Cobham, Surrey

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Template:Distinguish Template:Use dmy dates Template:Infobox UK place

Cobham is a village in the Borough of Elmbridge in Surrey, England, centred Template:Convert south-west of London and Template:Convert northeast of Guildford on the River Mole. It has a commercial/services High Street, a significant number of primary and private schools and the National Trust's Painshill Park.

It is a hub village to other smaller villages and hamlets. Its border has one of the three services of the M25 motorway, that although named after Cobham is on the far side of the breakaway village of Downside, which founded its first church in the late 19th century. Two other localities can be mentioned within its post town: Fairmile which is almost wholly residential and Stoke D'Abernon a semi-rural village which is the home of Chelsea F.C.'s 'Cobham Training Ground' and once contained all of Oxshott.


Cobham is an ancient settlement whose origins can be traced back on the ground through Roman times to the Iron Age. It lay within the Elmbridge hundred.

Cobham appears in Domesday Book as Covenham and was held by Chertsey Abbey. Its domesday assets were: 12½ hides; 3 mills worth 13s 4d, 10 ploughs, Template:Convert of meadow, woodland worth 40 hogs. It rendered altogether £14 per year to its feudal system overlords. Coveham or Covenham is thought to mean a settlement in the curve of a river.

Historically, Cobham comprised two separate communities, Street Cobham and Church Cobham. The former lay on the road to London, and the building now known as the Cobham Exchange was once a coaching inn. The community of Church Cobham grew up around St. Andrew's Church, which dates from the 12th century. Although much altered and extended in the 19th century, the church preserves a Norman tower and is a Grade I listed building (the highest architectural category).<ref name="VCH">Template:Cite web</ref>

The village's population was reported as 1617 inhabitants in 1848. However, the arrival of the railway in the 1880s led to the expansion of the original village, which became increasingly suburbanised during the 20th century. Until the 1960s, the entrance to the High Street from River Hill to the south was very narrow. A number of historic and picturesque buildings were demolished at that time, some of them to enable the road to be widened, some to be replaced by contemporary buildings more suitable for shops. Subsequently the High Street has developed into a busy local shopping centre. Although many small shops such as greengrocers, butchers and haberdashers have disappeared, there remains a wide variety of businesses in the High Street and neighbouring streets.

Aviation and motor industries

Cobham is not far from Brooklands, and there was a certain amount of associated aviation and motoring activity at Cobham during the last century. Leading motor engineer and car designer Reid Railton set up a manufacturing facility and built the well known Railton road cars at the Fairmile Works from 1933-40. An example of the Railton car is displayed locally at Brooklands Museum.

In World War II, after the Vickers-Armstrongs aircraft factory at Brooklands was badly bombed by the Luftwaffe on 4 September 1940, with heavy loss of life and many more injured, the Vickers Experimental Department was quickly dispersed to secret premises on the Silvermere and Foxwarren Park estates along Redhill Road. Engineer and inventor Barnes Wallis also carried out important trials catapulting models of his 'Upkeep' bouncing bomb across Silvermere Lake around 1942 and conducted spinning trials with larger prototypes at 'Depot W46' (the largest of the three dispersed sites). Vickers had numerous other war-time dispersed depots in the local area and those in Cobham included Corbie Wood and Riseholme (in Seven Hills Road), Conway Cottage and Norwood Farm.

Despite its proximity to both Brooklands and Wisley airfields (both active until the early 1970s), Cobham saw relatively few aircraft crashes. Most notable was a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter which flew low over Brooklands apparently in trouble and crashed at Cobham on 16 March 1944; the pilot survived but little else is known of this incident.

During World War II, another well-known aircraft company, Airspeed Ltd, apparently set up an almost forgotten design office at Fairmile Manor and is believed to have designed the Ambassador airliner there before moving back to Portsmouth in the late 1940s.

After the war, Vickers' Experimental Department continued to use two of the Redhill Road sites (now known as 'Foxwarren') and built new aircraft prototypes there such as the Viscount airliner and Valiant V-bomber, until it moved back to the main factory at Brooklands in the late 1950s.

