Map showing the location of Surrey within England
Location of Surrey within England

Map showing the approximate location of the Surrey Hundreds. Click map to enlarge.The name Surrey comes from the Old English suther-ge meaning southern district and is first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for AD 722 as Suthrige. By the time of the Domesday Book it was called Sudrie and was sub-divided into 14 groups of manors call 'Hundreds'. Click on small map to enlarge and see the approximate location of the Surrey Hundreds.
  • Brixton
  • Blackheath
  • Copthorne (which included, amongst others, the manors of Epsom, Ewell and Cuddington)
  • Effingham
  • Elmbridge
  • Farnham
  • Godalming
  • Godley
  • Kingston
  • Reigate
  • Tandridge
  • Wallington
  • Woking
  • Wotton

Map showing the major boundary changes. Click map to enlarge.Until 1889, the county of Surrey included the present-day London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth. In 1965 the London boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond (part only) and Sutton were created and made part of Greater London, and the area of the present-day borough of Spelthorne was acquired from Middlesex. Click on small map to enlarge and see the major boundary changes.

Map showing the current District and Borough Councils in Surrey. Click map to enlarge.An administrative body called Surrey County Council was first created in 1889 but underwent some changes in the 1974 local government reform. Gatwick Airport and some surrounding land were transferred to West Sussex. Surrey contains the following Borough and District Councils: Click on small map to enlarge and see the current District and Borough Councils in Surrey.

In 2005 Surrey has a population of about 1.05m people, covered an area of 1679 sq km (648 sq mi), employed about 26,000 staff, spent about £1,000m per year and provided the following services:

  • Education
  • Fire
  • Highways - including on-street parking, traffic management, and street lighting
  • Libraries
  • Recreation, arts and museums
  • Registration of Births, marriages and deaths
  • Social care
  • Strategic planning
  • Trading standards
  • Transport
  • Waste disposal

Part of the Surrey entry from an early 20th century Encyclopedia

The early history of this district is somewhat uncertain. Ethelwerd, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 823, places it in the "Medii Angli" or "Medii Saxones." Its position between the Weald and the Thames decided its northern and southern borders, and the Kentish boundary probably dates from the battle of Wibbandune between Ethelbert of Kent and Ceawlin of Wessex, which traditionally took place at Wimbledon, though this is disputed. The western border, like the southern, was a wild uncultivated district; no settled boundary probably existing at the time of the Domesday Survey. The number of hundreds at that time was fourteen as now, but the hundred of Farnham was not so called, the lands of the bishop of Winchester being placed in no hundred, but coinciding with the present hundred of that name. There is no record of Surrey ever having been in any diocese but Winchester, of which it was an archdeaconry in the 12th century. At the time of the Domesday Survey there were four deaneries: Croydon, Southwark, Guild-ford and Ewell. Croydon was a peculiar of Canterbury, in which diocese it was included in 1291. In the time, of Henry VIII., Croydon was comprehended in the deanery of Ewell, some of its rectories being included in the deanery of Southwark. The old deanery of Guildford was included in the modern one of Stoke. In 1877, Southwark, with some parishes, was transferred to the diocese of Rochester. In the 7th century Surrey was under the overlordship of Wulfhere, king of Mercia, who founded Chertsey abbey, but in 823, when the Mercians were defeated by Egbert of Wessex, it was included in the kingdom of Wessex, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates.

