Status Ceremonial & Non-metropolitan county
Origin Historic
Region South East England
- Total
- Admin. council
Ranked 35th
1,663 km²
Ranked 31st
Admin HQ Kingston
ISO 3166-2 GB-SRY
ONS code 43
- Total (2004 est.)
- Density
- Admin. council
Ranked 13th
639 / km²
Ranked 5th
Ethnicity 95.0% White
2.2% S. Asian

Arms of Surrey County Council

Surrey County Council
Executive Conservative
Members of Parliament

  1. Spelthorne
  2. Runnymede
  3. Surrey Heath
  4. Woking
  5. Elmbridge
  6. Guildford
  7. Waverley
  8. Mole Valley
  9. Epsom and Ewell
  10. Reigate and Banstead
  11. Tandridge

Surrey is a county in southern England, part of the South East England region and one of the Home Counties. The county borders Berkshire, Greater London, Hampshire, Kent, East Sussex and West Sussex. The county town is Guildford.

Surrey is divided into 11 boroughs and districts: Elmbridge, Epsom and Ewell, Guildford, Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead, Runnymede, Spelthorne, Surrey Heath, Tandridge, Waverley, Woking.

Settlements and communications

Surrey has a population of approximately one million people. The county town is Guildford, which despite having a University, a Castle and a Cathedral is not a city. Unusually, the county administration is based outside of the county's current boundaries in Kingston upon Thames and has been since April 1, 1965 when that area, and others, were included within Greater London by an act of Parliament. Recent plans to move the offices to a new site in Woking have now been abandoned.

Due to its proximity to London there are a many commuter towns and villages in Surrey, the population density is high and the area is more affluent, on average, than other parts of the UK.

Most English counties have nicknames for people from that county, such as a Tyke from Yorkshire and a Yellowbelly from Lincolnshire; the traditional nickname for people from Surrey is 'Surrey Capon', as it was well known in the later Middle Ages as the county where chickens were fattened up for the London meat markets.

Physical geography

Surrey contains a good deal of mature woodland (reflected in the official logo of Surrey County Council, a pair of interlocking oak leaves). Among its many notable beauty spots are Box Hill, Leith Hill, Frensham Ponds and Puttenham Common. It is the most wooded county in Great Britain, with 22.4% coverage compared to a national average of 11.8% and as such is one of the few counties to not include new woodlands in their strategic plans. Box Hill has the oldest untouched area of natural woodland in the UK, one of the oldest in Europe.

Much of Surrey is in the Green Belt and is rolling downland, the county's geology being dominated by the chalk hills of the North Downs. Agriculture not being intensive, there are many commons and access lands, together with an extensive network of footpaths and bridleways including the North Downs Way, a scenic long-distance path. Accordingly, Surrey provides much in the way of rural leisure activities, with a very large horse population. Towards the north of the county, the land is largely flat around Staines and bi-sected by the River Thames.

The highest point in Surrey is Leith Hill near Dorking at 968 ft (295 m) above sea level.


British and Roman Surrey

Before Roman times the area today known as Surrey was very probably governed by the Atrebates tribe centred at Calleva in the modern county of Hampshire. They were known to have controlled the southern bank of the Thames from Roman documents describing the nature of tribal relations between them and the powerful Catuvellauni on the north banks. In about 42AD King Cynfelin ap Tegfan of the Catuvellauni died and war broke out between his sons and between King Verica of the Atrebates. The Catuvellauni invaded the Atrebatean lands, probably crossing the River Thames near modern Staines where the river could be forded. The Atrebates were defeated in the conflict, their capital captured and their lands made subject to the Catuvellauni now led by Togodumnus ruling from Camulodunum. Verica fled to Gaul and appealed for Roman aid. The Atrebates were allies with Rome during their invasion of Britain in 43AD. The territory of Surrey was traversed by Stane Street and other less well known Roman roads.

After the Romans left Britain in c.410AD the territory of modern Surrey was officially part of Britannia Prima but was probably ruled by the successor realm of the Atrebates tribe. It has long been speculated that Guildford may have been the Astolat of Arthurian renown, however the legendary city is more likely to have been Calleva (modern day Silchester), the capital of the Atrebates, which resisted the Anglo-Saxons for many years.

