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Bridge Street, Leatherhead
Leatherhead shown within Surrey
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Leatherhead is a town in Surrey, England, on the River Mole, part of Mole Valley district, and is within the Outer Greater London Sub-Urban Area. It is thought to be of Saxon origin. Neighbouring settlements include: Chessington, Epsom and Oxshott.
Located in the centre of the county of Surrey and at a junction of ancient north–south and east–west communications, the town has been a focus for transport throughout its history. Initially there was the construction of the bridge over the River Mole in the early medieval period. Later the Swan Hotel provided 300 years of service to horse-drawn coaches. In the late 20th century the M25 motorway was built nearby.
The origins of the town of Leatherhead appear to be Anglo-Saxon. Ashtead lay within the Copthorne hundred, an administrative division devised by the Saxons. The Leatherhead Museum has traced the history of the town from its beginnings in about AD 880 when it was known as Leodridan (dative case of a compound of "leode" and "rida"), meaning "place where people [can] ride [across the river]" in Anglo-Saxon). Later in the Domesday Book it was called Leret. Later forms recorded are "Lereda", "Ledreda", "Leddrede" (all second half of 12th century). The early settlement appears to have grown up on the east side of the River Mole, although Hawk's Hill, on the west side of the river, is said to be the site of an old Saxon burial ground. Some say that the Anglo-Saxon form was distorted from a Celtic form whose Welsh equivalent is Llwyd-rhyd = "grey ford".
To the east of the town is the line of Stane Street, an old Roman road. Most of it is now built over or is used as rural footpaths. The road leads from London to Chichester, passing through the strategic Mole Gap.
It has also been suggested that a second Roman road ran from Stane Street in a straight line close to Ashtead Church crossing the Mole at Leatherhead Bridge to a point very close to Effingham Church. Here it turned and continued in another straight line to Merrow Church crossing the River Wey near Guildford Bridge. It seems that this road was still in use in Saxon times and that is why all the medieval churches between Leatherhead and Guildford lie within a few yards of these two lines.
Leatherhead appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Leret. It was held by Osbern de Ow (Eu). Its Domesday assets were: 1 church, belonging to Ewell, with 40 acres (160,000 m2). It rendered £1. Pachesham within Leatherhead appears in Domesday Book as Pachesham. It was held by Hugo (Hugh) from the Bishop of Lisieux. Its domesday assets were: 3 virgates. It had part of 2 mills worth 12 shillings, 4 ploughs, 5 acres (20,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth 3 hogs. It rendered £3 10s 0d (£3.50).
A market serving the developing agricultural economy developed at the crossroads and in 1248, Henry III granted to Leatherhead a weekly market and annual fair. The town survived an extensive fire in 1392, after which it was largely rebuilt. In common with many similar medieval towns, Leatherhead had a market house and set of stocks, probably located at the junction of Bridge Street, North Street and High Street.
The Running Horse pub dates back to 1403 and is one of the oldest buildings in Leatherhead. It is on the bank of the River Mole, at the southern approach to the town centre. History has it that Elizabeth I once spent a night at the inn when floods made the River Mole impossible to cross.
During the Elizabethan and Stuart periods, the town was associated with several notable people. Edmund Tylney, Master of the Revels, who was in effect the official censor of the time to Queen Elizabeth I, lived in Leatherhead's Mansion House. A Wetherspoons pub in High Street is now named after him. Another notable local noble was Sir Thomas Bloodworth of nearby Thorncroft Manor, who was Lord Mayor of London during the Great Fire of London in 1666.
1800 onwards 
Leatherhead saw much expansion, with two major railways linked to it. (See below)
The Letherhead Institute was built. The spelling was said, in Victorian times, to be the correct form of Leatherhead.
Cherkley Court on the Beaverbrook grounds was home of Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook. During World War II, Winston Churchill, the new British Prime Minister, would appoint him as Minister of Aircraft Production and later Minister of Supply. Under Aitken, fighter and bomber production increased so much so that Churchill declared: "His personal force and genius made this Aitken's finest hour".
