A short summary of Epsom Common and Others 1535-2014


Stamford Green pond. On the north east corner of Epsom Common.
Stamford Green pond. On the north east corner of Epsom Common.
Photo © Rod Allday and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

A very large body of work has been written under the title:
"Epsom Common and Others 1535-2014"
Due to its size and detail is has become impossible to publish or display on the World Wide Web. I have been asked to produce a small summary as an introduction to the larger work. Both are the copyright of Terry Friday.

It is hoped that this will lead the reader or researcher to consult the larger body of work. Most other accounts are written in a chronological order, this summary will appear as slices of history under each heading. That is, a general introduction and a series of headings related to each of the areas, all "to wet" the appetite of the reader for more.

Much of the area under discussion was in the ownership of consecutive Lords of the Manor of Epsom, but it is local people which have had most effect on the area. The social cohesion that once existed can be shown if many of the names that are associated with the Common were written into a large family tree, this would show that almost all were connected through marriage. Many were tenants, some acquired land and cottages. Most now lost to memory. This account will hopefully bring them back to living memory!

  1. General introduction.
  2. Stamford Green.
  3. Woodlands Road.
  4. Woodcote Side.
  5. West Hill and West Street.
  6. The Chase Estate.

(1) General Introduction.


By 1775 encroachment had already started on the manorial wasteland. In the estate survey 1755-1775 twenty encroachments were recorded, listing the names and location (Ebbisham Common, almost none on the Lower Common), these were tolerated for various reasons:
  1. Wastelands (The common survived as open space or waste due to its clay soil).
  2. The Lord of the Manor was never resident at Epsom (Bailiff managed) except the last, that is, James Stuart Strange.
  3. Availability of a cheap labour source.
  4. Ancient custom of tenure (if a habitable building was erected overnight, a form of squatters right could be claimed) (questionable).
  5. Possible change of tenure to copyhold status thereby generating income.
  6. Most of the income from the Manor of Epsom was from copyholds in the town (see Dr Lehmann Residential Copyholds of Epsom). This will also show the neglect of any records or accounts for Ebbisham Common.
The largest number of properties in Epsom were held from the Lord of the Manor of Ebbisham by copy of the Court Rolls. Copyhold property could be enfranchised (become freehold), with consent of the Lord of the Manor against a substantial payment, by means of the grant of a lease and a few days later a release, a similar device was used for the transfer of ownership of freehold property. Enfranchisement became more frequent after 1837 due to the introduction of legislation.

Epsom is first mentioned in a series of Anglo-Saxon charters, granting the Manor to Chertsey Abbey. All these are considered to be later forgeries made to reinforce the Abbey's claim on the lands in question. It is considered possible that this claim was based on authentic rights dating back to the early days of Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity. The earliest of these forgeries is a reputed charter of Frithuwold, sub King of Surrey, to Chertsey Manor, dated AD 727 (Sawyer l968 No.1181). This is a large multi-estate grant that included Epsom, amongst many other Surrey Manors that came to make up part of the Medieval estate of Chertsey Abbey. This is followed by another spurious charter of confirmation reputedly given by King Athelstan to Chertsey Abbey in A.D.933. Further forgeries are suspected to have produced similar charters from King Edgar of A.D.967 and Edward the Confessor of A.D.1062. Despite the doubt cast on these documents, Chertsey Abbey appears in The Doomsday Book as holding Epsom Manor from here on until the dissolution of Chertsey Abbey in 1537, and the manor remained in monastic hands.

The Crown immediately granted it to Sir Nicholas Carew, but when he was attainted in 1539, it was passed back into royal hands. In 1540, it was annexed to the honour of Hampton Court, for the use of Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth I granted it to Frances Carew in 1576, but when it reverted to the Crown in 1589, it was granted to Edward Darcy. In 1618 Robert Darcy died seised of the manor. Edward Darcy sold the manor to a widow, Ann Mynne, who left it to her daughter, Elizabeth, the wife of Richard Evelyn. It devised on Elizabeth's death in 1692 to Christopher Buckle. In 1706 John Parkhurst succeeded to the estate. His grandson devised the estate to Sir Charles Kemys Tynte and another trustee in trust for his wife and 2 sons sometime after 1725. Tynte died in 1765 and in 1770 the estate was sold to Sir Joseph Mawbey. Mawbey died in 1778 and was succeeded by his son John Mawbey. John died in 1817, without male heirs and was succeeded by his daughters, Elizabeth (Emily) and then Anna. Anna had married John Ivett Briscoe who held the properties in her own right, until beyond the middle of the 19th century.

