Cobham, Surrey

Coordinates: 51°19′44″N 0°24′32″W / 51.329°N 0.409°W / 51.329; -0.409
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Street off the High Street leading to the parish church
Cobham is located in Surrey
Location within Surrey
Area8.29 km2 (3.20 sq mi)
Population9,739 (2011 census)[1] or 17,273 as Built-up Area including Oxshott[2]
• Density1,175/km2 (3,040/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTQ1160
• London17 mi (27 km)
Civil parish
  • n/a
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townCobham
Postcode districtKT11
Dialling code01932
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
51°19′44″N 0°24′32″W / 51.329°N 0.409°W / 51.329; -0.409

Cobham (/ˈkɒbəm/) is a large village in the Borough of Elmbridge in Surrey, England, centred 17 miles (27 km) south-west of London[3] and 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Guildford on the River Mole. It has a commercial/services High Street, a significant number of primary and private schools and the Painshill landscape park.


Cobham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Covenham and in 13th century copies of earlier charters as Coveham. It is recorded as Cobbeham and Cobeham in the 15th century and the first use of the modern spelling "Cobham" is from 1570.[4] The name is thought to derive from an Anglo-Saxon landowner either as Cofa's hām or Cofa's hamm. The second part of the name may have originated from the Old English hām meaning a settlement or enclosure,[5] or from hamm meaning land close to water.[6][7]

The area of the village known as Cobham Tilt, is first recorded as la Tilthe in 1328. The name is thought to derive from the Old English Tilthe, meaning "cultivated land".[8]


St Andrew's Church

Cobham is an ancient settlement whose origins can be traced back on the ground through Roman times to the Iron Age. It lay within the Elmbridge hundred.

Cobham appears in Domesday Book as Covenham and was held by Chertsey Abbey. Its Domesday assets were: 12½ hides; 3 mills worth 13s 4d, 10 ploughs, 1 alike unit of meadow, woodland worth 40 hogs. It rendered altogether £14 per year to its feudal system overlords.[9]

Historically, Cobham other than outlying farms comprised two developed areas, Street Cobham and Church Cobham. The former lay on the Portsmouth-London Road, and the building now known as the Cobham Exchange was once a coaching inn. The latter grew up around St Andrew's Church, which dates from the 12th century. Although much altered and extended in the 19th century, the church preserves a Norman tower and is a Grade I listed building (the highest architectural category).[10][11]

The village's population was reported as 1617 inhabitants in 1848.[12] The arrival of the railway in the 1880s led to the expansion of the original village, the eastern fields and southern areas towards the railway station becoming suburbanised during the 20th century. A 1960s improvements scheme widened the entrance to the High Street from River Hill to the south which was very narrow, removing a few historic and picturesque buildings, replacing some with less ornate brickwork glass-fronted buildings suitable as shops. Subsequently, the High Street has developed into a local shopping centre.

Aviation and motor industries[edit]

A 1936 Railton Straight Eight. Altogether 1379 of the Railton 8s were made.[13]

Cobham is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from Brooklands and played host to associated and its own aviation and motoring activity in the 20th century. Leading motor engineer and car designers Reid Railton and Noel Macklin set up a manufacturing facility, building Railton road cars at the Fairmile Works from 1933 to 1940. An example is displayed at Brooklands Museum in the same borough.

In World War II, after a major aircraft factory, Vickers-Armstrongs, at Brooklands was bombed by the Luftwaffe on 4 September 1940, with heavy loss of life and many more injured, the Vickers Experimental Department was quickly dispersed to secret premises on the Silvermere and Foxwarren Park estates along Redhill Road. Engineer and inventor Barnes Wallis also carried out important trials catapulting models of his 'Upkeep' bouncing bomb across Silvermere Lake around 1942 and conducted spinning trials with larger prototypes at 'Depot W46' (the largest of the three dispersed sites). Vickers had numerous other wartime dispersed depots locally and those within the boundaries or whose nearest village was Cobham included Corbie Wood and Riseholme (on Seven Hills Road), Conway Cottage and Norwood Farm.

