portrait hangs in Dorking Museum in West Street. An inn in the centre of Dorking, the White Horse, was developed in the 18th century; previous buildings on this site belonged to the Knights Templar and later the Knights of St John.
Dorking lost its stagecoaches when the railways arrived, but then attracted wealthy residents who built large houses in and around the town, such as Denbies House and Pippbrook House (now with council offices in the grounds). Surrounding land and beauty spots such as Cotmandene and Box Hill were donated by landowners for public use, protected by the Metropolitan Green Belt and the AONB designation of the North Downs and Greensand Ridge.
Commerce and industry
In the medieval period, Dorking was a prosperous agricultural and market town with businesses, including milling and brewing, capitalising on its position on the junction of a number of long distance roads and local tracks.
Dorking held a big wheat and cattle market in the High Street. The poultry market was held in the corner of South Street and round Butter Hill. Here the famous Dorking fowl were sold. This breed, which has five claws instead of the normal four, was a favourite for 19th century tables, including that of Queen Victoria.
In 1911 the town was described in the Victoria County History, compiled for the county that year and the next, as "almost entirely residential and agricultural, with some lime works on the chalk, though not so extensive as those in neighbouring parishes, a little brick-making, water-mills (corn) at Pixham Mill, and timber and saw-mills."
The first mention of a church at Dorking occurs in the Domesday Book of 1085. In around 1140, Isabel de Warenne, the widow of the second Earl of Surrey granted the church and a tithe of the rents from the manor to Lewes Priory in Sussex. In the 1190s, the tithe was converted to a pension of £6, which was paid annually to the Priory until at least 1291. The Priory also acquired the right to appoint the town’s priest.
It is unclear where in the town the Domesday church was located. It appears to have replaced at some point during the 12th century (possibly by Isabel de Warenne) by a large cruciform building with a central tower.  A rededication from St Mary to St Martin may have taken place around the same time. In 1334 the church was granted to the Priory of the Holy Cross in Reigate. In the late 14th century a clerestory and two side aisles were added to the nave. 
The medieval church was rebuilt in 1835-1837, to create the so-called Intermediate Church, which was in turn rebuilt 1868-1877 into the present St Martin’s Church, designed in the Decorated Gothic style by the architect Henry Woodyer. The 64 m (210 ft) spire of the current church was dedicated as a memorial to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (who had died in 1873) and in 1905-1911 the Lady chapel was added.
In order to accommodate the growing population in the south of the town, a second Anglican church, St Paul's, designed by the architect Benjamin Ferrey, was opened in 1857. At Pixham, a daughter church to St Martin's designed by Edwin Lutyens and dedicated to St Mary, was opened in 1903.
In the two centuries following the passing of the 1558 Act of Uniformity, many inhabitants of Dorking embraced more extreme forms of protestantism and by 1676, the parish (which had a total population of around 1500) contained 200 nonconformists. In 1620, five residents of the town, including Williams Mullins (a cobbler) and his daughter Priscilla, joined the Mayflower to establish a Separatist colony in the New World. During the Civil War, the townsfolk supported the Parliamentarians, but although some of Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers were billeted in Dorking, no fighting took place nearby.
Following The Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the Fifth Monarchist and independent minister, Christopher Feake lived in the town (allegedly under a false identity) and may have incited some of the more radical residents to violence. Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe and a committed Presbyterian throughout his life, was educated in Dorking for five years, c. 1669-74. He attended a school in Pixham Lane run by Revd James Fisher a non-conformist who had been ejected as Rector of Fetcham. In 1662 Fisher was involved in establishing Dorking Congregational Church, which by the 1690s was meeting in a barn on Butter Hill in South Street. The present United Reformed Church in West Street, designed by the architect William Hopperton, was built for the group by William Shearburn in 1834.
John Wesley visited Dorking a total of nineteen times between 1764 and 1789. He opened a Methodist chapel in the town in 1777. A new church with a spire was built in South Street in 1900, however this was sold and demolished in 1974 and since 1977, Dorking Methodists have held services at St Martin's.
Although England had become a predominantly protestant country during the Reformation, the families of the Earls of Arundel and Dukes of Norfolk remained Catholic. The first Catholic church in Dorking was built in the early 1870s on land owned by the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan-Howard and was rebuilt into the present St Joseph's Church in the mid 1890s, by the architect Frederick Walters.
A mosque was established in Hart Road in 2006. From 1984 the building had been used as a meeting room for the Plymouth Brethren and was a synagogue for a time, before being acquired by the Dorking Muslim Community Association.
Sport and recreation
Cotmandene is a 4.78 ha (10-acre) area of common land to the east of the town centre, (the name is thought to mean the heath of the poor cottages). Cricket matches were played on the heath during the 18th century and are recorded in Edward Beavan's 1777 poem Box Hill. A painting entitled A Cricket Match on Cotmandene, Dorking by the artist James Canter, dating to around 1770, is now held by the Marylebone Cricket Club.
A game resembling rugby was once played here. The two sides were unlimited in number, representing the east and west of the town. The goals were the two bridges on the Pipp Brook. The Town Crier kicked off the ball at 2 pm and stopped play at 6 pm. The game was started at the church gates and was "rioted" up and down the High Street. It ceased in 1897 after complaints by tradesmen, and it was officially stopped under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835.
In the 1880s there was a proposal to supply seawater to the town from a conduit between Lancing and London.
National and Local Government
Councillors are elected to Surrey County Council every four years. The town is divided between two main wards. The villages to the south east of Dorking are in a third ward:
|1993||Hazel Watson||Dorking Hills (includes Pixham and all parts of the town north of West Street, the High Street and Reigate Road)|
|2005||Stephen Cooksey||Dorking and the Holmwoods (includes the Goodwyns estate and all parts of the town south of West Street, the High Street and Reigate Road)|
|2001||Helen Clack||Dorking Rural (includes Brockham and other villages southeast of Dorking)|
Five councillors represent the town on Mole Valley District Council (the headquarters of which are in Dorking):
|2008||Paul Elderton||Dorking North|
|2016||David Draper||Dorking North|
|2011||Stephen Cooksey||Dorking South|
|2010||Margaret Cooksey||Dorking South|
|2012||Tim Loretto||Dorking South|
The town is in the west of the area between hill ranges in southern England known as Holmesdale which has headwaters of several rivers. The town's geography is undulating; for example, the elevation of the southern point of the central one-way system is 76 metres (249 ft) and on its northern side the elevation is 59–60 metres (194–197 ft). The Mole's nearest point to the town lies at 45 metres (148 ft).
Just northeast of the town the River Mole cuts a steep-sided valley through the North Downs. On the west bank is Denbies Vineyard, the largest vineyard in the UK. On the east bank is Box Hill, owned by the National Trust and Britain's first Country Park. The hill has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, because of the large number of rare orchids which grow there in the summer.
Further north is Norbury Park, which contains the Druids Grove, a forest of ancient yew trees.
To the south west of the town is Leith Hill, also owned by the National Trust, the second highest point in the south east of England after Walbury Hill. The tower on the summit elevates the hill to 1,000 ft (300 m) above sea level. The area is towards the east of the Surrey Hills AONB surrounded by the Greensand Ridge, including Holmbury Hill and Pitch Hill, as well as the nearby escarpment of the North Downs from Box Hill to Newlands Corner.
A species of fish-eating dinosaur, Baryonyx walkeri, was discovered in clay pits just south of Dorking. The creature had a long curved claw on each hand and remains of its last meal were discovered fossilised in its ribcage. The skeleton can be seen at the Natural History Museum in London. One disused clay pit (Inholms lane) is now open to the public as a nature reserve.
Demography and housing
In the 2011 Census, the Dorking built-up area (which includes the Goodwyns estate, North Holmwood, Pixham and Westhumble, in addition to Dorking North and Dorking South wards) had a population of 17,741.
|Ward||Detached||Semi-detached||Terraced||Flats and apartments||Caravans/temporary/mobile homes/houseboats||Shared between households|
|Ward||Population||Households||% Owned outright||% Owned with a loan||hectares|
Leisure and culture
On 15 June 2004, Dorking was granted Fairtrade Town status.