Foxhalls.  The seat of John Ivatt Briscoe.
"Foxhalls". The seat of John Ivatt Briscoe.

NB

Lands in Epsom and Chertsey originally inherited by John Ivett Briscoe from Sir Joseph Mawbey of Botley's Park, Chertsey. Mawbey had purchased the manor of Botleys in Chertsey from Mrs Pleasance Hall in 1763. The Manor of Epsom was acquired by Mawbey from the Parkhurst family.

At the sale in 1770, Epsom Court, the old manor house, was not sold with the rest of the estate. This was retained by family arrangement and passed to the Reverend John Parkhurst. Epsom also included four sub-manors, Horton, Brettgrave, Woodcote and Durdans. Horton ajoined with Epsom Common on its north side. After 1652 the sub manor of Brettgrave seems to have merged with Horton. The manor of Botleys was sold in 1822 to David Hall. Briscoe bequeathed the remainder of the property to Henry Blackburn, who in turn bequeathed it to his nephew Charles Vernon Strange. After Charles died in possession in 1874, it then passed to his brother James Stuart Strange who died in 1908, leaving his wife and three daughters. The estate was then administrated by the trustees of his will. In 1936 the main Common was brought by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council from the trustee of the estate of the Lady of the Manor, Henrietta Langton Strange nee' Denshire, for 4000 and the council became the freeholders of the Common. The Lordship of the Manor was purchased in 1955 when the local authority also acquired the market franchise and the Fair Green. The rights of the Common were thus invested in the council as a corporate body and each successive mayor is in effect the Lord of the Manor for their period in office!

On the Lower Common the Brick Works was once the only area of occupation. The early 19th century saw encroachments appear adjacent to the Brick Works. Also in the early 19th century, the Lord of the Manor allowed some development to the south west of Stamford Pond. All these properties remained Copyhold Titles while the other enclosed areas were encroachments. All can be seen on the Guardians of the Epsom Union map dated 1838. This map had the effect of stabilising the area against further encroachments and the areas within the map can still be easily recognised to this day.

West Hill (Clay Hill): this attractive area with its wide green and elevated position has a long history of occupation and was dominated by Hookfield to the south-east, the origins of which can be traced back to 1535.

To conclude, a pattern of events is noticeable on the Lower Common. We start with the Brick Works in the 17th century followed by encroachment or occupation in the immediate area around the Brick Works. In the late 18th century, small scale development around the Stamford Green Pond area took place. Early in the 19th century, most of the encroachment of the Lower Common with small cottages being erected. By the1850/1860s most of the single storey cottages and wood constructed semi-detached cottages were erected and in the 1870s, groups of terraced cottages were being erected. Early 20th century, large number of brick built semi-detached cottages were built. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century many of the older cottages were lost to development with infill development and extensions to houses /cottages which continues to this day.

Between 1848 and 1850, due to unsanitary conditions across the country, local Boards of Health were set up to improve conditions. The first action was to commission maps showing the drains, ditches and waterways.

Below we have a composite version of the map produced for the Lower Common (Stamford Green).

A comparison between this map and the 1838/1843 Guardians of the Board of Health (in Part 2 ) can show how the encroachment had all but ceased but occupation and development were under way.

1848/1850 Board of Health Map - Click image to enlarge.
1848/1850 Board of Health Map - Click image to enlarge.

Board of Health Election Results
Board of Health Election Results.

Below is an extract from the report of the Commissioner of the Board of Health. This gives a portrait of the conditions and removes any romantic view of the times:

There is a considerable number of cottages on the Common, said to have been erected on the waste, and the owners to have ultimately acquired freeholds by lapse of time. They form quite a colony distinct from the town. There are doubtless many good and honest labourers among them, but I was informed that some of the occupants are of indifferent character. It was stated that demoralization and degradation result from the enjoyment of such privileges without any necessary exertion on the part of the cottager; and that from living in a house without paying rent, keeping pigs and geese on the Common, and cutting turf without rendering any equivalent, some of the men lead an idle life, and become drunkards or otherwise immoral. There are two beer-houses among them. Many of these cottages are unfit for human dwellings, and in every possible respect their sanitary condition is bad. The inhabitants of part of the Common have no water to drink but what is taken from a pond into which all the drainage of the houses flows. The houses are elevated, many of them at least 100 feet above the lower part of the town, and the external air blowing over the Common is pure and soft and balmy; but these houses are said never to be without fever, in consequence of their bad construction, and the accumulation of decomposing matter in their immediate vicinity. James Hazle is the occupant of one of them in Pantile-row, and the following is the statement of his wife:-
"We have seven children, four of them at home. We have lost two or three. We have lived here about a year and a half. My husband is a labourer, and can earn 2s. 6d. per day, but he is not employed more than half his time. We use coals when we can get them, and at other times wood. The ditch at the end of the house is very bad, and smells dreadfully. There are millions of small flies on the mud. Two of my children have had fever this year, and they are not so strong as they were before. We have to go more than a quarter of a mile for water. There is a pond nearer, but a dead cow has been put in it, and we cannot use the water. When not washing, we make two or three pailfulls serve for a day. We should use much more if we could get it. There has also been a good deal of fever in the houses above us".
The buildings in Epsom have been generally erected without any public arrangement or restriction as to size, site, materials, thickness of walls, drainage, supply of water, or other consideration connected with the comfort and convenience of the tenants. There are very few cellars in the town, and those few are, almost without exception, flooded. Notwithstanding this, rents are high, houses costing 60l. constructed as at present, let for 7l. per annum; and the rents of many are equal to one-fourth the income of the family.

