Merstham is a largely residential dispersed village in four sections in the borough of Reigate and Banstead in Surrey, England. It is north of Redhill and is contiguous to it. On the opposite side is the intersection of the M25 and M23 motorways, on the edge of the North Downs. Part of the North Downs Way runs along the northern boundary of the village. Merstham has community associations, an early medieval church, a football club and an art gallery.
Merstham was a civil parish in the Reigate Rural District from 1894 until 1933, and part of the Banstead Urban District from 1933 until 1974. Since 1974 it has been located in the Reigate and Banstead District.
The area has been settled since pre-Roman times.
The village lay within the Reigate hundred, an Anglo-Saxon administrative division. Its name was recorded in 947 as Mearsætham, which seems to be Anglo-Saxon Mearþ-sǣt-hām = "Homestead near a trap set for martens or weasels".
Merstham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Merstan. It was held by Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury. Its domesday assets were: 5 hides; 1 church, 1 mill worth 2s 6d, 10 ploughs, of meadow, woodland and herbage worth 41 hogs. It rendered £12.
The area has long been known for its quarries, and it was to serve these that the village became the terminus of the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway, an extension of the horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway of 1803, the world's first public railway , albeit only for goods. A small section of the railway is on display at the entrance to Quality Street, Old Merstham.
The first mines at Merstham are recorded almost 1000 years ago in the Domesday Book and 'Reigate stone' quarried there was used to build parts of Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle and Henry VIII's doomed palace of Nonsuch in Surrey.
The original parish church, St. Katharine's, dates from around 1220; it replaced an earlier church built c. 1100, although it is believed there has been a church of some form on the site since c. 675 AD.
Merstham's conservation area is centred on its High Street which winds in the village centre to the northwest, forms part of the A23 road and includes many listed buildings; the street with the greatest number, Quality Street, arcs off at a tangent from this curve of the High Street. This was named after J.M. Barrie's play of the same name, in honour of two of the actors in the play, Ellaline Terris and Seymour Hicks, who for a time lived in the 'Old Forge' at the end of the street. 1 High Street partly dates to the 17th century.
The earlier of the two Merstham railway tunnels was the scene of a murder on 24 September 1905. The mutilated body of Mary Sophia Money was found in the tunnel and was first thought to be a case of suicide. On inspection, however, a scarf was found in the victim's throat, and marks on the tunnel wall showed that she had been thrown from a moving train. The crime was never solved, but suspicion rested on her brother, Robert Money.
After World War II, the Merstham Estate was gradually built over a period spanning until the early 1970s.
The old village thus became generally known as Old Merstham and occasionally is known as Top Merstham, although no roads climb significantly except for a few roads in the north and the A23 itself takes a natural dip to 110m above sea level, avoiding rises to over 220m to either side. The article on this road provides more details of this being an old route from north to south, host to the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and similar events (such as in cycling).
Rockshaw Road, on the hilltop above the conservation area of Old Merstham, was developed at the very end of the 19th century, and between the World Wars was home to many nationally notable people, among them senior Army and Navy figures, financiers and politicians.
At the junction of Battlebridge Lane and Nutfield Road is All Saints church, the original building of which was destroyed in World War II. Volunteers from the Canadian regiments worked to build a temporary church for the village, which became known as Canada Hall and is used as a village hall and weekly meeting hall for some Merstham branches of the Girl Guides.
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: