In 1862 the war office compulsorily purchased 16 acres on the summit of Red Hill Common for a military prison.

It paid £1,000 to Lord Somers and £2,000 to five trustees for the persons entitled to common rights. Owing to the intricacy of the common rights titles the trustees never distributed the £2,000.

The war office subsequently gave up the idea of a military prison and at about the same time the corporation had identified land at the bottom of Earlswood Common as the best site for the outfall for the drainage system it was building. It therefore opened two sets of negotiations, one with the secretary of war for the purchase of the summit of Redhill Common as a public pleasure ground, and the other with Lord Somers to obtain the land at the south of Earlswood Common.

It also tried to obtain from the trustees the £2,000 paid by the war office to use as part payment of the purchase cost, but its attempts to retrieve the money from the trustees failed. Lord Somers proposed that on the condition that the trustees' £2,000 was disregarded, and that the corporation purchased out of its own resources the piece of land on the summit of Red Hill for a public pleasure ground, and also that the mayor, aldermen and burgesses entered into proper deed of covenant with the Lord, his heirs and assigns, for the perpetual use and enjoyment of the land by the inhabitants of the borough, his lordship would grant the land at Earlswood Common.

The legal wheels were put in motion. Conveyance of all land was approved and in 1867 the corporation borrowed £4,000 against the rates to defray the cost, £1,000 of which was for fencing, ditching, levelling and laying out the land.

Eventually the corporation became the proprietors of two sites, each suited for the purpose for which it was acquired, and at an overall cost of about £40 an acre, the current price in the area then being from £200 to £300 an acre. It was a deal that benefits us all to the present day.

l Article and picture courtesy of Alan Moore, author of A History of Redhill vols 1 and 2,