Holmbury St Mary

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Holmbury St Mary
Holmbury St Mary, Surrey.jpg
Holmbury St Mary, in front of the escarpment
Grid reference: TQ112441
Location: 51°11’10"N, 0°24’36"W
Population: 572  (2011)
Post town: Dorking
Postcode: RH5
Dialling code: 01306
Local Government
Council: Guildford / Mole Valley
Mole Valley

Holmbury St Mary is a little village in the hills in Surrey, centred on shallow upper slopes of the Greensand Ridge. Its developed area is a clustered village four and half miles south-west of Dorking and eight miles south-east of Guildford.

The village contains a home which formerly doubled as a major meeting venue of Beatrice Webb, a Fabian social reformer who co-founded the London School of Economics, and which contains Mullard Space Science Laboratory.[1]


Walking trail on Holmbury Hill

Holmbury St Mary is inside the Hurtwood Forest[2] and is considered the largest area of common land in Surrey; it takes up part of the Greensand Ridge which in turn contributes to the 'Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.[3] Nearby to the south is Holmbury Hill, which at 857 feet is reckoned the fourth highest point in Surrey. The summit of Holmbury Hill is within an ancient hill fort here stands the Bray family memorial cairn.[4]

Parish church

St Mary's Church

The Church of St Mary the Virgin is a Victorian building, built in 1879, before which the hamlet (then known as Falady) had not had a church. It stands at the heart of the village overlooking the village green, and is the origin of the village's name.

The church was initiated and paid for by George Edmund Street,[5][6] who had built himself a large house in the village between 1873 and 1876, named "Holmdale".[7]

Inside, the church has a triptych behind the communion table that is attributed to Spinello Aretino and in the North Chapel a painting attributed to Jacopo da Sellaio.[8]

is part of the Leith Hill United Benefice which includes the churches of St James, Abinger Common and Christ Church, Coldharbour.[9]


Bluebells, Holmbury St Mary

The village was originally a hamlet named Falady or Felday.

George Edmund Street first visited Felday with his wife, Mariquita in 1872, and she was so captivated by the place she called it "Heaven's gate" and the couple moved there soon after, building a grand house, named 'Holmbury' between 1873 and 1876.[10][11] In 1879, Street paid for a church to be built, St Mary's,[12] and the Church of England Parish of Holmbury St Mary was formed from parts of the civil parishes of Shere, Abinger, Ewhurst, Cranley, Ockley, and Ockham in 1878.[13] Originally called 'Falady',[13] The village thereafter began to be known by the name of the parish.

Marquita Street died in 1874, never having seen the completion of their home or of the church.[14]

Holmdale later became home to Thomas Sivewright Catto, the Governor of the Bank of England from 1944 to 1949.

Notable anecdotal evidence once suggested that Holmbury St. Mary (known as Felday) was the site of small and marginally unlisted prisoner of war camp during the First World War. It was later discovered to be true by Keith Winser, who undertook a search through the Holmbury parish magazines where he found that construction for the camp was completed in 1917 by the Royal Defence Corps for the internment of German prisoners of war.[15] The prisoners were believed to have been available to the town to be used for manual labour in the timber harvesting of the local forests.

About the village


Two wildly different styles of architecture are represented by two homes in the village: the Woodhouse Copse and Joldwynds. The Woodhouse Copse is an Arts and Crafts style cottage designed by Oliver Hill in 1926.[16] Joldwynds is a contrasting, modernist house also built by Oliver hill in 1932 (and replacing an earlier arts & crafts house). Many of the normal houses of the village are of brick, of the more traditional cottage style.

Beatrice Webb House and Trust

From 1947 to 1986, a large building hosted the Webb Memorial Trust for Rethinking Poverty as a tribute to Beatrice Webb and her work.[17] The Beatrice Webb House was opened by Clement Attlee and served as an important education and discussion facility for the Fabian Society, British Labour Party and trade unions.

