Reminiscences of Mr. George W. Challis

About fifty ago Mr George W Challis, a former postman, recorded some reminiscences of is life and work in Epsom. The original handwritten transcripts were on several pieces of paper donated to Bourne Hall Museum. These papers were not in any logical order so Bourne Hall Museum staff and volunteers pulled them into some semblance of order, deciphered the handwriting and typed them up. It's clear that there are gaps in the narrative so we presume that some pages are missing but despite all the aforementioned problems we think that the resulting text gives an interesting insight into Epsom life in the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

The following text is courtesy of Jeremy Harte, Curator, Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)


It was in the summer of 1887 when my family arrived in Epsom, Surrey; my father had come some months earlier with Epsom's first steam roller from Aveling and Porter's of Strood, Kent.

Actually, he was sent to deliver the engine to Epsom Local Board of Health and was to give instruction to a local man. This evidently was unsatisfactory as he was offered the job. Previous to the Epsom Local Board having the steam engine they only had a roller which was pulled by six horses and the roads were quite different to what they are today. Flints were chiefly used and set with sand and water. In wet weather the roads were in a terrible state with inches of mud on the surface and cycling was no pleasure then, especially with solid tyres on the machines.

An Epsom & Ewell Road Roller
An Epsom & Ewell Road Roller - date not known.
Image courtesy of Jeremy Harte, Curator, Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

Arriving at the old London Brighton and South Coast Railway Station, we came through the fields and Red Lion passage into East Street where we stayed at some old cottage for several days until our furniture arrived from Strood.

I remember quite well we were not at all impressed with the place, it seemed so quiet and deserted after Strood which at that time was a busy industrial town and no wonder we thought it quiet; we had lived in the shadows of the boiler shop where the engines were made. It was noisy but it had its compensations for we were on the banks of the Medway and near Rochester Castle where we spent happy hours playing games in the summer. Outside the town fruit grew in abundance and could be picked up on the footpaths.

The first shop I remember going into was Palmers, now Wood's the bakers. We asked for palates which was the name sweets were known by in Kent, after some explaining, we got what we wanted. If one had the money in those days, you could buy liquorice root and pomegranates which were very popular then.

After a few days idleness we had to go to school. Two of our family of five had left school. Three of us were sent to the British and Foreign school in Church Street where the Congregational Church now stands. We attended the Congregational Church at that time which was on the terrace, or what is known now as the Upper High Street. Between the church and the old Town Hall, now The Quadrant, were gravel pits which had quite an attraction to us lads. After being in Sunday school, we used to make rafts and navigate them on the water there.

Another attraction was the orchard opposite, this reached from Ormonde House (which faced the old pump and horse trough at the bottom of the High Street), up to the L.B.S.C. Railway station, long since closed down.

I was about nine years old when I was a paper boy at Smith's bookstall. We had to attend to meet the 6.50 a.m. train, fold papers and proceed on our rounds. My first round was Pikes Hill, Church Road, College Road, back through Albert Road to the station. Then with more papers I delivered to South Street, Dorking Road, Woodcoteside and Woodcote returning about 8.45 a.m. for which I received a shilling a week.

When the paper train came in we used to swarm round the guards van to get at the papers but one morning we had a gruesome surprise. When the door of the guards van was opened, we found the guard dead, his head was a pulp. He had evidently caught his head on the buttress of a bridge which used to span the railway where Hampton Grove is now situated. There were several bad accidents at this bridge and it was eventually taken down.

I was now attending the Church school in East Street and had to pay 4 pence a week (d not p). We did not all pay the same; it was according to your fathers means. The boys who went to early morning jobs were allowed to attend half an hour later as that would enable us to have breakfast after our exertions. I well remember the schoolmaster and teachers, some of whom were not very gentle when they had to issue out punishment, but sometimes they had an inkwell flung at them by some of the lads of the Common (Epsom Common). Boys were boys and we were not exception to the rule, I would not like to say we were better behaved than they are today, (in about 1953) but if we did wrong, I am sure the penalties were harder.

One of our pet pastimes was to tease the young Monks who used to come into Epsom from the Monastery at Ewell. Sometimes they broke ranks and chased us and then we were for it. Our schoolmaster Mr. Oc-------- was organist and choirmaster at the Parish church, the reason why we had a good deal of singing practice. The Lost Chord was one of the songs he sang. Other songs I remember were Longshoreman Billy and We are three jolly sailor boys; our own stock song was -

          Mr. Oc is a very good man
          He goes to church on Sunday
          He prays to God to give him strength
          to wallop us boys on Monday.

While on the school subject, I would like to mention the quiet lad who attended school at this time. He was very studious and we always predicted he would make his mark in the world, which he has done. He was on the local Urban District Council, then the Surrey County Council, later he became an M.P. and eventually Home Secretary. Good show Chuter Ede.

Holidays were not so numerous in those days, but there was plenty of fun to be had with so many open spaces in Epsom in those days and plenty of tiddlers to be caught in the local ponds, including some good sized fish in the Barons pond. When the flints were taken out and the roads were made of tarred material, the fish disappeared.

We also arranged cricket matches between different parts of the town. Stamford Green, Woodcote Green and Station fields (now Longhurst's yard) were not ideal places, but I think we enjoyed our cricket in spite of some hard knocks on the rough rounds. Epsom was certainly a very country town with a population of 10,000 and plenty of open spaces. Not one of the asylums had been built at this time.

Ox Roasting on 9 Aug 1902 for King Edward VII Coronation
Ox Roasting on 9 Aug 1902 for King Edward VII Coronation
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

The wide part of the High Street has seen a good deal of festivity at various times. Here were held Jubilee and Coronation celebrations and the getting together processions. Also the roasting of a whole ox for which a fireplace was built at the foot of the clock tower, the ox being turned on a spit until it was roasted. Any adult who cared too could have a portion. You passed up a plate to the carver and he cut you quite a nice portion which you took to a nearby marquee where you were given bread and a glass of beer to enjoy. I think this occasion was the accession to the throne of King Edward. The toast was given by a prominent and sporty Councillor and previous to being killed, the ox was paraded through the streets of the town decorated with rosettes.

It was my first year in Epsom and I walked with my schoolfellows to the Downs where sports were held in front of the "Derby Arms." One particular event always stood out in my memory - competitors trying to climb the greasy pole where the prize, a leg of mutton, was on the top. Later, when it was dark, a huge bonfire was lit and a firework display followed. This program was used on all similar occasions and naturally, these were red-letter days in our lives. Another exciting day was when a circus came to Epsom, Lord George Sangers was no doubt the best. It was held in a field just behind the boy's school in East Street. Crowds used to flock into the town at midday to watch the procession parading in the High Street. I can only guess at the number of horses, but I do remember there were 2 huge coaches each drawn by 40 horses - Lord George Sanger riding in a very old stage coach at the rear, of course. School was out of the question in the afternoon so we would not miss this treat.

