REDHILL AND REIGATE LIFE ARTICLES 2006
Since 2004 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. This page contains those articles published in 2006. To see those published 2004-5 click here. If you have any comments concerning any of the articles please contact author
 
The Pavilion Cinema, Redhill
The cinema, between Chapel Road and Lower Bridge Road, was opened in 1912 by G.W.Grimes and Sons. The building was in red brick with bold mouldings and rough cast panels in ivory white in order to create a prominent feature in the High Street. Two thirds of the 600 seats were of the tip-up type and were upholstered in red velvet. The remainder had cushioned seats and backs of a lower standard. Internally it was designed in the Greek style and the scenery was painted by Fred Karno Co. There was a stage for artists engaged to appear between pictures.
     In 1923 the cinema underwent alterations, given a larger stage and orchestra balcony with lighting in three colours, an improved dressing room for artistes plus ladies and gents cloakrooms. Access to the better seats was made from Lower Bridge Road. The entrance opened onto a vestibule and then a balcony and an annexe with extra seating plus standing room. There was an emergency exit onto Chapel Road from the balcony.
     The Grimes brothers sold the cinema in 1926 and its new owner renamed it the New Pavilion. Another owner later took over ownership of both the Pavilion and the Cinema Royal in Station Road. The first talkies in the Borough were shown at the Reigate Hippodrome but at the Pavilion Mr Reynolds took the opportunity in 1929 to install the Movietone and Vitaphone apparatus on which many of the latest films were being made. The work cost £4,000 but made the cinema one of only 250 cinemas of 4,000 countrywide to show the latest talkies, putting it on a par with London cinemas. The pavilion re-opened on July 22nd 1929, three months after the Hippodrome. Between them they brought the Borough to the forefront of cinema entertainment. During WW2 the film 'Gone with the Wind' was interrupted more than once by messages stating that the air raid alarm had sounded and offered people the opportunity to go for shelter. Most of the audience stayed where they were.
     The outside ticket office was moved inside around the time the cinema’s name was changed to The Rio in the late 1940s or early 50s. Being considerably wider than other cinemas it could hold 570 people in spite of having no balcony. Nevertheless it became known to a host of cinemagoers as the 'Flea Pit' due to its relative smallness compared with newer cinemas of the day. A notable feature was the rustling noise made by those who paid 1s 3d for the front seats and moved back to the 1s 9d seats when the lights went down. The cinema closed for good after a serious fire in October, 1952, and stood derelict for some time before it was demolished.

A 1933 advert for the Redhill cinemas. The film ‘Smilin' Through' featured Leslie Howard who lived at Westcott, near Dorking.