In order to show the confined condition of the back premises, and the impossibility of any free current of air to remove the injurious emanations from privies, &c., I have prepared a plan of the Coffee-house Buildings, which is among the most valuable property in the town for business purposes.

Most of the buildings are insured, but on account of so large a portion of the houses, and nearly all the out-buildings, being of wood, the rate is "hazardous". If a fire were to break out at either end of the town, with the wind favourable to its spread, the deficiency of water, and the great quantity of wood in the buildings, would enable it to spread throughout the town in a very short time. There is a public fire-engine, but it would be of little use unless the fire was near the pond in the centre of the town.

Mr. Everest says at the conclusion of his evidence:-
"I think the application of the Public Health Act will be exceedingly beneficial, because, in addition to other reasons which might be given, there has been an incessant application for houses since the establishment of the railway. The town will certainly increase rapidly, and it is desirable that some control should be exercised over the construction of houses"
DISEASES AND MORTALITY. - During the inspection of the town, I met with many instances of disease directly caused by contiguity to accumulations of decomposing animal and vegetable matter. Two or three instances of what came directly under my own notice must suffice, because the evidence of the medical witnesses under this head is most important.

At the top of Clay-hill, in a very elevated situation, open to the pure air of the Common, there are three houses belonging to Mr. William Wood. I found a most filthy, loathsome ditch at the back, and fever in every house. it had been raging for more than six months. On enquiry at one of them, William Arthur's wife said:-
"My husband has been ill of fever eight weeks, and unable to work. He is a farm labourer, and earns when well 14s. per week. We pay 3s. 6d. per week rent, an receive 10s. now from a sick club. This sickness is a very great calamity to us. My husband's employer has been very kind to us.

"Four privies all pour their night soil into the ditch at the back. We fetch water either from the pond near the new church, or from the pump in the town. Either of the two places is half a mile distant. We use a tub per day containing five pails. We buy water sometimes. The price is ½d. per pail of about three gallons".
(Since writing the above, one of the gentlemen who accompanied me to the place has informed me in a letter, on another part of the inquiry, that William Arthur is dead. I cannot conceive a situation naturally more healthy than that in which this man perished. He was the father of a family of small children.)

At World's End there is a row of wooden cottages near Durdans, the residence of Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Bart. The inclination of the ground is considerable, but there is no drainage or water supply to the houses; and at the back I found a hole about 12 feet by 9, containing a great quantity of decomposing vegetable matter. In one of these cottages two children had scarlatina at the time of my visit, and the tenant of the next door made the following statement:-
"My husband died four years ago of scarlet fever, and I lost a son four months previously. Two others of my children have had it, but recovered. There are no drains. We throw all the refuse at the back. We have no water."

(2) Stamford Green Area


The first land to be taken from the Lower Common wasteland was for the Brick Kilns and associated works and premises. For several hundred years it dominated the area and was one of the few copyhold titles in the area (the property was held from the Lord of the Manor by copy of the Court Rolls). Because of its location on the Common wasteland and a need for a work force, it encouraged encroachments along its perimeter and nearby areas where some of the earliest cottages were built.

In the property deeds of Hookfield Mansion, a diagram/plan dated 1801 can be found. On the west edge of the estate but located on the Common wasteland, a row of small cottages can be seen, some of the very few built on the encroached land at this time. Miraculously they still exist to this day. They are located on the southern side and attached to the Jolly Coopers Public House, but now almost derelict. A group of two storey terraced houses named Pantile Row appeared, which housed tenants who may have worked in the Brickworks.

There is a mention in the 1755- 1775 Survey of the Manorial Estate of a probable encroachment on the Lower Common by Stamford Pond:
John Belgrave of Ebbisham (Au infent) claims to hold one cottage and about acre of land in the whole built upon and taken from this manor on Ebbisham Lower Common, no date or time given maybe a relatively new encroachment.
This was probable the cottage that was to be converted into the Cricketers Public House in the 1850's.

From approximately 1800, an increase of development started, some copyhold, but mostly encroachment. Over the next thirty years there was what can only be described as a mini land grab. By the time of the 1838/1843 Guardians of the Epsom Union map and the Tithe map, the area had been extensively encroached but now regulated as the maps for the first time allowed a record of the area, which could be used to check boundary lines.

So was formed the areas and boundaries that we still have to this day and that can be recognised on any map, although the boundary lines between individual plots within the larger 1838/1843 areas have changed with different owners and development over time.

1843 Tithe Map - Click image to enlarge.
1843 Tithe Map - Click image to enlarge.

As previously mentioned the above map had the effect of stabilizing the area against further encroachment, some very minor encroachment did continue and does to this day. The above map shows three distinct areas.
  1. The central area of the Brick Kilns and encroachments is a direct result of the Brick Kilns.
  2. The area to the north by Stamford Pond was developed independent of the Brick Kilns as a group of copyholds and encroachment. The encroachments being encouraged by the establishment of the copyholds, forming an attractive group around the pond and the green.
  3. The other area to the south comprising two small separate areas were separated from the Brick Kiln group by an established public route that is Somersgate. The gap between the two small areas was a waterway or ditch for water flowing off the Common. The lower part of this ditch is still visible where it joins the waterway /ditch, flowing under Lane End then above ground as far as Wheelers Lane where it disappears into pipework under East Dean and reappears as a feeder to Stamford pond. This ditch between the small areas is now a track. Presumably the water now runs in a pipe.
Over the next 50-60 years many cottages appear and families are associated with the common. Names such as:
Ardy, Ayling, Bailey, Bartholomew, Bower, Bradnum, Bullen, Cunningham, Ede, Eggleton, Elsey, Emm, Fisher, Flint, Griffith, Heath, Lewin, Mann, Ratclife, Risbridger, Robinson, Russell, Sanders, Sayer, Skinner, Spicer, Stone, Tickner.
In many case these people were responsible for the encroachment and erection of many of the early cottages.

In the 1896 Ordnance Survey map below, we can see a snapshot of the area with the cottage names:

1896 OS Map - Click image to enlarge.
1896 OS Map - Click image to enlarge.

Key Name Road
25 Ardy Cottage Church Side
43a Ash Cottage & Charman Cottage Stamford Green Road
16 Avonview Cottages Bracken Path
11 Ayling Cottage Bracken Path
42 Bailey Cottage Wheelers Lane
43 Bailey Cottages Wheelers Lane
62 Barton Cottages Lewins Road
40 Batchworth Cottages Lewins Road
55 Beaumont Cottage Willow Path
6 Blackburn Cottages Bracken Path
22 Boyne Cottages Church Side
5 Briscoe Cottages Bracken Path
77 Bristow Cottages Woodlands Road
81 Bristow Cottages Woodlands Road/Occupational Road
64 Chapman Cottages Mill Road/Wells Road
53 Claremont Cottage Willow Path
76 Clark Cottages Woodlands Road
24 Collyer Cottage Church Side
7 Cook Cottages Bracken Path
12 Crimea Cottages Bracken Path
72 Cunningham Cottages Woodlands Road
73 Cunningham Cottages Woodlands Road
30 Edes Cottages Bramble Walk
30a Edes Cottages Bramble Walk
27 Elizabeth Cottages Stamford Green Road
13 Elsey Cottage Bracken Path
2 Epsom Common Working Mans Club Stamford Green
32 Everson Cottage Bramble Walk
28 Farm Cottage Bramble Walk
29 Faulkner Cottages Bramble Walk
1 Flint Cottage Stamford Green
84 Furze View Cottage Woodlands Road/Occupational Road
18 Griffith Cottage Church Side
15 Griffith Cottages Bracken Path
17 Griffith Cottages Bracken Path
37 Harris Cottage Bramble Walk
58 Harwood House Castle View
23 Heath Cottages Church Side
21 High Field Cottages Church Side
44 Home Cottage Stamford Green Road
60 Isabella Cottages Lewins Road
51 Isabella Villa Lewins Road
85 James Stuart Strange Lord of the Manor Wells House
35 Katterns Cottage Bramble Walk
36 Katterns Cottages Bramble Walk
69 Laburnam Cottages Mill Road/Wells Road
52 Lewins Laundry Lewins Road
66 Lidles Cottages Mill Road/Wells Road
46 Margaret Cottages Stamford Green Road
38 Maria Cottages Bramble Walk
47 Melbourne Cottage Stamford Green Road
71 Myrtle Cottages Woodlands Road
79 Newton Cottages Woodlands Road/Occupational Road
80 Newton Cottages Woodlands Road/Occupational Road
59 Oak House Castle View
41 Oakshott House Brickfield
8 Orchard Cottage Stamford Green
63 Pantile Row Lewins Road
82 Park Cottages Woodlands Road/Occupational Road
67 Pfiel Cottages Mill Road/Wells Road
74 Railway Cottages Woodlands Road
39 Ratcliffe Cottages Bramble Walk
1a Retreat Cottage Stamford Green
26 Robinson Cottage Stamford Green
19 Rose Cottage Bracken Path
20 Rose Cottage Church Side
61 Rose Cottage Lewins Road
56 Rose Cottages Castle View
57 Rose Cottages Castle View
10 Sanders/Saunders Cottage Bracken Path
9 Sanders/Saunders Cottages Bracken Path
34 Skinner Cottage Bramble Walk
14 Smith Cottage Bracken Path
50 Stamford Green Cottages Stamford Green Road
45 Stamford Place Cottages Stamford Green Road
48 Stone Cottage Stamford Green Road
65 Stone Cottages Mill Road/Wells Road
70 Stones Cottage Mill Road/Wells Road
4 Strange Cottages Stamford Green
75 Sullivan Cottage Woodlands Road
33 Suttons Cottage Bramble Walk
68 Thornton Cottages Mill Road/Wells Road
3 Vernon Cottages Stamford Green
83 Westland Cottage Woodlands Road/Occupational Road
54 Willoughby and Mildred Cottage Willow Path
31 Wings Cottages Bramble Walk
78 Woodland Cottages Woodlands Road
49 Yew Tree Cottages Stamford Green Road

