The Dorling Family and Their Connection to Epsom


Drawing of Ormonde House
Drawing of Ormonde House
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Most of the 19th century and well into the 20th horse racing in Epsom was greatly influenced by the Dorling family. William Dorling was born in 1776 in Ipswich Suffolk but he moved to Bexhill in Sussex and began a business as a printer. There he married Lucy Welby [1776-1832] and had six children: Henry born 1806, Lucy born 1808, William born 1810, Jane born 1812, Mary Ann born 1814, and Edward born 1816. Two-year-old Mary Ann died in 1816. With a view to improving the printing side of the business, William made sure that the young Henry was sent on a seven-year apprenticeship to a printer in London to learn the trade. By about 1820 William had moved his business to Epsom and settled in a large house at what is now the junction of Upper High Street and East Street, bringing with him an Albion printing press, which he used to print almanacs and hymn books. By the mid 1820's William had established himself as a bookseller in Epsom High Street but he also sold writing paper, lavender water, pianos, shaving soap and other miscellaneous items. In 1827 he produced Dorling's Genuine Card List that gave the entire Derby runners, owners, jockeys colours and horse pedigrees. It was an instant success with the race followers. Williams's involvement in the production of the Lists brought him into contact with the racing personalities of the day and both he and his son Henry were at the inaugural meeting of the Epsom Grandstand Association in 1830 where he bought shares in the organization.

On 5 July 1832, William's 56-year-old wife Lucy was buried in the graveyard of St Martin of Tours Epsom.

Ormonde House on the 1866 OS Map
Ormonde House on the 1866 OS Map

Henry Dorling
Henry Dorling
Image Source Wikipedia

On 24 September 1834 in St Martin of Tours, Epsom, Henry married his first wife Emily Clarke from the parish of St Martin in the Fields, the witnesses were William and Jane Dorling. Henry returned to Epsom to join his father's business where he published his "Correct Card", a race card for the Epsom Race Course, an item used by every race follower.

The couple had four children, all of whom were baptised in St Martins of Tours church Epsom. Their first child Henry Mayson, who was named in honour of Henry's friend Benjamin Mayson, was baptised on 14 October 1835, followed by Jane who was baptised on 7 April 1837, Edward Jonathan on 13 November 1838 and Mary on 3 April 1840. Sadly their mother Emily, aged 29, died shortly after Mary's birth and was buried on 5 March 1840 in Epsom's St Martins of Tours church graveyard.

Henry's friend Benjamin Mayson, a linen factor [merchant], had married Elizabeth Jurrum (per baptism record but variously reported as Jerrom/Jarrom/Jarron)[born 1816] in April 1835 and set up home at 24 Milk Street in the district of St. Mary Magdalen, an area of Cheapside in the City of London. They also had four children: Isabella born on 12 March 1836, who would go on to become the famous Mrs. Beeton, Elizabeth [Bessie] born 1838, John born 1839 and Esther, born 1841. Benjamin died in the summer of 1840 so did not live to see his youngest child Esther.

Between the births of Edward and Mary, Henry had become the first Clerk of Epsom Race Course, appointed by the Lord of the Manor of Epsom. Printing race cards had already made the Dorling's familiar with the world of trainers, jockeys, stable boys and bookmakers but now Henry was in direct contact with the owners. He struck up a friendship with Lord George Bentinck, the son of the fourth Duke of Portland, who was trying to reform the racing underworld. Although he was popularly called 'Lord', George Bentinck was in fact not entitled to use the title and sat in the House of Commons. Together, the two men planned to do something to "Pull Epsom racecourse together".

Elizabeth Dorling c1840
Elizabeth Dorling c1840
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Widower Henry married Elizabeth Mayson, the widow of his great friend Benjamin Mayson, on 24 March 1843 in the Gretna Hall at Gretna Green, Dumfries, Scotland. Henry and Elizabeth Dorling returned to Islington and were married again, reason unknown, on 27 March in St Mary's church. They returned to Epsom to start their married life with eight children between them and this remarkable couple went on to have thirteen more. At this time William was the Registrar of Births and Deaths in Epsom and Henry was the Deputy Registrar.

Epsom Grandstand as shown in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement & Instruction dated 30 May 1829
Epsom Grandstand as shown in
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement & Instruction dated 30 May 1829
Image Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

The Epsom Grandstand had been running at a loss and so, with an endorsement from his friend Lord Bentinck, the Association agreed in 1845 that Henry could leased the Grandstand from the Association for a period of 21 years at £1,000 per annum. Henry moved his growing family into the vast building, which could easily accommodate up 5,000 spectators. The Grandstand, with its numerous rooms and kitchens, had been fitted out and decorated to a high standard for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1840, so the family was able to live in some comfort although it was very cold in the winter. On race days the children were sent away to the seaside at Brighton and they continued to live in the Grandstand until they were sent away to boarding schools. Henry installed a new printing press in the basement of the Grandstand, which supplied the stationery shop in the High Street that he had left his father William and his sister Lucy to run. Henry also started a lending library.

