Egham is a town in the Runnymede borough of Surrey, in the south-east of England. It is part of the London commuter belt and Greater London Urban Area and has its own railway station. It adjoins, narrowly, junction 13 of the M25 motorway and is centred WSW of London. It can be considered a university town as it has on its higher part, Egham Hill, the campus of Royal Holloway, University of London. Not far from this town at Runnymede the Magna Charta was signed.
Part of Egham was once in the county of Berkshire across the River Thames.
Egham predates 666AD when Chertsey Abbey was founded with many square miles of land which included that of Ecga's Ham, a one of the very oldest surviving charters (detailed records) of the country.
Egham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Egeham. It was (as mentioned) held by Chertsey Abbey and kept by that institution after the conquest when its assets were: 15 hides; 12 ploughlands, of meadow, together with woodland, 'herbage and pannage' worth 75 hogs. It rendered one of the largest sums in Surrey to its feudal overlords per year, £30 10s 0d.
The village of Egham was before 19th century losses an ancient parish covering land totalling in the counties of Berkshire (briefly) and Surrey; incorporating Egham, Egham Hill, Coopers Hill, Englefield Green, Virginia Water, Shrubs Hill, Runnymede, Egham Hythe, and a considerable portion of Windsor Great Park. In the medieval period it was divided into four roughly equal tythings:
The manor of Egham, which includes Runnymede belonged formerly, and in 1215, to Chertsey Abbey, and after the dissolution (around 1540) became the property of the Crown, though granted to various tenants (holders) at different times.
The Magna Carta was sealed at nearby Runnymede in 1215, and is commemorated by a memorial, built in 1957 by the American Bar Association, at the foot of Cooper's Hill (a small rise adjacent to the Thames floodplain, immortalised in verse by such luminaries as John Denham ('Cooper's Hill') and Alexander Pope ('Windsor Forest')). A Sculpture portraying King John and Baron Fitzwalter in the act of sealing the Magna Carta is also in Church Road in the centre of town.
Another memorial at the top of the hill in nearby Englefield Green, the Air Forces Memorial commemorates all Commonwealth air force personnel killed in World War II. It was the first new-built British building to be listed in the post-war era. The memorial is administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and freely open to the public year-round. It has excellent views towards London, Windsor and the Surrey Hills, as well as being a place of quiet contemplation and reflection.
Egham at one time held horse races which took place at the Runnymede meadow, which interfered with the Inclosure Act of 1814 (54 G. III, c. 153), and the consequent award made in 1817, which divided up the meadow, as the Act stipulated that any enclosures which should interfere with the holding of Egham races at the end of August upon its usual course must be removed every year. In 1836 the races was presided over by William IV, who gave a plate to be run for at the meeting, which coincided with festivities at Windsor for his daughter's marriage. The races ceased in 1884.
Other than two forming the hub of today's Virginia Water (including Wentworth), the principal properties were 'Egham Manor and Park', 'Egham Wick', 'Kenwolde Court', 'Markwood', 'Kingswood' and 'Alderhurst' for a time home of Lord Thring.
During World War II, American author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss was briefly stationed in Egham as part of his work on the propaganda film Your Job in Germany. He did not settle well in the town, despite the efforts of his RAF host Flight Sergeant Sam Beckinsale to draw the local amenities to his attention. When it was pointed out how green the area was, due in part to its proximity to Windsor Great Park he retorted "I do not like green Egham". Geisel later cited this as the inspiration for his 1960 best-selling book Green Eggs and Ham and the often-repeated line in the book "I do not like them Sam I Am. I do not like green eggs and ham".
Parts of Egham have featured in national and international news in the 21st century. On 12 September 2007 a case of foot-and-mouth disease was found in Egham, from the previous outbreak found in early August 2007. In December, 2008, Egham was at the centre of a controversy due to possible traffic impact on the 3 level crossings in the town to be kept in situ under the abandoned Heathrow Airtrack project. Occasional flooding of Runnymede and parts of Egham Hythe have taken place following exceptional Thames Valley winter rainfall, including the deployment of units of the army to assist with defences to the main national damage, flooding, flowing from the 2013-14 winter storms.
Egham once lay within the Godley hundred, which lay in the early medieval period within Windsor Forest in a part of it which was subject to a long-running dispute as to whether it lay within the historic county boundaries of Surrey or Berkshire.
Egham Rural District was a Local Government District within the administrative county of Surrey. It was created in 1894 and replaced in 1906 with Egham Urban District, which was later abolished in 1974. Since 1974, Egham has been part of the Runnymede borough of Surrey.