Camberley is a town in Surrey, England, southwest of central London, between the M3 and M4 motorways. The town is situated in the far west of the county, close to the borders of Hampshire and Berkshire; the boundaries intersect on the western edge of the town where all three counties converge on the A30 trunk road. It is the main town in the borough of Surrey Heath. Camberley's suburbs include Crawley Hill, Yorktown, Heatherside (despite being separated by the M3 motorway) and the Old Dean district, a 20th century suburb.
At the 2011 census the Aldershot Urban Area (which also includes other towns on both sides of the Hampshire-Surrey border, such as Aldershot, Farnborough, and Farnham) had a population of 252,937, making it the twenty-ninth largest urban area in the UK.
Before the 19th century, the area now occupied by Camberley was referred to as "Bagshot/Frimley Heath", which was known as a haunt of highwaymen such as William Davies – known as the Golden Farmer – and Claude Duval. The land remained largely undeveloped and uncultivated due to a sandy topsoil which made it unsuitable for farming. In A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, written between 1724 and 1726, Daniel Defoe described the area as barren and sterile; "A mark of the just resentment shew'd by Heaven upon the Englishmen's pride... horrid and frightful to look on, not only good for little, but good for nothing".
The town as it now stands has its roots in the building of The Royal Military College, which later became the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1812. A settlement known as "New Town" grew in the area around the college which in 1831 was renamed Yorktown, after Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (second son of George III, died 1827). At this time, the population was 702. In 1848, the first parish church of St. Michael, Yorktown was built by Henry Woodyer, in an area formerly part of Frimley, itself only a chapelry of Ash.
Later, the Staff College was established to the east of the Academy, and a property speculator built the nearby Cambridge Hotel. The surrounding area became known as "Cambridge Town", but was renamed "Camberley" in January 1877 to avoid confusion by the General Post Office with Cambridge in Cambridgeshire. The renaming of Camberley was mentioned in the 1963 film adaptation of William Golding's Lord of the Flies. The character Piggy states that the new name consisted of three parts; "Cam" taken from the original name of Cambridgetown, "ber" which means 'river', because there are many rivers in the area, and "ley" because it is a common ending for English town names in the area (as in neighbouring Frimley); although the name was actually derived from the "Cam" stream which runs through the town (mainly underground), "Amber" Hill which was marked on John Norden's map of the area in 1607 and "ley" usually meaning a clearing in the woodland.
During the 19th century, Camberley grew in size. This was given added impetus with the arrival of the branch-line railway and railway station in 1878 and a reputation for healthy air, due to the vast number of pine trees, which were said to be good for those suffering from pulmonary disorders. By the end of the century the population had reached 8,400. Since then, the town has absorbed the original settlement of Yorktown, which is now regarded as part of Camberley.
Surrey Research Tips
Administrative boundaries of the county of Surrey (Surrey History Centre. The centre has a website with a number of useful indexes--titheholders in various parishes, deaths at the county gaol, etc.)
The website GENUKI provides a very comprehensive list of reference sources for the County of Surrey. It includes: