Kevin Austen

Edited by Ian Austen

South Merstham Wesleyan Church

[The Spelling of Merstham] [Ancient History - The Mearsoeti] [Merstham and The Domesday Book] [The Stone Quarries]
[St. Katharine's Church] [All Saints Church] [Church of the Epiphany] [Baptist Church]
[St. Teresa's Church] [South Merstham Wesleyan Church][St. Andrew's Church, Gatton]
[ Merstham Fair] [The Iron Railway]  [ Merstham Station] [ Merstham Signal Box] [ Merstham Tunnel]
[ Supplying Water To Merstham] [Merstham's Early Bus Services][ The Merstham Tunnel Mystery] [ Merstham at War - World War II]
[Tristan da Cunha][Building The Motorway] [ The Great Storm] [The Merstham Windmill] [ The Crossing Sweeper]
[ Nuttings Seed Merchants] [ Mr. 'Merstham] [Origins of Local Place and Road Names]
[ Bibliography] [Acknowledgements]

The Spelling of Merstham

H.M. Morris in the book 'The History of Merstham' explains the various spellings of Merstham throughout the ages, taken from various official sources, as follows:

The spelling for Merstham has varied throughout the ages. In AD 947 the record shows that the Charter of Eadred or Edwy grants Theyn Oswig twenty hides (a hide was roughly one hundred acres) in 'Mearsoetham', the name meaning literally 'dwelling of the people of the marsh'. In AD 820 two alternative spellings are also shown as 'Mastam' and 'Mastahaem', and a further ninth century spelling during the reign of Edward the Confessor is 'Mersetham'. The Domesday Survey of AD 1086 simplifies this to 'Merstan' In the twelfth century two spellings are given, namely 'Mesteham' and 'Merstham' - mear or mere, meaning pool, and meare meaning boundary. The next hundred years brought further changes as the record shows 'Mersteham' and 'Merstam' followed by 'Merysham' and 'Merystham' in the fourteenth century. In the succeeding decade the y was dropped, subsequent names being 'Mersham' and 'Mestham', until 'Mearstham' and 'Maestham' appeared in the eighteenth century. Finally, in the nineteenth century the name seems to revert to its original twelfth century spelling of 'Merstham', although the twentieth century may have something to add in the way of pronunciation, due to the resounding shouts on the railway station of  'Merstrum' by porters anxious to make themselves heard! However, the generally accepted meaning is 'the stone house by the mere or marsh', though in early times the word soet or saete meant dwellers, so the origin of the name was 'dwelling of the people of the marsh'. The suffix of ham means home, so a hamlet was a 'little home'. There are many other places, all of Saxon origin, that have the common ending of ham, and having the same meaning of 'home', something 'hemmed-in', a small settlement of houses clustered together.

For further sources of local place and road names see the section Origins of Local Place and Road Names.

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Ancient History ' The Mearsoeti

In the AD 947 Charter of Eadred or Edwy, Merstham is known as Mearsoetham and the marsh dwelling people who lived there were known as the 'Mearsoeti'.

In the early years of the 1st millennium the marshlands of Merstham were held by the Mearsoeti, who no doubt collected tolls, dues and presents from all that passed along the ridge of their lands.

Early Roman influences in Merstham first come to light when, in around AD60, Claudia, the daughter of a British king returned from Rome. It is thought she had been held hostage as insurance of her father's allegiance to Rome. Claudia married Prudens, a native Britain serving in the Roman army, and they settled in Sussex. Their influence extended from Sussex into Surrey and went a long way in the conversion of the Mearsoeti to the new Christian beliefs. One of the first things they did was to build a church of wood, wattle and stone. Then, by common consent, the Mearsoeti set aside the best and driest site for the building, the knoll to the north east of the village where St. Katharine's Church stands today. From then very little is known of the area until when, in AD893, two armies of Danes invaded Saxon territory in the south of England. They fought their way through Hampshire, Berkshire and into Surrey. Finally they were met and defeated at Farnham by the army of King Alfred's son, Edward, later Edward the Elder. Edward followed the retreating Danes and completed his victory at Battle Bridge. The discovery of swords whilst planting lime trees in the Battlebridge area of Merstham indicates the probability of a skirmish having taken place in the area.  However the defeat of the Danes once again left the Mearsoeti to themselves until the Norman invasion in 1066 and the commissioning by King William of the Domesday Book.

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Merstham and The Domesday Book

In 1066 in one of England's most famous battles the then Duke William of Normandy defeated the English King, Harold II, at Hastings. The new King, William I, known as 'The Conqueror', was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. In 1086 William ordered a survey designed to register the landed wealth of the country in a systematic fashion, and determine the revenues due to the king. This survey, known as the Domesday Survey, was written in Latin and consisted of two volumes. The two books, one of 450 pages, the Great Domesday, and the other of 382 pages, The Little Domesday, were on parchment and bound in thick wooden covers secured with brass plates.

Surrey was the described in the first Domesday Book and an entry mentioning Merstham read 'In Chercefelle Hundred the Archbishop himself holds Merstan for the clothing of monks.' It continues: 'There is a church and a mill worth thirty pence, villeins in grass and eight acres of meadow.' The property of Merstham in the Chercefelle Hundred was recorded as five hides, which would have been approximately five hundred acres and valued at twelve pounds. The Lord's rent was set at 25 fat hogs and 16 lean hogs, which seems to prove that oak trees flourished and the area was suitable for pigs (acorns being part of the staple diet of wild boar). 

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The Stone Quarries

Field terraces on the southern slope of the North Downs overlooking the stone quarries at Merstham suggest the area was inhabited and cultivated perhaps as early as pre-Roman times. It is fairly certain that the Romans quarried here. The original entrance to one of the quarries was lined to form two continuous arches. Every stone in the smaller arch was inscribed with the Roman numeral VII and it is thought that the Roman VII legion was responsible for this quarry.

Next we turn to medieval times and it is in this period that we are able to put names to the quarrymasters of the area. Records prove that the green sandstone had been in more than just local demand. In 1259, in the accounts of the building of the King's Palace at Westminster we find, amongst the names of the purveyors of freestone, the name of Peter of Merstham. The price paid for the stone at this time was 6 shillings per cwt.

In 1360 John and Philip Prophete were appointed wardens of the quarries at Mesteham and Chalvedon, near Reigate and empowered to press masons and other workmen to prepare materials there for the works at Windsor Castle. Any man who refused was sent as a prisoner to Windsor.

In 1395 William Prophete, thought to be a relative of John and Philip, supplied stone from the Merstham quarries for the building of Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Knoop & Jones in their book 'The Medieval Mason' record that 'Eton College used freestone from Merstham in the mid 1400s, paying 1s 8d per load at the quarry and a further 2s 8d for transporting it to Eton.' The next period in history when demand for Merstham stone was known to have been heavy was in the re-building of London after the Great Fire of 1666. It was used in the building of London Bridge and it seems inevitable that it was used elsewhere. We next know something about the ownership of the quarries in 1745 when the Merstham estate and manor belonged to Paul Humphrey, who left it to his sister and her husband John Tattersall. They were childless so the land passed to John's brother James Tattersall, who put it up for sale in 1784. In May 1788 Tattersall sold the estate to William Jolliffe of Petersfield, where he was a Member of Parliament, for '40,000. This was the beginning of the association of the Jolliffe family with Merstham. In 1802 William Jolliffe's son, Hylton, inherited Quarry Dean. Hylton and his younger brother William, an ordained clergyman, were magistrates at Reigate and as such were approached by the sponsoring committee of the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway. From that moment on the history of the Quarry Dean quarries and the iron railway were bound together. Hylton Jolliffe went into partnership with Edward Banks in the early 1800s, but finding his time taken up with other matters he handed over the business to his brother, the Reverend William Jolliffe. Their business became one of the principle engineering contractors in the country.

In 1801 George Valentine Hall, a boy of 15 or 16 from Horsham came to work for Jolliffe & Banks. He seems to have become manager of the quarries and is thought to have moved into Quarry Dean soon after marrying local girl Jane Burgess. In 1824 he leased the estate from the Jolliffe family and went into business on his own account. Later in 1824 Jolliffe & Banks commenced work on the 'new' London Bridge. Again Merstham stone, now supplied by George Hall, was used but this time protected by granite. In 1835 George Hall took his eldest son, James, into the business. This was the beginning of Hall & Co. Ltd., building material contractors, who still survive in Redhill today. In 1841, and with James Hall's decision to open a depot in Croydon, the quarries at Merstham had seen their heyday. There seems to be no doubt of the sentiment felt by George Hall for Quarry Dean and he died at the old house in 1845. On his death his three sons, James, Joseph and Charles formed a partnership and continued as Hall Brothers.

