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The ecclesiastical parish of Capel lies in the Weald just north of the Surrey/Sussex border. Until the 19th century it included the small villages of Beare Green and Coldharbour. The A24 used to pass through its main street but it is now bypassed. At Domesday in 1086, the settlement formed the southern part of the Manor of Dorking.

The church (click the link to see the Historic Environment Record for the church) was built in the 12th century as a chapel of ease attached to Dorking thus giving the village its present name. Before that it was called Ewekerne, the name of one of the principal farms. In the 14th century it became an independent parish.

Click here to see the catalogue of the St John the Baptist, Capel, Parish Records and Capel, Civil Parish Records (1748-1936) held at the Surrey History Centre.

Click here to see the catalogue of the St John the Baptist, Capel, Parish Records (1653-1981) held at the Surrey History Centre.

The original settlement consisted of about 30 farms. The majority of these still exist today, most of them still bearing the names of their tenants in the early 14th century. Timbers in some of the farmhouses have been dated to that century.

The main occupation of the inhabitants in the middle ages was mixed farming. In the 17th century they began to exploit the heavy clay for brickmaking, and by the early 19th century there were several brickyards. This has become a very important industry up to the present day.

The village remained fairly isolated until the building of the Epsom to Horsham turnpike in 1755. This led to the establishment of two public houses in the main street and two more at Beare Green.

Capel – as viewed from Coldharbour, 1950
Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 9555

The arrival of the railway in 1867 attracted prosperous families from London who bought up some of the original farmsteads and built large mansions. Many of these became benefactors to the village. Prominent amongst these were the Broadwoods and the Mortimers.

Capel today has several shops, a pub, a surgery, a first and middle school and a bus service to Dorking and Horsham.

A history of the parish is in preparation and will be published in the near future (see comment below for more information).

Further information

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15 thoughts on “Capel”

  1. Linda Clarke says:

    I am searching for photos of Arnolds formerly called Arnold’s Beare, in Capel Surrey, or any
    photgraphs relating to the Kerrich family who lived there.

    1. Mike Daggett says:

      Hi Linda
      Did you get a response to your query on Arnolds? I believe my great grandfather worked there before WW1 as an engineer/electrician and I have photo taken in the grounds which is captioned by my grand-mother “My Donkey”. Annoyingly, I cannot find them in the 1911 census but I believe they may well have been at Arnolds.

  2. Mary Day says:

    The promised history of Capel, ‘Capel, The Chapel by the Spring’ was published earlier this year, 2015, and is for sale at Dorking Museum and Carters, Capel

  3. wendy mortimer says:

    need confirmation that charles mortimer esq and family at wigmore house beare green was one of the first houses to have electricity . this would be about 1900-1927. i know it was ,but i need written proof….

  4. Paolo says:

    Beare Green is (or should one say, are – read on…..) part of Capel and doesn’t have its own entry on this website. Beare Green is now really two settlements, either side of the A24 dual carriageway. The original and earlier one took its name from Walter de la Bere, a local landowner in the 13th century. This original Beare Green lay in a boggy woodland area where there were wild boar. The tiny hamlet community surrounded the village green. It now has 100 homes. Printed maps will usually show “Beare Green” as being here, often called old Beare Green by locals in order to make a distinction. Electronic navigators vary. The newer settlement called ‘Beare Green’, often called new Beare Green for clarity, on the other side of the dual carriageway built in the late 1960’s is larger with 600 homes, and is centred on Holmwood station, which, confusingly, is nowhere near what are now called North, Mid and South Holmwood.

    Holmwood station was visited by the Kaiser, and queen victoria’s coffin train passed through it. Evacuees and orphans came here, too, to stay in one of the comparatively few homes in the area with a few mile radius of the station. There was a brickworks next to where the pond on Merebank now is, just south of Holmwood station, as the main local industry, coal being supplied via a goods yard at the station. The kiln was where the village hall now stands, which for a while was a catholic church (the old village hall being opposite what is now Turners House). Another brickworks was established (and still is operating today) at old Beare Green, with still another (now closed) at Smokejack Quarry in nearby Ockley, where two new dinosaur species have been discovered in the old clay extraction area by fossil hunters at organised events there. A book published in 2017 by local historian Julian Womersley covers the history of Holmwood station (opened 1867) and the area. Holmwood station caused a shift in focus of development to the north west of the original village green, and acted as a catalyst for some speculative development during the 19th century, encouraging the wealthy to establish country houses.

