REDHILL AND REIGATE LIFE ARTICLES 2004 - 2005
Since 2004 the short local history articles have appeared in the Redhill and Reigate Life newspaper. Some of the stories concerning Redhill are taken from the books 'A History of Redhill' volumes 1 and 2. Others, including those for Reigate, are from other researched material. If you have any comments concerning any of the articles please contact author
 

The Colman Institute
In 1900 a boy drowned in the lower Earlswood Lake and it was suggested that the existence of swimming baths might have avoided the tragedy. Many houses did not have a bath and the idea of a building containing personal baths as well as swimming baths had been aired by Mr William Conolly of 'Buckhurst', a large house off Linkfield Lane, the name of which is preserved in Buckhurst Close.  He had been a councillor since 1896 and was Mayor from 1902-1904.  Unfortunately the cost of such an undertaking was seen by the Council as too great so Mr Conolly negotiated with Mr Jeremiah Colman of Gatton for a piece of land in London Road for which he eventually paid 150. Plans were drawn up for a swimming bath 70’ x 30’ with slipper baths. The frontage was to contain two or three shops and there were to be three or four recreation rooms and a small hall on the first floor for the formation of a working men’s club.
    By 1903 the project had advanced and Sir Jeremiah Colman was approached by Mr Conolly for a contribution towards the cost but instead of merely donating Sir Jeremiah provided the whole of the cost. In 1904 the Colman Institute was gifted to the town by him and opened by Lord Rosebery, but contrary to previous plans there were no shops or baths included, it being a working men’s club only. It was not until 1906 when baths in Castlefield Road, Reigate, opened that indoor swimming facilities became available in the Borough.

Trees in Redhill
In 1897 Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne were celebrated in Redhill in several ways. There was an addition to the Cottage Hospital, a new rifle range for the Volunteer Force, which had lost its previous range at Reigate Hill in 1892, a treat for local children took place on a perfect June day at Mr Waterlow's estate at Great Doods, Reigate, and 450 old folk were treated to a sit-down dinner at the Market Hall. The new Redhill Sports Ground was used for the first time and there was a torchlight procession up to Redhill Common from where, it is said, at least 30 celebratory beacons could be seen blazing near and far.
     In 1887 a group of trees known as the Jubilee Plantation had been planted on Redhill Common to mark the monarch's fiftieth year on the throne, and in 1897 second clump of fifty-five trees was planted west of these. Both clumps still stand but have suffered from violent weather and fences around them have long since disappeared.
     Trees also figured heavily in plans to beautify Redhill town by planting them along the streets commencing in the 1897 autumn. Many pictures of the town, such as the one of London Road above, show trees adorning various streets and forecourts but no trees remain, having fallen victim to road widening and other development. Trees have since been planted in Station Road in 1977 and in the High Street in the late 1990s. The latter are being replaced at the moment.

The Municipal Buildings at Reigate
Land was first offered for Borough Municipal Buildings in 1863. Mr G.E.Pym was asked to negotiate with the vendor but nothing came of the matter. Council meetings were held alternately at the Market Hall, Redhill and the Public Hall or the Old Town Hall at Reigate. In 1880 a plot of land was again offered and rejected. Various other sites came up and accepted but later rescinded as the Council changed its mind.
     The matter became urgent when an 1890s report of HM Inspector of Police on Redhill police station said that it was inadequate and the Borough police force was thereby rendered inefficient. The significance was that the withholding of a certificate of efficiency would lose the Council a large grant it received from the Home Office. Mr Pym was again involved as he managed to persuade the inspector to issue the certificate upon an assurance that the Council would erect Municipal Buildings incorporating a new police station.
     The word 'centralised' was attached to the project, to most people meaning a site midway between Redhill and Reigate. Land was found at Shaws Corner, the ideal central position, but far cheaper land was also available at Castle Field, Reigate, and being freehold was preferred by the Council. Bitter disputes broke out between Councillors representing the two towns but in the end the Municipal Buildings were opened in November 1901 in Castlefield Road, Reigate. The title 'Municipal Buildings' was officially changed to 'Town Hall' in July 1935.
Redhill at War
At the beginning of WW2 Reigate Borough Chief Fire Officer Begg had 270 full time personnel. Fire stations at Redhill, Reigate, South Park and Meadvale were equipped to deal with any local fires. A control centre was manned 24 hours a day, as was each station, and it was judged that at a regulated speed of 10-15mph any station could deal with any incident within its radius. This speed might seem low, but there were reasons. One was that towing vehicles racing too fast to fires resulted in the overturning of trailer pumps; another was that with headlamps dimmed by blackout regulations the meeting of vehicles coming the other way was a definite hazard. This was just the case one dark night when the Redhill Brigade was driving along the A23 to deal with incendiary fires at Church Hill, Merstham. The regulation-dimmed headlights were good enough to see a rabbit running directly ahead of them. Faced with the probability of running it down the driver momentarily lifted his foot from the accelerator only to immediately find also directly ahead, and coming in the opposite direction with no lights at all, a column of tanks. Mounting the pavement the fire engine successfully negotiated its way past the column, picked up reasonable speed again and arrived at its destination able to fight fires in several houses. The rabbit lived to see another day. The picture above shows the fire, police and ambulance station in London Road in the early 1940s.
(Author's note: The man with the strap across his chest almost centre of the picture is my father. If anyone thinks they know anyone else in the picture please
contact author)

