Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for EPSOM

EPSOM, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Surrey. The town stands at the foot of Banstead downs, on the London and Leatherhead railway, 10 miles SE of Croydon, and 18 SSE of London; and it is connected also with the London and Brighton railway at Croydon by a branch railway, which -includes a sub-branch from Sutton to the town's neighbourhood at the race-course. Its name is derived from the ancient Northumbrian princess, Ebba; was originally Ebbasham; had become corrupted, at Domesday, into Ebbisham; and passed easily into its present form of Epsom. The place, though known to the Saxons, does not appear to have acquired any consequence till the 16th or 17th century. A palace built by Henry VIII., at Nonsuch, 2 miles NE of it, seems to have brought it into some notice; and medicinal wells, toward Ashtead, about ¾ of a mile to the W, soon afterwards gave it celebrity. These wells, in the time of Elizabeth, were frequented by persons from surrounding places for ulcers; and they began about 1646 to be frequented also by persons from a distance for many diseases. A work by Lord North, published in 1645, made them known to the fashionable world as fine saline spas; and general reputation, in the time of Charles II., drew to them great numbers of wealthy citizens, courtiers, and nobles, and even made them a resort of the King himself and some foreign princes. So many as sixty coaches of visitors to them might often be seen on one day; new inns and numerous new houses were built for the accommodation of visitors; one of the new inns is said to have been the largest then in England; and a comedy by Shadwell, called "Epsom Wells, " was highly popular at the London theatre. The wells, however, became rapidly neglected and deserted after the time of Queen Anne; they resisted several successive attempts to bring them back to reputation; and at length the public rooms connected with them passed into ruin, and were pulled down in 1804. The waters retain all their former properties, and are remarkable chiefly for yielding sulphate of magnesia. This salt was long manufactured from them, and was sold, in the time of Charles I., at five shillings per ounce; but it eventually came to be so easily and cheaply obtained from other sources as to take the place of one of the commonest of drugs, under its popular name of Epsom-salts. Races are said to have been instituted at Epsom by James I., while resident at Nonsuch; they formed a chief amusement to visitors during all the period of the wells being in fashion; they have been regularly held every year since 1730; and they acquired enormous prominence from the institution of the Oak's race in 1709, and of the Derby in 1780. They are run on a four-mile course, on the downs, about 1½ mile S of the town; they take place in May, and continue four days; and they draw such a concourse as is to be seen in no other country than England, and not in England itself, at any other place or time. The lowest estimate of the number of persons present makes it 100, 000. The grand stand was erected in 1829-30, at a cost of £20, 000; accommodates 7, 500 persons; is a prominent object in a considerable Landscape; and commands a clear view to St. Paul's cathedral and Westminster abbey.

The town lies low, and is irregular and scattered; but its environs include vantage grounds with extensive views, and contain a great number of modern villas. A clock-tower stands in the market-place; was built in 1847; consists of variegated bricks, with red stripes; and has an original and handsome appearance. The town hall or court-house was built in 1848. The parish church was rebuilt in 1824, with the exception of the tower; cost nearly £7, 000; and contains a monument by Flaxman to Parkhurst the lexicographer, three other monuments by Flaxman, and one by Chantrey. Christ church, on Clayhill, is a newer structure, small but neat, built of brick, and in the Tudor style. A Wesleyan chapel, built in 1864, is in the French-Gothic style, of stock bricks with red and blue bands; and presents some originality of appearance. There are four other dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, an endowed school, an alms-house, aggregate charities £277, the royal medical benevolent college for decayed medical men, and the district work-house. The medical college is a handsome edifice of 1855; and the workhouse is a structure of better appearance than many of its kind, and in the Tudor style. The town has a head post office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, two banking offices, and four chief inns; and is a seat of petty sessions and a polling-place. A market is held weekly; and a fair on 25 July. Malting, brewing, and brick-making are carried on; and there are several nursery grounds. The town is returned as conterminate with the parish; but, in that view, includes the hamlet of Horton. Acres, 4, 389. Real property, £26, 821; of which £122 are in gas-works. Pop. in 1841, 3, 533; in 1861, 4, 890. Houses, 831. The property is much sub-divided. The manor belonged to Chertsey abbey. Pitt Place is the residence of Francis M. Head, Esq.; the Elms, of J. Pearson, Esq; Woodcote Green, of E. R. Northey, Esq.; Garlands, of Alex. Crowe, Esq.; Horton Place, of John Trotter, Esq.; and Woodcote Park, of R. Brooks, Esq., M. P. The parochial living is a vicarage, united with the p. curacy of Christ church, in the diocese of Winchester. Value, £350.* Patron, the Rev. W. Speer. Boucher, who made collections for an improved edition of Johnson's Dictionary, was vicar; and Parkhurst, the lexicographer, was a native.

The sub-district contains also the parishes of Cuddington, Chessington, and Ashtead, and part of the parish of Ewell. Acres, 12, 377. Pop., 7, 908. Houses, 1, 398. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Carshalton, containing the parishes of Carshalton, Banstead, Sutton, and Cheam; and the sub-district of Leatherhead, containing the parishes of Leatherhead, Fetcham, Great Bookham, Little Bookham, Stoke-D'Abernon, and Cobham. Acres, 41, 180. Poor-rates in 1862, £12, 396. Pop. in 1851, 19, 040; in 1861, 22, 409. Houses, 4, 002. Marriages in 1860, 93; births, 634, -of which 28 were illegitimate; deaths, 373, -of which 121 were at ages under 5 years, and 15 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 868; births, 5, 331; deaths, 3, 358. The places of worship in 1851 were 19 of the Church of England, with 6, 426 sittings; 8 of Independents, with 1, 088 s.; 2 of Baptists, with 100 s.; 4 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 469 s.; 2 undefined, with 106 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholics. The schools were 20 public day schools, with 1, 750 scholars; 52 private day schools, with 1, 034 s.; 15 Sunday schools, with 948 s.; and 3 evening schools for adults, with 34 s.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Epsom AP/CP       Epsom SubD       Epsom PLU/RegD       Surrey AncC
Place: Epsom

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