Dorking History

History & Heritage

Dorking is a small town in north-eastern Surrey. It sits on the greensand between the chalk of the North Downs and the clay of the Weald in a key position where east-west routes intersect with the passage of the river Mole through the chalk hills.

The earliest settlement was probably Roman: Stane Street passed through the town. The name Dorking, however, comes from the Saxon ‘Dorchingas’. By Domesday the Manor of Dorking covered the modern parishes of Dorking, Capel and the Holmwoods. Later the settlement became a market centre for the surrounding villages and the town’s symbol is the five-clawed Dorking fowl for which the market was famous.

The town became known for sporting pursuits: Cotmandene was famous for cricket during the eighteenth century and a riotous all-day, street-wide football game was played on Shrove Tuesday until the early twentieth century.

The arrival of railway lines in 1849 and 1867 brought day trippers. Charabancs, bicycles and cars followed as the town became a favoured recreational destination. The early twentieth century saw growth east over the Deepdene estate and south towards the Holmwood. With its slow rail connections to London, however, Dorking has managed to retain its quiet market character.

Dorking History

The Deepdene was the grandest of all the estates in Dorking, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. After more than 100 years in the Hope family it served as a hotel, and then the Southern Railway HQ during the war, before being demolished in 1967. (Source: Dorking Museum)
Dorking Box Hill - Did you know?
Dorking Box Hill - Did you know?

Box Hill is part of the North Downs chalk escarpment that runs to the north of Dorking.  It overlooks the Mole Gap where the River Mole crosses the Downs to flow north, providing a route north towards London.  Consequently the Hill has been a landmark for centuries for those passing north and south between the capital and the lands to the south.  The coming of the railway lines in 1849 and 1867 brought day trippers via Box Hill and West Humble Station.  So popular was Box Hill with Londoners by the twentieth century that ticket receipts reveal that 14,000 arrived at Box Hill station on Whit Monday 1947, with another 12,000 travelling via Dorking North station.
(Source: Dorking Local History Group)