Business at Croydon was increasing and by 1860 the trade at Merstham had changed almost totally to the burning of lime in the chalk pit, although it was still the practice of the Halls to use Merstham stone in the building of their offices and depots in the south of England. In 1864, when the lease on the quarries expired, the Halls found it impossible to agree new terms with their landlords, the Jolliffes. So they transferred the business to Coulsdon. This ended 63 years of association between the two families.

  A notice in the Surrey Gazette dated 19th April 1864 read:

Notice by Hall Brothers, late of Merstham Grey Stone Lime Works, that they resigned the above works on 5th March at expiration of their lease in consequence of being unable to effect such terms for a renewal as they could accept. The works had been used by them for nearly 40 years, and now to give them up so unexpectedly, with only a few weeks notice, without any remuneration for the trade, has caused them great loss and disappointment... Their business in grey stone and chalk lime, cement, slates, sand, coal etc is carried on as usual at Croydon, Coulsdon, Redhill and Reigate.

One of the last major buildings believed to have used stone quarried at Merstham was the Kingston Baptist Church situated on Union Street in Kingston-Upon-Thames, which was completed in 1864.

On the 14th July 1867 Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, carried out a series of tests at the Merstham Quarry.  These tests were to evaluate the use of dynamite in quarry blasting.

In 1872 Mr. J.S. Peters took over the lime works and in 1890 the rest of Quarry Dean. He built a separate railway line, pulled by a little steam engine known as Gervase, which ran from the lime kilns to the new Merstham Station. In 1934 he formed the Merstham Grey Stone Lime Co. which continued until 1956. In 1961 the Croydon Corporation bought the lime pit for the dumping of refuse and by 1970 had almost restored the original contour of the hill.

March 1972 saw the start of the building of the M23motorway and the east west M25, completed in February 1976. With this major construction work it was inevitable that the character of the Quarry Dean and Rockshaw Road area of Merstham was dramatically changed. The building of the road caused a serious risk of collapse in the caverns left by the underground quarrying. It was therefore deemed necessary that many of the caverns must be filled in and their entrances sealed.

It seems almost ironic that these ancient quarries, used for so much building and road construction in the south of England, were almost totally destroyed by the modern day road builder. Today a local caving club now has access to three of the old mines, the largest Bedlams Bank having over ten miles of open passages.

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Merstham Churches

  St. Katharine's Church

The small wooden church built on a knoll of Merstham firestone by the Mearsoeti remained there until after the Norman invasion when a new Norman church was built.  It is believed to have been completed around 1100, after the first Crusade. The donor of most of the money, no doubt a Crusader himself, seems to have insisted upon its dedication to St. Katharine of Alexandria.

Katharine was the daughter of King Constus of Alexandria and is believed to have been betrothed to a 'lesser' king of Britain. Her mother was secretly a Christian and, through her spiritual father, brought Katharine to the Christian faith. She was exceptionally well educated in Greek philosophy, medicine, rhetoric and logic, and added great physical beauty to this. When the Emperor Maxentius offered sacrifice to idols and ordered everyone to do the same, Katharine came with daring before him and denounced his idolatrous errors. The Emperor, seeing that she surpassed him in wisdom and learning, summoned fifty of his wisest men, to dispute with her about faith and put her to shame, but Katharine was wiser than they, and subsequently put them to shame. The furious Emperor commanded that all fifty wise men be burned. Katharine was imprisoned, heartlessly tortured and later executed.  

The Sussex marble font, dating from c1150, piscina and a few stones are all that remain of the old church. This church lasted less than 150 years and by about 1220 was replaced by a new Early English Church. The church, which still stands today on that same knoll just to the north of the village, is made almost entirely of the greyish-green Merstham stone.

The first recorded Rector of St. Katharine's is Thomas of Shoreham in 1279.The church was insensitively restored in 1861. The north aisle and the clerestories were renewed, although a section of one thirteenth century lancet window remains at the west end. The south aisle, including the windows, was rebuilt in 1875 in the same style. The main roof of the nave once extended over the aisles but this was cut back in the thirteenth century when the south aisle was rebuilt. On both sides of the choir are chapels the one to the north called the Albury Chapel and the other on the south the Alderstead Chapel, the east window of which has some fragments of fifteenth century stained glass.

The mosaic floor of the north chapel was the work of Constance Kent, a woman from Rode in Somerset, while in prison for the alleged murder of her stepbrother.

The church has a large tower, the centre arch of which is rumoured to be built from the old London Bridge. The bell-chamber has three lancet lights, the central one sheltered under the octagonal shingled spire.  One of the bells in the tower is 15th century and bears the inscription 'Sancta Katharine ora pro me', St. Katharine pray for me.  Above the doorway in a small alcove is a figure of St. Katharine holding the wheel on which she was tortured. The name 'Katharine Wheel' is now synonymous with the 'Guy Fawkes night' spinning fireworks. Also found in the church is a fine tablet commemorating Lt. George Jolliffe, R.N., who died in 1800 on board the HMS Bellerophon during the battle of the Nile where the Royal Navy, under Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, completely destroyed Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet as it lay moored in the Bay of Aboukir. The lychgate was given to the church by the Stacey family in 1897. The paving stones in the lychgate are made from two grindstones (French Buhrstones) taken from the old windmill which once stood in Rockshaw Road. The windmill had been demolished to make way for the 'Quarry Line' railway cutting in 1900. The bells date back to 1483, the oldest bell being the current 5th, with more bells added over the years. In 1899 the existing five were augmented to 6. The old clappers from the 5 bells are mounted on a board of belfry oak inside the church on the north wall. In 1964 the 6 were further augmented to 8 and the bells were then re-hung on a lower frame and rung from the ground floor.

During the Second World War the congregation included many Canadian soldiers who were billeted on Church Hill and the surrounding area. Many of these helped in the construction of a temporary church (now Canada Hall) after St. Katharine's 'sister' church, All Saints in South Merstham, was completely destroyed by a parachute mine.

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All Saints Church

By the closing years of the 19th Century, the budding community of New Merstham (South Merstham), at over a mile from the parish church, required its own church. A committee for this purpose was formed at St. Katharine's Church under the chairmanship of the Rev R. I. Woodhouse, the Rector of Merstham.

All Saints was constituted as a separate Ecclesiastical Parish by order in Council dated 27th  December 1899 out of the Merstham Parish and the Battle Bridge portion of the parish . Two days later the consolidated Chapelry of All Saints, South Merstham was formed by the Rector of Merstham resigning his responsibility for the area from Coppice Lea  (which is now an old peoples' home), along Bletchingley Road  to the railway line. The Rector of Gatton resigned the contiguous portions of the parish of Gatton, including Battle Bridge Farm. The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 26th July 1897 by Princess Frederica of Hanover , a cousin of Queen Victoria. The church, which eventually cost '2300, opened for worship by licence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple, on 6th February 1898. The Church was consecrated by Rev. E. Talbot, Bishop of Rochester on 4 July 1898.

Merstham's new place of worship was constructed mainly from local brick in a 13th Century style and included a chancel, nave, transepts and a spire. The basin of the font was a 'Tridacna Gigas', a giant clam shell, brought from the Philippines by William Willox. The foundation stone of the new Vicarage and the Parish Room, which was integrated in it, was laid on 23rd May 1901 by local Conservative MP the Hon. Henry Cubbitt. The builder was a Mr. Pink and the architect was a Mr. H. Hall. The patronage was handed over to the Bishop of the Diocese by the Rector of Merstham with a '52 7s commuted tithe and '5 commuted tithe by the Rector of Gatton, the Rev A. G. Rogers , as initial endowment, with the consent of the patron, Jeremiah Colman . 

The church was destroyed by a German parachute mine during an air raid on 19th April 1942 and was temporarily replaced by a small church, now Canada Hall , built by Canadian soldiers who were billeted in the area. A full account of this is given in the section 'Merstham at War: World War II'.