Despite its proximity to Brooklands and Wisley airfields (both active until the early 1970s), Cobham saw relatively few aircraft crashes. Most notable was a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter which flew low over Brooklands apparently in trouble and crashed at Cobham on 16 March 1944; the pilot survived and little else was published of this incident.

During World War II aircraft company Airspeed Ltd set up a design office at Fairmile Manor which designed the civil aircraft the Airspeed Ambassador before moving back to Portsmouth in the late 1940s.[14]

After the war, Vickers' Experimental Department continued to use two of the Redhill Road sites (now known as 'Foxwarren') and built aircraft prototypes there such as the Viscount airliner and Valiant V-bomber, until it moved back to the main factory at Brooklands in the late 1950s.

In the 1970s residents Mike Chambers ran a business building Huron Formula Fords and a Formula Atlantic car at the Silvermere works and Geoff Uren prepared the BMW team saloon cars and Graham Hill's Jägermeister-sponsored Formula 2 car.

From 1972 to 2011 Cobham Bus Museum occupied an ex-aircraft hangar (used mainly by Vickers-Armstrongs as a machine shop) next to Silvermere golf course in Redhill Road. The bus museum reopened as the London bus museum at Brooklands Museum on 1 August 2011. The former premises have been replaced by a care home.



Cobham fits into a triangle between the River Mole to the south, the A3 to the north and a borderline for the most part on the nearside of the (New) London to Guildford railway line to the southeast – directly west of Oxshott. On the southern border is the historic village, Stoke D'Abernon, part of the small post town, which gives its name to the railway station between the two areas on the line mentioned: Cobham & Stoke D'Abernon.



The village neighbourhoods of Downside (south) and Fairmile (east) are on slowly permeable, seasonally wet, slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soil. The longstanding built-up areas resemble the adjacent fertile east banks of the Mole such as at landscape garden Painshill Park on free-draining gravel topped with layers of alluvium. This contrasts with the steep west bank, acidic sandy heath, which underlies the highest land on all the outskirts, residual outcrops of the Bagshot Sands (Formation). These isolate Cobham village historically, Esher Commons, Oxshott Heath and Woods and the Redhill Common part of Ockham and Wisley Commons.[15]


Watershed points, or in international terms drainage divides, are at the summits of the sides of the lower Mole Valley, attaining 60 metres (200 ft) and 65 metres (213 ft) towards the east close to Oxshott and Stoke D'Abernon respectively.

The River Mole runs through Cobham, with a visitor area and well-surfaced path by the mill in the High Street, dividing the low-rise urban village/town centre from the remaining agricultural parts of Cobham in the west and south. This can flood small, old parts of the village centre in extreme rainfall. Elevation reaches a minimum here of 20 metres (66 ft) above sea level.[16][17]


Cobham used to have two wards; the Cobham Fairmile ward has a population of 4,760[18] neighbouring Cobham and Downside has a population of 6,158.[19] Cobham Fairmile ward has been abolished and is now part of the Oxshott and Stoke d’Abernon Ward.

Neighbouring places


Cedar House

At the heart of Cobham is the Church Cobham Conservation Area, which was designated in 1973 and includes fourteen statutory listed buildings. Amongst these are Pyports, once the home of Vernon Lushington; the picturesque Church Stile House; and two fine houses overlooking the River Mole: Ham Manor and Cedar House, the latter owned by the National Trust.[20][21][22][23]

The Cobham Park estate was the home of John Ligonier, 1st Earl Ligonier, once Head of the Armed Forces. In 1806, the estate was bought by Harvey Christian Combe, a brewer and Lord Mayor of London. The present house was completed in 1873 by his nephew, Charles Combe, to a design by Edward Middleton Barry:[24] It has now been divided into apartments. Painshill Park is a fine 18th-century landscape garden, restored from dereliction since 1980. Painshill House dates from the 18th century and has also been divided into apartments.[25]

Two other large houses on the outskirts of Cobham have been taken over by schools: Heywood is now the American Community School, and Burwood House is now Notre Dame School.[26][27]

The Chelsea F.C. training ground is also nearby.

