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11,316 (2011 census)

South East

Sovereign state
United Kingdom

12.54 km²

Shire county

Mole Valley

OS grid reference


Post town

Local time
Tuesday 12:56 PM

Dialling code

UK parliament constituency
Mole Valley

Leatherhead httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

13°C, Wind W at 16 km/h, 73% Humidity


Leatherhead is a town in Surrey, England on the right bank of the River Mole, and at the edge of the contiguous built-up area of London. Its local district is Mole Valley. Records exist of the place from Anglo Saxon England. It has a combined theatre and cinema, which is at the centre of the re-modelling following late 20th century pedestrianisation. The bypass streets to the town centre close and feature annually in the London-Surrey cycle classic which is ranked by the world's cycling federation.


Map of Leatherhead, UK

Just north-east of the midpoint of Surrey and at a junction of ancient north–south and east–west roads, elements of the town have been a focus for transport throughout its history. A main early spur to this was the construction of the bridge over the seasonally navigable 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 are Anglo-Saxon. Ashtead lay within the Copthorne hundred by the formation of the Kingdom of England. The Leatherhead Museum has traced the history of the town from its beginnings in about AD 880 when it was known as Leodridan meaning "place where people [can] ride [across the river]" in the Anglo-Saxon (Old English). Later in the Domesday Book of 1086 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.

A view from the University of Sussex has been put forward that the Anglo-Saxon form was distorted from a Celtic form whose Welsh equivalent is Llwyd-rhyd = "grey ford". Within 2 miles (3.2 km) there is evidence of pre-historic and Celtic hillfarming on the North Downs to the east and south - The Druid's Grove, Norbury Park being a possible example of a place of pre-Christian pagan gathering.

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 wooded and hillside footpaths. The road leads from London to Chichester, passing through the strategic Mole Gap.

Elements such as barrows by the A246 provide evidence for a second late Romano-British road that ran from Stane Street in the east close to Ashtead Church crossing the Mole at Leatherhead Bridge some miles to approximately the present road junction very close to Effingham Church. Here it veered more true west and continued in another straight line to Merrow Church crossing the River Wey near Guildford Bridge. The road existed by late Saxon times and all the medieval churches between Leatherhead and Guildford lie within a few yards of this route.

Work on the parish church was started some time in the 11th century. Many parts were added over the years, with a major restoration taking place in the Victorian era.

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 a relatively low £3 10s 0d (£3.50) per year to its feudal system overlords.

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 The Mansion. 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.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached his last sermon in Leatherhead on 23 February 1791.

1800 onwards

Leatherhead saw much expansion, with two major railways linked to it; see Transport.

In the 1870s, a group of clergymen built the private St John's School in the town, and it has produced a number of famous pupils. (See below).

The Letherhead Institute was built. The spelling was said, throughout much of Victorian times, to be the correct spelling.

Cherkley Court was a home of Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook.

Modern era

Once parish industries including Ronson's Lighters and Goblin Vacuum Cleaners. Both were used as ammunitions plants in World War II. Most of the assembly plants pulled out of Leatherhead in the late 1970s or early 1980s, in favour of commerce, transport and distribution.

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 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.

Town centre

The town has re-developed periodically through varying economic demands and planning. It has always been much elevated from the river and set away from the parks of the town. Until the 1970s, it had a bustling market town theme with many convenience shops and wares catering to all types of demand. However accidents occurred from increased traffic close to winding bends and narrow pavements; since these the central streets have been pedestrianised or partly blocked off, leading to a decline in volume of pedestrians and convenience shop closures, in favour of out-of-town supermarkets. The construction of the Swan Centre including its large supermarket, brought some revitalisation. In 2002, the high street was voted one of the worst in the United Kingdom in a BBC poll. Since 2002 council landscaping, including trees and water features, this has catered toward making Leatherhead into a place to meet and go to the theatre, cinema, bars, restaurants and cafés. Professional/property services have expanded in the town centre.

Leatherhead's many business premises create lunchtime demand and its restaurants and theatre draw in people from across Surrey. The undulating streetscape lends itself more to warm summer evenings. The theatre (see below) is a cinema and also has art exhibitions. In the late 1990s the town centre's only hotel, the Bull Hotel, closed down and was subsequently demolished. A Lidl store was built on the site and opened in February 2007. Early in 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 railway which forks by the town centre. 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 social housing.

Here is the Royal Oak pub the North Leatherhead Community Association or NLCA or social club in a former school building next to the Kingston Road Playing Fields and playground.

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. Its playing fields can be used by helicopters.


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.

The headquarters of Police Federation of England and Wales is based in Leatherhead.

