Epsom Heritage - Part 8
Church Street

A Detailed Survey of Epsom with historical context by Tomas H.J. Dethridge.

This Document was produced by Epsom Civic Society in 2011 from the writings of Thomas Dethridge, a former Chairman of the Society. Although largely completed by 2005, the article formed the foundations of their two excellent Heritage Trails (Trail 1, Trail 2, Trail 2 Map ). It is reproduced on this site with their permission and we have split it into eight sections:
  1. Historical Background
  2. High Street (West)
  3. West Street And West Hill
  4. South Street And Woodcote
  5. High Street (East)
  6. Upper High Street
  7. The Railway Comes To Epsom
  8. Church Street (This Page)

Church Street


St Martin's Church
Saint Martin of Tours Church
Drawn by Thomas Allom, engraved by N. J. Starling, from Brayley's History of Surrey 1841
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Turning right out of the High Street we enter Church Street and moving on southwards we are now returning to Epsom's roots, the area in the near vicinity of the Parish Church of St. Martin of Tours, where the initial Saxon settlement was established a millennium and a half ago. Church Street has been described as Epsom's finest road and although this tribute related to the period up to the late 19th or even early 20th century, since when a number of its important houses have been demolished and in some cases replaced, some not, it can still boast a number of quality buildings some listed including Grade II* level.

When the centre of gravity of the town began to migrate westwards to its present-day location from the 17th century on, virtually all traces of the original hamlet disappeared and the areas became increasingly colonized by wealthy proprietors setting up various imposing houses for occupation, or in some cases as investments; then later in the Victorian era followed a number of villa type residences. Inevitably over the intervening years many old properties have been demolished in turn, mostly but not all to be replaced by more modern buildings often with a commercial but some with a more beneficent motivation.

In the post-WWII era, as a growing emphasis on heritage and conservation was making itself more insistently manifest - but not before a number of fine old houses had been irrevocably lost - Church Street became a priority for designation as a Conservation Area. This comprises Church Street itself, south of but not including the United Reform Church and the Police Station, as far as Burgh Heath Road; it also covers Grove and Church Roads but not their houses except for the row immediately to the east of St. Martins, Downside, Heathcote, Laburnum and part of Worple Roads and part of the Parade.

It should be borne in mind that even into the 20th century, the road was of lesser width than now, apart from the section south of Worple and Grove Roads, which has been subject to much less change over the years. The existence of brick walls, some quite tall and others surmounted by iron fencing, kept many of the properties shielded from the road and passers-by; it also accentuated the perception of narrowness. Later in the 20th century with growth in vehicular traffic, it became Council policy to widen the road, taking advantage of alterations and demolitions, and in the main it was achieved in the section north of the Worple-Grove line.

Entering the road from the High Street, on the east side it begins at The Quadrant, a row of three-storey shops built in 1938 to a pleasingly simple design curving to the corner of the Upper High Street by contrast with the more ornate Victorian buildings between which they are sandwiched as well as the ones they replaced. The latter was the Public Hall, a large building already mentioned in the survey of Station Road/Upper High Street. This had been erected in 1883, its façade ornamented with two pilasters, a decorated pediment and balustrade despite which it seemed with its plain oblong body running back diagonally from the corner to have presented a heavy, even foreboding appearance (a judgment the writer readily admits based on photographs and, not on actual sight, although it did come in for some contemporary criticism). The main door, surmounted by the inscription 'Epsom Town Club' led into the (men only) club premises on the ground floor, and with separate entrances for the upper hall floor (ladies admitted) which was hired out for events, functions, meetings and entertainments; in the early 20th century the latter included 'cinematograph pictures' and the great explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton gave such a show on his Antarctic expedition. Then from 1916 to 1930 it was fitted out, somewhat hazardously, as a cinema under the name 'The Public Palladium' but with the opening across the road of the new and modern Capitol cinema, use of the Hall fell into further decline; it was closed and then demolished in 1934.