Cobham Mill[edit]

Cobham Mill

The River Mole provides a setting for the red brick water mill, constructed Late 18C and once part of a much larger complex.[28][29] It stands on the site of earlier mills dating back to the Middle Ages. The mill was in use until 1928, when it became uneconomical to continue operating. Thereafter it was used as a storehouse.

During World War II, a Canadian tank collided with the main building, causing much damage.[30]

In 1953 the main part of the mill was demolished by Surrey County Council to alleviate traffic congestion on Mill Road. This left just the grist mill standing.

Cobham Mill, June 2005

In 1973 the Cobham Conservation Group was formed, later to become the Cobham Conservation and Heritage Trust, and one of its main objectives was to rescue the much deteriorated grist mill building from sliding into the river as a result of water erosion of the mill island. In 1986 the freehold of the mill was taken over by the Thames Water Authority who, as part of their flood control expenditure rebuilt the weirs nearby. They also recognised that the mill was Grade II listed and shored up the mill's foundations.

Thereafter, the Cobham Mill Preservation Trust was formed as a sister organisation to the Cobham Conservation Group and took over the leasehold. The building was restored to full working order by the volunteers of the Cobham Mill Preservation Trust, and first opened to the public in 1993. Cobham Mill is now open to the public from 2 pm to 5 pm on the second Sunday of each month between April and October, inclusive.[31]


St Andrew's Primary School[32] is located in the village as is Cobham Free School which is an all-through school.[33] A local prep school is Feltonfleet School. There are three independent schools: Notre Dame; ACS (The American Community Schools) Cobham International and Reed's School.[34]

Local leisure and entertainment[edit]

Painshill Park is nearby and Silvermere golf course is located in Redhill Road on the north side of the A3. Cobham has four football clubs: Cobham F.C., Mole Valley SCR F.C., Cobham United Football Club and Cobham Town FC (formed 2007). Cobham also has a cricket club, Cobham Avorians, formed in 1928. Avorians was named after its founder, local landowner Edward James Avory, and originally played at the Fairmile Estate before re-locating to Convent Lane on the Burwood Estate in 1948. Cobham Rugby Football Club has four teams which play regularly, as well as youth and mini sections.[35] There is Cobham Village Club and a branch of the Royal British Legion. Cobham Players[36] regularly present plays, musicals, pantomimes and other entertainments in Cobham.

Walton Firs Activity Centre lies just off the A3 in Cobham and covers 28 acres. It takes its name from Colonel Walton, who dealt with the purchase of the site in 1939.[37] It was used by a Royal Artillery Anti-Aircraft Battery during World War II and in peacetime returned to use as a Scout camp site. During the 1990s some 3,000 additional trees were planted, and more recently an all-weather barn and an artificial, but realistic, caving complex have been added.


Parliament and Local[edit]

The Member of Parliament (MP) is Conservative Dominic Raab[38] in the Esher and Walton constituency. Raab succeeded Ian Taylor who stood down at the 2010 General Election. In local government Cobham is part of Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey County Council. Until 2016, Cobham was divided into two wards, Cobham Fairmile[39] and Cobham & Downside[40] for Elmbridge voting. Following boundary changes in 2016, Cobham was divided between a newly drawn Cobham and downside ward and an expanded Oxshott & Stoke d’Abernon ward, with the Fairmile name disappearing. There are six councillors covering the two new wards, 4 Conservative and 2 Liberal Democrat as from May 2023. Cobham councillor James Browne was Leader of Elmbridge Borough Council in 2019. For Surrey County voting, Cobham is paired with Stoke d'Abernon.

Cobham has many old buildings, conservation areas and housing development pressures. It has a very active Heritage Trust,[41] re-formed in 2007, and a lower-profile Residents Association.[42] Unlike neighbouring areas in Elmbridge, Residents and amenity groups[43] do not contest local elections in Cobham; occasionally independents have stood, such as in a 2007 by-election. The only non-Conservative elected was a Liberal/Focus councillor, Mike King in 1984 in the Fairmile ward,[44] which includes some high density social and private housing beside the A3, as well upmarket private estates. Cobham and Downside ward includes the village centre, private estates off the A245 Stoke Road, semi-rural Downside and Hatchford, Ockham south of the M25.Since a by election in July 2021, the Liberal Democrats have taken 2 out of the 3 Cobham seats on Elmbridge B.C.

