Leatherhead is a small town in the County of Surrey, England, on the River Mole. It is thought to be of Saxon origin.

Located in the centre of the county of Surrey and at a junction of ancient north–south and east–west communications, the town has been a focus for transport throughout its history. Initially there was the construction of the bridge over the River Mole in the early medieval period. Later the Swan Hotel provided 300 years of service to horse driven coaches. More recently the M25 motorway was built nearby.



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

The origins of the town of Leatherhead appear to be Anglo-Saxon. Ashtead lay within the Copthorne hundred, an administrative division devised by the Saxons. The Leatherhead Museum has traced the history of the town from its beginnings in about AD 880 when it was known as Leodridan (dative case, meaning "place where people [can] ride [across the river]" if treated as Anglo-Saxon). Later in the Domesday Book it was called Leddrede. The early town population 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.

Some say that the Anglo-Saxon form was distorted from a Celtic form whose Welsh equivalent is Llwyd-rhyd = "grey ford").

Work on the parish church was started some time in the 1000s. 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. 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 12s, 4 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth 3 hogs. It rendered £3 10s 0d.

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 spent a night at the inn due to floods making 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 the Mansion House. A Wetherspoons pub in the 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 1666.

1800 onwards

Leatherhead saw much expansion, with two major railways linked to it. (See below)

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, in Victorian times, to be the correct form of Leatherhead.

Cherkley Court on the Beaverbrook grounds was home of Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook. During World War II, Winston Churchill, the new British Prime Minister, would appoint him as Minister of Aircraft Production and later Minister of Supply. Under Aitken, fighter and bomber production increased so much so that Churchill declared: "His personal force and genius made this Aitken's finest hour".

Once there were several industries in and around the town, including Ronson's Lighters and Goblin Vacuum Cleaners. Both were used as ammunitions plants in World War II. Most of the plants pulled out of Leatherhead in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Today most employment is in commerce.

In 1940's/50s Leatherhead/Ashtead was made home to a Remploy factory, which are designed to provide work for Disabled people in the local area. On 22nd May 2007, Remploy announced that the Leatherhead factory along with 42 other sites would close.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, 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 up to 1974. It is now part of Mole Valley District Council area. Dorking is the administrative centre of Mole Valley District Council.

On the Mole Valley Coat of Arms, the two cocks are for Dorking and the swan for Leatherhead. 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 town

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 and South Leatherhead

The fortunes of the town centre have risen and fallen over recent decades. Up to the 1970s, it was a bustling place with many busy shops. But with risks from increased traffic close to narrow pavements, the whole of the central area was pedestrianised, leading to a disastrous decline in pedestrian throughput and many shop closures. The construction of the Swan Centre, including a large supermarket, brought some reprieve but the years since have seen fluctuating fortunes. Notoriously, in around 2002, the high street was voted one of the worst in the United Kingdom in a BBC poll, largely due to the expensive and ugly trench like walls installed, which reinforces the view that the town centre is like a fortress.

Local business parks now bring lunchtime business, and a number of popular restaurants on the main street have helped to change the face of the town, bringing a more sociable atmosphere to the small town on warm summer evenings. There is also a theatre, once named after Dame Sybil Thorndike, which is also used as a cinema and for art exhibitions. It is now owned by a religious group called the Pioneer People and is simply called "The Theatre".

In the late 1990s the town centre's only hotel, the Bull Hotel, closed down and was subsequently demolished. A new Lidl store has now been built on the site and was opened in February 2007. In the early 2000s Travelodge opened a new hotel on the site of the old Swan hotel.

There is a local football team Leatherhead FC ('The Tanners') who play at Fetcham Park Grove. The town is home to a small steam train enthusiast group based next to the Mill Pond, a popular local walking spot and water source near the Leatherhead Leisure Centre. The Leisure Centre was built in the 1960s, and was extended in the 1980s with the Mole Barn. As of 2006 plans had been drawn up by Mole Valley District Council to build a new modern centre on the site, though it now seems the option of refitting and extending the old centre will happen instead.

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

Leatherhead's Royal School for the Blind (now SeeAbility) was once the work-place for Paul Heaton, but he left the school. It was said he was dismissed after encouraging residents to try cycling. Most of the school has now been sold off as private flats.

North Leatherhead or Leatherhead Common

North Leatherhead or Leatherhead Common is the area north of the Kingston Road bridge. It is known for having Therfield Secondary School, and part of The Trinity School, as well as the bulk of the town's Council Housing.

It is home to one local pub, * style="font-weight : bold;">The Royal Oak, on the Kingston Road, which hosts regular live music sessions on Saturday evenings.

This year (2008), the * style="font-weight : bold;">The Royal Oak is raising money for the charity * style="font-weight : bold;">Help for Heroes,Regular fund raising events and a beer 'n bikes festival to be held Sept 5th,6th,7th have been much appreciated by this charity

It is bordered to the north by Leatherhead Golf Course, Ashtead Common, and M25 motorway and to the south by the British Rail system.

There is a social club, the North Leatherhead Community Association or NLCA, based in the old All Saints School, next to the Kingston Road Playing Grounds.

There are two large stores in the area, B&Q for hardware and a Tesco's supermarket.