In the seventies Cobham resident Mike Chambers built Huron Formula Fords and a Formula Atlantic car at the Silvermere works on the North side of the A3 and Geoff Uren prepared the BMW team saloon cars and Graham Hill's Jägermeister sponsored Formula 2 car.

From 1972-2011, the Cobham Bus Museum occupied a war-time aircraft hangar (used mainly by Vickers-Armstrongs as a machine shop) next to Silvermere golf course in Redhill Road. The bus museum re-opened as the London bus museum at Brooklands Museum on 1 August 2011 and its former premises were demolished a few weeks earlier to be replaced by a new care home.



Cobham fits into a triangle between the M25 to the south, the A3 to the north and a borderline for the most part on the nearside of the (New) London to Guildford railway line to the east - directly west of Oxshott. On the southern border is the small, contiguous village, Stoke D'Abernon, part of the small post town, which gives its name to the railway station between the two areas on the line mentioned: Cobham and Stoke D'Abernon.

Soil and Elevation


The village and its hamlets or neighbourhoods of Downside and Fairmile are on slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soil, the east banks of the Mole are on free-draining gravel and alluvium and the west bank is heath which underlies the highest land in the east of the village. This land is an easterly outcrop of the Bagshot Sands (Formation).


Watershed points, (in international terms), drainage divides at the summit of the sides of the lower Mole Valley in Cobham reach 60 and 65 metres towards the eastern borders close to Oxshott and in Stoke D'Abernon respectively.

The River Mole runs through Cobham, with a visitor area by the mill in the High Street, however is mostly to the far west of the village. This can flood small, old parts of the village centre in extreme rainfall. Elevation reaches a minimum here of 20m above sea level.<ref name=os>Grid square map Ordnance survey website Retrieved 2013-10-13</ref>


Cobham has two wards; the Cobham Fairmile ward has a population of 4,760 whilst neighbouring Cobham and Downside has a population of 6,158.

Local area

Template:Geographic location On the outskirts of Cobham is Stoke d'Abernon, whose name is taken from a family who settled there at time of the Norman conquest in 1066.

The local newspaper was the Cobham News & Mail until it closed and was incorporated into the Surrey Advertiser. Cobham is also covered by the Elmbridge Guardian, the Surrey Herald and the Surrey Comet newspapers.

Chelsea F.C.'s training ground is nearby, close to Cobham and Stoke d'Abernon railway station, and Cobham's exclusive private estates are home to many of Chelsea's players.


At the heart of Cobham is the Church Cobham Conservation Area, which was designated in 1973 and includes fourteen statutory listed buildings. Amongst these are Pyports, once the home of Vernon Lushington; the picturesque Church Stile House; and two fine houses overlooking the River Mole: Ham Manor and Cedar House, the latter owned by the National Trust.

Across the river from the church, the estate of Cobham Park was the home of John Ligonier, 1st Earl Ligonier, who was made Commander-in-Chief of the army in 1757. In 1806 Cobham Park was bought by Harvey Christian Combe a brewer and Lord Mayor of London. The present house was completed in 1873 by his nephew, Charles Combe, to a design by Edward Middleton Barry: it has now been divided into apartments. At the other end of the town, beside the A3, Painshill Park is a fine 18th century landscape garden, restored from dereliction since 1980. Painshill House dates from the 18th century and has also been divided into apartments.

Two other large houses on the outskirts of Cobham have been taken over by schools: Heywood is now the American Community School, and Burwood House is now Notre Dame School.

Cobham Mill


The River Mole provides a setting for Cobham's best-known landmark which is the red brick water mill, constructed in 1822 and once part of a much larger complex. It stands on the site of earlier mills dating back to the Middle Ages. The mill was in use until 1928 when it became uneconomical to continue operating. Thereafter it was used as a storehouse.

During the World War II, a Canadian tank collided with the main mill building causing much damage.

