Epsom (St. Martin)

EPSOM (St. Martin), a parish and market-town, and the head of a union, in the First division of the hundred of Copthorne and Effingham, W. division of Surrey, 16 miles (E. N. E.) from Guildford, and 15 (S. W. by S.) from London, on the road to Worthing; containing 3533 inhabitants. This place, by the Saxons called Ebbisham, from which its present name is derived, is delightfully situated in a sheltered vale, on the western verge of Banstead Downs; and from the salubrity of the air, and the estimation in which its medicinal waters were formerly held, it became the resort of many families, and rapidly increased in the number of its buildings and the extent of its population. The parish comprises by estimation 4340 acres, of which 2500 are inclosed and under cultivation, and the remainder open common and down: the soil on one side is a strong clay, and on the other chalk and flint; the surface is gently undulated. The houses of the town are in general handsome and well built: gas was introduced in 1840. On the downs, which command an extensive and interesting view, is an excellent course where races are held annually, commencing on the Tuesday, and continuing till the end of the week, preceding Whitsuntide; the Derby stakes are run for on Wednesday, which is the principal day, and the Oaks on Friday. The grand stand, a commodious edifice, was completed in 1830, the expense being estimated at £13,890, raised on 1000 £20 shares: the interior comprises several rooms for refreshment, and a saloon 101 feet long and 38 feet wide; the whole building is 126 feet long, and arranged for the accommodation of 5000 persons, with seats on the roof for 2500. A second meeting takes place in October, and much of the support of the town arises from the great influx of strangers at the time of the races. A railway was opened from Croydon to this place in May, 1847; and an act has been passed, authorising a continuation of it to Godalming, Petersfield, and Portsmouth. The market is on Wednesday; and there is a fair on the 25th of July, for cattle and toys. The county magistrates hold a petty-session for the division on the first Monday in every month; and the town is within the jurisdiction of a court at Kingston, for the recovery of debts to any amount. The powers of the county debt-court of Epsom, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Epsom. A court baron is held in April, and a court leet in October.

The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £8. 9. 9½.; net income, £304; patrons, the Family of Speer; impropriator, F. Parkhurst, Esq. The church was rebuilt in 1825, at an expense of £7000, the style of the ancient structure being in most instances carefully preserved; it contains several neat monuments, among which is one of the Rev. John Parkhurst, author of the Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. On Epsom common is a small church, erected in 1845, by subscription, on ground given by J. T. Briscoe, Esq., lord of the manor: the patronage is in the Vicar of Epsom. There are three places of worship for dissenters. In 1694, John Brayne bequeathed £500, to be invested in the purchase of land, three-fifths of the produce to be applied to the instruction of children. An almshouse for twelve aged widows was erected by the parishioners on land given for that purpose by John Livingstone, about the year 1703: Samuel Cane, Esq., in 1786 bequeathed £500 three per cent. consols.; and in 1814 Langley Blackenbury, Esq., left £300 in the same stock, to be distributed in bread and coal to the inmates. Mary Dundas left a copyhold now producing £30 per annum, to be laid out in coal for aged widows; and there are also charitable bequests for the relief of the poor generally. The union of Epsom comprises 15 parishes or places, and contains a population of 17,251; the union-house was erected in 1838, at an expense of £9000, and can accommodate 300 persons. On the south-east side of the parish is a purgative spring, discovered in 1618, and said to be the first of its kind met with in England.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.