Redhill Football Club
Redhill FC was formed in 1894 and played at Wiggie for a number of years. In the 1895/6 season there was a game against Queens Park Rangers, which Redhill won 2-0 in the rain in front of a not unusual crowd of 200. On 23rd June, 1896, the Redhill Sports Ground and Athletics Co. Ltd was formed. Its main asset was 9 acres fronting London Road with tenants’ and grazing rights either expired or bought up. Although the company did not own the land outright its object was to promote the ideals of football and other sporting activities. The site was rough ground: two streams through it had to be culverted and trees removed. A hedge on the London Road boundary was replaced by a fence and a pavilion erected. Cost of all work came to £3,500, which was raised through £1shares. Redhill FC continued to play at Wiggie but with the possibility of transferring to the new ground.
     The formation of the Sports Ground and Athletics Company coincided with a time when there was some dissension regarding the make-up of the football team. From 1895 some players had been amateurs of note from outside the Redhill area who were paid expenses. Payments had run the club into debt and there were those who felt that the team ought to use more local players. Conditions set for the team to transfer to the new ground included no expenses to be paid to players travelling to Redhill matches, for local men to be used whenever possible and for the Sports Ground Committee to appoint the club secretary and approve or disapprove the club's proceedings.
     There was an official opening of the Sports Ground in 1897 as part of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations in the town, when the public was admitted to a sports meeting. The public was also admitted to subsequent football matches played there but the ground remained officially private. It did not become public until 1923 when Lord Monson agreed the sale of the acreage, an otherwise valuable site in almost the centre of the town, for £1,200; the money being raised by the War Memorial Committee. The ground became the Memorial Sports Ground.
     Matches drew large Saturday afternoon crowds sometimes numbered in thousands. It was not uncommon for the entrance queue to stretch back to the centre of the town, and when the game ended the crowd would spill out onto the main street, often stopping the traffic. 7,000 watched the 1955 FA cup game against Hastings: 6,000 saw the FA amateur cup game against Hendon in the early 1960s.
     Redhill FC ceased to play at the Memorial Ground when the north-east quadrant was redeveloped in the late nineteen-seventies. A new venue was found for them at Kiln Brow. The stand at Redhill was demolished and a small part of the ground, where the terraces had been, was taken for the town by-pass.
The football stand being demolished
Redhill Common
In 1867 sixteen acres of Redhill common had been secured for the use of Borough residents but by 1881 the Lord of the Manor, Earl Somers, was still digging gravel from the common, with train loads of spoil being removed. The banks on the east side of the common by Sandpit Road are evidence of the diggings, with great inroads been made into that part of the common and the rest of it 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 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 Redhill Tannery. He commenced action in Her Majesty's High Court of Justice in 1882. The result was an agreement, dated 2nd March 1883, between Earl Somers and Messrs S.Barrow and W.B.Waterlow in which the Lord agreed to stop digging operations in consideration of a sum of £3,000, £1,000 paid by Samuel Barrow, £1,000 by Walter Waterlow and £1,000 by the Reigate Corporation.
     Samuel Barrow and Walter Waterlow did the Borough a great favour, for not only was the digging stopped but also a conservation body was set up for the common, with improvements made and the common looked after for many years. Work carried out by the Conservators included new paths, tree planting, especially the Queen Victoria Jubilee plantation at the top of the common and the Diamond Jubilee clump near the gates leading to High Trees, plus the construction of the upper lake on Earlswood Common. Work included the reconstruction and enrichment of the undercliff after a design by Mr Richard Peat of Meadvale (adjudged the best of six submitted). In 1884 the common alongside Mill Street was laid out as a pleasure gardens as part of the programme of improvements to the common.
     The Common Conservators were abolished in 1945 and the common is far less open today, with much of it returned to woodland.

Samuel Barrow

Motoring in 1901
       Motoring was firmly in the news in 1901. The trouble was that it was mainly bad news for the motorist (described as ‘a horrid word’ by a Surrey Mirror journalist reporting on a collision in Reigate between a cyclist – apparently a good word - and a car). The speed limit was 12 MPH in many towns, lower in others, and the expressed intention of the Surrey Chief Constable of the time, Captain Sant, towards those who exceeded it was ‘to stop them at any cost’. The cost was the pay of the policemen in plain clothes stationed at critical points to catch speedsters. Stopwatches were not used at this time; instead it was the individual policeman’s judgement that was employed to decide how fast a car was proceeding. The automobilists (no Surrey Mirror objection to this word) were said to be no more in favour of speed limits than many drivers are today. The paper described the policeman charged with judging who was speeding and who was not as being of ‘small ability’.
       The Surrey Mirror, remarking on the rise of speeding convictions, felt that a car travelling at 14-15 mph was more under control than a horse-drawn trap at 10-12 mph. It noted that in a recent race up Tilburstow Hill one car had managed a maximum of 36 mph and added that one day general driving speeds of 14-15 mph would be commonplace. At a long court session at Reigate in October 1901, as well as motorists being fined for speeding, forty-six cyclists were also fined. It was reported that they had attained average speeds timed over a 176 yard distance of 15-30 mph. This made it seem as though the Surrey Mirror’s forecast of speeds of 14-15 mph was already the norm.

This early car was pictured outside the White Hart Hotel in Reigate in 1896.
Notice that steering control is by means of a handle rather than a wheel 

Redhill Resident Sir Myles Fenton
     Sir Myles Fenton, railway magnate and occupant of Redstone Hall, Redstone Hill, Redhill, reached the age of 80 in September 1910. Sir Myles was born at Kendal, Westmorland, educated at Kendal School and in 1845 joined the staff of the Kendall and Windemere railway. After a year he joined the East Lancashire Railway Company at Bury. In 1849 he moved to the Eastern Counties Railway Co., which later became the Great Eastern. For the next six years he moved between several companies, gaining valuable railway and canal traffic experience and rising up the management ladder. He became Secretary of the East Lancashire Railway when aged only 25. When this company amalgamated with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway he became Assistant Manger of the new system.
     In 1862 he moved to London to become General Manager on the new Metropolitan Railway, organising its completion and opening. He remained head of the ever-successful London and Underground Company for seventeen years when he resigned this post to become General Manager of the more important South Eastern Railway in 1879.
     In 1889 he was the first railway manager to receive a Knighthood, conferred by Queen Victoria on the recommendation of the offices of Lord Salisbury's Ministry. He retired in 1896, aged 65, becoming a consulting director of the company and holding a number of other railway directorships.      Sir Myles lived at Nutfield for sixteen years before coming to Redhill. In 1883 he married Charlotte Oakes. In 1910 he was Lieutenant Colonel of the Engineers and Railway Volunteer Corps, Deputy Chairman of the East Surrey Water Co. and a Justice of the Peace for Surrey.