Within a few years other families appeared:
Apps, Batton, Bennett, Easton, Edwards, Freeman, Hince, Keary, Kingswood, Lee, Lovell, Martin, Newberry, Oakshott, Penniket, Reeves, Russell, Saunders, Scottow, Sutton, Tutte, Verge, Warwick, Weston, Wood.
On inspection of many of the property deeds associated with the area, it became apparent that due to the origin of most of the properties, formal deeds were not produced until the cottages or parcels of land left family ownership. Traditionally taking over ownership by occupation or written into a will was common practice between generations. On a property leaving the family that is being sold, then the purchaser required a contract. This deed would often use vague terms or solicitors jargon to cloud the issue of origin followed by the names of each party in the contract and then usual description of the property: "All that property" etc, In most cases this was then followed by an Indemnity Clause to protect the purchaser against any future claim against the property or question of right of ownership. To date I have never found a situation that made the Indemnity Clause necessary.

NB

Due to modern practices of conveyance, that is HM Land Registry certificates, most banks or Building Societies only require possession of these certificates. The deeds being of historical interest only are often left with solicitors who often dispose of them or pass them onto the current owner. When the owner sells or moves they often take the deeds with them thereby disassociating the deeds with the property. The result is they are often lost.

All the copyhold properties had tenants on rent contracts. This situation continued until the demise of the Strange family (the last Lord of the Manor).

James Stuart Strange had died (June 1908) leaving his wife Henrietta and family. In 1936 Henrietta sold Epsom Common to the Epsom District Council. In 1955 The Lordship of the Manor was purchased by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council investing all Manorial rights in a corporate body that is Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, who effectively are now the Lord of the Manor of Epsom. Prior to this arrangement the copyhold properties were sold usually to the sitting tenant. So along with other properties on the Common, all is now of Freehold status.

It may be worth mentioning in a very simple layman way the original system of Law regarding "Squatters Rights". An Act of Parliament in the early 19th century allowed a person to go before a Commissioner of Oath and state that the parcel of land that he had occupied for 25 years, in which time nobody had challenged his occupation, or during that time he had never been asked or required to pay any rent or dues. What I found extraordinary is that many of these documents had been witnessed by the current Manor Bailiff. On completion of the oath, the occupant became the freeholder of the property. As to be expected, over the coming years, many such oaths were taken. There was another way of acquiring the freehold, less secure but in many cases just as successful. That was through the passage of time, a couple of generations later and a well known veil of secrecy which went with being a "Fuzzchat " (a person who was born on the Common). Then any question of origins became irrelevant. I refer to the NB above.

