REDHILL COMMON
A History plus Articles on Various Aspects of the Common
This page was partly inspired by a walk the wife and I took onto the Common after hearing that the view from the top had been restored. The top of Redhill Common has an elevation that, if unobstructed, allows a marvellous view across the Weald to the South Downs. In the Spring of 2005 Reigate and Banstead Council ended sixty years of indifference to Redhill Common by removing the growth that had provided the obstruction to the view, restoring to the local people that which was rightfully theirs.

During the construction of this page I have returned many times to the common, the scene of countless hours of boyhood activity. Since 1945, when the then Reigate Council abolished the Commons Conservators, this mainly open commonland has turned into woodland. Much low growth, including bramble, has encroached upon unwooded areas and has replaced some of the grassed areas. On the banks the slippage of sand and stone has covered over an old pathway. The overall reult is a considerable reduction in the amount of commonland that is able to be used recreationally.

Although this page is an observation of the deterioration of an area close to my heart it is not only that. It is also an historic account of of the common and an attempt to inform about many of its features. I have put in some 'then and now' pictures and added information about other features of the common, of which there are quite a few. I am not personally qualified to make much, if any, technical comment on the flora and fauna of Redhill Common. Perhaps information on this aspect will appear from another source. Otherwise I hope that what does appear here makes for an interesting and comprehensive page - AJM 17.4.05

Redhill Common is here defined as that common land shown within the red lines on the map below.

(HNHC)

A Brief History of the Common  

Origin of Name
    The name Redehelde (red slope) is said to be recorded in 1301 as the name of what we now know as Redhill Common. The name of the common is also said to be the reason for the nearby town of Redhill being so named. This is not quite as straightforward as it might seem for in its emergent days in the 1840s and 1850s that new conurbation was called Warwick Town. It was not until 1856 that a sub-post office to Reigate that had been set up on the southern edge of the common at Whitepost Hill, and which used the franking mark Red Hill, was moved into Warwick Town. With incoming and outgoing mail being franked Red Hill it seems likely that this was the reason for the name Warwick Town to die out and the name Red Hill to be more frequently used. Shortened to Redhill this is how the common and the town are now known.

Ancient Past    That the common has been trodden by the feet of ancient man is apparent from finds made there. The oldest of these would seem to be a broken flint hand axe found by Dr Wifrid Hooper in 1927. Found at the foot of the excavated banks it was of a type made by people who lived around 70,000 years ago. Flint blades and arrowheads were discovered in 1970, this time at the top of the banks, at the site of a fallen tree. About 1,000 items were retrieved and dated to about 10,000 years ago and attributed to hunter-gatherers who entered Britain from mainland Europe at a time when the two were still connected.

Medieval Times     As the centuries passed more and more land was taken for agricultural use, that land remaining being generally unsuitable for the plough by virtue of position, accessibility or quality. It may be that by the time of the beginnings of the development of Reigate c1100 the boundaries of our local commons were as they are today but it is more likely that they were considerably more extensive as common land has been encroached upon during the centuries. These common lands, although grazed and considered public places, became the property of the lords of the various manors that they were in, Redhill Common being in the Manor of Reigate. The history of the evolvement of the Manor is not fully understood but medieval property organisation in SE England was of counties subdivided into Hundreds. A Hundred was a measure of land that could support one hundred households). Reigate was once a Hundred as well as a Manor. It was also a parish and the boundaries of the parish and the Manor were very similar. Reigate Manor was divided into two parts, Reigate Town itself with the rest of the Manor being known as the Foreign. The Foreign was divided into a number of other smaller manors, each of which belonged to the few large land owners in the Manor other than the lord of the Manor of Reigate itself. These were Santon and Colley, Howleigh (Hooley), Linfield and Waldehache (Woodhatch). Within these were sub-manors such as Wiggie, Flanchford, and Redstone. The population was beholden in one way or another to the Lord of the manor. Grazing rights on the common, for example, would be granted to individuals according to the amount of property or stock that they owned. Redhill Common was probably in the Manor of Linkfield, with Earlswood Common possibly in the Manor of Woodhatch. All of it was, of course, in the overall Manor of Reigate.

Stories about the Common   One concerns a local glazier who in 1593 died on the common and was buried there. Whether it was his wish to be so placed is not recorded. In 1697 Richard Rhodes was hanged from a tree at Reigate home for the murder of his housekeeper. His body was hung in chains on Redhill Common - reason unknown - but it apparently disappeared the same night. Around one hundred years later a skeleton believed to be that of Rhodes was discovered on the site of Earlswood Mount. In the 19th century another skeleton was found, this time at the foot of the common, and with him were found a pick and shovel. It is known that much digging for gravel was done and it is thought that this skeleton might have belonged to a man who was buried when a trench he had dug collapsed.
   Another story is set in 1648 and concerns a possible Royalist uprising. A number of prominent men with an army of around 600 men marched fro Dorking to Reigate and presented a threat to Parliament. Troops were deployed in Surrey to counter this threat. A Major Audley was among them and having been sent south encountered a large force at Redhill (Common). Whether or not there was a skirmish there is uncertain but Audley eventually joined other forces to hold Reigate. The Royalists were eventually routed at Ewell and on the road to Kingston and their leaders executed.

Site of a Prison    In 1862 the Secretary for War compulsorily purchased 16 acres on the summit of Red Hill Common for a military prison.  1,000 was paid to Lord Somers, the Lord of the Manor, and 2,000 to five trustees for the persons entitled to common rights.  Owing to the number and intricacy of the common rights titles, the trustees had considered the distribution of the funds in their hands to be impracticable, so none was attempted.  The War office subsequently gave up the idea of erecting a military prison on the land and the Corporation opened negotiations with a view to acquiring it as a public pleasure ground, making simultaneous overtures to two parties, the Secretary of War for the purchase of the land and the trustees of the Commoners, with the aim of obtaining from them the 2,000 and using it as part payment of the purchase cost, but after protracted negotiations attempts to retrieve the money from the trustees failed through the unshakeable objection of one of these men to hand it over.

Marker stones define the boundary of the proposed prison. Not all survive but some can still be seen. This view of one of them shows the relative size of the stone and the war office arrow on its top.
    