The present church in Battlebridge Lane was designed by E F Starling and completed in 1951 and is reputed to be the first post-war church in the Southwark Diocese.

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The Church of the Epiphany

With the building of the LCC estate came the promise of at least two new churches, The Church of the Epiphany in Mansfield Drive and the Roman Catholic Church of St. Teresa in Weldon Way.

The Church of the Epiphany's modest beginning was in the house of its first priest Father Jack Clark. Father Clark had arrived in the parish in November 1952 and held services in his home at 114 Nailsworth Crescent. By November 23rd 1952 he had set up and hosted the Church's inaugural Sunday School. It was from this humble foundation that Merstham's Church of the Epiphany was born. Just two weeks after Father Clark had set up the Sunday School, and with a growing congregation, the Sunday School was divided into three classes; seniors, juniors and infants.

December 1952 saw the preparations for the first Christmas services by Father Clark. These, no doubt, were nervous times for the new priest who, not wishing to disappoint his new parishioners, managed to hold a small service at his home in Nailsworth Crescent.

1953 proved to be a fruitful year for the new church. In the latter half of January it was decided that, due to the growing congregation, it was sensible to move the services to the 'Old Peoples Club' in Purbeck Close. 13th March saw a new Scouts and Cubs group meeting at Father Clark's home. Also that month came the good news that a temporary church, in the grounds chosen for the new church, should be completed by May. The temporary church was a pre-fabricated concrete building of little character. But to Father Clark and his  'faithful flock' this marked the true beginning of the new church and at last a real place of worship for the families from the new estate. This new 'temporary' building was completed in the early part of May and the first service was held there on the 24th.8:00pm on Friday, June 26th 1953 saw the dedication of the Church by the Lord Bishop of Kingston-upon-Thames.

Following on from the popular Boy Scouts and Cubs group, came the formation of new Girl Guides and Brownies packs. They first met on 29th June and proved equally as popular as the boys' groups. By the middle of September the Church had an established choir and on the 5th December the first Confirmation at the church was celebrated.

Preparation, groundwork and construction continued on the new church for the next eighteen months.

11th June 1955 was the date set for the laying of the foundation stone of the new church. On that fine, but blustery, Saturday afternoon the ceremony commenced promptly at 3:00pm. The honour fell to Helen Woodhouse, daughter of the Reverend R I Woodhouse (Rector of Merstham 1894-1921) and was held in the presence of The Right Reverend William Percy Gilpin, M.A., Bishop Suffragan of Kingston-upon-Thames.

The stone bears the inscription:
When they had opened their treasures
They presented unto him gifts
This stone
Was laid by
Helen Woodhouse
11 June 1955


The final act in the 'birth' of the Church of the Epiphany happened at 3:00pm on Saturday 4th February 1956 with the dedication of the church by The Right Reverend Bertram Fitzgerald Simpson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Southwark.  

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Merstham Baptist Church

Little, at present, is known of the history of the Baptist faith in Merstham. The first chapel was erected between April and July 1874. It was built on the site of two derelict cottages (believed to have been built in c1793) in the High Street, under the jurisdiction of the Redhill Baptist Chapel. Stone quarried from Nutfield and Reigate Hill was used for the main construction work, with bricks supplied by local brickworks and lime from the Merstham Kilns. Wood for the front doors was brought in from Shabden Park. The benefactor was Samuel Barrow a Redhill 'gentleman' who came originally from Bermondsey. J.R. Hooper, a friend of Barrow, was chosen as the architect and W. Oram as the chief mason. The builders chosen for the project were a local company, Feldwick and Room. The Reverend Charles H. Springer opened the chapel on 5th August 1874.

The chapel remained in continual use until 1958 when, after the building of the LCC estate, it was decided to build a new church in the present day position on Weldon Way.

When the old chapel was being demolished a manuscript was discovered in a brick pillar detailing the building of the chapel in 1874.

In January 2002 a joint planning application by the church and the Guinness Trust was submitted to Reigate and Banstead Council in respect of the church site in Weldon Way. The plans included the demolition of the existing church, the Manse and associated buildings and the erection of eight three-bedroomed houses and a replacement church with parking and landscaping. These plans have since be revised and as at the beginning of 2010 the future was still uncertain.

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St. Teresa of the Child Jesus


Until 1953 Catholics living in Merstham had attended Mass in Redhill but when the new Merstham Estate was built by the London County Council many more Catholics moved into the area and wanted their own church.   Initially there was a mass centre at Canada Hall, provided through the kindness of the Anglican Church of All Saints.   Fundraising took place and the foundation stone for the new church was laid by Bishop Cyril Cowderoy of Southwark in November 1958.  


The St. Teresa's is built on a raft of concrete, with concrete columns carrying the weight of the upper part of the nave and roof.   The main and side altars are of Clipsham Stone and Mr. Theodore Kern carved the beautiful Crucifix over the main altar.   The architect was J. Alleyn, B.Arch., F.R.I.B.A. assisted by Mr. W. W. McDonald M.A., A.R.I.B.A. and builders were  H. Bacon & Son of Coulsdon with Mr. J. Bignall as the site foreman.  

The church was officially opened on 7th October 1959 and it was blessed by Bishop Cowderoy who celebrated Pontifical High Mass together with many priests including Fr. Daniel O' Kane, Fr.  Tom Sheehy, Fr. Dennis Barry and  Fr. Geoffrey Burke from Redhill Parish.   Also present were the Mayor of Reigate, George Searle, the Town Clerk, and his wife.   There was a guard of honour provided by the Knights of St. Columba, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.   Afterwards there was a buffet in the Village Hall.  Fr. Sheehy was appointed first parish priest of St. Teresa's.


The Church was consecrated (it was necessary for a church to be free of debt before consecration - St. Teresa's was built for approx '23,500) on 10th October 1975 by Bishop Michael Bowen, Bishop of Arundel & Brighton. 

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South Merstham Wesleyan Church

 On a bright and sunny Wednesday in early May of 1909 a large number of interested and enthusiastic Merstham residents witnessed the opening of a new church on the corner of Nutfield Road and Bourne Road. Built by Mr. E A Worssell of Redhill, at a cost of '1,670, the new Wesleyan Church was certainly one of which the founders' could well be proud. The dominating feature was the picturesque stringled spire, while the facing of yellow stock bricks added to the neatness a pleasing appearance of the church. The interior comprised a nave with seating for about 150, while a well arranged transept, which was able to be thrown open when necessary, could seat about 60 more. Gas was used throughout for lighting purposes and what heat there was, was supplied by a small number of radiators.

The dedicatory service was conducted by the Rev. Marshall Hartley, who, on conclusion of the customary religious exercises preached an inspiriting sermon on the text 'And God hath set in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers' (1st Corinthians, xxii, 28).

While there is no conclusive date as to when the church closed it is known that in 1957 it was given a new lease of life when the building became part of the Reigate Library service. When the new library was built in Weldon Way the church became a meeting house for the Brethren Assembly. It was eventually demolished in 1977 to make way for two new houses.

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St. Andrew's Church, Gatton

Although not a part of Merstham, Gatton's history and way of life have been linked with Merstham over the centuries.  The benefice is now combined with that of Merstham, the union being made in 1949. Completed in the 12th Century, probably at about the same time as St. Katharine's, it was another example of the use of locally quarried 'Merstham Stone'. The church building itself is mainly a Renaissance structure, though the original building was most likely of Norman design. Set in the park-like surroundings of what is now the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, a church at Gatton is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but little is known of its medieval history.

When Sir John Aubrey, a wealthy banker acquired the estate, on which the church stands, in 1751 he decided, for reasons known only to him, to remove all the contents of the church and until Lord Monson purchased the estate in 1830 and its privileges for '100,000 the church was much neglected. Lord Monson generously adorned the 12th century church of St. Andrew with ecclesiastical treasures collected on a grand tour of Europe and in the mid 1830s he added the transepts.

