Musically, Dorking provided a physical and spiritual home for one of the greatest of 20th century composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams (Ralph Vaughan Williams Biography).
The Leith Hill Musical Competition was founded by Margaret (Meggie) Vaughan Williams and Evangeline (Eva), Lady Farrer of Abinger Hall, in 1904. Eva presided and Meggie acted as secretary, cycling between Leith Hill Place and Abinger Hall.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was devoted to the competition. He took village choir practices and inspired members to achieve difficult works. In 1931 Bach’s St Matthew Passion was performed by a choir and orchestra of 800 in the newly opened Dorking Halls. The Leith Hill Musical Competition contributed to the building fund for the halls.
In 1950 the name was changed to the Leith Hill Musical Festival. After Vaughan Williams’ death in 1958, Dorking decided to honour his memory in bronze plaques at Dorking Halls and at St Martin’s church, and in its support for the Festival. In 2005, Dorking celebrated the centenary of this great community endeavour.