Since the 2013 Surrey County election, the local Member for Cobham is Conservative, Mrs Mary Lewis who serves as Cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families. A Cobham & Downside member on Elmbridge, Mike Bennison since 2005 also represents the next 3 stops up the line to London Oxshott Claygate and Hinchley Wood on Surrey County Council.

British Army[edit]

Following the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908, the town, for recruiting, was granted to the 6th Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment which maintained a platoon from A Company. The town also maintained the "Sandyroyd School Troops of Scouts".[45]

Road and rail links[edit]

To the north and west of the town is the A3 trunk road, a major arterial route from London to Portsmouth. This road links to the M25 motorway at Junction 10, immediately to the southwest of Cobham.

  • The A307, Portsmouth Road starts in Cobham and runs northwards to the adjoining town of Esher. This is also known as the "old A3".
  • The A245 runs through the centre of the town and leads to Leatherhead in the south-east and Byfleet to the west.

Cobham & Stoke d'Abernon railway station, opened in 1885, is on the New Guildford line from London Waterloo.

Police and fire services[edit]

The closest public desk and offices of Surrey Police is at the Civic Offices, Elmbridge Borough Council, in Esher.

  • Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, called Painshill Fire Station, has a full-time crew together with:
    • 1 Water Tender Ladder
    • 1 Incident Command Unit
    • 1 Forward Command Vehicle

Notable people[edit]

Demography and housing[edit]

2011 Census Homes
Output area Detached Semi-detached Terraced Flats and apartments Caravans/temporary/mobile homes Shared between households[1]
Cobham Fairmile (ward) 792 366 274 262 1 2
Centre and south[n 1] 1,157 687 401 507 4 2

The average level of accommodation in the region composed of detached houses was 28%, the average that was apartments was 22.6%.

Output area Population Households % Owned outright % Owned with a loan hectares[1]
Cobham Fairmile (ward) 4,751 1,697 34 32 553
Centre and south 4,988 2,047 40 31 276

The proportion of households in the settlement who owned their home outright compares to the regional average of 35.1%. The proportion who owned their home with a loan compares to the regional average of 32.5%. The remaining % is made up of rented dwellings (plus a negligible % of households living rent-free).

In film, fiction and the media[edit]

The Cobham News & Mail covered local news in the latter part of the 20th century until it closed and was incorporated into the Surrey Advertiser.[64] Cobham is also covered by the Elmbridge Guardian, the Surrey Herald and the Surrey Comet newspapers.

Nearest places[edit]


  1. ^ Cobham and Downside (ward) less Elmbridge 017C


  1. ^ a b c By convention, Cobham is not deemed to include any longer the village of Downside, Surrey which would otherwise cover in total 17.12 km² Key Statistics; Quick Statistics: Population Density United Kingdom Census 2011 Office for National Statistics Retrieved 21 November 2013
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  3. ^ Grid Reference Finder distance tools
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  5. ^ Mills 2003, p. 124
  6. ^ Taylor 2003, p. 1
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  • Boot, Roy (1990). From Spitfire to Eurofighter: 45 years of combat aircraft design. Shrewsbury: AirLife Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85-310093-2.
  • Gover, J.E.B.; Mawer, A.; Stenton, F.M. (1969). The place-names of Surrey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mills, A.D. (2003). Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852758-9.
  • Sedgwick, Michael; Gillies, Mark (1989). A-Z of Cars of the 1930s. Devon: Bay View Books. ISBN 978-1-87-097938-2.
  • Taylor, David C. (2003). Cobham: A history. Chichester: Philimore. ISBN 978-1-86-077247-4.
  • Westlake, Ray (2011). The Territorials : 1908–1914: A guide for military and family historians. Barnsley: Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-84-884360-8. OCLC 780443267.

External links[edit]