The Saxon tribes and the sub-kingdom

From around 480 AD Saxons from the south and Jutes from east invaded and began settling in the area and establishing a sub-kingdom probably with Middle Saxon overlords. At this time the area was sparsely populated and almost entirely forested. There was a local truce recorded in c.500 (possibly as a result of the Battle of Badon Hill) and only north and east Surrey were retained by the Anglo-Saxons. The westward expansion into British territory continued from c.550AD with some local British communities becoming marooned within the confines of Saxon Surrey, probably around Walton-on-Thames. From 568 the eastern border of Surrey and Kent is agreed and marked by a ditch. Local tribes named Æschingas, Godhelmingas (around Godalming), Tetingas (around Tooting), Woccingas (between Woking and Wokingham), Basingas (the Blackwater Valley) and Sonningas (around Sonning) are known to have existed.

In 661 the sub-kingdom took Mercia as its overlord. In 675 Surrey became one of the last portions of England to convert to Christianity when its sub-King Friþuwald and his son were baptised. The name of the area at this time is recorded as Sudergeona or "southern region". In 685 Surrey changed allegiance and took Wessex as its overlord. In 690 the western border of Surrey was settled with Wessex; the tribal territory of the Sonningas became part of Berkshire and the Basingas became part of Hampshire. In 705 Surrey was transferred from the Middle Saxon diocese of London to the West Saxon diocese of Winchester. After 771 Surrey came under the rule of Offa of Mercia and was so until 823 when Surrey reverted to Wessex and so remained. Some historians have also speculated that the Nox gaga and the Oht gaga tribes listed in the Mercian Tribal Hidage refers to two distinct groups living in Surrey. They were valued together at 7,000 hides.

Sub Kings and Eorldermen of Surrey

  • Friþuwald (c.673 - 675)
  • Friþuric (675 - c.686)

an unknown series of sub regulus until;

  • Brorda (c.775)

an unknown series of Eorldermen until;

  • Wulfherd (c.823)
  • Huda (c.853)

an unknown series of Eorldermen until;

  • Æðelwerd (late 10th century)
  • Æðelmær (? - 1016) son

The West Saxon shire

The territory of Surrey was formally annexed by Wessex in 860 and became a Shire under the same model as the other counties of Wessex. It is around this time that the wars between the Ænglecynn and the Danes reach their crescendo with Surrey becoming the arena for a number of key battles; most notably at the Battle of Ockley in 851 and the Battle of Farnham in 894.

After the death of King Alfred the Great in 899 his son, King Eadweard I was crowned on the King's Stone at Kingston upon Thames. The use of this stone before 902 is unknown but it seems likely that it would have been something of ancient spiritual or political significance. After him another six kings of England from the House of Wessex were crowned here, the last being Æþelræd II in 978.

In 1011 it is recorded that Surrey was over-run by Danish forces led by Knud II den Store before all of England submitted to them in 1016.

In 1035 the foreign tyrant Knud died and during the uncertainty that followed the heirs of former Anglo-Saxon rulers attempted to restore the House of Wessex to the throne of Ænglalond. Ælfred Æþling the younger of the two heirs (his older brother being the future Eadweard III) landed on the coast of Sussex with a Norman mercenary body guard and attempted to make his way to London. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle there is an account of this fateful encounter:

"As Ælfred and his men approached the town of Guildford in Surrey, thirty miles south-west of London, they were met by the powerful Earl Godwin of Wessex, who professed loyalty to the young prince and procured lodgings for him and his men in the town. The next morning, Godwin said to Ælfred: "I will safely and securely conduct you to London, where the great men of the kingdom are awaiting your coming, that they may raise you to the throne." This he said in spite of the fact that the throne was already occupied by the son of Knud, Harold Harefoot, and he was actually in league with King Harold to lure the young prince to his death."
"Then the earl led the prince and his men over the hill of Guildown (called today The Hog's Back and is the route of the A31), which is to the west of Guildford, on the road to Winchester, not London. Perhaps the prince had insisted on continuing his journey to his original destination, his mother’s court in Winchester, in any case, Godwin repeated his tempting offer; showing the prince the magnificent panorama from the hill both to the north and to the south, he said: "Look around on the right hand and on the left, and behold what a realm will be subject to your dominion." Ælfred then gave thanks to God and promised that if he should ever be crowned king, he would institute such laws as would be pleasing and acceptable to God and men. At that moment, however, he was seized and bound together with all his men. Nine tenths of them were then murdered. And since the remaining tenth was still so numerous, they, too, were decimated."
"Ælfred was tied to a horse and then conveyed by boat to the monastery of Ely. As the boat reached land, his eyes were put out. For a while he was looked after by the monks, who were fond of him, but soon after he died, probably on February 5, 1036."