    There was a school, post office, two public houses (the large White Hart on the old Horsham road – the former turnpike – near Merebank in new Beare Green, and the smaller Duke’s Head in old Beare Green), plus various shops. Between the wars, the “Red Arrow” café and a petrol filling station were built. The name red arrow is carried on as the name of a toolshop today in new Beare Green.

    In 1932, the British Musicians Pension Scheme built a 5 bedroom villa as a retirement home for retired musicians on the site of the recently-closed brickworks (the clay pit now being a pond) plus 9 acres of adjacent land, using Douglas Anderson as architect. He incorporated aspects of both William Morris’ The Red House, and (in its shape, embracing the visitor on arrival) the nearby Dutch House at what is now called South Holmwood (then, North Holmwood). At its opening, recorded on a foundation stone with D’Erlanger’s name in it, Henry Wood the composer and Baron Frederic D’erlanger were present for a concert by the London Philharmonic orchestra. By 1935, Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty is recorded as giving a series of outdoor concerts at the home.

    In 1949, the British Musicians Pension Scheme applied for planning consent to build 3 more blocks as holiday homes for musicians in the grounds; the application still shows on the mole valley website, but this never came to pass because by the early 1950s, the British Musicians Pension Scheme was financially ailing; Dorking and Horley Rural District Council, forerunner of the Mole Valley District Council, bought the musicians house which from about then became known as “Merebank House”, with the road, Merebank, being properly built and adopted by the council. The lake and nine acres of land north of Leith Road that came with the musicians’ house became separated from the house, and the land was used over time, mostly much later on, to build Oak End, Oak Corner and Willow Close. Houses were built opposite the lake along Merebank in the 1960s or 70s, being given only odd numbers due to a then-prevailing local superstition.

    Woodside Road and Anstiebury Close were ‘self-build’ areas, land on which there had formerly been holiday homes for Londoners. Homes were built in the 50’s without planning consent in Highland Road, and later regarded as established and regularised.

    1. Billbo says:

      Correction, the brickworks at Smokejack quarry near Ockley are very much operational as at 2018, robotised now with automated brick bearers on tracks and automated furnace doors etc to reduce labour in making engineering bricks, with a more laborious process to make roof tiles.

    2. Paolo says:

      Correction, I have recently made a visit (with permission) to Smokejacks Quarry Brickworks and saw fully robotised brick pallets loading engineering bricks into the drying oven then later into the firing kiln, going in grey coming out as red/orange engineering bricks (being produced even on a Sunday; the site was only very lightly manned and the automated drying/firing pallets make their own way on tracks to their own indoor storage area…). Clay roof tiles are made there too, that is more laborious/less automated. This Wienerberger brickworks has had a lot of investment, and as at May 2018 is not (as stated in error above) closed !

    3. Vera Dunkin says:

      The garage at Beare Green was not built between the wars as stated. It was built after the demolition of two cottages that were @ the top of Henfold Lane to entrance of the old SCC Highway depot (where I grew up). One was a beautiful old house known as ‘The 17th Century Tearooms’.

  5. Paolo says:

    By the way, local resident Julian Womersley has written a book “A HOLMWOOD STATION SCRAPBOOK: One stop beyond Dorking”, available from him (he’ll sign) or via Amazon. He is giving a talk about the history of Beare Green and Holmwood (which is partly what his book is about) to the Beare Green mens’ group, a non-church group that is open to visitors (men only) on Tuesday 24th April 2018 in Beare Green Village Hall, in the small front hall, at 7:15pm until 9pm.

