Leatherhead, the gateway to the Surrey Hills and with the River Mole on its doorstep, this picturesque town is surrounded by outstanding countryside. A historic market town, it draws visitors from many nearby towns and villages, but is not a large town itself. Proven to have been an inspiration for literary greats such as C S Lewis and Jane Austen, Leatherhead today is the home of glorious green spaces, exquisite properties and a cosy pub or two.
The Anglo-Saxons are believed to have first settled in Leatherhead or in Anglo-Saxon Leodridan, meaning “a place where people ride across the river”, even before its mention in the Domesday Book of 1086. During medieval times, a bridge was built over the River Mole, cementing the town as an important transport hub for centuries – the town itself is sat on an old Roman road that ran from London to Guildford. The later construction of the Swan Hotel continued Leatherhead’s transport legacy, as it hosted those on longer journeys with horse-drawn coaches.
As the economy grew, thanks to the steady flow of people and goods, in 1248 the town was granted a royal charter by Henry III, allowing it to host a weekly market and annual fair. Sadly, a fire in 1392 destroyed most of the town’s buildings and they had to be completely rebuilt. This didn’t resurrect the commercial centre, though, which never recovered, and sometime in the 16th century the market ceased. The railway brought its revival in 1859 and Leatherhead started to attract new residents rapidly.
Today its accessibility still makes it a popular destination for businesses and homeowners alike, who want to be in easy reach of London and local airports. In 2017, a £1m project was completed to upgrade Church Street. This was part of a period of transformation for the town, which also saw The Swan Centre improved.
Leatherhead is a town with many hidden gems, from architectural treasure, to cultural delights, whether you spend a busy day shopping, or explore the wealth of countryside that surrounds you on the riverside path. The Swan Centre is home to household names such as Boots, Next and Costa Coffee; in contrast, the pedestrianised high street with Waitrose supermarket also has some fascinating independent boutiques that are well worth a visit.
When it comes to eating out, there is plenty of choice, from a soothing coffee and a quick bite from one of the local cafes, to a hearty meal from one of the wonderful pubs. Standing for six centuries, The Running Horse is filled with character and overlooks the River Mole, serving authentic home-made food. They also have a quiz night, which we can admit to being a little bit competitive and lots of fun.
We are incredibly lucky in Leatherhead to have our own theatre presenting a fantastic programme of live events and live screenings. There are many regular and annual cultural events within Leatherhead and the surrounding areas, including open-air concerts at Polesden Lacey and the Leatherhead Drama Festival.
With cycle routes and running trails on Leatherhead’s doorstep, there is an abundance of activities to keep you fit and healthy as well as a wealth of sports clubs and organisations for you to join and enjoy. Football, cricket, gyms, athletics, boxing clubs and many more are all in easy reach. Golfers, well, we don’t think you will be disappointed, with Leatherhead Golf Club, Tyrells Wood, Effingham Golf Club and Walton Health Golf Club all close by.
There is so much to do in and around Leatherhead that being bored is a choice. It is always wonderful to know more about where you live, which is why Leatherhead Museum is a must. Housed in the quaint 17th century Hampton Cottage, this tiny building is remarkable, you will be amazed by the wealth of collections on display as well as the programme of special exhibitions, highlighting specific moments in Leatherhead’s history. Run entirely by volunteers, this is a part of our town that should always be treasured and cherished.
If you’re looking for an iconic walk and one of the jewels in the National Trust crown, then Box Hill is your destination. Enjoy the views over the Surrey countryside from the Salomons Memorial Viewpoint at the top of the hill, and make sure you investigate the Box Hill Fort.
Art and metal enthusiasts will devour the Fire and Iron Gallery, owned and managed by Lucy Quinnell, set within the beautiful outbuildings of a Grade II listed house where life-size sculptures are displayed alongside delicately crafted jewellery. It is known across the world as the best place to see and buy works by leading international artists who all work with the medium of metal, from iron, copper, silver, pewter and tin.
In the Reals Schools Guide 2019 of the best schools in Surrey, the outstanding St Andrew’s Catholic School was listed as number two. With impressive reputations, secondary schools Howard of Effingham School and Therfield School are close by. Primary schools include Leatherhead Trinity School, Oakfield Junior School, Eastwick Junior School, West Ashtead County Primary School, and The Dawnay School. For private education, we would recommend St John’s School, Box Hill School and City of London Freemen’s School.
Accessibility is where Leatherhead excels, with junction 9 of the M25 just 1.5 miles away, putting both Heathrow and Gatwick airports within easy reach. Being close to the A3, whether you wish to head to Portsmouth or Central London, this will get you there and everywhere in between. The mainline Leatherhead train station is serviced by direct trains to London Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge, and takes around 45 minutes to reach the capital.