Set in a particularly picturesque part of the Surrey countryside lies Leatherhead and Dorking. Forming part of the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the market town of Leatherhead enjoys multiple connectivity with the UK. With immediate access to the M25 by road, excellent rail links with a frequent and direct service to London Waterloo, and being the exact midpoint between the UK’s two largest international airports, Gatwick and Heathrow, its location makes it an outstanding town to trade with and do business in. An estimated 12, 000 people work across Leatherhead with the headquarters of a number of leading companies based here, including the headquarters of the Police Federation of England and Wales, and ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas companies. It has also long been home to a cluster of research centres, and with fears that there is a failure to supply and retain suitably trained and motivated young people in the science, technology and engineering sectors, there are plans to create a science and research park near Junction 9 of the M25 in Leatherhead.
Alongside this, Leatherhead is located on the bank of the River Mole, minutes from the chalky headland of the North Downs. Flowing down from Box Hill, the River Mole provides the town with one of its most picturesque features, and has become home to more than 50 species of birds. Shell Bridge, where the river splits and adjoins two islands, is one of three Grade II listed ornamental bridges in Leatherhead - a worthwhile visit when on a meandering spring walk.
Things you might not know
Leatherhead’s much-loved former live music venue, the Bluesette Club played host to musicians such as Cat Stevens, Ronnie Wood and Marc Bolan in the 1960s and 1970s. Even guitar legend Jimmy Hendrix once jammed to a crowd there.
British film icon, Sir Michael Caine, best-known for his distinct cockney accent, resides in Leatherhead.
Donald Campbell, a former resident of Leatherhead, set the world land speed record in his boat, the legendary Bluebird in 1964. This world record took place on a lake in Crawley, now known as Campbell Lake.
Leatherhead secured a place in modern music history when, in 1974, producer Nigel Gray set up the Surrey Sound recording studios in a former village hall in the north of the town. In 1977, the recordings of much of the early repertoire of The Police, including “Roxanne”, «Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon” took place here, followed by the Grammy Award-winning album Zenyatta Mondatta and its hit single “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”.
The 1960s mod rock band, John’s Children, was formed in Leathered in 1963 by Andy Ellison and Chris Townson, former pupils of nearby Box Hill School. Briefly featuring future T. Rex frontman, Marc Bolan, the band made a name for themselves with their outrageous live performances which resulted in being booted off a tour with The Who in 1967.
In the Arts
Leatherhead Drama Festival was founded in 2004 and is the UK’s largest drama festival, in which schools and drama schools from around Surrey and beyond, compete for the Sir Michael Caine Drama Awards, the Richard Houghton Awards and the ‘Fire & Iron’ New Writing Awards. Sir Michael Caine, patron of the festival, presents the awards at the Gala Awards night each year.
Working in partnership with Surrey County Council, Coast2Capital, The Environment Agency and a number of other partners, Leatherhead is set to benefit from a £4.9million regeneration project which will see the face of the town change in epic proportions.
Major developments include Bull Hill/Red House Gardens which will be developed to provide a mixed use development site. The Riverside Quarter will transform the area by the River Mole at Claire and James House, and is being positioned as the town’s unique selling point. Plans include a proposed decked viewing point, a pedestrian footbridge, natural play areas and enhanced riverside walks linking the various business parks.
£1.4 million of investment has been approved by Mole Valley District to improve the shopping experience in Leatherhead for residents and visitors with larger shop units proposed at The Swan Centre. Plans also extend to a new cinema complex and big name brands.