The town has grown along the main east-west road (A25) and below the ancient castle on its mound. The building of a castle at this location allowed it to dominate the Holmesdale Valley and command the route which passed over Cockshot Hill to the south.
More Hassell watercolours of Reigate can be seen on the gallery page.
In about 1088 Reigate was one of several Surrey Manors granted to William de Warenne, a man of Norman origins, on his creation as Earl of Surrey. The construction of the castle followed soon after with buildings on a broad and lofty motte or mound, which took advantage of the natural features of a spur of land. The site was further strengthened later and was of local strategic importance. Only the earthworks remain as a scheduled monument (click the link to see the Historic Environment Record for the castle).
Reigate Priory was founded in the early 13th century, and in 1541, at the Reformation, the Priory Manor was granted to William, Lord Howard, with the estates passing to his son Charles, Lord Howard, who was Lord Admiral in command at the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Priory was bought in 1945 by Reigate Borough Council and the main building and its immediate grounds are used for school purposes by Surrey County Council. The interior includes a magnificent 16th century carved oak mantelpiece and a fine painted stairwell of c.1710 attributed to the Italian painter Antonio Verrio.
The town centre is perhaps best recognised now by its Old Town Hall (click the link to see the Historic Environment Record for the old Town Hall) at the heart of the place. Gradual growth has produced numerous changes over a long period but Reigate retains many buildings of interest.
Click here to see the catalogue of the St Mary Magdalene, Reigate, Parish Records (1556-1910) held at the Surrey History Centre.
Did You Know?
A fine Neolithic (4000 2200 BC) flint axe was found on Reigate Heath in 1955 by a school boy from Reigate Grammar School. Many similar flints have been found nearby, part of the toolkits used by prehistoric peoples.