London Gazette

Sources for Epsom and Ewell History
Sources for Epsom
and Ewell History

London Gazette No.1
The London Gazette
Publication date :7 November 1665, Issue: 1, Page: 1

The London Gazette is the oldest newspaper in Britain, and has been published since 1665. To begin with, it was an ordinary press publication, but in the eighteenth century it became the public journal of record, and this is the role which it still holds today, publicising official, legal and financial announcements. We have collected the references to Epsom and Ewell in the London Gazette from its first appearance down to the beginning of Victoria's reign in 1836, and the text can be searched


The first item relates to the publication of Shadwell's play Epsom Wells in 1673 and several references follow to the Spa period. The Gazette was intended for the gentry, who would return a runaway servant and horse (1688) or recognise heraldic emblems on a piece of silver plate (1714), and who might be expected to patronise 'the Coffee-house at Epsom in Surrey' (1726). As the eighteenth century progressed, the are many references to racing, but these have been left out unless they also had some interest as social history.

Announcements were made in the Gazette by executors sorting out probate, as with the estate of Heighs Woodford, late Minister of Epsom (1726) or Daniel Ellicar (1731). These announcements are interesting for the details of property which they give; sometimes these are rather brief, but occasionally they use the flowery language of the estate agent. The largest probate to be settled was that of Joseph Shaw (1814). There are also sales of estates following a decree in Chancery.

Of the properties which are described in detail, several can be identified, including Woodcote Grove, the house formerly of Josiah Diston (1726-7), what seems to be Woodcote Park (1771, 1775), and the small farm of Clayton Cottage in East Street (1815). The Meeting-House in Epsom, afterwards the Congregational/United Reformed Church, appears in 1809-10.

From 1764 onwards the Gazette recorded notifications for the sheriffs of the English counties, with several Epsom and Ewell residents holding this honour for Surrey. In 1823 Thomas Reid (afterwards Rae Reid) of Ewell Grove was made a baronet; in 1780 Anthony Chamier of the Clock House was authorised to bear the heraldic arms of his uncle. His return as MP is also noted, although elections did not normally make much appearance in the Gazette, although it does note the choice of Epsom as a polling station in 1836.

Economic history in the Gazette focusses largely on roads and transport, including an ordinance of 1750 which fixed the rates to be charged by carriers. The journal carried public notice of the local Highways Act of 1755 with renewals in 1801, 1824 and 1823. The tolls on turnpike roads were let every three years at auction, after application to the clerk, who lived at Ewell (1780, 1783, 1786). By 1804 the clerk was the solicitor John Everest of Epsom, who handled most public business in the town.

In 1800 the Gazette carried an announcement of the Parliamentary bill for the Grand Surrey Canal; and again in 1802, although the war years stopped any development of the original plan. A scaled-down version returned in 1825. Then in 1830 we hear of the proposed railway from Brighton to Lambeth; here it is again in 1834, as the Grand Southern Railway; and finally, on a slightly different route, as the London to Brighton; in 1835 and 1836.

A more vivid picture of the times emerges from the announcements about crime. In 1753 the villainous X Z was blackmailing Mr. Browning of Woodcote 'if you do not, immediately upon the Receipt of this, lay Twenty Pound, at the Foot of the Starting Post, upon the Downs'. John Browning, the Principal Secretary for Maryland, went on to marry his master's daughter Louisa Calvert, which may have been what the blackmail was about. In 1797 a reward of 50 was offered for information following the theft of postbags from the Bull's Head in Ewell; in 1818, one of 200 to discover the murderer of Ely Cox the gamekeeper; and 1834, the same sum to find the men who killed John Richardson at Buckles Gap.

The Gazette was at its most informative during the Napoleonic Wars, and so we hear a great deal of the arrangements for raising soldiers locally. In 1803, the Volunteers were formed. More is heard about them in 1804; in 1808 they have a new captain and lieutenant for Volunteers; and again, in 1810. The gentlemanly patriots who enlisted as Volunteers liked to see their names in print. At a lower social level, we read of balloting for the Militia in 1804, and again in 1805, when the Surrey quota of 9000 men is distributed among the county's towns and villages. The same thing in 1807, followed in 1808 by a general meeting of the lieutenancy. Finally, in April 1815, there is a ballot for the militia; they thought it was all over … but then came Waterloo. After that, the Lieutenancy carried on meeting at the Spread Eagle (Epsom's military inn) until 1831, but its business was more of a formality.

The inns of Epsom were a favourite gathering-place for the composition of loyal addresses. This bizarre tradition, in which gentlemen from the surrounding countryside got together to congratulate the government on, basically, being the government, was a ritual of pre-democratic political life. On first view the addresses seem pointlessly bland but a closer reading shows party politics at work. The first address, in 1782, is directed against the ministry who had prosecuted the American War; then, in 1802, there is one on the failure of the Despard Plot (which may not have been a plot at all, but an attempt to dispel republican feeling in England). There is one for Trafalgar in 1805, and another for the end of the wars in 1814. Then, 1816, come effusive congratulations on the marriage of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold; a typical example of the barbed double-speak behind these congratulations, since the match had initially been banned by the royal parents but was popular in Surrey. Then, 1817, there is an address following the attack on the Prince Regent's carriage on 28th January; this was intended to support the Gag Acts which followed, supressing the radical Press. Then, in 1819, there are loyal regrets that the Queen has died.