I did not think at this time that I should ever perform in a circus but I did in the year 1900 and this is how it came about. Epsom East Street Football Club, being the only club in town, received a letter from the agent of Sangers Circus asking if one of its players would take part in a football competition against one of their elephants when they visited the town. I jokingly said you can send my name in, which the secretary did. Soon my name was billed all over the town in foot high letters. I did not bargain for this and I was subjected to a good deal of leg pulling and incidentally, when my young lady heard that I had done, she was very much put out, anyhow I would not back out of my agreement and when the great night arrived, I was accompanied by all of our club members.

Elephant in the Chessington Road Horse Pond c1900
Elephant in the Chessington Road Horse Pond c1900
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Just previous to my turn, a football match was played between the clowns and elephants. It was a rough and tumble game and the elephants picked up clowns, shook and trod on them. Imagine my feelings when I went into the ring after this. The Ringmaster then made his announcement mentioning my name as being willing to play against the elephant. We were to have 5 kicks at each others goal. The elephant won the toss and kicked first, and could he kick - the goal was about 2 feet high. He knocked my goal down with one go and with another kick, the ball caught me square in the middle, the top of the ball caught my nose making me see stars. Now came my turn, the goals were not very big and the big fellow kept rolling about and there did not seem much room to get a ball through. However, I did manage to get one past him as he rolled onto one side. The Ringmaster then announced the elephant had not been beaten for 2 years and presented me with a silver cup.

There were no cinemas in those days so any form of entertainment was welcomed - Epsom fair was looked forward to by young and old, but how different they are now (1955), the side shows of those days seem to have disappeared, even the boxing booths, where many champions got their first experience, have gone. These booths used to parade about half a dozen boxers of various weights and the owner asked for volunteers from the crowd to pick their choice, and Epsom being a sporty place, there were no lack of them.

Coconut shies at a penny a throw and a good chance of getting one. I wonder what they would ask these days.

Pigeon and sparrow shoots were held in the fields adjoining the brickyard and many pounds changed hands at these functions. Hare coursing was also held where West Hill venue now stands. On Sunday mornings, crowds used to collect on Epsom Downs to watch rabbit coursing and in the afternoons in Clayton Road, rat bating was held in a huge vat.

Often we saw balloons floating over Epsom, a parachutist had a balloon filled with smoke in the fields by Half Mile Bush (now Windmill Lane.) When all was ready, he floated upward, but did not get far as he landed on a telephone wire in the station fields and his balloon came down on the Doctor Barnardo's Homes (in East Street) dislodging chimney pots.

The old Dr Barnardo's home at 18 East Street
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

Life in Epsom during the winter was decidedly dull and there was very little doing except at the old Town Hall where shows were billed such as 'Pooles Melodrama', 'Bohee Minstrels', Mortons and Ines Howards and touring companies. Albert Chevalier also used to give recitals, and generally a Pantomime at Christmas. A three penny 'Gaff' was another form of entertainment sating such plays as Sweeney Todd in 'The Murder in the red barn' etc.

It would be about 1890 when the Jack the Ripper scare was a subject for hair-raising tales. 'Spring heeled Jack' was another local ghost story. The latter was supposed to have been seen jumping over hedges onto the highways in various parts of the town.

On Bank Holidays, athletics were very much in evidence; a sports meeting at South Hatch (Burgh Heath Road) providing plenty of fun and excitement. This meeting was the venue for settling old scores, numerous fights taking place. I can remember quite a number of bruisers who participated in these scraps, but I don't think it wise to mention names here.

Leatherhead sports on East Monday were well patronized by Epsom people. Train and horse vehicles were the only form of transport available. The events here were attended by well-known cyclists and runners from a good distance around. On Whit Monday, a good gathering of athletes attended a meeting on the Woodcote cricket ground; Epsom had some very good runners and cycle riders so some good races were seen.

On August Bank Holiday, another big meeting was held at Horton Lodge, but the track was rather rough going. Cricket matches were played on most holidays on grounds in various parts of the town, now alas, fields no longer. One of the station fields, now a timber yard, was a popular meeting place for the town lads, especially Bank Holiday mornings when a hundred or so would play a hockey match, and it was a rough and tumble game I can assure you. At the foot of the bridge nearby was a favourite place for games such as kick-can, kick the post, cock-horney, and more sacks on the mill. When it got dark Chink Chink and Knock Knock. Sometimes, a policeman would spoil our fun. We had nick-names for these gentlemen - one in particular, a terror to us was 'Blackmuscle' but we mostly outwitted him. How different the games of those days and now. We had the one recreation ground, but it was very little used, the reason being there were so many open spaces in the town where we could play, not many of these exist today.

On Sundays, Londoners used the town clock as a turning point for various forms of racing. It was no unusual sight to see men balancing a two-gallon jar, or even a cartwheel on their heads, also some pulling a coster barrow which was weighted; this form of sport was a good endurance test. Another personality was a lady dressed as a jockey and with riding whip she walked between Half Mile Bush, Windmill Lane and the Silver Birches (Church Street), this she did for 10 hours a day for a week, for a wager.

There was no school leaving age in operation at this time, so eager to go to work, I left when I was eleven years old. My first full time job was at clothiers in the narrow part of the High Street (later Harvey's). The whole front of the shop was used to display clothes and my duties were to guard these articles. The hours were long - 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Early closing was 4 p.m. on Thursday.

If you saw some of those clothes being worn now no doubt you would think them quaint. Cord trousers were very much worn at this period and there were plain or Partridge and Pheasant patterns in these with bell bottoms. Sleeved waistcoats and buckskin trousers were worn by navvy's, (a description applied to heavy manual workers).

About this time a sewer was being laid through the High Street, a large influx of labour was needed for this job and a rough crowd they were for on Saturday nights they painted the town red. The local police had a busy time trying to control them. I recall the towns mounted policeman charging amongst them on his grey horse, also this is where the burly one we called Blackmuscle used to shine. He stood on top of the steps at the side of the Spread Eagle Hotel and as they came out of the door, he toppled them over the railings into the road below. People did not shop very early in those days and the town was crowded on Saturday nights until quite a late hour.