Common Secured     In 1867 the Corporation applied for permission to borrow 4,000 to buy the 16 acres of the top of Red Hill Common as a means whereby 50 to 70 more acres elsewhere could be obtained for a sewerage works. What had happened was that the best site for the outfall for the drainage system the Corporation was building had been identified as land at the bottom of Earlswood Common, and the Council had accordingly applied to Earl Somers, who was since the formation of the Borough Council no longer Lord of the Manor but still the owner of the common land, to grant it to them.
       Lord Somers proposed that on the condition that the trustees’ 2,000 was disregarded and that the Corporation purchased out of its own resources the piece of land on the summit of Red Hill for a public pleasure ground, and also that the Mayor, aldermen and burgesses entered into proper deed of covenant with the Lord, his heirs and assigns, for the perpetual use and enjoyment of the land by the inhabitants of the borough, his Lordship would grant the land at Earlswood Common.
       The legal wheels were put in motion.  Conveyance of all land was approved and the Corporation borrowed 4,000 against the rates to defray the cost, 1,000 of which was for fencing, ditching, levelling and laying out the land.  It was an unusual arrangement but the merits of it were that the Corporation became the proprietors of two sites, each suited for the purpose for which it was acquired, and at an overall cost of about 40 an acre, the current price in the area then being from 200 to 300 an acre.  It was a deal that benefits us all to the present day.

Threat to the Common    Sixteen acres of Redhill common might have seemed to have been safely secured for the use of Borough residents but there was another threat to the common, as the rights of the Earl Somers to dig for gravel there had been exercised by him for some time and was still vigorously pursued, with train loads of spoil being removed.  The banks on the east side of the common close to Sandpit Road are evidence of the diggings and it can be seen that not only had great inroads been made into that part of the common but that the rest of it was under threat.
     There were those to whom the word ‘spoil’ applied to not just what was being removed from the common but also what was being done to it. 
They conceded that the Lord had the right to the gravel but pointed out that the commoners had equal rights to the herbage, and queried whether the Lord had the right to destroy one by removing the other.  They began to collect evidence and take steps towards testing the right of Earl Somers to remove gravel.
     The man mainly involved was Mr Samuel Barrow of Linkfield Street, owner of the Tannery.  He commenced action in Her Majesty's High Court of Justice on 26th June, 1882.  The result was the following agreement, dated 2nd March 1883, between Earl Somers and Messrs S.Barrow and W.B.Waterlow as to the proposed regulation of Redhill Common.
The parties (Barrow and Waterlow) to pay Earl Somers 3,000 plus costs.
1.    In consideration Earl Somers will not dig, or allow to be dug or carried away, clay, sand or other materials from Redhill Common.
2.    Mssrs Barrow and Waterlow to apply to competent authority for Redhill and Earlswood Commons to be protected and preserved for the recreation of the local inhabitants.
.....................................................................................................................................................Samuel Barrow
3.    Earl Somers still entitled to compensation if land taken by Railway Company or any other Company.
4.    William Brown (at Meadvale) and Thomas Williams (at Earlswood) still to be allowed to dig clay for brickworks but restricted to existing workings for as long as their brickworks continue, licences ceasing upon sale of brickyards.

     Of the 3,000 that was paid to Lord Somers 1,000 was paid by Samuel Barrow, 1,000 by Walter Waterlow and 1,000 by the Corporation.  For the purposes of improvement the Corporation provided an additional 1,500 plus 150 per year for maintenance.  This expenditure was a contentious issue in Council because the commons lay in the east of the Borough, so it was natural for all of the east ward Councillors to be in favour of the planned expenditure but for 11 of the 12 in the west ward to be against.  The vote was enough to carry the proposal by a majority of one, however.  A provisional order was prepared by the Land Commissioners for England and later embodied in a Special Act of Parliament entitled 'Commons Regulation (Redhill and Earlswood Commons) Provisional Order Confirmation Act, 1884.'