Reigate at War
The outbreak of WW1 immediately affected Reigate reserve men. A part of the 5th Battalion Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment had begun its annual training only a week before war broke out. The men found that they were to forego training to return home at once. Arriving back at ten in the evening there was time for a night's sleep before they reported to the Reigate Drill Hall the next morning where they were recalled to the colours. Women grouped around the Drill Hall door from 2 p.m. Just before 4 p.m. the Mayor and Mayoress, Mr and Mrs Ince, arrived. Soon a bugle rang out and the men filed out to march to the railway station. A cheer was hardly raised, too many women's thoughts being filled with apprehension and sadness at their men going on active service, and resentment that they should be in this situation. There was no band, the men were grim and determined as they marched via Lesbourne Road, Bell Street, and the Market Square, where a crowd outside Adams' Stores cheered and waved them through the tunnel and up London Road to the railway station. On the platform there was time for a few choruses of popular songs before a train from Guildford bore them away, sights and sounds of their hometown fading. War had come to the borough of Reigate. Picture shows troops at Reigate station in September 1916. (Picture courtesy Roger Thorne)

St Joseph's Church
The original St Joseph’s church was built c1860-61 and the school was at the foot of the hilly part of Chapel Road. The church was small, barely visible behind trees in the picture from before 1895 on the left. The school was probably just one room. Note the original Reading Arch on the left.
     When rebuilt c1897 the site changed dramatically. St Joseph’s Church and Presbytery, shown below in the 1970s, faced onto the High Street with the infants’ school moved further up the hill. Classrooms were in a building with stone steps up to the front door, and in later years there was a pine clad hut across the yard that was also a classroom.  Two metal dustbins stood by the steps and children used to heat plasticine on the lids on warm days to make it softer.  School uniform was navy blue with a red blouse for the girls and a white shirt with a red tie for the boys. The very young infants’ classrooms were on the ground floor, those for older infants were on the first floor: there were probably about four classes in total. A teacher remembered by pupils in the 1960s was Sister Bernadette, tall and thin with little black rimmed glasses. All the buildings have been demolished and the site is now occupied by Bridge Gate House. The church seen in the background of both pictures is the Congregational church, itself now the site of flats. (Lower picture courtesy John Eede)

Reigate Post Office
Many people will recognise the tall building far left on this 1908 postcard of Bell Street, Reigate, as the Post Office. It was erected in 1895 and prior to this date Reigate's PO was situated in the High Street in much smaller and highly inadequate premises. The then postmaster, Mr Bull, wrote to the Council suggesting money be borrowed under the Post Office Act of 1874 to provide a new building. Reigate Mayor Samuel Brooks, Mr J.Seex (an ex-Mayor) Mr H.Ongley and Mr J.Lees went to see Sir James Ferguson, the Post-Master General, only to be told that the money would not be available. So Reigate traders T.S.Marriage, H.Ongley, J and G.Hammond, J.Keasley, and R.Elphick, supplied the money and work was put in hand. A building that for many years been used as a school by the then late Mr J.Payne was pulled down and the foundation stone of the new Bell Street PO was laid by the daughter of Mr T.S.Marriage on October 22nd 1894. The opening ceremony was performed by Lady Henry Somerset on June 25th 1895.
     Over the post office was the old Reigate manual telephone exchange, which remained there until a new automatic exchange opened in Church Street in 1937. The post office occupied the site for many years but did not reach its centenary as the building was demolished in 1993, its counter services being moved to Safeways. (Since the article was written Safeways has become Morrisons and in 2005 the Post Office moved again to the stationers shop 'More' in the High Street)

 Tracks on Reigate Hill
   Several routes carried traffic from Reigate to the top of the downs before the present road was made.  Some, deeply sunk and narrow, still remain, although they look impassable by any traffic bulkier than a man with a packhorse.  Access to the new road was via the High Street and London Road until the making of the tunnel in 1823, provided a short cut.  The cutting at the top of the hill to bypass the old dog leg bend, now the route through the car park, further shortened the journey.
 The steepness of Reigate Hill and its untreated surface made progress difficult, especially during wet weather.  One of the methods employed to overcome the problem for north-bound traffic was the addition of a pair of extra horses to a coach’s team 'to aid in pulling it to the top of the hill.  Another remedy was the laying, in 1839, of twin 'tram tracks',made of granite, on which the coach wheels could more easily run on the steepest fifty yards of the gradient.  This must have proved a success because in 1840 it was ordered that two hundred yards more be added, the work to be carried out by 'individuals feeling an interest in the work', which probably meant business men who made money out of the carriage trade and who wanted to see increased prosperity brought to the town. In the top picture the rough surface of Reigate Hill as well as the granite tracks on the ‘up’ side can be seen.
    The picture on the right was not included in the original article but serves to show the tracks in use, although not by the heavily laden coach which is passing a stationary cart that is using them. This picture also shows the two extra horses leading the coaches team and the rider who would take them back to the stables at the White Hart Hotel once they were unhitched at the top of the hill.

St John's School, Redhill
St John’s School dates from 1845 and was the first schools in the area outside of Reigate. The money to build it came from compensation paid by the railway company to the Parish for the loss of grazing rights after building its London - Brighton line across common land. In the picture Pendleton Road, once called Union Road and  then no more than a lane, winds between the two mounds selected for the building of the school and St John’s Church opposite.  As the old school expanded to meet the demands of the local district’s growth so a second building was added in 1884 on the lower slope. That building still stands but the building shown here was replaced in 1910 by the present upper school building. Both are surrounded by the common land they were built on.  Through the years thousands of children have been taught by hundreds of teachers.

