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Themes Explorers and Adventurers Nobel Prize Winners
Actors/Actresses and Directors Famous People Places of Interest
Anglo-Saxons and Danes Historic Events Prime Ministers
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Inventors and Scientists Royal Consorts and Heirs
Artists and Architects Monarchs World Heritage Sites
Composers National Parks Writers and Poets


Surrey lies in southern England and borders the south-west of London. In 1889 part of the county was incorporated into the new county of London and in 1965 further areas became part of the new Greater London.

Towns include the county seat of Guildford.

Actors/Actresses and Directors

The stage and film actor and director Laurence Olivier was born in Dorking in 1907. He directed and starred in several successful film versions of Shakespeare's plays including in 1944 Henry V, Hamlet in 1948 - for which he won an Academy Award - and Richard III in 1955. He also won acclaim for other films such as Wuthering Heights in 1939 and Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 filming of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. He was married for 20 years to the actress Vivien Leigh.

Laurence Olivier

The director David Lean was born in Croydon in 1908. He made some of British cinema's greatest films ranging from Brief Encounter in 1945 to A Passage to India in 1984. In the intervening decades he directed his epic masterpieces: The Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957, Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 - both winning Academy Awards - and in 1965 Doctor Zhivago.

David Lean

The actor Boris Karloff was buried in Guildford in 1969. Born as William Henry Pratt in London in 1887 he emigrated to Canada in 1909. From there he moved to Hollywood where he starred in many classic horror films such as Frankenstein in 1931 and The Mummy in 1932 securing a reputation as Hollywood's biggest star in the genre. He returned to live in England in the 1950s.

Boris Karloff

Anglo-Saxons and Danes

Anglo-Saxon Kings
In 925 the first King of all England Athelstan was crowned on the King's Stone by the Thames, now known as Kingston. The river made up the border between the kingdoms of Wessex to the south and Mercia to the north. From Edward the Elder in 900 to Ethelred the Unready in 979, all Saxon Kings of Wessex and later England were crowned there, the only exception being Edgar, who was crowned in 973 at Bath.

King Athelstan

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Lying just south of Greater London the Surrey Hills form part of the Green Belt which encircles the capital in order to restrict the city's expansion into the surrounding countryside. The AONB was one of the earliest to be designated in 1958. It spans the county from east to west and includes some of its most famous beauty spots with Box Hill, the Devil's Punchbowl and Leith Hill - the highest point in the south-east of England - all lying within its borders.

Spreading across three ancient counties, the major part of the High Weald is found in Sussex, reaching down to the coast at Hastings. Designated an AONB in 1983, the area lies between the North and South Downs and contains one of the largest areas of ancient woodland remaining today in England. This woodland includes the Ashdown Forest.

Artists and Architects
The portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough was buried in Kew in 1788.

Thomas Gainsborough

The writer and pioneering garden designer Gertrude Jekyll died at her home Munstead Wood near Godalming in 1932 and is buried in the church at nearby Busbridge. She planned many gardens in Surrey where she spent most of her life and over 300 for the buildings of her friend, the architect Edwin Lutyens.

Gertrude Jekyll

Explorers and Adventurers

Walter Ralegh has an obscure connection with the county. Beheaded at Westminster in 1618, Ralegh's head was given to his widow. She lived with their son Carew at West Horsley Place - his manor house in the village of West Horsley - and eventually buried her husband's head under the floor of the local church, St Mary's.

Walter Ralegh
Poetry Archive

In 1904 Henry Morton Stanley was buried at Pirbright. He was most famous for finding the Scottish explorer David Livingstone in Tanganyika in Africa in 1871.

Henry Morton Stanley

Famous People

The philosopher Karl Popper died in Croydon in 1994. He had been born in Vienna in 1902.

Karl Popper

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure.
The Open Society and its Enemies (1945)

Historic Events

Important Events
In 1128 Waverley Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey to be built in England. The Cistercians were a monastic order founded in France in 1098 in Citeaux in Burgundy. The founders were Benedictines who disapproved of the relaxed approach of their order at the time, and set up the new order to lead a more disciplined and simple life. By the end of the 12th century over 100 Cistercian houses had been established in England and Wales.

In 1215 King John signed the Magna Carta on the banks of the Thames at Runnymede. The King was pressured into signing the charter by rebellious barons who wanted the powers of the monarch legally defined as a control against tyranny. It was therefore a landmark first step in the setting up of a constitution.

