Discover Reigate, a historic market town located in south east Surrey. Nestled at the foot of the North Downs, which provides a magnificent back drop, the town, which retains a village feel, is home to a range of independent shops including antiques, craft, clothing boutiques, furniture and gift ware.
It has also developed a reputation as a gourmet centre with a variety of restaurants (including one owned by a celebrity chef) offering an array different cuisines, pubs and wine bars, cafés and tea rooms to suit all tastes and pockets.
And, tucked behind the High Street, the tranquil Castle Grounds provides a quiet retreat in the centre of town, great for picnic lunch.
The town is also boasts the magnificent Priory Park, which offers 200 acres of open space and woodland, a fantastic children’s playground and modern pavilion café, designed by renowned French architect Dominique Perrault. The park has recently undergone major investment to return it to its 18th and early 19th Century glory and is home to the Grade I listed Reigate Priory, now home to a school.
A brief history of Reigate
Reigate's earliest history can be traced back to the result of the Battle of Hastings. Victorious William the Conqueror awarded the land as part of a generous grant to one of his principal knights, William de Warenne, on whom he also bestowed the title Earl of Surrey in 1088. It is believed that de Warenne's son, William De Warenne II, ordered that Reigate Castle be built, though the de Warennes were largely absentee landlords, with castles dotted around the country, their base being a castle in Lewes, Sussex.
Around 1150 the de Warennes ordered that a town was constructed below the castle. The idea was for it to act as a focal point for trade and commerce, to increase the wealth of the Manor and ultimately of course, the de Warennes. The new town, Reigate, replaced a nearby settlement known as Cherchefelle. It is thought the name came from Roe-deer Gate, as the town was situated near to the entrance to the de Warenne's deer park, which is now Priory Park and Reigate Park.
Fate of the castle - Later the castle fell to ruin and was in a decayed state by the reign of King James. In 1648 it was demolished.
All that remains now is a mound with a dry moat and underground caves which may well have been the dungeons. One local legend has it that prior to King John signing the Magna Carta, the Barons met in conference to hammer out the details of the document in the caves.
The second most significant part of Reigate's history is undoubtedly the Priory. During the 13th century the Reigate Priory was founded for regular Canons of the Order of St Augustine. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1535 the estate was granted by Henry VIII to Lord Howard of Effingham who converted the Priory into a residence. The Howard family, including the Lord High Admiral who commanded the force which defeated the Spanish Armada, lived there for about 140 years. The building is now owned by the Borough Council and used as a school.
A large proportion of the existing town centre has been designated as a conservation area of special historic interest.
Map & Directions
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