Surrey Day 2019: The Seven Wonders of Surrey
- Credit: Archant
To celebrate Surrey Day we, together with BBC Surrey, asked the county’s residents what they considered to be the ‘Seven Wonders’. of Surrey. We take a closer look at the county’s most popular landmarks…
The ruins of Waverley Abbey are situated on a peaceful loop of the River Wey and were once home to a group of Cistercian monks. The abbey was founded by William Gifford, Bishop of Winchester, in 1128 and was the first Cistercian house to be established in Britain. By 1187 there were 70 monks and 120 lay brothers in residence. In 1536, with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site passed to Sir William Fitzherbert, treasurer of the king’s household. Much of the abbey was dismantled and some of the stone was reused to build Sir William More’s house at Loseley Park, a few miles to the east. A short walk away from the Abbey is Waverley Abbey House, a Georgian building that has provided a backdrop for recent films like Into the Woods, The Huntsman and The Mummy.
Leith Hill Tower
Leith Hill tower stands proud atop the wooded hill that gave the 1029ft structure its name. The tower was built in 1765 by Richard Hull of Leith Hill Place as “a place for people to enjoy the glory of the English countryside”, and 254 years later, they still do. After climbing the 74 steps to the top, visitors can see the woodlands of Leith Hill and rolling the countryside of the Surrey Hills. On a clear day you can even see the English Channel to the south and the clock face of Big Ben in Westminster to the north. Nearby Leith Hill Place is the former childhood home of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. His affinity for the area was said to be a recurring theme throughout his life; he conducted the Leith Hill Music Festival, which has taken place in Dorking every April since 1905, for 50 years.
Brooklands, the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, was built by local landowner Hugh Locke King on 330 acres of farm and woodland on his estate in Weybridge in 1907. Soon after the track was opened motor racing pioneer Selwyn Francis Edge set a speed record which stood for 17 years. In August 1926 the RAC organised the first-ever British Grand Prix at Brooklands and the circuit’s popularity continued into the 1930s. Motor racing ceased after the Second World War and it wasn’t until 1991 that the current museum was opened. The museum now displays a wide range of Brooklands-related motoring and aviation exhibits ranging from giant racing cars, motorcycles and bicycles to a Wellington Bomber and a Concorde.
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Virginia Water Lake
Virginia Water Lake lies on the southern edge of Windsor Great Park in the Surrey borough of Runnymede. Originally created as a royal pleasure ground, the woodland shores of this impressive lake are now a popular walking and leisure spot. The nearby Savill Garden was created in the 1930s and features 35 acres of interconnected gardens with stunning floral displays. On the northern shore of the lake, The Valley Gardens are home to 250 acres of undulating valleys, planted with exotic azaleas, magnolias and other blooms from all over the world. Also on the Surrey side of the park are the Leptis Magna ruins – a collection of Roman columns that were taken from their original site in Libya and reconstructed near the lake.
Watts Gallery - Artists’ Village is a unique Arts & Crafts gem that is nestled in the Surrey Hills. The gallery was first opened in 1904 to display the works of the Victorian artist G F Watts. By 2004 conditions at Watts Gallery had deteriorated so severely that it was deemed at risk. But, following an extensive restoration and extension, Watts Gallery re-opened in 2011, with two new temporary exhibition spaces as well as an outer workshop equipped with a kiln as a learning space. The gallery is also home to a spectacular red brick chapel (pictured), extensive woodland grounds and G F and Mary Watts’ former home, Limnerslease.
The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking was the first purpose-built mosque in both the UK and Northern Europe. Built 130 years ago in 1889 by King’s College Professor Dr Gottleib Wilhelm Leitner, the mosque is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. The building was designed by architect William Isaac Chambers, who incorporated elements of Middle Eastern architecture. It was partly funded by and named after Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, the female ruler of Bhopal in central India. The mosque was used as a place of worship by Muslim members of Queen Victoria’s household, including Abdul Karim, the subject of the 2017 film, Victoria & Abdul.
The River Wey
The River Wey was one of the first British rivers to be made navigable, opening to barge traffic in 1653. This 15-mile waterway linked Guildford to Weybridge on the Thames, and then to London. The Godalming Navigation opened in 1764 and enabled barges to work a further four miles upriver. Today there are some great trails on the River Wey – mostly along different areas of the towpath, but also some across the countryside that allow far-reaching views of the North Downs. Plus, boat trips regularly depart from Dapdune Wharf and follow the river along to Guildford, with volunteer skippers revealing the history of the area.