Walter Blanford Waterlow

   
 The first page of the Act of Parliament regarding Redhill and Earlswood Commons
   

Conservation    
Samuel Barrow and Walter Waterlow did the Borough a great favour, for not only was the digging stopped but as a result of item 3 above a conservation body was set up for the common under Act of Parliament in 1884. It had the Council's sum of 1,500 to use for the immediate betterment of the common. The first conservators were Lord Monson, W.B.Waterlow, Samuel Barrow, T.S.Vernon Cocks,
T.Radford Hope, and Messrs Smith, Austen, Pym, Brown and Summers. The reconstruction and enrichment of the undercliff - that part of the common most subject to the extraction of gravel - was the subject of a number of designs sent in after the conservators let it be known that they were open to suggestion on the subject. Seven or eight designs were submitted but none were considered suitable. One of these, by Mr Richard Peat of Meadvale, was adjudged the best. The eventual design used was one drawn up by Mr T.R.Hooper who drew on much of the material from Mr Peat's design, and accordingly that gentleman was awarded the sum of 5. (The document detailing the proposed work to be carried out on the common is set out at the end of this page) By its provisions the smaller banks were sloped and planted with indiginous furze and heath, while the larger were secured and allowed to remain. Paths were created and the area drained and planted. The idea was not to create a garden or to interfere with the general aspect of the common but to make it less like a quarry and leave it for the general enjoyment of all. Some of the work was to be carried out by tender (awarded to Faulkners) and some by the common-keeper (appointed September 1887) with two assistants.     
T.Radford Hope.
....................On Earlswood Common, where the one existing lake had been formed by clay workings, it was decided to form a .........................................bank and create a second, upper lake of six or seven acres. Much of this was discussed at a meeting at Redhill's Market Hall and the meeting's chairman, Mr Walter Blanford Waterlow, said that the enhancement of the common by the new pond would result in a sheet of water that could be used for boating and skating. It is possible that some kind of water retention was already present on part of the site of the new lake as references at one meeting of the Conservators were made to extra expenditure on the creation of the new pond due to 'the clearing of mud and leaves from the upper lake'. There was also 5 extra paid for 'the removal of a considerable bank of black stuff, which was discovered when the water was lowered for the other work, and which was strongly suspected to have come from the sewage matter of the workhouse'. (It is not certain which lake was affected but shortly after work had started it had been brought to the attention of the committee that effluent from the workhouse on Earlswood Common found its way into the lake and measures were taken to stop this). The lower lake had always been used for swimming, not a particularly safe pastime there, so a proper bathing area with steps, paved bottom, diving board, fence around and shrubs for screening, was provided.
     Much of the work on the sandpits was completed by the summer of 1885. Work carried out by the Conservators included new paths, tree planting and the laying out of the common alongside Mill Street, previously very uneven, as a pleasure gardens in the mid-1880s. In 1885 Mrs Clarissa Tyndall wrote to the Commons Conservators saying that the ladies of Redhill were desirous of commemorating the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria by planting around 50 trees on the common. She proposed that, if leave to do so were obtained, that the cost would be met by contributions. She asked if the Conservators would then take care of the money, put the work in hand and supervise it. The expense with a fence would be around 50 and although it was unusual for the Conservators to agree to such a request before the money had been raised they thought it a good enough idea to agree there and then. The rest is history, for the 1887 Queen Victoria Jubilee plantation at the top of the common, although severly depleted by age and storms, still exists, as does the 1897 Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee clump near the gates leading to High Trees.
     The Conservation Committee met regularly to deal with matters affecting that part of the Common that is discussed on this page and Earlswood Common too. Among their early duties were the laying down of by-laws for the commons, and these were confirmed on 4th August 1886. Another duty was the appointment of a common keeper, and on 24th September 1887 Mr Joseph Hewett was confirmed in the post at a weekly wage of twenty-five shillings. His duties were to enforce the by-laws and to carry out the instructions of the Conservators or any sub-committee set up by them. The first time Mr Hewett tried to enforce the by-laws was when he reported the cutting of ferns on the common by a man named Aldridge. The cutting of ferns had been done for many years, the ferns probably being used as bedding for stabled horses. The amount of ferns cut was considerable as horse drawn carts were filled and used to carry them away. The case went to court but was lost because Mr Hewett could not show that he was empowered to lay such information before the court. Following this the common-keeper was issued with a certificate stating his position and his right to enforce the by-laws.
     Other matters before the Conservators in 1887 included encroachment onto the common by the moving of a fence twelve inches by Mr John Lambert and a request from Mr Haywood to enclose a part of the common. They decided that if anyone enclosed common land in the past then they gave double land elsewhere, as the Earlswood Asylum had done, but now that the Act had been passed they were not empowered to grant the right of encroachment to anyone. The drying of washing on the common also came under their scrutiny. It was stated at one meeting that houses adjoining the common could be rented out for more because of the facility of drying washing on the common. The depositing of manure on the common was said by the persons doing it to be with permission of the Lord of the Manor, which had been granted before the 1884 Act. As the deeds for this were unable to be produced by the persons claiming these rights a court levied a small fine upon them.
     To list all the activities of the Commons Conservators would fill many pages like this, but their deliberations took in all kinds of matters. At a meeting in 1913 it was decided to accede to a request from the Council to allow a piece of land by St John's Church to be taken to widen Pendleton Road so as to make the road a uniform width. The term used in those days was 'to throw the land into the road'. At the same meeting, which was held at 138 Station Road, Redhill, it was decided to open the 1897 Jubilee plantation to the public. Until this time it had been completely fenced off and now, although the fence was to be retained, an opening was to be made to allow substantial access. An application by the Meadvale Cricket Club to play matches on the Common was approved. A number of other bodies already had permission to use the Common, not for sport but for open air meetings. These included the Salvation Army, the Reigate Gospel Mission, the Hill Top Mission and the Independent Labour Party. An application to use the Common for a meteorological station was queried by the Committee members, the feeling being that any such site might be open to vandalism. The request was referred elsewhere for consideration of an alternative site. Encroachment onto the Common was often a problem and this 1913 meeting considered a report from the Common Keeper regarding sheds used for drying bricks that were built partly on the Common at a tileyard close to Mr Brown's premises. The Common Keeper also reported that fish in both ponds on Earlswood Common were dying. The problem was thought to possibly come from water contaminated with petrol that flowed into the ponds from the road near the Nag's Head. Divertion of this surface water might result in the ponds not receiving enough water. The matter was referred to the Council's General Purpose Committee to see if they could come up with a solution.
     Mr Hewett continued as the common-keeper for many years. In the 1940s the common-keeper was Ted Gould.
    The common continued to be looked after by the Commons Conservators until 1945 when the Council decided that as it funded the Commons Conservators it would do away with that body and carry out the work itself. Unfortunately little work was carried out and Redhill Common was allowed to turn into woodland. The bracken is advancing across open spaces, as is bramble. Since the depletion of the rabbit population in the 1960s the grass has grown coarser. The trees populating the common include many species but strangely the pines that were already established seem not to be reseeding themslves.
The story continues below.

   
How It Used To Be  
1 2
Picture 1 on the left shows how clear the lower parts of the southern slopes of the common were in 1857. St John's Church before alterations were made to it is on the left, the Earlswood Asylum is in the middle background and the original St John's School building is on the right. Behind the school a tall-funneled steam engine on the London-Brighton line pulls carriages towards Redhill. Picture 2 on the right shows that sixty years later the lower slopes were almost completely clear of tall growth all the way to Kings Avenue. The clock tower of the newly built upper building of St John's School can be seen above trees on the other side of the road. The hollows in the foreground were possibly sites where road gravel had been dug. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s all that grew on the slopes was gorse and it was possible to toboggan from the top to the bottom of the sloping path, coming to a gentle stop against the wall of the laundry that was just beyond the school.
   

This view south from the top common, taken in 1910, shows that although there was some growth on the southern slope the view was there for all to see.

3

 

And looking in the opposite direction the openness of the common is even more obvious. This picture taken before 1919.

4

   
5 5a
The gentler northern slopes were just as clear with a few clumps of trees and bracken between the paths. (note the horseman left of picture) The only pine tree remaing from the clump seen on the right in picture 5 left
6
This picture was taken in 1995. Trees are of a height to show that there is a view but they partially obscure it. Ten years later the view was completely gone.
   
