3. Nineteenth century


Tinted colour postcard of the Shah Jahan Mosque, 1905 SHC PC/160/ALB1/85

The Impact of Industry

By the beginning of the nineteenth century the number of factories in Surrey was increasing. The rapid expansion of towns like Guildford and improvements in transportation throughout the century finally brought Surrey’s farming role to an end. The county became a prosperous one, attracting rich businessmen who built their ‘country’ houses within commutable distance of London. But population growth brought problems as well and, after the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, new workhouses were built in Farnham, Chertsey, Reigate and Hambledon to house Surrey’s poor and unemployed, with more following by 1880.

The Growth of the Railways

The growing number of factories caused a transportation crisis. More goods than ever were being produced and the old canal systems and waterways simply couldn’t cope with the increased workload. In July 1803 a solution was offered and the Surrey Iron Railway opened, running from Croydon to Carshalton. It was the first public railway in the world, though it did not look much like a modern railway; the ‘train’ was made up of wagons and drawn along the iron track by horses. By the 1840s the steam railways had arrived in Surrey. They spread rapidly, forcing the closure of the Iron Railway in 1846, and causing the canals to finally be abandoned as a means of carrying goods.

Changes in Worship

In the nineteenth century, religious worship was starting to become more varied, with an increasing mix of different cultures and faiths. Surrey was at the forefront of this change with the building of the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking in 1889: the oldest mosque in Britain. The churches were not forgotten either and many small parish churches were extensively restored at this time, such as St Leonard’s Church Chelsham. This church originally dates to 1190, with a tower dating to the 15th century , which was restored and altered 1871. The nineteenth century also saw the construction of the first municipal cemeteries, such as Brookwood cemetery in Woking, which was created to ease the growing problem of overcrowding within inner London cemeteries.

The Surrey Defences

Box Hill Fort, or mobilisation centre Image: Richard Purkiss

Box Hill Fort, or mobilisation centre
Image: Richard Purkiss

Great Britain had always relied on its island status as protection from invasion, but, during the late 19th century, people began to fear that this was no longer enough. In 1889 Parliament decided to build a line of forts to protect London from a possible enemy invasion. Thirteen forts were built altogether, including ones at Pewley Hill near Guildford and Box Hill, near Dorking. The last fort was finished in 1902, but by this time the danger had passed and the scheme was finally abolished four years later.

Nineteenth Century Surrey


Religious Sites

Other Landmarks

  • The Guildford Corn Exchange – built 1818
  • The Farnham Pottery – built by Absalom Harris in 1872
  • Chatley Semaphore Tower, Chatley Heath near Cobham – built in the 19th century and used to send messages to and from Portsmouth naval base
  • Chilworth Gunpowder mills – initially built in the 17th century, the mills were extended during the 1860s and in 1885 the Chilworth gunpowder company was formed.
  • Box Hill Fort, near Dorking – 19th Century ‘Mobilisation Centre’, part of the defensive line around London
  • Surrey Iron Railway earthworks – near A23 north of Merstham
  • Surrey Iron Railway – original sleepers – from the railway can be seen, set into the wall of the Ram Brewery
  • The Angel Inn, Guildford -19th Century coaching inn
  • Coxes Lock Mill – first built on the site by ironmaster Alexander Raby c.1776. It became a corn mill and then a silk mill in the 1830s. Now residential apartments
  • Betchworth lime kilns – the site was worked from 1865-1934 by the Dorking Greystone Lime Company
  • The Manor Hospital, Epsom – opened in 1889 as a hospital for the mentally ill, the first of a cluster of five such hospitals. Used as a war hospital during the First World War
  • Workhouses in Reigate, Farnham, Hambledon and Chertsey – built after 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act
  • Epsom Race course – first appeared during the 17th century, with the covered stands constructed later in the 19th century
  • Quarry Field building stone quarry, Merstham – the tunnels appear to be medieval in origin, but were re-opened by 1807 and extended. Stone quarried here was used for hearthstones and doorsteps as well as for whitening stone floors
  • Ockford Hill quarry, Godalming – quarried for Bargate stone, closed in 1935
  • Peppermint distillery, Westcott, near Dorking – lavender and peppermint were grown on farms around Westcott from around 1893. The distillery operated from 1898-1907, when operations were moved to Croydon
  • Bronze Foundry, Thames Ditton – produced monumental statues from 1874-1939, including the Quadriga at Hyde Park Corner

Museums with 19th Century collections

Contributor:Surrey Heritage

2 thoughts on “3. Nineteenth century”

  1. Sally Spurgeon says:

    Where do I find the history of a local house In the limpsfield area. The architect . Built around the end of 1800s or early 1900s?

  2. Virginia Harding says:

    I am trying to find out when my grandparent Thomas and Annie bowl moved tpTreeview,Between street Cobham Surrey and when my grandmother left and moved to weybridge.tShe lived next door to Father Gamble.The house is now lived in by the nuns

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