The Leith Hill and District Preservation Society was founded in 1929 in response to threats to the countryside in the wake of the break-up of large estates that saw building on many beauty spots all over England in the years between the wars. The Society gave local people a voice on matters affecting their environment and in its early days it drew attention to and campaigned against the reduction of open spaces and the threat from inappropriate development to much-loved local features.
In 1938 the novelist EM Forster and the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote and produced a pageant for the Society: ‘England’s Pleasant Land’ addressed concerns about the threat to the countryside in the Dorking area. Combining music, drama and spectacle, it was performed by a cast of local people, with music conducted by Vaughan Williams, at Milton Court near Westcott. The Society was instrumental in preserving access to the Deepdene Terrace for the enjoyment of local people in 1943.
The debate as to what and how much development is appropriate in the countryside remains as relevant today as it was in the 1930s and the Society still seeks to give local people a voice on preservation and conservation issues
More recently the Society, (latterly known as the Dorking and District Preservation Society and now known as the Dorking Society), has widened its remit to encompass the preservation and conservation of the area’s more ephemeral cultural heritage. The Society began collecting archival material in 1945 and established a Local History Group in the 1970s to foster an interest in the history of the area and to support those undertaking research in topics of local interest.
In 1976 the Society opened Dorking Museum to explore and celebrate the contribution of the area and its people to national and international life. Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre was expanded in 1983 and completely refurbished in 2011/2012 to provide the town and its visitors with a welcoming modern space that celebrates and explains the rich history of the town and villages
The Society is a registered charity and a limited company, run by a board of trustees.