Table and East Window, St Mary the Virgin

The Fabian Window, designed by George Bernard Shaw (who co-founded the London School of Economics with Sidney and Beatrice Webb), depicting the founders of the Fabian Society, hung in the house until it was stolen in 1978. The window was recovered in 2005 and is now on long-term loan to the London School of Economics.[18] Today the house is a boarding house for Hurtwood House School.[19]

Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Holmbury St Mary is home to the University College London's Department of Space and Climate Physics Mullard Space Science Laboratory, which is the country's largest purely University-led space science research group.[20] The laboratory was established at Holmbury St. Mary in 1966, the laboratory has participated in more than 35 satellite missions and over 200 rocket experiments.[21]


  • Belmont Preparatory School[22]
  • Hurtwood House,[23] a public school
  • Moon Hall School,[24] which provides special education to children with dyslexia.


  • Football: two teams
  • Cricket:
    • Holmbury St Mary CC, with two teams
    • The Hollybush Tavern team


Holmbury St. Mary has an annual bonfire and fireworks night in the Glade, organised and funded by a group known as The Bonfire Boys who gather wood from the Hurtwood and put on a fireworks show. Thousands attend and all profits are donated to charities.

The town also holds annual Spring and Summer flower shows, organised by the Holmbury St Mary Horticultural Society.[25]

In film, fiction and other popular culture

Holmbury St. Mary is believed to be the basis for the fictional village of Summer Street in A Room With A View. Its author, E.M. Forster, was a long-standing resident in Abinger Hammer in the deep valley below to the north.[26][27]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Holmbury St Mary)


  1. University Collage London. "Mullard Space Science Laboratory". https://www.ucl.ac.uk/mssl/about-department. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  2. Friends of The Hurtwood. "Welcome to The Hurtwood". https://friendsofthehurtwood.co.uk/. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  3. Surrey County Council. "Holmbury St Mary". https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/places/surrey/mole-valley/holmbury-st-mary/. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  4. Friends of The Hurtwood. "History of the Hurtwood". https://friendsofthehurtwood.co.uk/about-us/history-of-the-hurtwood. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  5. Folkes, J. Homery "The Victorian Architect and George Edmund Street" Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society. Third Series Vol 4 1974 p9
  6. St Mary, the Virgin, Holmbury from "A Church Near You"
  7. "George Edmund Street (1824-1881)". Victorianweb.org. 2007-08-29. http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/street/streetov.html. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  8. National Heritage List 1029485: Church of St Mary
  9. "About St Mary's Chruch". https://churchwarden85.wixsite.com/stmaryschurch/about. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  10. Folkes, J. Homery "The Victorian Architect and George Edmund Street" Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society. Third Series Vol 4 1974 p9
  11. "George Edmund Street (1824-1881)". Victorianweb.org. 2007-08-29. http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/street/streetov.html. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  12. St Mary, the Virgin, Holmbury from "A Church Near You"
  13. 13.0 13.1 Skeats, E.W. and Herries, R.S.: 'Excursion to Felday, Holmbury Hill, and the Hurtwood' (Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, 1903; Volume 18, issue=5–6; pages 297–299
  14. "George Edmund Street (1824-1881)". Victorianweb.org. 2007-08-29. http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/street/streetov.html. Retrieved 2019-05-02. 
  15. Newell, Jenny; Winser, Keith. "Felday World War 1 Prisoner Of War Camp". Surrey Archaeological Society. https://www.academia.edu/5568657. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  16. National Heritage List 1245123: Woodhouse Copse
  17. "The Webb Memorial Trust". https://www.rethinkingpoverty.org.uk/about-the-trust/. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  18. Donnelly, Sue. "Hammering out a new world – the Fabian Window at LSE". https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsehistory/2017/09/13/hammering-out-a-new-world-the-fabian-window-at-lse/. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  19. "Boarding Houses". https://www.hurtwoodhouse.com/life/boarding-houses/. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  20. "Mullard Space Science Laboratory". https://www.ucl.ac.uk/mssl/. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  21. "University College London, Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL)". https://www.ukspacefacilities.stfc.ac.uk/Pages/University-College-London,-Mullard-Space-Science-Laboratory-(MSSL)---Guildford.aspx. Retrieved 2 May 2019. 
  22. [http://www.belmont-school.org/ Belmont School
  23. Hurtwood House
  24. Moon Hall School
  25. Village events: Holmbury St Mary
  26. Keith Parkins. "Surrey Writers". Heureka.clara.net. http://www.heureka.clara.net/surrey-hants/surrey-writers.htm. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  27. "E. M. Forster". https://dorkingmuseum.org.uk/local-history/famous-dorking-residents/e-m-forster/. Retrieved 2 May 2019.