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 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.
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.
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.
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.