Surrey Hills is a residential suburb 12 km east of central Melbourne, between Camberwell and Box Hill. Surrey Hills was in each of those former municipalities and remains divided between the amalgamated municipalities of Boroondara and Whitehorse. It was named after Surrey County, England, by an estate agent and councillor, J.H. Knipe (1828-95).
The part of Surrey Hills north of Canterbury Road was in Henry Elgar's Special Survey (1841), an area of eight square miles, which was subdivided into small farms and grazing runs. The remainder of Surrey Hills was also rural when the railway was extended from Camberwell to Lilydale in 1883. By 1892 most of the land in Surrey Hills was subdivided for housing. A primary school had been opened in 1886, and the township had a post office and two churches. The land was described as ‘very suitable for suburban villa residences’, and Surrey Hills was recorded as having a population of 352. Within the next ten years the population had nearly tripled and the Australian handbook 1903, described Surrey Hills:
Within eight years the population had tripled again, the 1911 census recording 2703.
Surrey Hills' housing stock was slightly less opulent than neighbouring Canterbury. The northern border of Surrey Hills has the Whitehorse Road tram and the southern border the Riversdale Road tram (1916). Thus Surrey Hills had three east-west public transport services, each about 1 km apart, all providing an easy commuting distance to Melbourne. There are not many parks in Surrey Hills, but the tree-lined streets and relatively generous housing allotments provide a sense of open space. (Surrey Park with the Surrey Dive and swimming pool is on the border in Box Hill). Community shopping centres along Whitehorse Road and Union Road are at a tram terminus and railway station respectively.
Surrey Hills' elevated aspect provided an ideal site for service water reservoirs (c1914) fed from Yan Yean and, later, Maroondah reservoirs. An obtrusive telecommunications tower is nearby.
There are two State and one Catholic (1904) primary schools. Churches are numerous and the larger ones include Anglican, two Catholic, Presbyterian, Salvation Army and two Uniting. The Armenian Apostolic faith has a former Congregational church near Surrey Gardens.
Chatham is the name of a railway station and school (1927) in Surrey Hills, but scarcely exists as a locality. A former military drill hall (1914) is near the station.
In 1987 the median house price in Surrey Hills was 50% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne, and in 2012 it was 125% above the metropolitan median.
Leading up to and following the Surrey Hills centenary celebrations in 1983, the Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre intensified efforts to locate material relating to Surrey Hills leading to the establishment of the significant Surrey Hills Heritage Collection.
Surrey Hills' census populations have been:
Surrey Hills in celebration of the centennial 1883-1983, Surrey Hills, 1983