Cobham consists of two main settlements - Church Cobham, clustered around the church near the banks of the River Mole, and Street Cobham, which grew up along the old Portsmouth Road, now bypassed by the modern A3.
Cobham or 'Coveham' meaning 'Cofa's Ham' based on a Saxon personal name, is first recorded c.675 A.D. when it formed part of the grant by Frithuwald, sub-king of Surrey, to Chertsey Abbey. This grant was confirmed by King Edward the Confessor in 1062. Cobham was still held by the abbey in 1086 when the Domesday Survey was compiled. At the time it had three mills, all for grinding corn, but later these mills were put to other uses. Downside Mill, for example, was also being used for the manufacture of paper by the late 17th century and about a hundred years later it was converted into an iron mill, where iron was smelted and small iron goods manufactured.
There is no mention of a church in 1086 although it is reasonable to presume that one existed. The parish church of St Andrew has many Norman features. Cobham remained the property of Chertsey Abbey until 1537, when the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII, and it is recorded that Henry visited Cobham on a number of occasions. In 1553 Queen Mary granted it to George Bigley and then Cobham passed, through marriage, to the Gavell family who held it for next 150 years.
Many fine country houses were built around Cobham including Painshill Park with its famous garden laid out by Charles Hamilton in the mid-eighteenth century. The garden has been painstakingly restored in recent years. Amongst other houses is Cobham Park, seat of Combe family of London brewers until only a few years ago.
On nearby Chatley Heath stands a semaphore tower, which was built in the early 1820s as part of a mechanical telegraph system. Messages were transmitted from the Admiralty in London to Portsmouth in just a few minutes. The five-storey octagonal tower has been restored. Also at Chatley are the remains of a Roman bath house which was excavated in 1942.
Street Cobham grew up along the main highway between London and Portsmouth and was at one time lined with inns and beerhouses to cater for the thirst of tired travellers. Ashby's Brewery was also a prominent feature of this part of Cobham. The heyday of Street Cobham was in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the great coaching era, which died when the first railways were built to Portsmouth. Originally the rail route went via Brighton and then, in 1859, a direct line to Portsmouth via Guildford and Havant was opened.
Cobham station on the 'New Guildford Line' was opened in 1885, although it is actually nearer to Stoke d'Abernon than Cobham itself. The railway soon attracted new residents to the area and Cobham continues to be an attractive and popular place in which to live.