The Gothic screen at the West end is probably from an Early English church and is an example of open carved work. Near it is a list of Rectors of Gatton dating back to 1305. The stained glass windows contain partly pieced glass, circa 1500 and the West window contains the arms of Henry VII.  The nave canopies came from Aurschot Cathedral in the Louvain and the carved panelling from Burgundy. The carved stalls in Flemish Baroque style came from a Benedictine monastery in Ghent. Notice particularly the carved cherubs and the misericords on the reverse of the seats in the back rows.  The pulpit and altar piece are from Nuremberg, part of a reredos depicting the descent from the cross, attributed to Albrecht Dűrer, the famous German engraver. The altar rails, copiously detailed with clustered shafts leading to ogee heads under quatrefoils, are from Tongres in Flanders. In the North Transept is the old family pew of the lords of the Manor, which had a covered way connecting it with the old hall. Of the stained glass, the west window has rich glazing, probably c1830, showing the arms of Henry VII, the south nave window contains French glass dating from 1580, and the south transept one has armorial bearings.  The west window contains glass from about 1500, depicting the eating of the Passover. This came from an old conventual church near Louvain.  The east window in the north transept is thought to be fifteenth century in origin.  Nineteenth century glass is represented by the south chancel window by C.E. Kempe, dating from 1879, and the most recent glass is a memorial window of hand-painted glass by Jane Gray placed on the west side of the porch in 1980.In the churchyard, near the east end of the church, is the outline of an octagonal mausoleum, in which the bodies of Lord Monson and his mother, the Countess of Warwick, rested before removal to their ancestral home. Nearer the entrance to the churchyard the successor of Monson, Jeremiah Colman of Colman's Mustard fame and members of his family are buried in a family grave, the place being marked by an intricate memorial topped by an object, not unlike a mustard pot. Considerable repair work has been carried out in recent years, notably the substantial repair of the tower timbers and the re-shingling of the spire. The tower contains two bells, one dated around 1600. Other work has included the restoration of stonework in the course of which considerable timber repair has been found necessary at considerable cost. The maintenance of such a unique 'museum' and place of worship is proving a heavy burden for the few residents of this tiny parish.

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Merstham Fair

In 1339 Edward III granted the right to hold a weekly market in Merstham, and an annual fair. The 'Charter of Merstham Fair' says that the fair should be held on St. Botulph's Day, 17th June, but in seems that it was always held on the 17th September.

The annual event attracted people from all over the parish. Amongst these came Romany Gypsies who arrived in horse drawn caravans, bringing with them their unique brand of entertainment and colourful extravagance. They would make their camps in Quality Street and tether their horses in the nearby meadows. Among the many stalls and booths, and perhaps the most strangest of all the attractions, was a cart belonging to gentleman known as 'Farquahar The Tooth Puller' who had a board offering 'Painless Extractions'. The 'ill-fated' patient would sit in a chair on the cart and watched by an enthusiastic crowd would have his tooth removed. This required a little help from Farquahar's assistant who at the exact time the tooth was pulled would blow very loudly on a trumpet and drown the cries of the patient. The removed tooth was then held up for inspection and ritually thrown into the crowd.

Then as night fell the Gypsies would come into their element. As the last light left the early autumn sky their brightly coloured stalls, hoop-la, coconut shies and a merry-go-round, lit by fiery torches, attracted people and moths, alike.

People would queue eagerly to buy hot potatoes and giant humbugs, with one of the longest queues snaking its way to the tent of the Gypsy fortune teller.

The revelry would go on late into the evening. But by the early hours of the following morning the Romanies had de-camped leaving the street clean and tidy and nothing behind except happy reminiscences.

The Merstham Fair eventually ceased in 1938 when war with Nazi Germany was becoming ever more likely. Some years later the now re-named 'Quality Street Fair' was brought back to life by the rector of St. Katharine's Church, the Reverend Philip Duval. Many of the stallholders are now local residents and the fair is now quite a sober event compared to its pre-war counterpart, perhaps losing much of its bawdy rustic charm.  

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Merstham's Industrial Past

Merstham's Railway Heritage

The Iron Railway Reaches Merstham

On the 21st May 1801 an Act (The Wandsworth Railway Bill) agreeing to the construction of a 'Railway' from Wandsworth, London to Croydon, was passed by Parliament. With the passing of the Act, the Surrey Iron Railway Company (SIR) was formed, and work on the railway was started. The eight miles of the 4ft 2ins gauge track of the SIR, originally planned as a canal, was officially opened on the 26th July 1803. The horse-drawn SIR, to be used for the transportation of freight, was to be the world's first such public railway. Large mules, as well as horses, were used to pull the four-wheeled wagons, sometimes coupled together as 'trains'. The typical loads of these trains included copper, iron, coal and bricks.

On the 17th May 1803 Royal Assent was given to a Bill entitled: 'An Act for the making and maintaining a Railway from or near a Place called Pitlake Meadow in the Town of Croydon, to or near to the Town of Reigate, in the County of Surrey, with a collateral Branch from the said Railway at or near a Place called Merstham in the Parish of Merstham, to or near a Place called Godstone Green, all in the County of Surrey.'  This Bill paved the way for the forming of the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway Company (CM&GIR) to which Hylton Jolliffe and his younger brother William belonged. William Jessop, assisted by his son, was brought in as the Chief Engineer for the CM&GIR. In 1799 William Jessop had been involved in a report and survey on the feasibility of a canal over a similar route as the one covered by the SIR& CM&GIR. His report on the canal stated; 'I went in search of sources from whence might be derived a supply of water, being well aware that strong objections would arise to the taking of water from the streams that fed the River Wandle, the works on which are perhaps more valuable than any others with an equal compass in the Kingdom'' He was unable to find any alternative and further reported; ' 'I am sorry to say that I must consider a canal as impracticable.' So the railway was built instead. Officially opened in July 1805, much of the CM&GIR was single track although there is evidence that it was doubled at some point in its history. Like the SIR it used Outram flanged plate rails laid on stone sleepers to a gauge of 4ft 2ins with the flange inside. The contractor was Edward Banks who had made his way south building canals and tramways. The track was to run from the Croydon Canal basin (now West Croydon Railway Station) through Old Town, parallel to the Brighton Road down through Purley and Coulsdon then on to the Merstham. From there the line was to have continued on to Godstone Green with a branch to Reigate. The latter parts were never completed, due to construction costs, and the line turned eastward near where the present day Vojan Indian restaurant, formerly the Jolliffe Arms Public House, stands. From there the CM&GIR was taken only as far as the Merstham chalk and limestone quarries, ending at a house called Quarrydene or Quarry Dean. From this point on, the history of the CM&GIR and the Merstham stone quarries were bound together. This smooth iron road allowed a single horse to pull ten to twenty tons of material from Merstham to Wandsworth, at an easy-paced three to four miles per hour.

There is evidence that George Hall, then manager of Quarry Dean quarries, used both the CM&GIR and the SIR, for at the time he owned thirty-six horses which he used in the transportation of stone from the quarries to Wandsworth, returning with coal. It is also believed that Fullers Earth, quarried locally, was transported using this new railway and sold from wharves at Wandsworth.

Unfortunately the CM&GIR never paid its way and in 1837 it was bought out by the London to Brighton Railway Company (LBRC). In 1846 the Wandsworth to Croydon section was closed and by 1848 both sections were dismantled. William Jessop's skill as an engineer was acknowledged when the new tracks for the LBRC were laid along much of the SIR route and are still used today.

The layout of the Merstham terminus of the CM&GIR has puzzled historians in the past and it was not until the 1970s that evidence started to emerge which enabled a clearer picture to be built up.  Recent evidence is debated in 'Early Plateways and Firestone Mining in Surrey'.  In 1972 the Surrey Archaeological Society organised a rescue dig under the direction of Jim Shenton.  The reason for the rescue dig was that the planned M23motorway, now constructed, was destined to traverse the CMGR terminus site thus possibly obliterating any remaining evidence.  During the rescue dig evidence of early plateways, wooden or metal flat rails with an extended flange on their outer edges to retain the wheels of horse drawn wagons on the track, was unearthed. Of particular interest was the discovery of evidence which led to the identification of a plateway at Merstham which predated the CMGR by 10 or more years.  This plateway, which was in the region of Quarry Dean Farm led to underground stone workings via a stone barrel vault and cutting.  The cutting can still be seen as a surface feature and access to the barrel vault can be gained via a nearby cavern entrance to the underground stone workings.  

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Merstham Station

In the railway's relatively short history Merstham has had three railway stations. The first was built, with the permission of the then landowner Lord Monson, on the edge of Gatton Park by the London & Brighton Railway. It is believed that Lord Monson himself opened the station in December 1841.This station survived for just less than three years when it was replaced by a new station, on the present site, in 1844. The station was then completely rebuilt in 1905 and much of the building remains unchanged today. Along with the station the railway companies also built homes for their employees, notably the terraced houses perched precariously on the steep incline of Ashcombe Road.