Interestingly, during the 1920's the remains of several hundred soldiers, probably Normans, were found to the west of Guildford. They were bound and had been executed. The grave was dated to c.1040. It is likely that they were the guards of poor Prince Ælfred.

After the Anglo-Saxon restoration through the accession of Eadweard III in 1042 Surrey remained unmolested until the Norman Conquest in 1066. Few remains of either the ancient British, the Roman, or the Saxon periods in Surrey exist. Stone Street and Ermine Street have left some vestiges, and Roman relics, of no great interest, have been found at various places.

Medieval Surrey

Hundreds of Surrey c.825 - 1889
Hundreds of Surrey c.825 - 1889

After the Norman Conquest, William the Bastard gave the county to William de Warenne, and gave to him and his descendants the title of Earl. The chief subsequent event connected with it was the signing of the great charter at Runnymede, and other public events were mostly intertwined with the history of the metropolis. However, Guildford Castle was captured by forces supporting the Dauphin of France in 1216, and in June 1497 the county was overrun by as many as 15,000 Cornish rebels heading for London. This would have been the first Brythonic army to move through Surrey for nearly 900 years. There was a brief battle just outside Guildford at Gil Down before the Cornish rebels marched north east through Banstead and right across Wallington and Brixton Hundreds as far as Blackheath in Kent where they were eventually routed by an English army.

Specimens of monastic buildings of early English date occur in Waverley Abbey and Newark Priory. These were both destroyed during the reformation. It was also the home of the Merton Priory from 1114 until 1538. From the Saxon period up until Victorian times Surrey was divided into the 14 hundreds of Blackheath, Brixton, Copthorne, Effingham Half-Hundred, Elmbridge, Farnham, Godalming, Godley, Kingston, Reigate, Tandridge, Wallington, Woking and Wotton.

Modern history

The modern county of Surrey was formed in 1889 when the Provisional Surrey County Council first met. At this time, until future local government reorganisation, it comprised of Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum (Chief Magistrate), a High Sheriff, and a county council consisting of 19 aldermen and 57 councillors. This assumed the responsibilities of the now defunct Shire Court and Hundred Courts. The new county of Surrey was reduced in size with the loss of areas in the north east bordering the City of London which became part of the new County of London and today form the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth. Penge was lost to neighbouring Kent in 1899.

Reforms in local government in 1965 further changed the borders of the county. The area that now forms the London Boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Sutton and that part of Richmond south of the River Thames were made part of Greater London and the area that is now Spelthorne was acquired from Middlesex.

The 1974 local government reforms caused Gatwick Airport and some surrounding land to be transferred to West Sussex. Under the Local Government Act 1972 Horley and Charlwood were transferred, however fierce local opposition led to a reversal of this under the Charlwood and Horley Act 1974.


This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Surrey at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added4 Agriculture1 Industry2 Services3
1995 12,177 116 2,414 9,647
2000 19,811 103 3,288 16,420
2003 22,790 99 3,394 19,297

Note 1: includes hunting and forestry

Note 2: includes energy and construction

Note 3: includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured

Note 4: Components may not sum to totals due to rounding

Major Towns


Amongst many schools in Surrey, notable ones are:

Places of interest

National Trust properties

Other places of interest

Youth hostels

  • Hindhead - Devil's Punch Bowl, Thursley. This is a totally secluded cottage in a rural beauty spot and has no car access.
  • Holmbury St Mary - In wooded grounds in the hills with easy access. SE of Abinger.
  • Tanners Hatch - A cottage in the woods on the outskirts of Ranmore Common NW of Dorking.

County emergency services

Surrey is served by these emergency sevices.


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