Modern era 
Once there were several industries in and around the town, including Ronson's Lighters and Goblin Vacuum Cleaners. Both were used as ammunitions plants in World War II. Most of the plants pulled out of Leatherhead in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Today most employment is in commerce.
In the 1940s and '50s Leatherhead/Ashtead was made home to a Remploy factory, which are designed to provide work for disabled people in the local area. On 22 May 2007, Remploy announced that the Leatherhead factory along with 42 other sites would close.
In the late 1970s and early '80s, Mole Valley District Council decided to modernise the town, with a new pedestrianised high street, and large one-way system.
In 1986, the town was joined to the UK motorway system, when the M25 motorway was built to the north. Leatherhead became Junction 9, which has odd non-aligned entry/exit points on the two sides. The town is perhaps most frequently mentioned in the national media as the location of motorway traffic jams and accidents.
Local government 
Leatherhead was an urban district until 1974. It is now part of Mole Valley District, with Dorking as the administrative centre of Mole Valley District Council. On the Mole Valley coat of arms, Dorking is represented by two cocks and Leatherhead by a swan. On the shield the wavy lines are for the River Mole, the acorns are for the district's three parks, and the points are for the North Downs.
The town 
The symbol of Leatherhead is a swan holding a sword in its beak. This can be seen on the old Leatherhead coat of arms, and on the Mole Valley coat of arms. The insignia of Leatherhead Football Club includes a swan, as do the logos of the Swan Shopping Centre, Therfield School and the leisure centre.
Bockett's Farm off Young Street has rare breeds and a petting zoo. It is open to the public almost all year round, and many local schools use the farm for teaching and day trips.
Leatherhead's Royal School for the Blind (now SeeAbility) was once the workplace for Paul Heaton; he was allegedly dismissed after he encouraged residents to try cycling. Most of the school has now been sold off as private flats.
In 2004, Leatherhead was officially twinned with Triel-sur-Seine, in the north-west of Paris, though informal exchanges have taken place since 1992. Exchanges and communication is promoted by a local group the 'Friends of Triel'.
Town centre and South Leatherhead 
The fortunes of the town centre have risen and fallen over recent decades. Up to the 1970s, it was a bustling place with many busy shops. But with risks from increased traffic close to narrow pavements, the whole of the central area was pedestrianised, leading to a disastrous decline in pedestrian throughput and many shop closures. The construction of the Swan Centre, including a large supermarket, brought some reprieve but the years since have seen fluctuating fortunes. Notoriously, in 2002, the high street was voted one of the worst in the United Kingdom in a BBC poll.
Local business parks now bring lunchtime business, and a number of popular restaurants on the main street have helped to change the face of the town, bringing a more sociable atmosphere to the small town on warm summer evenings.
The theatre (see below) is a cinema and also has art exhibitions, as well as a thriving music and comedy scene in the Mezz Bar. The cafe has also recently re-opened.
In the late 1990s the town centre's only hotel, the Bull Hotel, closed down and was subsequently demolished. A new Lidl store has now been built on the site and was opened in February 2007. In the early first decade of the 21st century, Travelodge opened a new hotel on the site of the old Swan Hotel.
North Leatherhead or Leatherhead Common 
North Leatherhead or Leatherhead Common is the area north of the Kingston Road Bridge, bordered to the north by Leatherhead Golf Course, Ashtead Common, and the M25 motorway and to the south by the railways. It includes the town's main secondary school, Therfield School, and part of the Trinity School, as well as the bulk of the town's council housing.
The area is home to one local pub, the Royal Oak, on Kingston Road, and has a social club, the North Leatherhead Community Association or NLCA, based in the old All Saints' School, next to the Kingston Road Playing Grounds.
Local area 
The villages of Fetcham, and Mickleham may be considered part of Leatherhead, especially as a postal area. The border with Fetcham blends into Leatherhead. Ashtead is separated from Leatherhead by the M25. Also close by are Headley Heath, Oxshott Woods, Box Hill and Bookham Common.
In the village of Headley, a military hospital, Headley Court (formerly RAF Headley Court), provides long-term rehabilitation to injured members of the British Armed Forces. There is no airfield here but its playing fields can be used by helicopters.