In 1953 the main part of the mill was demolished by Surrey County Council to alleviate traffic congestion on Mill Road. This left just the grist mill standing.thumb

In 1973 the Cobham Conservation Group was formed, later to become the Cobham Conservation and Heritage Trust, and one of its main objectives was to rescue the much deteriorated grist mill building from sliding into the river as a result of water erosion of the mill island. In 1986 the freehold of the mill was taken over by the Thames Water Authority who, as part of their flood control requirements, needed to rebuild the weirs near the mill. They also recognised that the mill was Grade II listed as therefore undertook to secure the mill's foundations.

Thereafter, the Cobham Mill Preservation Trust was formed as a sister organisation to the Cobham Conservation Group and took over the leasehold.

This building was restored to full working order by the volunteers of the Cobham Mill Preservation Trust, and first opened to the public in 1993.

Cobham Mill is now open to the public from 2pm to 5pm on the second Sunday of each month between April and October, inclusive. Template:Clear left


The primary school is called St Andrew's. There is no state secondary school. The two main local prep schools are Parkside SchoolTemplate:Disambiguation needed and Feltonfleet School. There are three independent schools: Notre Dame; ACS (The American Community Schools) Cobham International and Reed's School.

Local leisure and entertainment

Painshill Park is nearby and Silvermere golf course is located in Redhill Road on the North side of the A3. Cobham has four football clubs: Cobham F.C., Mole Valley SCR F.C., Cobham United Football Club and Cobham Town FC (formed 2007). Cobham also has a cricket club, named Cobham Avorians. Cobham Rugby Football Club has four teams which play regularly, as well as youth and mini sections. There is Cobham Village Club and a branch of the Royal British Legion. Cobham Players regularly present plays, musicals, pantomimes and other entertainments in Cobham.

Walton Firs Activity Centre lies just off the A3 in Cobham and covers 28 acres. It takes its name from Colonel Walton who dealt with the purchase of the site in 1939. It was used by a Royal Artillery Anti-Aircraft Battery during World War II and in peace time returned to use a Scout camp site. During the 1990s some 3,000 additional trees were planted and more recently an all-weather barn and an artificial, but realistic, caving complex have been added.

The area is also home to the training grounds of London-based Premier League club Chelsea and many of their players and staff live in the vicinity.

Local politics

The Member of Parliament is Conservative Dominic Raab in the Esher and Walton constituency. Dominic succeeded Ian Taylor who stood down for the 2010 General Election. In local government Cobham is part of Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey County Council. Divided into two wards, Cobham Fairmile<ref name="wardmembers">Template:Cite web</ref> and Cobham & Downside<ref name="wardmembers">Template:Cite web</ref> for Elmbridge voting, there are five councillors, all Conservative. For Surrey County voting, Cobham is paired with Stoke d'Abernon.

Cobham, with its many old buildings, conservation areas and housing development pressures has a very active Heritage Trust, re-formed in 2007, and a lower-profile Residents Association. Unlike neighbouring areas in Elmbridge, Residents and amenity groups do not contest local elections in Cobham, although occasionally independents have stood without success, most recently in a 2007 by-election. The only non-Conservative elected was a Liberal/Focus councillor, Mike King in 1984 in the Fairmile ward, which includes some high density social and private housing beside the A3, as well as more upmarket private estates. Cobham and Downside ward includes the village centre, private estates off the A245 Stoke Road, semi-rural Downside and into Hatchford south of the M25.

Since the 2013 Surrey County election, the local Member for Cobham is Conservative, Mrs Mary Lewis. A Cobham & Downside member on Elmbridge, Mike Bennison since 2005 also represents the next 3 stops up the line to London Oxshott Claygate and Hinchley Wood on Surrey County Council.

Road and rail links

To the north and west of the town is the A3 trunk road, a major arterial route from London to Portsmouth. This road links to the M25 motorway at Junction 10, immediately to the south of Cobham.

  • The A307, Portsmouth Road starts in Cobham and runs northwards to the adjoining town of Esher. This is also known as the "old A3".
  • The A245 runs through the centre of the town and leads to Leatherhead in the South East and Byfleet to the west.

Cobham & Stoke d'Abernon railway station, opened in 1885, is on the "New Guildford Line" from London Waterloo with journey times around 40 minutes.

