Chobham is a village with a remarkably long history. There is evidence of local human occupation stretching back to pre-historic times. Some New Stone Age (circa 2500 BC) tools have been found. Bronze Age (circa 1500 BC) type burial mounds (round barrows) are widespread – notably near Sunningdale, Longcross and West End. There is a belief that during that time much of the area around Chobham was cleared of trees and consequently the light Bagshot Sands based soil became impoverished as nutrients were leached away. If this is true, the heathland that surrounds Chobham has been in existence for some 4000 years.
Roman habitation has been found at Bagshot. An urn full of Roman coins was unearthed in a Chobham field and a Roman coin in the eastern part of the Common.
During the fifth century AD, following the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain, invading north-German Saxon tribes of warrior-farmers rowed their longboats up the Thames and established settlements in Surrey. It is believed that one of their chieftains was called Ceabba and thus the settlement he established here became known as Ceabba’s Ham (ham meaning settlement). The place name evolved through the centuries to Chobham.
We can presume that Chobham would have followed the pattern of most Saxon villages of that time. It was built on a ridge of dry ground between two rivers (the Bournes). The fertile alluvial soils would have been ploughed to produce wheat, barley, rye, oats and beans.
The reconversion of England to Roman Christianity by missionaries in the 7th century soon led to the founding in 666 AD of a settlement of missionary priests at Chertsey. It was only some half dozen years later, when most of north-west Surrey (a name which means the ‘southern area’), including Chobham, was given to this minster. This arrangement persisted for some 900 years until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1537.
We do not know whether Chobham was seriously threatened by the waves of Danish raiders that troubled much of Britain, but we do know that in about 871 nearby Chertsey was attacked and fired.
As time went by, tribalism was gradually replaced by feudalism and centralised government, especially following the imposition of Norman rule in the 11th century.
Chobham, being under Chertsey Abbey, was probably spared the worst excesses of the Norman barons and the King’s demands. Nevertheless, the villeins were forced by the Abbot to perform many duties on the Abbot’s holding and to pay many taxes. Even after the Dissolution and right up to the 19th century the villagers were still expected to pay a one-tenth tithe to the vicar.
Following the dissolution of Chertsey Abbey in 1537, Chobham passed to secular lords of the manor (and eventually to the Onslow family). Many of Chobham’s fine old houses were built between 1550-1600 which perhaps indicates a period of freedom and prosperity for our farmers.
Old High St.GIF (10924 bytes)Chobham has always been somewhat of a backwater; bypassed by every new trend. The Romans hurried on past to fight their battles in the North and West. The turnpike road developments of the 17th and 18th centuries brought prosperity to Bagshot (A30) and Ripley (A3), but they missed Chobham. The canal developments went too far to the south. The railways brought massive growth to Woking and Sunningdale, but the planned railway line to Chobham was never built.