History Lesson

Epsom's history predates Domesday, when it was recorded as belonging to Chertsey Abbey. The manor remained in the hands of the Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537. There was then a succession of lords of the manor until the lordship was purchased by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council in 1955.

Until about 1620 Epsom was a small rural community.  An agricultural labourer was tending his cows on Epsom Common during a dry summer when he noticed a trace of water in a hoof-print.  The animals refused to drink the water and after further investigation it was found to contain magnesium sulphate, later known as Epsom Salts.  The restorative qualities of the water led to rapid growth and the development of a spa town as people came to 'take the waters' for their healing properties. Famous visitors included Nell Gwyn and Samuel Pepys.  Assembly rooms were built and still stand as The Assembly Rooms public house.
 
The popularity of the spa declined after about 1725 when towns such as Bath and Tunbridge Wells became more fashionable but by then numerous large houses had been built by wealthy people who appreciated the nearness to London. 
 
Epsom is known today as the home of the world’s most famous flat horse race. The Derby, run each year at the beginning of June on the downs outside the town, is named after Lord Derby who, in 1779, first proposed a race over one and a half miles for three-year-old fillies. That race was named after his house, The Oaks. A similar race for colts was proposed for the following year, this time named after the man himself. The Derby has been run at Epsom every year since 1780 except for two short periods during the First and Second World Wars when it was moved to Newmarket.  
 

Epsom Clock Tower was built in 1847, replacing the original watch house which stood from the 17th century.  It is 70 feet tall and is constructed from red and Suffolk brick, originally with heraldic lions of Caen Stone at the four corners of the tower base. A bell was added in 1867. By 1902 the lions had been replaced by lanterns, (which were replaced by the current globe lights in 1920).

The arrival of the railway in 1847 led to a growing commuter population and development as a shopping centre for the surrounding area.

A major event at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century was the building of a large complex of psychiatric hospitals to the north west of Epsom. Many of the original buildings have been re-developed into residential property.  A great many of Epsom's older buildings have survived and maintain the character of the town and surrounding areas.

   

Those of you that have visited our Epsom office will see that we are situated in one of the older shops in Epsom and have maintained much of the original character with the large sash-cord shop windows and the original cashier's booth, still in tact from back in the day when the office was a Butcher's Shop!

 

 

Categories: General News

Published in: February Newsletter

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