Once a year we had the cycle carnival when cycles of all descriptions were decorated, some as animals and some as yachts. The fire brigade always assisted in this show and the old engine from the Watch House at Ewell was brought out on this occasion and was manned by the "Darktown firemen." Fun was fast and furious and greatly enjoyed by the townspeople.

Some of the tradesmen were characters and I will try and describe a few. There was a certain greengrocer who sat on a chair outside his shop giving orders to his men in a loud voice. He cultivated a lot of spare ground about the town and a road bears his name. A few doors from him a dapper and fussy little man used to come from his shop bowing and scraping to the gentry in their carriages; another well-known figure was a cab driver who possessed a beautiful and well coloured rose - a gentleman once asked me how much it cost to cultivate it - his reply was it was not what it cost to produce but what it cost for its upkeep. Next door lived a venerable figure who manufactured soap and candles and when this operation was on - well, the whole of the High Street was not unaware of this.

Near at hand was an old public house "The Tuns" long since demolished, where one could doss the night for fourpence. The forecourt of the Marquis of Granby was used by that quack doctor of Smith's Pill and Prairie Ifors fame and Showman Squash. He pulled teeth out free of charge and also he would cure Rimatins if anyone was willing to let him perform on them. This was to the accompaniment of his band to drown the cries of the patient. I can remember one man who used to walk on sticks getting up on his couch for treatment and hearing his cries above the music. Whether he was permanently cured or not, I could not say, but he was able to leave his sticks and run as far as the town clock and back to the Marquis. This part of the High Street has now altered to a great extent - an old pump used to be where there is now a nice flower bed.

In the old .... A pond occupied this site. Waterloo House, formerly "The Old Inn", has been altered and a good part of it was a furniture shop and had a very quaint entrance. This was owned by William Bristow who also carried on the livery stables at the Spread Eagle Yard where he supplied all manner of vehicles for hire - a noted distinguished tradesman with monocle usually attired in fine silk frock coat and smoking cap. The reason for his queerness was that he had been crossed in love. He used to attend the Congregational Church and always came in late but always went to his usual seat opposite to a certain lady in the choir to whom he was attracted. Another queer hobby of his was when he used to fill the window of his empty shop with maize for the rats to feed on. Folks would stand and watch the rats, but this was put a stop to after a time. A shave for a penny and a hair cut for 2 pence - this was possible at barber Kellys - a man very fond of his glass of beer. His thirst must have come upon him suddenly at times. It was known he would lather a man and then leave him while he refreshed himself at the Spread Eagle tap. He did not have to go far in those days for his place was in the narrow part of the Street. It seemed a pity when those quaint old shops and houses had to go. But when motor traffic came in being, it was really necessary.

This part of the High Street was rather picturesque with its quaint little shops. A bull was being driven through the street one day and entered one of these shops - a greengrocers - through the doorway, but it did not make its exit that way. It jumped through the windows scattering the goods out onto the pathway. This happened as we were returning to school after the dinner hour and there was a good deal of nut cracking in school that afternoon - by the way, this said shop was kept by a veteran athlete who when running in the veteran's race at the local sports, always dispensed with his trousers and ran in his pants. Another well-known and very much respected tradesman responsible for a good many improvements in the town, was Georgie Beavis, as he was affectionately called. He was prominent on the local council and was a cheerful giver to anything appertaining to the welfare of the town. It was chiefly through him that the Alexander Road recreation ground was acquired for the town. I have photos of the cricket and football teams that were the first to use this ground - Epsom Rovers CC and Epsom East Street Football Clubs played here and our games were well patronized.

Epsom Postal Cricket Club c1907
Epsom Postal Cricket Club c1907
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

I might modestly mention I was the first player to make a century on this ground. When we first played football matches, there were no goal posts but a kindly timber merchant provided the club with .... And we had to carry them to the ground each Saturday. We must have been very keen on games. I have run from Walton-on-the-Hill after walking 20 miles during the day to take part in games. Cricket we played till 8 pm. There were no pictures to rush off to as they want to do nowadays. Epsom Football Club existed before this, but I don't remember much of their doings except that Tommy was the goalkeeper and was reputed to have been able to kick from one goal to the other. Ewell (who played where Epsom Town now play) had the best team so naturally, had plenty of support from Epsom. I cannot remember all the team that played then, but two internationals, the brothers A.M. and P.M. Coalten, played as backs, Alex White centre, his brother also a forward and Percy Carter, outside right. I think the football was quite as good then as it is now. Epsom Cricket Club used to provide some good cricket at the Woodcote Ground. How delighted we were when A Green and Lord Dalmeny were in form - they were good hitters and often put the ball out of the ground. One gentleman, F.L. Rawson, used to encourage us lads to bowl him out at practice by putting a shilling on the middle stump which was ours if we hit the wicket. He was a good defensive bat so we did not get rich at his expense. At this time, there were quite a number of farms in the town - Skeltons in Church Road, Jay's in Albert Road, Taylors, Longdown, Templeton and Browns and Miles in Kingston Lane, now Hook Road. A favourite walk was down Kingston Lane on a Sunday evening after leaving East Street. There were four cottages this side of the bridge, the next two were beyond the Isolation Hospital. The land in between these was used as grazing fields, orchards and market gardens. There was a blacksmiths shop adjoining Miles Farm - Mileoaks was named from this. Where the hospital stands were gravel pits worked by the Council. The gravel and flint from here were used on the paths and roads in the town. At this time, a good sized road was on the corner of Howard Lane which was just a cart track to Templeton Farm. This farmhouse with two cottages was surrounded by fields for a considerable distance. There was a big meadow where the school and Lower Court Road now stands. A stream used to run through this and was well stocked with tiddlers. One could also pick cowslips here in the spring. Here was also a footpath that took you through to Horton Lane and crossing this another path on through the fields to Chessington Church. With the wind in the right direction, the bells of this church could be heard for a considerable distance. There were only a few cottages, a farm and a blacksmith's shop in Horton Lane at this period. If one was inclined, you could proceed along the lane to the Bones Gate Public House. I wonder if the old gate still hangs with the words:
     "This gate hangs well and hinders none,
     Refresh traveller and pass on."

A nice glass of cider to refresh one and then like Felix, keep walking for there was no other choice. Windmill Lane was flanked by fields and Bush Lodge was isolated. The nearest house to this was the Old Mill House with the Old Windmill in its grounds. It was a pity this old relic was demolished. There were not many houses in Alexandra Road and most of the land in this area was farmed by Mr. Jay whose farm was in Albert Road.

I remember on one occasion when the ploughing match was held in the fields where Ashdown Road is now. The College and grounds has not altered much. Just behind here was Longdown Farm or as we used to call it, Taylor's Farm. This was a fairly big farm and was noted for its Suffolk Punch horses which usually came home from shows with rosettes on their bridles.

