East Horsley, Surrey, England
According to the Victoria County History of Surrey, East Horsley was mentioned in the Domesday Book at which time the manor was listed as church property held for the Archbishop of Canterbury. The name appears to have Saxon origins, since "lea" or "ley" was the word for a clearing. The grass slopes and beechwoods to the south of the village on the chalk slopes, the area where we walked dogs and played as children were known as the Sheepleas. At school we were told the church tower had Saxon origins but according to the Victoria County History this is unproven although various parts of the nave and chancel are in the architectural style of the thirteenth century. It seemed ownership of the manor of Horsley passed back and forth between the reigning monarch and the church on several occasions over the next four centuries. However during the reign of Elizabeth I, she granted the manor to a
John Agmondesham who already held Rowbarnes, another manor in East Horsley. The Horsley manor stayed in the possession of his family and their heirs and successors until its ownership by the Viscountess Lanesborough. At this time the third manor in East Horsley, the Bishops Manor was owned by the Viscountess' husband, Denny Mushcamp. In this way the two properties became joined and were subsequently inherited by their grandson, Sackville Fox and then by his son James, who finally sold it out of the family some time before 1781. The surname Fox is mentioned in an entry describing Guildford and the surrounding area in the first Universal Directory of Great Britain published in 1791. The entry reads "Guildford being very advantageously situated, has numerous mansions in its neighbourhood belonging to noblemen and gentlemen of the first note ...........................The seat of Lord Onslow, which is the first on the road from Guildford (at Clandon-place) ...................On the same road is an ancient seat, now in the possession of ____ Fox, Esq, nephew to the late Lord Bingley, which, though an old building, yet having an open situation in front, towards the Downs, is rendered very pleasant; and the late possessor, being a person of fine taiste, beautified the house within, and made pleasant plantations in several parts of it."
Daniel Defoe writing earlier in 1722 also commented that "The ten miles from Guildford to Letherhead make one continued line of gentlemen's houses, lying all, or most of them. on the west side of the road, and their parks, or gardens almost touching one another; here are pleasantly seated several very considerable persons.............. At the north-east end of this range of fine seats is Letherhead, a little thoroughfare town." Several of these fine houses were rebuilt and survive today under the stewardship of the National Trust. Clandon-place now called Clandon Park in West Clandon is listed in the National Trust handbook as being built around 1730 by a Venetian architect. Hatchlands Park at East Clandon is said to have been built in the 1750's for Admiral Boscawen. This house is also referenced in the Victoria County History as the seat of Mr Sumner. Across the Downs at Great Bookham, the National Trust cares for Polesden Lacey which is described in the Victoria County History as the fine seat of Admiral Sir Francis Geary, Bart although it was subsequently extensively remodelled in the early 1900's by an Edwardian hostess.It seems that after James Fox sold the manor of East Horsley, it passed through a number of purchasers until it was bought by the Earl of Lovelace in 1829 and in whose family it remained until well into the twentieth century. The Victoria County History describes Horsley Towers as "a large house standing in a park of 300 acres, the seat of the Earl of Lovelace. The old house was rebuilt about 1745. The present house was built by Sir Charles Barry for Mr. Currie (an earlier owner) on a new site, between 1820 and 1829, in Elizabethan style. Mr. Currie, who owned the combined manors, 1784–1829, rebuilt most of the houses in the village and restored the church". He is also credited with inclosing most of Horsley Common at the northern end of the parish and the common fields and waste at the southern part, on the Chalk following the passing of an Inclosure Act In 1792. The parsonage and glebe were at the same time removed, by exchange, to other sites and the National school was also established by Mr. Currie. Under the heading Charities the Victoria County History describes a piece of land as "Smith's Charity is distributed as in other Surrey parishes. There is a rent-charge on land called Bishop's Mead, supposed to be the gift of Bishop Booth of Exeter, who is buried in the church, for the relief of the poor; and another small charge on other land for the same purpose". This would appear to be the origin of the name of the local shops, Bishopsmeade Parade which was just across the road from my primary school which was built around the 1860's I think (there were dates set in the old stonework).
By 1918 the Kelly's Directory of Surrey describes East Horsley as a "pleasant and picturesque village and parish on the upper line of the old London and Portsmouth road, between Guildford and Leatherhead..........Horsley Towers, the seat of the Earl of Lovelace is a noble mansion standing in a well wooded park of more than 300 acres. The Earl is listed as a private resident along with twelve others living in such places as Manor Farm house, Rowbarns Grange, Rowbarnsmanor and the Manor House. Incredibly there is a Frederick Conisbee, butcher and his family were still the local butchers as I grew up. The Public Elementary is described as being for about 45 children which had only risen to around 120 when I was a student there in the 1950's.
From: 'Parishes: East Horsley', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3 (1911), pp. 349-52. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=42982. Date accessed: 02 June 2007.