The Dorking Halls is a cinema, theatre, leisure centre and swimming pool complex. There is also an "Arts Alive" Festival which takes place annually during the last two weeks of October. Dorking Halls is also yearly host to a professional pantomime which was re-introduced in December 2006, after several years of hosting Zippo's Circus.
Dorking also has a museum, a library, about twenty pubs and a CIU-affiliated club. It is noted for its antique and art shops on West Street.
The town formerly had two Non-League football clubs. Dorking Football Club, who played in the National Feeders leagues, Isthmian league for 45+ years and were based in the centre of the town at the Meadowbank but went into liquidation in 2017. Dorking Wanderers play in the National League South (Level 6) after 11 promotions in its 20 years of existence at the Dorking Wanderers Stadium, near Westhumble. From November 2017 they moved into a £6 million ground built on the site of Meadowbank.
Dorking rugby football club, which plays at Brockham, won the Powergen Vase in 2005/2006; and subsequently won promotion from National League 3 (London & South East) to National League 2 South and Surrey Cup double in 2014. Dorking and Mole Valley Athletics Club is based at Pixham Sports Ground. They host the annual Dorking Ten road race starting from Brockham Green. Dorking also has a cycling club that meets on Sunday mornings at the Sports Centre in Reigate Road, offering group rides for all abilities and cycling interests. Peter King, former Chief Executive of British Cycling, is the Honorary President of Dorking Cycling Club. The Mole Valley Bowmen meet in the grounds of St Martin's primary school.
Near Dorking lies the Leith Hill escarpment of the Greensand Ridge, including the hills of Holmbury Hill and Pitch Hill, as well as the nearby escarpment of the North Downs from Box Hill to Newlands Corner. Both ridges are notable in southern England for country walks, rambling and mountain biking, and the town in one of the narrowest gaps between high parts of them has a number of premises catering to these pursuits. Part of the Vale of Holmesdale, much of the post town but not town itself is within the Surrey Hills AONB. Adjacent to Dorking is Denbies Wine Estate. The Dorking Group of Artists, established in 1947, exhibit locally twice a year, in Betchworth and at Denbies.
Under part of the town centre are the Dorking Caves which were dug for sand, mostly in the 19th century, and are open occasionally to the public.
Leith Hill Musical Festival
Each year in April, the town plays host to the Leith Hill Musical Festival for local choral societies. This was founded in 1905 by Margaret Vaughan Williams, sister of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Lady (Evangeline) Farrer, wife of Lord Farrer of Abinger Hall. Ralph Vaughan Williams was the Festival Conductor from 1905 to 1953. The present Festival Conductor is Jonathan Willcocks.
The festival is competitive lasting three days, each day with a different division of choirs; each evening the choirs who have competed during the day combine to give a concert of the works which form the subject of the competitions. Following the tradition established by Vaughan Williams, the St. Matthew Passion or the St. John Passion of J. S. Bach are also frequently performed by the combined choral societies.
After the death of Vaughan Williams in 1958 the festival committee commissioned, from David McFall A.R.A., two identical bronze plaques with a likeness of the composer: one was placed in St. Martin's church and one in the Dorking Halls. In 2001 a smaller than life-size bronze statue of Vaughan Williams by William Fawke was erected outside the Dorking Halls.
The Battle of Dorking, a novella written by Lt. Col. Sir George Tomkyns Chesney in 1871, was set in the town. Describing a fictional invasion and conquest of Britain by a German-speaking country, it triggered an explosion of what came to be known as invasion literature.
Amenities and landmarks
Much of the original character survives, whilst accommodating businesses that serve the needs of the 21st century. The town is well known for its antique dealers. The town's three main trading streets are High Street, West Street and South Street; there is also a small open-air shopping centre, St Martin's Walk, just off the High Street.
In the late 1990s Dorking Halls was given a huge refit, to make it a cinema and theatre complex. In 2003 a new modern leisure centre and swimming pool were added to the Dorking Halls Complex.
