St Martha's Hill

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On St Martha's Hill
The church close up

St Martha's Hill is a landmark of the parish of St Martha's in Surrey, situated between Guildford and Chilworth. It is a prominent hill on the Greensand Ridge just to the south of the North Downs. The top of the hill provides good views over the countryside, and across the Surrey Hills 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. It is a popular wedding venue.

The hill reaches a height of 573 feet.

Historical interest

The site contains several Megalithic and Neolithic artefacts, dating from as far back as 3500 BC.

There is a traditional belief that the original name of this hill was Saints and Martyrs Hill, the martyr being Thomas Becket.[1][2]

St Martha-on-the-Hill

St Martha's Church[3] (also known as St Martha-on-the-Hill) is a Grade II listed building.[4] The church stands on the top of the hill and is accessible only by foot.

The Pilgrims' Way passes by the church and featured briefly in the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale. A 12th century church existed on this location before falling into ruin by the 18th century. The church was rebuilt in 1848-1850 by Henry Woodyer who incorporated many of the original 12th century architectural features including Norman arches to the main entrance as well as zig zag moulded lancet windows on the tower.[5] The interior is a plain, restrained style with the majority of fittings of a post 1850 date, the main exception being a 12th-century font (albeit re cut in 1850). [6] near the front entrance. Keen eyed observers will note the presence of incised graffiti on much of the exterior dressed stonework. Due to its location the church may have been built as a landmark or beacon to assist travellers.[2]

Its current dedication to St Martha is one of very few in Britain with that dedication. The church is floodlit during the Christmas season.

The graveyard of the church includes a memorial to actress and singer Yvonne Arnaud, whose ashes were scattered there. There is also the grave of Bernard Freyberg VC, which is in front of the south door of the church. Freyberg won his medal in 1916 as a Lieutenant-Colonel in The Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was a New Zealander who also won the DSO with three bars, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General. In 2007 a memorial service was held for him at the church, attended by the New Zealand High Commissioner.

Colyers Hanger and common land

The eastern end of St Martha's Hill is notified as part of Colyers Hanger Site of Special Scientific Interest.[7] This area was included in the SSSI for its heathland vegetation communities, including several characteristic acidic grassland plants. Other parts of the hill also have relict heathland vegetation.

The western end of St Martha's Hill is registered common land.[8]

Outside links


  1. Arnold-Forster, Frances (1899). Studies in Church Dedications: Or, England's Patron Saints. London: Skeffington & Son. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Johnson, Walter (1912). "The secular uses of the church fabric". Byways in British Archaeology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 131–132. 
  3. St Martha's Church
  4. National Heritage List 1029553: St Martha-on-the-Hill
  5. Pevsner, N and Nairn, I (1971). The Buildings of England: Surrey. Penguin. 
  6. Pevsner, N and Nairn, I (1971). The Buildings of England: Surrey. Penguin. 
  7. Natural England SSSI details search page, giving map, citation and other details for Colyers Hanger SSSI (search for "Colyers Hanger")
  8. Open Access web page showing areas of Common Land (Select "Area 1" and "Conclusive map", type TQ027483 into the OS Grid Reference box and click "Go".)