The Way it Is Now
Some clearance was carried out on the top of the common to restore the view
7 8
On approaching the top common from lower down the south slope the effect of the clearance is plain to see.
9 10
   
11 12
Upon reaching the top of the path it is clear that the effect is not pretty but it is also very clear what a magnificent difference has been made. Nature will swiftly re-cover the slope with greenery.
   
13 14
And a few paces further on the view is fantastic, these pictures do not do it justice.
 
151617
The notice announcing the reopening of the viewpointLogs piled up from the clearanceFive larger logs lay separate from the others. The boundary stone pictures above can just be seen above the left hand end of the far log.
   
18 19
Of course, views from other parts of the common have also been lost. On the left this view south towards the top of the common shows how open it once was; it has been totally lost. A quarter of a mile from the top common this early 1900s view north west to Elm Road, the old cottage hospital, then across the houses and fields beyond to the North Downs, has also gone as the land in the foreground has become wooded..
   
20 21
This picture was taken in March 2009 and is of the area where the horseman in picture 5 was standing Much of the common has been overrun by brambles
   
22 23
This picture was taken on the top of the common looking north with my back to the view across the weald. In 1945 I was walking to school when a V1 Doodlebug on its way to London had its engines cut out prematurely directly above me. I watched it glide all the way to the Merstham hills where it exploded. Since then the trees have grown up and the hills cannot be seen. The horseman in picture 5 is between two tracks that go up to the top common from the path up from the junction of Whitepost Hill and Mill Street. This picture was taken from the top of that path. The track nearest the camera in picture 5 is as it used to be, straight and 5-8' wide (see picture 24). Now it weaves through the woods and is only 3' wide at its widest points.
   
24 25
The path referred to in picture 23 caption North of the pond one of the pines from one of the the old clumps still stands
   
Loss of the Path at the Foot of the Banks
The top lawn has changed dramatically. Erosion of the bank has resulted in the old path that ran along its foot being covered with sand which then became colonised by bramble and other growth. The result is that the footpath now goes across the centre of a lawn that was once used for school sports and many other activities.
 
1980s picture taken to show fallen trees but the original path is clear to see. (picture courtesy HNHC) This picture from 1987 also shows fallen trees and the original path (HNHC)
   
 
2005 - Scrubby growth covers the old path. 2005 - Path now crosses the centre of the lawn
   
 
The reason for the change is that the banks, once almost too steep to climb, have slipped from the top and rearranged themselves at 45 degrees, covering a large and previously falt area at the bottom. These pictures taken 1987. (HNHC)
   
The Once Open and Sandy Space to the South
The White Lion pub in Linkfield Street once established an area on the common where its regulars could play bowls or other such games. The only written accounts of its position I have seen place it close to High Trees Road by the top common. There was, however, a sandy cleared area near the top of the path onto the common closest to where Linkfield Street joins Whitepost Hill and Mill Street. It is logical that the White Lion's games area should have been on the southernmost part of the common as close as possible to the pub but (in spite of evidence that it was indeed elsewhere) if it was at this more southerly spot then this cannot be substantiated. In the past there have been torchlit processions that started from this more southerly point and many boy's football games have been played there, so it has had alternative uses. The area was sandy, slightly lower than the surrounding grassed area, almost circular and surrounded by foot-high, heather-grown banks. 
  In this postcard from 1910 the open, sandy area can be seen on the right.
   
 
These two pictures show the area in 1987. It is clear that the surrounding area had become covered with trees and that the 1910 view had disappeared completely. The open space still existed, though, as did the heather. (HNHC)
   
 The space is now much smaller because of invading brambles and other growth, including gorse, and has also been covered by grass. Where the heather still exists it grows now in a taller, more woody form than before. The old banks at its edge are difficult to find.
   
It was close to the open space above from where this view of houses on whitepost Hill from the southern side of the common was taken in the 1920s. The houses are still there, the view is not. On the far left is Whitepost House. On the far right are houses that stand on the east side of Upper Bridge Road. Between are houses and cottages on Whitepost Hill. One of those in the centre is where the Jupp family, featured in another page on this site, used to live. (Picture courtesy HNHC)
   
Trees on Redhill Top Common  
 
This view east from the centre of the common shows what remains of a clump of trees planted in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee. The trees in question are the taller ones picture centre. The memorial in view is discussed below. This view, taken from the same spot as the left-hand picture, looks west at what remains of a clump of trees planted in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
(Picture A - see picture C below)
   
 
Still looking west the lone pine stands with a few other trees inside a raised mound in circular form around them. It is reminiscent of some ancient burial mounds but is thought to be probably the result of Victorian tree planting. (Picture B - see picture C below) Another clump towards the north west part of the top common, also in an earth circular mound, contains few if any of the trees that were ther sixty years ago.
   
Picture C shows the two clumps shown in A and B above together in the early 1900s. Of the four pine trees seen here only one now survives. Notice also how small the trees in the 1897 clump behind are.
 
Apart from the two most noticable groups of trees planted in raised rings on the top common there were around six other such groups planted on the southern slope of the common. One on the common's east side was destroyed during digging operations but the others have been identified in the past. How easy they would be to locate now that their banks may have been eroded and some, if not all of their trees fallen, is difficult to say. The 1933 map reproduced above certainly shows several other tree groupings, as do one or two of the pictures below.
   
A Proposed War Memorial
     In 1919 there was a suggestion for a war memorial in the form of a thirty-five foot high Saxon-style cross to be erected on Redhill Common. Public meetings at Reigate and Redhill were in agreement to this memorial being built. The cross was to have a rough surface and the base was to have seats facing all four compass points and be so designed as to give shelter for five to six persons whichever way the wind was blowing. It would weigh 45 tons and cost approximately 1,750.
     Despite its initial support the proposal also met opposition. Objectors acknowledged the grace of the cross and the good intentions of its proponents but felt that the common was the wrong place for it and should be preserved as a pleasure ground, not be marred by a monument that would be out of place there. Whether this opposition alone would have been sufficient to stop the project will never be known as it eventually foundered in 1920 because the money raised was still 800 short of the cost.
The Cross proposed for the summit of Redhill Common
(Picture courtesy Surrey Mirror)
 
The King George V Memorial on Redhill Common 
The picture on the right shows the memorial in 1935 and illustrates how unobstructed the view was then.

