Epsom, a town, a parish, and a district in Surrey. The town stands at the foot of Banstead Downs, 10 miles SE of Croydon, and 18 SSE of London. It has stations on the L. & S.W.R. and L.B. & S.C.E. Its name is derived from the ancient Northumbrian princess Ebba, was originally Ebbasham, had become corrupted at Domesday into Ebbis-ham, 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, aeems to have brought it into some notice, and medicinal wells toward Ashtead, about three-quarters of a mile to the W, soon afterwards gave it celebrity. These wells, in the time of Elizabetli, 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. Faces are said to have been instituted at Epsom by James L 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 200,000. The grandstand was erected in 1829-30 at a cost of £20,000, is a prominent object in a considerable landscape, and commands a clear view to St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. It was considerably enlarged and refitted in 1886.
The town contains a handsome town-hall, assembly rooms,. cottage hospital, and working men's club. The parish church was rebuilt in 1824, with the exception of the tower, cost nearly £7000, and contains a monument by Flasman to Park-hurst the lexicographer, three other monuments by Flaxman,. and one by Chantrey. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Winchester; net value, £233 with residence. Christ church, on Clayhill, is a newer structure, small but neat, in the Decorated style. The living is a vicarage; value, £200.. Patron, the Bishop of Winchester. 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, and almshouses. The Eoyal Medical Benevolent College for decayed medical men is;i 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, two banks, several good hotels, and is a seat of petty sessions. 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. Acreage, 4424; population, 8417. The air at Epsom is considered very salubrious, and there are a number of very fine residences in the neighbourhood.
Epsom Parliamentary Division, or Mid Surrey, formed under the redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 70,103. The division includes the following:-Epsom-Ashteady Banstead, Bookham (Great), Bookham (Little), Cheam, Chessington, Cuddington, Epsom, Ewell, Fetcham, Headley, Leatherhead, Sutton, Walton-on-the-Hill; Kingston (part of)-Cobham, Ditton (Long), Esher, Hook, Maiden, Moulsey (East), Moulsey (West), Stoke D'Abemon, Thames Ditton, Walton-upon-Thames. Dorking (part of)-Effingham, Mickleham.
The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.
|Ecclesiastical parish||Epsom St. Martin|
|Hundred||Copthorne and Effingham|
|Poor Law union||Epsom|
Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.
Ancestry.co.uk, in association with Surrey History Centre, have images of the Parish Registers for Surrey online.
Directories & Gazetteers
We have transcribed the entry for Epsom from the following:
- Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of England, 1848 (Epsom (St. Martin))
Land and Property
The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Surrey is available to browse.
Online maps of Epsom are available from a number of sites:
- Bing (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- Google Streetview.
- National Library of Scotland. (Old maps)
- old-maps.co.uk (Old Ordnance Survey maps to buy).
- Streetmap.co.uk (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- A Vision of Britain through Time. (Old maps)
Newspapers and Periodicals
The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Surrey papers online:
The Visitation of Surrey, 1662-1668 is available on the Heraldry page.