During World War II a number of sidings were added between the station and the 'Quarry Line'. These were used for goods trains when Redhill became congested. These sidings were augmented in the early 1970s when a railhead siding was added during the construction of the M23and M25motorways.Today Merstham can still boast to having a busy commuter station, though 'off peak' patronage has somewhat dwindled.  

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Merstham Signal Box

Merstham Signal Box was situated on the 'downside' platform approximately 20 yards north of the footbridge. At first glance, Merstham looked to be a typical South Eastern Railway weatherboard and sash window signal box. But however, it did not open until 1905, well into South Eastern & Chatham days, when most new boxes were built to newer design. It would appear to be the top portion of an earlier cabin, placed on a new brick base.

Merstham box was mid-way along the route that ran parallel to the London, Brighton & South Coast's main Brighton line (the 'Quarry Line') to serve Redhill. In this respect, it was something of an oasis of semaphore signalling in an otherwise colour-light area.

Inside the box, further evidence of its later origins is found in the lever frame. This is of Evans, O'Donnell & Co manufacture, who only entered the signalling manufacture field in 1894. This type of frame was quite advanced, technically, but not terribly practical. The levers were not the easiest (by height and position) for a signalman to get a good swing on, and footrests have been provided here at mid-height to help the pulling of the signals furthest from the box.

Signalling instruments are of the usual SR (Later BR) three-position type, and along with the array of brass-cased repeaters, modern plungers replaced the traditional brass type.

Merstham box survived in use until 26th February 1983 when it was replaced by a small panel in the Redhill 'A' Signal Box and later by a larger signalling panel in the Area Signalling Centre at Three Bridges, Crawley, which now controls the lines between Coulsdon and Salfords.

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Merstham Tunnel

To the north of the station is Merstham Tunnel. This 1 mile 71 yards (1.67km) long tunnel completed in the late 1830s solved one of the London & Brighton Railway's major problems with its route through the North Downs. When work commenced on the tunnel the area was found to be riddled with disused mine galleries this resulted in slowing down of progress of the line and a spiralling cost. When eventually the tunnel was completed gas lamps were fitted to the walls, which were also whitewashed in an attempt to make the travelling public feel safer in the dark. This scheme was soon abandoned as soot enriched smoke from the steam engines blackened the walls and the draught from passing trains blew out the gas-lamps.  

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Supplying Water To Merstham

Having no hot or cold running water many early settlements in the 'Chercefelle Hundred', like Merstham, grew up next to streams fed by springs flowing from the base of the North Downs. Although there was a form of water supply in Surrey as early as 1701, mains supply of water to Merstham did not become available until the early years of the twentieth century. These early, untreated, water supplies were pumped from wells and small reservoirs by gas and steam engines. It was not until the 1940s that water supplies were deemed sufficiently safe when routine sterilisation was adopted following a serious outbreak of typhoid in Croydon in 1937. Up until this time Merstham's fresh water supply, for both residential and industrial needs, was collected from wells and naturally occurring springs. The East Surrey Water Company was the dominant supplier of water to Merstham since the mid 1800s, at the time when there was as many as twenty-five companies supplying the whole of Surrey. Most of the smaller companies sold out or were taken over, for economic reasons, by the larger water suppliers and the number was eventually reduced to four.

The East Surrey Water Company was one of the four that survived until the late 1990s when it was amalgamated with the Sutton Water Company and became the Sutton and East Surrey Water Company. The new company still has its headquarters in Redhill, although the ivy-covered original building which was a familiar sight on approaching Redhill from Merstham, has since been replaced by a modern office complex.

The East Surrey's early records show that in 1900 that there were 758 new customers and 26 miles (42km) of mains, including a large arterial from Kenley to Merstham via Purley and the first borehole at Purley. The second borehole was ready in 1901 when there were 551 new customers and 23 miles (37km) of mains, including a large main from Merstham to Nutfield.

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'Next Stop Please': Merstham's Early Bus Services

The first reference, which can be found as regards local bus services to either Merstham or South Merstham, seems to point to a Mr. A. Blatcher who held a horse omnibus licence as early as 1901, if not before. Little is known of this service except that it started from Redhill and was probably more in the nature of a horse cab route, though Blatcher still held an omnibus licence as late as 1910 by when motorised omnibuses had made their first appearances on the borough's roads.

Slightly more, however, has been discovered in connection with Mr. John Clarke Peters who obtained his first licence in April 1902. Mr. Peters most certainly operated a horse drawn bus every hour from 8am to 8pm on weekdays from Merstham to Reigate, via Wray Common and not serving Redhill , with a through fare of 4d.

By the end of 1906 no further trace can be found of Mr. Peters' routes, but a Mr. J. Pinch , already established on the Redhill to Reigate route, was operating a service between Redhill and Merstham by 1907, on Saturday evenings only. This route lasted until the coming of the East Surrey Traction Company's motor bus service in 1911. The East Surrey Traction Company Ltd.  was incorporated on the 16th March 1911, as a private company, with an authorised capital of '2,000 in 2,000 one pound shares. Their first buses were 30 h.p. Leylands with four-cylinder engines and worm drive. The bodies, made from English oak, ash and Honduras mahogany, were built by Chalmers of Redhill . They were single-deckers with a seating capacity of 25 and were lit by acetylene gas. The outside was painted royal blue and white, with the company name filling the whole length of the side panels.

With the extensions of their services, to Merstham and Meadvale and the addition of a third bus, the ESTC completed its first calendar year of services on a very successful note. One decision, that was made in the November of that first year by the directors and which stood throughout the company's existence, was not to run a service of any kind on Christmas Day.

In January 1912 the directors decided to purchase two more chassis from Leyland Motors. This time, as with the third bus, the bodies were built by J. Liversidge & Co. of Old Kent Road, London. On 1st April 1912 an issue of an additional 1000 shares was agreed to fund the project with a further 1500 shares issued a month later. Bus number 4 was delivered in May and some changes were made to the services. The Merstham route had proved very successful but the Meadvale one was losing money and the additional bus was therefore added to the Merstham route increasing the frequency to every 30 minutes in the afternoon.

The ESTC does not appear to have experienced any competition of any note in those pre-World War I days. East Surrey's nearest rival was the powerful London General Omnibus Company Ltd. (LGOC) which was gradually reaching further south into Surrey, especially at weekends. The first LGOC route to encroach on the ESTC's 'manor' was their route 116 which began on 20th July 1913 and  ran on Sundays only. The route ran from Stockwell to Redhill via Coulsdon and Merstham but the LGOC soon fell foul of the Reigate Council who, due to public pressure, refused to grant a licence to the new operator effectively barring them from the borough. The result was that the LGOC were requested to withdraw and from Sunday 10th August the service was curtailed at the Feathers  in Merstham which was just outside the borough.

