We may all think that we know Reigate like the back of our hand but maybe not… here are a few interesting, if not surprising, facts about our beloved town.
On the Rocks
If you were a teenager in the 80’s, Reigate was the not the hub of excitement that it is today. There was no Mishiko’s or Joules but if you were in the know the place to go was On the Rocks, a subt
erranean nightclub in caves beneath the one-way system – where the Reigate Kebab Shop now stands. The entrance was to a small wine bar but it gave no clue to what was going on below. My own, vague, memory is watching a band while drinking Singapore Slings, it was dark and musty but quite an experience! The club later became Batchelors but sadly was shut down in 1994 due to health & safety reasons and it is believed that these particular caves had to be filled due the traffic going up to the M25.
Churchill Loved Reigate
Throughout history, Reigate and the North Downs have played an important part in the defence of Great Britain. Just 20 miles south of London, this stronghold has the strategic advantage of extensive views southwards, stone, chalk and sand quarries, underground tunnels and hidden byways disguised by plenty of tree cover. This was all familiar territory to Winston Churchill, who became Prime Minister soon after the start of World War II. Over several decades he visited the town, including the grand Georgian manor house on Church Street which is now home to Jack Wills and his signature can also be seen in the guest book of Reigate Priory. The Churchills were often weekend party guests at the Priory, then owned by the former Admiral of World War One, Earl Beatty and his wife.
After the war,m Winston left his legacy in the form of his pet blue & gold macaw Charlie, who rumour had it; lived in an aviary off Flanchford Road until the ripe old age of 105!
The Unusual Church on the Heath
The iconic windmill on Reigate Heath is actually a church. Part of At Mary’s Parish the windmill is thought to be the only one in England consecrated as a church. Regular monthly services are held in the Mill Church during the summer months on a Sunday evening, as well as occasional services throughout the year. The church also holds a popular afternoon Christmas Carol Service each December.
Reigate Heath’s Murky Past
Reigate Heath has had an eventful history; 200 years ago it was a wild unfriendly place, covered with gorse and heather. Woe betide the hapless traveller who ventured into the area on their way from Reigate to Dorking. Highwaymen and brigands lay in wait and it is rumoured that the chimney of a local tavern, ‘The Skimmington Castle’, was used as a look-out post by the robbers to spot their victims approach.
But anyone who was caught and convicted as a highwayman was guaranteed to meet their end on the Heath too. A gibbet was erected at a site now called ‘Galley Hill’, which was named after the gallows which once stood there. Local legend has it, a former landlord of the nearby Black Horse pub in West Street, was hung there after being convicted of highway robbery.
Reigate’s very own Natural History Museum
Behind a wall at the beginning of Croydon Road is one of the UK’s oldest natural history societies. Founded in 1857 the Holmesdale Natural History Club holds a fascinating collection of natural history, archaeology, local history and geology collections. Exhibits range from medieval drainpipes and giant fossil ammonites to an extensive collection of Victorian and Edwardian stuffed birds and locally produced Roman tiles – complete with the footprint of a local Roman dog.
For more information including opening times visit www.hnhc.org.uk
Reigate’s 13 Most Famous Residents
Dame Margot Fonteyn – prima donna ballerina, was born in Reigate in 1919
Spike Milligan – writer and comedian, used to live at Woodhatch in Orchard Way
Norman Cook – Superstar DJ raised in Reigate and attended Reigate Grammar School
David Walliams – TV personality, Author attended Reigate Grammar School
Guy and Howard Lawrence, together as a band known under the alias Disclosure, both born and live in Reigate
Newton Faulkner – English singer-songwriter and musician born in the town
George Best – Manchester United and Northern Ireland football player lived his last years near Reigate
Melvyn Hayes – aka Gloria in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum was a resident of Glovers Road
Cliff Mitchlemore – presenter of the BBC Holiday programme,
Jane Slaughter – Tracey the barmaid from Eastenders.
Phil Tuffnell – Cricketer lives near Reigate
Max Chiltern – British racing driver born and lived in Reigate
Ray Mears – English woodsman, author and TV presenter attended Reigate Grammar School