|Elevation||294 m (965 ft)|
|Prominence||249 m (817 ft)|
|Listing||Marilyn, Hardy, County Top|
|Topo map||OS Landranger 187|
Leith Hill to the south west of Dorking, Surrey, England, reaches 294 metres (965 ft) above sea level, the highest point on the Greensand Ridge, and is the second highest point in south-east England, after Walbury Hill near Hungerford, West Berkshire, 297 metres (974 ft) high.
It was possibly on the summit of Leith Hill in 851, that Æthelwulf of Wessex, father of Alfred the Great, defeated the Danes who were heading for Winchester, having sacked Canterbury and London.
Leith Hill Tower
On the summit of Leith Hill is an 18th-century Gothic tower, with panoramic views northwards to London and the English Channel to the south. Richard Hull of nearby Leith Hill Place built "Prospect House" in the years 1765 to 1766, later to become known as Leith Hill Tower, with the intention of raising the hill above 1,000 ft (305 m) above sea level. The tower is 19.5 metres (64 ft) high and consisted of two rooms "neatly furnished", with a Latin inscription above the door announcing that it had been built for not only his own pleasure, but also for the enjoyment of others. Hull provided visitors with prospect glasses, similar to a small telescope, through which to survey the extensive views towards London and the English Channel, each some 25 miles (40 km) away, and thirteen counties on a very clear day.
When he died in 1772, at his request he was buried under the tower. Following his death, the building was stripped of its contents, doors and windows, and fell into ruin. As a result the tower was filled with rubble and concrete, and the entrance bricked up.
In 1864, Mr Evelyn of nearby Wotton House decided to reopen it, but the concrete made this difficult, and so the additional turreted side-tower was added to allow access to the top of the tower.
At the top of the tower there is a viewpoint indicator placed there in commemoration of Walker Miles, whose work in the early days of the Rambler's movement contributed to the formation of The Ramblers of Great Britain.
It has been claimed that on a clear day, 13 counties can be seen from the top of Leith Hill Tower.
National Trust restoration
The tower was fully restored by the National Trust in 1984. This restoration included the removal of rubble and concrete, fitting safety features such as a handrail along the narrow staircase, and converting the lower portion of the tower into a National Trust shop. Leith Hill Tower is open to the public every day from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm over the summer, with a comprehensive display explaining the history of the tower and giving opinions and memories of local people.
Leith Hill Place
Originally a gabled house of about 1600, this was completely refaced in a Palladian style about 1760 by Richard Hull. It was bought in 1847 by Josiah Wedgwood III and remained in the family until the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who had been brought up there and eventually inherited it, gave it to the National Trust in 1944. Subsequently it was tenanted from the Trust by his cousins Sir Ralph Wedgwood and then Sir John Wedgwood. Josiah Wedgwood's widow, born Caroline Darwin, created there a fine rhododendron wood, now open to the public.
- Dawson, Alan (1992). "The Marilyns by Height". The Relative Hills of Britain. Milnthorpe, Cumbria, England: Cicerone Press. ISBN 1-85284-068-4. Dawson draws his information from various editions of Ordnance Survey maps, but he does not specify which.
- Bench marks km square TQ1343: The exact height of the benchmark on the tower, surveyed in 1972, is 293.8730 metres AMSL. The cut mark is O.5 m off the ground, hence a height of 293.4 m. On the 1:50000 ordnance map this is rounded to 294 m. Dorking, Reigate and Crawley area (Map) (10GSGS ed.). 1:50000. Landranger 187. Ordnance Survey. 1991. ISBN 0-319-22187-3.
- Gallois RW and Edmunds FH (1965) British Regional Geology: The Wealden District published by the National Environment Research Council: Institute of Geological Sciences
- Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England - Surrey, Penguin, 1962
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