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A HANDBOOK OF DORKING.

“Oh! pleasant land of idlesse !
Jollity bides not ’neath the trees,
But thought, that roams from folly free,
Through the pure world of poetry,
Puts on her strength in scenes like these."

MARY HOWITT.

“NAME a third country town for beauty and cleanliness, and all that makes a place pleasant, worthy to be numbered with Dorking and Guildford.”

So writes Martin Tupper, the far-famed author of Proverbial Philosophy. We believe that the praise which he has awarded to Guildford is well deserved ; an intimate acquaintance with Dorking enables us to corroborate his opinion respecting that town with a still greater measure of certainty. In order to describe it properly, we will take it for granted that our readers know no more about Dorking than the few brief and dry particulars which they may have gleaned from the pages of a Gazetteer.

Many of them, in the old coach-days, probably passed through it on their way to Horsham or Brighton. If they were gifted with the love of beauty, or with an eye for the picturesque, they could not fail to be struck with the town, so peacefully does it lie in the valley, surrounded by hills and uplands,

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which in some directions are clothed with foliage, and in others stand out bare, and yet withal, beautiful in their form and outline.

DORKING, or Dorchinges according to the Domesday Book, is situated upon the Pip-Brook, a little stream which runs parallel with the town on the north side, and after crossing the London road, empties itself into the Mole under Box Hill. In olden times, the streams in the neighbourhood were famous for producing perch, and we are told that “Dutch merchants used to come frequently from London to eat water-souchy, made of them in great perfection here.". Dorking is bounded on the North by the Parishes of Mickleham and Great Bookham; on the East by Betchworth; on the South by Leigh, Newdigate, Capel, and Ockley ; and on the West by Wotton. By the coach road, it is twenty-four miles from Cornhill, twelve from Guildford and Horsham, five from Letherhead, and about nine from Epsom.

The statistics of Dorking, and all necessary information respecting the town, we shall endeavour to compress within as small a space as possible. Readers of Guide-books, like birds of passage, come and go with the season, and very little does it concern them to be informed upon all those minute points which the writers thereof are sometimes tempted to bring under their cognizance, and which tend to make their volumes flat and unprofitable.

Be it known then, that Dorking must at one period have been a place of considerable importance. In name and repute it is very ancient, and it is probable that the manor was given by William the Conqueror, to Gundreda his daughter, who married the first Earl of Warren and Surrey, for we find that the seventh earl claimed the right of holding the market and fair in the town, the latter on the eve and day of the Feast of the Ascension, at which season it is still commemorated. Upon the early history of the town, we do not propose to enter. At one period, it must have been a place of considerable resort, and the number of large inns which it contained, affords us some idea of its prosperity. The remains of one or two of these ancient buildings, now converted to other purposes, are still standing, and will be viewed with interest.

Among these, the Queen's Arms at the corner of West Street, near the Post-Office, appears to have been the largest. It extended a considerable way down the Street, and probably terminated at the spot now occupied by the Bell; the old bar and the old sign have been preserved, and the date 1591 is still visible.

At the north-west angle of the High Street, on the present site of the ' Post-Office, there another very large inn, part of which is still standing, although long ago converted to other purposes. It bore the sign of the Lower Chequers, but was changed at the time of the Restoration to the Old King's Head. This inn was the resort of many celebrated men, and on the glass of the windows, removed about thirty years ago, many curious devices and signatures were engravel

was

The markets, too, were large and well-frequented in those days, but the Market House falling into decay, was pulled down in 1813, and never re-built.

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From this circumstance, we may safely argue that the trade of the town was in no very flourishing condition at that period.*

Time has gradually destroyed nearly all traces of Dorking's primitive condition, and the shops and houses have been modernized in accordance with the spirit of the age. Mr. Thorne, in his “Rambles by Rivers," one of the most charming volumes in Knight's Shilling Series, describes it as a “long, neat,

. Among the curiosities lately sold in the Bernal collection, was a gilt sacramental cup, shaped like a wine-glass, with a curiously-chased stem. It was found on pulling down an old house near Dorking, and is supposed to have been concealed in the roof from which it fell, in the time of the Parliamentary War. It sold for 11 guineas.

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quiet town, famous for its poultry, butter, and other good things," and considers that it is quite unmatched for the number and variety of pleasant rambles it offers, by any other town within the same distance of London. With less truth, or rather with singular incongruity, the author of "A Promenade round Dorking," describes the town as “ London in miniature, possessing shops, little inferior in taste and display, to the boasted lines of Cheapside or the Strand." The shops and houses in the High Street give one the idea of general comfort and respectability, and certainly resemble those of London in one particular; that all which have been constructed of late years, are built with view to convenience rather than effect. Why the two objects should not be combined, we have never yet been able to determine. Adaptation to use is of course the first thing to be studied, and it is now recognised as “the germ of the beautiful and the elegant in every style of architecture.” Let this then be the main object, but this being secured, it is assuredly no mean consideration how the eye may be best pleased, or at any rate not offended. And the simple exercise of taste would prevent those deformities which destroy the effect of so many of our modern buildings.

An extract from a work upon the picturesque, which we have lately met with, furnishes an example of one error which is strikingly obvious in the architecture of several of our houses. It is the

• The Elements of Picturesque Scenery, by H. Twining.,

Longinan & Co.

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