NOTE:- The history of St John's School has been written and it is hoped to publish it in book form later this year (2006). If you are interested in being notified when it is published pleased contact author

The Redhill Cottage Hospital
        The local Cottage Hospital began in a pair of converted cottages in Reigate in 1866, moving to larger premises at Whitepost Hill, Redhill, in 1871. The admittance of patients was at the discretion of the hospital doctor, those he considered unsuitable were referred to the workhouse infirmary.  All kinds of conditions were mixed in the hospital as the problem of bacterial infection was unrealised in the early days.
        Doctors worked voluntarily, the hospital being supported by donations. At first there were twelve beds at Whitepost Hill but an 1876 west wing increased the number to eighteen.  As the hospital grew in size so increased funds were required.  The Reigate and Redhill Hospital Fund was instituted in 1880 and annual marches with bands and banners were held in the July of each year.  Proceeds allowed an  east wing commemorating the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria to be provided in 1897, adding six more beds.  The capacity increased to 30 beds by 1890.
        In 1907 the word 'Cottage' was dropped from the name and in 1908 a children's ward was added.  Demand on the hospital continued due to increases in population, industrial accidents and WW1 and staff numbers increased steadily, as did the size of the hospital.  In 1923 two adjoining properties were purchased for nurse’s accommodation and the entrance was moved to Shrewsbury Road.  An orthopaedic ward was opened by the Countess of Harewood in 1930.  By 1934 half of the admissions were due to road accidents.  In 1937 the Elm Road nurses home was opened by the Countess of Athlone.
        In 1948 the hospital, by now called the East Surrey Hospital, became part of the National Health Service.  Expansion reached its limits in the 1980s when it was transferred bit by bit to the Redhill General Hospital, the building becoming a private nursing home in 1986.

The picture shows the hospital as it was c1950. The original building is that single story structure with the added two roof windows, the mass behind is later extensions.

Origins
     Saxon farms once occupied cleared land below the downs where Reigate now is.  William de Warenne, who fought at the battle of Hastings, was endowed with Surrey estates and in the twelfth century built a castle which encouraged a new settlement to grow close by for protection and trade.  This was the beginning of Reigate, a village which was to grow into a prosperous market townset in a rural area along the ancient route along the foot of the downs.  It was not until the railway came, seven hundred years later, that anything happened to permanently disturb its tranquillity.
     The area of St John's, once known as Little London, was populated in 1840/1 by workers building the London to Brighton railway.  The people of Reigate, believing this to be the centre of an important new community, built a new church there in 1843.  A school was also built.  By 1844 there was a railway station at Earlswood, not far from St Johns, but in 1845 this was relocated to the site of the present Redhill station. In 1846 leasehold land was sold for development in the current Warwick Road area and a new settlement, briefly known as Warwick Town, evolved and Little London grew no more.  The new settlement spread towards the station and soon became known as Red Hill, after the reddish sand workings on the common to the South.  A new town had been born that was eventually to outstrip its Reigate neighbour.
The picture shows the original St John's School building (demolished 1909) with Pendleton Road in front of it.
The Pillar on Redhill Common
        After the London to Brighton railway was completed in 1841 the line to Dover was built in 1844.  The government would not allow a new line to be made from London so Redhill was chosen as the site for the new line to branch eastwards.  After the initial curve the long straight stretch from the Philanthropic was sighted by the construction engineer from a pillar built for the purpose on Redhill Common.  

The sighting pillar can be seen right of picture..

Once its job was complete the pillar, a brick structure with a fixing point on its top for the surveyor's instrument, remained, with a wooden seat around it for the restful enjoyment of the common users.  Although no doubt taken for granted by local people it was quite an important monument, for it was through the railway that Redhill had come into being.
          The pillar was not built as a historic monument, however, and the decision was eventually taken to convert it into a memorial to commemorate the jubilee of King George V, 1910-1935.  It was ordered by Mr Frank Lemon who, apart from being Mayor from 1911 to 1913, was chairman of the Common Conservators for many years.  The monument still stands on Redhill Common and has a top plate which gives directions and distances to important places near and far.  This plate has been deliberately removed on two occasions, once during the second war so that its directions indications might not aid an invader, and once in the sixties when it had been the subject of vandalism.  It was replaced and now still points the way to distant places, one of which is appropriately Dover, the destination of that 1844 railway line.

The Early Borough Police Force (1 of 3)
       The Borough of Reigate got its own police force in 1864.  The first Head Constable, George Gifford, lasted only nine days and was succeeded by George Rogers who held the post for many years. Under him were a sergeant and eight constables. The police station was in a house at Redhill near the Market Hall but there were no lock-up facilities and prisoners had to be catered for elsewhere until a house in West Street, Reigate, was rented and the cellar was converted into cells.
       Consideration was given to the siting of a central police stationnear
Shaws Corner but the project never got under way and a new police station was built alongside the Market Hall in 1866 and became the headquarters for the two towns.  Reigate's station remained, although it was moved into the High Street.  The title of Superintendent of Police was changed to Head Constable in 1870.

The Borough Force outside Redhill Police Station 1879
       In these early years, hours and conditions were onerous, as were the rules – ‘No PC to leave the borough without permission, nor to be in the borough out of uniform whether on or off duty’ - and the behaviour of the locals left something to be desired, for in May of 1882 the Watch Committee resolved, 'That the Head Constable take steps to render the High Street more orderly on a Saturday evening.’  Perhaps Saturday nights in Redhill had always been rowdy, for the Watch Committee minutes of November, 1864, authorised the Superintendent to, 'buy new hat to replace one destroyed by crowd.’

The Early Borough Police Force (2 of 3)
The expression ‘you just can’t get the staff’, has the meaning that those you do get are less that satisfactory. This could well have applied to the Borough of Reigate’s early police force, for in 1864, the first year of its existence, PC Stovell was fined for misconduct, PC Dashwood, and later PC Stovell, were discharged (reason not given), PC Foss was reprimanded and later fined five shillings, PC Ison was told to be more respectful and later fined one day’s pay, PC Harling was convicted of stealing, and PC Serjeant was reprimanded for ‘exposing an immoral article’. Drink was the downfall of several PC’s as in 1865 PCs Baugh and Beddington were dismissed for being drunk, and in 1871 PC Lewis was dismissed for drinking with poachers. In 1874 PC Whiteland was dismissed for ‘being found in a house of Ill fame’.

The Reigate Police Force of 1904.

       And misdemeanours were not confined to the lower ranks. Head Constable George Rogers was followed in 1888 by William Pearson, who resigned in 1891 and was replaced by William Morant. In 1894 Philip Woodman was appointed but was fairly soon arrested for embezzling police funds at his previous employment in the Bradford police force. Stability was restored by the appointment of Head Constable James Metcalfe, who ended this period of change at the top by remaining for 36 years.

The Early Police Force (3 of 3)
By the 1890s the Reigate Police Force had increased in numbers with the growth of the two towns and the Redhill police station had become too small for the increased size of the force and extra responsibilities, such as weights and measures, something not missed by HM Inspector of police who in a report stated it was inadequate, and that the police force therefore was rendered inefficient. The significance of this was that the withholding of a certificate of efficiency would lose the Council the 1,750 grant it received annually from the Home Office for the upkeep of the force. The Council began to consider erecting Municipal Buildings that would incorporate a Police Station and Law Court.
       Municipal Buildings were duly built at Reigate and made provision for a brand new police headquarters station and cells in the basement with stairs leading to the court (now the council chamber) on the first floor. There was also a new house next door for the Head
Constable. The Reigate station was sold and the Redhill station, although no longer the force HQ, remained as the local station. Accommodation at the new Reigate building was also to eventually become too small as the size of both force and council increased steadily. The result was that the Reigate police presence was later moved to a house called Cherchefelle, in Chart Lane.

The picture shows Chief Constable J Metcalfe in charge of the Borough Police en route to the Parish Church in 1909. Members of the Fire Brigade march behind.

       William Beacher succeeded James Metcalfe and adopted the title of Chief Constable rather than Head Constable. An accomplished horseman he was often to be seen on duty in the area on horseback, although he also had an official car. Athletics was also an interest of his, and not just as a spectator, as he was winner of a 100 yards handicap race at one of the police sports events.

A Sewerage Works and a Pleasure Ground
       In 1862 the War Office compulsorily purchased 16 acres on the summit of Red Hill Common for a military prison. It paid 1,000 to Lord Somers and 2,000 to five trustees for the persons entitled to common rights. Owing to the intricacy of the common rights titles the trustees never distributed the 2,000. The War Office subsequently gave up the idea of a military prison and at about the same time the Corporation had identified land at the bottom of Earlswood Common as the best site for the outfall for the drainage system it was building. It therefore opened two sets of negotiations, one with the Secretary of War for the purchase of the summit of Redhill Common as a public pleasure ground, and the other with lord Somers to obtain the land at the south of Earlswood Common.
       It also tried to obtain from the trustees the 2,000 paid by the War Office to use as part payment of the purchase cost, but its attempts to retrieve the money from the trustees failed. 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....

One of several War Office bounday stones that still stand on Redhill Common

       The legal wheels were put in motion. Conveyance of all land was approved and in 1867 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. Eventually 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.........................................

An Ambulance Presented
........A new ambulance was taken over by the Reigate Corps of the St John Ambulance in June 1938 in the days when things were not done by halves. A band provided the music at parade preceding a dedication ceremony at Reigate Parish Church in Chart Lane. Present at the dedication service were Sir Jeremiah Colman in his capacity as President of the Reigate St John Ambulance Corps and the Mayor and Mayoress of Reigate, Alderman and Mrs Hamblen. Also present were the deputy Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman Lt-Col and Mrs Dudley Lewis. Others included Alderman Lt-Col and Mrs Spranger, the Chief Constable of Reigate, Mr W.Beacher, many of the top-ranking officers of the St John Ambulance Brigade, as other Reigate people and members of neighbouring contingents of the St John Brigade. Outside the church the Assistant Commissioner of the St John Brigade ambulance made a speech as he officially handed the new ambulance over to Sir Jeremiah, who accepting it made another speech in which he handed it on to the Reigate Corps.

In the picture Sir Jeremiah Colman and the Assistant Commissioner (in uniform) are standing alongside the ambulance.

Then it was back into the church for an address by the Vicar of St Mary's, the Rev R.Talbot and a hymn, 'O God Our Help in Ages Past'. The company was then entertained to tea at the Parish Hall where more congratulatory speeches were made. This major event was the culmination of a period during which St John Brigade funds had grown to the point where the Corps could afford to entirely finance the ambulance purchase. It was the third ambulance taken over by the Corps, the first two having been paid for by Sir Jeremiah Colman. The vehicle was a 1938 model Austin, described as the last word in efficiency and comfort for the patient.