Another way was to enfranchise the copyhold property, whereby the Lord of the Manor was paid a sum of money and a long lease was granted and a few days later a release and thereby creating the freehold; several properties went through this process.

The names Briscoe, Blackburn and Vernon (Charles Vernon Strange), all former Lords of the Manor of Epsom, have been memorialised on the houses once owned by the Lord of the Manor.

In 1881 the Working Man's Club was built between Vernon Cottage and Spicer Cottage. It was attached to 121 Stamford Green on the northern side of its garden and was leased to the trustee of the club. In a document dated 1891 we have James Stuart Strange granting a licence to the licencees: Henry Willis of Horton Lodge, Alfred Withal Aston, Johnathan Gray, Builder, and Mr Cragg for the term of 21 years at an annual rent of 2 and 2 shillings per year. By the 1930's the trustees were members of the club, a gradual process which lead to the members being the freehold owners of the club. Many social events were organized by the members, like family outings to the South Coast. By far the most popular was the "Stamford Green Cricket Club"; an early photograph (circa 1906) is shown below with Charles (Toby) Martin with son Charles on his lap, considered by the members to have been the best cricketer the club ever had as a member.

Stamford Green Cricket Team.
Stamford Green Cricket Team.

Maybe a 1937 Coronation party!
Maybe a 1937 Coronation party!.

The Cricketers Public House (circa 1850) and the Jolly Coopers Public House (circa 1860) were also very popular. The Builders Arms Public House (circa 1866-1875) located in the White House, a few properties up from the Cricketers Public House, had a short life as a beer house. Below we show a picture with the Cricketers left and the Working Man's Club centre.

Stamford Pond Postcard
Stamford Pond Postcard

As I have mentioned all three premises were popular, but each had its regular and loyal customers. The Working Man's Club was the most popular, followed by the Jolly Coopers, more of a pub as was often said! And last but not least the Cricketers, which along with its regulars attracted passing customers because of its position and appeal as a pub on the green. For some time in the late 19th century the Cricketers was an inn with limited stabling.

Stamford Green Cricket Team c1951/2. - Click image to enlarge.
Stamford Green Cricket Team c1951/2 - Click image to enlarge.

There is no doubt that living on the Common in the early part of the 19th century was hard. Many of the children were related cousins and second cousins, my mother was often told as a child not to tell tales about another child as "she or he was your cousin". This encouraged an "us and them" situation, them being anybody not living on the Common. There was rivalry between the young people that lived near Stamford Green and those that lived in Woodland Road. This became gradually eroded when the Ebbisham Road Estate was built and people from both areas moved into the estate for better quality housing.

The Common had its fair share of characters: The Weston family who were always up for a fight. The Rowlands who slaughtered the pigs (it was usual for groups of families to rear a pig, being a wonderful convertor of waste food and garden waste to meat, with the carcass being shared out amongst the families). Walter James Scottow had rented land next to 66 Bracken Path and kept pigs on a larger scale but trouble with the council curtailed his activities; the land was later built on and the two bungalows still exist today. The Lewins and Fisher families who seem to dominate their part of the Common. The Penniket family had on the side of their house in Wheelers Lane a large advertising board which, in return for displaying what was on at the local cinema, they were given free tickets for the shows.

Over time the Common had its own shops including a grocery (Penniket), a bakers (Dalton), and even a fish and chip shop and of course it's laundries, the biggest being Lewin's laundry and then there was Ede's and Ratcliffe's and Lizzy Cliff. Many individual women took in laundry as an additional income as it was one of the very few ways women could make money. In the late 19th century and early 20th century two dairies existed, Smith's and Edward's. Edward's being the largest which in turn became a haulage company owned by the Reeves family. There was for a short time, situated in the Lewin's laundry building, a machine shop which was making submarine parts for the war effort. To get some flavour of the social connections of the area, just view the baptism and marriage registers of Christ Church, and see the community that once existed.

Some cottages had already been lost due to the early 20th century development of two up and two down, semi-detached cottages responding to the demand for housing, a result of large numbers of people moving into Epsom to work in the huge asylum hospital cluster. In the late 1930's the local council financed a slum clearance program; the offer was to rehouse people on the Ebbisham Estate and the remaining properties considered to be uninhabitable to be demolished, and so started the loss of many old cottages on the Common. The Second World War took its toll with many cottages being neglected and as a result that after the war anybody with a few bob to spend could purchase cottages or parcels of land cheaply. This started the post war development of the Common, with cottages being demolished, especially those with large gardens, and replaced by modern houses, as well as plots of land being built on and infill of houses with large back or side gardens. Possibly the biggest loss was the Old Brick Field which disappeared under a development of maisonettes. Many of the cottages and houses have been given side extensions, often doubling their size. The rate or churn of people coming and going and the leaving and demise of the original Commoners has all lead to loss of the Common community. Having said that, if one cares to look there still can be found old cottages and houses and links with the families of the past, in residents who are related to many of the Common families.

