A Little History About Capel

Want To Find Out More

Click The Button To Read The Full Version On British History Online

The parish of Capel is bounded on the north by Dorking, of which it was formerly a part, on the east by Leigh and Newdigate, on the south by the county of Sussex, on the west by Wotton and Ockley. A part of Capel lying across the north of Ockley separates that parish from Dorking. The body of Capel parish is 4 miles from north to south and 1½ miles east to west, but this projecting tongue makes the breadth at the north end 3 miles. It contains 5,680 acres of land and 15 of water. The soil of the greater part is Wealden Clay, but the north-west part abuts upon the high Green Sands of Leith Hill and Coldharbour Common, rising to 900ft. above the sea. In this part of the parish there was a landslip in the reign of Elizabeth, recorded by Camden and Aubrey, when the sand slipped upon the underlying clay and made a precipitous scar in the side of the hill, even now visible for many miles from the southward. The place was called Constable’s Mosses; Constable resided at a farm still called Mosses. The road running under or across this landslip from Coldharbour to Leith Hill—since 1896 a public road, before that date private (though a public footpath existed and a public bridle-track crossed it)— is called Cockshott’s Road, from a farm at the end of it; and may fairly claim to be among the most picturesque roads in the south of England. The road slipped again badly about 1866. Capel parish is traversed by the main road from Dorking to Horsham, made in 1755, and the northern part by the old road from London to Arundel through Coldharbour, diverted since 1896 in its course from Coldharbour Common towards Ockley as a part of the transactions for opening Cockshott’s Road. The London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway line to Portsmouth passes through the parish, in which lies Holmwood Station, opened in 1867. The parish is agricultural except for small brick and tile works. There are open commons at Beare Green, Misbrook’s Green, Clark’s Green, and Coldharbour Common or Mosses’ Hill, so called from the farm mentioned above. Many small pieces of waste were brought into cultivation early in the 19th century.

There is one conspicuous work of antiquity in the parish now. On the hill called Anstiebury, formerly Hanstiebury, above Coldharbour, 800 ft. above the sea—taken from Dorking and added to Capel by the Local Government Act of 1894—is a fine prehistoric fortification. A nearly circular top of a hill has been surrounded by banks and ditches, triple upon the most exposed sides, but probably never more than single and now completely obliterated for a short space on the south, where the slope is nearly perpendicular, and where some old digging for sandstone seems to have gone on. The space inside the inner bank is about 11 acres, the shape an ellipse, roughly speaking. The hill is thickly planted. Mr. Walters, of Bury Hill, Dorking, owned it and began the planting which makes the shape of the works harder to see, in summer time especially. There is a damp spot inside where a water supply might have been found, and a good water supply in a shallow well in a cottage garden close outside it. The entrance to the north-east, where a grass road comes through the banks, is not the original entrance, but was made when part of the interior was cultivated, after Mr. Walters’ time, for access by carts. The entrance was more probably on the north side, nearly opposite the gate which leads into the wood from Anstie Lane. A path here crosses the banks diagonally, flanked in its course by the innermost bank, here higher than elsewhere. Flint arrow-heads are said to have been found in or near the works, and also coins near it, but exact records are lacking.

The work is the largest of its kind in Surrey, next to the inclosure on St. George’s Hill.

Anstie Farm, north-east of the hill on the high ground, still held of the manor of Milton, is no doubt Hanstega, held of that manor in 1086, but it is in Dorking parish, not Capel. The land reached down to the Roman road eastward, and to the old road from Dorking westward. Either might be the ‘highway’ which probably named the place.

The Stone Street enters Capel close by Buckinghill Farm and leaves it close to Anstie Grange Farm. It has been traced for the entire length in the parish, and excavated by the writer. Two or three feet of the centre of the causeway were found intact in the ground, made of flints set in cement, as hard as a wall. It is unused now throughout, except for a very few yards near Beare, where it coincides with a private road. In the field opposite Beare its course is very visible. It goes up the hill in the copse called Round Woods in a slight cutting; it leaves the new house called Minnick Fold on the right and Minnick Wood Farm on the left. It was excavated in Perry Field, the field beyond, which was not cultivated until after 1824.

