The county of Surrey is situated in South East England, due south of Greater London and is one of England's smallest counties yet it has one of the highest populations. It is however by no means overcrowded and overdeveloped and is still largely rural. With the characteristic rolling hills of the North Downs, picture postcard country villages and large areas of woodland it is surely one of England's most beautiful counties.
The name Surrey derives from 'Sudergeona' or (southern region), a Saxon sub-kingdom of AD 673 that was part of a much larger kingdom including Middlesex to the North of the Thames.
During Roman Times Surrey held little importance and remained largely rural the only areas of importance being the Roman roads going from London to the south coast.
During Saxon times Surrey did play a more important role with at least seven Saxon Kings being crowned in the town of Kingston. Which is now a large town on the banks of the River Thames and has long been associated with royalty as just up the River on the North bank is Hampton Court Palace the favoured residence of King Henry VIII. Throughout Surrey however there are few archaeological remains left to give us an idea of what Saxon Surrey was really like.
After the Norman invasion other areas of Surrey began to be of importance and Castles were built at Farnham and Guildford along the old Roman Roads that were still an important route from London to the Coast. Both are now large towns and the remains of the castles can still be seen to this day. Guildford is now the County town and boasts an impressive Cathedral, high on Stag Hill overlooking the town.
The most important date in Surreys history is undoubtedly 15 June 1215 when at Runnymede (an island on the River Thames), King John signed the Magna Carta (or Great Charter). It recognised the rights and privileges of the Barons, Church and freemen and lifted the threat of civil war. It was the first form of a written constitution and much of the Constitution of the United States of America is based directly from it.
During the Middle Ages Sheep farming became an important industry as well as Textiles and Market Gardening. These industries have remained until this day but their importance has diminished over time.
One of the most famous places in Surrey is Epsom, it first became popular during the 17th century when a spring was discovered that contained water that was rich in Minerals and was thought to be therapeutic. This is where Epsom Salts originate.
Epsom is also famous for being part of Surreys proud sporting Heritage as it is the site of the World famous Epsom Derby horse race that has been run over the same course since 1780.
Sport plays an important role in Surrey life, apart from the horse racing at Epsom there are horse racing venues at Lingfield Park and Sandown Park. Golf is also a very popular pass time in Surrey and there are numerous public courses set in the beautiful Surrey countryside, as well as a Championship course at Wentwoth that is home of the World Matchplay Championships and the European PGA Championships. Also associated with surrey is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Home of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. Cricket is also a major sport in Surrey with Surrey County Cricket Club being o DAC ne of the top sides in the first class game, The Oval Cricket Ground which is one of the England test venues is the home ground.
Surrey has always had a close relationship with London. In the past this meant large country estates and hunting lodges for Noblemen including King Henry VIII who built a hunting lodge in Nonsuch Park. Nowadays Surrey is part of the 'Stockbroker Belt' so called because of the large proportion of its inhabitants who commute to the City of London every day for work.
Much of Northern Surrey has been dissolved into Greater London over the years due to boundary changes, so areas such as Kingston (the administrative centre of Surrey), Wimbledon and Richmond are no longer actually in Surrey, although they do still associate themselves strongly with Surrey.
Places to Visit
Hatchlands Park, Guildford
Loseley Park, Guildford
Ham House, Surrey
Polesden Lacey, Surrey
RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey