Dorking appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as the Manor of Dorchinges. It was held by William the Conqueror. Its domesday assets were: 1 church, 3 mills worth 15s 4d, 16 ploughs, of meadow, woodland and herbage worth 88 hogs. It rendered £18..
Subsequent Lords of the Manor were to include the Dukes of Norfolk, who lived in Dorking until they moved to Arundel. One of them is buried in Dorking churchyard. In the Medieval period, Dorking was a prosperous agricultural and market town, benefitting from its position on the junction of a number of important roads and tracks.
In 1750, the construction of a Turnpike Road made Dorking a staging post on the route to Brighton and the coast. The Bull’s Head in South Street had a famous coachman, William Broad, whose portrait hangs in Dorking Museum in West Street. The inn which now dominates the centre of Dorking, the White Horse, was developed in the 18th century; previous buildings on this site having belonged to the Knights Templar and later the Knights of St John.
Dorking held a big wheat and cattle market in the High Street. The poultry market was held in the corner of South Street and round Butter Hill. Here the famous Dorking fowl were sold. This breed which has 5 claws instead of the normal four, was a favourite for 19th century tables, including Queen Victoria's.
Dorking lost its stage coaches when the railways arrived, but now attracted wealthy residents who built large houses in and around Dorking, such as Denbies House and Pippbrook House (now the library, with Council Offices in the grounds). Surrounding land and beauty spots such as Cotmandene and Box Hill were donated by landowners for public use and this, together with later planning controls, has enabled Dorking to remain one of the most pleasant towns within convenient reach of London, having escaped much of the modern development witnessed by its neighbours. [Overell, B. 2005, Dorking Local History Group].
A game resembling rugby was once played here. The two sides were unlimited in number, representing the east and west of the town. The goals were the 2 bridges on the Pipp Brooke. The Town crier kicked off the ball at 2 o' clock and stopped play at 6 o'clock. The game was started at the Church gates and was "rioted" up and down the High Street. It was ceased in 1897 after complaints by tradesmen and it was officially stopped under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835.
Further north is Norbury Park which contains the Druids Grove — a forest of ancient yew trees, some of which are more than 1000 years old.
To the south west of the town is Leith Hill — also owned by the National Trust, the highest point in the south of England, reaching at the tower on top of the hill. Along with the adjacent hills of Holmbury Hill and Pitch Hill, as well as the nearby escarpment of the North Downs from Box Hill to Newlands Corner, the area is known as 'The Surrey Hills'.
A new species of fish-eating dinosaur — Baryonyx walkeri was discovered in clay pits just south of Dorking. The creature had a long curved claw on each hand and remains of its last meal were discovered fossilised in its ribcage. The skeleton can be seen at the Natural History Museum in London. One disused clay pit (Inholms lane) is now open to the public as a nature reserve.
The town's three main trading streets of High Street, West Street and South Street are complemented by a small open-air shopping centre, St Martin's Walk which is adjacent to the town's main car park and easily accessed from the High Street.
In the late 1990s Dorking Halls was given a huge refit, to make it a cinema and theatre complex. In 2003 a new modern leisure centre and swimming pool were added to the Dorking Halls Complex.
There is now a big statue of the Dorking cockerel located on the Deepdene roundabout.
People who have lived in the town in the past include: Daniel Defoe who attended Rev. James Fisher's boarding school in Pixham Lane, and Defoe later mentioned Dorking in his tour through the whole Island of Great Britain. Henry Hope and his nephew Thomas Hope spent summers at Deepdene in the beginning of the 19th century. Benjamin Disraeli wrote his novel Coningsby also while staying in Deepdene House (demolished in 1967) on the outskirts of the town. Emma Holland was brought up in the town.
Dorking and its environs, including Box Hill and the Deepdene Hotel, feature heavily in British author Robert Goddard's fictional thriller Closed Circle (1993). In this novel there are also several allusions to the notorious money-for-titles trader Maundy Gregory, the owner of the Deepdene Hotel in the inter-war years.
The Cubitt family had links with the town also. Thomas Cubitt was born and lived in the town, and later built up large areas of London from the early 19th century. His politician son George also had connections with the town.
Marian Hemar, famous Polish poet is buried at the local cemetery.
"The Battle of Dorking" a fictional short-story written by Lt. Col. Sir George Tomkyns Chesney in 1871 was set in the town. Describing a fictional invasion and conquest of Britain, it triggered an explosion of what came to be known as invasion literature.
The jazz club at the Friends Provident social club on Pixham Lane has hosted many famous musicians' performances and is open every Thursday evening (http://www.watermilljazz.co.uk).
The Lincoln Arms hotel hosts gigs by local bands every Friday night, and DJ nights on Saturdays, (this ceased at the end of 2007, due to changes in the venue management, but has since re-started)which continue to be popular. The events are run by various local groups: the Dorktownpunks; a voluntary group aiming to make sure all the local bands and teens have a place to enjoy and play live music; Native Beats Sound System, a local not-for profit long-standing party crew from the local area; Fort Apache; a group of musicians loosely based around successful local band Stagecoach.
Local Bands of note:
QC / Quitting Cynicism: Psychedelic Rock-monkeys full of exuberant guitar and comedic song lyrics.
Stagecoach: Bluegrass/Americana-style indie rock with an anecdotal representation of Life in Dorking. Have been played by radio one and on popular youth t.v. show "Skins" on Channel 4
Radio Waves Goodbye: Cutting edge electronica created with a bewildering array of keyboards and circuit-bent computers circa 1988.
Secondary education is largely provided for by:
On 15 June 2004, Dorking was granted Fairtrade Town status.
The Dorking Halls is a cinema, theatre, leisure centre and swimming pool complex. Each year in April, the town plays host to the Leith Hill Music Festival for choirs. This was founded by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. There is also an "Arts Alive" Festival which takes place annually during the last two weeks of October.
Dorking also has a museum, a library, about thirty pubs and a CIU affiliated club. It is noted for its antique and art shops on West Street.
The town has an active collection of sports clubs; the most recent of which to attract national attention was the Dorking rugby football club winners of the Powergen Vase 2005/2006. The Dorking and Mole Valley Athletics Club is based at Pixham Sports Ground. They host the annual Dorking ten road race starting from Brockham Green. The Mole Valley Bowmen are located in the grounds of St Martin's primary school.
Near to Dorking lies the Leith Hill area, along with the adjacent hills of Holmbury Hill and Pitch Hill, as well as the nearby escarpment of the North Downs from Box Hill to Newlands Corner. This place is notable in southern England for mountain biking. As a whole this area is known as 'The Surrey Hills'. Also adjacent to Dorking is Denbies Vineyard. The Dorking Group of Artists exhibit locally twice a year, in Betchworth and at Denbies. They celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2007.
Underneath the town lie the Dorking Caves which are open occasionally to the public.