The New Inn, Epsom, a case of mistaken identity:

to be distinguished from the New Tavern and Assembly Rooms.
Its later association with a public house called the White Horse.

Thew White Horse
The White Horse photographed by LR James in 1973
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

Henry Pownall, writing in 1825 to give Some particulars relating to the history of Epsom, connected the name "New Inn" with a house then divided into two and occupied by Messrs Gardom and Saunders, otherwise the former Assembly Rooms which had become known as "Waterloo House". This building is also mentioned as the "New Tavern" in an article about Epsom Spa on this website. [As a point of fine distinction an inn would be expected to provide accommodation whilst a tavern did not offer lodgings.]

As the late Norman Nail observed in 1974, however, Pownall's assertion appeared to have been based upon a presumption that those premises were situated at the beginning of New Inn Lane although the 1755 Survey of the Manor of Epsom indicated that the street with that name only started beyond Woodcote House, where the lane leading to Woodcote Green turned off. Mr Nail opined that it was usual for roads from a centre such as a spa to be called after their destinations rather than a point of departure. F L Clark was thought to have been misled when he produced his paper, The History of Epsom Spa, first published in Vol. 57 (1960) of Surrey Archaeological Collections.

Clarification is made possible by the late Dr H L Lehmann's comprehensive analysis of the records of the Manor in order to produce The Residential Copyholds of Epsom for publication by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council in 1987.

A public house still exits at 63 Dorking Road, the White Horse, listed Grade II as late c17th with possible c18th alterations and a mid c19th front - colour washed brick with a parapet to the hipped slate roof but timber framed. It stands separated from Hylands House and its outbuildings by Hylands Mews and two weather-boarded cottages enhanced by bay windows (Nos. 67 & 69). In its final form the structure is a mishmash of additions and alterations that obscure the original ground plan and one cannot compare the surviving conjoined premises at 67/69 Dorking Road because they have been dated to 1776/7.


White Horse from the rear and 67/9 Dorking Road - Click image to enlarge
White Horse from the rear and 67/9 Dorking Road - Click image to enlarge
Images courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2010

Working backwards in time, its copyhold title was enfranchised on 1 August 1873. The premises had been offered for sale about a year earlier described as "Five tenements near the Union [Workhouse], the White Horse public house and two brick and timber built cottages". The five weather-boarded dwellings, which became known as 1-5 White Horse Cottages, were demolished about 100 years later.

In 1853, that real estate was defined as six messuages gardens and premises then known as Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 New Inn Lane, the last mentioned messuage consisting of two houses which formed a beer-shop known by the sign of the White Horse.

Extract from the 1843 Tithe Map
Extract from the 1843 Tithe Map

Eight structures are shown in the area on the 1843 Tithe Map, numbered 1072 to 1077 plus 1080 & 1081. The 'pub' appears to have been owned by Mrs Malraison but in the occupation of Edward Cox & others.

It had passed through the hands of a number of copyholders from 1755 when the property was held by John Bushby of Epsom, victualler, and his wife Elizabeth, specified as "a messuage, coach-house, stables and several other outhouses and yards, about half an acre being the sign of the White Horse and known by the name of the New Inn". * These premises may, however, be traced back through Hans Lehmann's copyhold 3B4/3A4 to 1680 when they were "one messuage, one barn, one stable, two gardens, one orchard, half acre, abutting on the garden of John Playford to the west: Playford's property (3A3) in turn abutted "the messuage and lands called the New Inn" even further west. The property had been held by John Michell, maltster later distiller, but not apparently used for brewing or as a tavern. On 1 July 1749, it had been acquired by John Bushby, 'victualler'- to be interpreted as 'publican'. Evidently the business at this location was more of a beer-house than an inn.

The New Inn enterprise is likely to have been affected significantly by increased competition from the Assembly Rooms, built circa 1690/2, possibly leading to a reduced demand for the services it provided. As has been observed by other commentators, earlier evidence indicates that buildings which had originally been the New Inn were actually incorporated into Sir William Stewart's Hylands estate [stretching over plots numbered 1082 to 1086 on the 1843 Tithe Map], around the site of the present Hylands House.

When Sir William Stewart, former Sheriff and Lord Mayor of London, died in 1723 he had occupied a messuage with outbuildings, yards, gardens, and appurtenances recently built on the south-east side of New Inn Lane - otherwise, the mansion which became known as The Hylands (later Hylands House). One is then drawn further back to the record of a Court Baron [manorial court mainly concerned with land transactions and tenurial duties to the seigneur] held on 17 October 1716 at which Sir William Stewart had obtained a licence to let for 15 years the messuages, outhouses, wash-house, barn, stables, yard, garden and orchard called the New Inn. He also obtained permission to demolish various outhouses and take in from the common lands 70 feet [Lehmann] on the north side of his orchard and 5½ feet in front of the messuage. It is now impossible to say how large the establishment had become but a requirement to retain the stable containing 12 stalls provides some indication of the facilities available.

According to Mr Clark's transcription of a memorandum from the October 1716 Court Baron, Sir William Stewart was "also to include and take in seven hundred feet of the waste of the manor lying on the north part of the orchard of the premises and extending in length from the messuage to the end and western part of the orchard and also five and a half or thereabouts in front of the area of the messuage..." [The length mentioned approximates to a frontage on Dorking Road reaching from the eastern boundary of the White Horse with Epsom Hospital to what is now Whitmores Close.] Jurors at the Court Leet [a manorial court mainly concerned with discipline] consented to the enclosure of land in and against the New Inn but required a railing to be provided on the footpath to the width of 5 feet before the enclosure. Although Clark had proceeded to infer an association of the railing with posts erected along the pavement frontage of the Assembly Rooms, its length would have been much shorter than the distance he had recorded from the memorandum.

A reference to this establishment appears in Thomas Shadwell's comedy from 1672, Epsom Wells, which pictured licentiousness and intrigue in the town as it existed in an age of easy virtue: - "Yes, 'twas curiosity made you walk with her in the forenoon in the field beyond the New Inn". [The New Tavern and Assembly Rooms were not created until 1690/2. The meadow would have been where Hylands was erected just before 1723, much later to be re-named Whitmores.]

William Stewart's interest in the property had been acquired from William Richardson on 20 October 1687. The latter held it during the manorial survey undertaken in 1680 when described as "one messuage, two outhouses, one wash-house, one barn, two stables, one court, one garden and two orchards called the New Inn". "New Inne" had come to Richardson on 19 April 1672 its development having been started circa 1662 when the spa was rising in popularity.

Although the White Horse has become closely associated with the New Inn, there is a hiatus between 1716 and 1749. Clearly the tavern is located east of the site on which business had been established as an inn and in a different building. It is suggested that the New Inn itself ceased to trade about 1717 and use of its name in reference to the White Horse was no more than an indication of locality.

Speculation that a choice of name could have been influenced by association with John Constable's painting "The White Horse", because the artist had spent time with his aunt and uncle Gubbins at The Hylands, is clearly without substance. That work was not produced until 1818 to be shown at the Royal Academy exhibition in the following year.

In conclusion, the New Inn was sited on the western outskirts of Epsom on a route to the Old Wells. Evidence that it traded after 1716 is lacking and before 1723 it had been replaced by Sir William Stewart's mansion that has become Hylands House. Establishment of the White Horse tavern is only known to have taken place after 1749.


Brian Bouchard © 2010
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society


* An unsupported reference to this public house being "known by the name of the New Inn" does not provide proof that it shared an identity or succeeded to the hostelry's trade.


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