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Leatherhead formerly had a number of light manufacturing businesses, such as the Ronson's lighter factory, but in and around the 1980s many closed or moved on. Recent years have seen the emergence of several industrial parks, and the town has attracted many service and headquarters operations, including well known companies.
The town has long been home to a cluster of research centres and research-focused businesses. ERA Technology Ltd is an engineering consultancy that has been in Leatherhead since the 1920s. Nearby is Leatherhead Food Research. The same area of west Leatherhead was home to the Central Electricity Research Laboratory (CERL), the main research lab for the CEGB until its dissolution in 2001.
A recently established local business cluster is that of racing cars. Lister Cars, makers of Lister Storm, Le Mans racing cars, are based in the town, and in nearby Dorking, while P1 International was founded here in 2000 by ex-Formula One World Champion Damon Hill. Other businesses in this sector are based in nearby parts of Surrey.
The headquarters of Police Federation of England and Wales is based in Leatherhead.
Major local businesses 
- ExxonMobil has several major divisions based at ExxonMobil House in Leatherhead, including its ExxonMobil Aviation and ExxonMobil Marine businesses, as well as its aviation fuels operations.
- KBR has offices in Leatherhead, with its Granherne  subsidiary based there.
- Logica has had several offices on different sites in the town and is now on the Springfield Drive site.
- The Tussauds Group has minor offices in the town, associated with its worldwide HQ in nearby Chessington.
- Unilever PLC has its UK and Ireland headquarters in Leatherhead at the purpose-built Unilever House - home to some of the nation's favourite consumer brands including: Bertolli, Colman's, Knorr, Marmite, Hellmann's, Surf, Dove, Lynx, Radox, Sure, Persil, Flora, Tresemme, Toni & Guy, Wall's ice cream, Cif, VO5 and Domestos.
- Ashtead Group was based in the town from 1947 till 2007.
- Hardware chain Robert Dyas is based in Leatherhead
- ERA Technology Ltd, a strategic business unit based in Leatherhead.
- AIRCOM International a provider of mobile telephone network management solutions has its headquarters in Randalls Research Park in Leatherhead.
- Calvary Chapel Leatherhead - A Bible-teaching, gospel-centred church.
- Church of St. Mary & St. Nicholas, Leatherhead
- Church of Our Lady and St Peter, Leatherhead
Culture and sport 
Theatre and cinema 
Leatherhead's theatrical history dates from at least Tudor times, when performances were held at village halls in the area. In 1890 the Victoria Hall opened in High Street and presented popular melodramas. In 1910, it was converted to a picture house, putting on the new "films", at first silent but later showing "talkies".
In 1939, the Crescent Cinema, with over 1,000 seats, was built in Church Street. Run by a local family, it prospered until the 1960s.
Two attempts in the late 1940s to reinvent the Victoria Hall as a theatre were unsuccessful. However the basement was converted to the "Green Room Club", and then in 1950 the theatre became home to the small "Under Thirty Theatre Group", who had good connections with the London theatre scene. Performances in the small building often featured leading actors and became increasingly popular, even as the building itself deteriorated.
Following a public fund-raising effort, September 1969 saw the opening by Princess Margaret of a replacement facility, the Thorndike Theatre, named after Dame Sybil Thorndike. Designed by Roderick Ham, the theatre was a complete 'cultural centre' whose radical open walkways and exposed concrete finish are thought to have influenced the later National Theatre in London.
For 30 years, the Thorndike Theatre maintained a reputation for high quality drama, and especially for presenting 'trial run' pre-West End shows. However, the theatre always struggled for funding, and finally closed in 1997.
After four years of physical dereliction, it was taken over by a religious group, Pioneer People, who renamed it simply 'The Theatre', and also made the building available as a cinema and for art exhibitions.
Now, the Leatherhead Theatre is once again presenting regular drama and acting as a theatrical centre for the area.
