8. Medieval

1066 – 1485

Guildford Castle Royal castle built by William I  Photograph: Richard Purkiss

Guildford Castle Royal castle built by William I
Photograph: Richard Purkiss

In 1066 William the Conqueror invaded England and defeated the Saxon king Harold at the battle of Hastings. He then led his army around London, marching through Kent, Surrey and Berkshire, causing great damage to the property of anyone who tried to resist. Once he crowned himself king of England, William started to replace Saxon lords with Norman barons who owed him loyalty. William encouraged his barons to build castles in order to protect his new kingdom and to show how powerful he was.

An artists drawing of Abinger Motte

An artists drawing of Abinger Motte

Some were quite small motte and bailey castles (with a tower on top of a mound) like the ones at Abinger (click here to see the HER record) and Walton on the Hill (click here to see the HER record), and some were stone like Guildford’s impressive castle and royal palace.

Religion was an important part of medieval life. Local lords began to build small churches near their manor houses, and many, such as those in Wisley and Titsey, soon became the churches for the parishes. More monasteries were built across Surrey, such as the first Cistercian monastery which was at Waverley, and the Dominican Friary in Guildford, now the site of the Friary shopping centre.

Waverley Abbey: the first Cistercian abbey  in England

Waverley Abbey: the first Cistercian abbey in England

Godalming, Reigate, Farnham and Guildford developed during the 12th and 13th centuries, as people started to live close to important castles and monasteries which became centres for trade and markets. Farming was still very important and small industries also began to develop. In Chiddingfold, the glassmaking industry had become so successful that in 1240 they were asked to make the coloured glass for the windows of the new Westminster Abbey. Quarries around Godstone and Merstham provided stone for building, and large pottery industries made jugs, bowls and cups for the London market.

In 1349 the Black Death probably affected many communities across Surrey; the landowners often didn’t have enough people to farm their lands because about a third to a half of all the people in the country died. Survivors of the Black Death began to leave the countryside to live in towns where they could work for themselves and be independent.  People left on the farms could and did demand proper wages and more freedom.  Some peasants became rich enough to build themselves good timbered houses, many of which are still homes for Surrey people after 600 years!

Medieval Surrey

Castles

Click here to see an interactive map of Surrey’s Castles.

Click the bold links to see more information including the Historic Environment Record pages.

  • Abinger – remains of Norman earthwork castle. Click here.
  • Betchworth Castle – remains of Norman castle. Click here.
  • Bletchingley Castle – built and owned by the de Clares. Click here.
  • Chessington – remains found of early Norman castle. Click here.
  • Cranleigh – remains found of early Norman castles. Click here.
  • Esher Place – the brick gatehouse was built around 1480 for Bishop Waynefleet of Winchester. Altered by William Kent in c.1730. Click here.
  • Farnham Castle – (Norman origin) belonged to Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester. Click here.
  • Guildford Castle – Royal castle built by William I. Click here.
  • Starborough Castle, Lingfield, 1341
  • Ockley, – remains found of early Norman castle. Click here.
  • Reigate Castle – created in 1088 by William De Warenne (Earl of Surrey). Fortified by the Earl of Arundel in 14th century but largely decayed by 1622. Click here.
  • Walton on the Hill – remains of Norman earthwork castle. Click here.

Houses

Monasteries and Churches

  • 10th century Benedictine house extensively re-built in 1110 – Chertsey Abbey
  • Augustinian Priory and hospital dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and Holy Cross. Founded in the early 13th century – Reigate Priory
  • Tithe barn– built by the monks at Waverley Abbey – Wanborough
    St Catherine's Chapel

    St Catherine’s Chapel

  • St Catherines Chapel. The present building was erected by Richard de Wauncey, Rector of St Nicholas, and consecrated in May 1317. Guildford
  • Church of St Mary the Virgin – remains of the 15th century church – Ewell.
  • Ashtead, near St Giles’ Church – possible medieval earthworks
  • St Marys Parish Church  – 11th century church with alterations dating to 12th-13th century – Fetcham
  • West Humble Chapel – ruins of medieval chapel
  • Winchester Palace, Southwark, (not in modern Surrey) offsite – site of the town house of the Bishop of Winchester. Initially built in the 1140s, parts of the 13th century great hall and 14th century additions can still be seen
  • Church of St Peter and St Paul – late 12th century wall paintings showing the salvation/damnation of souls. Hidden with whitewash by the Puritans, the walls are now uncovered again – Chaldon

Other Medieval Sites

  • Eashing Bridge – medieval bridge across the river Wey
  • Banstead Heath earthworks – possible medieval stock enclosures
  • Henley Wood earthworks, Chelsham – medieval enclosures
  • Holt Wood earthworks, Chelsham – medieval enclosures
  • Elstead Bridge – medieval bridge across the river Wey
  • Bridge north end of Tilford Green – medieval bridge across the river Wey
  • Quarry Field building stone quarry, Merstham – the tunnels appear to be medieval in origin, but were re-opened by 1807 and extended.
  • Pottery Kilns – remains of medieval pottery kilns were found during the building of the M25 motorway, Limpsfield

NB. Many of these sites are on private land and not open to the public or for school visits

2 thoughts on “8. Medieval”

  1. A recent “Homes under the Hammer” show (BBC1)featured the old Gomshall tannery converted into cottages. Original interior features included arches, pillars and vaulted stone ceilings – far too grand for a mere tannery! Is it possible the building was originally monastic and then used as a tannery after the dissolution of the monasteries by a keen papal opponent?

    1. T.R-Kelly says:

      Joan, It sounds like it may have been…a lot of history seems to get lost and covered along the way, especially when a new important use requires the building suddenly and for a long period of time.
      Have sent a link to this website, sounds interesting, just mentions the tannery is from the 17th Century, but you might be right, be good if they found that was the case wouldn’t it!
      http://www.tillingbournetales.co.uk/places/villages/gomshall/

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