Leith Hill

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Leith_Hill_tower.jpg
The tower on the top of Leith Hill

Leith Hill to the south west of Dorking reaches 295 metres (968 feet) above sea level, the highest point on the North Downs, and is either the highest or second highest point in south-east England, depending on whether one counts Walbury Hill near Newbury, Berkshire, which is 297 metres, as being in south-east England. One can see woods, rhododendrons, bluebells and magnificent views from the many walks.

It was on the summit of Leith Hill in 851, that Ethelwulf, father of Alfred the Great, defeated the Danes who were heading for Winchester, having sacked Canterbury and London.

Leith Hill Tower

In 1765 or 1766, Richard Hull of nearby Leith Hill Place (once home to the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams) built "Prospect House", later to become known as Leith Hill Tower, with the intention of raising the hill above 1,000 feet. The tower is 20 metres (65 feet) high. The tower consisted of two rooms "neatly furnished", with a Latin inscription above the door announcing that it had been built for not only his own pleasure, but also for the enjoyment of others. Hull provided visitors with prospect glasses, similar to a small telescope, through which to survey the extensive views towards London and the English Channel, each some 40 kilometres away, and thirteen counties on a very clear day.

When he died in 1772, at his request he was buried under the tower, upside-down as he believed that at Judgement Day the world would be turned on its head. Following his death, the building was stipped of its contents, doors and windows, and fell into ruin. As a result, tower was filled with rubble and concrete, and the entrance bricked up.

In 1864, Mr Eveleyn of nearby Wotten Hall decided to reopen it, but the concrete made this difficult, and so the additional turreted side-tower was added to allow access to the top of the tower.

The tower was fully restored by the National Trust in 1984, including removal of the rubble and concrete, and is open to the public (weekends throughout the year, and Wednesdays and Fridays in summer), with a display explaining the history of the tower. Cakes and drinks are on sale to reward your efforts.

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