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St Anne's Hill Surrey

St. Ann’s Hill is a prominent feature on the landscape of Chertsey. Historical evidence shows that it has been used by humans since prehistoric times, although little in the way of objects has been discovered. It was originally known as Mount Eldebury or Oldbury Hill. However, with the building of a small chapel dedicated to St. Anne in the 14th century, it acquired its current name – variously written as St. Ann or St. Anne.

At the beginning of the 19th century Britain was at war with France and the threat of invasion was keenly felt. In response to this, volunteer forces were established across the south east of England, and at Chertsey the men met at St. Ann’s Hill. An area known as “the butt” is mentioned in newspaper articles as being the place where the Chertsey Volunteers practiced drilling and shooting, and there was also a rifle-range on the Thorpe/Virginia Water side of the hill.

The hill was used by the corps long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars until c.1870. It is not known exactly where “the butt” was, but the most likely location is the area known as The Dingle. This had previously been a sandpit, used by the town’s foundries when casting ironworks and church bells. Subsequently abandoned, the extraction left a huge depression on the south slope of the hill which had been grassed and landscaped during the time of Lady Holland. According to the Windsor & Eton Express, in early October 1860 the corps held their first annual prize contest on the hill. They convened at their headquarters at the Town Hall early in the morning, and marched to “the butt at the back of St. Ann’s Hill, when, after placing signal flags and posting sentinels, the shooting commenced”. The winner of the competition, Joseph Hunt, was awarded with a new rifle whilst second and third place received silver tankards. In total there were 29 men competing with rounds shot at 200, 300, 400 and 600 yards. At the end of the day, which included a competition for honorary members, everyone retired to the Crown Hotel to enjoy a celebratory dinner.

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