Some background History

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Some background to Horley’s development.

Many of our guests who have taken a stroll up the road to Ye Olde Six Bells and looked at the houses in Massett’s Road ask me how and why Horley developed, particularly the big houses like Springwood. So here is a little about its history.

Following the Norman Conquest, Horley is not named in William 1st’s Domesday Book as it is thought to be included within the northern manor returns. After the Dissolution of the Monastries in 1539, Horley Manor passed to Henry VIII who gave or sold it to various people until 1602, when it became the property of Christ’s Hospital in London. A map of its purchase was produced in that year, the original of which is held today by the Guildhall Library in the City of London. This map clearly shows that Horley consisted of three separated settlements around the western and northern edges of a huge open common.

One settlement was by the Church, parts of which are thought to be 14th century, along with today’s Six Bells Public House of 15th century origin; another where the Watermill once stood by the River Mole; and the third, along the northern boundary of the common (today called Horley Row) where several other properties can be seen, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

By 1812 with a population of a little under 1000, the huge common was enclosed. New roads were planned and the intervening land sold. However, Horley changed little even when two of its planned roads were turnpiked, one in 1809 and the other in 1816, to allow regular stage coach services to operate between London and Brighton.

In 1841, the railway was laid across the common and the first Horley station came into operation to serve its population that had by then reached 1500.

In 1905 the 2 more rails were laid from Horley to London. This was the big change which led to Horley becoming part of the ‘stockbroker belt’. It was this good service from Horley to London which made it a popular choice for the ‘City Gentleman’ to build a large house close to the Surrey countryside in which to live in comfort with his family.

Looking south from station rd footbridge

This photograph is courtesy of The Horley History Society who own the copyright. You can learn more here

Springwood was built between 1895 and 1913. I have been able to establish this with the help of The Horley History Society who have maps which show there was no development in Massetts Road on the 1895 map and the houses are seen clearly on the 1913 map.

Springwood and most of the houses in Massetts Road were built by a local builder Arthur Jennings whose business was also in Massetts Road. His business was eventually taken over by Mitchell’s who continue to trade in Horley.

I was surprised to find out that although there were plans for Horley to have mains electricity in 1905 it didn’t actually materialise until 1927. No doubt this maid calling system, whose panel still survives at Springwood, was the height of sophistication at the time.


The town of Horley grew steadily to a population of around 8000 by 1940. Whereas agriculture was its main industry prior to World War II, it changed rapidly after to become a dormitory town for London commuters and a place to house the growing workforce, and associated businesses, of Gatwick Airport. From its humble beginnings in 1930 as a recreational airfield, Gatwick first became a continental airport with its own terminal (now listed) building The Beehive in 1936. For those of you who have stayed in our Beehive room you will know that it is an iconic Art Deco building.


Today, Gatwick is the UK’s second largest airport and handles some 40 million passengers a year.

Depite the fact that Horley is now mainly a residential town with business services and some light industry alongside Gatwick Airport, it is still situated within pleasant rural surroundings from which it originally evolved. Something its population remains keen to safeguard.

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