A Reigate Pub – The Beehive
The Beehive public house in Dovers Green Road, Reigate, once looked a great deal different from the way it looks today. Stephen Burberry owned it until 1890 when Westerham Ales took it over, although it would seem that the Burberry family continued to run it. The evidence for this comes from a fire report of 1895 - ' March 19th - Bee Hive Beer House, Dovers Green  - Two part boarded and brick built houses, one used as branch Post Office, the other as a beer house, well alight with roof falling in when Fire Brigade arrived. Fire was caused by Mrs Burberry ascending stairs with paraffin lamp after taking letters to Post Office. She caught her foot in stair carpet and fell. Paraffin spilt and ignited house.’ Clearly neither the house nor the pub was a total loss as it was run by the Blundell family from 1909 until 1949. They lived in the pub itself, the white-boarded side while the original landlords, the Burberrys, lived in the brick side and ran a wheelwrights and smithy. In 1949 it was taken over by Allied Breweries. At some time the Bee Hive was rebuilt as we see it today.


The original Beehive public house south of Reigate. The sign can be seen far left of picture

An unusual Pub – The Huntsman Inn in Redhill High Street
The Huntsman once stood in Redhill High Street where Woolworths now is, but instead of serving the general public it was part of stables that had stalls for up to twenty horses and catered exclusively for hunting men, their servants, liverymen and coachmen. Apart from the stabling area the building had an office, a serving bar and a kitchen, with access from the office to the bar via the kitchen and with the office also being used as a public room. It was first licensed prior to 1869 and in 1878 was run by the then owner Mr Charles Robins. Sam Marsh later bought the stabling business from Mr Robins and records show that the Huntsman was being run by him as a free house in 1892. It was still in existence in 1910 and probably had the status more of a club than a public house, there being no sign outside. There were several attempts over the years to add a spirit licence to the beer licence already held but all seem to have failed. The number and proximity of other pubs in Redhill – only the yard of the Wheatsheaf pub separated in from the Huntsman – was the reason for a licence being refused in the early 1900s and the closure of a rather unique pub.

Sam Marsh's stables can be seen in the above early 1900s picture of Redhill high Street. The Huntsman Inn was inside. The site was later occupied by Woolworths, now by Wilkinson's

Redhill General Hospital
In 1793 the parishes of Reigate, Nutfield and Headley formed a Poor LawUnion to provide a workhouse on ten acres of Earlswood common.  It was completed in 1794 and provided accommodation for the poor, many of whom were old and infirm.  Medical care was provided by local doctors but no nurses were employed until the 1840s, and a purpose built infirmary was provided in 1865.

A view of the Redhill General Hospital c1918

            The workhouse existed until 1936 when Surrey County Council took it over. By 1938/9 all the inmates had been moved to St Anne's. New buildings were erected and the old workhouse site with its infirmary became the Surrey County Hospital, a name later changed to Redhill County Hospital. With the advent of the National Health Service in 1948 the hospital was transferred away from Surrey County to the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board, and the new name of Redhill General Hospital ..came into being.  The hospital previously locally referred to simply as 'The County', now it became the 'County General' or just 'The General'. The hospital expanded considerably over the years, especially as it absorbed the East Surrey Hospital's facilities when that hospital's own site became unable to support further expansion, but it, too, was to face closure for the very same reason.  In 1971 the news was that a huge new hospital was to be built in two phases south of Redhill, the first phase to be ready by 1979.  Margaret Thatcher opened Phase 1 in 1984 and, eight years later in 1992, Virginia Bottomly opened Phase 2. Now mostly demolished, the old Redhill (County) General is a walled housing estate.

Waterslade Spring
            Elm Road, Redhill, was once a farm track and, like Shrewsbury, Brownlow and Ranelagh Roads, was joined onto Whitepost Hill when the farmland forming the Waterslade area was developed. The dictionary defines 'slade' as: 'a little valley or dell; a flat piece of low moist ground', so 'water' and 'slade' fit together to describe this area as land with an abundant water supply.
            Most of the water probably ran into the valley from the slopes of Redhill Common, and a number of springs have been known. Waterslade Spring, at the corner of Elm Road and Whitepost Hill, is pictured here. Although dry now it supplied water to the holders of the allotments at the corner of The Chase and Blackborough Road at least as recently as the 1940s (the allotments site is now occupied by houses). Another spring a few yards along the road to where Blackstone once stood provided water for the people of Linkfield Street.

The photo shows the brick cowl of the Waterslade Spring, which still.stands although, although the spring has been dry for many years. Until a few years ago the words ‘Waterslade Spring’ could just be made out on. the white stone inset into.the bricks.

            Springs had a habit of suddenly appearing. One appeared in a garden in Linkfield Street and had to be diverted to prevent flooding. One in Charman Road flooded a garden for a few days before drying up. When a WW2 delayed action bomb went off in Shrewsbury Road a basement not far from the explosion was flooded. It was assumed a water pipe had been fractured but when the basement was baled out there was no water pipe and the basement did not refill, possibly another example of a short-lived spring.
            These springs seem far less active these days, probably due to building work.and changes in the weather.................................................................................. ................

Carnival Processions
Carnival processions were popular events in Redhill and Reigate throughout the first half of the 20th century and beyond. Many of them consisted of floats and parades reflecting the holiday mood, with prizes for the most imaginative and colourful creations that paraded through the streets. Other of the processions were slightly different, their themes being the pageantry of events in our nation’s history. One very large such processional pageant was organised in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of King George V.  Members of various local organisations dressed up to represent historic scenes. The Redhill British Legion showed portrayed a scene from the time of Boadicea; the Redhill YMCA the Romans; Redhill and Reigate Guides St Augustine; St Mark’s Club Alfred the Great; the Rover Scouts William the Conqueror; Merstham Village the Canterbury Pilgrims, Reigate Grammar School King John and the Barons; the East Surrey Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Club Henry VIII; and so on through history, involving schools, women’s institutes and many other groups and clubs.  The procession started in Garlands Road, Redhill and proceeded via the High Street, Station Road, Blackborough Road, Bell Street and Reigate High Street to Reigate Heath. It displayed scenes from the past in the days before television but today such public pageantry has become a thing of the past itself.

