Similarly, Malden in 1911, noted the place was "almost entirely residential and agricultural, with some lime works on the chalk, though not so extensive as those in neighbouring parishes, a little brick-making, water-mills (corn) at Pixham Mill, and timber and saw-mills".
Fine sand often in veins of pink, used for mortar and in glassmaking was dug, particularly in the 19th century — the Dorking Caves were accordingly excavated under southern parts of the town centre itself.
An inn in the centre of Dorking, the White Horse, was developed in the 18th century; previous buildings on this site belonged to the Knights Templar and later the Knights of St John.
Dorking began to become more than an agricultural village as a small staging post on Stane Street, the Roman road between London and Chichester on the English Channel.
Dorking appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as the Manor of Dorchinges. Its Domesday assets were: one church, three mills worth 15s 4d, 16 ploughs, 3 acres (1.2 ha) of meadow, woodland and herbage for 88 hogs.
In 2003 a new modern leisure centre and swimming pool were added to the Dorking Halls Complex.
There is a thin, somewhat shiny metal statue of a Dorking cockerel on the Deepdene roundabout.
In the Georgian and Victorian periods six prominent sites in the former parish or on its boundaries became grand country estates: Leith Hill Place, Denbies (today a vineyard/hotel), Norbury Park, Polesden Lacey, Wotton House and Deepdene; five of which along with nearby Box Hill's promontory and chalk grassland slopes belong to the National Trust.
Dorking is a commuter and retirement settlement with three railway stations and a few large offices of multinational companies.
The design of the terraced houses, three- and four-storey flats and twin eleven-storey tower blocks was praised by architectural historians Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner.
People born in the town include: Laurence Olivier, Lord Olivier, in 1907 – a blue plaque marking his birthplace can be found in Wathen Road. General Sir Lewis Halliday, a Victoria Cross recipient, died in Dorking.
Dorking and nearby Box Hill were chosen as part of the route for the 2012 London Olympics cycling road race and have featured in the FIA-ranked London-Surrey cycle classic every year since.
In the mid-1960s the Goodwyns council estate was built at the south end of the town, adjacent to North Holmwood.
Further north is Norbury Park, which contains the Druids Grove, a forest of ancient yew trees.