Nothing to do with Des and Mick!

Reigate in Surrey is a traditional market town with a population of around 22,000. It lies around 20 miles south of central London, but thanks to the North Downs, which rises to 235 metres just north of the town and provides the backdrop to the town, Reigate remains totally separated from the great metropolis. It is, however, unfortunate enough to find itself adjacent to the somewhat uglier town of Redhill, which grew up in the 19th century around the railway.

The earliest settlement in the area appears in the Domesday Book as Cherchefelle, which was to the east of the present day town centre. The beginnings of the present day town of Reigate were constructed around 1170 just south of the castle. The etymology of the name Reigate is unclear - Wikipedia goes along with the theory that it is derived from 'Roe-deer Gate' - a gap through which deer were hunted; whereas Wilfrid Hooper in his book Reigate - Its Story Through the Ages prefers the idea that the element 'Rei-' comes from the Old English word for 'river' or 'stream', and in this case is a reference to the now-culverted stream that once ran in an open course across Bell Street and into the Priory.

The town boasts a considerable number of landmarks, historic buildings and open spaces, many of which you can see in this photo gallery. The 29 photographs were all taken by myself between 1985 and 1991 - however most of these scenes remain little changed today. They are divided between three pages according to the camera used to take the photographs, with varying results. We also take a look back at the story of Reigate's shopping centre that never was, and what shopping choice was available in Reigate's main streets at this time.

This first page shows the most recent, and best quality, photographs. They date from between 1988 and 1991 and were taken using a 35mm camera.

Reigate's most prominent and well-known landmark, the Old Town Hall has stood prominently in the town centre since about 1728. Since then it has gone through a number of modifications. The clock and cupola were added in 1811; they originally topped off the Clock House, Reigate's town centre prison, which stood in front of the Old Town Hall. (When this was demolished a new prison was built just south of High Street, which still stands today in what is now called Cage Yard, and is now a wine bar). In 1853, chimneys were added at each corner of the roof - these were removed in 1984, four years before this photograph was taken.

The shops on the left of the photograph were built in the 1930s and replaced the long-established Swan Inn, while on the right is The Market Inn.

Another view of the Old Town Hall. This view has changed little since the 1930s and is not likely to change at all in the future, since the whole of Reigate town centre is a conservation area, restricting new development. Though now a listed building, the Old Town Hall was the subject of calls for demolition in order to ease the flow of traffic, indeed the High Street narrows somewhat alongside the building - yet until 1970 traffic still passed in both directions along here.

A view of Reigate town centre from the High Street, with the Old Town Hall on the left. Church Street leads off from the centre of the photograph, with Bell Street going off to the right. Unlike most similar towns which have pedestrianised their main shopping streets, traffic continues to thunder through the heart of Reigate to this day. This is because the only possible route for a town centre by-pass would involve cutting across the top of Priory Park, however just such a plan in the 1980s was given a resounding thumbs down from residents. We have more on this here.

Further up the High Street, looking back towards the Old Town Hall. Next to the Boots store, steps lead up to the Castle Grounds. Just out of sight on the right of this 1991 photograph, a path used to lead down to the car park; this was redeveloped a couple of years later as Cage Yard, as part of the Safeways (now Morrisons) development.

Bell Street, facing south. The Post Office, seen in the centre left of this photograph, would soon disappear to make way for the entrance to the car park for the Safeways supermarket, which was built on semi-derelict land just south of High Street and opened in 1993. To the left of the Post Office used to stand the Reigate Garage, however this had already been demolished by 1991, when this photograph was taken. The shop with the scaffolding round it is Knights of Reigate, which occupied the same premises in the town from 1883 to 2016.

Reigate is unique in having a tunnel, at ground level, right in the town centre. Built in 1823, Tunnel Road cuts through the Castle Grounds, which rise up immediately north of the High Street, and provided a short cut for traffic and pedestrians heading north. A toll-gate was installed for horse-drawn carriages - pedestrians went through for free. Road traffic continued to pass through the tunnel until 1970, when it was pedestrianised. On the left is The Market Inn.

Some of Reigate's oldest buildings are in Slipshoe Street, seen here looking towards the western end of High Street. The tile-hung building on the left, for example, dates from the 16th century. This was the medieval market place in Reigate. A 15th century undercroft lies to the right of this photograph, which may be a substructure of the medieval market hall; it can now be found underneath a modern office block. Had the aforementioned by-pass been built, the buildings in the centre of this photograph would have been demolished; however a number of centuries-old buildings in this area did meet their demise in the 1930s when London Road was widened

In contrast, a very nice view of a modern multi-storey car park - the only such example of one in Reigate. It was built in 1989/90, shortly before this photograph was taken. The story behind why it exists is perhaps more interesting than the car park itself, as it was the only part of major shopping development that actually got built - see here for the full story. The 1980s office development on the left included a new cinema which replaced the 1930s Majestic Cinema.

Reigate Priory stands in Priory Park, situated just south of the town centre. In 1942 the 65-acre park was sold to an insurance company who proposed to build shops and flats on it. Permission was refused, and in 1945 the park was sold to the borough council, who opened the grounds to the public for the first time. In 2007/8 the whole of Priory Park was restored to its former glory thanks to lottery funding.

A view of Priory Park, looking towards Priory Pond. This path no longer exists - as part of the 2007/8 restoration of the park, it was replaced by a new path sited a little further north.

Next page: 1985-1987


Old Reigate
The Reigate Society

Images copyright © Robert Williams 1988-1991