People who lived in Britain during the Mesolithic were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers and left little behind of their presence. This fact makes the Mesolithic dwelling at Abinger all the more special. The world-famous prehistorians Louis and Mary Leakey excavated the site in 1950, after which the local landowner erected a small museum on the site. Visits to the museum take place on certain open days or by special appointment. [Website]
Bronze Age communities selected certain members for burial under circular earthen barrows, usually positioned at high points in the landscape. At least four probable barrows from this period sit on Frensham Common, three of which are oriented in a straight line. Although they are in poor condition, having suffered from millennia of erosion, they survive in sufficient form to allow archaeologists to assign them to the ‘bowl barrow’ type. Investigation suggests that several other barrows, now barely visible amid the bracken, existed nearby.
One of three prehistoric hillforts located along the greensand ridge between Guildford and Dorking, Holmbury reflects the growing militarisation of British society in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. The site is sub-rectangular in shape and was defended by double ramparts. Many of the fort’s original ditch-and-bank earthworks remain extant, although quarrying in the 19th and early 20th centuries has destroyed parts of the monument. Like many hillforts, Holmbury is best suited for keen walkers.
Although not geared up for tourists, the villa at Ashtead is one of the best-known Romano-British sites in Surrey. The villa lies beneath Ashtead Common in Leatherhead, with archaeologists having excavated the site during the 1920s, 1960s, and 2000s. Roman buildings were present on the site in the first century, but were demolished to make way for the villa during the second. The villa’s life was short, with its inhabitants abandoning it around the start of the third century. Alongside the villa excavations revealed a bathhouse and tile works.
After the Roman Empire engulfed southern Britain, indigenous and imported belief systems syncretised and new stone built temples cropped up across the British landscape. The Farley Heath temple is located on a high position overlooking the North Downs. The temple was known to archaeologists from the 19th century onward and excavated in the 1930s and 1990s, during which a wide array of artefacts were discovered, including priestly regalia. Photo © Shazz/Geograph
Castles dominated the late medieval landscape. The keep at Farnham Castle was built in 1138 by Henri de Blois, the grandson of William the Conqueror. De Blois was the Bishop of Winchester, and it remained in the hands of his successors for at least eight centuries. Although demolished on the order of Henry II, it was later rebuilt in the 12th and 13th centuries; the majority of the building visible today dates from this period. Today, the site stands over the village of Farnham as a majestic ruin. Photo © English Heritage [Website]
The Bishop of Winchester, William Gifford, established Waverley Abbey in 1128. At first it housed 12 Cistercian monks and an abbot from Aumone, France and was the first Cistercian monastery in Britain. Expansion followed in the coming centuries. Following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, in 1536 the king gave the abbey to his treasurer, William Fitzherbert. Much of the building was dismantled and the stone reused in the construction of William More’s house at nearby Loseley. Photo © English Heritage [Website]
A watermill has been present on this site on the River Tillingbourne since at least the 11th century, when it was recorded in the Domesday Book. The present building dates from the mid-18th century. John Mildred was responsible for its creation. Faced with demolition in the 1920s, a group of women calling themselves Ferguson’s Gang rescued and restored the mill. Although the mill’s machinery no longer operates, Shalford Mill gives the visitor an insight into rural British life. Photo © Murgatroyd49/Wikimedia [Website]
The country manor at Hatchlands Park dates from the 1750s, when it was built for Admiral Edward Boscawen. The architect Stiff Leadbetter designed the mansion, while later owners made their own additions in the 19th century. Boscawen also commissioned the landscaping of the surrounding gardens, although again these have undergone further amendments, including by the famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. Owned by the National Trust, the house contains Europe’s largest collection of keyboard instruments as well as rare artworks and furniture. Photo © Gernot Keller/Wikimedia [Website]
Positioned in the woodland of Leith Hill, the Neo-Gothic tower dates from the 1760s. Local landowner Richard Hull commissioned its construction and was himself buried beneath it. Although it soon fell into disrepair, it has since been restored. The tower’s stunning location affords sweeping views of the surrounding landscape, including London to the north and the English Channel to the south. The National Trust manages the tower while the surrounding woodland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Photo © Peter Trimming/Wikimedia [Website]
Many sites and attractions listed on this page are managed by English Heritage or the National Trust. While not all charge an entry fee, some do – certainly those that require greater upkeep and care. Joining either of these two organisations does offer many benefits, but also it supports the work of these two bodies. Read more on membership benefits of joining English Heritage.