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Village History

Leigh, lying on the weald below the limestone North Downs, has had various spellings throughout history: Leye, Ladeghe (12th Century), Legh, Leygh (14th Century), Ley (16th Century). Leigh is not mentioned in Doomsday Book, its name describing a clearing in the woods.

It was part of the Earls of Warren estates, but in the time of Richard I it was given to the Prior and Convent of St Mary Southwark. After the dissolution of the religious houses in 1539 Henry VIII granted the manor of Shellwood to Sir Thomas Nevil for the payment of service: one knight’s fee.

There are many indications of much iron smelting around Leigh in names such as Pitfield, Blackhole Furnace Field and Ironsbottom. In 1845 a school was built, providing education for 40 girls and 40 boys at a fee of 2d per week, and in 1914 it moved to its present site with space for 150 pupils.

Although Leigh boasted three shops, only two operated at any one time. The general store, incorporating a bakery, was sited opposite the Seven Stars, and the post office which included a small store, was near the village green at Orchard Cottage. More recently, the post office and general store with petrol and a garage were at the Smithy, but this closed a few years ago. Regular displays of village history can be found in the History Box, the converted phone box on the Village Green.

Leigh’s history features in a web site of the Surrey History Centre:

Click to view Website

‘A History of Leigh’ published in August 2021.


In 97 colour illustrated pages this paperback book tells the story of Leigh from the bronze age to the present day and gives a sense of the ways in which life in this area has changed over time.

A History of Leigh is written by Harriet Hall using information gathered as part of her MA in local history and collected by a number of local residents. Harriet lived in Leigh for twelve years, sitting on Leigh Parish Council for seven of them. She now lives near family in South Wales.
To order a copy for £8 please email your details to

Some views from the past

Historic prints of Leigh can be purchased from local historian Keith Harding’s website, Goodness Gracious, as well as from Francis Frith

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