The 1995 picture below right also appeared above so it is appropriate to explain a little about the history of this, a permanent memorial to King George V's twenty-five years on the throne, 1910-1935, that was erected on Redhill Common. It was the idea of Frank Edward Lemon, an ex-Mayor, and chairman of the Conservators of the Commons from 1907-1935. It was the wish of the conservators, apparently, to commemorate the Monarch's jubilee year in a tangible way, especially as it coincided with the golden jubilee of the public acquisition of the Commons.
 
The memorial
Octagonal in shape it stands upon a substantial two-step base and is constructed of white Portland stone. The 1995 picture of it on the right was taken looking south, with St John's Church in the background and the South Downs forming the horizon. Apart from the inscription, which appears on a plate facing almost due south, the top of the stone is neatly marked out with compass points and arrows indicating the directions of several well known towns and places of interest together with the distance in miles of these centres. Some of the places indicated can be viewed from this high elevation but some of the places are much further away.
The Direction Plate
The top plate, partly shown on the left, has been removed a couple of times, once for safety from vandals and once during WW2 when it was removed for fear of aiding an invasion force. Distances shown in miles are: Brighton 28; Chanctonbury Ring 25; Portsmouth 50; Leith Hill 9; Lands End 264; Box Hill 5; Edinburgh 352; John O'Groats 352; St Paul's (Cathedral) 20; Greenwich 19; Quarry Hill 4; Berlin 575; Canterbury 55; Dover 65; Crowborough Beacon 19; East Grinstead 10, and Paris 200.
Origin of the memorial
There is an important point connected with the memorial which ought to not passed unnoticed, and it is that it was converted from a sighting pillar, built when the railway first came through Redhill, and clearly seen centre right of the adjacent picture of the common. A 'Crossroads' article in the Surrey Mirror made reference to 'the pile of brickwork that the stone now replaces', and said that not long before Alderman Lemon passed away he was recalling to a few friends the reason for its original erection. That reason was to plot in 1841 the route of the long straight of the Tonbridge line from the Philanthropic bend to the Ashford tunnel, and the article said that the sighting pillar should have been preserved at all costs, not sacrificed to a memorial that could have been erected elsewhere.
The same 1935 'Crossroads' article went on to say 'The stone is a handsome one and no doubt will be held in regard by residents and visitors alike. To a degree, although not stated, it also commemorates the long and devoted labours of the late Alderman Lemon in preserving the amenities of the commons and in protecting this land for public use for all time. The question is that if Alderman Lemon was so concerned with conservation, why did he allow an historic monument that already commemorated the fact that Redhill was partly founded upon the arrival of the railway, to be destroyed? We shall never know.'
What the Surrey Mirror does not tell us is what the condition of the sighting pillar was when it was converted. It may be that it was already in a state of disrepair, something else we shall possibly never know.
Mr Frank Lemon
It is sad to reflect that Alderman Lemon, whose name appears on the stone, did not live to see the memorial he so keenly favoured, as he died after he had initiated the idea but shortly before it was completed. Information about Mr Lemon can be found on the 'Mayors' page on this web site

Do you remember or have any information regarding the original sighting pillar or its conversion to the King George V memorial? If so I would love to hear from you.
Contact Author.

   
The Pond on Redhill Common  
Whether or not the pond is natural is uncertain. Although mainly of sand and clay the common has deposits of impervious Fullers Earth, one of which is believed to exist beneath the pond site. The pond did have a wall built around it at one time and, it is believed, had its bed comcreted. If the Fullers Earth prevented the loss of water then there would seem to be no need for the concrete. When I was a boy there was 2-3 foot long crevice at the pond's top (southern) end from which a fairly constant trickle of water flowed into it. At its lower (northern) end was a willow tree that probably accounted for a considerable quantity of water drawn from the pond and evaporated through its leaves. For the pond to exist its water intake had to equal its loss from evaporation, either direct of through the willow tree, as there was no apparent outflow. It used to dry up, at least partly, some summers, but always returned fully refreshed each autumn. For the pond to have met the fate it has shows the changes that have occurred in its immediate and surrunding vicinity.
   
 
The pond on Redhill Common in 1905 The pond on Redhill Common in 1910
   
 
The pond on Redhill Common in 1915 The pond in the 1950s showing increased growth around it
   
 
The pond in 1987, still retaining its '50s characteristics, although surrounding growth has intensified. (HNHC) The pond being worked on by preservationists in the early 1990s (HNHC)
   
 
Reigate Area Conservation Volunteers worked on the pond during National Environment Week in summer 1994 The pond on Redhill Common in 1995
   
 
The pond on Redhill Common in May 2005 - a mere puddle The pond on Redhill Common in June 2005 - completely dry
 
As can be seen from the above pictures the pond is not what it was. Once set in the open it has been allowed to become the victim of encroaching vegetation. In the 1990s restoration work was carried out and the pond fenced but since then it has suffered badly. The fence soon became broken down and the pond suffered the consequences of being choked by leaves and other debris. Now, with a six-foot tree already well established in it, it is slowly ceasing to be a pond at all. Much of the nearby natural drainage misses the pond altogether. If left as it is it will take just a few years more for it to be just a memory. Fortunately there are plans which, if brought to fruition, will restore it.
   
 
Walking down to the pond in March 2009 it can be seen that a large area south of it has been cleared The pond in March 2009
   
The Pleasure Grounds at Mill Street 
The part of the common along Mill Street were laid out in athe 1880s as 'Pleasure Grounds'. they were laid out with paths and later trees were planted. The picture left shows the area in 1886 Its entrance is far left of picture opposite the two white buildings. In the photo bottom left taken in 2007 the two white buildings are almost out of sight beyond the parked cars. The common is overgrown with trees, bramble and bracken. The position of the old entrance is seen below between the telephone pole and the lamppost.
  
  

This 1910 postcard of Mill Street also shows a part of 'the pleasure grounds' . The whole of the left side of the picture shows open common, halfway along which swings can be seen.

The pictures below, taken in 2000, show how overgrown the part of the area where the swings once stood has become. The frame still stands (either the original or a replacement on the same spot) but the swings are long gone.

