The settlement of 'Deorc Ingas', meaning the place where Deorc's people lived, was probably founded in the 7th or 8th century. However, the regular discovery of Roman pottery and other artefacts suggests that Dorking may have a much more ancient past as a Roman settlement on Stane Street, the main highway from London to Chichester. 'Deorc' is not a Saxon name and it may refer to Celtic Britons, who were already settled here when the Saxons arrived and who were directly descended from those once ruled by the Romans.
The town is recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086, when it was held by King William. Dorking had three watermills, probably on the nearby Pippbrook, and a church, which almost certainly stood on the same site as the present parish church of St Martin. Today, from a distance, the town is dominated by the spire of the church designed by the famous Surrey architect, Henry Woodyer, and completed in 1877.
The watermills recorded in Domesday were used for grinding corn and are a clear pointer to the source of the town's future prosperity. Dorking developed as an important market town for agricultural produce from a wide hinterland and the twice-weekly market here was described as 'of immemorial antiquity' in a charter of 1278. A market continued to be held in the High Street until 1926. The town also became famous for developing its own breed of five-clawed Dorking chicken, other breeds having only four claws. A depiction of the fowl is used to this day as the town's emblem.
The River Mole, which flows nearby, was the source of the ingredients of a popular culinary delight, 'water souchy', a fish dish made mainly from perch. In the 18th century visitors came to Dorking from far and wide to savour a plateful or two at the King's Head or the Red Lion.
The railway arrived in Dorking in 1849 and the town is probably unique in that it still retains three railway stations. The magnificent countryside surrounding the town was now within easy reach of Londoners seeking fresh air and entertainment.
To the north-east of Dorking is Box Hill, a nationally important beauty spot, which was presented to the National Trust in 1914. The views south from the summit of the hill are still unparalleled in southern England. Dorking also boasts the largest vineyard in England, which is situated on the nearby Denbies Estate. Rows of vines stride up the slopes of the Downs to the north and form a unique backdrop to the town.