A unique remnant from the Napoleonic era, the only surviving semaphore tower in Britain can be found next to the M25 and is having an open weekend in June.

(c) Landmark Trust

It was once a cutting-edge building at the forefront of technology and design, a vital link in a signalling chain that transmitted semaphore messages from Admiralty House in London to Portsmouth Docks in just a few minutes. Once semaphores went the way of the Dodo, it was occupied as a home until the 1960s, and was badly damaged by fire in 1984, partially restored in 1989, but then given a full restoration by the Landmark Trust a couple of years ago.

The Landmark Trust restores old buildings and turns them into grand B&Bs that people can stay in, and they open a few each year for free – including this year, the semaphore tower, with very good views across the local countryside. The open weekend will be an opportunity to see inside the restored tower and learn more about its history and restoration.

Admission is free and information sheets will be provided detailing the building’s history. You need to book a ticket for either Saturday 25th June or Sunday 26th June from here.

There are also open days at other buildings owned by the Landmark Trust, and details of those are here.

(c) Landmark Trust

Getting to Chatley Heath semaphore tower

If coming by car, there are a couple of car parks on Old Lane on the western side of the woods, and then walk through the woods to the tower.

If coming by public transport, the nearest stations are Cobham & Stoke d’Abernon and Effingham Junction. Both are then a 50-60 minute walk to the semaphore tower, although Effingham Junction is a bit quicker and looks to have the easier walk.

There are no buses that go anywhere near the tower from either station, but taxis are available from Cobham & Stoke d’Abernon station.

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5 comments
  1. Stephen Spark says:

    “There are no buses that go anywhere near the tower from either station”.

    Not quite true: the excellent Chatterbus runs roughly hourly Mon-Fri, less frequently Sat, from Cobham & Stoke D’Abernon station to Cobham village centre (www.chatterbus.org.uk).

    Then you can walk along Downside Bridge Rd or Church St (look out for half-timbered Church Stile House next to St Andrew’s Church). Cross over the new Downside Bridge (which replaced Gwilt’s original brick structure, washed away in the Great Flood of September 1968) and R into Plough La & Pointers Rd (there’s a footpath shortcut closer to the river which is OK in dry weather).

    If, after exploring the Chatley Heath Semaphore Tower you’ve worked up a thirst and/or appetite, head back along Pointers Rd, turn R and L and along Chilbrook Rd to the charming Cricketers pub/restaurant at Downside – its log fire is very welcome on a chilly day. From here you can head south down Horsley Rd to Effingham Jc station.

    Alternatively, take the pleasant track past a tiny corrugated iron chapel and pump, then (on the R) Downside Mill, which was to have been served by the proposed but never built Sunbury & Leatherhead Railway of 1804. The track runs NE to a wooden FB over the River Mole and into Tilt Rd. On the L side, the cemetery displays lovely cherry blossom in spring. There’s also a pretty chapel, an extraordinary Stalinist mausoleum for the McAlpine family and a graceful bronze sculpture of a woman reaching out to it.

    To reach the station, turn R down Bray Rd and R again, past the row of shops (pick up a snack at the groanworthily named but recommended Good Elf). If you missed out on the Cricketers, you can turn L & walk 3 mins up Station Rd for refreshment at The Plough pub – immortalised by Conan Doyle in The Speckled Band; tree growth makes it impossible to emulate Dr Watson and keep watch on Stoke D’Abernon Manor House. The manor house is now a school; alongside it is St Mary’s Church, reputedly the oldest in Surrey and famous for its historic memorial brasses and modern Frobenius organ. Between the Plough and the manor house lies the training ground of Chelsea FC, which once was a polo ground.

    There are plenty more attractions in the area, such as the landscape gardens of Pain’s Hill Park just N of Cobham village, but wherever possible, PLEASE use public or sustainable transport, not cars – the area is being suffocated by motor traffic.

  2. David Cooper says:

    You could catch a bus 513 from, say, Oxshott Station to Downside. The walk from Downside is about 1 kilometre but you would need to be comfortable reading an OS map. https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/…/9335/513-Reptons-040917.pdf

  3. Michael John Buckley says:

    Can anybody provide the actual National Grid Reference of the Tower (or Lat/Long?) Thanks Mike

  4. Andy says:

    The 715 Kingston – Guildford bus has a stop for Royal Horticultural Society Gdns, Wisley Gardens, and you can walk to the tower.

  5. Ian Dendy says:

    The 715 bus runs hourly and you need to be on the east side of the A3.
    On my OS map 145 the tower is marked at 088/585. It is to the east of the A3 and south of the M25 junction 10 Wisley.
    Toilets, food and drink are available at RHS Wisley.
    Narrow steep, staircases inside the tower with good views from the rooftop.

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