A brief history of the Holmwood

Lying to the south of Dorking in Surrey, Holmwood Common was once the town's manorial woodland. No road crossed its clay until the 18th century and there were no villages until the 19th. Numerous farms and dwellings of ancient origin lie distant from its centres of settlement, however - within the Common, along its boundaries and on the slopes up to Coldharbour. When, in 1755, the Horsham to Epsom turnpike road cut across the Common it brought with it roadside inns and tradesmen. Shortly afterwards a mill was established.

Well into the 19th century, however, the area remained isolated, its farm labourers impoverished, the Common notorious for criminal activity. But in the 1830s wealthy metropolitans began to buy farmland on the fringes of the Common and on the slopes up to Coldharbour, forming great estates. St Mary Magdalene in South Holmwood was built in 1838. A school followed in 1844. When, in 1848, Coldharbour parish was formed the North Holmwood area (then known as Bentsbrook) was brought into Holmwood parish. Middle-class villas followed and humble dwellings within the Common were enlarged. With the opening of the station in 1867 Holmwood's hotels and guesthouses became popular with holiday-makers. Charabancs, bicycles and coaches brought day-trippers to its hostelries and tea houses.

North Holmwood's parish of St John was established in 1875. This part of the Common had always been somewhat industrial - the village pond was formed from the diggings of an 18th century pottery - and the brick-making that began at Stubs Farm in the late 19th century was carried on into the 1980s by the Dorking Brick Company on a vast site there.

In the 1950s ownership of the Common passed from its manorial owners, the Dukes of Norfolk, to the National Trust. The grand houses are no more, the inns and hotels have gone and the suburbs of Dorking encroach upon North Holmwood, whilst Mid and South Holmwood suffered bisection with the widening of the A24 in 1971. The slopes of Redlands Wood to the west of the road and of the Common to the east still offer great beauty and tranquility, however.