Capel was the old Waldeburgh or Waleburgh borough of Dorking; the borough or tithing in the Weald. It was a chapelry of Dorking till late 13th or early 14th century.

The (National) school was built in 1826 and enlarged in 1872.

There is a Wesleyan chapel, and a Friends’ meeting house.

The Society of Friends was early established, and is still well represented in Capel. The Bax family, who lived at Pleystowe and Kitlands at opposite ends of the parish, were among Fox’s earliest converts, and are often mentioned in his Journal. The Steeres and Constables were other families of Friends. At Pleystowe a meeting was held which was as old as any in the county; a burying-ground was made on Richard Bax’s ground there in 1672. The meeting house in Capel was built in 1725.

There are a number of important old houses in and around the parish. One of these is still called Temple Elfande, or Elfold. The name belonged to a manor of the Templars transferred to the Hospitallers which had no preceptory attached.  The name Tournament Field, and other such names occurring in the 18th-century leases, are most likely an invention of the Cowpers in the 17th century. For tournaments, always forbidden by law, would not have been habitually held at a small preceptory, had there been one here, of which there is no evidence. The present house is in substance of mid-16th-century date, and was built by Sir Richard Cowper. It is built of narrow red bricks and half-timber work, chiefly covered with tile-hanging, and with stone slabs on the roofs, and was evidently much larger at one time, as, besides an entire wing, now long since pulled down, foundations of out-buildings and of garden and courtyard walls are met with in digging. A curious feature outside is a cross-shaped loophole over the front entrance. Some excellent and rare encaustic tiles, 55/8 in. square, have been dug up lately on the site, the patterns of which help to give the date of the house as not long after 1541. The character of the older chalk fireplaces inside confirms this date. There are also the usual farm-house fireplace, with a great beam over the opening, of great width and depth, several large carved oak brackets supporting the beam-ends of the upper stories, the pilasters of a stone doorway, and many original doors of good design, besides panelling of several dates. The loftiness of some of the rooms on the first floor is noteworthy, as are the coved or cradled plaster ceilings of the upper passages. It had for long sunk to the position of a mere farm-house before passing into the hands of the present tenant, Captain Harrison, R.N.

Aldhurst Farm, rather nearer to the village, is another ancient house, although of less consideration. It has evidently been extended and partially rebuilt more than once, but the nucleus is still that of an early 16th-century timber house, with very low ceilings and stone-slab roof. Inside, an old staircase and some good doors are to be seen. In the wooded bottom to the south-west several fine footprints of the iguanodon were found in grubbing up trees some years ago, and are now preserved here.

Taylor’s is a picturesque house still retaining as a nucleus the timber open-roofed hall of mid-14th-century date, and also an oak screen of roughly gouged-out timbers and moulded beams of the same exceptionally early date. There are good panelled rooms of later date, and the 15th, 16th, and 17th-century additions all present interesting features. Externally most of the timber construction is masked by modern tile hanging.

Greenes is another ancient house, once much larger, and still showing a timber hall about 18 ft. wide internally, divided up at a later date into floors, but still boasting some fine massive oak trusses and story-posts, with moulded arched braces and king-posts over. A smaller hall, about 15 ft. wide, detached from the other, and now used as a stable, appears to be but a fragment of a range of timber buildings. It also has a series of huge roof-trusses of king-post construction and arched braces of four-centred shape. These two halls appear to be of late 14th-century and early 15th-century date respectively.

Osbrooks, formerly Holbrooks and Upbrooks, after passing through the farm-house stage, has of late years been carefully restored, and now presents a most interesting example of the country gentleman’s house of the end of the 16th or an early part of the 17th century. It is mostly of timber framing, filled in with herring-bone brickwork. Its tiled roofs and good groups of chimneys, the many gables with their barge-boards, the mullioned windows, and the porch with open balustrades to the sides, combine to produce, with the wooded glen and winding stream in the rear, a most picturesque whole.