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The Merstham Tunnel Mystery

In late September 1905 in the mile long tunnel just north of Merstham Station a horrific discovery was made when a member of the permanent way, William Peacock, found the mutilated body of a young woman, later identified as Mary Sophia Money, about 400 yards into the tunnel. This is thought to be the first recorded murder on a train in England. Finding the body was still warm Peacock hurried back to the station to report his discovery to the stationmaster. The police were called to the scene and when they examined the area they decided that the death was a suicide. They figured that the young woman had wandered into the tunnel and been hit by a passing train. This theory changed when the tunnel wall next to where the body lay was examined. A number of marks were found where the soot had been rubbed off. The highest of these marks was at about the level of a person standing up in a railway carriage. It seemed certain that Mary had fallen from a passing train. A discovery, which turned the theory from suicide into murder, was that forced firmly into the unfortunate Mary's mouth was a white silk scarf. It became obvious that she had been pushed from the train and had not jumped. The body was removed to The Feathers Hotel in the High Street where a local doctor, Henry Crickett, examined it. Apart from the obvious injuries, Dr. Crickett's examination revealed several bruises and scratches to body, arms and face which he considered may have been caused during a struggle with the murderer, prior to her being thrown from the carriage. No means of identification was found on the body. As the body was still warm when discovered, it was reasoned that she must have been thrown from the train within an hour of William Peacock finding her and the position of the body showed that she had come out of a southbound train. On the afternoon of the following day, Monday 25th September, the mystery of the girl's identity was solved, when Robert Henry Money, a dairy farmer from Kingston Hill, viewed the body. The body was that of his sister, Mary Sophia Money, aged 22, a bookkeeper at Bridger's Dairy, Clapham Junction. Mary Money had gone out at about seven o'clock that evening saying she would take a little walk and would not be long. Emma Hone, another employee at Bridger's Dairy, had no knowledge of any male friends that Mary might have been going to meet. She said that Mary had taken her black knitted cotton purse, which Emma thought was well filled with money, for Mary had just been paid. The purse was never recovered. A few minutes after leaving home, Mary called at Frances Golding's sweet shop at 2 Station Approach, Clapham Junction where bought some chocolates in a white cardboard box. She told Frances Golding that she was going to Victoria. She appeared happy and left the shop laughing. Suspicion fell on a number of possible admirers named by Mary's brother Robert. He claimed to have last seen his sister on that date but there seemed no question that he was involved in the crime. What really did happen to Mary Money on the evening of Sunday 24th September 1905? This is left only to supposition. She seems to have had every intention of keeping a rendezvous with someone, presumably of the opposite sex, at Victoria that evening. A signalman who was in charge of the Purley Oaks Signal Box north of Merstham Tunnel recalled that as the London Bridge train passed, he remembered seeing a couple standing up in a first class compartment. They appeared to be struggling. It seems possible that during this struggle, Mary Money began to scream, her attacker then pushed her scarf into her mouth to silence her and, when the train was in the tunnel, he opened the door and threw her out into the darkness and to her grisly death. The guard of the train reported that he had seen a couple in a first class compartment when his train stopped at East Croydon. His description of the women fitted that of Mary Money. At Redhill the couple had gone and the guard thought he saw the man but not the woman leaving the station. Over 100 interviews were taken and many railway carriages examined but no arrest was ever made.

The mystery remains unsolved but there is a postscript. Seven years later, in August 1912, at a house in Eastbourne, Mary Money's brother, Robert, shot two sisters and their three children, of whom he was the father, poured petrol on the bodies, set light to them then turned the gun on himself. One of the women managed, however, to escape despite being wounded. Was this the result of a twisted mind turned by the memories the earlier killing of his sister, Mary?  

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Merstham at War - World War I

There is no doubt that the greatest tragedy of this 'War to end all Wars' was the colossal loss of life and injury suffered during the four years of the conflict. Over 700,000 men and women from the British Isles lost their lives during the war. More than 250,000 servicemen from countries of the British Empire also died. According to figures in the 1991/2 Annual Report issued by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 46.5% of all the war dead during World War I were never found or identified.
At the onset of the 'Great War' Britain, in military terms, was not well prepared having one of the smallest armies in Europe with many troops committed to the Empire. Even so the parishes of Merstham and Gatton were keen to play their part. Many servicemen and later volunteers from the area saw action in this most dreadful of conflicts. Notably amongst them was the son of the Rev. R.I. Woodhouse, Reginald Courtney Woodhouse, a Lieutenant in the 56th Rifles who died in Mesopotamia in 1916 and Wilfred Rogers, an artilleryman, who along with Harold Roffey DSO, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Lancashire Fusiliers, were both in the initial expeditionary force. Both were involved in the retreat from Mons, Roffey being wounded in the process. He was brought back to England to recuperate in Merstham's Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in Chaldon Rise on Rockshaw Road. He was to die later, along with another Merstham man, Major James Grieve MC, at the Battle of Lys in the British Sector of Armentieres, France, when Germany mounted a second assault during their spring offensive of 1918. Local doctor Walter Weir was the medical officer for the Merstham VAD dividing his time with his practice in the High Street... (More to follow)

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Merstham at War ' World War II

On the morning of 3rd September 1939 Britain declared war on Nazi Germany and on that same evening the first chilling sound of the air raid siren was heard from the Fire Station. Preparations for the oncoming conflict had been taking place over the preceding months. Gas masks were made available and an air raid shelter was dug on the corner of Nutfield Road and Battlebridge Lane. A few weeks after the onset of war Merstham received its first evacuees from London, a group of South London schoolchildren.

In mid 1940 a corps of the Royal Canadian Engineers and the 9th Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC) took over Merstham House, parts of Church Hill and was also billeted in Nissen huts at Pendell Camp, Warwick Wold.

By December of 1941 a total of nine bombs had fallen on Merstham mainly in the Church Hill and Shepherds Hill areas.

Perhaps the most memorable event of the war, to the residents of Merstham, happened on the evening of Saturday 19th April 1941. During a raid that evening a German plane dropped two parachute mines over South Merstham. One dropped harmlessly on Wells Nursery, but the other exploded on All Saints Green. The explosion, heard for miles, had a devastating effect. All Saints Church was completely destroyed, as was the vicarage and two nearby houses. A total of ten people died in the blast that night. The 84-year-old vicar, who had been reading in his study, suffered severe injuries. One of his two sisters was killed and the other, like the vicar himself, was in hospital for several months.

As in many other communities all over Britain, Merstham showed its 'British Bulldog' spirit and life returned to some semblance of normality fairly quickly. War conditions being what they were, applications by the All Saints congregation to build a 'church hut' where they might worship were at first turned down by the authorities. The members of the church continued their services in Battlebridge Hall, half a mile away. Serving with the RCAMC was Corporal George Hedley Wolfendale, a priest of the Church of England who had enlisted at the outbreak of war. At the time of the disaster, and the resulting injuries to the vicar, he took over and saw that life and worship of the church continued. Late in 1941 Wolfendale was appointed to the Canadian Chaplain Service in the honorary rank of captain.  Thereafter he was attached to various units, chiefly of the Royal Canadian Engineers, and through most of 1943 he was with the 1st Canadian Corps Field Park Company rce.  He would never forget the parishioners of South Merstham, and now his engineering connections enabled him to realise the dream of giving them a new church.

The Chief engineer of the 1st Corps, brigadier J L Melville, approved the rebuilding project, and in March 1943 the work began under the watchful eye of Lieutenant Frederick Eaton. All the material used was salvaged from the wreckage of the destroyed church and vicarage. In five weeks the building was completed and on Easter Day 1943 the 'new' church was dedicated for worship by the Bishop of Southwark. Worship continued there until the new All Saints Church was completed on 19th April 1950, exactly seven years later. The little church built by the Canadian sappers continues to exist as Canada Hall, named in memory of its origins and as a reminder of the fact that thousands of Canadian servicemen and women made their temporary homes in Surrey during the war years.

A Merstham resident recalls that fateful night. 'My husband and I heard the explosion on that Saturday night. Stan was home on shore leave for our son, Alan's, christening at All Saints church on the following Sunday. He was serving on a minesweeper with the Royal Navy and it had taken him three months to secure a pass. Stan's parents lived in Nutfield Road, at the corner of Albert Road and fearing for their safety he went to see them. It was then that he realised the full horror of the blast and the destruction of the church. When Stan arrived at his parents' house he found them sitting at the dining table with all the windows of the house blown in. After ensuring they were safe he returned home with the news of the destroyed church and the postponement of our son's christening. It took a further three months before Stan could get leave again and finally our son could be christened, although this time at, St. Katharine's Church in 'Top' Merstham. The summer of 1944 brought a new terror to the skies over Southeast England in the shape of the now infamous 'Doodle-Bugs' or V1 flying bombs. John Neil in his book 'The History of Merstham School' records an incident when one of these 'doodle-bugs' fell close to the school: 'On 29th June 1944 just as morning assembly was coming to an end, a flying bomb hit the Corporation Yard in Albury Road, just a hundred yards from the school. Damage from the blast was extensive, but miraculously there were no serious casualties among the 200 children and the staff.'  Records show that at least two further flying bombs fell on Merstham that year. On the 7th July one fell in the woods on Church Hill causing extensive damage and in August one fell on 'Innisfree' in Rockshaw Road killing all the occupants. By July of 1944 Merstham was declared in an  'evacuation area' due to the increasing risk of attacks and many families made preparations to leave.