The picture shows Bill Gumbrell, the Manager of the Redhill Gas Company, dressed up for his part in a processional pageant that is passing down Garlands Road. It is known that he played the part of a herald in the procession on May 6th 1935, and with a flag flown from a nearby window, this could have been that very one.

The First Cinema in the Borough of Reigate
The first cinema in the Borough of Reigate was The Cinema Royal in Station Road, Redhill. Opened in October 1909 its head was Mr Reg. Thompson. The auditorium measured 60 x 29 feet, the balcony 34 x 28 feet, and the premises were licensed to entertain 700 people. Nicol's ladies outfitters took advantage of the considerable interest and excitement in the town at the prospect of the first picture being shown by giving away one ticket for each five shillings spent in the shop. The Cinema Royal became came into the ownership of Mr Arthur Reynolds in 1927. He made extensive alterations, creating a much more luxurious cinema that was closed for the work to be done in the latter part of 1927 and due to re-open on Boxing Day renamed The Picture House. Due to one of the worst winters on record the re-opening date was achieved but not all the work had been done because supplies could not be delivered, so it closed again. It then suffered the calamity of being flooded to a depth of two feet when the snows melted and the Redhill Brook overflowed on the evening of the first week of 1928. Staff ripped up brand new carpets in an effort to save them. The grand re-opening was delayed until March 12th 1928. Two months later the cinema was once again closed, this time following a fire. It reopened shortly after. The cinema continued for almost nine more years, before closing for good. The reason for the final closure is unknown but competition was fierce. The Central Hall, built in 1934 had started showing films two day each week and building work on a new cinema, the Odeon, was under way.
     Author's note: - Since the above was written I have spoken to a lady who remembers the Picture House in the early 1930s. It was a time when staff sprayed June water, a kind of cologne, on the audience, presumably to add to their comfort. She considered it a slightly more superior cinema to those others in the locality.

The above picture shows the Station Road cinema when it was still the Cinema Royal. The films showing are 'Montmartre' and 'Flame of Love'. What the banner lower down proclaiming 'Forbidden Love' referred to specifically is unknown but there is no doubt what kind of film pulled in the crowds.

Turnpiked Roads
As Reigate grew in importance as a market town in the 17th century, people and produce needed to get to market.  Many existing roads were often impassable for wagons, and if trade was not to suffer then something had to be done.
            The answer at the time was turnpiking, whereby tolls were charged for use of the roads and the revenue was used to pay for them.  The first turnpiked road in Surrey, under an Act of 1697, was from Reigate to Crawley.  In 1755 another Act authorised repair of the road through Sutton and Reigate to Povey Cross.  In 1796 a bill was proposed to make a turnpike road from Purley, through Merstham.  The bill was delayed but the road was built in 1808.  Part of this road was from Wray Common to Gatton Point, and when finished it provided an alternative route North avoiding Reigate Hill.
            Tollhouses and gates existed in a number of places in the borough, and lasted until the Turnpike Trust went out of existence in 1881 when the Reigate Council, formed in 1863, took over the last of the turnpike roads.  The last of the Clerks to the Trust, with great foresight, commissioned a Meadvale artist to make a series of water-colours of all of them before they were destroyed.  It is believed that unfortunately for the Borough the paintings all finished up in a collection in the USA

The Toll House and Gate that used to stand close to the original Yew Tree public house on Reigate Hill. This picture was taken after tolls had ceased to be collected but before the gates were removed.

The 1910 Parliamentary Election
The 1910 General election, held in January, was a battle for power between the Conservatives and the Liberals. In the Reigate Constituency the result was that Liberal Mr Harry Brodie lost the seat he already held to Conservative candidate Colonel H. Rawson. The person who posted the card below was obviously a Rawson supporter, altering the picture of Station Road East in Redhill to show Brodie clearly down and out  under a large ‘Vote for Rawson’ banner.  On the back the sender, Jack, advises a Sevenoaks addressee that he has dropped off a roll of posters at Knockholt Station and tells him to call there for them. He adds, ‘They are now betting 5/2 on Rawson.’
           The alterations to the postcard makes it a unique piece of social history. It was posted on January 11th 1910at 6.30pm, years before the convenience of the telephone made communication so quick and easy. Even so, the Post Office made many more collections and deliveries at that time and the addressee would have been in possession of it and its message early the following morning, in good time to pick up the posters, which were presumably not about the election as votes would have been cast by then.
           Nationally the election produced a hung parliament, with the neither of the two main parties having a working majority. The situation was resolved the following December with the election being held again. The result in Reigate was that the Liberals regained some of their votes but not in numbers sufficient to prevent Mr Rawson for again being the electors’ favourite.  No doubt Jack was once again backing his man.

Bridge Road, Redhill
Bridge Road was unimaginatively named after a bridge that carried it over the Redhill to Reading railway line.  Many of the bridges in the town were very narrow and five of them were widened at considerable expense in the first few years of the 20th century. The one in Bridge Road, originally a wooden structure, was one of them.
       Probably laid out in the 1850s or 1860s, Bridge Road was later divided into Bridge Road Upper and Bridge Road Lower, these names eventually becoming Upper Bridge Road and Lower Bridge Road.  Lower Bridge Road once joined the High Street between the Pavilion Cinema and the Old Oak public house. Both of these buildings have been demolished and the old road end built across. The houses that once stood in Lower Bridge Road have been replaced by flats and only the Salvation Army Citadel remains from the road’s earlier days. One fairly significant change was the removal of the large ash tree that grew close to the bridge. Presumably it pre-dated the road, the pavement being built around it.