King John
Magna Carta


House of Plantagenet
House of Plantagenet
Edward III died at Sheen Palace in 1377. He had ruled for half a century since 1327 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Edward III
Monarchs buried at Westminster Abbey

House of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
Murdered in the Tower of London in 1471 Henry VI was was not to be given the honour of a burial at Westminster Abbey and so the Yorkist Edward IV had the king buried in Chertsey Abbey. It was not until 1484 when Richard III had the last Lancastrian monarch disinterred and reburied at Windsor Castle in Berkshire.

Henry VI

House of Tudor
House of Tudor
Henry VIII's son Edward VI was born at Hampton Court Palace in 1537. He succeeded his father on his death in 1547 but only ruled for a short period, dying young in 1553.

Edward VI

In 1498 Sheen Palace burnt down and Richmond Palace was built in its place. It was here that Henry VIII's father Henry VII died in 1509. He had been the first Tudor monarch and had ruled since wrestling the Crown from the Yorkists in 1485. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Henry VII
Monarchs buried at Westminster Abbey

In 1540 Henry VIII married his fifth wife Catherine Howard at Hampton Court Palace.

 Catherine Howard
 Henry VIII

Hampton Court Palace was also where Henry VIII married his sixth and last wife Katherine Parr in 1543.

Henry VIII
Katherine Parr

The last Tudor monarch, Henry VIII's daughter Elizabeth I, died at Richmond Palace in 1603. She had ruled since 1558 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I
Monarchs buried at Westminster Abbey

House of Stuart
House of Stuart
William of Orange was fatally injured after falling from his horse while riding in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace in 1702. Born in 1650 in the Hague, in the Netherlands as the grandson of Charles I, he married his cousin Mary II, a granddaughter of Charles I. They ruled jointly from the Glorious Revolution of 1689 until Mary's death in 1694, from when William ruled alone. William was from the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau.

William III
Glorious Revolution

House of Hanover
House of Hanover
The future William IV married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen at Kew Palace in 1818.

William IV
Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen

House of Windsor
House of Windsor
Edward VIII was born at White Lodge in Richmond Park in 1894. In December 1936 he became the only British monarch to voluntarily abdicate so that he could marry the American divorcee Wallace Simpson. He had ruled since January of the same year but was never crowned.

Edward VIII

Nobel Prize Winners

The biochemist Peter Mitchell was born in Mitcham in 1920. In 1978 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for developing a new theory of energy generation.

The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932 John Galsworthy was born at Kingston Hill in 1867.

John Galsworthy

The pacifist and writer Norman Angell died in Croydon in 1967. He had won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1933 and had written The Great Illusion in 1910 which showed how war made no economic sense for the victors.

Norman Angell

Physiology or Medicine
The Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve was born in Thames Ditton in 1917. In 1974 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with the naturalised Americans Albert Claude and George Palade.

Places of Interest

Cathedrals and Abbeys
Waverley Abbey

Stately Homes and Palaces
Hampton Court Palace was Henry VIII's favourite residence. It was here that five of his six wives lived, where in 1543 he married his sixth wife Catherine Parr and where he spent three of his honeymoons. His third wife Jane Seymour died there after giving birth to the future Edward VI in 1537. In 1647 Charles I escaped from imprisonment at the Palace, but was soon back in prison, held at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight until his trial and eventual execution in London in 1649.

Hampton Court

Kew Palace

Prime Ministers

Prime Ministers

Prime Minister in 1765-66 and 1782, Charles Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham died in Wimbledon in 1782 whilst still in office.

Marquess of Rockingham

William Pitt, the Younger, twice Prime Minister in 1783-1801 and 1804-06, died at his home Bowling Green House in Putney Heath in 1806. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. The second son of the former Prime Minister the Earl of Chatham, he was aged only 24 in 1783, the youngest Prime Minister ever.

Pitt the Younger's second administration was faced with the growing Napoleonic threat to Europe and it was Pitt who formed the coalition of countries which defeated the French at the
Battle of Trafalgar. Pitt's glory was shortlived and in the same year the coalition fell apart and Napoleon was victorious at Austerlitz. Pitt died the following year and it was nearly a decade before Napoleon was eventually defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

William Pitt, the Younger
Battle of Trafalgar
Famous people buried at Westminster Abbey

The Prime Minister from 1812-27, Robert Jenkinson, the Earl of Liverpool, died at Coombe House in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1828.

Earl of Liverpool

Henry Addington, Prime Minister from 1801-04, died at White Lodge at Richmond Park in 1844 and is buried in Mortlake churchyard.

