Leith Hill

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Leith Hill
Leith hill 07.jpg
Highest point
Elevation294 m (965 ft)
Prominence249 m (817 ft)
ListingMarilyn,[1] Hardy, County Top
Coordinates51°10′33″N 0°22′11″W / 51.17583°N 0.36972°W / 51.17583; -0.36972Coordinates: 51°10′33″N 0°22′11″W / 51.17583°N 0.36972°W / 51.17583; -0.36972
Leith Hill is located in Surrey
Leith Hill
Leith Hill
Leith Hill in Surrey
LocationSurrey, England
Parent rangeGreensand Ridge
OS gridTQ139431
Topo mapOS Landranger 187

Leith Hill is a wooded hill 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) to the south west of Dorking, Surrey, England. It reaches 294 metres (965 ft) above sea level,[2] the highest point on the Greensand Ridge,[3] and is the second highest point in south-east England, after Walbury Hill near Newbury, Berkshire, 297 metres (974 ft) high.[1] Leith Hill is the highest ground for 49 miles (79 km). Wooded areas surrounding the hill are designated Leith Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest

The nearest railway station is Holmwood Station, 2 miles (3 km) to the east. This station is served by Southern trains on the Sutton & Mole Valley Line route.

Leith Hill Tower[edit]

The tower on the top of Leith Hill

On the summit of Leith Hill is an 18th-century Gothic tower. In 1765–66 Richard Hull of nearby Leith Hill Place built "Prospect House", later to become known as Leith Hill Tower, with the intention of raising the hill above 1,000 ft (305 m) above sea level. A tower built contemporaneously at the summit of Bredon Hill achieves a similar purpose. Leith Hill 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 not only for 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.

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 to commemorate 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.[4]

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 in the narrow staircase, and converting the lower portion of the tower into a servery. Leith Hill Tower is open to the public every day from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm weekdays and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekends, every day of the year except Christmas Day, with a comprehensive display explaining the history of the tower. Standing on the top of Leith Hill Tower you are at the highest point in the south-east of England.

Leith Hill Place[edit]

Leith Hill Place, childhood home of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Originally a gabled house dating from about 1600, Leith Hill Place was completely refaced in a Palladian style about 1760 by Richard Hull.[5] 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 leased from the Trust by his cousins Sir Ralph Wedgwood and then Sir John Wedgwood, later becoming a boarding house for a nearby sixth form college, Hurtwood House. The property is claimed to be haunted, with several School Masters of the day reporting strange goings-on, noises and even apparitions.[citation needed] The house was opened to the public by the National Trust in 2013 and now serves as a memorial to Ralph Vaughan Williams.[6]

Josiah Wedgwood's widow, born Caroline Darwin, created a rhododendron wood there, now open to the public.[7]

Search for oil[edit]

A site on an ancient lane going up the hill was originally chosen by an oil company for exploratory drilling, however due to an active protest campaign and various legal objections raised by local groups and environmentalists, the lease on the land from the Forestry Commission expired before the drilling could start. The Minister for Environment subsequently decided not to renew the lease due to concerns of the effect it would have on nearby ancient woodland. The oil company has since stated it intends to find a new site from which to explore the same prospect. Locals have stated that they will continue to oppose this.[8]


Leith Hill Tower was the origin (meridian) of the 6 inch and 1:2500 Ordnance Survey maps of Surrey.[9]


  1. ^ a b Dawson, Alan (1992). "The Marilyns by Height". The Relative Hills of Britain. Milnthorpe, Cumbria, England: Cicerone Press. ISBN 1-85284-068-4. Archived from the original on 22 August 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help) Dawson draws his information from various editions of Ordnance Survey maps, but he does not specify which.
  2. ^ 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 0.5 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.
  3. ^ Gallois RW and Edmunds FH (1965) British Regional Geology: The Wealden District published by the National Environment Research Council: Institute of Geological Sciences
  4. ^ surreyhills.org Archived 14 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England - Surrey, Penguin, 1962
  6. ^ Leith Hill Place Archived 20 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 18 October 2015
  7. ^ gardenvisit.com
  8. ^ "Oil firm withdraws test drilling plans". BBC News. 4 September 2018. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  9. ^ https://www.charlesclosesociety.org/files/153Meridians.pdf

External links[edit]