Leatherhead & District Local History Society was born 16 October 1946. The three masterminds behind it were archaeologists Frank Benger and Anthony W G Lowther and solicitor Stephen Fortescue. Frank Benger came to live in Leatherhead with his parents in 1924 age 20 while working for a Bond Street firm of antiquarian booksellers. He loved the countryside and was among a growing number of residents concerned about the danger from creeping urbanisation. They founded the Leatherhead & District Countryside Protection Society in 1929 which in turn spawned the Leatherhead & District Local History Society 17 years later. Frank Benger was always a prime mover in both. Anthony Lowther became chairman of the new society in 1946 and Stephen Fortescue its treasurer.
Seventy years later in November 2016, Stephen Fortescue, last survivor of the founders, attended the L&DLHS's platinum jubilee. Today the Society continues to show residents and visitors how local people lived in the recent and more distant past.
The Society has always arranged visits to places of historical interest, held lectures and published its annual Proceedings, an academic journal containing detailed research on the Leatherhead district. A quarterly Newsletter was also established and later a book publishing operation. In 1978, Fortescue, then chairman, organised the purchase of Hampton Cottage in Church Street and this has housed the Leatherhead Museum ever since. In 1979 local historian Edwina Vardey began recording interviews with local residents from a wide range of backgrounds and today these and recent recordings make up the Society's growing archive of oral history interviews which can be heard and read online.
The L&DLHS maintains an archive of articles, maps and photographs of the area at the Museum, the Letherhead Institute, in storage and online. New research is always welcome, as well as artefacts for possible display at the Museum. L&DLHS members can access the Society library on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 12.30pm.
Monthly meetings with lectures are held at the Letherhead Institute every third Friday of the month from September to May. They start at 8pm with coffee served from 7.30pm and are open to members and non-members alike for a nominal £2 admission. Visits to places of interest are organised in summertime. The Newsletter, now a 40-page full colour A5 magazine, is published every March, June, September and December.