Chobham, located in the northwest corner of Surrey, is an attractive old-worldy village with a population of about 5000.
The village has a remarkably long history; there is evidence of local human occupation stretching back to pre-historic times. Round Bronze Age (about 3500 years ago) burial mounds can be found near Sunningdale, Longcross and West End. The light sandy soils were easy for prehistoric peoples to clear of trees but once cleared the light soil became impoverished as nutrients were easily washed out. These areas of poor sandy soil became the heathlands that surround Chobham today.
After the Romans, invading north-German Saxon warrior-farmers rowed their longboats up the Thames and established settlements in Surrey. It is believed that one of their chieftains called Ceabba established a settlement on the ridge of dry ground between two rivers (the Bournes). It became known as Ceabba’s Ham (ham meaning settlement). The place name evolved through the centuries to Chobham.
The Pope sent missionaries to convert the heathen Saxons and in 666 AD a minster of missionary priests was established at Chertsey. Shortly afterwards, in exchange for the eternal existence of his soul, the local Saxon prince gave most of the lands of northwest Surrey to this minster. The minster and subsequently the Abbey became the lord of the manor for the next 900 years.
After the Norman Conquest, Chobham, being under Chertsey Abbey, was probably spared the worst excesses of the Norman barons and the King’s demands. Nevertheless, the villagers were forced by the Abbot to perform many duties on the Abbot’s land and to pay many taxes. Chertsey Abbey was abolished during the Reformation in 1537, but right up to the 19th century the villagers were still expected to pay a tithe (one-tenth) of their produce to the vicar.
Lordship of the manor of Chobham was sold to private individuals and eventually to the Onslow family. Many of Chobham’s fine old houses were built between 1550-1600 and that perhaps indicates a period of freedom and prosperity for our farmers.
Chobham has remained largely undeveloped: bypassed by every new trend. The Romans hurried past to fight their battles in the North and West. The turnpike road developments of the 17th and 18th centuries brought prosperity to Bagshot (A30) and Ripley (A3), but they missed Chobham. The canal developments went too far to the south. The railways brought massive growth to nearby Woking and Sunningdale, but the planned railway line to Chobham was never built.
The centre of the village is a conservation area and contains many listed buildings including St Lawrence Church (click the link to see the Historic Environment Record for the church) which dates from Norman times.
Click here to see the catalogue of the St Lawrence, Chobham, Parish Records (1624-1950) held at the Surrey History Centre.
Click here to see the catalogue of the St Lawrence, Chobham, Parish Records (1635-1954) held at the Surrey History Centre.
Chobham Common, the 1500 acres of heathland to the north of the village, is a National Nature Reserve.