Reigate History


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

REIGATE, a parish, post and market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, in the hundred of the same name, county Surrey, 2 miles from Redhill, 11 E. of Guildford, and 21 S.W. of London. It is a station on the Reading branch of the South-Eastern railway. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, is mentioned in Domesday Book as Cherche felle, and was subsequently called Church-field in Reigate. It is situated upon a rocky eminence, intersected by a branch of the river Mole, and near the head of Holmesdale.

It is a polling-place and petty-sessions town, and formerly belonged to Editha, Queen of Edward the Confessor. After the Norman conquest it came to the Warrens, who founded here an Austin Priory before 1240. The castle, which is considered to have been of Saxon origin, stood on the N. side of the town, and was taken by Louis the Dauphin and the barons in 1216. It was visited by King Edward I., and was demolished in 1648 by order of parliament. The site, which is surrounded by a broad and deep moat, is now laid out as a lawn, with gravel walks, and there is an antique gateway without the moat.

Prior to the Reform Act Reigate returned two members to parliament, from the reign of Edward I., but then was deprived of one, and the boundaries made co-extensive with the parish. The town is well built and very healthy, standing upon a rock of white sand.

It chiefly consists of two streets, which are intersected by several smaller streets, and are paved and lighted with gas. It is well supplied with water out of the rock on which it stands. There are a bank, savings-bank, mechanics' institution, with library and reading-room, market-house, townhall, situated in the market-place, and the public hall, which last was erected in 1861, on the site of the ancient chapel of St. Thomas-a-Becket. In the townhall, which was originally built as a prison for felons brought to be tried at the sessions, the Easter sessions are still regularly held; also petty sessions for the borough are held on the first Monday in every month; and the county court is held on fixed Thursdays in January, March, May, July, September, and November. T

he old borough contained a population of 2,008 in 1861, but the parliamentary borough 9,975. It is governed by a bailiff, who is the returning officer, the Foreign being under a separate authority. The board of guardians for the Reigate Poor-law Union, which comprises 16 parishes, meet every fortnight. Under Castle Hill is a cave 150 feet in length, with a chamber leading out of it, called the Barons' Hall, and which is believed by some to be the place where the barons drew up Magna Charta; there are also traces of St. Lawrence chapel near the White Hart. The Surrey hounds hunt in this parish.

The London and Brighton railway, after quitting the Merstham tunnel, passes a little to the E. of this place, and the South-Eastern line, being joined by the branch line from Reading, takes a direction eastward towards Dover.

The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Winchester, value £418. The church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, is an ancient stone structure, with an embattled tower at the W. end, and with double buttresses. It contains the tomb of Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, who fought the Armada in the reign of Elizabeth, also monuments to the Thurlands, Ladbrokes, and other families of great antiquity.

In addition to the parish church are the following district churches, viz: St. Mark's; and at Redhill, St. John's, with St. Matthew's: the livings of all which are perpetual curacies*.

The Independents, Wesleyans, and Society of Friends have each a place of worship. The parochial charities produce about £289 per annum, besides £70 from Henry Smith's charity. There is a grammar school, founded in 1675, and partly endowed by R. Bishop and J. Parker, also National and British schools. Earl Somers is lord of the manor, and resides at Reigate Priory, an ancient mansion, occupying the site of the Austin Priory mentioned above. Market day is Tuesday. Fairs are held on Whit-Tuesday, and on 9th December.

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003] These pages are intended for personal use only, so please respect the conditions of use.