A postcard view of the Public Hall which was at the Church Road junction with High Street
A postcard view of the Public Hall which was at the Church Road junction with High Street. c.1904
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Immediately past the Quadrant is a short narrow road to the left, with a second just after the Technical Institute, both labelled Depot Road and leading into the area behind church and Upper High Street. Of the pair, the latter is the older, the name may no longer be apparent but this area was formerly the site of the Council's base for its outdoor industrial activities such as cleansing etc. In 1902 the new electricity generating station was built there - prior to nationalisation in 1948 electricity supply in Britain was very often a municipal undertaking, unlike the production and distribution of town gas which in most places including Epsom was a commercial operation, before it too was nationalised in the same era. The area no longer retains any trace of such activities but is largely given over to car parking; indeed it has been a parking place for many years, though on a more restricted scale than now.

The Technical Institute
The Technical Institute. Date not known.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The Technical Institute is the large red brick building with terracotta ornamentation opened in 1896 with the active involvement of Lord Rosebery in the project and the same architect as the Public Hall, J. Hatchard Smith. With different names at various times, it has always been used for educational activity - adult education, vocational training, evening classes, etc. - up to the present day. By 1920 it housed the County Secondary School for Girls; later that year, the school moved into a new purpose-built building in White Horse Drive and was renamed Rosebery School. With their departure, the County School for Boys moved in until the acquisition of new grounds in Hessle Grove at Ewell in 1927; it became Epsom Grammar School until the famous Education Act of 1944 and Glyn Grammar School in 1952. The Institute was also home to the well known School of Art and Design; this foundation also migrated to its own new premises in Ashley Road in 1974 which in the past few years have been remodelled and extended. Prior to the 1896 Institute, some educational work had been carried out in one of the buildings on the north side of High Street East.

Next to the Institute are two survivors of a group of four small shops modified from 19th century houses (Nos. 11-17) and between these and the new Kirkgate office block lies the second (and now more frequently used) Depot Road. No. 17 was formerly a printing shop and at another period was Mr Morgan's Dairy selling its own locally produced milk and products. There had been another in the High Street, Mr Skittens at No. 107, and the writer recalls that in the 1970's it was still possible to make out on a wall facing the station at the end of Station Way a faded painted advertisement for milk from a farm in Alexandra Road. All this serves to indicate that until well into the 20th century Epsom remained a country town and consuming locally grown produce.

Church St, Epsom
Church Street, Epsom. Date not known.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

On its west side until recent times, Church Street began with three distinctive 20th century buildings, of which two were in the art-deco style of the 1930's while the third has replaced another of similar vintage and character. No. 2 was built in 1937 as the municipal electricity undertakings offices and showrooms, nationalized in 1948; as with the gas showrooms in High Street West, its closing about 1990 was much resented by local consumers. It was then converted to a pub-restaurant, the Litten Tree and subsequently The Vestry, which was permitted to fence off a section of the wide pavement outside as an alfresco refreshment facility. No. 4 was opened as the Capitol super-cinema (as the term then had it) with 1500 seats as well as a cafe-restaurant. The opulence of the interior decor of the cinemas of that period was supposed to have been influenced by the luxury transatlantic liners. Neon lighting proclaimed the presence of both the cinema and the restaurant, and the foyer was approached by a flight of eight shallow steps. Unlike the Odeon in the following decade, the Capitol was not part of a national chain but its owner-managers had a flair for eye-catching publicity stunts and a variety of these were put on, both inside and also more widely in Epsom. Up to 1937 Sunday cinema shows were illegal and live entertainment by well-known artistes were staged instead. Following local referenda, which permitted the citizens of individual towns to make the choice and usually, but not invariably, voted in favour, Sunday film shows began in Epsom in 1938. Meanwhile the restaurant, in addition to waitress service of light meals and refreshments, was the venue for other popular activities including that thirties favourite, thé-dansant [tea dance], as well as other social functions, some of a more formal character. By the onset of WWII such events were going into some decline. In 1947 there came a change of ownership and with it change of name to The Granada, the new company being the forerunner of the well-known TV group of current times. The restaurant facilities, stage shows and stunts continued to form part of their repertoire, but despite this, the whole cinema-going habit was in decline nationwide and the Granada closed in 1960. For a time it continued being converted to a Keymarket super-store but it did not survive for long in this guise and was then demolished. In its place the present store premises were erected, initially housing the famous London furniture firm of Maples of Tottenham Court Road and later by Allied Carpets, the new building being given the name of Capitol House as a link with the past, but as these words are being written, the site together with No. 6 is once again under redevelopment.

