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Friday, May 18, 2012
Reigate is a traditional Surrey market town, which in recent years has become a haven to fashion boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants
BRIEF HISTORY OF REIGATE
Following the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror awarded what is now Reigate to one of his principal knights, William de Warenne, on whom he bestowed the title Earl of Surrey in 1088. It is said that the family built the castle (of which little now remains other than secluded gardens) and then constructed the town around the focal point in 1150. It is thought the name came from Roe-deer Gate, as the town is situated at the entrance to the Green Flag award-winning Priory Park, which was once de Warenne’s deer park. The park recently underwent a multi-million pound redesign and has just seen its first proper summer in action. At its heart is Reigate Priory School, which occupies a building that began life as a 13th century priory, before being granted by Henry VIII to Lord Howard of Effingham in 1535 following the dissolution of the monasteries. To discover more about Reigate’s history, pay a visit to Reigate Priory Museum, located in the school.
The Tunnel Road caves, which lie beneath the beautiful Reigate Castle Grounds, are home to the local gun club but also open to the public – along with their more historic neighbour, the Barons’ Cave – several times a year. At various points in their history, they have been used as sand mines, explosive stores and air raid shelters – not at the same time, we hasten to add. The Castle Grounds themselves, found just off the High Street, are the perfect spot for a lunchtime snack or peaceful picnic.
The Cranston Library, founded on March 14, 1701, is situated in a small chamber above the vestry in St Mary’s parish church. It was the first public lending library in England. Another interesting piece of trivia for you: legend has it that the reason Chart Lane narrows so dramatically around the church’s cemetery is because workers were wary of digging up the plague graves that can be found there.
Found on Croydon Road, the tiny museum run by the Holmesdale Natural History Club, openS on selected days, is filled with a fascinating array of objects including a large number of stuffed birds, herbarium specimens (including material collected by James Brewer for the first Flora of Surrey, which was published by the club in 1863), local history and archaeological collections.
Reigate Heath’s quirkiest feature is the windmill, which was converted into a small chapel in 1880. Keys can be obtained from the nearby golf club and it’s free to enter.
SHOPPING IN THE TOWN
If you’re looking to piece together the perfect outfit, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Reigate where there’s a whole host of fantastic boutiques. For all the top labels, pop into Robert Ashworth in Cage Yard, or for the guys there’s their men’s shop on the High Street (01737 244413).
For a fabulous pair of sky-high heels, try Attic (01737 243396), also on the High Street. If second-hand and vintage is more your thing, take a short stroll around the corner to the hidden gem that is Grace in Lesbourne Road (01737 222214) or check out one of the many excellent charity shops. Reigate institution Knights (01737 242195) is still very much an icon of the town, selling more traditional clothing, and a great place to while away a few hours.
A short walk away from the main hustle and bustle of Reigate High Street takes you to a haven of independents. Lesbourne Road is home to The Vineking wine merchants, The Venture Inn (which serves stunning Thai, by the way), La Bottega café/deli, and the Grace boutique (great for vintage stuff).
EATING OUT IN REIGATE
As well as the big names, such as Café Rouge (01737 223700) and Ask (01737 241122), there’s the fantastic and independent Vintage Tea House (01737 226561), in Church Street, which focuses on cream teas. They recently linked up with The Vineking (01737 248833), on West Road, to host wine-tasting evenings there, too. The independent coffee and bagel shop Urban Kitchen (01737 233876) provides all sorts of goodies in their Church Street branch, while also manning Priory Park’s futuristic pavilion, and Fillz @ 15 (01737 245321) on Bell Street offers fantastically fresh baguettes. For something a little more substantial, try Tony Tobin’s Dining Room (01737 226650) in the High Street; The Westerly (CLOSED) on London Road; French restaurant La Barbe (01737 241966) in Bell Street; The Parador (01737 249423) in Cage Yard; or, just outside the town on Reigate Road, The Jolly Farmers (01737 221355), which specialises in local produce. Oh, and if you’re looking for ingredients for your own meal at home, you can’t go wrong with Robert & Edwards (01737 242081), a family-run butchers, just off the High Street.
Walk along West Street and you could be forgiven for never realising that it is home to a brilliant little brewery called Pilgrim. Started in 1982 in the publess Woldingham, they moved to Reigate in 1985 and have been striving to create the perfect pint ever since.
OUT AND ABOUT
One of the most popular walks for Reigate residents is up to the Skimmington Castle (01737 243100) on Bonnys Road. Just outside the town, the quaint pub is found via a pleasant stroll across Reigate Heath. If you drive, watch out for golf balls on the approach, as the road crosses Reigate Heath Golf Club (01737 226793). There’s plenty of other stunning places to explore, too, with the beautiful, recently-renovated Priory Park in the heart of the town, and nearby Reigate Hill, which offers panoramic views across the county. Opened to the public in 2007, Reigate Fort, which can be found on the hill, was one of 13 mobilisation centres built in the 1890s to protect London from invasion, although none of them ever saw action.