Lord Rosebery in 1903
Lord Rosebery in 1903
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Many of the roads about Epsom, especially in the spring with their ornamental trees, are a delight to the eye. In November, 1950, I happened to be in the Ashley and Downs Road area and what a sight to behold with the trees in their autumn hues. It did not seem possible, but I remember these trees being planted. Lord Rosebery was responsible for this beautiful scene. Even the Durdan's estate has not escaped being despoiled by bricks and mortar. Epsom Downs has not altered to any great extent, but one does not seem to have the same freedom as we enjoyed before 1900. There is one big difference that is on the Race Days when, with few exceptions, the only horses you can see are the ones that are racing. The crowd on the Downs then were certainly more picturesque than it is now in these mechanized days. What various weather Derby days have experienced - sometimes very hot and dry and then one was covered in chalk dust. It was in the year when "Sunstar" won the big race that we had a terrific thunderstorm. I had watched the race and noticing signs of a storm, decided to make for home and just managed this in time. The thunder and lightening was terrific. I have never seen anything like it since and then came the downpour and soon my garden was under a foot of water to the delight of my own two boys who soon had a boat sailing on this. There were several people killed and injured this afternoon on the Downs. As to the crowd, I guess they were uncomfortable!

Another time when "Jansamima" won, the Downs was absolutely a quagmire and it was really amusing to watch people floundering in the mud. I am afraid I saw the funny part of this and was not really interested in the racing. It has been said that it has snowed on Derby Day, but I don't remember this. What delightful views can be seen from the Downs looking eastwards? A good many of London's famous buildings can be seen. To the west, Windsor Castle stands out, especially on an evening when there is a fine sunset. The Thames can also be seen with sun shining on its water. On a fine dark night, it is a wonderful sight to see the myriads of lights reaching well into Middlesex.

Time passes and at fourteen years of age, I got a job on the Epsom Local Board of Health as attendant with a steam roller. I had to walk alongside of the engine and when necessary, lead frightened horses past. I don't know who was more nervous - the horses or myself. Another man walked thirty yards ahead carrying a red flag. This was a hint to horse drivers to be on their guard. Carshalton and Sutton used to hire the engine at times. One Christmas Eve, my father was caught in a very thick fog in Sutton High Street and mistaking a light in the shop window for a street light, he did the wrong thing and finished up in another window. The engine was badly damaged and tackle for removing the engine had to be got from the works at Strood in Kent. A rather inquisitive lady stepped out from the crowd who were watching the proceedings and asked my father how the accident happened. He was a humorist and his reply "The engine shied at a bicycle" was a typical answer from him.

Roads were quite different at this time and were made with flint. In the summer, water carts had to be used to keep the dust down. In wet weather, it was mud, mud and more mud. The roads in the Downs were just chalk. Each day during race week, these got very rough and we had to be on the Downs as soon as it was light to straighten them out before the traffic started. We always had a hot breakfast these mornings as we could buy fish and chips all hot from a caterer by the road side. My father sometimes cooked a hot dinner for both of us by baking potatoes in the ash box and frying steak, chops and sausages on a shovel in the firebox. As you may imagine, this was greatly enjoyed in the fresh air.

When away from the town, I used to get up on the engine and steer. At times on a quiet road, he would leave me to do the driving while he walked for a change. When the Motor Car Act came into operation, I lost my job with the engine and became groom to the surveyor who rode horseback. He was very nervous of the mare he used, so I had to take it for a good gallop early morning before he was ready to ride.

Epsom is beginning to develop and is now an Urban District Council. It was proposed to have a private racecourse on the north side of Horton Lane, but the townspeople, largely the residential folk, objected to this. They were very much perturbed when they learned the London County Council had bought the site and intended to build asylums. Up to now there were many of what were called "the good old families," but from now on, they started leaving the town. There is no doubt that with the coming of the asylums, the town benefited, especially trades people. Also, it brought employment to a great many local men. Manor Hospital derived its name from the old Horton Manor which originally stood on this site. It was a fine old place surrounded by a moat which was well stocked with fish. The entrance to the Park was opposite Christ Church. The drive was bordered by rhododendrons and was a fine sight when in bloom. Not far from here was "The Wells", a very historical place with its famous well, visited by King Charles and his consort. Nell Gwynne's name has been connected with the gay times held here. I have drunk water from this well with results - well, I won't dwell on this. Nearby, Woodcote Park with its fine house was occupied by the Brooks family. This was I think, with its ceilings painted by Italian artists, the outstanding house in Epsom. Fire in recent years has ruined this place. Adjoining Woodcote Park and standing in well-wooded lands, was Woodcote House, the home of the Northeys. The Reverend owner of this place was a real autocrat and was looked upon as the Squire of the place. I was looking over the fence surrounding this cricket field while a match was in progress when he stopped his carriage and taking the whip from his coachman, threatened to thrash me with it if I did not come away. He said something about abusing his person, but I am sure I was not guilty of doing this. Later years, I had a laugh at his expense. One of his married daughters lived at the Cottage in the park on the Ashtead Road. I was mail driving at this time and as I was leaving Ashtead P.O. one afternoon, she asked me to give her a lift home. We had proceeded a short distance when her father's carriage and pair came into view. As we passed, you should have seen the look on her parents' faces and she said, "Oh dear - I shall hear more of this." This episode caused a good deal of amusement.

There were some fine old houses in and around the town, mostly standing in a good acreage - a good many of these have totally disappeared and houses cover these sites now. Church Street has not altered to a great extend and there are still some of the old Georgian houses here. One place "The Grove" with its lovely iron gates has been demolished. From the road to the house, there was a carriage drive and near the tradesman's entrance, a huge dog was chained up. Some of us lads hated to have to deliver parcels here. Pit House has the repudiation of being very historical. There was a subterranean passage here (now closed) which was supposed to be connected with Pit House, Ewell. The latter place has some very interesting features relating to bygone times. At times, its grounds were flooded by the underground river Bourne. The first signs of flooding used to be seen in Diana's ditch in Nonsuch Park and then the river course followed the Ewell to Epsom Road through to Heathcote Road when it seemed to end here. Nork Park (Lord Egmont's) seat later "Colman's" of mustard fame, has entirely disappeared. The estate reached from Banstead Station to Tadworth station in one direction and from Drift Bridge to Burgh Heath, the other way. Colman's horses were famous and attended horse shows all over the country. All their vehicles were painted yellow and were very conspicuous when in the town. Two sons were very keen cricketers and had their own cricket ground at Little Burgh where they entertained local teams. On a summer evening one could see hundreds of rabbits scampering about in the park. Pheasants and partridges were also plentiful. It would be interesting to know how many houses there are on this old estate. In the old times, I should say there were about a dozen at the most. The schools in Firtree Road were once called the Kensington & Chelsea Schools for Boys. Their band gave pleasure to a good many. When the wind was in the right direction, it would be heard on the east side of Epsom at 9 in the morning when it accompanied the lads to school. The band was also in good demand for various functions around the neighbourhood.

