Links to Places in Surrey associated with Jane Austen

Great Bookham

SURREY has to the north Middlesex and a point of Buckinghamshire, from both which it is separated by the Thames; to the west Berkshire and Hampshire; to the south Sussex; and to the east Kent. Its shape is a pretty regular oblong, except the northern side, which is deeply indented by the windings of the Thames. Its greatest distance from east to west is thirty-seven miles, from north to south twenty-five. The area in square miles is reckoned at 811. It contains thirteen hundreds, exclusive of the Borough, and the town of Guildford.

Surrey has been compared to a piece of coarse cloth with a fine border, its circumference being in general fertile, but its middle parts barren. This, indeed, is not an accurate comparison, since there is much diversity of soil intermingled in different parts. On the banks of the Thames there is a range of beautiful meadows, interspersed with numerous villas and pleasure-grounds. Across the middle of the county, from east to west, runs a ridge of irregular hills, abounding in chalk, intermixed with wide open downs and sandy heaths. The Banstead downs in the eastern part of this tract are noted for feeding the sweetest mutton. Dyer, describing the situations most favourable for the sheep, says,

Such are the downs of Banstead, edged with woods,

And towering villas.

The greater part of the western border is also nearly steril, extending from Bagshot heath to the opposite corner, with the exception of Farnham. Immediately beneath the hills to the south and east lies Holmsdale, a rough and woody tract, extending into Kent. It is said to take its name from the holm oak, with which it abounds. The southern skirt of the county is well watered, and finely varied with wood, arable, and pasture. On the whole, though there are several pleasing spots in the county, the proportion of its waste land is considerable, amounting to about one-sixth; and there are besides many open commons, capable of much improvement.

A frequent production in Surrey is Fullers earth, of which large quantities are found about Reigate, Nutfield, Blechingly, and other parts. Of this earth two kinds are used, the blue and the yellow. The latter is chiefly employed in fulling the finer cloths of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire; the former is sent into Yorkshire for the coarser manufactures. In the neighbourhood of Godstone, Gatton, Merstham, and other parts of the county, are extensive quarries of stone of a peculiar quality, which being at first soft, and incapable of resisting a moist atmosphere, when kept under cover some months becomes so compact, that it can withstand the heat of a common fire, and is therefore in great demand in London for fire places.

Large quarries of limestone are under working at Dorking, their strength and purity being equal to any in the kingdom. It is particularly serviceable for works under water, and has been employed for the construction of the West-India and Wapping docks.

Of the rivers in this county, the Wey may first be mentioned, which rising to the south of Haselmere, makes an incursion into Hampshire, and after returning, pursues its way to Godalming and Guildford, and then flows direct to Weybridge, to which place it gives name, and where it falls into the Thames. It receives several streams in its passage through that part of the county. The Wey is rendered navigable from the Thames quite to Godalming.

The Mole, formed by the union of several springs in the southern border of this county and in Sussex, proceeds towards its center, which it passes near Dorking. Between that town and Mickleham, in dry seasons, it sinks, or seems to sink into the earth, from which it has derived the name of the Mole. It rises again at a short distance, and passing Leatherhead and Cobham, it reaches the Thames at Molesey. This circumstance is commemorated by Pope, who calls the stream

The sullen Mole that hides his diving flood.


The Wandle, a small stream, which rises near Croydon, and enters the Thames at Wandsworth, is remarkable for the great works for calico-printing and other purposes which are established on its banks. Canal navigation has in part been extended to this county. In 1796 the Basingstoke canal was brought to a completion by finishing, within Surrey, the space of fifteen miles from Bradbrook to the Wey.

The Surrey canal, which communicates with the Thames by means of a dock at Rotherhithe, sends oft a line which runs nearly in a south direction to the west of Deptford, and then crosses the Kent, Camberwell, and Clapham roads, and again enters the Thames at Vauxhall creek. The whole of this range is eight miles on one level, without a lock.

The Croydon canal is carried from that place through the north-west corner of the county of Kent, and enters the Surrey canal in the parish of Deptford.