Dorking, Surrey Genealogy

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England Gotoarrow.png  Surrey Gotoarrow.png  Surrey Parishes Gotoarrow.png  Dorking

Parish History

'DORKING (St. Martin), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the Second division of the hundred of Wotton, W. division of Surrey, 12 miles (E.) from Guildford, and 23 (S. S. W.) from London, on the road through Epsom to Worthing, Bognor, and Brighton: containing 5638 inhabitants. This place, anciently called Dorchinges, appears to have derived its name from its situation in a valley abounding with springs of water. It was probably founded by the Saxons, and, after its destruction by the Danes, was rebuilt, and had become a town of some importance prior to the Norman Conquest, at which period it was held in royal demesne, and had a church and three mills. In the reign of Edward I., it obtained the grant of a weekly market and an annual fair, and was endowed with many privileges. In a survey of the manor, in 1649, the town is stated to have considerably improved, and to have been pitched with large pebble stones. The summer assizes for the county were held here in 1699, but from what particular cause does not appear; the quartersessions used also to be held here occasionally.

'The parish comprises 10,020a. 38p., of which about 3940 acres are arable, 2630 meadow, 1819 woodland, and 1344 common or waste; the soil is luxuriantly fertile, and the heights command magnificent views. In the environs are several gentlemen's seats, of which the splendid mansion of Deepdene, immediately adjoining the town, Denbies, and Bury Hill, are the principal. Betchworth Castle, which has been pulled down, occupied the site of an ancient fortress of that name, on the western bank of the river Mole, and was beautifully situated in an extensive park (now thrown into the demesne of Deepdene), celebrated for the stateliness of its fine chesnut-trees, some of which are seven yards in girth, and produce fruit equal to the Spanish tree. There were two other ancient fortresses in the parish, called Benham and Ewtons Castles, which are stated to have been demolished by the Danes: vestiges of the moat that surrounded each are still apparent, and the former has given name to a meadow in which it stood. Box Hill, about a mile from the town, a picturesque eminence planted with box-trees in the reign of Charles I., by the Earl of Arundel, commands an extensive view of the surrounding country, and is a place of resort for summer excursions from London. The vale beneath Box Hill, called Holmdale, was for several ages the retreat of the ancient Britons, in their conflicts with the Romans, and afterwards that of the Saxons, when the county was harassed by the Danes. In the reign of Charles II., it was celebrated for red deer, which the Duke of York, afterwards James II., preserved for his own sport; it was subsequently noted for the production of immense quantities of strawberries, which were conveyed to market in horse-loads.'

'The town is situated towards the south side of a sandy vale, on a stratum of sand-rock, in which excellent cellars are excavated: a small stream flowing into the river Mole intersects the vale, which is sheltered on the north by a ridge of chalky downs, extending from Farnham on the western side of the county into Kent, and abounding with picturesque scenery. The principal street is spacious, and the footpaths were paved a few years since; the houses are in general well built, and of neat appearance. The town is lighted with gas, and supplied with water brought from a spring by water-works, the property of a private individual, who has constructed baths adjoining them for the public accommodation. A library and reading-rooms are supported by subscription. Lime is dug in the vicinity, of very superior quality; there are also several breweries: but the town owes its chief support to the resident gentry, and visiters who frequent the place on account of the great salubrity of the air. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway from Epsom, by Dorking, to Portsmouth; and another act, for a railway from Reigate, by Dorking, to Guildford and Reading. Poultry, of which a particular species having five claws, stated to have been brought hither by the Romans, and known as Dorking fowls, is sold in large quantities for the supply of London. The market is on Thursday; on the second Thurday in every month is a large cattle-market, and a fair is held in May, the day before Ascension-day. The county magistrates hold petty-sessions here for the division; and a court leet and court baron are held in October, under the lord of the manor: the powers of the county debt-court of Dorking, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Dorking.