Reigate Road area was very countrified. A popular Sunday evening walk was from Alexandra Road through the fields later crossing Reigate Road to Howell Hill, Ewell. With the exception of North Lose House, there were other houses in Reigate Road. Now we are near Ewell, a tour around that place would not be amiss. The old village was a popular residential place with some very well known families - Major Coates, MP. Sir David Evans, once Lord Mayor of London, John Bridges, Jacombs Walters, Tabors and a hose of others of the genteel classes. There was a time when I knew the names of every house occupier in Ewell, but it would require a good memory to remember the present population. A big acreage was used for the growing of mint and this was distilled by Farmer Martin at his farm in Cheam Road. There was a very strong smell about the place when this operation was in progress. Local people used to buy the water that the mint was boiled in and it was used to make a very good hot drink for the winter time.

Where some of these families died out or removed from the Parish, they were greatly missed by some of the old villagers. Some of these gentry were very generous to folks outside their own households. I am afraid it was another story where the welfare of their staffs was concerned. One house in particular comes to mind as I happened to be a privileged visitor and somewhat useful one too. This family entertained considerably but very rarely went visiting themselves. Consequently, the staff of twelve were hard worked and had very little leisure time. If they did get out for a few hours, they had to be in for 9.00 prayers. I wonder would they stand for this in these times.

Arthur Glyn
Arthur Glyn
Image courtesy of Jeremy Harte, Curator, Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

There were some fine old shops and houses in the village street. This part of Ewell near the spring was altered very little to what it was fifty years ago. One well-known old gentleman I did admire was Arthur Glyn. In his unobtrusive way he did a lot for the villagers and outside the parish as well. He took a good deal of interest in boys and would often take parties of them out to places of interest around Epsom, not only paying their fares, but also providing refreshment as well. He was a great walker and would often walk to London instead of going by train. I have also met him on Epsom Downs soon after six in the morning. He was then making his way back to Ewell so goodness knows what time he started out on his rambles.

Now I am entering on another phase of experiences in Epsom with influence which was necessary in those days. I joined the Postal staff at Epsom Post office as an auxiliary postman with a duty of about six hours a day. My duties were 9 am to 10.45 am and 5.40 to 10.0 pm., the last hour was to relieve the boy messenger. I not only had to cover Epsom, but also Ewell, Ashtead, Worcester Park and Banstead if there should be a telegram received during this hour. And, I had to walk to these places and occasionally it was midnight before I arrived home to complete my days work. In the spare hours between my times of duty, I was expected to work at the shop next to the P.O. in Waterloo Road. This business was owned by the then Postmaster's Brother, who also had a small position in the P.O. as assistant to his sister. For my services in this work, which consisted of about twenty five hours, I was paid 2s.0d. A weekend that I had to ask for. Even on early closing day which was at 1.0 p.m. on Thursday, I had to attend and scrub out the shop. If I should grumble as I think I was entitled to, I was informed that if I wanted to get a position as established postman and looked after his interests, he would see that I should get this. By the way, a description of my day's work would not be amiss at this stage.

The head office was then a tin hut in Waterloo Road and served for all postal work. Commencing at 9.0am., I took the mail for the whole of Ewell except that part this side of Ewell P.O. which I had to deliver on my way there; on my return, I brought a sealed bag and collected from letter boxes on my way to Epsom PO. Which finished at 10.45 am? I then went to my job which was for 4-1/2 hours or say to 4.30 pm, then rush home, have my tea and change into uniform which was then grey with red piping. The coat was frocked with two big side pockets after the style that the gamekeepers wore and a Shako like the Rifle Brigade wore about 100 years ago. Now all dressed up, I presented myself for duty at 5.15 pm, after getting together the mail which was not a lot except sometimes I would get hat and dress boxes for some of the big houses on the farthest part of my walk. Well here we go down Waterloo Road, through the fields, first call at Templeman's Farm which was in Pound Lane, next two cottages in Kingston Lane - now Hook Road, next Brown's Farm which now belongs to the LCC. Now a nice jaunt to Poplar Farm at the Oakes in Chessington Road, near Ruxley Lane. Back to West Ewell, after serving this area, I continued on to Ewell Court - thence to Ewell Court Farm and then down the cart track to some cottages on the bank near where the Rembrandt now stands. I still have further to go along the Kingston Road to the Adelaide - Astbury and Park which were opposite the Kingston Road end of Ruxley Lane. This finishes the delivery part, but I still have a nice walk back through the fields to Epsom where I arrived at 8.25 pm. You might say it was a nice walk. Well, I would agree it wasn't so bad in the summer time. Well, what about the winter - ah - that's a different story. To start with, there were no made up patches and the roads were not what they are now and the going was rather heavy during the wet periods and snowy seasons. This was a very pleasant walk in the light evening, but during the winter, it was a dreary and desolate journey. I guess my hair must have stood on end sometimes when passing through the marshland between West Ewell and Ewell Court - one heard all sorts of noises from the wild animals and birds that haunt these places. When proceeding over the wooden bridge that crosses the Hogsmill River, there would sometimes be a big splash which would make you think all sorts of things. I must say, I had some amusing things happen, such as stumbling over a cow and once after a heavy storm, I literally had to walk on frogs. The amazing part about this was they disappeared in a very short time. There is a saying about raining cats and dogs, but it must have rained frogs this time.

