Saxon and Medieval Effingham
The name Effingham, of Saxon origin meaning the homestead of the people of Effa, Aeffa or Yffe, was first used to refer to the Effingham Hundred, a Saxon military and judicial unit which covered the parishes of Effingham, Little Bookham and Great Bookham. By the Norman Conquest in 1066 it was used to refer to a settlement with boundaries probably similar to those of Effingham today. It was one of a series of Saxon settlements between Guildford and Leatherhead, sited on the narrow strip of fertile sandy gravel soil lying between the clay lands to the north and chalk hills to the south.
Effingham was divided between four main manors. Manors were grants of land from the King to nobles and the Church to retain their support and for military service. The system originated in Saxon times but was adopted by the Normans. After the Conquest, the powerful de Clare family was granted most of the Effingham manors, the most important of which had judicial functions and by medieval times was called Effingham East Court. By the end of the medieval period there were only three main manors. The other two manors were the manor of Effingham which combined the Domesday manors of Effingham La Place and Effingham La Leigh and Byfleet cum Membris (a royal manor) which may have taken over the land of the Domesday Dirtham manor. West Horsley, East Horsley and Little Bookham manors also held some land in Effingham.
Effingham developed around the church built in the twelfth century. Next to it, as now, was the vicarage. Effingham is unusual in having a recorded vicarage on the same site from the end of the thirteenth century until it was sold by the Church in 1979. The manor houses of the two main manors were close by – Effingham East Court to the north east on the site of the current Marlborough House (formerly part of The Lodge) and that for Effingham manor to the south west at the house now called Browns. The entrance to the village centre was from what is now called Lower Road, which was the main road joining the villages from Fetcham to East Horsley. Most inhabitants would have lived in the village centre, as Effingham was an ‘open village’ where villagers worked on strips in the open fields, growing arable crops and using the downs for sheep grazing (wool was an important source of wealth) and the commons for timber and some animal grazing. (The open fields are remembered in the name Champion Down, which is on the site of the large open fields to the south of the current A246, as champion is another name for open fields). This explains why many of the farm houses were located in the centre of the village. The village was largely run by the yeoman families as the lords of the manors tended to be absentee landlords.
Lord Charles Howard (1536-1624), 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham, and later 1st Earl of Nottingham was the most famous lord of the manor of Effingham. He was Lord High Admiral of the English Fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. His father, William, had been granted Effingham manor by King Edward VI in 1551, who in 1554 made him 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, after his new lands. The Howard family sold their Effingham lands in 1647.
The 1700s and 1800s – Two Centuries of Change
The yeoman families had largely disappeared by 1800 due partly to the decline of the wool industry in Surrey and other economic factors. In their place came gentlemen who bought up the Effingham estates and lord of the manor titles. They were attracted by the better transport links, due to the opening of the turnpike road (now the A246) by 1758 (previously a muddy little used track), which improved transport links to Leatherhead and Guildford and to London. These gentlemen built or extended houses for themselves – Effingham House, The Lodge and Effingham Hill House (outside the conservation area in the south of the parish), date from this time. They also modernized the agricultural system to exploit high agricultural prices, due to the wars with France. The ownership of the open fields had become concentrated in a few hands and they agreed to divide and enclose them. In the south of the parish two parliamentary Acts of Enclosure in 1802 and 1814 enclosed the Upper Common of the manors of Effingham East Court and Byfleet. But the commons in the north of the parish of the manors of Effingham and Effingham East Court remained unenclosed, as they largely do today, due to the fight by villagers to prevent their enclosure and development in the 1970s. The largest part of the north common was bought by Guildford Borough Council in 2003.
The opening of a station at the railway junction in 1888 brought Effingham even closer to London and led to several London based wealthy self-made men acquiring houses in Effingham as their grand country homes, which they used for entertaining. Agricultural work had declined due to increased mechanisation and these houses provided the villagers with employment in occupations such as gardeners and servants. This kind of grand house lifestyle declined after the First World War, but the large houses found other uses as the Golf Club and St Teresa’s School (Effingham Hill House). In the 1920s and 30s a number of media celebrities, such as Yvonne Arnaud, brought glamour to Effingham when they bought and built country retreats here.
Modern Effingham and its Conservation Area
The twentieth and early twenty first centuries have seen Effingham develop as a commuter village. However, it also remains a rural village with arable, cattle and sheep farming and equestrian activities. Development has been confined mainly to the middle of the village, retaining its rural feel which has been protected by its Green Belt status and maintaining its separation from the adjoining villages.
Following the 1967 Civic Amenities Act which introduced the concept of conservation areas, Effingham Conservation Area was designated. This centres on Church Street as the historic heart of the village with the grid of old roads around it off Lower Road. Church Street remains remarkably well preserved, as the commercial centre of the village gradually moved to The Street by the mid twentieth century and now houses a row of modern shops. According to Historic England: “Effingham Conservation Area is significant as a good example of an attractive rural village with medieval origins. The character and appearance…is very much defined by later 18th and 19th century buildings and the sense that this was historically a modest village remains with glimpse views to surrounding countryside possible from within the conservation area….Some open spaces remain in the heart of the conservation area including a relatively large open green space which has historical value as it was once a field associated with a nearby farm.” i.e. Browns Field which was part of Browns or Manor Farm.
Effingham is the first rural village still surrounded by green fields to the south west of London.