    1. Paolo says:

      Correction / expansion of above : more details – original article from Leatherhead and Dorking Advertiser of June 1932 has been obtained, has more details (with correct original acreage of plot : 24 acres) as below :
      June 1932, Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser
      Musicians’ Home
      Foundation Stone Laid at Holmwood
      A Picturesque Ceremony
      Fanfares by twelve trumpets, twelve trombones and twelve drummers selected from leading London orchestras opened a picturesque ceremony which took place at South Holmwood last Friday afternoon. The ceremony was that of the laying of the foundation stone of the British Musicians’ Society’s convalescent home by Baron Frederic D’Erlanger.
      This home will be the first convalescent home specially built for musicians in this country and the Society has been working for the last ten years to accumulate the necessary funds. The site, which is conveniently near Holmwood Station, is to be found amidst glorious surroundings and is ideal for a home of that kind. In all about 24 acres of land have been purchased, and it is the Society’s aim to have not only a convalescent home but an orphanage and a hostel for aged musicians on the estate. The building, which has been designed by Mr Douglas Anderson, is in the course of erection by Messrs Trollope and Colls and will be ready for occupation in the autumn.
      Baron D’Erlanger, who has rendered great assistance in connection with the provision of this home, is a patron of the British Musicians’ Pension Society and is, perhaps, even better known as a composer of great merit than as a banker. His opera “Tess” in which he has wedded Thomas Hardy’s story to music has frequently been performed at Covent Garden and elsewhere. He has also composed many other works including an impressive Requiem which was broadcast recently.
      Among those present at the ceremony last Friday were Sir Henry and Lady Wood, Mr Joseph Lewis (of B.B.C. fame) ) [Joseph Lewis born 1878 was a conductor at the BBC – went on in 1938 to form his own orchestra after leaving the BBC], Mr C. E. Dawling, Mr. C. Hoggett, and Mr Leonard W. Pinches (Hon. Secretary of the Pension Society). The last two named are founders of the Society and with Mr Dawling have been untiring workers since the idea of a convalescent home was first mooted. As the Baron arrived for the ceremony, the trumpeters heralded his approach.
      He was welcomed by Mr Pinches who said that that moment saw the stage all set and the curtain about to rise on their convalescent home, the mother home of the great institution for musicians which they hoped would arise on the beautiful estate which they saw all around them. When the society started some 23 years ago one of its objects was to erect a convalescent home for musicians. It was talked about but nothing was actually done until almost last year when they set about it with a purpose. Slowly and surely they made ground and by the end of last year they had almost £980. Then came the Baron, their great friend and helper. He took a lively interest in that work and it was largely through his assistance that they were able to be present for the ceremony that day.
      Baron D’Erlanger said he thought a great deal was owing to the musical community at large, for he had no hesitation in saying that it was due to them and not him that the home was made possible. He hoped the home which was about to be erected would be a success and he hoped it was but the first chapter in a long and happy story. He also wished to pay a tribute to the assistance rendered by Sir Henry and Lady Wood, Mr Joseph Lewis, Mr Pinches, Mr Hoggett, and Mr Dawling.
      The actual ceremony of laying the stone was then performed after there was another fanfare followed by a prayer by the vicar of Holmwood, George L Cole, and a hymn. A choir composed of singers from Covent Garden and the Carl Hush and other well known choirs sang the chorus from the opera “Tess” and the Easter Hymn from “Cavalleria Rusticana”. The solo part in the latter was taken by Miss May Blyth, the celebrated soprano. The ceremony concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.
      Baron D’Erlanger was afterwards presented with the silver trowel with which he performed the ceremony.

      1. Paolo says:

        See also
        SHC Reference 7115/12/29
        Title Correspondence and papers relating to the site for a proposed church on the Musicians Housing Estate, Beare Green, Capel – that catholic church eventually became the village hall complex

        1. Paolo says:

          NB in May 1938 in the musical times, it was noted that the British Musicians Pension Society’s convalescent (not retirement) home had, since its opening in 1933, had only 200 patients come to stay, far fewer than planned. Its endowment fund was £500 and it aimed to increase this to £18,000 so it could subsidise the cost of those coming to stay. It had published a brochure and hoped for donations. Probably as a result, Ralph Vaughan Williams left half of his copyright revenue to the “British Musicians’ Pension Society” in his will : – from this I conclude that he would have come to the home and the concerts given there by Sir Hamilton Harty in 1935. He had to do it by way of leaving 100% to the Butterworth Society and asking them to give half, on their word not legally binding, to the musicians’ pension society – there are two letters recording this, here is one :

  6. william d dewdney says:

    Hi Capel.
    This small town is a big part of my family heritage and i have been searching history records for pictures and stories of the family name “DEWDNEY”
    I am hoping that if anyone who reads this message has some stories or photos of the DEWDNEY past, I have much info on our family and wish to share this with you?

  7. D webber says:

    Does anyone have a photograph of Rugge Farm, my mother’s father was the farmer there and I know an aerial photograph was taken. My mum isn’t well and we all loved the farm, any help would be very much appreciated,


  8. Colin Christie says:

    When was the dual carriageway/Capel by pass built?

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