One amusing incident occurred on a very dark night when walking along the Kingston Road near the Adelaide. I saw a grey object on the hedge which seemed to move along as I walked. I shuffled at the side of the road till I found a stone which I let fly at the object. It turned out to be a grey owl which was evidently searching the hedge for birds. This solved my ghost story. When passing over the Hogsmill River near the old powder mills, I often used to watch the kingfisher flying to and fro, but I have never seen once since then. One thing that always grieved me at this time was my inability to play games as my work was continuous. I was very keen on cricket and can modestly say I was a fairly good all round player. But, from the age of sixteen to nineteen, I rarely had a chance to play the game unless it was on the Whitsun or August Bank holiday. When the post office team had their two annual games either with Sutton or Leatherhead Postal teams, I don't think the standard of cricket we played was very brilliant, but we got some good fun on these occasions. After the game, we had a high tea and then a smoking concert. I was a contributor to the programme with a song or two. As I have previously mentioned, I did not have much time for games during the first three years I was in the postal service. But things were moving in the way of sport in the locality where I lived at the top part of East Street - the recreation ground at Alexamdra Road was just opened up thanks to George Beams - an Epsom tradesman and councilor - I think the lads of East Street were the real pioneers in making football history in Epsom when they formed the Epsom East Street Football Club. They also started a Skate club and then the Epsom rovers Cricket Club. The first meeting gathered together under a lamp on a three-cornered piece of ground near where the old windmill used to be in the Mill Road area which was all farmland. Apart from the above mentioned sports, we had our own athletic meetings with its annual championships. For the prizes, the winners of each event would take the competition entry fees, usually about three pence each event.

Epsom is now growing fast and new roads are being made in all parts of the town and I am getting to the age when I had become an established Postman. My benevolent benefactor does not seem to think so however. I suppose he still thinks I am cheap labour. After about two years at 2s.0d a week, I managed to persuade him it was time I had a rise. He took a good deal of time to think it over, but eventually I managed to get an extra two shillings a week. I now began to worry him to redeem his promise of getting me on the establishment. But before I proceed with this part of the story, I would like to chronicle incidents that occurred during my first Christmas the PO in 1896.

The work was very heavy and we started preparing for Christmas Day delivery at 4.0 am. At 6.0 am. The staff were entertained to a sausage breakfast and what sausages they were in those days. This meal was provided by a prominent judge, a resident of Epsom. After we had done justice to this, we returned to our preparations. Being only an auxiliary, I was deputed to help a postman who had an exceptionally heavy delivery. My companion was a character inasmuch as he was able to partake of a considerable amount of good cheer without showing any ill effects, but before we got half way on our journey, he was beginning to show the effects of the people's hospitality. I was sometimes invited to have a little refreshment. The first drink proffered me was a tumbler of home made elderberry wine. I was used to this form of drink as we made this kind, but I was not used to mixing this with other forms of drink, so when a short time later I was given a glass of ale with a good cigar to smoke, I'd had it. As our load was diminishing my friend said he could do without my help so I might as well take the truck home. At this time, the Drum and Fife, or Pig and Whistle Band, as we called it, was making its way back to Epsom so I fell in behind and had music to cheer me on my way. (For a good many of the houses on this walk were occupied by good class families with varying staff so most of these places took a good sized bundle of letters and cards, besides odd packets. We had a large truck to hold this lot and I was in charge of same. My brother was on duty when I returned to the office and he promptly told me to get on home.

At Christmas time, the work was arduous and we worked long hours, but I am sure we got a lot of pleasure out of it. I should say the whole of the staff numbered about 30 at this time. The population of Epsom was about 10,000. We were a very sociable and united staff and quite a good number when they returned from their rounds on Christmas Eve (delivery at midnight), would stay the night as it was not worth while going home for such a short time. I recollect in the short time at our disposal, one of the staff would play a harmonium and others would sing. This was the spirit in which we tackled the extra workload. One Christmas, I took my mandolin to the office and the supervisor in charge asked me to play through the night to help keep the workers awake. The old office in Waterloo Road consisted of one large room. The public counter at one end was screened by a partition. The place was heated by a large stove in the centre. This was the only means of boiling a kettle or warming food. I well remember a chap, H.C., who had evidently had quite a lot of drinks, bringing a box of bloaters for his supper. He started cooking these on a toasting fork on top of the fire. His hand, not being too steady, the fish kept falling off the fork into the fire, but he would soon put another in its place. Just imagine the effluvia that filled the place. This sort of thing was taken in good part by all. Early on a Christmas morning, a party would go and sing carols outside the house of a member of the staff who had not stayed at the office overnight. On Christmas morning, the postman looked a proverbial Father Xmas. No extra help was provided and the men went on their rounds loaded to capacity. The public were very tolerant and free with their hospitality. It was late afternoon before men returned from their delivery on this day and as I knew them few wanted any dinner when they arrived home. Boxing Day was similar to Xmas Day except there was a sense of freedom, inasmuch as the worst of the work was over and we felt free to enjoy the festivities. A good number of the fellows when finished made their way to the Liberal Club where one part of the premises was labeled "Postman's Corner." Here, we would exchange our experiences and with the help of the old brown jugs and glasses, which only were used on certain occasions, we would have a convivial time before going home. Here I would like to add a tribute to the comradeship that existed in those days - as an illustration - I have known in heavy snowy weather when a man was overdue from a distant walk such as from Woodmansterne, several would go off and meet him and help him with his load. We did have some bad winters and I can well remember a nine mile walk in snow up to my knees. I wonder would they do this in these times. (I don't thing they would). These were the good old days as some would leave you to believe. Personally, my opinion is they were the reverse to this.

Now I come to a new chapter of events. My benevolent benefactor is redeeming his promise of using his influence in appreciation of my unpaid work in his private business. He has at last prevailed on his sister the Postmistress, to give me an appointment on the staff of the P.O. After a very elementary exam, I was granted a Civil Service Certificate and then was duly offered the post of mail driver from Epsom to Ashtead. This was in 1899. Ashtead at this time was just a village with mostly houses of the residential type who had their coachmen, gardeners and maids. I had my misgivings about accepting this job, but was promptly told if I refused, I was not likely to have another chance of being put on the staff as there were not many jobs going these days. I eventually accepted the post. Now I am a Mounted Postman and have to provide horse and cart for which I am allowed 18/- a week for the upkeep of same. The rate of wages for this work was 18/- per week with an increment of 1/6d a year. The job was not altogether desirable as I had to get up at 5.00 am. To feed the horse, harness up and start my duty at 5.45 - not so bad in the summer, but in winter, not so pleasant, I can assure you. The cart was of the box type with a dicky seat with no protection against the weather and that ride in the winter over Epsom Hill to Ashtead was no picnic. On arriving at Ashtead, I had to stable the horse and prepare my delivery. On returning, I had a short time for breakfast and then get the horse out and proceed to Epsom to get the mail for the next morning delivery in the village. After stabling my horse, I had another walking delivery which finished at 11.30. I was now free till 3.00 pm. when I had to return again to Epsom, arriving at 3.30, off duty again and then attend Epsom office at 5.15 to take the evening mail to Ashtead, shutting horse out. After doing another walking delivery, I get my horse from stable and pick up mail at Ashtead P.O., arriving at Epsom at 8.30. Now I could stable the horse and after feeding and bedding down, it would be about 9.0 pm. Well I think this was a good day's work and you may guess I looked forward to Sunday. I am sure my horse appreciated this day as I did. In spite of not having much time for recreation, I have always considered the three years I held this post, as the happiest years of my career in the postal service.

