Abinger Hammer Picture by Matt Hill

The Abingers, Westcott, Shere, Wotton & Hombury St Mary’s

The villages of the Greensand Hills cannot easily be described in a few sentences. Some are no more that a scattered collection of cottages and a church. Many have an isolated and remote feel.

Coldharbour and Abinger Common have the two highest parish churches in Surrey. And yet, this part of the Surrey Hills was once the industrial heartland of Surrey. Back in the 16th century the Tillingbourne Valley, which connects many of these villages, was lined with corn, cloth, brass, iron and gun powder mills. These were followed later by paper mills.

There is still some evidence of these past uses: the name of Abinger Hammer and the village clock which has ‘Jack the Hammer’ striking the hour, and the large mill pond at Friday Street.

The form of the villages reflects the prosperity of the medieval period. Large estate houses and more modest workers’ cottages, often built of the warm, honey-coloured sandstone of the hills. The architecture also reflects a later phase of building when in Victorian and Edwardian times wealthy families built large country houses within reach of London.

Many fine examples of Arts and Crafts architecture can be found within the Surrey Hills: Goddards by Edwin Lutyens in Abinger Common, Holmdale in Holmbury St Mary┬áby George Edmund Street, Hopedene, also in Holmbury, by Richard Norman Shaw are good examples of the ‘Surrey Style’ of building.

It is this mixture of building styles and the wooded landscape setting that makes the villages in this part of the Surrey Hills worth a visit.