  
   
Other Structures on the Common
It is surprising how many man-made structures there are on the common, some small some very large. Already mentioned in detail above are the prison marker stones, the George V monument and the pond, which once had a brick wall around it. Others are discussed below.
   
A Forlorn, Abandoned and Once Accessible Seat
 
Another example of how the common has deteriorated. This the remains of this seat stand close to the old East Surrey Hospital on Whitepost Hill. Cross the road from the hospital, approach the seat across an open grassed area and there was a few moments peace away from the hustle and bustle of the world. But trees have grown and matured around it, their canopy blotting out the sunlight. The grass has died, bramble and other ground covering plants have taken its place; there is even a twelve-foot tree growing where its seat once was. It is a rather sad testament to how the common once was and how parts of it that were once usable are that way no longer. This is the area where the seat stands. The sturdy sapling in the left foreground is the one growing through the seat, the righthand support for which can just be seen sticking up through the low growth about a quarter of the picture in from the tree on the right. The picture was taken at too bright a setting to enable the background to be visible, but where the light shines in through the trees is the edge of the common as it borders on Whitepost Hill.
   
Unknown structure  
 
One about which nothing is known is the brick-built box-like structure on the left hand side halfway up the path to the common from the junction of Mill Street and Whitepost Hill. It can be seen above left and is shown close up on the right. As the bank has slowly eroded so it has become more prominent although the bank must have been dug away for it to be made, or made over it at some time. As it seems not to be accessible, and bears no signs of activity, its purpose is a mystery. There was during WW2 an oil line across the common (I believe); perhaps it was something to do with that. If anyone has information about it, or another theory as to its purpose, this author would be very interested to hear it.
   
Old Building  
 
The remains of this old building on a lower part of the common beneath the banks appears to be made from the carr stone that is readily available there. It could date from the days of the diggings by the Lord of the Manor; perhaps it was a tool store. It was certainly once a part of a larger structure and pre-1945 there was a wooden hut with a corrugated iron roof here that was used by the Common Keeper and his staff,
   
Horse Trough and (right) Tank Traps  
 
Believe it or not but there's a horse trough under this ivy at the top of Mill Street. It has drinking basins on three levels - one for dogs as well - and may have been spring fed.
 These tank traps left over from WW2 are a familiar sight alongside Fountain Road - so familiar, in fact, that it would be a shame if the were ever removed. And they should remain for their importance as a local historic reminder of times past. Probably intended for use on the A23 London to Brighton Road in case of invasion their true size cannot easily be seen as over the years they have sunk part way into the ground.
Gedge Fountain  
 
This fountain originally stood on the island at Shaws Corner and was moved to its present position close to the junction of Elm Road with Whitepost Hill in 1923 when the island was being prepared for the war memorial to be erected upon it. Edward Gedge was a prominent member of the St Matthew's Church congregation. He went to Switzerland in an attempt to revive failing health but, as the placque records, died there in 1897. The fountain was erected by remaining congregation members in his memory. Its top was once adorned by three lights which disappeared one night many years ago.
   
Waterslade Spring  
 
The Waterslade area was once farmland now occupied mainly by Ranelagh, Brownlow ,Shrewsbury, Charman and Fengates Roads. One of the springs that fed that farmland was this one close to the corner of Whitepost Hill and Elm Road. To have had the brick cowl built it must have once been an important and reliable source of water where animals could drink and local people could come to carry water away. The white stone set into the bricks had the words 'Waterslade Spring' inscribed on it and some of the letters are still readable. It was dug out like a well but had a lined area in front of it which must have at one time been continuously flooded. By the 1940s the frontal area was dry but the well-like part was still full and was used by people with allotments on land at the corner of Blackborough Road and the Chase (now built on). The spring is now completely dry. Following a request to do so Reigate and Banstead Council cleared the spring of encroaching growth (see right hand picture) but it is rapidly becoming overgrown once again.
   
Whitepost Hill Spring  
 
There is another spring halfway up Whitepost Hill. It is on the corner of the drive to Blackstone and used to be very noticable by iits leaking water accoss the road at that point. Once it was used regularly by people living in the houses close to the top of Whitepost Hill and Linkfield Street. As can be seen from the picture it once had enough importance to have its own wellhead-like structure built around it. The spring is situated almost directly beneath the notice on the corner of Whitepost Hill and the road to Blackstone. It still weeps water onto the road.
   
Old Shelters (rendered unusable)  
 
There is a disused structure on the common that was built either as toilets or as an air raid shelter or both. Certainly it was used as a shelter during WW2 as there are still people around who remember sleeping down there in between visiting patients at the old East Surrey Hospital. The phots show the entrance to the men's side and a closeup of the word 'MEN' stencilled on the wall. The shelter may have been rendered unsable by having parts of its roof broken in. It has filled up with debris over the years.
   
Marker Posts  
 
A number of marker posts exist on the common (apparently sixteen in all); the two are shown here are numbered K9 and U16. They indicate north and are part of an orienteering course. For more information about this go to www.mvoc.org . Below is the map of the common, circles showing each of the posts.
1
   
Road Material Dumps (not quite structures but worth a mention)
  
There were two areas of the common used for storing road making materials. Both fell out of use in the 1960s or 70s. One is off Elm Road and this picture from March 2009 show kerb stones still laying on the site. Most are covered by ivy.  
   
Larger structures in areas enclosed by the common
 
The houses on the left are accessed from Kings Avenue and then from Ardshiel Drive and stand on land once occupied by the Redhill Hygenic Laundy. Ardshiel is an unattractive name; could it have any local significance or is simply a name inflicted by a developer? The same view as seen left but taken before 1910 and long before Ardshiel Drive existed
   
 
Carter's Cottages are fairly old and occupy a large part of the common. Presumably named after the builder or an early occupier. Kings Avenue is the road that serves Fairlawn Drive, Carters Cottages and houses further along its route.
   
 
At or close to the site of the houses seen in the previous picture was once a pub called the Brickmakers Arms. Drunken behaviour from those who frequented it led to Kings Avenue at one time being popularly known as 'Sot's Hole'. A number of other cottages between Kings Avenue and Pendleton Road include this tucked away 16th century cottage
   
 
St Johns School, which occupies two main buldings, is completely surrounded by commonland. The site was first considered for St John's Church but the ground was found to be unsuitable for burials. There is a separate page on this web site about St John's School.
   
