Services for Dorking
General Information for Dorking
Borough: Mole Valley
Dorking, in the heart of Surrey, is situated at the crossing of a north to south route that roughly corresponds to the Roman Stane Street (the A24) and a prehistoric track known as the Pilgrims Way (now the A25).
Once famous for its Medieval poultry market, its breed of five-toed chicken and its air - "esteemed the sweetest in England", Dorking was often visited by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, Kent.
The town is surrounded by beautiful, varied and unspoiled countryside and the spire of Dorking Parish Church, St. Martin's, can be seen from some distance, rising above the other buildings. One of the finer large nineteenth century churches in the county, designed by Henry Woodyer, the spire was built as a memorial to Samuel Wilberforce (1805 - 73), the Bishop of Winchester.
West Street has attained an international reputation as a centre for antique dealers and is one of the Town's best streets architecturally. The most interesting buildings are the Italianate
Congregational Church, an impressive structure erected in 1834 and containing the organ from the Brighton Pavilion and, at the end of West Street, a jettied row of houses with a brick front, dating from about 1650. One of these houses was owned by William Mullins, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower, out of Plymouth in 1620.
At the junction of West Street and the High Street is the 19th century town pump, topped by fingerposts pointing to Guildford and Horsham.
Dickens, who had associations with Dorking, placed the home of Sam Weller here and wrote that the "Marquis of Granby" was modelled on the old King's Head coaching inn, now King's Head Courtyard.
Dorking High Street, a mixture of old and new, takes a wide curve past the half-timbered White Horse Inn which has an eighteenth and nineteenth century front to an earlier frame, possibly fifteenth century.
The town has a wide variety of shops and restaurants offering a personal and friendly service. A walk through the many lanes on either side of the main street is very rewarding, with many interesting buildings to be found there.
A new shopping precinct has been built down one of these lanes. St. Martin's takes its name from the parish church which lies alongside it.
Being built on sand, Dorking has many caves beneath its buildings. The deepest, 75ft, can be visited on application to the Information Desk at Dorking Halls.
Great hills surround Dorking. The 965ft Leith Hill to the southwest is the highest point. From the top of the tower that crowns it, 12 counties can be seen. Leith Hill Place was the home of Ralph Vaughn Williams, the composer who lived many years in the town and created here, with E.M. Forster and others, the annual Leith Hill Music Festival. To the north and north-east are Boxhill and Ranmore Common, both areas being owned by the National Trust and providing picturesque walks and spectacular views over Dorking and the surrounding countryside.
At the bottom of Box Hill, beside the River Mole is the Burford Bridge Hotel which was called the Hare & Hounds in the 12th century. It is reputed that Nelson stopped there on his way to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
About 5 miles west of Dorking, along the A25, is a small village called Abinger Hammer. The name shows that it was once the industrial area of Abinger Common, up in the hills. It dates back to Tudor times when the Tilling Bourne was dammed to form hammerponds, powering tilt-hammers which beat out iron artefacts.
The Abinger Hammer's Victorian clock which protrudes over the road, is a familiar landmark. It is struck on the hour by the brightly painted figure of a blacksmith. There is still a working ironsmith, maintaining the tradition, adjacent to the clock.