Local area

The villages of Fetcham, Ashtead, Headley and Mickleham are often considered part of Leatherhead, especially as a postal area. The borders with Ashtead and Fetcham blend into Leatherhead. Also close by are Headley Heath, Oxshott Woods, Box Hill and Bookham Common.

In the village of Headley, there is an RAF Hospital, RAF Headley Court. There is no airport here but its playing fields can be used by helicopters.

International business based in Leatherhead

  • Leatherhead is home to Leatherhead Food International (LFI) (formerly Leatherhead Food Research Association).
  • Logica has had several offices on different sites in the town and is now on the Springfield Drive site.
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation's UK downstream headquarters are in Ashtead/Leatherhead
  • Lister Cars makers of Lister Storm, Le Mans race cars, are based in Leatherhead, and Dorking.
  • The Tussauds Group, World HQ is in Chessington, but also has minor offices in Leatherhead.
  • P1 International, founded in 2000 by ex Formula One World Champion Damon Hill, his business partner Michael Breen and friend Nick Hancock.
  • Eqos, a provider of on-demand global sourcing and supplier management software solutions for retail supply chains.
  • ERA Technology Ltd, Engineering Consultancy Organisation which has been in Leatherhead since 1920s.
  • UnileverUK Ltd will move to Leatherhead on 10 November 2008. The purpose built office named Unilever House in Springfield Drive will be Unilever's UK Headquarters. This will house most of world famous consumer brands like, Colman's, Knorr, Marmite, Hellmann's, Dove, Lynx, Sure, Flora, Walls, CIF, Domestos and many more.
  • Granherne (KBR Group) is based in Leatherhead
  • Ashtead Group was based in the town from 1947 till 2007.

Local leisure and entertainment

Leatherhead has a large range of leisure facilities including:

Christian Churches

Clubs and activities


Social clubs

  • Constitutional Club (Former Conservative Club)
  • Leatherhead and District Social Club, C&IU Affiliate.
  • Leatherhead Royal British Legion Club, C&IU Affiliate.
  • NLCA or North Leatherhead Community Association



State education

Private education



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 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, and Wimbledon where it connects with the London Underground and Tramlink, and south to Dorking, Horsham, Guildford, and the south coast.

At one point it was planned to link Leatherhead with Chessington South Railway Station. But this was put on hold due to a protection order on Ashtead Common. In 2005 plans were put in place for a tunnel.


  • The main London to Worthing road, the A24, also runs though the town, and makes up part of its large bypass.
  • The M25 motorway lies to the north of the town, with Leatherhead being accessible and known as Junction 9.


'Mint Taxis & Minibuses of Leatherhead' provide Taxis for the local area: 01372 806741

A Taxi Rank is located at the train station and can be found at the entrance to platform 2.


Leatherhead is situated between [[London]'s two major airports, 30–40 minutes' drive from each, via the M25 motorway.

Emergency services

Leatherhead is served by these emergency services:

Famous residents

Town's claims to fame

  • The High Street was once voted amongst the worst in the United Kingdom, on a BBC TV show.
  • Leatherhead is mentioned in the original H. G. Wells book The War of the Worlds. Day Ten (roughly) is when Leatherhead (where the narrator sent his wife for safety) is destroyed by a Martian attack, killing everyone. Fortunately, his wife makes it out before the attack and they are reunited after the Martians' destruction. Chapter 10, "In the Storm", begins with the words "Leatherhead is about twelve miles (19 km) from Maybury Hill."
  • Edmund Tilney, 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. In the movie, Shakespeare in Love, he is portrayed by the actor Simon Callow. (A local Wetherspoons Pub is now named after him).
  • John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached his last sermon in Leatherhead on 23rd February 1791.
  • Surrey Sound Recording Studios. Many bands recorded here, including Rick Astley, The Police, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Alternative TV and Bros.
  • In the 1974-75 season Leatherhead F.C., or The Tanners, were drawn against Leicester City F.C. at home in the FA Cup Fourth Round Proper, but the game was switched to Filbert Street. The BBC's Match of the Day cameras and over 32,000 people saw a dramatic match, in which the Tanners went two goals up, and then saw a goalbound shot that would have made it 3-0 cleared off the line. Leicester City's fitness and class eventually told as the top-flight team fought back to win 3–2 in the second half. Leicester City went on to play Arsenal F.C. in the next round.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (TV series), the house that was used for Arthur Dent's residence is in Leatherhead.
  • The new HQ of Police Federation of England and Wales is based in Leatherhead.
  • In 1980 The Head, a local punk band, released the infamous single "Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead". This is now highly sought after and is a collectors item. The single is valued at over £60 by 'The Rare Record Price Guide 2008' (Diamond Publishing Group Rev Ed 4 Oct 2006). Band members are Greg Wilson, Kevin Abbott, Terry Bennett and Colin Wales.
  • The film I Want Candy (released 23 March 2007) has the tagline "Two lads from Leatherhead are making a movie...and it's all gone pear-shaped".
  • Leatherhead was the home for the Central Electricity Research Laboratory (CERL), the main research lab for the CEGB; the other principal facilities were at Marchwood and Berkeley.
  • Home to P1 International, founded in 2000 by ex Formula One World Champion Damon Hill.


External links

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