Sir Myles Fenton in 1887 in the uniform of Lt. Col. Engineers and Railway Volunteer Corps

Traffic Lights
Numerous pictures show a policeman on point duty in the centre of Redhill but few show one in the centre of Reigate. In July 1932 tenders were sought for automatic traffic signals at Reigate and Redhill Market Places. The saving would be £1,000 per year in police manpower at a cost of £240. By September 1932 automatic traffic signals were being installed in both towns with Reigate's being working on a timed basis and Redhill's being operated partly by road pads. In this same month the Ministry of Transport was considering the regulation of direction indicators on cars. In 1934 Reigate traffic lights were converted from fixed time operation to vehicle activation. In July 1935 the studding of pedestrian crossings in both towns was carried out, Reigate's being at the Tunnel and Market Square, the junction of Bell Street and High Street. In that October beacons were installed at the crossings. It was remarked of the studs that while they were highly visible and increased safety there were still many Reigate motorists whose brains did not react to them or to the signs saying no overtaking in the tunnel.

A policeman on traffic control in the centre of Reigate faces Tunnel Road, then still in use by traffic.

Old Buildings
For such a young town Redhill could be famous for buildings that have been demolished. The building pictured is Scamperdale where Sam Marsh had stables in the early 1900s. This view of the front of it was taken looking east across gardens between Warwick Road and Clarendon Road. The structure showing above and behind Scamperdale is the top part of the old Co-op (where the lift machinery was housed and on top of which the WW2 siren was mounted). The building with the conservatory far left of picture later became the British Legion Headquarters but like Scamperdale, is no longer standing. The people in the picture are in the gardens of houses that once stood on the western side of Clarendon Road South. In the later part of the 1900s Scamperdale was in use as a suitcase factory and warehouse.

(Picture courtesy Ralph Henley)

More about Scamperdale and Clarendon Road
The articla above evoked memories for Mrs Jean Belton of Horley who, as a child in the 1940s, lived next to it. She remembers the blacksmiths at the rear of the building where she and her brother spent many hours watching the horses being shod. The Jersey Dairy had a depot in Warwick Road and when horses needed new shoes they would be walked round to the blacksmith. When re-shod the horses would be ridden back to the dairy.
The rest of the building was no longer a stable at this time. In one part of it there was an upholstery business, another part was used for storage and there were two flats. Mrs Belton’s mother had been in service in a large house in Park Road and moved into the house next to Scamperdale in 1940 when she married. It was rented from the estate of Lord Monson. Opposite was the house that later became the HQ of the British Legion which, in the early 1940s, was the home of a Captain Sutton.
Buses terminated in Clarendon Road between the Co-op and the telephone exchange; the 406 was one. The crews would have a break and allow Mrs Belton and her brother to go on and collect used bus tickets. Also in Clarendon Road there was a shop run by Mr Brems that had been there since the1920s selling radios, light bulbs and other electrical items. In the 1950s he sold televisions as well but had neither a television nor a radio in his own home because as they were on all day in the shop he had had enough of them by evening.

The British Legion Club in Clarendon Road was once a house called ‘Elmsfield’, the home of Captain Sutton. Pictured here in the early 1990s before it was demolished with the new telephone exchange next door to it. The Dome flats at can be seen in the distance.

