Ashtead is a village or town in the Metropolitan Green Belt of Surrey, England and has a railway station on secondary routes to Horsham and Guildford, formerly the Portsmouth Main Line. It is separated from Leatherhead by the M25, and from Epsom by Ashtead Common and Langley Vale. Its district council is Mole Valley. Ashtead is on western slopes of the Mole Gap of the North Downs and is on the A24 where it is a single carriageway as is generally the case within the M25 motorway. Ashtead has a large two-part conservation area including the mansion Ashtead House used by City of London Freemen's School, and six other schools. Amenities include parks, outlying woodland trails and a high street with convenience shopping, cafés and restaurants, a football club, a cricket club and an amateur theatre.
The incidence of private home ownership is very high and Ashtead has no high rise buildings or dual carriageways.
There has been settlement in Ashtead since at least Roman times, with a Roman villa excavated in what is now Ashtead common. Ashtead within a few hundred years of the foundations of Anglo-Saxon England lay within the Copthorne hundred.
Ashtead appears in the Domesday Book as Stede. It was held by the Canons of Bayeux from the Bishop of Bayeux. Its Domesday Assets were: 3 hides and 1 virgate; 16 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth 7 hogs. Its people rendered £12 in total to its feudal system overlords per year. Its main source of water at the time seems to have been the Rye.
St Giles Church in Ashtead Park dates from the 12th century, and Ashtead is mentioned twice in Samuel Pepys' diaries. Part of his entry for 25 July 1663 reads:
Towards the evening we bade them adieu and took horse, being resolved that, instead of the race which fails us, we would go to Epsom When we come there we could hear of no lodging, the town so full, but which was better, I went towards Ashsted, and there we got a lodging in a little hole we could not stand upright in While supper was getting I walked up and down behind my cosen [cousin] Pepys's house that was, which I find comes little short of what I took it to be when I was a little boy.
Ashtead has been spelt differently even after the Victorian general harmonisation of spelling that was accelerated by the mass distribution of the maps and the printed press, its most lasting variants being "Ashsted" and "Ashstead". Until 1967, Ashtead railway station had "Ashtead" and "Ashstead" displayed on station name plates hanging on opposite platforms. The suffix '-stead' also written '-sted' is used to form the meaning behind and pronunciation of the place name, as in Sanderstead, Bearsted, Oxted and East Grinstead, and following the spelling of Oxted has settled on minimal instances of 's', it being deemed implicit in English place name pronunciation. However, while it may have been implicit in 1967, as with Cheshunt and Wrotham it is an example of a London satellite area with slightly counterintuitive pronunciation. 'Stede' is the earliest spelling, without any first syllable, from the 11th century, see the Domesday Book above.