Epson races by T Allom.  c1842
Epson races by T Allom c1842

The first permanent grandstand was proposed by Charles Bluck of Doncaster. In 1829 he took out a ninety-year lease from the Lord of the Manor on a one acre plot of Downs' land for £30 per year. Bluck planned a relatively small and simple building to cost in the region of £5000. A group of Epsom locals had bigger ideas and set up the Epsom Grand Stand Association (EGSA). They persuaded Bluck to sub-let the land for £1000. To raise the necessary capital, the EGSA issued one thousand £20 shares so that they could build a stand for up to five thousand spectators together with four refreshment rooms and a 108ft long saloon.(See the inset below) The building was designed by EW Trendall. Although it was not fully finished, it was used for the 1830 Derby meeting.

The 1914 Luncheon Annexe

The Times, 16 April 1914


A rapid piece of work has been accomplished by the completion, within the specified time, in spite of 16 days lost through adverse weather, of the new luncheon buildings in connexion with the Grand Stand at Epsom. The contract was signed on December 3 last, the structure to be completed by April 9.

The building runs parallel to the back of the Grand Stand, and the connexion between them is by means of a bridge. It is from the designs of Albert Charles. Williams and is in the Renaissance style, the materials used being brick. and cement. There are four floors, which include public and private luncheon rooms and rooms for stewards, ambulance cases, and doctors.

The building is about 180 feet long by 32 deep, and is fireproof throughout, with concrete reinforced floors on the armoured tubular flooring system. Water is obtained from a well below the building 360 feet deep, and there is an underground fire tank holding 36,000 gallons. There is electric lighting and hot-water heating throughout. The building has been erected at a cost of about £14,000.

During the Great War the Luncheon Annexe was used as a War Hospital. On 19 February 1915 The Times reported that the annexe had 100 beds and was three quarters full. About half the patients having come straight from the firing line with some only only having their wounds treated by the field ambulance. The Hospital was staffed and equipped solely by private subscriptions, and in Epsom and Ewell many thousands of pounds were raised including one cheque for £1500!

The 1914 Luncheon Annexe in 2007
The 1914 Luncheon Annexe in 2007
The 1914 Luncheon Annexe in 2007
These three photographs show the 1914 Luncheon Annexe prior to demolition.
Images courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2007

The 1927 Grand Stand

Photo of Epsom, 1927, ref. E37303
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Epsom, 1927

Workers on the 1927 Grandstand pose for a photograph
Workers on the 1927 Grandstand pose for a photograph
Image courtesy of the Penfold Family

Work on a new stand began on 14 June 1926 and needed to be completed by Derby week the following year. The plans were very ambitious for in less than a year the world would have the largest race-stand in the world capable of holding 20,000 people. Five hundred men worked day and night on the new building starting with the demolition of the bulk of old stand. Only the relatively new dinning room block, at the rear of the old stand, was incorporated into the new building. The new stand was jointly designed by two firms of architects, Elcock & Sutcliffe of London and Reeve and Reeve of Margate. The £150,000 building comprised three parts:

  • A Club Stand (150ft long by 60ft high) was opposite the Winning Post, and the Judges Box was exactly in line with it. Accomodation was provied over 4 cantilevered tiers with Jockey Club members having accommodation on the first and third tier, and a 30ft wide terrace. The jockeys had dressing and weighing-in rooms on the ground floor which also held the 150ft long dining room. The top tier housed the Royal Suite comprising dining and withdrawing rooms and a large Terraced Box. Also on the top tier was the Trainers Terrace and Press Box. This stand had two lifts, one serving the Royal suite and one for the ladies of the Jockey Club.
  • A Grand Stand (330ft long by 70ft high). The majority of the ground floor comprised an inclined tier for standing patrons but a small portion was railed off for reserved seating which had direct access to private luncheon rooms. These ran behind the inclined tier and were spread over two floors. Above the ground tier there were three further tiers with private boxes behind which ran corridors to the private luncheon rooms, bars and retiring rooms.
  • An East Stand (210ft long by 40ft high) was one large covered tier below which were the luncheon and refreshment rooms.
Scaffolding for the new 1927 stand
Scaffolding for the 1927 stand
Work in progress on the top floor of the 1927 stand
Work in progress on the top floor of the 1927 stand
Workmen from the 1927 stand
Workmen from the 1927 stand
The above three images courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

The buildings needed 2,700 tons of steel for the girder framework which was in-filled with terra-cotta block panels and the floors were made of reinforced concrete. The exteriors were given a smooth white cement finish. Each of the three parts had their own bar, luncheon room and toilet facilities and a total of 215 private boxes were included in the overall design. Because of the exposed position and the open sided nature of the building it was specially braced to cope with extra high winds and as an extra safety measure the rear windows were specially designed to blow out if the wind pressure rose too high.

On 16 May 1927, just as the building neared completion, tragedy stuck.

