Robbers, Writers & European Royalty
Essentially meaning 'Sunna’s Valley,' this place-name actually derives from Sunninghill Dale. It was one of the outposts of the followers of the Saxon chief, Sunna, whose settlements were centred on Sonning. They carved themselves a little village out of the wilds of Windsor Forest, always a risky area in which to live and even more so to travel through. Chobham Common and Bagshot Heath once stretched over much of Sunningdale. They were well known for bandits and were frequented by highwaymen as late as the early 19th century. The notorious Captain Snow is still commemorated in the name of Snows Ride. The village has always relied on the local transportation routes for its prosperity. From the London to Silchester road of Roman times, later known as the 'Devil’s Highway,' to the modern A30.
On the southern edge of Sunningdale, there was once a medieval nunnery known as Bromhall Priory. A daughter house of Chertsey Abbey, it was a rather a poor monastic house founded in the 12th century and dissolved in 1535. The modern church at Sunningdale is somewhat more recent, as the old parish church was always at Old Windsor. It is best known for its monument to Prince Victor of Hohenlohe, a well-known sculptor who, under the name of Count Gleichen, modelled such pieces as Wantage’s statue of King Alfred. He was a German prince who ran away from school in his native land and was sponsored to enter the Royal Navy by Queen Victoria. He eventually became an admiral, before turning to more artistic means of earning a living whilst in retirement. He lived at ‘St. Bruno House’ in Charters Road.
A small portion of Northern Sunningdale, on the shores of the Virginia Water, is within the bounds of Windsor Great Park. However, Fort Belvedere and the ruins of Leptis Magna which were erected at follies in the surrounding landscape are actually over the border in Surrey.
Sunningdale Park is a Civil Service College. The Georgian-style mansion there is now known as 'Northcote House'. It is a classical style building of nine bays with attached portico, but was only built in 1930. Agatha Christie lived at 'Scotswood' in Sunningdale in the 1920s and then moved to 'Styles,' named after her first mystery novels, and it was from here that she herself mysteriously disappeared for eleven days before being discovered at the Harrogate Hydro. Sunningdale Golf Course features in one of her short stories, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford’s 'The Sunningdale Mystery,' originally published as part of ‘Partners in Crime’ in 1929. Sunningdale Ladies Golf Club is the oldest Ladies Golf Club in the country. More recently, the actress, Diana Dors, made Sunningdale her home.
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