The bulk of the Gazette, however, was taken up by the more humdrum business of commercial life. As capitalism developed, the web of financial connections spread out from one individual to many: the 1814 list of creditors of Richard Barlow, proprietor of the Brighton coach, is a good illustration of the interdependence of trades around what was then the latest technology in transport.

Because the Gazette was used to announce the dissolution of commercial partnerships, it gives a useful sample of the larger businesses trading in the area. We find Robert Rivers and George Piff, of Epsom, saddlers and harness-makers (1825); George Barnes and Robert Seaman of Ewell, builders and carpenters (1801); Thomas Butcher and his son William of Epsom, carpenters and builders, auctioneers, and undertakers (1832); Thomas Brown and George Peters of Epsom, plumbers, painters, and glaziers (1817); William Tidy and James Tidy of Epsom, whitesmiths, ironmongers, tinmen and braziers (1830); Resta Moore and Henry Moore of Epsom and Leatherhead, breeches-makers, wool-staplers, and fellmongers (1834); John Muggeridge and Richard Mason of Ewell, millers, (1804), and Philip Cutler and Israel Piper of Ewell, millers and mealmen (1823); Robert Henry and Thomas Bridges of Ewell, and in London, gunpowder-makers (1814); Thomas Brown, Edmund Pitts Gapper, and John Lawrence of Epsom and Ewell, surgeons, apothecaries, and men-midwives (1815), followed by John Lawrence and Thomas Leigh Blundell of Ewell, surgeons and apothecaries (1824) and then John Allan of Epsom and Joseph Ward of Ewell, as surgeons and apothecaries (1831); William Everest and Thomas Harding of Epsom, attorneys and solicitors (1836); and Ann Riley and Elizabeth Farrow, later Anne Church, of Albion House, governesses of a seminary (1807, 1813)

A man's financial history can be followed in the winding-up of his affairs. These details are fullest from the 1820s onwards. Thus in 1824, we can trace the movements into London of James Grombridge, formerly of Hall-Farm, Oxtead, then of Ruxley-Farm, near Ewell, both in Surrey, Farmer and late of No. 26 Aldermanbury, Cow-Keeper. In the same way it is possible to follow the career movements of a local jockey (1825); a grocer (1831); and two schoolmasters, one of them at Glyn House (1829 and 1833). Abel Craven, gentleman, seems to have moved a great deal, no doubt to escape his creditors, before he ended up in the Gazette in 1824. With the arrival of the nineteenth century, we can trace how the local world expanded to take up the opportunities offered by the British Empire. The estate of Nathaniel Bayly was wound up in 1806 after he had moved to Jamaica. A sequence of business histories in 1825 includes the West Indies; another of 1834 involves Madras.

Usually traders ended up in the London Gazette because they had failed in business: in fact, 'to be gazetted' was the slang expression for a public announcement of bankruptcy. At a time when business was undercapitalised, the recovery of debt was difficult, and there was little credit on offer to the small trader, bankruptcy was quite common and did not carry much stigma. It is announced again and again in the Gazette, so often that it is possible to use these records to build up a picture of commercial life in Epsom and Ewell. Bankruptcy seems to have been an evenly spread risk for everyone, not just something incident to a few particularly risky professions, for the spread of trades involved is very much the same as that which appears from other sources such as wills, apprenticeships and fire insurance. Grouping the records by category yields the following results:
  • Food and drink 29: a miller, a baker, three butchers, a pork-butcher, three maltsters (one also a farmer & brewer), four brewers, four cornchandler or corn-dealers, a cheesemonger, a coffeeman, a victualler & wine-cooper (also appearing as a victualler & innholder), six innholders, innkeepers and publicans of whom one was also a dealer in wines and another also a victualler, while the publican doubled as a butcher, two vintners and a wine & brandy merchant
  • General retail 9: seven shopkeepers and two dealers & chapmen not otherwise identified.
  • Costume 9: two tailors, four shoemakers or cordwainers, and three linen drapers
  • Transport 9: a haberdasher & saddler, a collar maker (apparently the collars were for horses, not shirts), two carriers, a coachmaster, a groom & horsekeeper, a stable keeper, a horse-dealer & stable-keeper, and a livery-stable-keeper
  • Houses and gardens 9: a jobbing gardener, a gardener & bricklayer, two builders, a bricklayer, two carpenters, a carpenter and joiner, and an auctioneer
  • Goods 7: a tanner, a turner (who was also a shopkeeper), a cooper, a tallow chandler, a journeyman-upholsterer, a painter, glazier & paper-hanger, and a watch & clockmaker
  • Agriculture 4: two farmers, a labourer, and a farmer's labourer whose wife was occasionally employed as a charwoman
  • Professions and services 4: a music master & church organist, a schoolmaster, a professor for the cure of insane persons, and an attorney
  • Engineering 1: an engine lathe & tool-maker, engine-turner and engraver
  • Domestic service 1: a charwoman & laundress occasionally acting as a nurse
  • There were also five gentlemen, a singlewoman, a widow and a soldier who were unable to pay their debts.
These entries were found by searching the excellent website of the London Gazette at Many thanks to Philip Weatheritt, who combed through this for local references, and to Sheila Ross, who typed them up.

Jeremy Harte February 2016