In 1849 a railway line between Reading, Guildford and Redhill (then named Reigate Junction) was built to enable passengers and goods from the Channel ports to connect with existing lines to the Midlands and the West. It ran through Dorking.
Image: Courtesy of Mary Day
A small station (now Dorking West) was built near the town’s chalk pits. Two years later Box Hill station (now Dorking Deepdene) opened on the London turnpike road to allow coach travellers to connect in to rail services from coaches travelling the main turnpike road.
Image : Dorking Museum
Though it did not offer a direct route to London the line had an adverse effect on Dorking’s road transport businesses as goods could now be carried up to London by rail rather than by horse and wagon. Building materials and coal came in, and bricks and lime went out, by rail.
The image shows the South Eastern Railway Hotel next to Dorking’s first station – now the Pilgrim Inn. Image : Dorking Museum.
In 1867 Dorking got a direct route to London – and a third station, Dorking North (now Dorking). The Leatherhead to Horsham line passed east of the town via a tunnel rather than directly south to avoid the gradients towards Leith Hill.
The railways brought a great influx of new residents into the town. Businesses in London were now within easy reach. The surrounding hills were colonised by those who could afford rail fares and horse taxi rides from the stations at Gomshall, Betchworth and Holmwood. On their slopes woodlands were shaped and exotic trees planted around the grand residences of ‘gentlemen’. In town speculative builders put up villas for professionals, civil servants and military men, and businesses grew to supply them with goods and services.
The London to Brighton and South Coast Railway – which operated the Leatherhead to Horsham line – named locomotives after villages and beauty spots on its routes: Deepdene, Denbies, Dorking, Holmwood and Box Hill.
Image: Dorking Museum