The recorded incidents during World War II in the Borough of Reigate were: -

Civilians Killed 50
Civilians Injured 161
Houses totally destroyed 115
Houses damaged 4189
Air Raid Alerts  893
High explosive bombs  496
Oil bombs 18
Incendiary bombs 5847
Flying bombs (Doodlebugs) 17
Parachute mines (Both Fell on Merstham)   2

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Tristan da Cunha

In the early 1960s the disused Pendell Army Camp at the Warwick Wold end of Bletchingley Road once again opened its doors to people from faraway corners of the earth. 
Previously used to billet Canadian troops during World War II this time it welcomed refugees from a small remote island in the mid-Atlantic range. Tristan da Cunha, a volcanic island situated 1250 miles (2000km) to the south-west of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa was discovered by the Portuguese in 1506 and is named after its discoverer, Tristao da Cunha. It became strategically important with the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte to St. Helena and the British formally annexed Tristan in August 1816 setting up a small garrison there.
In 1961 a volcanic eruption caused the evacuation of all of the island's 264 inhabitants to England. The eruption was of modest size, but occurred from a small cone immediately adjacent to the settlement of Edinburgh. 
For two years the islanders stayed in Merstham but maintained much their close-knit community ways and a desire to return to the island.
A former Merstham resident, Mick Chambers, recalls the time as a local paperboy:
'I used to be a paperboy at Arthur's Newsagents, top Merstham in those days, and made regular visits to the camp, selling the local paper to the refugees, providing they had pictures of them in it. When the refugees arrived there were all sorts of people there organising etc. and as I was quite suntanned at the time, I got mistaken for one of the refugee children, and given a job to do!'
In 1963 it was considered safe to return and the majority sailed home. But life in England had changed attitudes and a more affluent and informed society emerged from then onwards, far removed from the lifestyles of their ancestors.

Building The Motorway - Problems Encountered

The early 1970s saw the beginning of construction of the M23 and M25 motorways and their junction at Merstham. The new motorways ran over the old hearthstone quarries near Rockshaw Road. This caused much controversy over the preceding years when the motorways were being sited.
It was decided that the part of the motorway that crosses the quarries must be drilled on a 10ft (3.04m) grid basis, and all located tunnels would be filled with slurry, which would be pumped in under pressure. Very soon, it became apparent that far too much slurry was being 'lost'. It was discovered that in one hole, when approximately 70 cubic yards (53.5 cubic metres) were pumped and the neighbouring holes were searched for traces of slurry all that was found was a thin surface on the floor and at '6 per cubic yard this was considered too great a loss. With the quarries dipping at only about 6 degrees it was found that the slurry, which was expected to set quickly, was, in spite of this, running out too far into the adjoining tunnels before setting.
The engineers decided that they needed to make an inspection of the underground section of the drilling area. They called on a part-time potholer, John Sanders, who was helping them with the slurrying operation and he guided them through the mines.
It was immediately apparent to the engineers that a 'curtain wall', made of gravel, would have to be prepared before any further slurry could be pumped in. To do this, the gravel would be poured down the fence line boreholes. This was a difficult operation, as often it was not possible to see how the gravel curtain was shaping up from above ground and frequent trips had to made into the mines. Also, more often than not, the holes became blocked with gravel and had to be laboriously cleared, all this taking time and adding to the spiralling costs of the operation.
It was at about this time that a 36 inch (90cm) shaft was sunk for drainage and access into a main tunnel, but unfortunately the chert layer above the tunnels proved too much for the large drilling rig. To get through this layer, the roof was 'bombed' with a 2 ton weight until it caved in. This made access too dangerous and a further two shafts were sunk. The new shafts were only 18 inches (45cm) in diameter and using the rig's winch, access was gained to the tunnels. This allowed John Sanders to unblock the boreholes from below and to pile up the gravel curtain, as well as to report on progress. By this means, progress was rapid and soon a major part of the quarries under the motorway were filled, without the loss of large quantities of slurry down the long tunnels which were, in fact, off motorway limits.
A further problem at the mines provided the builders of the M23 and M25 with yet another set back. Just when they thought that they had solved the slurry problem their hopes were shattered when, on Monday 15th May 1972, a dump truck fell through the roof of an adit in an area thought to have had no quarries underneath it.
Denis Musto of the Merstham Speleological Society was called and quickly phoned everyone interested. That evening Graham Bensant joined Dete Baron and Martin Hatton at the site to investigate the tunnels.
Graham described the scene as he arrived; 'It felt rather like being on the Northern Line in the rush hour, the tunnel being packed with engineers, reporters and interested dumper drivers. The roof had collapsed in two places, conveniently dividing the tunnel. It was about 5-6ft high, as usual, and 6ft wide, with quite neat stone walling.'

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The Great Storm 1987

The hurricane force winds, which tore through Southern England in the early hours of Friday October 16th 1987, will be etched on the minds of people who lived through it forever.

Former Merstham resident, Nick Rolfe, recalls what greeted him that morning: -

'As a 19 year-old, I recall waking up on the morning in question and looking into my back garden and seeing the wall at the bottom of the garden reduced to a pile of rubble, which could have killed anyone had it fallen the other way. In almost a sense of excitement, like a heavy snowfall, I dressed and went out to look at the damage. Tiles were missing from the roofs of all the houses I could see, and rubbish was strewn everywhere. I went into the attic bedroom, opened the window and crawled out on to the roof of the house. It was still fairly breezy so I was careful about my footing. I made my way to the top of the roof. Once there I straddled the ridge and put the ridge tiles back into place and it was there that I noticed the number of people on the roofs, it was like a party.'

Another Merstham ex-patriot, Brian Soper, remembers that night: -

'I was on night duty in Crawley when the storm hit. I have one vivid memory of the roof of Boots warehouse lifting up and down, making a terrifically loud banging noise. It was at that point that I ran for cover! When I got home to Taynton Drive, our property was completely untouched! I still think to this day, that the bus parked in the front garden, protected us from the worst of the winds! The roads were in chaos and the really sad bit for me was the aftermath of seeing hundreds of really old trees completely wiped out.'  

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Merstham's Disappearing Past

Once a quiet little hamlet, Merstham went through rapid changes during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Although much of Merstham remains untouched, other local features have vanished. 

No longer the need for the village smithy or wheelwright as the internal combustion engine replaced horse power. In a census of tradesmen in 1831, Merstham had five blacksmiths and two wheelwrights.

  This section of the 'History of Merstham' seeks to revisit some of these 'missing links'.

The Merstham Windmill:

Built in 1756 the mill, which was once a feature of Rockshaw Road, was a local landmark and very popular with artists and photographers. Victorian artist Myles Birket Foster once described it as 'the perfect windmill'. By the end of the nineteenth century, when a second railway line (the Quarry Line) was planned, the mill was disused and in a state of disrepair. At first, it was suggested that the line should pass under the mill, through a tunnel but unfortunately, like many buildings in this area, the mill was built on a thick heavy clay soil, which was thought to be too unstable. Demolition became unavoidable.

The Reverend Reginald Woodhouse, the then Rector of Merstham, agreed to have the mill demolished, in return for some of the wood and other materials. The date was set for October 7th 1896.

The actual work was carried out be George Stribbling, who was a member of the school board, using a traction engine and cables. Stribbling expected the job to last until lunchtime, but demolishing the old mill proved more difficult than first anticipated and it didn't fall until mid-afternoon. The children from Merstham School were let out early so that they could watch it come down. Parts of the windmill can still be seen in Merstham today. The lychgate at St. Katharine's Church was originally built from wood reclaimed from the windmill. The base of the lychgate is made from two of the French Buhrstones (or Burrstones), which once ground wheat in the mill. The lychgate is dedicated to the memory of the last miller, William Stacey. A further two Buhrstones now form the front and back doorsteps of 25 Albury Road, which was once the home of George Stribbling. Other Buhrstones are concealed in the undergrowth in the grounds of a house opposite the Feathers.  

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The Crossing Sweeper:

Before the First World War Merstham's roads were coarsely made and frequently very muddy. The elderly men of the village could often be seen, with brooms in hand, sweeping clean a crossing for people who would drop a penny in their box for the privilege. This was particularly appreciated by the women whose long capacious dresses would often trail in the mud.  

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Nuttings Seed Merchants:

William 'Bunny' Austen, MBE, recalled for Merstham's Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee History Exhibition in 1977.