Dorking and nearby Box Hill were chosen as part of the route for the 2012 London Olympics cycling road race and have featured in the FIA[clarification needed]-ranked London-Surrey cycle classic and the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 mass participation sportive every year since. A cycling statue was unveiled in July 2012 at the Pixham End roundabout on the A24 to commemorate the Olympic race passing through Dorking.
In the mid-1960s the Goodwyns council estate was built at the south end of the town, adjacent to North Holmwood. The design of the terraced houses, three- and four-storey flats and twin eleven-storey tower blocks was praised by architectural historians Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner.
The Deepdene Trail, a heritage walking trail, opened in 2016.
The town has three railway stations:
- Dorking railway station, on the (north/south) Epsom to Horsham Sutton & Mole Valley Line. Services are run by Southern to London Victoria via Sutton. South Western Railway run services to London Waterloo.
- Dorking Deepdene, on the (west/east) Guildford to Redhill North Downs Line. Services are run by Great Western Railway.
The above two stations are a short walk from one another, north of the town.
- Dorking West, also on the Guildford to Redhill North Downs Line, but with fewer trains stopping.
Most bus services are run by Arriva, the main locations served being Guildford, Redhill and Reigate and villages in between, as well as some local services. Sunray Travel operates a Surrey CC supported route to Leatherhead and Epsom, and running via Box Hill. Metrobus took over Arriva's Horsham depot, and now run route 93 to Horsham, and London Buses route 465 to Kingston.
- People born in the town include: Laurence Olivier, Lord Olivier, in 1907 – a blue plaque marking his birthplace can be found in Wathen Road.
- Other people born in Dorking include Walter Dendy Sadler (1854–1923) artist and painter, and Oxford United F.C. Striker Jamie Mackie (born 1985).
- General Sir Lewis Halliday, a Victoria Cross recipient, died in Dorking.
People who have lived in the town in the past include:
- Daniel Defoe (c.1660-1731), who attended Rev. James Fisher's boarding school in Pixham Lane, and later mentioned Dorking in his Tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain.
- Henry Hope and his nephew Thomas Hope spent summers at Deepdene on the outskirts of the town at the beginning of the 19th century. Benjamin Disraeli wrote his novel Coningsby while staying at Deepdene House (demolished 1967).
- Peter Labilliere, a former Army Major and political agitator lived in a cottage on Butter Hill from 1789. In accordance with his wishes he was buried head downwards 11 June 1800 on the western side of Box Hill.
- The Cubitt family had links with the town. Thomas Cubitt was born and lived in the town, and later built up large areas of London from the early 19th century. His politician son George also had connections with the town, and notably financed the building of St Barnabas Church on Ranmore Hill, known by its nickname of Cubitt's Spire, Cubitt's Finger or Cubitt's Stump.
- The English writer George Meredith and the Polish poet Marian Hemar are buried at the local cemetery.
- The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams lived in Dorking for much of his life, and penned in Dorking most of the works which made him famous. The lark in "The Lark Ascending" is known to have been heard in the Mole Valley to the north of the town.
- Composer David Moule-Evans (1905-1988) married Monica Warden Evans in March 1935 and the couple lived at Claremont, 10 Rose Hill. He collaborated with Vaughan Williams on the pageant play England's Pleasant Land, written by E.M. Forster and first staged in Dorking in 1938.
- Kenneth Baker served as Member of Parliament for Mole Valley from 1983 to 1997 and lived for most of that time in Betchworth. On retirement he was made a life peer and took the title 'Kenneth Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking'.
- Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart of the band 10cc opened a studio, Strawberry Studios South, in a former cinema at the end of South Street in 1976, following the departure of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. Songs recorded here include "The Things We Do for Love" and "Good Morning Judge". Songs recorded here by other artists include "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. The building was later demolished and the site was used as a builders yard for a time; a housing development now occupies the site. In addition, The Cure recorded and mixed at Rhino Studios, which was at Pippbrook Mill, Fairfield Drive.
- Actor Leslie Howard lived in a 16th-century farmhouse called Stowe Maries on the edge of Westcott, Surrey, just outside Dorking.
- Absolute Radio DJ Christian O'Connell lived in Dorking with his wife and two children for several years until 2018.
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