Located towards the north of Surrey, at the foot of the North Downs, about 15 miles from central London. It is now part of the borough of Epsom and Ewell.

It has a history that goes back to before Domesday, when it was recorded as belonging to Chertsey Abbey and having a value of 17. 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. The discovery of water rich in magnesium sulphate, later known as Epsom Salts, led to rapid expansion as people began to come to take the waters, and the development of a spa town. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 its popularity increased, and visitors included Nell Gwyn and Samuel Pepys. Assembly rooms were built and still stand as the Assembly Rooms public house.

The Assembly Rooms public house Photo: Charles Abdy

The Assembly Rooms public house
Photo: Charles Abdy

The popularity of the spa declined after about 1725, but by then numerous large houses had been built by wealthy people who appreciated the nearness to London.

Epsom, Grandstand at racecourse, 1923 Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

Epsom, Grandstand at racecourse, 1923
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection

Racing on the Downs had been an attraction at Epsom during the spa period. It continued, and was given a great boost in 1780 when The Derby was run for the first time and became the most famous horse race in the world. The Epsom Grandstand Association controlled racing on the course from the mid 19th century.

View from the Queen's Stand, Epsom Racecourse Photo: Charles Abdy

View from the Queen’s Stand, Epsom Racecourse
Photo: Charles Abdy

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

In 1894 Epsom Urban District Council was set up, and this was extended to include Ewell in 1933. In 1937 it became Epsom and Ewell Borough Council.

A major event at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century was the building of a large complex of mental hospitals to the north west of Epsom. Most of these have now been demolished and the area developed for housing.

Epsom is fortunate in that many of its old buildings have survived. It is said to be richer in Late Stuart, Queen Anne and Georgian houses than any other place in Surrey.

Epsom High Street, 1950 Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 9572

Epsom High Street, 1950
Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey no. 9572

Epsom High Street, 1980s Photo: Charles Abdy

Epsom High Street, 1980s
Photo: Charles Abdy

Click on the links to read about the Horton Estate hopitals in Epsom: Long Grove, Manor Asylum, St Ebba’s and West Park. The majority of the records for the fifth hospital, Horton, are held at the London Metropolitan Archives (click the link to visit their web site).

Did You Know?

A Bronze Age (2500 – 700 BC) field system shows people were farming near Horton Hospital, Long Grove Road, Epsom.  The site was found during excavation before the building of a new school.

Further information

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22 thoughts on “Epsom”

  1. I would love to know more about the convent on the edge of Epsom where I used to go to Sunday school (c.1964). I dont live in the area anymore butI know it is a pub now!

  2. I would like to know how Sparrow Farm Road got its name, as it might be connected with a forebear.

  3. I enjoy reading about the history of towns in England and your information about Epsom is interesting. I was told that locals have a name for TIPSTERS who attend the DERBY in June. Can you tell me this alternative name? Thanks

  4. Janet Williams says:

    I was born @49 Dorking Road Epsom 29/06/1944 as I live in Australia I am interested to know ,if this was a private dwelling or the Epsom hospital I have tried many paths to find this answer. On my birth cert. my mother was Alice Marion Obrien Nee Morris and my father Earnest Richard Obrien from Ewell, wondered if you could tell me if I can find births details anywhere.

    1. Jemma says:

      Hi Janet. I have lived in Ewell all my life. Dorking road is where Epsom hospital is, which also used to ne a workhoue in the early 1900, however there are many residential homes on this road and the road is very long, going all the way into the next town- Ashtead. I’m sure you can get more information via Epsom&Ewell past websites. Good luck on your search!

    2. lesley says:

      This is a good read about.the workhouse and the use of the address 49 Dorking road http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/epsomdistrict.html

  5. Linda Waterman says:

    I am looking for any records of 5 Garden Cottages, East St., Epsom as my great grandparents, George Henry and Kate Waterman, lived there before migrating to Melbourne. Australia in 1954. I believe that the cottages may have been demolished in the 1970s but would like confirmation if this is the case. Would any old photographs of the Garden Cottages, East Street be available. I am emailing this from Australia and delighted to find your website which I am hoping will be helpful in researching my English heritage.