'Nuttings first started business as wholesale seed merchants in London in 1842, and continued there in one of the most imposing buildings in Southwark Street, built in the style of a Scottish Kirk, until November 1940 when during the German bombing raids this fine building was totally destroyed. It was then decided that the business should be carried on from the firm's seed farm and trail grounds at Warwick Wold, which they had acquired in the early 1930's. Using the outbuildings at Pendene as a warehouse, and Pendell Lodge as offices Nuttings managed somehow to carry on a very flourishing business. Then at last, in 1946, they were able to move into their new premises, in Bletchingley Road, which were built by the local firm of S&J Francis. It is interesting to note that the drawing of the building on their letter headings showed it as it was eventually meant to be, but owing to building restrictions in force at the time, a planned right-hand extension was never completed. As well as the people who originally worked in London, and who travelled to and fro each day, including Saturdays - of whom I was one, travelling 60 miles a day the firm employed many local people during the time it was at Merstham. These included part-time ladies who did a most essential job of picking out the bad peas from the good ones, entirely by hand. Each lady must have 'sorted' tons of peas throughout the season, which during the 1940's and 50's they did for the princely sum of between 1/9d (8p) and 2/6d (12p) per hour. In 1963 the business was taken over by Messers. Thoday of Cambridge, and carried on under the title of Nutting and Thoday, and then in 1966 it was decided to transfer the business to Cambridge, A number of the staff took up the option offered them to go to Cambridge with the firm.'

The building remained empty until late in the sixties when the Darby family purchased it. They renamed the building 'Darby House' and made it the head office of the family run business. The School Government Publishing Company, as Nuttings had done over 20 years earlier, employed many local full and part-time staff.  

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Mr. Merstham

A Tribute To Anthony Stephens 1911-2001

On July 10th 2001, at the age of 90, Merstham lost one of it's 'favourite sons'. Anthony Stephens, known to some as 'Mr. Merstham', had lived in the neighbourhood all of his life. Born in 1911, when Merstham was very different from the village he had come to know later in life, his first home, Rookwood, now a guest house and Chinese restaurant on the A23, was then between Bushetts Grove and Mr. Dawes' cowshed at the top of School Hill.1917 at the tender age of six Anthony earned himself some pennies collecting manure left on the road by the cows on their way to be milked.

Two years later, his family moved to Coppice Lea in Bletchingley Road to get away from the noise of the traffic on the 'main road'. Educated at Harrow, where he became head of house and a school monitor, Anthony then spent two years at Cambridge.

He took the following year off to visit his sister, who was married and living in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). In a clever bit of bartering he managed to persuade the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to pay his passage to Cape Town, where he encouraged the consumption of British herrings in South Africa.

In 1941, he married Rosemary Webbe, a resident of Rockshaw Road since 1927, and they relocated to a small house in Warwick Wold.

During World War II he served as a gunner and later in the 'Desert Rats' he fought in North Africa and took part in the allied landings at Salerno, Italy. Returning to Merstham after the war, Anthony and Rosemary moved back to Rookwood. Anthony took a post as marine insurance broker in the family firm arranging the insurance for many fleets including Townsend Ferries.

Around this time he also became a director of the Merstham Housing Association, which had been formed by his family and other Merstham residents in the 1920s to provide affordable 'Homes for Heroes' for men returning form the First World War. In 1953, with his family, he moved back to Coppice Lea on the death of his father and when his children, John, Jane, Richard and Elizabeth, had grown up, he and Rosemary moved for a final time to Quality Street.

Just two weeks before Anthony Stephens died, he celebrated his 90th birthday.

A special father and grandfather, he had eleven grandchildren. Anthony will be sadly missed by both family and community.

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Origins of Local Place and Road Names


Albury Road and Manor Road, along with the now closed Albury Manor Schools:

These are named after 'John De Aldeberi' who, in the early years of the 14th century, gave his mill and an adjoining meadow to the church.
Later in 1340 the land was released to Richard de Berton and his heirs as the Manor of Aldebury (later Albury) in the Parish of Merstham and Gatton.

Battlebridge Lane:

Named in honour of the site where King Alfred's son, Edward, defeated the Danes.

Bourne Road:

Bourne is the old Saxon word for stream; it therefore seems most likely that the road was named after the stream, which had been known locally as 'The Bourne,' 
that ran behind Nutfield Road at the southern end of Bourne Road.

The Crossways:

Named after the Crossways Land Company Ltd. which excavated sand from the land opposite All Saints Church.

Deans Road:

This South Merstham road is believed to be named after part the lands of the Manor of Albury known as The Deane.

Fairfield Cottages, Rockshaw Road:

Named after the area where the 'Merstham Fair' was originally held.

Malmstone Avenue:

Named after a firestone, known locally as Malm Stone, which was quarried in the area.


On the north-eastern edge of what is now the Furzefield Estate, was a farm named Oaklea ' 'the meadow of oaks'.
In 1866 the Pelly family acquired this property and a new house was built known as Oakley. This was the family home until it was sold in 1945. 
This house today forms the main part of the Oakley Youth Centre.

Orpin Road

Named after the local builders Pink and Oram Ltd

Quality Street:

Once part of the main High Street, Quality Street was named in the 19th Century after the JM Barrie play 'Quality Street'. 
At the time of the play two of the actors, Ellaline Terris and Seymour Hicks were living in the Old Forge.
Some of the buildings date back to the 16th century, when the road was part of the High Street.

Southcote Road:

This South Merstham road is named after the Southcote family who acquired the Manor of Albury in 1578 and remained there for almost 200 years.

Worsted Green:

The name is derived from 'Woodstreet Green'. Woodstreet Green was a narrow tract of common land nearly half a mile long extending east towards 'Oaklea' farm. Wood Street still remains as a road running north south between Malmstone Avenue and Bletchingley Road.

Surrounding Area:


The names of many towns and villages seem to define the main occupation of the people who lived there. Gatton is an example of this theory. The people of Gatton were predominately goat farmers and the name comes from a contraction of the words 'Goat Farm'


The old name for Reigate is Chercefelle , which means 'church field'. Merstham (or Merstan) as at the time of the Domesday Survey was recorded as being in the Chercefelle Hundred.


The name Redhill (formerly two words 'Red Hill') is derived from the reddish Fullers Earth clay, which was quarried locally. In the early days of the woollen industry this clay was used by fullers to remove grease from wool fibre. Fuller's Earth was considered so important that its export was forbidden until the early 18th century.


To the south of Reigate there was once a large forest of mainly oak trees, called the Weald or Wild Place. The name Woodhatch means 'Gate to the Weald'

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Churches of Surrey ' Mervyn Blatch, 1997

Early Medieval Surrey ' John Blair, 1991

East Surrey: The Story of the East Surrey Traction Company ' Bell Street, 1974

History and Antiquities of Surrey 1809 - Rev. Owen Manning & William Bray

History Of Merstham - H. M. Morris, 1971.

Industrial History of Reigate and Banstead ' Derek Stiddler, 1996

Medieval Mason - Knoop and Jones

Memories of One Hundred Years: The History of Merstham School - John Neil, 1998

Reigate and Redhill in Bygone Days ' Tony Powell, 2000

Story of Antient Mearsoet Ham - Rev. R.I. Woodhouse, M.A.

Surrey - Arthur Mee, 1938

Surrey's Industrial Past ' Glenys Crocker, 1999

Surrey In The Seventies ' Mark Davison & Ian Currie, 1995

Surrey Murders - John Janaway

Surrey Railways Remembered - Leslie Oppitz, 1988

Surrey Within Living Memory ' Surrey Federation of Women's Institutes, 1992 

Twentieth Century Merstham - A. B. de M. Hunter, 1999

Other Sources

The Merstham Church Chronicle

Merstham Cricket Club' One Hundred Years of Cricket 1964

The Surrey Mirror(& County Post)

Local History Records 'Pamphlets'

The Dorking Chronicle

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I would like to especially thank the following for their invaluable help on this project.
My wife Sue and my daughter Nicola for their help on research and much of the typing.
My brother Ian for the editing.
The Staff at both the Surrey History Service, Woking & The Merstham Library.
I would also like to thank the following for their contributions:
Anthony Bloomfield, James Bloomfield, Mick Chambers, John Hughes, Ann Lardeur, Alan Moore,
Jack Pease, Nick Rolfe, Brian Soper, Ian White, Peter White, Alice Worsfold.
With a special mention for Danielle for staying out of my way and making me endless cups of tea.
Kevin Austen

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