Although we may never know the precise origins of the village of Claygate, what is certain is that its existence was recorded in the Domesday Book around 1080 as Claigate. It was held by Westminster Abbey and its domesday assets were: ½ hide, 2 ploughs, 5 acres (20,000 m2) of meadow and woodland worth 1 hog. It rendered £2 10s 0d. A plaque commemorating this can be seen on The Green.
The manor of Claygate was held by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey from the 11th to 16th century. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, it was annexed to Hampton Court and in 1539 Henry VIII granted a lease to the manor to Cuthbert Blakeden (his Serjeant of the Confectionary) whose name is remembered in Blakeden Drive.
For many centuries Claygate was essentially a small rural village which, as the years passed, eventually took up the business of brick-making.
There are two principal events that caused Claygate to grow and prosper and become a desirable residential area. First, the arrival of royalty at nearby Claremont in 1816. This attracted a number of wealthy and noble families to Claygate. Second was the coming of the railway in 1885 making Claygate a convenient location for travel to and from London. This led to the steady growth in Claygate’s population from about 850 in 1885 to some 7,000 today.
Claygate took its name from the clay pits that used to be in the village, providing bricks for a large surrounding area including most of Hampton Court Palace. The village lies at the start of the broad belt of clay deposits around London - it was, literally, the ‘GATE-way’ to the ‘CLAY’. The Claygate Beds, the youngest layers of the London Clay, take their name from Claygate. The legacy can be seen today in some street names such as Forge Drive, Kilnside and Fishersdene (so called from the clay pond over which it is built). Claygate Fireplaces Ltd was established in 1922 and their distinctive thin claybrick style is now much sought after and rather valuable.
In about 1822 the Claygate Pearmain apple was discovered by John Braddick growing in a hedge at Claygate. Several Pearmain trees can still be seen in gardens around the village.
Claygate has a number of long-standing sports clubs including Claygate Cricket Club founded 1885, Surbiton Golf Club founded 1895 and Claygate Lawn Tennis Club founded 1926.
Claygate Tennis Club Today
The Parish church is Holy Trinity built in 1840 when Claygate separated from Thames Ditton to form its own parish, thus saving worshippers the walk to church at Thames Ditton via Old Claygate Lane. The church originally only had one spire and the inclusion of a second in the 1860s is of architectural significance. There is also a First Church of Christ Scientist and the Catholic community is served by the Church of the Holy Name just outside Claygate in Arbrook Lane, Esher.
Following the opening of Claygate Railway station in 1885, the character of the village changed dramatically. Lord Foley, one of the major land owners, sold off development plots over a large area of land including Foley Road, Claremont Road, Beaconsfield Road and Gordon Road.
|Early Photo of Station looking towards London
|Claygate Station today
Claygate's relative isolation has been attributed to historical conditions when through-roads became impassable in wet weather because of the clay. Today we remain off the main road system with only three roads leading to and from the village.
Claygate is dominated on one side by Ruxley Towers, a victorian edifice constructed by Lord Foley who owned a considerable amount of land in the 19th Century. The towers were occupied by the NAAFI for their headquarters during the 2nd World War and are now luxury homes.
On the other side of the village, on Telegraph Hill, is a semaphore station built in 1822 to transmit messages between The Admiralty and Portsmouth. Telegraph Hill was brought back to its original use on New Year’s Eve 1999 as one of the nationwide network of millennium beacons.
Claygate has been the location for several TV shows including ‘Never the Twain’, in which the Greek Vine frontage was used as the setting for two antique shops; ‘Wyatts Watchdogs’, a comedy about neighbourhood watch; ‘The Two Ronnies’ and ‘Men Behaving Badly’.