DESPITE the fact that Redhill and Reigate are so close together there are many differences between the towns. A major one is that Redhill's history goes back only as far as the mid-1800s while Reigate's stretches back to about 1100.

Reigate Priory has played a major part in that history, having been founded in the early 1200s by members of the de Warrenne family, descendents of a knight who fought under William the Conqueror in 1066.

The Priory, which probably took decades to complete, was built mainly of Reigate stone and occupied for 300 years by members of the Order of St Augustine.

But with the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1500s its use changed dramatically; the St Augustine Canons left and the Priory and its grounds were let until 1541 when they came into the possession of the Howard family.

William Howard was an influential member of the court of King Henry VIII and became Lord High Admiral. He was given the Priory by the king in 1541.

In 1554 he was made Baron Howard of Effingham by Queen Mary. When he died in 1573 a family vault was built in St Mary's Church and he lies there with other member of his family.

His son, Charles Howard, was born in 1536. He continued the family association with the royal court and 12 years after he succeeded to his father's title of Lord Howard of Effingham he, like his father, was made Lord Admiral of England.

In 1588 he was in command of Queen Elizabeth's navy when the Spanish Armada sailed to attack Britain.

Although he was not as talented a seaman as his second in command, Sir Francis Drake, his authority and prudent leadership at the helm of his flagship Ark Royal contributed to the eventual defeat of the Armada.

In 1596 Charles Howard and the Earl of Essex prevented another Spanish attack with an assault on Cadiz and Lord Howard was created Earl of Nottingham in recognition.

In 1599, at a time of further problems with Spain, Howard became the Lord Lieutenant General of England.

In 1601 Howard had a part in suppressing a revolt against the government led by the Earl of Essex.

During James's reign Howard was part of the 1605 peace delegation to Spain.

He died at Haling House in Croydon in 1624 and now also lies in the family vault at St Mary's Church.

After his death the family fortunes declined and in 1681 the Priory was sold.

Since 1988 a beacon has stood in the Priory grounds to celebrate Lord Howard's Armada success.

The modern Ark Royal aircraft carrier is adopted by Reigate and the Sea Cadets training ship at Redhill is named Ark Royal.

Article by Alan Moore, author of A History of Redhill Volumes 1 and 2. History website