WW2 Air Raid Shelters at St John's School  
.........In September 1939 the school was unable to accept children because the air raid shelters that were being built there were not ready. The work finished in October and the children returned. It was expected that air attacks would start immediately war was declared but in fact bombing did not begin until the middle of 1940, from which times frequent 'alerts' were sounded and children at St John's spent many hours in the shelters.
........There were three shelters. The ones for the infants and the girls were situated between the school and Carters Cottages, with the entrances on the edge of the school property and the shelter area extending under the common. The Boys' shelter had access from the rear playground and also extended under the common, but this time between the rear of the school and the laundry site (now Ardshiel Drive).
........IIn the year 2000 I started research for for a book about the history of the school. In the school logs I discovered that in 1941 school managers (the equivilant of today's governors) had visited the boys' shelter to look at murals painted there. Shortly after this a short film about the shelters was made by Pathe News. Fox Photographs also visited to record them. At this time the shelters were securely locked up and no one at the school knew when they had last been opened. It was decided to have a look inside; the expectancy being that they would be wet and muddy underfoot and that access would be accordinly difficult.
........In 2001, when the shelter was opened, it was found that the opposite was the case. The shelters were dry and the amount of rubbish within much less than expected. Upon further inspection it was found that the majority of the walls were covered in paintings of stories such as Gulliver's Travels, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood and others. Moreover the pictures were in excellent condition considering the sixty years that had passed since they were painted.
........It was first thought that the boys had worked on the paintings during alerts, something which the Pathe News clip, which has been found and shows boys going into the shelter with teacher Mr Mole, and painting under the guidance of art master Mr Allen, refers to when the commentator says that the work took the boy's minds off the ar raids. But it has since been realised that with the whole of the boys' school in the shelter, some 200 boys, there would not have been room and work must have been carried out during non alert time.
........The pictures below give an indication of the extent and quality of the pictures as they were in 2004 and as they remain today.
 
A first view of the inside of the shelter. The corridor srtretches into the distance, its walls covered with colourful paintings. Originally the shelter walls would have been lined with benches that the boys would have sat on during air raid alerts, and one of the original ones can be seen on the right. A second corridor, where the pictures are just as bright as before. In the first corridor the old light fittings still run along the centre of the roof but here thay have fallen down and lay on the ground.
   
 
A third corridor where the paintings go on and on. A corridor where the walls are marked out in a uniform grid but where little of the surface has been covered.
   
 
A dead end in the shelter that has been used to dump some of the accumulated rubbish. The pictures are still dry and bright. Another part of the shelter. Here there was debris and detached cabling..
   
 
A scene fron Gulliver's Travels, bright and clean except for some spiders webs. All of the paintings are on the upper parts of the walls. Here one of the original ceiling lights can be seen.
   
 
Robinson Crusoe on the right. Characters from Robin Hood. That's the schoolcaretaker at the end of the corridor.
Mr T.R Hooper's Document c1885
............Below is a transcript of the handwritten document. Where I have been unable to discern the written word I have copied that word from the document as it was written. If anyone can tell me what any of the words are please contact me via the 'contact author' link aat the bottom of this page.
............I have made a few numbered remarks in notes below the text regarding some items

General specification for various works proposed to be done on Redhill and Earlswood Commons
in order to render them more suitable and convenient for public resort and recreation.

           Arrangements having been made between Lord Somers (the lord of the manor) and Messrs Barrow & Waterlow on behalf of the copyholders and for securing the Common of Redhill and Earlswood for the permanent benefit of the residents, free from encroachment and speculation, it is intended to apply for powers to place the content of the said common in the hands of conservators according to the Commons Preservation Act.
            And whereas some parts of the Commons are left in a rough and unsightly condition on account of excavations it appears desirable to improve the same, also to adapt and level other portions for purposes of recreation, to form paths for more convenient walking, and the plant trees and do other things to improve the appearance without materially altering the present natural condition of the land. The said proposed works are herein more particularly described and the cost of same approximately estimated, viz: -

The Great Sandpit
            This excavation is of considerable size and is left as dug. Portions of the slopes have become overgrown with furze but the most part is sandy and bare with irregular mounds, banks and cuttings. The present contour of the pit is shown on No.1 drawing accompanying the specification and the proposed laying out is shown on No.2 drawing.
(note 1)
1      To level a large space the whole width of pit at south end marked
(overgrown?) on No.2 plan by removing sand from high level to low level until the latter is raised to same height. This will necessitate delivering about 14,000 cubic yards, and preparing a surface of 12,400 superficial yards and sowing grass seed. In order to procure vegetable mould to spread over the site (in preference to the natural (screed?) I propose to offer 1,000 cubic yards of sand in exchange for a like quantity of loamy earth. This would be a ready & inexspensive method of forwarding the work. (note 2)
2       To level and prepare and sow with grass the areas marked Tennis Lawn and Cannon Green
(note 3) on No.2 drawing, exchanging about 200 loads of sand from the former as described above.
3       To break or slope down the escarpments coloured green on drawing and marked ‘S’, keeping the best earth on top and placing the roots disturbed by the process about the new slopes interspersed with plants as hereafter described.
4       To clear some of the lower parts of the escarpments for the sake of vanity planting here and there suitable grasses or other roots.
5       To form paths as shown on plan, mostly four feet six inches wide, the principle approach to be six feet wide. These paths to be formed in the sand and gravel screened out of the diggings.
6       To form an easy zigzag ascent
(note 4) on west slope and two other ascents with part rustic steps constructed chiefly of the long stones laying in the pit, with oak and larch stumps where necessary to strengthen the work, and a few lengths of larch pole handrail fixed to posts with bark on to harmonize with the character of the work. To form similar ascent to mound on east side and short descent to ledge at north end.
7       To remove where necessary and re-fix the fence (adding another rail) so as to protect the two escarpments. Provide and fix a V stile in on one of the fences.
(note 5)
8       To plant clumps of suitable and inexpensive shrubs alternated with clumps or furze, the intermediate spaces in pit borders of paths and ascents to inoculate bare spaces with tufts of turf from other parts of common.
9       To erect say two dozen seats also a rustic shed for shelter and lock up for men’s tools. To erect rustic shed for ‘Ladies’ and smaller ditto for men’s urinal in a secluded position & screen ditto by trees and earthworks.
10   To erect suitable gates to prevent the place being easily overrun by cattle entering from the road.

