This village of about three hundred and fifty households situated south-east of Reigate, close to the border with Sussex, has been known at various times as Leghe, Legh, Leygh, The Lea, Lye and Lee. Gatwick airport is 4 miles away. The river Mole is on the eastern edge of the Parish. The name means a clearing in the woods and the area is still surrounded by lovely woodland. The village is not recorded in the Domesday Book and little of historical importance seems to have happened in Leigh. Shellwood Manor which dates from at least the twelfth century belonged to powerful, but absent families or religious organisations. Leigh Place was the home of the Arderne family in the fifteenth century, but when they died out, was also passed round different noble families.

Leigh Place, built by the Ardene Family in the 15th century. Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 3362

Leigh Place, built by the Ardene Family in the 15th century
Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 3362

Down the years, Leigh appears to have been chiefly occupied with ironworking and farming. There was a nearby skirmish towards the end of the English Civil War, but otherwise the thick woods and heavy clay soil created a somewhat isolated community. Census records show that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the village was self sufficient. It had its own windmill, a bakery, a grocer and a butcher while a policeman, blacksmith and dressmaker are among the services recorded. The Church (click the link to see the Historic Environment record) dates back to the fourteenth century and has undergone several transformations. Click here to see the catalogue of the St Batholomew, Leigh, Parish Records and Leigh Civil Parish Records (1579-1933) held at the Surrey History Centre.

The earliest version of Leigh Church

The earliest version of Leigh Church

Church before restoration. This shows the church as it was briefly in the 19th century before restoration, paid for by Mrs. Georgiana Charrington, took place in 1892

Church before restoration. This shows the church as it was briefly in the 19th century before restoration, paid for by Mrs. Georgiana Charrington, took place in 1892

Leigh Church Image: David Hall

Leigh Church
Image: David Hall

Bury's Court, viewed from the south.

Bury’s Court, viewed from the south.

In 1845, the Duke of Norfolk who had become the owner of Shellwood Manor, gave land for a school in the village towards which the dowager Queen Adelaide contributed 20, but a Christmas letter from the Vicar written in 1871, talked sadly of children not being able to attend because they had to work on the land.

Old cottages on the village green. Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 3141

Old cottages on the village green
Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 3141

During the second half of the nineteenth century, several newly rich families became involved in the village. James Freshfield, a successful solicitor, built Mynthurst, later bought by Henry Bell, the brewing family of Charrington built Burys Court and two Watney brothers of the coal producing side of the family, were connected to Leigh Place. These families became involved in the village as school governors and benefactors.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the school needed much repair and the records describe a child being paid a few pennies a week to empty the earth closet toilets. The Local Education Authority insisted in building a new school though Sir Henry Bell strongly objected. This opened in 1913 and flourishes to this day.

Village school, shown on an old postcard

Village school, shown on an old postcard

Over the years, Leigh has lost its shops and services, but the farming continues and the two vibrant pubs remain.

Pump on the Green. Put there in 1875 by James Wilson, who then rented Mynthurst. Image: David Hall

Pump on the Green. Put there in 1875 by James Wilson, who then rented Mynthurst
Image: David Hall

Further information

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3 Responses to Leigh

  1. Peter Pooley says:

    Do you have any historical information about Shellwood Cottage in Leigh Surrey?

  2. Roy David Livermore says:

    My great grandfather Mr George Flint lived in one of the old cottages on Leigh green before moving to the Old Forge Cottage ,Leigh cc 1871.

  3. Jayne Elias says:

    Hi, my nan rebecca golding was born in halden lodge leigh in 1903. I have scoured the Internet but cannot find any info or photos of this building. Can anyone help please?

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