Surrey was constantly overrun by Danish hordes in the 8th century and until peace was established by the accession of Canute. In 857 a great national victory over the Danes took place at Ockley near Leitd Hill. Surrey is not of great historical importance, except its northern border, the southern part having been forest and waste land, long uninhabited and almost impassable for an army. Guildford, though the county town, and often the seat of the court under John and Henry III., was of little importance beside Southwark, the centre of trade and commerce, the residence of many ecclesiastical dignitaries, a frequent point of attack on London, and a centre for rebellions and riots. The Norman army traversed and ravaged the county in their march on London, a large portion of the county having been in the hands of Edward and Harold, fell to the share of William himself; his most important tenants in chief being Odo of Bayeux and Richard de Tonebridge, son of Count Gilbert, afterwards "de Clare." The church also had large possessions in the county, the abbey of Chertsey being the largest monastic house. Besides these private jurisdictions, there were the large royal parks and forests, with their special jurisdiction. The shire court was almost certainly held at Guildford, where the gaol for both Sussex and Surrey was from as early as 1202 until 1487, when Sussex had its own gaol at Lewes. The houses of Warenne and de Clare were long the two great rival influences in the county; their seats at Reigate and Blechingley being represented in parliament from the time of Edward I. till the Reform bills of the igth century. At the time of the Barons' Wars their influence was divided de Clare marching with Montfort, and de Warenne supporting the king. In the Peasants' Rising of 1381, and during Jack Cades Rebellion in the next century, Southwark was invaded, the prisons broken open and the bridge into London crossed. London was unsuccessfully attacked from the Surrey side in the Wars of the Roses; and was held for three days and pillaged during a rising of the southern counties under Mary. During the fears of invasions from Spain, levies were held in readiness in Surrey to protect London; and it was an even more important bulwark of London in the Civil War, on account of the powder mills at Chilworth and the cannon foundries of the Weald. In common with the south-eastern district generally, Surrey was parliamentarian in its sympathies. Sir Richard Onslow and Sir Poynings More were the most prominent local leaders. Farnham Castle and Kingston, with its bridge, were several times taken and held during the war by the opposing parties, and in the later part of the war, when the parliament and army were treating, three of the line of forts defending London were on the Surrey side, from which the army entered London.

The last serious skirmish south of the Thames took place near Ewell and Kingston, where the earl of Flolland and a body of the Royalists were routed. This was the last real fighting in the county, though it was often a centre of riots; the most serious being those of 1830, and of the Chartists in 1848, who chose Kennington Common as their meeting-place. The Mores of Loseley and the Onslows were among the most famous county families under the Tudors, as at the time of the Civil War; the Onslows being even better known later in the person of Sir Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House under George I.

The earliest industries in Surrey were agricultural. The stone quarries of Limpsfield and the chalk of the Downs were early used, the latter chiefly for lime-making. Fullers earth was obtained from Reigate and Nutfield; and the facilities afforded by many small streams, and the excellent sheep pasture, made it of importance in the manufacture of cloth, of which Guildford was a centre. Glass and iron were made in the Weald district, whose forests produced the necessary charcoal for smelting. Chiddingfold is mentioned in 1266 for its glassmaking, and was one of the chief glass-producing districts in late Tudor times. The ironworks of Surrey were of less importance, and much later in development than those of Kent and Sussex, owing to the want of good roads or waterways, but the increasing demand for ordnance in the 16th century led to the spread of the industry northward; the most considerable works in Surrey being those of Viscount Montague at Haslemere. Chilworth, which was famous for its powder mills in the 16th century, remains a seat of the industry. Southwark and its neighborhood early became a suburb of London and a centre of trades which were crowded out of London. The earliest Delft ware manufactory in England was at Lambeth, which maintains its fame as a centre of earthenware manufacture. The beautiful encaustic tiles of Chertscy Abbey are thought to have been made in Englsh monasteries and date from the 13th century. Although the county was doubtless represented in the representative councils of the reign of Henry IlL, the first extant returns of two knights of the shire are for the parliament of 1290. The Reform Bill of 1832 gave Surrey four members; dividing the county into east and west divisions. Several boroughs were disfranchized then and in 1867, when East Surrey was again divided into east and mid divisions, on account of the growth of London suburbs, two more members being added at the same time. In ~8ss all old boroughs and divisions were superseded; the county being divided into the electoral divisions of Chertsey, Guildford, Reigate, Epsom, Kingston and Wimbledon, each returning one member. Finally, in 1888, the new county of London annexed large portions of Surrey along the northern border.

This article was researched and written by Peter Reed, 2006

Epsom and Ewell
Epsom & Ewell