Police and fire services

Nowadays, Cobham Police Station has closed nearest Police Station is Kingston upon Thames some 8miles away

  • Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, called Painshill Fire Station has a full-time crew together with:
    • 1 x Water Tender Ladder,
    • 1 x Incident Command Unit,
    • 1 x Forward Command Vehicle

Notable people

  • Gerrard Winstanley, (1609–1676), reformer, lived in Cobham from 1643 and was churchwarden in 1667-8.
  • John Ligonier, 1st Earl Ligonier, (1680–1770), Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, lived at Cobham Park.<ref name="VCH"/>
  • Admiral Sir Graham Moore, (1764–1843), naval officer, lived at Brook Farm in Cobham <ref name="VCH"/> and is buried in St. Andrew's churchyard.
  • General Sir Thomas Brotherton, (1785–1868), died nearby at Upper Court and is buried in St. Andrew's churchyard.
  • Lieutenant-General Lord Henry Percy VC KCB, (1817–1877), soldier and MP, was born at Burwood House (now Notre Dame School).
  • Matthew Arnold, (1822–1888), poet, lived in Cobham from 1873 to 1888.
  • Vernon Lushington, (1832–1912), lawyer and patron to the arts, lived at Pyports in Cobham.<ref name="CobhamVillage">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Fred Stedman, (1870–1918), Surrey county cricketer, was born in Cobham.
  • Malcolm Arbuthnot, (1877–1967), pictorialist, photographer and artist, was born in Cobham.
  • Sir Thomas Sopwith, (1888–1989), aviation pioneer and industrialist who founded the Sopwith Aviation, H G Hawker Engineering, Hawker Aircraft and Hawker Siddeley aircraft companies, lived at Compton House, Cobham in the 1920s.
  • Sir Felix Aylmer, (1889–1979), actor, lived at Painshill House, Cobham in the 1970s.
  • Harold B. Hudson, (1898–1982), World War I flying ace, was born in Cobham.
  • John Addison, (1920–1998), composer, was born in Cobham.
  • Kenneth McAlpine (born 1920), racing driver, was born in Cobham.
  • Nick Jones, (born 1963), entrepreneur, owner of Babington House and husband of Kirsty Young, grew up in Cobham.
  • Harvey Christian Combe, (1752-1818), Brewer, Lord Mayor of London, owner of Cobham Park
  • Aaron Eckhart, (born 1968), American actor and co-star of the Dark Knight, lived in Cobham and attended the American Community School.
  • Shane Filan, (born 1979), singer, former member of Westlife, has homes in Cobham and Sligo, Ireland.
  • Sir (Albert) Noel Campbell Macklin (1886–1946), of Fairmile estate, a British car maker and boat designer.

Demography and housing

2011 Census Homes
Output area Detached Semi-detached Terraced Flats and apartments Caravans/temporary/mobile homes Shared between households<ref name=ons/>
Cobham Fairmile (ward) 792 366 274 262 1 2
Centre and southUnknown extension tag "ref" 1,157 687 401 507 4 2

The average level of accommodation in the region composed of detached houses was 28%, the average that was apartments was 22.6%.

Output area Population Households % Owned outright % Owned with a loan hectares<ref name=ons/>
Cobham Fairmile (ward) 4,751 1,697 34 32 553
Centre and south 4,988 2,047 40 31 276

The proportion of households in the settlement who owned their home outright compares to the regional average of 35.1%. The proportion who owned their home with a loan compares to the regional average of 32.5%. The remaining % is made up of rented dwellings (plus a negligible % of households living rent-free).

In film, fiction and the media

Elmbridge has been acclaimed by the Daily Mail as the best place to live in the UK citing the town among features contributing to its article headed 'the UK's Beverley Hills', and Cobham is overall a high average earnings part of the London commuter belt.

Nearest places

  • Stoke D'Abernon
  • Oxshott
  • Esher
  • Leatherhead
  • Hersham
  • Weybridge
  • Walton-on-Thames
  • Effingham
  • Byfleet
  • East Horsley
  • West Horsley


  • Taylor, David, C (2003) 'Cobham - A History' (Phillimore & Co Ltd, Chichester, ISBN 1-86077-247-1)

Notes and references





External links