Newspaper cutting from the Epsom Advertiser of Ernest Penfold's Accident
Newspaper cutting from the Epsom Advertiser of Ernest Penfold's Accident

Ernest John Penfold
Ernest John Penfold
Image courtesy of the Penfold Family

Labourer Ernest John Penfold was born in September 1886 in Epsom (GRO ref: Dec 1886 Epsom 2a 18) and was 41 when he died. He lived locally in Rosebery Road, Langley Vale, with his wife Annie, and five children Winifred b. 1908, Ernest b. 1911, George b. 1913, Harry b. 1915 and Stanley b. 1919. He was buried in Epsom Cemetery (plot F86) just 4 days after the accident. His grave plot was bought by Annie Penfold of 2 Mayfield Terrace, Epsom Downs. An inquest was held on 19th May 1927 before G. Wills Taylor, Coroner for Surrey where the cause of death was determined to be 'Shock from fractured skull and brain laceration caused through accidentally falling down a lift shaft : Accidental'. In the mid 1930s Annie and family moved to Grosvenor Road, Epsom where she lived until her death in 1967.

(We are grateful to Kate, a family member, for bringing to our attention this fatal accident.)

Photo of Epsom, the Grandstand c1955, ref. E37119
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Epsom, the Grandstand c1955

[VOL. XIII, NO. 372.]         SATURDAY, MAY 30, 1829.         [PRICE 2d.]

Epsom New Race Stand.

Image of the 1829 Grandstand at Epsom Downs

We do not wish to compete with the "List of all the running horses, with the names, weights, and colours of the riders," although the proximity of our publication day to the commencement of Epsom Races (June 2), has induced us to select the above subject for an illustration.

The erection of the New Race Stand is the work of a company, entitled the "Epsom Grand Stand Association"--the capital £20,000, in 1,000 shares of £20 each. The speculation is patronized by the Stewards of the Jockey Club, and among the trustees is one of the county members, C.N. Pallmer, Esq. The building is now roofed in, and temporary accommodation will be provided for visitors at the ensuing Spring Races. It is after the model of the Stand at Doncaster, but is much larger, and will accommodate from 4 to 5,000 persons. The style of the architecture is Grecian.

The building is 156 feet in width, including the Terrace, and 60 feet in depth, having a portico the width, returning on each side, which is connected with a spacious terrace, raised ten feet above the level of the ground, and a magnificent flight of steps in the centre. The columns of the portico are of the Doric order, supporting a balcony, or gallery, which is to be covered by a verandah, erected on small ornamental iron pillars, placed over those below. The upper part of the Stand is to have a balustrade the whole width of the front. With reference to the interior arrangements, there are four large and well-proportioned rooms for refreshments, etc.; a spacious hall, leading through a screen of Doric columns to a large and elegant staircase of stone, and on each side of the staircase are retiring rooms of convenience for gentlemen. The entrance to this floor is from the abovementioned terrace and portico in front; and also, at the back, by an entrance which forms a direct communication through the building. The first floor consists of a splendid room, 108 feet in length, and 34 in width, divided into three compartments by ornamental columns and pilasters, supporting a richly paneled ceiling, and having a direct communication with the balcony, or gallery; and on each side of the staircase there are retiring rooms for the ladies, with the same arrangements as those below for the gentlemen. The roof will contain about 2,000 persons standing; affording, at the same time, an opportunity for every one to see the whole of the race (Derby Course) which at one time was considered doubtful.

The architect is Mr. W. Trendall; and the builder Mr. Chadwick.

By a neat plan from a survey by Mr. Mogg, the "Stand" is about ten poles from the Winning Post. It must have a most commanding view of the surrounding country--but, anon, "may we be there to see."

Text & image source Project Gutenberg (Opens in a new window)

This page is part of a longer page on Horse Racing. British Pathe (Opens in a new window) have many images of Epsom Horse Races. Click here for the Offical Epsom Downs website (Opens in a new window)

This article was researched and written by Peter Reed, 2006

Modern Day Photographs

The Prince's Stand, rebuilt in 1879
Prince's Stand also known as the Prince's Pavilion. Built in 1879 and photographed in 2006.
Copyright image courtesy of Liz Manterfield.

This photograph was taken in 2006 and shows from Left to Right: The Queens Stand built in 1995 which replaced the Club wing of the 1927 three section Grandstand, The 1927 Central section with its with 200+ private boxes and the 1959 Rosebery Stand.  Grandstand complex is built on the site of the original 1829 grandstand.
This photograph was taken in 2006 and shows from Left to Right: The Queens Stand built in 1995 which replaced the Club wing of the 1927 three section Grandstand, The 1927 Central section with its with 200+ private boxes and the 1959 Rosebery Stand. Grandstand complex is built on the site of the original 1829 grandstand.
Copyright image courtesy of Liz Manterfield.

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