Redhill Pubs
Many old Redhill pubs are no longer with us. Names that some will remember are the Locomotive, the Sultan, the Sussex Arms, the Britannia, the Noah’s Ark, the Bell, the New Inn, the Monson Arms, the Royal Oak, the Queens Arms, the Somers Arms, the South Eastern, the Star, the Warwick Hotel, the Fountain, the Gatton Point, the Prince Albert and the Nags Head.
Of those pubs that remain many have altered their names. The Wheatsheaf became the Firlot and Firkin and is now O’Neills, the Anchor is now the Garland, the George and Dragon is now simply the Dragon. The Hatch has become the Foresters Arms, the Railway Inn changed to the Albatross before being renamed the Joshua Tree, the Lakers Hotel now has a Toby Carvery sign, the Station Hotel at Earlswood is the Chestnut and the Marquis of Granby is the Marquis. The pub that beats them all for its number of name changes is the Dog and Duck. Originally the Towers it changed to Crocks then The Office before settling on its present name. The only pub to have changed its name and then reverted to the original is the Elm Shades.
Not all have changed their names; the Flying Scud, the Garibaldi, the Greyhound, the Home Cottage, the Jolly Brickmakers, the Plough, the Old Oak, the Ship, the Red Lion and the White Lion among them.
And then there are the newcomers. The Causeway (named after the company that financed its building) the Abbott and the Sun. The latter not only stands at the end of the Queensway but also only yards from the old Queens Arms pub, so the Queens could have been an alternative and appropriate choice of name for it. Whatever its name, each pub has its own atmosphere and style and a place in the lives of its patrons and of the town of Redhill

The Locomotive pub that once stood in Ladbroke Road, sign gone and awaiting demolition

Reigate’s Mellersh and Neale Brewery
The Neale family had been connected with the malting industry for a number of years before Thomas Neale founded a brewery in Church Street, Reigate in 1801. In 1806 he acquired premises in Bell Street and with a partner ran the two breweries until 1928, during which time he also acquired a number of public houses. The partnership was eventually dissolved and the business became Thomas Neale and Son. In the 1850s the brewery passed to Thomas Neale’s sons who formed a partnership with Frederick Mellersh, the business being known as Neale and Mellersh. In the 1860s it became Neale Mellersh and Neale and in the 1880s Mellersh and Neale.
Up to 1900 water for brewing was obtained from two wells on the southern slopes of Reigate Hill. These were replaced by a new well bored on the Bell Street premises. For a number of years in the early 1900s beer was matured in the Reigate caves.
The company had been made a limited company in 1899 and in 1938 was taken over by Meux. Although brewing ceased, with Meux using the premises as a depot for their owned London-brewed for a number of years, the manufacture of mineral water continued.
The Bell Street premises extended onto the High Street where the breweries offices were. Some local people will still remember them and the brewery tower which stood behind and was a local landmark. The offices had been derelict for some time when they burnt down in 1942. Use of the site for beer ceased after the war and the manufacture of mineral water had ceased by 1963. Parts of the site were sold with much of it laying derelict until it the site became Safeways in 1988.

The offices of Mellersh and Neale on Reigate High Street in the 1930s. The site is now occupied by shops.

Shaws Corner
On July 31st 1950 the King and Queen, the Mayor of Reigate, Alderman Miss M.C.Donkin, and many others, sent their congratulations to Mr and Mrs Jepthah Shaw of Devon Road, Merstham, on the occasion of their diamond wedding. In 1890, when Jephthah had led his wife to be to the altar at the Chapel of Hope at Shaws Corner, as Olive Vigar she had a close connection with the area, her grandfather, Joseph Hatton, having been a minister at the very same chapel only a few years previously.
Jephthah, however, had an even stronger connection with Shaws Corner, as in the 1820s his grandfather, Simeon Shaw, started and built up a flourishing business as a wheelwright in the area. The business was carried on by Simeon's son, William, who ran it in conjunction with a secondary business, as he built and also ran a public house across the road called the Forester's Arms, now the Hatch. In the 1880s the Forester's Arms was used as the headquarters of the old Gladstone Liberals. In 1878 William sold the public house to a brewery and the wheelwright's to a Mr Palmer and moved to Station Road. Jephthah was a son of William, and one of Jephthah's sons was Mr. R.B.Shaw, who was the Reigate Borough School Attendance Officer in the 1950s.
The Shaw family name remains to this day in Shaws Corner, situated midway between Reigate and Redhill. It is now a busy junction that is home to the war memorial to the fallen of two world wars.

