Discover Some Amazing Historical Facts About Epsom
A quick history tour around Epsom in Surrey – from the origins of the Epsom Clock Tower to The Assembly Rooms, here is all you need to know…
Epsom Clock Tower
One of the most recognisable features of the town centre is the Epsom Clock Tower. But did you know that it was originally a weatherboarded Watch House that dates back to around 1711 and was located by what used to be the town’s pond? The Watch House was split into a fire engine house and a temporary lock-up – where the village policeman was paid by the parish vestry for escorting prisoners to trial at the nearest town after they had been locked up overnight.
After the vestry resolved to pull it down and sell all the materials including the clock, the task of re-designing it fell to two London architects James Butler and Henry Hodge. The Builder magazine reported that: ‘The openings for the dials are four feet six inches, and is to be built of red and Suffolk bricks. The four lions, bearing shields, are to be of Caen stone’.
On 19 November 1847, the foundation stone of Epsom Clock Tower was laid by Thomas Tompson, who was the chairman of the rebuilding committee. In fact, he owned a linen drapery shop which was situated in the spot Waterstones is now. After the ceremony, his committee retired to dinner at the nearby Kings Head, while hundreds of locals celebrated with beer in the streets!
Horton Country Park Origins
Horton Country Park used to be part of John Trotter’s estate – the High Sheriff of Surrey. Land was sold off in 1896 to facilitate five mental health hospitals to be constructed, which was known as the Epsom Hospital Cluster. The estate had a mansion house, offices, gardens and grounds, woods, and four farms together with land set aside for pasture. The hospitals were built to be a self-sufficient as possible with each farm producing their own food, and all of them being serviced by one power station. At is peak, the cluster was so large with around 8000 patients, that it had to have its own extensive railway system in the 1930s.
But with new technology and medical advancements, as well as the newly formed NHS, psychiatric patients were being moved to general hospitals so there was a sharp decline and two of the farms became deserted. It was then that Epsom and Ewell council brought the land in 1973, and while West Farm became Horton Country Park as we know it today – 400 acres of open parkland – Long Grove Farm is now Hobbledown Farm Park, which is a popular attraction for families from all over.
With the discovery of water rich in magnesium sulphates (later known as Epsom Salts), the small rural community of Epsom soon turned into a famous spa town which saw the likes of Samuel Pepys visit.
The Assembly Rooms
Built in 1692, the Assembly Rooms in Epsom High Street was one of the first to be built in England, and the oldest surviving. They housed not only meeting rooms, but the town’s tavern, coffee house, billiard room and gaming rooms – with a bowling green, cockpit and possibly a bear-baiting pit as part of the complex behind the building.