Leigh Picture by Jayne Kemp

Charlwood, Newdigate, Capel, Ockley & Leigh

The four principal villages of the Weald are distinctly different in character. They lie to the south east of Dorking in an area that historically was densely wooded and where the heavy clays were notoriously poor and difficult to farm. They grew up as small, isolated settlements surviving on farming and pre-industrial revolution industries such as iron working.

Charlwood has some fine examples of medieval timber framed buildings, but the centre of the village is Victorian in character. The large village green gives it a spacious feel. Paths of local limestone lead to the ancient church of St Nicholas. The nearby Lowfield Heath Windmill is worth a visit and there are lovely walks in Glovers Wood and Edloph’s Copse.

Capel is one of the larger villages which retains much of its traditional charm. The centre of the village is the church of St John the Baptist, dating from 13th century. The long central street is lined with picturesque buildings, some half-timbered, some of Leith Hill sandstone, while others are built of local brick and tiles.

Newdigate is small and compact. The tall 15th century tower dominates the small cottages below. Its peal of bells is reflected in the name of the nearby pub, ‘The Six Bells’. Newdigate, along with other Wealden villages, was a haunt of smugglers. The Six Bells was reputed to be a safe house for smugglers who sought to avoid the duty on tobacco and bandy and whose route from the south coast to London brought them through the village.  

Leigh is a small irregular village centred on the green, itself dissected by a crossroads. The tight set half-timbered buildings set close to the parish church and The Plough public house create a very attractive scene.

The village of Ockley can be found sheltering below the wooded slopes of Leith Hill. It has one of the most extensive and impressive of village greens. Around it is a collection of picturesque cottages built of local sandstone, Horsham stone, timber and brick. The only Weald manor to be mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086, the village is an ancient settlement located along the Roman Stane Street.