Shaws Corner as it was before the War Memorial was erected in 1923

Linkfield Corner
            The once very rural atmosphere of Linkfield Corner has been transformed in the past two hundred years. Until the early 1800s there was a junction of only three roads - Linkfield Street, Workhouse Lane (now Hatchlands Road) and Linkfield Lane. A pub called the Red Lion was already at this junction, as was a large manor house and a few other scattered houses. Another pub, the White Lion, even older than the Red Lion, was not too far away in Linkfield Street. Farms abounded but the railway carved a route through the area in the 1840s and Redhill was born close by. A bridge was built over the railway and Station Road was made for better access to the new station.
            Redhill grew rapidly, spreading in all directions. The old manor house was demolished in 1861 to make way for the Globe Temperance Hotel. Nearby Cromwell Road sprang into being and, not far away, farm tracks became Elm Road and Gatton (now Grovehill) Roads. Fengates and Charman Roads were also created and the farmland beyond the Bridge had Brownlow, Shrewsbury and Ranelagh Roads built upon it. These new roads, with their houses and commercial properties, changed the rural atmosphere to a much more suburban one.
            New place names arose. A wheelwright, Simeon Shaw, gave his name to Shaw's Corner. On the east side of the bridge an 1845 brewery with its own beer house,  the Somers Arms, now Somers House, was bought by Henry Reffell and, although he severed his connection with it in 1874, his name lived on in Reffell's Bridge.
            Shops on both sides of the bridge added to the prosperity of the area. The YMCA had rooms in the Temperance Hotel (now demolished to make way for the roundabout at an enlarged junction) and during WW1 Billingsgate Market was briefly transferred from London to the site of the old brewery. In 1984 Donyngs Recreation Centre rose to dominate the entrance to Linkfield Lane and today Linkfield Corner is a busy junction, with Reffels Bridge a small but bustling centre of business in its own right.

View East of Linkfield Corner from Reffells Bridge. The building at the junction is the Globe Hotel, demolished to make way for a roundabout

The Coming of WW2
            When in September 1939 Prime Minister Chamberlain spoke to the nation, preparations for the conflict to come were already in hand that were to change ordinary life drastically. The Reigate carnival had been postponed two days earlier, so grave seemed the situation, and was never held. Lorries carried Borough sand to London for the protection of buildings and locally the East Surrey and County hospitals as well as the fire and police stations were being sandbagged. The drinking fountain outside the Redhill Market Hall was replaced by an air raid warden's shelter and the cinemas closed, as it was considered dangerous for large numbers of people to congregate in one place. In the streets people carried gas masks and outdoor lighting was completely withdrawn, resulting in church services being moved from evenings to afternoons, and Council meetings being held on Saturday mornings.
            National registration day was held and later green identity cards, complete with photograph of the holder, were mainly used by people with essential duties to perform, such as employees of the petrol pool. The position of the many refugees from Germany and Austria in the Borough was considered by Judge Galbraith at daily sittings of the Enemy Aliens Tribunal at the Reigate Town Hall.
            Air raid shelters were being built but not all was harmony as local and County authorities complained about the share of the financial burden the Government expected them to shoulder to build them. Costs and labour shortages delayed some of the work and St John’s School was a month late in opening for the autumn term because its shelters had not been ready for the September. There were many other ways in which life was to change as weeks and months went by.

Redhill police ready for war. The London Road police station is protected by sandbags and the car has a loudspeaker attached ready for touring the streets to warn of emergencies.

St John's School WW2 Shelters
St John’s School in Pendleton Road, Redhill, has stood opposite the Church of the same name for 160 years, a period equivalent to six generations. Thousands of local children have been taught there by hundreds of teachers during those years. Many pupils and teachers saw action in various military campaigns. The most notable of these have been the two World Wars and St John’s has relics of the latter of those in the shape of its air raid shelters, built in 1939.
The most notable is the boys’ shelter. It came to the notice of the media when murals depicting well known stories painted on its walls were filmed by Pathé News in 1941 and shown in cinemas around the country. The shelters were closed after the war and the presence of the murals not rediscovered until research for a book on the history of the school revealed their existence. The shelter was re-opened in 2003 and the murals were seen again for the first time for many years. Showing scenes from well known children’s stories they are in excellent condition and have required no conservation. The shelter has been cleared of debris and made safe for the public to view on special occasions such as school open days.
The other shelter at St John’s was for the Infants’ and Girls’ school. Larger than the boys’ shelter it is sadly bare of decoration but, also like the boys’ shelter, it’s interior has not been seen for many years. It too has now been re-opened and was seen by members of the public for the first time in September 2006.
The 160 years of St John’s School’s history is the subject of a new book written by Alan Moore. The price is £10, with all the proceeds from sales going directly to the school. It is available at the office at St John's School during normal school hours. To have a copy posted send a cheque for £10 + £2 P&P in the UK (£4 elsewhere) including full name and address to: Gabi Slaughter, c/o St John's School, Pendleton Road, Redhill, Surrey RH1 6QG. For questions, information, or in case of difficulty, the author can be contacted at looking@redhill-history.fsnet.co.uk or by letter via the school.