There were very few shops in Ashtead at this time and I became a link between the shops at Epsom and the maids on my round. I may have been a bit shy at first with some of their commissions, but I was soon able to adapt myself to what they wanted. Their principal wants were at the drapers so I can imagine the assistant's embarrassment when I had to match a piece of lace or ribbon elastic, stay busts. In fact, I have carried a variety of goods for them. The rural postmen, as the men who served the villages were termed and providing he was obliging, could make quite a nice bit of pocket money in various ways. While at Ashtead, I have done gardening and helped with pig killing, also I sometimes helped to dig graves. We used to wear bowler hats while doing this to protect our heads from falling chalk. In hot weather, we did not get much benefit out of this job as it cost a good deal of what we earned to pay for refreshment. One bright spot in my days work was getting to know folks. A good many of the so called gentry were snobs, but there were some who were most friendly and forbearing and did not object to their maids giving you a cup of tea - if you happened to be about when that was being made. I know I used to have a lot of invitations, but often had to make excuses as time would not allow too many stops for this purpose. Most of the maids used to welcome the tradesmen and postmen calling for the chance of a friendly chat and a laugh and joke. It was the only diversion from their day to day routine which was fairly exacting in this Victorian era. During the summer when some of the employers were away on holiday, I would get invited to lunch or some other meal. Mostly I had to ask another colleague to come with me. On one occasion, the people of the house made their departure in the morning and we were to go to lunch that day. Jimmy and I arrived at the house and found the cook dressed up in her master's clothes. We were just sitting down to lunch when there was a ring at the front door. Fortunately, the house parlour maid went to answer the door. Well, who was it - the Boss - who had returned for something forgotten. The cook recognized his voice and bundled us out of a back window - thence we went up the garden, over the fence, into a field at the rear of the place. We learned afterwards the cook managed to get upstairs and change her clothes. Needless to say, we did not have lunch there that day and I shall always remember the first (?) Minton Ct. It was owned by people at the Cottage in the Park, Ashtead. It was a lovely place and when my pal called there Xmas Eve, they asked if he and I would go and have supper with them as their people had gone away in the car for Xmas. It would be late before we finished so we arranged to meet at the Liberal Club at Epsom. I arrived first and after waiting some time, one of the chaps on the station duty came in and said Jimmy was at the Star and having high jinks with some of the villagers who were waiting for the Ashtead train. I went to the Star and there was Jim full of the festive spirit. I was not so keen on keeping our date with him in that state. However, I knew it was a good walk after reaching Ashtead station, so thought he would be quieter by the time we reached the Cottage in the Park, We eventually arrived and soon were having a good supper. This over we adjourned to the lounge. One of the maids played the piano and we were singing when we could hear "clop clop" on the grave drive. It was the car having broken down and drawn back by a horse. Fortunately, the master and mistress had not returned, but the girls were very scared and so this party ended abruptly. During the winter, we had a number of invitations to parties given by some of the gentry who had a fairly large staff of servants. These were very enjoyable as the catering was very liberal. These incidents are only a few of the amusing experiences that I participated in. There were a good many nursemaids in the village and naturally when meeting them out with their charges, I used to stop and have a chat and joke with them. I was returning to the office one day when there was quite a bevy of ladies with their children and nurses chatting together when one hopeful espied me and then said to his mother "That postman is George and he is going to marry our Nanny." I guess I blushed, but they all enjoyed the youngster's quips. When we had finished our duties, we would generally get together outside the office and talk over things generally.

One day a gardener who had come to post some letters casually said, "Which of you chaps has left some parcels under the laurels in our front garden?" I knew where he was employed and at once said "I did." On the tail end of my round, there were a few large houses and if I had some large parcels such as hat boxes or dress boxes, I dumped them under the laurels and then picked them up later. When I left them something must have taken my attention this particular day and I completely forgot them. They must have been there well over a week. There was nothing else to do but pick them up and deliver same - well strange to relate, I never had a complaint about them. Ashtead seemed isolated from Epsom for there were no motors or buses in those days. In the winter time, I have left Ashtead office on my way to Epsom and have not seen a soul till I reached Epsom. How I recall these times when riding in a bus between these places. One of my colleagues used to ride with me sometimes and one of us would play on the accordion and sing songs. We were reminded by some of the householders that we could be heard some time before they saw us. Until a late hour the roads were still congested. The public houses were open all hours and the crowds were mostly in jovial mood. Oaks Day there was not quite the amount of traffic, but it did not lack variety. This was considered Lady's Day and it lived up to that description. Horses, charabancs and buses brought their loads of ladies from the factories around London. I don't think it was so much the races that attracted them but more like their annual beano. At these times, a good deal of money was spent in the town. The hotels, pubs and cottages lodged the bookies that were fairly liberal with their money and providing they were made comfortable, always returned to their usual quarters. They did their own shopping for their two daily meals and did themselves well. I have known three of them at one house dispose of a leg of lamb apart from vegetables at one meal. The majority of these men were quite decent fellows- it was easy come, easy go with them. Their favourite pastime after dinner was to get in the rooms and play pitch and toss and I have seen this played with sovereigns on Derby nights. In the wide parts of the High Street, there was free entertainments for all; watching the various turns such as clowns on stilts, contortionists - one having a slab of granite broken on his chest by a sledge hammer, another getting out of a strait jacket. If one had money in their pockets, it was as well to keep your hands on it as there were plenty of pickpockets around. Then there were the point to point races which took place in the vicinity of Horton Lane farm. Wagons were used for the grandstands. These races were organized by the local Hunt Committee. One needed to be a good rider on this course for there were some big jumps. A popular winner was Billy Poole, the Huntsman to the Stag Hounds. This form of sport was open to criticism. Being fond of running, I used to enjoy a run with the hounds and often earned coppers by opening gates for some of the timid riders. Hare hunting was another popular sport. I have seen the "Grand Old Man" of that sport, Dr. Groce, running with his hounds.

