County of southern England.
Area 1,660 sq km/641 sq mi
TownsKingston upon Thames (administrative headquarters), Farnham, Guildford, Leatherhead, Reigate, Woking, Epsom, Dorking
Physical rivers Mole, Thames, and Wey; Box Hill (183 m/600 ft), Gibbet Hill (277 m/909 ft), and Leith Hill (299 m/981 ft, 5 km/3 mi south of Dorking, the highest hill in southeast England); North Downs
Features Kew Palace and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Yehudi Menuhin School (one of four specialist music schools in England)
Agriculture vegetables; sheep rearing; dairy farming; horticulture
Industries service industries; sand and gravel quarrying; fuller's earth extraction (near Reigate)
Population (2001) 1,059,100
Famous people Eric Clapton (musician), John Galsworthy (poet), Aldous Huxley (writer), Laurence Olivier (actor)
Topography Surrey is bounded on the north by Greater London, Windsor and Maidenhead, and Bracknell Forest; on the east by Kent; on the south by East and West Sussex; and on the west by Hampshire. Historically, the northern boundary was the Thames, but Surrey has no other natural boundaries and no natural centre; its principal settlements were Guildford to the west, Croydon to the east, and the Thames settlements at Kingston-upon-Thames and Southwark. Boundary changes in 1888 placed parts of what was then Surrey (Battersea, Camberwell) within what is now Greater London; further changes in 1974 placed Gatwick in West Sussex.
Geologically, Surrey forms the northern counterpart of Sussex, and the main strata repeat those of Sussex in the reverse direction. They are, from south to north: Weald clay; lower greensand (a type of sandstone); narrow belts of gault (a type of clay) and upper greensand; chalk forming the North Downs and passing through the centre of the county along the line Reigate–Dorking–Guildford–Farnham; and London clay. The county's landmarks include Newlands Corner (164 m/538 ft), near Guildford, and the Devil's Punch Bowl, near Hindhead, beneath Gibbet Hill and Leith Hill. There are large areas of heath and common land, especially in the west.
Surrey is densely populated, particularly in the northeast and along the main commuter road and rail links to London. The rural areas are mainly south of the Downs, and most of the county is now protected from further urban encroachment; undeveloped areas are either National Trust land, or have been designated as ‘open space’, common land, areas of outstanding natural beauty, or metropolitan green belt. In total about 14,500 ha/35,800 acres are open to the public, including the North Downs footpath, that runs east from Farnham.
History King John signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.
Historic remains and buildings Archaeologically, Surrey is of national importance for finds of flints near Farnham, dating to the Palaeolithic period, and other finds from the Thames gravels and elsewhere, dating to the Mesolithic period. There are pre-Roman earthworks at Hascombe and Holmbury Hills, and remains from the Roman period include many villas, such as those at Ashtead, Farnham, Rapsley, and Titsey. A royal castle was established at Guildford after the Norman conquest, and there were others at Abinger, Bletchingley, Farnham, and Reigate. Of the many royal and ecclesiastical palaces built in Surrey, Farnham Castle, now a college, is one of the few surviving examples still in use; Henry VIII's palace at Nonsuch Park (begun 1538) was demolished in 1687. Major religious sites include the ruins of Waverley Abbey (1128; the first Cistercian foundation in this country) near Farnham, and successful excavations have been carried out at the Dominican friary site at Guildford.
In the Tudor period, many London professional and business men had a country home in Surrey; Sutton Place, Great Tangley Manor, and Loseley Park, all near Guildford, are examples. Other great houses of later date are Clandon Park (1731), Hatchlands (1759), Nonsuch Park (1802–06), and Polesden Lacey, a Regency villa near Dorking (remodelled 1906–09). There are also many excellent examples of humbler dwellings, ranging from typical 17th-century tile-hung and timber-framed Surrey cottages, to dignified Georgian brick houses, examples of which can be seen in Farnham. Surrey became increasingly residential with the coming of the railway, and many houses by well-known architects were built, such as Goddards, near Dorking, designed by Edwin Lutyens (1898) with a garden by Gertrude Jekyll.