Box Hill is part of the North Downs chalk escarpment that runs to the north of Dorking. It overlooks the Mole Gap where the River Mole crosses the Downs to flow north, providing a route north towards London. Consequently the Hill has been a landmark for centuries for those passing north and south between the capital and the lands to the south. Box Hill was popular as a pleasure destination as early as the seventeenth century when people came over to visit from Epsom Spa. Its fame grew with the coming of the turnpike to Dorking. In the early nineteenth century the Hill provided a backdrop for a key scene in Jane Austen’s Emma.
The coming of railway lines in 1849 and 1867 brought day trippers via Box Hill and West Humble Station (also known, over the years as ‘Westhumble’, ‘Boxhill’, and ‘Boxhill and Burford Bridge’), but many trippers came in via Dorking itself. By the end of the nineteenth century cyclists, charabancs and cars were also making the trip.
So popular was Box Hill with Londoners by the twentieth century that ticket receipts reveal that 14, 000 arrived at Box Hill station on Whit Monday 1947, with another 12,000 travelling via Dorking North station.
Dorking eccentric Major Peter Labelliere (1726-1800), who was known in the town as ‘the walking dunghill’ left instructions that on his death he was to be buried upside down on Box Hill, claiming that the world was topsy-turvy and he wanted to be right in the end.
Box Hill is now owned by the National Trust. It is a fine site for chalk-loving wild flowers including orchids. The ‘zig-zag’ road up the hill is very popular with cyclists and motorcyclists and the cafe at the bottom of the hill on the A24 near Burford Bridge is a great meeting point for motorcyclists at weekends.