The quintessentially English market town of Dorking is often described as Surrey’s hidden gem. Surrounded by three sides of the Surrey Hills, you certainly won’t be short of Sunday afternoon walks, nor gastropubs to dig into a well-deserved roast afterward. Dorking has an ease about it, unique to the beautiful area.
With property of all-types on offer, from 18th-century cottages to 1920s semis, the location is in high demand for those after a slower pace of life, yet still wanting to be in easy reach of London. This has led to not only a variety of famous residents in Dorking but the setting also features in several large-scale films, do you know any of these titles on our list? Find out more about the current and former famous faces calling the stunning spot home in our blog post below.
From classical to pop
The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams lived in the town for twenty years and is perhaps most well known for The Lark Ascending, a classical piece inspired by the 1881 poem under the same name. This romantic composition has gained considerable popularity in Britain due to its countryside sound, the violin imitating both bird song and flight. Perhaps inspired by some of the wildlife found on the highest point in the south-east, Leith Hill, located just a short drive away. Did you know, known for its history in the poultry trade, the Dorking chicken was named after the town – you’ll even find a giant statue in tribute to the breed!
Are you an Absolute Radio listener? Fast forward a few decades, former Absolute Radio breakfast DJ Christian O’Connell delighted fans with his morning-antics and called Dorking home for twelve years before making the move down under.
Faces on film
Perhaps one of the most famous residents in Dorking was actor Lawrence Olivier, who dominated the mid-20th century both on and off the screen. His suave and sophisticated personality saw his popularity skyrocket, and saw Olivier feature in classic films such as Rebecca, Hamlet and the Seymour Dorking branch team’s favourite, Wuthering Heights. We’re sure he would’ve enjoyed a glass or two at the Denbies Wine Estate, the largest vineyard in England! As if you needed another excuse to move to the area, the winery boasts some 265 acres with tours available for tasting and is ideal for a date night treat, or day out with friends.
The iconic picnic scene in Jane Austen’s Emma was set on top of Boxhill, the story tells of a meddlesome young lady attempting to play matchmaker and the mishaps on her own journey to love. The 2020 adaptation saw the cast accurately illustrate this, filming in the exact country spot described. We, therefore, saw the likes of Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Nighy, and Miranda Hart visiting the touristic hotspot just minutes from the town centre. Box Hill was also made famous as it hosted the 2012 Olympic cycling route, which you can try for yourself!
The biggest name in fashion
Did you know, Thomas Burberry, the founder of the fashion house Burberry was born and raised in Dorking? One of the largest brands in the business, the gentlemen’s outfitter concentrated on outdoor wear originally before the shift towards what we recognise as the fashion brand’s staples today. Burberry is also credited with the creation of an exclusive brand material known as gabardine, a light-weight woven fabric commonly used for trench coats.
The fashion roots of the area don’t stop there! Former famous residents in Dorking include The Devil Wears Prada co-star, Emily Blunt, who spent her younger years in the town and where her talent for acting was first discovered.
The Mayflower passage
The historic voyage to America in 1620 saw 102 passengers sail a grueling ten weeks on the Pilgrim ship, the Mayflower. One of those on board was William Mullins, a shoemaker and businessman born in Dorking and on arrival to the New World, he was one of the signatories of the Mayflower Compact. To commemorate this momentous journey, you’ll find a blue plaque in tribute to him as one of the Pilgrim Fathers. His home is the only surviving of those that made the dangerous trip and can be found on West Street, amongst a variety of quirky antique outlets. The ancestral building now features the aptly named Mullins Coffee shop, a favourite of Seymours director, David Driscoll and a must visit when in the area.
Why not try taking your own dangerous voyage across the slippery stepping stones near the Old Fort, the circular walk takes you hopping across the river and to breathtaking views of the Surrey Hills. A quick stop for coffee and cake at the Rykas Cafe nearby will give you the strength needed to clamber back up the top of the hill.
At the end of South Street in 1976, two of the members of the band 10cc, Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, opened Strawberry Studio as an extension of their north branch after the band found they couldn’t even book time in their own studio. Not only did the band record their own music here, but Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder also recorded ‘Ebony and Ivory’ in the venue however, our Seymour Woking team’s favourite has to be the ever popular Superstitious! Other notable artists who recorded music in the studio include The Police and Cliff Richard, the peaceful Surrey town often favored by artists when not on tour.
Under the street where the studios once were, are the man made tunnels known as the Dorking Caves. A network of tunnels dating back to 1672, initially used for cellar storage before becoming a hub for smuggling contraband. Complete with a ‘Mystery Chamber’, the town’s museum offers tours of the historic caves during the Summer months, ideal for a cultural day out but be warned due to popularity they tend to sell out very quickly.
A home from home
A Christmas favourite, the cottage featured in The Holiday was originally inspired by Honeysuckle Cottage located in a near-by village to the town. Fully immerse yourself in the romantic setting and pay a visit to the White Horse; the pub renowned as Jude Law’s local in the film is just a stone’s throw away in Shere – although we can’t guarantee the celebs appearance! During the holiday season, you may even see the Seymours Dorking team as they pay a visit for a few festive drinks each year.
Another famous home built in Dorking was that of James Mays. The Top Gear presenter set himself the task of creating a fully functional Lego-house, complete with a Lego cat. Unfortunately, the building was only temporary but made for an interesting addition to the Surrey Hills landscape for a brief period.
Other reasons why we love Dorking
The Emlyn restaurant awarded Surrey’s restaurant of the year in 2017, serves fresh, British cuisine sure to have your mouth watering! Located in the heart of the hills on the north-downs, there is a huge selection of dishes on offer to enjoy whilst taking in the spectacular views. The outside terrace makes it the perfect spot for a summer Pimms too!
Embrace Dorking’s history and wander through the traditional, weekly market taking place each Friday. You’ll find all sorts on offer from the lovely stallholders, from fruit and farmed meats, to cheese and flowers. We recommend taking your largest shopping bag, with so much to choose from it’s hard to resist!
Not only are you within reach of London, reaching the centre in under an hour, but for the jet setters, living in Dorking means you are just thirty minutes from both Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Weekend mini-trip anyone?
Famous residents in Dorking
Whilst still a commutable distance to London, Dorking town offers a picturesque country escape with a village feel. An endless selection of walks cover the Surrey Hills, and with the town centre dotted with cosy coffee shops and independent high street shops, the location has become one of increased popularity. With a history as a market town, you’ll be able to enjoy a traditional shopping experience weekly.
The quaint area has seen a variety of famous faces set up permanent residence over the years, and it remains an ever-desirable film set location with its stunning scenery and romantic English charm. Be it to escape the city, or to enjoy some of the countryside on offer in the UK, a move to Dorking is a popular choice for those in the South-East.
Thinking of moving to Dorking?
Are you looking for your next home? Get in touch with us here for advice from our real estate experts and to find out more about the Seymour properties we have currently available in the area.
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