Reigate

Street Map

Reigate (/ˈraɪɡeɪt/) is a historic market town in Surrey, England, at the foot of the North Downs, and in the London commuter belt. It is one of the main constituents of the Borough of Reigate and Banstead. This part of Surrey including the adjacent town of Redhill is sometimes grouped together as part of the Gatwick Diamond, M23 corridor or Crawley Urban Area however the area is interspersed with Metropolitan Green Belt land.

Colley Hill, one mile (1.6 km) north of Reigate, is the sixth highest point in Surrey at 756 feet (230 m). Reigate Hill, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to the east of Colley Hill, is the seventh highest point in Surrey at 723 feet (220 m).

There are neolithic flint mines on the ridge of the North Downs above Reigate. The Bronze Age barrows on Reigate Heath indicate ancient settlement in the area. A Bronze Age spearhead was recovered on Park Hill in Reigate Priory Park. In 2004, a Roman tile kiln dated from around AD 92 (pictured left) was recovered from the grounds of Rosehill in Doods Way, Reigate. Tiles on the Rosehill site were first discovered in the 1880s. The tiles would have been used for important buildings in the area. The Rosehill find is also the oldest recorded use of Reigate Stone (Upper Greensand) for “ashlar masonry work”.

The town lay within the Reigate hundred, an Anglo-Saxon administrative division. Reigate appears in Domesday Book in 1086 as Cherchefelle which appears to mean ‘the open space by the hill’. (The name has nothing to do with the church and the element Cherche is a later corruption.) It was held by William the Conqueror as successor to king Harold’s widow Editha. Its Domesday assets were: 34 hides, 2 mills worth 11s 10d, 29 ploughs, 12 acres (49,000 m2) of meadow, pannage and herbage worth 183 hogs. It rendered £40.

The earlier site was located, at least in part, in what is now the Church Street area of Reigate, close to the church. Part of the site was excavated in the 1990s. It was shown that the settlement moved during the earlier part of the 12th century when the present town was formed. William I granted the land around Reigate to one of his supporters, William de Warenne, who was created Earl of Surrey in 1088. It is believed that his son, William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, ordered that Reigate Castle be built, although the de Warennes had their southern base at Lewes, Sussex, as well as castles in Yorkshire and Normandy. Around 1150 the Earl de Warenne laid out a new town below the castle. This town forms the basis of modern-day Reigate. Little is known of the Castle which has never been excavated on any great scale. Local legend says that prior to the signing of the Magna Carta, the rebellious barons met to hammer out the details of the document in the extensive caves beneath the castle. The story however has no truth to it. The castle later fell into decay and the remains were demolished at the end of the 17th century, though the grounds remain as a public garden, and the caves are occasionally opened for tours.

The origin of the name Reigate is uncertain, but appears to derive from Roe-deer Gate, as the town was situated near to the entrance to the de Warenne’s deer park.

The medieval town is centred on a north—south road of some antiquity as it incorporates the pre-Conquest road pattern. The story of the Pilgrim’s Way passing through Reigate is a myth, although in the 13th century a chapel to St Thomas was built in the town centre for the use of Canterbury pilgrims.

Areas of the town have been the subject of extensive archaeological investigation. Bell Street was certainly in existence by the middle of the 12th century and Mesolithic implements have been found here. Much of the High Street appears to be slightly later although there appear to have been buildings along the south side of the Street near to the junction with Bell Street by the 13th century at the latest. The market place was originally around Slipshoe Street, at the junction of West Street, but infilled houses encroached on it and it had been moved to the east end of the High Street by the end of the 16th century. The results of much of this work have been published; many of the finds are held in the museum of the Holmesdale Natural History Club in Croydon Road.

Probably early in the 13th century Reigate Priory was founded for regular Canons of the Order of St Augustine although it was strictly speaking the Hospital of the Crutched Friars – a suborder. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1535 the estate was granted by Henry VIII to William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, who soon converted the Priory buildings into a residence. The Effingham branch of the Howard family, including the Earl of Nottingham who as Lord High Admiral commanded the force which defeated the Spanish Armada, lived there until their heirs sold it to the wealthy London brewer, John Parsons in 1681. Remains of the former monastery buildings are known to lie beneath the lawns to the south of the present mainly 18th century house, which is now used as a school.

The town developed a large trade in oatmeal during the 16th century but this had ceased by about 1720. There was a noted tannery at Linkfield Street which was expanded in the 19th century. It burnt down about 1930.

The coming of the Brighton railway in 1841 led to a rapid expansion of the parish, concentrated around the railway station in an area that was previously uninhabited.

The old (non corporate) Borough of Reigate (roughly the town centre of Reigate) elected two MPs until the Reform Act of 1832 when it lost one. Further amendments to the electoral boundary occurred. In 1863, the whole parish was formally incorporated as the Borough of Reigate with Thomas Dann as its first Mayor.

Reigate has two windmills: a Post mill on Reigate Heath and a tower mill on Wray Common. Previously there had been about a dozen animal powered mills for oatmeal as well as several water and windmills. Reigate is the setting for the Sherlock Holmes short story The Adventure of the Reigate Squire, also known as The Adventure of the Reigate Squires and The Adventure of the Reigate Puzzle. It is one of 12 stories featured in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

The town centre is, save for the castle, focused on Bell Street, leading south, and a long High Street/West Street conservation area with shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. Between the streets is a Morrisons supermarket. The other central supermarket is an M&S. Reigate has a tea room, independent toy shop and delicatessen.

There are a total of nine licensed pubs and bars in the town centre.

The most popular park in Reigate is the Priory Park, adjoining Reigate Priory School and located south of the High Street and west of Bell Street, which has recently been redesigned. It has a recreation area for smaller children as well as football fields, tennis courts, a skatepark, woodland and large Priory Pond, draining over a small weir. Priory Park also has an Urban Kitchen Café set in a building named ‘The Pavilion’ which also houses bulletin boards for the people of Reigate. The park is very popular with children from the local Secondary schools, consequently, there are a number of unconfirmed cases of assault by children of the same age.

  • Reigate is served by Reigate railway station. At peak times a few direct trains run to London Victoria and also London Bridge in 40 minutes. Off peak trains run to Gatwick Airport, Reading, Redhill and London Bridge (cut back from London Charing Cross in the December 2009 timetable). Trains to London are run by the (New) Southern Railway company and those to Gatwick Airport and Reading by First Great Western.
  • Reigate is a few minutes from Junction 8 of the London orbital motorway M25. The town’s one-way system includes parts of the A25 and the A217.

At one time the airline Air Europe had its head office in Europe House in Reigate. Redland plc the FTSE 100 building materials company was headquartered in Reigate before its acquisition by Lafarge. The insurance company Esure is now located in the former Redland headquarters, and the Redland brick sculpture remains in front of the building.

Reigate has three Surrey County Council representatives, elected every four years, elected by three wards.

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