East Horsley is listed in the Domesday Survey of 1086 as 'Horslei', meaning 'horses clearing'. It is probable that at one time East and West Horsley formed one settlement but they had become separated well before 1086. The main manor of East Horsley was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the benefit of the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury. It is said to have been granted for this purpose in 1036 by one, Thored.

There was probably a chapel here before the Norman Conquest but the present parish church of St Martin has a Norman tower and also various 13th century features. However, much of the church was restored by the Surrey architect, Henry Woodyer, in the late 1860s.

East Horsley was taken by Henry VIII when the priory of Christ Church was dissolved in the late 1530s. The Roman Catholic, Queen Mary, granted it to the re-founded priory at Sheen but, after her death in 1558, it reverted to the Crown. Queen Elizabeth then granted it to John Agmondesham and it remained in the same family until 1701. In 1840 it was bought by the 1st Earl of Lovelace.

Lovelace gradually transformed the village, building many of his characteristic houses, cottages and a school in flint and decorative terracotta brick and tile. His country seat had previously been at nearby Ockham Park but he moved to East Horsley in 1846. The main house here had been rebuilt in the 1820s to designs by Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament.

Lovelace, who was the son-in-law of the poet, Byron, now set about embellishing his new home with various features, including towers which would not look out of place in Bavaria. 'Horsley Towers' was also provided with a main entrance which the architectural historians, Nairn and Pevsner, described as 'one of the most sensational in England'. From the Neo-Norman entrance lodge the visitor passes under an arch, and then through a long curved tunnel, to emerge at a horseshoe shaped cloister built in polychrome brick. The drive then passes under another arch to halt at the main entrance to the house, beside one of the round towers.

The station at Horsley was opened to the north of the main village in 1885 on the 'New Guildford Line'. It was not long before the village began to change into a popular commuter village which, nevertheless, still retains much character and atmosphere.

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