'The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £14. 13. 11½.; patron, the Duke of Norfolk; impropriators, W. Coleman, Esq., and others: the vicarial tithes have been commuted for £540. The present church, a handsome structure in a mixed style, with a lofty tower surmounted by a spire, was, with the exception of the chancel, erected in 1837, at a cost of about £10,000, defrayed by subscription, and a grant of £500 from the Incorporated Society; it contains 1800 sittings, of which 675 are free. There are several neat monuments in the chancel, and at the east end of the nave is an elegant tablet erected by subscription to the memory of the Earl of Rothes, who died suddenly in 1817, while hunting in Betchworth Park. A district church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, was erected in 1838, at Holmwood, 3 miles south from Dorking, on the road to Horsham; it is a neat building containing 274 sittings, 218 of which are free, and cost about £1000. Mrs. Arnold contributed liberally towards its erection, and also partly endowed it. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Bishop of Winchester, with a net income of £120. A parsonage-house in the Elizabethan style has been erected near the church, by subscription. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Wesleyans, and Independents. An almshouse, containing eighteen apartments, was founded on Cotmandane common, and endowed by Mrs. Susannah Smith with land, producing £40. 10. per annum. The rents of an estate purchased with a sum of money left for that purpose by Mrs. Margaret Fenwicke, in 1725, are distributed in marriage-portions to servantmaids, and apprentice-fees to poor children. About £200 are yearly received from Henry Smith's charity. The Rev. Samuel Cosin left 23 acres of marsh-land, in Chislett, Kent, now producing £81 per annum; and there are other bequests for the relief of the poor, besides several to the almshouses on Cotmandane common. The union of Dorking comprises eight parishes or places, and contains a population of 10,968.

'Traces of the Roman Stane-street, which passed through Dorking, are frequently discovered in digging the ground in the churchyard; and on the summit of a hill three miles and a half from the town, is Anstie Bury, a Roman encampment inclosing more than eleven acres, defended by a triple intrenchment, and having the entrance on the east side, where the works have been levelled by the plough. On Winterfield farm, near this camp, a wooden box was discovered in 1817, about ten or twelve inches below the surface of the ground, containing 700 Anglo-Saxon coins, the uppermost of which were firmly cemented together by an incrustation formed by the decomposition of the metal used as an alloy to the silver. These coins were purchased on the spot by Robert Barclay and George Dewdney, Esqrs., who presented them to the trustees of the British Museum, in order that they might select such as might be found requisite to complete their series. Many curious fossils have been found in the chalk-pits; and within two miles of the town is Mag's Well, the water of which is slightly impregnated with sulphate of magnesia and iron, and closely resembles the Malvern water, being used as an alterative. Jeremiah Markland, the learned critic, who resided at Milton Court, in the parish, and died in 1763; and Abraham Tucker, author of the Light of Nature, who resided at Betchworth Castle, were buried in the chancel of the church; and John Hoole, translator of Tasso and Ariosto, was interred in the churchyard. The Rev. John Mason, author of a treatise on Self-knowledge, lived for several years in the town.'[1]


Civil Registration

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Church records

Online Dorking, Surrey Genealogy Parish Register Images and Indexes
Indexes 1538-1875 FamilySearch[2] 1539-1876 FamilySearch[3] 1538-1865 FindMyPast[4]

Contributor: Include here information for parish registers, Bishop’s Transcripts, non conformist and other types of church records, such as parish chest records. Add the contact information for the office holding the original records. Add links to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection

Census records

Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Surrey Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.


Burials 1855-1933 at Dorking Municipal Cemetery are included in National Burial Index.

Maps and Gazetteers

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Web sites

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  1. A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel A. Lewis (1848), pp. 69-78. URL: Date accessed: 18 November 2010.
  2. Batches C074071, C074072, C074073, see: Hugh Wallis, 'IGI Batch Numbers for Surrey, England,' IGI Batch Numbers, accessed 2 April 2012.
  3. Batches M074071, M074072, M074073, see: Hugh Wallis, 'IGI Batch Numbers for Surrey, England,' IGI Batch Numbers, accessed 2 April 2012.
  4. 'Parish Records - National Burial Index Records 1538 - 2005 Coverage,' Find My Past, accessed 11 April 2012. For a breakdown of missing years, see 'National Burial Index - Coverage: Surrey,' Federation of Family History Societies, accessed 11 April 2012.