Bonet’s or Bonnet’s Farm is another ancient house of quite exceptional beauty and interest, although shorn of its ancient proportions. The present front has been modernized, but in the rear are two fine gables, projecting with brackets over the ground and first floors. These show timber framing, with an oriel window, stone-slab roofs, leaded glazing, and two exceptionally good brick chimneys.

Other old farm-houses and cottages in the parish, such as Pleystowe and Ridge, are well worthy of examination for the features of antiquity to be found in them; and in Capel village a picturesque piece of half-timber work, with a good chimney and roof, may be noted among others. There are now two old inns—the Crown Inn, originally a farm-house, adjoining the churchyard on the south, and the ‘King’s Head.’ The former has half-timber gables, with pendants at the apex of the barge-boards, on one of which is carved ‘W S. 1687.’

Broomells is now a new house. The name, as Brome, occurs in a charter of the 13th century. It is not to be confounded with Broome Hall, the seat of Sir A. Hargreaves Brown, bart. The latter large house, in a commanding situation under Leith Hill, was mainly built by Mr. Andrew Spottiswoode, the king’s printer, circa 1830. It was afterwards the seat of Mr. Labouchere, and then of Mr. Pennington, M.P. for Stockport. Sir A. Hargreaves Brown made extensive additions to it. It used to be called Lower House, but it is mentioned by Aubrey as Broomhall.

Kitlands, the property of Mr. A. R. Heath, is on the site of a farm which is mentioned in the Court Rolls in 1437. The house was reconstructed by degrees by Mr. Serjeant Heath, who bought it in 1824, and by Mr. D. D. Heath, his son, uncle to the present owner. But part of the interior is the old timber building of circa 1500. The place was held by the Bax family from 1622 to 1824, a very unusually long tenure of the same farm by a yeoman family, notwithstanding many vague statements of other immemorial holdings.

Arnolds, formerly called Arnold’s Beare, was rebuilt by Mr. Bayley in 1885. Mrs. Bayley, his widow, has recently sold it. The Arnolds were also landholders in Betchworth. Beare, now called Bearehurst, the seat of Mr. Longman, and Beare Green, near Holmwood Station, show that the name Beare, which occurs in the Court Rolls of the 14th century, was widely spread. A Walter de la Bere had land in Ewekene (Capel) in 1263.

Lyne House, the seat of Mr. Evelyn Broadwood, is a property bought by Mr. James Tschudi Broadwood circa 1792.

On the border, within a few yards of Sussex, is Shiremark Mill, built in 1774 out of the materials of the old Manor Mill at Mill House on Clark’s Farm.

Coldharbour is an ecclesiastical district formed in 1850. The church and the principal cluster of cottages stand in Capel parish. The body of the village is still called The Harbour, but Crocker’s Farm and the cottages opposite used to be called Little Anstie, as opposed to Anstie Farm (vide supra).

The church is higher above the sea than any other in Surrey—over 800 ft.—and the sea is visible from the churchyard, through Shoreham Gap. The old road from London to Arundel ran through Coldharbour. The original line below the church was in the ravine at the lower side of the common, quite impassable for wheels. In the old title deeds it is referred to as the King’s High Way. The village is as picturesque as any in England. On a stone in a cottage wall, in Rowmount, are the initials ‘J. C. (John Constable) 1562.’ The stone has been placed in a later wall. Constable’s Farm was the house on the road a few yards higher up the hill, which may very well date from before that time.

The endowed school was founded by Mr. Robert Barclay of Bury Hill before 1819, with £50 a year from Government stock. It was further supported by subscriptions, and enlarged in 1846, 1851, 1860, and 1888. It was a free school from the beginning, but the endowment used to provide not only pay for the teacher, but a gown and bonnet for the girls, and smock-frock and boots for the boys annually. The infant school was built by Mr. John Labouchere in 1851. It was endowed by his family after his death in 1862. It is now brought under one management with the endowed school.


Text Taken From British History Online – http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42945