History of the village
The area of Horsley was the largest piece of land between, and including. Guildford and Leatherhead, until the parish boundary changes in 1883, and it always had connections with Royalty until the Civil War. It is also one of our older Surrey villages and there may have been a wooden Saxon church here by the 8th century as the owner of the manor was a Christian. The foundations for the present church, built of chalk and flint, were laid down in 1030.
In 1036 the thane who owned Horsley gave a third of his land to the Archbishop of Canterbury "for the good of his soul", thus creating East Horsley.
In 1066 West Horsley was one of the villages burnt down by William the Conqueror because its thane, Brixsi, was a brother-in-law to King Harold and did not submit to him after the battle. Therefore it lost much of its value from rents and from the taxable point of view. It was given to a Norman, Walter Fitz Otha together with many other manors that had belonged to Brixsi including Compton, which Walter made his home. He was made Constable of Windsor Castle and took the surname of 'de Windsor'.
It was not until the end of the 12th century that the de Winsdors built themselves a manor house in Horsley opposite the church where the Saxon village had been. No improvements had been done to the church until this time.
After the de Windsors, many notable families occupied the manor, including Henry VIII himself for a few years but he did not live here. The Viscounts Montague owned it until the Civil War, but because they were Roman Catholics, the estate was sequested by the Parliamentarians. It was then sold to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, the brother-in-law of Sir Walter Raleigh, who left it in his will to his sister's son, Carew Raleigh.
Carew Raleigh brought his family and his mother to live here. His mother is said to have carried around her husband's head in a bag after his execution. Carew spent a great deal of money improving the house, but his two sons died in an epidemic and also a baby granddaughter. They were buried under the floor in the chapel at St.Mary's church together with Sir Walter Raleigh's head.
The village suffered very badly in the Black Death 1349 and no records were kept for a number of years. Then, because there were not enough peasants left to till the land, it was turned over to sheep and West Horsley became a wool village. Sheep grazed on the Sheepleas, there was a large tentering green and weavers lived in houses around this green.
West Horsley has over forty old houses and barns built before 1700, including a unique Church House built in 1433 and the only Tithe Barn in Surrey built of chalk and flint. At least seven of its old houses were built before 1500.
Beatrix Potter famous for her children's books, used to stay up at Woodcote Lodge with her uncle and aunt, and did many of her paintings of animals there.