I estimate the cost of these works approximately as following: -
                                                                                   
           Earthworks                                                       400
            Preparing grass levels                                    225
            Paths and ascents                                           350
            Planting                                                             30
            Fence, sheds, gates and seats                          70
                                                                                  1075

The Lower Sandpit
            This excavation I propose to deal with in a very simple manner for the present, allowing the bottom to be used for the deposit of flints and the materials, the property of the Corporation, now laying on the adjoining Green.
            Remove top soil for 20 feet on (north?) side next hedge of parsonage. Cut off and dispose of sufficient sand, say 500 yards, to lean slope enough for growth of present top soil when replaced. Repeat same process round NW corner.
           Plant round the west bank along top road
(note 6) to part of the way down the slopes, the sand of which is very loose, the Cares arenaria, (a species of grass), the Sedum acre and the Tamarix. These would eventually bind in the bank and prevent the sand from covering the path, at the same time showing good appearance.
            A few rustic steps down the bank opposite the end of Earlswood Road and a path cut through the NW corner of the pit would be very useful and in trimming away the north slopes it would be interesting to preserve the trace of ancient road
(note 7) and perhaps denote the same by a suitable inscription.
            I estimate the cost of this pit as described at 20.

Upper Part of Redhill Common
            Here and toward the south are numerous holes which were dug many years ago to procure stone and gravel. By filling in many of these the appearance of the hill would be improved at a small cost.
(note 8)
            An outlay of, say, 15 on paths would be advisable in order to render access to different points more easy and for the convenience of many who cross over the hill in all weathers.
            I also propose to plant shrubs at various points and a few forest trees in such positions as not to interfere with the prospect.
(note 9)
            As a number of seats exist it would only be necessary to erect a few more. Perhaps a dozen would suffice.
            The probable cost of this section would be as follows: -
                                                                                        
Filling in                                                                          27
Paths                                                                                15
Planting & seats                                                              32
                                                                                      74  
Green near Goods Station
            When excavation materials are removed the south end would not require much beyond some levelling and sowing grass. The lower part is uneven and should be filled in from higher parts. The whole would be improved by planting of trees each side of roads and one or two clumps of shrubs. The path next Woodlands should be made up.
(note 10)
            The owner of land next railway desires to lay out a road across the green and would probably undertake the cost of making a proper road in approved portion or on site of present cartway.
           Cost of the above (except road) would be covered by 35

Earlswood Common
1          This large area would be made more accessible by forming paths especially across the south end which is now very wet during the greater part of the year. I suggest paths as follows: -
                        From opposite Meadvale to corner of New Pond Farm.
                        From opposite Asylum Avenue to East of New Pond.
                        From about halfway down grass cartway near workhouse to road west of New Pond cornering out with first path.
                        A path to join the two last NE of New Pond.
                        A path from near end of Woodlands Road passing south of workhouse.
2          The New Pond being one of the very few places available for bathing in the borough & being much frequented for that purpose should be rendered more convenient which could be done to some extent by building a low wall some 6 feet from water along one side of east end for say 100 feet. The ground then to be excavated and the bottom either roughly pitched or covered with concrete from said wall to a distance of some 30 feet. The wider level by wall to be 18” deep and gradually shelve off.
A bathing shed about 30 feet long with boarded back, top & sides would be a useful addition to these improvements.
3          Planting trees in clumps and in rows near some of the paths towards the outskirts of common would add to the appearance and might be so arranged as not to limit the apparent extent of this common.
                        Approximate cost as follows:-
                                                                                               
                                    Paths                                                    150
                                    Work at Pond                                       
.58
                                    Planting & seats                                    25
                                                                                                133

Besides the various proposed works described above a sum of 50 should be provided for such items as notice boards; posts, etc.

 
Summary of Cost

Great Sandpit                                       1075
Lower Sandpit                                          20
Upper part of Common                           
.74
Green near Station                                  35
Earlswood Common                              
.133
Contingencies                                          50
                                                        
  ..1387
 In view of the appointment of a Common Keeper a residence would be required which should be on or facing the Common. A building of the ‘Chalet’ type would harmonize with the surroundings and might be so planned as to afford accommodation for parties as at the ‘Swiss cottage’, Box Hill.
            With a view to lessen the cost of the worked Great Pit I would suffer that arrangements be made for disposing of about 2000 yards of surplus sand as remained during excavation.

End of Specifications

Notes to the above
1) Whereabouts of drawings unknown
2) It seems that the site was more like a quarry than I had previously thought, being dug down into the gound as well as advancing westwards arcross the common.
3) There was at one time a canon placed at the top of the banks. The reason for its placement, where it came from and any other significance it may have had is unknown. Clearly it was not regarded as or tremendous importance because as the diggings progressed it fell into the quarry and was presumably subsequently disposed of. Which of the level greens is known as Canon Green is not known but was possibly the top one.
4) Without the drawings the proposed site of the zigzag path is unknown.
5) Position of these fences at first assumed to be along the top edge of the banks but if so they would not need a stile in either of them.
6) Sandpit Lane?
7) Unless Sandpit Lane is hereby referred to no other ancient road is known
8) By the look of the common no filling in was done.
9) The view was intended to be preserved from the beginning. Those criticising the recent work to restore should note this point.
10) The goods station was where the Hockley trading estate in Hooley Lane now is. The green situated on the corner of Hooley Lane and the Brighton Road was obviously a storage place for excavated materials in transit.
  
Acknowledgements: Thank to Chris Morley who interpreted some of the unknown words in the specification above and made suggestions for others,
  
Finally 
Wid Garlic seen growing on Redhill Common in March 2009
  
____________________________________________________
The above are some of the features of Redhill Common. If you have additional information about these or other aspects of the common please
contact author
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