In many ways the post war development was continuing a tradition, for what we have is a wonderful mix of buildings from all eras. This gives the area lots of character and an interesting and wonderful place in which to live.

Winter views. - Click image to enlarge.
Winter views - Click image to enlarge.

At the top of Lewins Road as you turn into Bramble Walk is a footpath (the old Somersgate). Half way along this footpath, on the left, was a large hole in the ground, created by the removal of clay or gravel, where for many years the people on the Common dumped their unwanted rubbish and waste. When the Council became owners of the Common, they filled in and levelled the area and created a recreational area called Webb's Folly.

This footpath leads us to Woodlands Road, the subject of our next part.

(3) Woodlands Road Area


The Woodlands Road area had a different beginning. The obvious feature is the circular area whose origin is the "Epsom Wells". By the time of the late 18th century and early 19th century these days were long gone and the area was a farm with farm buildings and a windmill. The rectangular area to the south was removed from the Common to enlarge the area of Wells Farm and as such was never an encroachment, more of an eventual occupation but it seems that the farm struggled to survive and by the 1850s was no longer a complete working farm and became a residence for a wealthy tenant. The 1851 Census return shows John Richard (Landed proprietor) in residence at the Old Wells. It was probably during this time that occupancy of the rectangular area took place, with many small individual plots (the 19th century version of allotments) combining and overtime, the first cottages started to appear about 1858.

The coming of the railways had a greater visual and noise effect on this part of the Common. Due to the level of the land the railway was on, an embankment along this part of the Common was built and part of the "rectangular area" was lost to the railway construction.

Reference: The 1843 Tithe map and the series of Railway maps 1846- 1858.

On the 1866 Ordnance Survey map the access road, the Occupation Road as it was known, can be seen to the rear of the plots facing Woodlands Road

Exactly when the farm ceased working is questionable but the mill was destroyed in 1873 and by this time much of the area of the rectangle must have been claimed either by squatters rights or the passage of time as semi-detached houses and cottages were appearing and would continue to do so well in to the 20th century.

In the 1890s the Lord of the Manor James Stuart Strange broke with tradition and built a Manor House on the high ground of the Old Wells Farm for his own occupation. This remains to this day and for many years was a Children's Home.

A recent view of the Wells Estate and Woodlands Road. - Click image to enlarge.
A recent view of the Wells Estate and Woodlands Road. - Click image to enlarge.

As previously mentioned, the first cottages started to appear about 1858. These were the responsibility of people like Chapman, Stone, Taylor, Mann, and Cunningham, followed over the years by Wooldridge, and Simon Tugwell and then people like Kingswood and Simons/Simmons and so it has continued to the present day with replacement, infill and new development, particularly each side of the old Occupation Road, Common Side and Marney's. Many of the people who lived on Woodlands were tenants, families like Warwick, Sullivan, Foulger, Mann, Drake, Sutton, Berry, Dench, Pledge, Spikesman, Toone, and again a look at the baptism and marriage records of Christ Church will show an impressive social continuity.

Like the Stamford Green area, Woodlands Road had its share of small businesses, dairy (Cunningham), shops (Grocer, W B Stone and Butcher, Yappy Fisher), Laundries (Kingswood and Simons/Simmons) and for a short time a pub called the Welsh Ram situated on the top corner of Woodlands in the cottage owned by the Stone family.

I was told by a member of the Reeves family that so many couples lived together "Over the brush" that the vicar of Christ Church opened a Mission Church at the bottom of Woodlands Road called St. Michael Chapel. This was not the first mission building to exist. On the green opposite the Cunningham Cottages, 17-20 Woodlands Road, a mission hut existed that seemed to have been used by "The Open Air Mission" but only had a short life. Whether these had any influence in the building of St. Michaels Chapel we can only speculate. Even so St. Michaels Chapel also had a relatively short life, about 50 years, after which the Chapel was demolished and a bungalow built in its place.

St. Michaels Chapel
St. Michaels Chapel

Stones Cottages, which housed the Welsh Ram.
Stones Cottages, which housed the Welsh Ram.

Many years ago the Manor Wasteland was continuous to Woodcote. The Epsom-Ashtead Road effectively cut off that part, that is Woodcote Side the subject of the next part.

