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Chobham Common

Chobham Common is large heath area in Surrey, England, formerly a freehold owned by the Earl of Onslow and purchased by Surry County in 1966. Chobham Common is a nature reserve and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). It is one of the last remaining habitats of the ant Formica rufibarbis, and also is host to such species as the sand lizard and the smooth snake.

The Common apparently includes a Bronze Age burial mound (barrow) but its location is no longer clear. A number of other barrows are scattered through the local area. Another apparently Bronze Age work is a series of earthworks known as the Bee Garden, although dating the structure appears difficult. A similar structure with tripple embankments, often called the second bee garden, was constructed in the Middle Ages, although its purpose is obscure perhaps a stock enclosure.

In the 7th century, the Manor of Chobham was granted to Chertsey Abbey by the Crown and remained in the possession of the Abbey until its surrender to Henry VIII in 1537.John de Rutherwyk, Abbot of Chertsey Abbey during the reign of Edward II created Gracious Pond. This has silted up and is now a wet wood of about 20 acres that is an enclosure in the common. He also enclosed Langshot and he made a moat with running water around Chobham Manor (now Chobham Park).

On July 20th 1614 the Manor of Chobham was conveyed to Sir George More. It reverted back to the Crown on the death of Sir George More. On November 19th 1620 the Manor was granted to Sir Edward Zouch and again reverted back to the Crown on his death. George II granted the Manor to Walter Abel for a term of 1000 years and Lord Onslow derived his title to the Manor from Walter Abel. The Manor then comprised 2,658 acres of arable land and 1,672 acres of grassland. Chobham Common formed part of this lease. Following the Napoleonic Wars, allotments were enclosed for the poor at Jubilee Mount and Burrowhill.

In 1853 the Common was used as a large temporary camp for the Army before shipping the troops to the Crimean War. The Monument on the northern part of the Common was built in 1901 to commemorate Queen Victoria's visit in 1853 to review her troops. (According to the Punch magazine of the time, conditions were very unpleasant due to wet weather. For instance, there were cartoons of soldiers with frog's legs, and of soldiers fishing whilst sitting in their tents.) Several curiously alternating banks and depressions just north of the Monument, and on other parts of the Common, are thought to be First World War training entrenchments. In 1952 a stone was erected in Chobham Place Woods by Sir Edward le Marchant, in memory of the troops.

During the World War II, The Tank Factory was built on private land near the Common, but extended onto part of the Common. In compensation for the lost land, Chobham Place Woods and Round Pond Woods were added to the Common. Much of the common was used as a driving ground for testing the new tanks and armoured vehicles that were being designed and developed. The damage to the vegetation and erosion caused at that time are still not entirely eradicated, and major portions of the Common had to be ploughed and reseeded after the war. There was also an Italian prisoner of war camp on part of the common now owned by the Sunningdale Golf Club, and an ammunition dump adjoining the common at Childown. Today the Tank Factory is famous for the development of Chobham armour.

After the Common was opened to the public, horse riding on the common became popular. However the effect of the horses was fairly detrimental, and there has been ongoing friction between the county and the riders since then.

External links:

Chobham Common
- includes a map
The Military Camp on Chobham Common 1853