The Leatherhead Drama Festival 
The Leatherhead Drama Festival began in 2004 and is the UK's largest drama festival of its type, in which schools and drama groups from around Surrey and beyond compete each year for the Sir Michael Caine Drama Awards, the Richard Houghton Awards and New Writing Awards. Sir Michael Caine, patron of the festival, presents the awards, filming schedule permitting, at the Gala Awards Night each year. Full current details www.leatherheaddramafestival.org
Leatherhead has strong connections with modern music. Artists including Rick Astley, the Police, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Godley & Creme, the Lotus Eaters, Alternative TV and Bros recorded at Surrey Sound recording studios.
Leatherhead Football Club 
There is a local football team Leatherhead F.C. ('The Tanners') who play at Fetcham Park Grove. In the 1974-75 season the Tanners were drawn against First Division Leicester City at home in the FA Cup Fourth Round Proper. With the game switched to Filbert Street, the BBC's Match of the Day cameras and over 32,000 people saw a dramatic match in which the Tanners went two goals up and then saw a goalbound shot that would have made it 3-0 cleared off the line. However Leicester's fitness and class eventually told as the top-flight team fought back to win 3–2 in the second half. Leicester City went on to play Arsenal in the next round.
Local leisure and entertainment 
The leisure centre was built in the 1970s, and is owned by Mole Valley District Council and managed by Fusion Lifestyle.
The centre was extended in the 1980s with the Mole Barn. Plans to build a new centre on the site were drawn up by Mole Valley District Council prior to 2006, but instead the facility was given a 20-month, £12.6m refit and further extension, reopening (ten months late) in March 2011. The upgraded centre includes: a redesigned reception and entrance area, a 400 m2 gym with around 90 cardiovascular machines and a large free-weight area; an aerobics studio; a Multi Use Games Area (MUGA); a 400 m2 soft play facility for children; a creche; and two new squash courts.
State schools 
- Therfield School Therfield is also a Specialist Sports College
- St. Andrew's Catholic School.
- Leatherhead Trinity School and Children's Centre. On 1 September 2006, the school came into being as the result of a merger between Woodville School, St Mary's School and All Saints School. The new uniform is bright red, chosen as a bold colour and because it is different from the uniforms of the three old schools.
- Fetcham Infants School for ages 4–7
- Oakfield Junior School for ages 7–11
Private schools 
- Downsend School, close to Ashtead
- Downsend Lodge Leatherhead, part of Downsend School
- St John's School
Leatherhead is served by Leatherhead railway station. Over the years, however, Leatherhead has had four railway stations, two of which were only temporary and survived for about eight years from the railway's first opening in 1859. The current and only surviving station was designed by C.H. Driver in fine gothic revival style. It opened in 1867 to serve the London Brighton and South Coast Railway line to Dorking. The remains of the second London and South Western Railway railway station can still be seen on the Leatherhead one way system. It was built as a separate terminus, but became a through station when the line to Effingham Junction and Guildford was opened in 1885. It was closed in July 1927. The lines were electrified by the Southern Railway in 1925.
At one point it was planned to link Leatherhead with Chessington South railway station, but this was put on hold due to a protection order on Ashtead Common. In 2005 plans were put in place for a tunnel.
- The main London to Worthing road, the A24, also runs though the town, and makes up part of its large bypass, to the east.
- The M25 motorway lies to the north of the town, with Leatherhead being accessible and known as Junction 9.
- A taxi rank is located at Leatherhead train station and is accessible from the southbound platform.
Emergency services 
Leatherhead is served by these emergency services:
- Surrey Police. Leatherhead Police Station is now closed.Everything is handled from Dorking Police Station.
- South East Coast Ambulance Service as of 1 July 2006, is the local NHS Ambulance Services Trust. The Surrey Ambulance Service, Sussex, and Kent ambulance services have merged, and have now ceased to exist independently.
- Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, actually just inside Fetcham, but called Leatherhead Fire Station and manned by a full-time crew.
- 1 x Water Tender Ladder
- 1 x Water Carrier
- Hospital, small NHS unit with no A&E. It is used for outpatients and rehabilitation. A&E for the Leatherhead area is at Epsom General Hospital.