The Boys’ shelter being inspected shortly after it was re-opened in 2003. Some of the pictures on the walls can be seen, although their vivid colours do not show up in this black and white picture

The Working Horse
            Horses gave us the main motive force on our roads and farms until other forms of power such as steam, petrol and diesel engines provided the means of moving people and goods. Although the working horse has vanished from the local scene there is much to remind us of its past importance. Many buildings still have archways that once provided access to rear courtyards and stables, iron tethering rings still hang on walls; and horse troughs, now filled with flowers instead of water, still stand beside many roads.
            In the 1800s horses, used to having the roads to themselves, had to get used to traction engines and cyclists, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s to motorcars, the backfiring of which causing many a horse to bolt, often with milk float or coal cart still attached. Until the middle of the last century horses were still used on the land and on our streets for the delivery of coal, milk and bread.
            A feature connected with the horse was the smithy. The roar of the fire, the sound of the bellows, the hiss of the hot shoe dropped into water to cool and the patient horse looking over its shoulder as it was shod; all these and more were the sounds and sights of the old smithy. But blacksmiths did other work, such as repairing farm implements, fences, carriages and carts, and as motorcars became more popular they took to repairing them as well. Eventually Blacksmiths were doing more work on cars than on horses, including supplying petrol, and their premises gradually turned into the forerunners of the garages we have today. Today motorists still slow for horses being ridden on our roads and there must be many people who still have vivid memories of working horses of the past.

Horses were used for personal transportation as well as for commercial purposes. Here horsedrawn carriages are the only traffic in early1900s London Road, Redhill.

Redhill Common
     In a previous article about Redhill Common I mentioned the Common Conservators, a body set up in 1894 to administer Redhill and Earlswood Commons. It was abolished in 1945, allowing nature to turn much of the open areas of Redhill Common to woodland. In the 1940s I walked daily over the common from Upper Bridge Road to St John’s School and back again, lingering often for tadpoling in the pond, tree climbing, exploring and, in winter, snowball fighting and sledging. The result was that I knew the common like the back of my hand.
     The often muddy path that leads up to the common from the junction of Mill Street and Whitepost Hill has altered little; it’s from there on that the changes occur. At the top of the path on the right was a large sandy, heather fringed space that had been the site of many meetings of torchlit processions that wound down into the town in the 1920s and 30s. In my time it was a football pitch and general sandy area that always looked like it had, even before the 1920s, had a more important function. Today the sand is covered by grass and taller encroaching growth that threatens even the heather. It is hardly recognisable for what it once was.
     Two paths led to the top common, one to the left broad and grassy, the one to the right narrow and sandy. Both were open and airy, fern-bordered and with no nearby growth more than a few feet high, giving a view to the pine groups at the summit. Today the left path is narrow and ill-defined while the other has become woodland walk. Somewhere not far off the right hand path was the spring-fed pond, easy to see and access. Now it has to be hunted for, and this summer was no more than a dried-up hollow.
     To the hard left was a tree we boys called Nelson; a large May tree climbed with abandon but which is no more. Another path hard on the left led down to the under cliff path, passing by the lawns. Now for most of its length that path has been engulfed by the slippage of the high banks and overgrown with brambles. It now crosses the centre of the top lawn when once it was hard under the cliffs where I saw my last red squirrel in 1948. Encroaching growth has reduced the top lawn, and those lawns below, to a fraction of their size.
     Thankfully the view from the top common across the Weald to the South Downs that I saw every day as a schoolboy has been restored. Unfortunately the tree clumps planted for Queen Victoria’s 1887 and 1897 jubilees on either side have suffered and the sites are populated by much second generation growth, the original hedge and railing surrounds, like Nelson, also long gone. And the sledging path down to St John’s, once open and straight, is now doglegged, tree lined and unsledgable. Nevertheless, because of my youthful association with it, Redhill Common will always be a special place for me.

The southern slope of Redhill Common in days gone by. The common is free of the scrub and trees that cover it today. The path down to St John’s School is straight and wide whereas now it is narrow and crooked. The view across the Weald in uninterrupted but later became obscured by trees that have since been cut down to restore the view.

 
This page is just one on Alan Moore's website www.redhill-reigate-history.co.uk. ---- contact author