Major local businesses

  • AIRCOM International a provider of mobile telephone network management solutions has its headquarters in Randalls Research Park in Leatherhead.
  • CGI (formerly Logica) has had several offices on different sites in the town and is now on the Springfield Drive site.
  • ERA Technology Ltd, a strategic business unit based in Leatherhead.
  • 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.
  • Halliburton Company has an office in Leatherhead, with its Landmark based there.
  • KBR has offices in Leatherhead, with its Granherne subsidiary based there.
  • Robert Dyas, hardware chain is based in Leatherhead
  • Unilever PLC has its UK and Ireland headquarters in Leatherhead at the purpose-built Unilever House - home to the following consumer brands: Bertolli, Cif, Colman's, Domestos, Dove, Flora, Hellmann's, Knorr, Lynx, Marmite, Persil, Radox, Sure, Surf, Toni & Guy, Tresemme, VO5 and Wall's ice cream.
  • Churches

  • Church of Our Lady and St Peter, Leatherhead
  • Church of St. Mary & St. Nicholas, Leatherhead
  • Disciples Church (Calvary Chapel Leatherhead)
  • Theatre and cinema

    Leatherhead's theatrical history dates from at least Tudor times. 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 closed in 1997. After four years of physical dereliction, it was taken over by a religious group.

    Now, the Leatherhead Theatre is once again presenting regular drama and acting as a theatrical centre for the area.

    Leatherhead Drama Festival

    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 the 'Fire & Iron' 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


    The band John's Children, which included sometime frontman Marc Bolan, was formed in the town in 1963 by Andy Ellison and Chris Townson, former pupils of nearby Box Hill School.

    Leatherhead secured a place in modern music history when, in 1974, producer Nigel Gray set up the Surrey Sound recording studios in a former village hall in the north of the town. Early demo pieces for, among others, The Wombles and Joan Armatrading were followed, from 1977, by the recording of much of the early repertoire of The Police, including "Roxanne", and then the album Outlandos d'Amour; Reggatta de Blanc and its singles "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon"; and later the Grammy Award-winning Zenyatta Mondatta and its hit single "Don't Stand So Close to Me".

    In parallel, in 1978, Godley & Creme recorded the first of five albums at the studio.

    Around the same time, and subsequently, Leatherhead's pop furnace forged successful recordings by artists including Siouxsie and the Banshees, Rick Astley, the Lotus Eaters, Alternative TV and Bros.

    The studio, with Gray's brother Chris as engineer, initially had a four-track capability but upgraded to 16-track in 1977 and to 24-track a year or two later. It was sold by Gray in 1987.

    Less influentially, but with much notoriety in the area, in 1980, local band The Head released the punk rock single Nothing To Do in a Town Like Leatherhead.

    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. Leicester's won 3–2. 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.

    Bockett's Farm off Young Street has rare breeds and a petting zoo. It is open to the public almost all year round, and local schools use the farm for teaching and day trips.

    State schools

  • Therfield School
  • St. Andrew's Catholic School
  • St Peter's RC Primary School
  • Leatherhead Trinity School and Leatherhead Children's Centre.
  • 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
  • Taxis

  • A taxi rank is located at Leatherhead train station and is accessible from the southbound platform.
  • Rail

    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.

    Services included trains northwards to London Waterloo, London Victoria, Epsom, Sutton and Wimbledon where it connects with the London Underground and Tramlink, and south to Dorking, Horsham, Guildford.


  • The main London to Worthing road, the A24, runs though the edge of town being part of its bypass, to the east.
  • The M25 motorway lies to the north of the town, with Leatherhead being accessed via Junction 9.
  • Emergency services

    Leatherhead is served by these emergency services:

  • Surrey Police. Dorking Police Station.
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service as of 1 July 2006, is the local NHS Ambulance Services Trust.
  • Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, station just inside Fetcham, but called Leatherhead Fire Station manned by a full-time crew.
  • The hospital A&E for the Leatherhead area is at Epsom General Hospital.

    Notable people

  • Harold Auten VC DSC (1891–1964), recipient of the Victoria Cross during World War I, was born in Leatherhead.
  • John Drinkwater Bethune (1762–1844) lived at Thorncroft Manor in the town from about 1838 until his death and is buried in the churchyard of the parish church.
  • Sir Thomas Bloodworth (1620–1682), Lord Mayor of London during the Great Fire of 1666, owned and lived at nearby Thorncroft Manor.
  • Ted Bowley (1890–1974), English Test cricketer.
  • Michael Caine (born 1933), lives in Leatherhead and is patron to the Leatherhead Drama Festival
  • Donald Campbell (1921–1967), Bluebird pilot and fastest man on land and water, lived in Leatherhead.
  • John Campbell-Jones (born 1930), former Formula One racing driver.
  • Leonard Dawe (1889–1963), footballer, teacher, and crossword compiler for the Daily Telegraph; while living in Leatherhead in 1944 he was wrongly suspected of espionage by inserting codewords for Operation Overlord into his puzzles.
  • Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth (1747–1817), accomplished Royal Naval officer who served under Nelson.
  • 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.
  • Madron Seligman (1918–2002), Member of the European Parliament and friend of Edward Heath.
  • Marie Stopes (1880–1958), family planning pioneer, lived in the town.
  • 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, the local Wetherspoons pub is now named after him.
  • Edward Wilkins Waite (1854–1924) was a noted local landscape painter.
  • Roger Waters (born 1943) Musician/songwriter/composer; vocalist and bassist of the famous English rock act, Pink Floyd.
  • John Wesley preached his last sermon in Leatherhead on 23 February 1791, delivered at the top of Bull Hill when he was 88.
  • Demography and housing

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

    The proportion of households 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).


    Leatherhead Wikipedia

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