Of course you do – you live in Great Bookham or is it Little Bookham, Fetcham, or Effingham.? But do you really know? You are probably relying on the postcode – KT22, KT23, KT24 or even KT11 or RH5. But of course, the postcode is only for the convenience of the post office for the delivery of mail. The real divisions between districts go back into history and to the definition of the parishes. Great Bookham covers about five square miles and Little Bookham, one and a half square miles.
From ancient times England was divided in dioceses under a bishop and each was then divided into parishes under the pastoral care of a priest with the parish church as the centre of worship. The priest was maintained by claiming a living from his parish in the form of tithes and other charges. The parish was assessed in terms of the value of produce of the land – it might be by the number of cattle or pigs kept on a field, the crop grown or produce of a forge or mill. A tithe approximated one tenth of the value of the land and could be paid either in goods or the value of them. This payment maintained the church and the priest himself. Today we pay council tax, rates and taxes – tithes were an ancient form of taxation.
A further division of a parish was a manor although very often manor and parish coincided. The lord of the manor had jurisdiction over the people of that manor in terms of how they lived together, disputes or criminal acts. The manor house off Manorhouse Lane existed in Little Bookham whilst in Great Bookham the central manor was Eastwick Park (off Lower Road) which most famously was owned by the Howard family, one of the highest families in the land. The parish of Great Bookham had other manor houses.
The old ordnance survey maps show clearly the boundaries of the parishes and these may be a surprise to many. They stretch from the river Mole in the north right down to Ranmore Common in the south. To the East of Great Bookham the parish boundary crosses the Lower Road between Eastwick Drive and Kennel Lane going north to join Eastwick Drive. Progressing south from Lower Road it crosses to the Guildford Road on a rather devious path with several turns to go down the main road and turn off to cross Downs Way all the way to Ranmore Common beyond Polesden Lacey on the South. From Ranmore as the furthest south, the parish boundary continues north up Rectory Lane and over to Little Bookham Street. The main surprise is that Bookham continues in a northerly direction to the river Mole. This boundary means that Slyfield Manor (and the Menuhin School) are in Great Bookham. Slyfield is normally thought to be in Stoke d’Abernon – it certainly appears so in terms of postcode.
Slyfield Manor has a marvellous history with a famous family and is a place where Queen Elizabeth I herself stayed. Apart from its history it also has its own selection of ghostly tales. Slyfield formed yet another of the manors of Great Bookham – the other Great Bookham house was Polesden Lacey.
Slyfield included in Great Bookham is one surprise but there are others. The parish boundary normally traverses the middle of a road. The division between Great and Little Bookham is Little Bookham Street. In terms of parishes everybody on the east of Little Bookham Street is in Great Bookham and on the west, Little Bookham! Again in the part of Eastwick Drive which forms the parish boundary – the west side of the road is Great Bookham, the east is Fetcham!
Also strange is the way the parish boundary behaves near The Grange. The boundary just south beyond Preston House takes a neat turn to encircle The Grange, thereby taking it into the parish of Great Bookham instead of continuing down the centre of Rectory Lane. The boundary returns to Rectory Lane just past the house and it is believed that Arthur Bird (who gave the Old Barn Hall to the village) caused this change. He certainly had an interest in Great Bookham parish creating one of his sons, George, as parish priest and it looks as if he did not wish to have ‘little’ ascribed to himself.
Having completely confused you, do you still know where you live? Are you really in Little Bookham? Are you really in Great Bookham? It all depends on whether you are talking about the modern postal areas or the historical parishes!