    1. Brian Waterman says:

      Hi Linda
      My Gran and Grandad ( Kate & George) lived at No. 5 and I spent a lot of my time with them, they virtually brought me up – not regugitated – Ha. I have a fair few pictures of the cottages and of the family including me. Please excuse my curiosity but how do you fit into the family – not being rude. Are you married to a Waterman or is your surname Waterman ?
      Apart from Joy & Bert and Dot & Jim – no children, there was only Jim & Ruth Waterman that I know of, and they had two daughters so I think that may be the connection. I would really love to hear from you – really.
      Very best wishes

  6. Madeleine Humphrey says:

    I lived in West Ewell between 1980 and 1984. My surname then would have been Watson. I trained and competed with and for Epsom and Ewell Harriers and would love to be contacted by people who knew me then and people from Danetree County Middle School as it was then, and would also like to hear from club collegues especially the Bennett family and read some old club results. I still visit occassionally and would love to hear news from the place I was happiest in, as these were the happiest years of my life, lived in west ewell between 1980 and 1984 and it would be nice to share memories, pictures, photo’s and club results with my own husband and my son.

  7. C. Kingston says:

    Epsom as we know it was in fact founded by the English/Saxons. It was and still is an indigenous English settlement. ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is a misguided and misdirected academic name for we the actual English. That is those of us who are of English stock/ethnicity. We (our nation) did not suddenly disappear after 1066, we still by far made up the majority of the population of England. (remember the English (Angles/Saxons/Jutes) named England after themselves/their shared ethnic and cultural name, England, Land of the English) ..the Normans only making about 2%.

    We also recognized ourselves as being of English stock and ethnicity, and were calling ourselves English long before 1066.

    You will find the majority of Surrey’s place-names are English. Our early English language being used to denote and create these names. Of course some names of were later of Norman addition or Norman add ons to existing English place-names.

  8. Hello from British Columbia –
    I am seeking any info on Thannington School, Epson – now long gone I guess.
    I attended there in the late 1940s – early 1950s and wonder what happened to it.
    Bernard Spring

    1. Kaz says:

      I was also at Thanington School from about 1974-78. It’s still a private primary school?

    2. Chris says:

      Thanington School was bought by Downsend. My mum was Headmistress there in the 1960s/70s and I went there as a child.

  9. Christopher Moran says:

    I am the friend of a Mrs Carole Younghusband (nee Leech or Leach) who attended Epsom County School for Girls from around 1972. She very sadly passed away in early January here in Lincolnshire where she lived since the early 90′s.

    We are desperately trying to contact her estranged, slightly younger sister who is called Rosamund and who probably attended the same school. Would you have any leads at all as to the whereabouts of her sister who may now be married.

    I would appreciate any help you can offer me.

    Mr Chris Moran

  10. w lidster says:

    I am interested in the small conservation area in College rd. Specifically the few wood clad cottages no 25 no 21 college road etc Grade 2 listed, which i think were built in 1840. Love to know the history of these cottages

    regards Bill Lidster

  11. MELISSA says:

    My grandmother Rita Avery was born April 24 1938 was adopted and raised in Epsom by Reginald Avery and Helen Avery in 1940… she ventured on her own at a young age in the 1950s …just wanted to see if anyone knew her or her parent … kind of my last resort lol any help would be appreciated

  12. Louise says:

    Anyone know a Malcolm, surname unknown, born in early 1940’s, 6 foot 4, brown eyes and hair (then). He was studying Maths and Science in Epsom and attended a CND March in 1961 where I met him? I’d like very much to reconnect. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  13. Christopher Agutter says:

    I lived at 21west street between 1958 -19664 it was then the British legion my dad was steward.I am interested in the buildings history from when it was first built,can anyone help.

  14. Robert Lee says:

    would anyone have any information about a paperbox factory that burnt down in the early 1900s?

  15. Kaz says:

    Does anyone know if Thanington School and/or Convent of the Sacred Hearts was for ‘children of special circumstances’? 1970’s-80’s

  16. Peter Finch says:

    I am trying to identify the location of two small old shops selling ladies wear called E. RENDLE in 1953. Buses are in the foreground showing route EPSOM & EPSOM RACES. Were the shops in the High Street. I don’t know the area so I am seeking help from local people. Thanks.

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