The large ash tree that once stood close to the bridge in Bridge Road
(picture courtesy John Eede)

       Upper Bridge Road, which ends near the common, has not changed as much as its lower counterpart, retaining many of the original houses built on either side of it. . Some have been replaced by more modern buildings, however, and one was demolished after a bomb fell in front of it during WW2; for many years there was an allotment where it had been.
       A more recent change has been the renumbering of the houses from the bridge on towards the common. One might have expected Upper Bridge Road to have started immediately beyond the upper side of the bridge but in fact Lower Bridge Roadextended to the Grovehill crossroad, and Upper Bridge started from there. This was, something probably dating back to when the road was simply Bridge Road and the added Upper and Lower prefixes were added but not as a reference to the ‘Bridge’ part of the name, which came later.  It was nevertheless suggested that this was an anomaly that ought to be rectified and the Council agreed, renumbering houses so that number one Upper Bridge Road is now the first house after the bridge, not the first house after Grovehill Road, as was originally the case.

The Roundabout, Earlswood Common
The Roundabout was the name given to an isolated group of twelve cottages that once stood on the common opposite the present Redhill and Reigate Golf Club. A cart track led to them from Pendleton Road (then called Union Road). When they were built is unknown but in 1900 they were considered worthy of removal, presumably because they were on the common. The Council was sympathetic to the idea but when the cottages were offered at auction was unable to bid as it could only deal with known costs and had no way of knowing what any winning bid might be.
        To overcome the problem a group of local men offered to bid for the cottages and, if successful, sell them to the Council. Then, as the cottages became vacant they could be demolished. The consortium was successful in 1903, paying
1,200, but there were problems, not all Councillors being in favour of the idea. Eventually the Council did buy the Roundabout Cottages from the consortium but in spite of the acquisition it was over half a century before they were finally demolished.
       Today the golf course has been extended with the addition of a practice area opposite the Golf Club and golf balls bounce and roll on closely mown turf that covers the place close to where a dozen families once lived.

The above picture shows the cottages on Earlswood Common known as the Roundabout (courtesy S.Ware)

Shenley
   
Major Kingsley Osbern Foster lived at a house called Shenley on the corner of Brighton Road and Hooley Lane, a location later to become the site of the Ark Royal Training Ship. He was at various times President of Redhill Constitutional Club, Redhill Football Club, the Redhill Society of Instrumentalists, Redhill Amateur Dramatic Club and Redhill Ratepayers Union. He was also a trustee and chairman for 18 years of the old East Surrey Hospital, a board member of Earlswood Asylum and a warden of St John's Church. As a county magistrate he was involved in the celebrated 'poison letter' case, in which an Earlswood woman got a neighbour sent to prison for writing scurrilous and threatening letters, later proven to have been written by herself. The Major had been among the magistrates at one of the quarter session trials and later himself received a letter from the woman threatening to blow up his house and demanding 50 from him.
     Astronomy was a hobby of the Major; he had a 40-500 magnification telescope on a seven-ton concrete base in his grounds, and in May 1900 was a member of the British Government's expedition to Algiers to view
.........
an eclipse of the sun.
.
     Major Kingsley Foster died in 1922. His widow lived at Shenley until her
death just before WW2, when the house was used as a
hostel for European refugees. After the war it became the Sea Cadets' training ship Ark Royal. The house has since been demolished and the present Ark Royal Training Ship HQ built on the site.
The Redhill Market Hall
The Market Hall was built on half an acre of land bought for 200 to fulfil a need in the town for meeting rooms and indoor market. The erection of two cottages on the site had been stopped because the land was too boggy but the Reigate builder of the Market Hall overcame the problem, probably by sinking deep piles. The first brick was laid in 1859 and work completed in 1861. The meeting room was alternately used with the public hall at Reigate for council meetings so much of the borough’s history was laid down there.

The Market Hall in the 1920s

.........Finance for the project was in the form of 5 shares but the first twelve years of the company formed to mange the project were less than wholly successful. In 1871 a new company was formed and the field opposite the hall bought to create a livestock market. The new company did better enabling the Market Hall building to be enlarged to accommodate a bank and the post office. The local market moved out of the building when as dance floor was installed in 1896 and eventually.moved into the market field.
........One year later it was decided to develop the north side of the market field, the result being the buildings that still stand along station Road from the centre of the town to the Abbott public house. The fortnightly market continued for many years but eventually came to a close as the car superseded the horse and fewer animals were sold, and as the hygienic packaging of food, especially meat, began to take over from carcasses hung in the open for sale.
........The Market Hall also remained busy for many years, staging events of all kinds but eventually ‘progress’ caught up with it – no doubt it was seen as not modern enough for future requirements - and it was demolished in 1982 after standing as a prominent landmark for 120 years, the Harlequin replacing it as the town’s entertainment centre.

