The Dorking Caves

Much of Dorking is built upon the soft sand of the Greensand Hills. These hills rise to the south and west of the town to form Leith Hill. The honey coloured sandstone can also be seen in many local buildings. The softness of the sand has resulted in a honeycomb of passages and shafts, many of them being associated with strange stories and legends.

All of the caves are man-made, although the reason for constructing them and their age is part of their enigmatic character. Historian John Aubrey referred to the caves in the 17th century, praising their qualities as wine cellars. The oldest date found inscribed on the walls is 1672 and one theory is that they were excavated to provide material for the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666.

As for their use, it seems that the caves were quite likely to have been used by smugglers. Dorking was conveniently located between the south coast and London and entrances to the caves were well hidden. One cave in High Street is known to have provided a venue for cock fighting. Others may have been used as a hiding hole during periods of religious persecution.

The South Street caves are amongst the most extensive, descending over 50 feet below ground level. It is said that the gentleman who constructed them bankrupted himself in the process and ended up in the poor house.

The caves are currently not open to the public.

Dorking Caves