While on the subject of ponds, I would like to mention they were a great source of enjoyment apart from fishing. In the winter, what fun we had sliding and skating. The ponds were frozen over for many weeks every winter. I remember the Durdans pond - nothing but ice and fish could be seen embedded in the ice. One winter, I well remember when skating was in progress, there was a fire in a brazier on the ice and we were glad to warm ourselves. Once, I fell through the ice and by the time I got home, my clothes were frozen stiff. Another time, I fell through the ice on the brickyard ponds which were very deep and I was very lucky to get out of this alive and tell the tale. Brick making about this time was a beehive of industry and the men worked very hard on piece work. Barmen from the local pubs were kept busy carrying beer in cans on poles to the workers. "Pug up" is no longer heard in the district. I could tell some tales of competitions and games the men used to indulge in, but am afraid it would not look nice in print. Brickmakeing and the brewing of beer were about the only two industries apart from horse training, which predominated in the town. The racing profession certainly was a sporty crowd and entered into all activities where fun and entertainment was concerned. Some of the trainers' sons were devil-may-care lads and the High Street used to ring with the hoop of their mounts. I won't mention names, but some of these lads became famous and their names are often mentioned in sporting news. another well-known character was Captain Coe - a striking figure in his pony chaise which he used to drive to race meetings within easy range of Epsom - my first recollection of the races at Epsom was when Ladas, owned by Lord Roseberry won the Derby - its victory was celebrated with a wonderful display of fireworks at the Durdans and a dinner for the old folks in his riding school. He had two other winners after this - Air Vista and Cicero - the horse trough at the top of Ashley Road commemorates the last winner. Lord Roseberry was a good friend to Epsom and was greatly missed. The park, bearing his name, was presented to the town by him. He also attended Epsom Fair if he happened to be in residence here at the time. It was a picturesque sight to see him driving postillion fashion. He once stopped whilst driving through East Street to hear a cheap Jack displaying crockery ware to the people around him. After a time, he bought all his stock and had it distributed to the onlookers. It was an unforgettable sight to see his funeral cortege passing through the crowded streets of Epsom just as it was getting dusk on its way to St. Pancras and Scotland. What a difference in the Derby day crowds of now. Sixty years ago, I can remember what we used to call "show out" Sunday which was held on the Sunday prior to the week's racing. There was entertainment of all descriptions and it was eagerly looked forward to by the town's people. What a contrast now with all the fast moving motor traffic on Derby and Oaks Day. All the roads leading to the town were chock-a-block with the slowness of horse's vehicles of all descriptions; all intent on trying to get to the Downs for the big races. Getting away after was another problem for except for carrier's vans, farm carts and the Dorking Coach, there was very little road transport. Contrary to rules, I often gave people a lift, but they did not have a comfortable ride as my cart only allowed one seat and that was for the driver.

An Escapologist Show-Out Sunday before Derby Day c1930s
An Escapologist on Show-Out Sunday before Derby Day c1930s
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

I did not look forward to the winters for in those days they seemed so much worse than they do now. I had very little protection and often I would get down from the cart and run alongside my horse to try and keep warm. My horse was a Russian and seemed at home in the snow. He could not understand me saying "Gee up" or "whoa" and it was some time before I found out you had to say "Burr" to make him stop. One Bank holiday, my father borrowed a trap and asked if he could borrow the horse as he wanted to go to Bookham. I gave my consent, but told him he would have a job to get him beyond Ashtead. The horse was so used to a regular routine that I guessed he would have some fun - anyhow, dad was a humorist. He started on his trip and got as far as Epsom post office where, naturally, he wanted to stop, which he did. After a time, he coaxed the horse to start off again. Then he stopped at the White Horse in Dorking Road - this rather tickled dad as this was one of his places of call when on the road with his engine. My reason for using this house was for the purpose of getting tobacco and cigarettes for people who lived and worked between Epsom and Ashtead as they were some distance from the shops. On some of my journeys to Ashtead, I had to deliver to houses on my way there. My horse wasn't to know he was out for pleasure so of course, he stopped at previous houses en route and eventually he got to Ashtead PO. As he was used to being stabled there, he could not understand having to go further than that. However, after a good deal of persuasion and coaxing, he did get to Bookham. When returning, he had very little trouble except that he pulled up at Ashtead PO and again, at Epsom P.O. My dad said my horse was the quaintest he had ever driven. As dad was possessed with a sense of humour, he certainly saw the funny side of the affair.

On one occasion, I thought the horse would give me away. I was being tested on my times and the surveyor for this purpose had hired a horse and trap and drove behind me all day. I suppose I was just jogging along when all of a sudden, as I was about to pass the White Horse, my pony pulled in. There was a drinking fountain a few yards away and somehow he went on to this. The incident was not unnoticed for the surveyor remarked - "Your horse knows the job as well as you." I was to benefit by the surveyor's visit as it was found I was doing one and a half hours a day too much. He said it was difficult to know how to alter this and could I suggest a way. I had in mind what could be done and promptly said - after taking the evening mail to Ashtead arriving there at six o[clock and instead of doing a delivery, which I had been in the habit of doing, I then returned to Epsom at 6.30, this would bring my days work to 8 hours. After due consideration, this was agreed. I was delighted at having a little leisure time in the evening as now I should have a chance during the summer time of playing cricket and other games of which I had been deprived.

During my duties at Ashtead, my experiences were varied and if I possessed literary talent, these few years here would be sufficient to fill a book. Did I have an embarrassing time - the following will prove that I did. At one house on my round, the maids were not early risers and if I was unable to get the post in the letter box, they would come down to the door and put their hand decorated with lace, round the door. I could not resist the temptation and in fun, would get hold of their hands and pretend to pull them outside. The maids enjoyed this fun as much as I but was caught out one morning for instead of one of the maids answering the door, it happened to be a daughter of the house. I could not see who it was so naturally, caught hold of her hand and when she put her face around the door, well, was I surprised and embarrassed. You may guess how the young lady was very amused at the incident and treated it as a huge joke which I may say was a big relief to me. The foregoing are only a few of the incidents which occurred while at Ashtead. I now have a chance to take a walking post that would give me a chance to take up my love, cricket, as my finishing time each day would be 3.45 and also there would be no horse to see to. This new job entailed a good deal of walking, but I soon got used to this - commencing at 5.45 am, my first journey was to outlying places around Epsom Downs. I had very little to carry and really enjoyed the walk. Starting from Head Office at Epsom, I made my way up Ashley road to the Grandstand, thence to Sherwoods Stables, Langley Bottom and Farm on to Noalbie Farm and Cottage, in the wood from there to South Tamworth Farm, Tattenham Corner and then the return to Epsom after a walk of about nine miles. After a three quarters hour break for breakfast which was hardly long enough for the appetite to be appeased, my next walk was to Walton, past the Grandstand and Warren Road Holme Farm to Walton P.O. Mostly I had a good load to carry, but the maximum weight a rural ....

George W. Challis