The Post Office
In 1843 a Mr Comber of Redhill won a tender to carry the night mail from Reigate to Godstone and Reigate to Guildford. The contract included the setting up of a sub-post office to Reigate, which was done at Mr Comber’s premises at Whitepost Hill. At that time there were settlements along Mill Street and Linkfield Streetbut Redhill did not exist. By 1856 it did exist, at least as an environ known then as Warwick Town that had grown to the point where it was felt that it needed its own post office. The Post office at Whitepost Hill was duly moved into Station Road opposite St Matthew’s Church. Letters had hitherto been franked ‘Red-Hill’ after the position of the original post office on or close to Red Hill Common. The franking stamp continued in use and with incoming and outgoing mail being stamped ‘Red Hill’ probably contributed to the eventual demise of the Warwick Town name.

The Post Office when on the London Road side of the Market Hall

As Redhill grew the post office premises became inadequate and in the very early 1900s were moved to the west wing of the Market Hall. Fronting onto London Road this was a much more central position in the town but further moves were afoot. At 8 a.m. on Monday June 13th 1932 the new Redhill Post Office opened at the corner of London and Clarendon Roads. There was no opening ceremony, business being simply transferred. This is where the post office remained until the early 1990s when it moved into the upper part of the Belfry shopping mall, not very far from where it had first been re-situated in old Warwick Town in 1856.

 

Old Reigate
In the 1830s, before the rise of Redhill, the town of Reigate was already a prosperous market town that had been in existence for some seven centuries and was at the centre of the old manor that bore its name. The manor was divided into two main parts, the Old Town, which was Reigate itself, and the Foreign, which was the remainder of the 6,000 acre manor. There was no Council then, the affairs of the manor being conducted by the lord of the manor or others on his behalf. The Parish shared a similar boundary with the manor, its officials doing their work in bodies known as Vestries.
  On the 4th October 1837 Queen Victoria stopped at the White Hart in Bell Street when en route to Brighton. A triumphal arch was erected by its citizens to mark her passage through their town.

...The Triumphal Arch in Bell Street, Reigate 1837

          Twenty-six years later, in 1863, Queen Victoria was the person who signed the charter of incorporation that created the Borough of Reigate, transferring power from the Lord of the manor to the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the new Town Council. This ushered in a new way of conducting civic affairs, with all the Council members being accountable to the electorate at elections instead of the lord of the manor holding power and passing it to his heirs..................................................................................

The Roundabout
One of the things about changes made to items that we see about us every day is that sometimes it is gradual and only minor, like the building of an extension to a nearby house but at other times quite quick and absolute in effect, like the demolition of a whole group of buildings. Most often the buildings are replaced by new ones. Infrequently nothing replaces them at all, which is the case with the group of twelve cottages known as ‘The Roundabout’ that once housed perhaps fifty or so people on Redhill Common.
The date of the building of the cottages is unknown; probably they were early to mid-Victorian. Accessed by a track from Pendleton Road, they stood on that part of Earlswood Common opposite the golf club that has in recent years become a golfing practice area. Their situation on the common became a cause for some local disapproval and in 1903 they were purchased by a consortium of local worthies on behalf of the Council with a view to demolition.
In fact the cottages remained for around another half century before they were finally removed in their entirety, being razed to below ground level so, like Brigadoon; there is nothing at all to show for their existence - other than a few old photos like the one shown here.

Church Street Reigate in the 1920s
The scene shown here is familiar because the Old Town Hall, something we
are all used to seeing in Reigate, appears in it. What is not so familiar are the buildings on the left and the way that they protrude into the road. Of course, they did not actually protrude into the road, not then, because the road was only that wide in the 1920s. The point where modern Church Street joins the junction with Tunnel Road, the Market Place and Bell Street is twice the width seen here.
            Road width apart, what other differences form today’s scene can be noticed in the picture? Its quality is not of the best but with a magnifying glass on the original it can be seen that there is a policeman directing the traffic so the traffic lights had not yet been installed. On the left there is a road sign in the form of a circle; the sign immediately beneath it says ’10 miles’ – presumably the speed limit then in force. Just slightly further along the pavement is a small shop called Pratt’s, and it has a gas lamp over it, whereas the old gas street lamp on the right has been converted to electricity. Also on the right is what looks like a Morris motor car with an open topped number 59 bus behind it.
            In this picture we have the familiar mixed with the unfamiliar; if only we could go back for a stroll through the 1920s streets to see what other unfamiliar sights we could find. No doubt there would be a great many and we would realise just how much Reigate has changed.

Redhill’s Station Road Railway Tunnel
Redhill railway Station was built in the 1840s, very early in the life of Redhill and access to it for travellers from Nutfield and Bletchingley was provided via by a farm track down Redstone Hill that was converted into a road. This new road was extended under the railway via a single track tunnel to make a T junction with the already existing London to Brighton Road. As traffic increased the tunnel acquired the name of ‘the Death Trap’ due to being only 12-foot high with a single carriageway and approached on an acute angle at the foot of a considerable hill.
     Discussion about the widening of the tunnel went on for some time and in 1899 the decision had been taken to carry out the work and new road widths had been set. By April 1903 a hundred men were engaged in the preparatory work of removing 6,000 tons of soil, which was used alongside the Guildford line to create new sidings. The new bridge was to be twenty feet high and forty-two feet wide. Two feet below the road surface was found an 8-inch thick boggy stratum with peat and sand beneath. The concrete foundations had to go down fourteen and a half feet to hard rock. During the excavation barite and fossilised wood were also found, as well as a spring that had to be diverted.
     The result was the bridge that today carries the railway over an even busier Station Road.

The old makes way for the new as the c1840 tunnel under Redhill Station, dubbed 'the death trap' because of its narrowness, is demolished with its 1903 replacement towering above it.

The articles above were published in 2004 and 2005. To see articles published in 2006 click here.