This large household was run by "Granny" Jarron, Elizabeth's mother and, as the eldest child, Isabella assumed the duties of babysitter and general nursemaid to the continually expanding family. This would contribute to her common sense attitude and efficiency, which would become so important to her when she married Samuel Orchart Beeton and went on, at the young age of 21, to produce her world famous Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.

With so many children running about even the Grand Stand could be noisy at times, leading to the famous remark by Henry "For heaven's sake Elizabeth, what is all that noise about?" "That Henry is your children and my children fighting our children" replied his wife.

In 1846 a new race was introduced, the "Great Metropolitan Handicap" or "The Publicans Derby" so called because at first the prize money was put up by the London publicans, many of whose pubs were used as betting shops. This was so successful that another race was introduced in 1851 called the "City and Suburban Race" with prize money coming from the pubs in the suburbs.

Henry took his responsibility as 'Clerk of the Course' very seriously and by 1847 had laid out a new racecourse, extended the stand and improved the accommodation for stewards and jockeys. "The Derby" had become so popular by then that in May of 1847 Lord George Bentinck asked that the House of Commons be adjourned until the following day, a practice that continued for the rest of the 19th century.

Ormonde House at the corner of East Street & Station Road [now Upper High St]
Ormonde House at the corner of East Street & Station Road [now Upper High St]
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

By 1851 Henry's father William had retired from the business and moved in with his daughter Lucy and her husband William Andrews, who was the Post Master of Epsom post office in the High Street. Henry moved his family into Ormonde House, a large property at the eastern end of the High Street able to accommodate his large family in style as well as his lending library and printing business. Isabella, who was a very well educated young woman for the time and an accomplished pianist had by this time moved to Heidelberg in Germany to study music and languages and whilst she was there, learnt how to bake and make pastries. She returned to Epsom in 1854. Aged 84,William died in 1858 and was buried in St Martins of Tours church graveyard on 9 September.

In 1866 Henry did not renew his lease on the Grandstand but became joint managing director of the Association along with Francis Knowles. He also moved his family into Stroud Green House, a large mansion in twelve acres of land in Croydon on the other side of Lower Addiscombe Road. The mansion was demolished in 1924 after falling into disrepair and the land was purchased by Croydon Corporation and is now known as Ashburton Park.

Elizabeth died in her Croydon home in 1871 and on 15 June was the first person to be buried in the new Municipal Cemetery in Epsom. An ordinary grave space would have cost one pound seven shillings and sixpence but Henry Dorling paid seven pounds seven shillings and sixpence for his wife's burial in vault B1.

Henry too died in his Croydon home on 20th March 1873, and was buried on 27 March next to his late wife. In his will he left "20 fully paid up £20 shares in the Grandstand Association" to his two sons Henry Mayson Dorling and Edward Jonathan Dorling. The rest of his estate, recorded in The Times newspaper as below £80,000, was divided between all his children and stepchildren.

He left the Grand Stand Association in a much stronger financial position than it had been and this was due to his persuasive manner and personal charm.

After Henry's death his son Henry Mayson succeeded his father as 'Clerk of the Course' and then later Chairman and Joint Managing Director of the course, making him more powerful than his father had been. He was often referred to as "The Dictator of Epsom Races" and had no illusions about what others thought of him, saying, "Everyone hates me and I like it" He died, aged 84, in his home 'The Birches' Epsom and was buried with his late parents on 15 November 1919.

Henry Mayson Dorling 1896
Henry Mayson Dorling 1896
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

In the National Portrait Gallery there is a watercolour painting of "The Children of Benjamin and Elizabeth Mayson" painted in 1848 and attributed to Henry Dorling.

In 1961 a street built in Ewell was named Dorling Drive to commemorate Henry Dorling.

Janet Painter © 2011


 Art
 Family History
 Health
 Map
 Nature
 People
 Places
 Society
 Sources
 Technology
 Trade
 Transport
 War Memorials

 Contact
 Sitemap
 What's New
 Home

Email:


Donate to The History Centre
Lady Berkeley
Lady Berkeley
Rooths House
Rooth's House
Singeing Beard
Singeing Beard
Chamiers of Epsom
Chamiers Epsom
Woodcote Park
Woodcote Park
Rev. Boucher
Rev. Boucher
Rev. Parkhurst
Rev. Parkhurst