Henry Addington

Prime Minister in 1827-28, Frederick Robinson, Viscount Goderich died at Putney Heath in 1859.

Viscount Goderich

Twice Prime Minister from 1846-51 and 1865-66, Earl Russell died at Richmond Park in 1878.

Earl Russell

Prime Minister from 1945-51, Clement Attlee was born in Putney in 1883. His Labour administration governed in the turbulent post-war years and revolutionized British society by introducing the Welfare State including in 1948 the National Health Service. In 1947 and 1948 India and Burma gained independence, the beginnings of the dismantling of the British Empire.

Clement Attlee

Welfare State

The Earl of Rosebery, Prime Minister from 1894-95, died at The Durdans in Epsom in 1929.

Earl of Rosebery

Arthur James Balfour, Prime Minister from 1902-05, died at Fisher's Hill in Woking in 1930.

Arthur James Balfour

The son of a performing trapeze artist, John Major was born at St Helier Hospital in Carshalton in 1943, and was Prime Minister from 1990-97, completing one of the quickest rises to power of modern times. In 1987 he was promoted to Chief Secretary of the Treasury, before in 1989 becoming Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer in quick succession and then only a year later Prime Minister when he was chosen to succeed Margaret Thatcher after she had resigned. Major went on to lead the Conservatives to a fourth election victory in 1992 before losing to Tony Blair's Labour Party in 1997.

John Major

Royal Consorts and Heirs

House of Plantagenet
In 1394 Anne of Bohemia, the first wife of Richard II, died of plague at Sheen Palace. She had been Queen since their marriage in 1382. After her death Richard had the Palace destroyed. She was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Royal consorts buried at Westminster Abbey

House of Tudor
In 1537 Henry VIII's third wife Jane Seymour died at Hampton Court Palace shortly after giving birth to the King's long awaited male heir, the future Edward VI. Only Queen since the previous year she was buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle and would be the only wife to be buried alongside Henry.

Jane Seymour
Royal consorts buried at Windsor

House of Stuart
Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, died in 1619 at Hampton Court Palace. She had become Queen of Scotland when she married James in 1589 and in 1603 of England. She was buried at Westminster Abbey. In 1600 she had given birth to the future Charles I.

Anne of Denmark
Royal consorts buried at Westminster Abbey

House of Hanover
Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz died at Kew Palace in Surrey in 1818. Married to George III she had been Queen since their wedding in 1761. She is buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. She gave birth to the future George IV in 1762 and William IV in 1765 and was also the grandmother of Queen Victoria.

Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Royal consorts buried at Windsor

World Heritage Sites

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew were designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2003.

Writers and Poets

For John Galsworthy see Nobel Prize Winners

The writer William Cobbett was born in 1763 at the Jolly Farmer Inn in Farnham. The son of a small farmer he taught himself to read and write and later campaigned for the rights of the poor. He died in 1835 and is buried in Farnham.

William Cobbett

Alfred Tennyson died at his home Aldworth near Haslemere in 1892. From 1869 Tennyson had used Aldworth as his second home to escape the summer crowds which visited his home near Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. He had been Poet Laureate since the death of William Wordsworth in 1850 and was himself succeeded in 1896 by Alfred Austin. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Alfred Tennyson
Famous people buried at Westminster Abbey
Poets laureate

The last red leaf is whirled away,
The rooks are blown about the skies.
In Memoriam A.H.H. (1850)

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
In Memoriam A.H.H. (1850)

In 1898 the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll died whilst visiting his sisters who lived in Guildford. He is buried in the town.

Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll Society

The author of Brave New World Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming in 1894. He was buried in 1963 at nearby Compton. He had died in Los Angeles on the 22nd November, the same day as the American President John F. Kennedy and the author C.S. Lewis.

Aldous Huxley

"Art, science - you seem to have paid a fairly high price for your happiness," said the Savage, when they were alone. "Anything else?"

"Well, religion, of course," replied the Controller. "There used to be something called God - before the Nine Years' War. But I was forgetting; you know all about God, I suppose."

"Well...." The Savage hesitated. He would have liked to say something about solitude, about night, about the mesa lying pale under the moon, about the precipice, the plunge into shadowy darkness, about death. He would have liked to speak; but there were no words. Not even in Shakespeare.
Brave New World (1932)

... and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge.
Brave New World (1932)

So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly arise and make them miserable.
Ends and Means (1937)

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Family History Societies
Surrey Archaeological Society
Record Society
Surrey's Past