4) Woodcote Side Area


Woodcote Side is an assortment of encroachments, copyholds and freehold possessions, the origins are cloudy with time.

This area has had a long recorded history from the time of "Brazells" to the first White Horse, a house used for the retail sale of beer owned by the Bailey family, to cottages owned by Henry Fensham to encroachment and the establishment of a successful laundry business with the domination of the Osborne and King family. The building of mid 19th century cottages of Steadman/Crawford, Grinstead and Ottaway to the late 19th century construction of terraced houses by Bradnum and Osborne, to the loss and modern development like Yew Tree Close and the replacement of the laundry business by a modern enterprise. Not to forget Henry Clare, who had a small cottage of the northern edge of Highland Farm, approached by a track from Dorking Road through the Common wasteland, now completely lost.

The following names will always be associated with the properties:
Bailey, Bradnum. Crawford, Edwards, Fensham, Fox, Grinstead, King Osborne, Ottaway, Steadman and Snelling.
Brazells/ White Horse/ White House.
Brazells/ White Horse/ White House.

View of the Old Barn prior to demolition.
View of the Old Barn prior to demolition.

(5) West Hill / West Street Area


West Hill (Clay Hill), an attractive area with its wide green and elevated position, has a long history of occupation from the long gone Chappel Hall to people like Col. O' Kelly the owner of the legendary horse "Elcipse" and W. G. Langlands, an influential Estate and Auctioneer with his office in the town. Also the Bradnum family, often mentioned in the larger account/history, Cecil Pagden of the brewery family and Thomas Furniss, one time Clerk to the Parish of Epsom. It was dominated by Hookfield to the south-east, with its long history of occupation. The origins can be traced back to 1535 and is an area created by the combination of two copyhold titles and a larger freehold title. With notable owners like Sir John Ward, the Knipe family, John Winstanley, James Levick and Basil Braithwaite. Then we have Sir Edward Mountain of West Hill House, part of which are the remains of the existing building and once owned by the O'Kelly family and not to be left out, the Fair Green, which until recently had an annual fair opposite the now converted Eclipse Public House, down passed Byron and Hazon House, passing by the rendered faced wooden cottages owned by the Wyeth family into West Street to the premises of the Furniss family on to the Dundass charity building and the Marquis of Granby and the butchers owned by the Bradnum family. On the opposite side we have an interesting group of buildings, many from the Spa period.

Spa buildings on former Shoulder of Mutton Close of Land..
Spa buildings on former Shoulder of Mutton Close of Land.

The West Hill area has had its share of large houses and small cottages many now gone, even one of the first state schools and still has a large private school, once the home of W. G. Langlands. We even have a redundant railway turn-table or rather the remaining base structure for when the railway line finished here and the locomotive engine was turned round for its return journey. Opposite the turn-table, the station master once lived in a detached house.

Before the railway line was built, Wheelers Lane entered the town via West Street but was re-routed to its present position to allow the railway line a straight-line route, so removing the access to the town pass Hill House, now the British Legion. Its possible that Clay Hill Green (Fair Green) was created in the time of Epsom Spa as a recreational area, i e Bowling. Somersgate (Wheelers Lane) may have been an alternative pedestrian route to the Wells.

Looking down to Stamford Green with West Lodge on the left.
Looking down to Stamford Green with West Lodge on the left.

West Street, outside the Dundass charity building.
West Street, outside the "Dundass" charity building.

(6) The Chase Estate


Epsom Court
Epsom Court.

The demesne and farm lands of Epsom Court of which the owners for many years were the Parkhurst family, during the middle of the 19th century the ownership of Epsom Court changed to the Chase family (related to the Parkhurst family). At the end of the 19th century (1893) the Reverend Temple Hamilton Chase and Reverend Drummond Percy Chase set up the Chase Trust. This Trust was to support the members of the Chase/Graham family.

The Trust was always about generating income for the Chase family whether through the sale of land or the ownership of houses thereby generating income. It mainly extended from Longmead to West Hill and the boundary of the Horton Estate to the town.

Place names like Drummond Gardens, Hamilton Close, Chase Road, Chase End and Temple Road all reflect the Chase family influence. To this day the area is still generally known as the Chase Estate. The area of interest for this account is Horton Hill.

Below we see the area known as the Chase Estate

The Chase Estate. - Click image to enlarge.
The Chase Estate. - Click image to enlarge.

By the end of the 20th century most if not all of the houses and land are in private ownership. Whether the Trust still exists I am not sure, but I understand that there is a possibility that one elderly member of the family is still alive.

Terry Friday © 2015.



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