Notable people 
- Edmund Tilney (c. 1536–1610), Master of the Revels to Queen Elizabeth I, lived in the Mansion house. The Master of the Revels was in effect the official censor of the time. All of William Shakespeare's work would have passed his eyes before going public. In the film, Shakespeare in Love, he is portrayed by the actor Simon Callow. (A local Wetherspoons pub is now named after him).
- Sir Thomas Bloodworth (1620–1682), Lord Mayor of London during the Great Fire of 1666, owned and lived at nearby Thorncroft Manor.
- John Wesley preached his last sermon in Leatherhead on 23 February 1791, delivered at the top of Bull Hill when he was 88.
- Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth (1747–1817), accomplished Royal Naval officer who served under Nelson.
- Edward Wilkins Waite (1854–1924) was a noted local landscape painter.
- Commander Harold Auten VC DSC (1891–1964), recipient of the Victoria Cross during World War I, was born in Leatherhead.
- Donald Campbell (1921–1967), Bluebird pilot and fastest man on land and water, lived in Leatherhead.
- Andy Ellison (born 1946) and Chris Townson (1947–2008), founding members of the band John's Children, and former pupils at Box Hill School.
- Richard Patterson (b 1963) and his brother Simon Patterson (b 1967), both artists, were born in the town.
- John Drinkwater Bethune (1762–1844) lived at Thorncroft Manor in the town from about 1838 until his death and is buried in the churchard of the parish church.
- George Roger Waters (born 1943) Musician/songwriter/composer; vocalist and bassist of the famous English rock act, Pink Floyd.
Fictional references 
- Leatherhead is mentioned in the original H.G. Wells book The War of the Worlds. Day Ten (roughly) is when Leatherhead (where the narrator sent his wife for safety) is destroyed by a Martian attack, killing everyone. Fortunately, his wife makes it out before the attack and they are reunited after the Martians' destruction. Chapter 10, "In the Storm", begins with the words "Leatherhead is about twelve miles from Maybury Hill".
- In the TV series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the house that was used for Arthur Dent's residence is in Leatherhead.
- The film I Want Candy (released 23 March 2007) has the tagline "Two lads from Leatherhead are making a movie...and it's all gone pear-shaped". The film though is not set in Leatherhead.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look took a jab at Leatherhead in series two, episode four. In it, a librarian comments to a customer that she is "possibly one of the stupidest people I've ever met. And I lived in Leatherhead for six miserable years."
- Monty Python's Flying Circus makes reference to Leatherhead in the "Red Indian in Theatre" sketch, when Eric Idle, in Native American costume says, "When moon high over prairie, when wolf howl over mountain, when mighty wind roar through Yellow Valley, we go Leatherhead Rep - block booking, upper circle - whole tribe get it on three and six each."
- "History". Mole Valley District Council. "From the construction of the bridge over the River Mole in the early medieval period"
- "History". Mole Valley District Council. "The origins of Leatherhead appear to be Anglo-Saxon."
- Ekwall, E. (1940) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names; 2nd ed. Oxford; Clarendon Press; p. 279
- Surrey Domesday Book
- M25 Construction Timeline, www.cbrd.co.uk (Reigate to Wisley section)
- Friends of Triel
- Britons name 'best and worst streets' BBC News, 20 Sept 2002
- "contact us business headquarters." ExxonMobil. Retrieved on 26 January 2009.
- "contact us - aviation fuels and lubricants." ExxonMobil. Retrieved on 26 January 2009.
- "Locations." KBR. Retrieved on 13 January 2008.
- Logica UK Locations
- Leatherhead Theatre - History
- John's Children official site
- The Head - band page
- Leatherhead Leisure Centre Refurbishment, beecareful.info, 24 Sept 09
- Leatherhead Leisure Centre revamp nears completion, BBC News Surrey, 18 July 2010. Accessed 18 July 2010
- ___12_6m_leisure_centre/ Duke of Kent to open new £12.6m Leatherhead leisure centre, Your Local Guardian, 17 March 2011
- Discover Leatherhead, History and Heritage, visitleatherhead.com
- Harold Auten
- Leatherhead Drama Festival 2008
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