The Capitol Cinema, 2 Church Street
The Capitol Cinema, 2 Church Street c.1930
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Thirdly at No. 6 were the motor showrooms and servicing centre opened in 1935 by the local firm, Woodcote Motors, previously T. Hersey Ltd., which had traded prior to that for many years in South Street as Epsom Cycle Works and later as Epsom Motor Works; the premises are still to be seen just inside South Street past Waterloo House/The Assembly Rooms. Tom Hersey was a well-known local character of forthright views. The ground floor of No. 6 with the showrooms had vehicle access on the north side while the servicing area on the upper floor was approached by a ramp on the south side and in front the forecourt contained refuelling facilities. It was later acquired by University Motors and then by H.P. Edwards and subsequently by other motor firms, in the course of which changes the forecourt pumps were eliminated.

These three good examples of 20th century art-deco were of course erected on the sites of much older properties, residential with gardens and dating well back into the previous century, if not earlier. For example, early patrons of the Capitol would have seen a front garden on one side, perhaps both, as they went in to see their film.

Next past the car showrooms comes the Baptist Chapel of 1907, a plain building now approaching its centenary and originally within an all-round wooden fence including a neat piece of ground on the north side. Had the Southern Link Road Extension so confidently expected in the 1990's been carried out, the centenary would have been denied since the plan was for the chapel to be demolished and the new road to begin on the site on its course to link up with Ashley Avenue. At No. 8 stood Cromwell Lodge, an early 18th century timber framed cottage, which despite being listed suffered the same fate as some other old buildings in the town, a period of "constructive neglect" followed by sudden demolition. The empty site then stood derelict for some years except for the unannounced appearance of an advertising hoarding, much to local chagrin and protest in which the Epsom Protection Society voiced its anger. Its neighbour at No. 10, Hope Lodge, also 18th century, still survived for some years as offices. At one time its future too seemed questionable, but latterly was reconverted to residential in the form of flats having had an extension built on.

A Postcard view of The Baptist Chapel in Church St, Epsom
A postcard view of The Baptist Chapel in Church Street, Epsom. Date not known.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The site at No. 12 was formerly occupied by a very large and attractive house with extensive gardens whose name lingered on long after the house been forgotten - Silver Birches. It was once described as being as old as any in Epsom and contained materials from the original Merton abbey (presumably from the pre-dissolution era) and Nonsuch Palace. The site had stood empty once demolition of the house in 1984 as a somewhat non-descript open space serving little more than as convenient short-cut between The Parade and Church Street with a small parking area for users of the Clinic in the latter, but announcement of development proposals not only gave rise to fierce local debate but also attracted the attention of a band of professional protesters who set up an encampment there, to be joined by TV crews from home and abroad who scented a good story. After some weeks of stalemate however the protesters went on their way to a new trouble spot, the expected "battle" was avoided and development was eventually implemented. Today the large car park takes up the space and one has to say that few Epsomians would now deny that it fills an undoubted need and some might think that the present vista is better than it was before.

Crossing back over the road, the two post-WWII office blocks are too new to merit much comment, except to mention that one of them is actually the second to be built on its site since the 1960's. It may also be commented that up to 1934 one of the large houses that stood there was Bromley Hurst at No. 33, notable for having been bought by the UDC from its own Town Clerk as its offices, although criticised by a contemporary observer as not particularly suitable for its purpose, and relinquished when the new Town Hall was built in 1933/34 in The Parade (to be extended in 1992). Bromley Hurst was demolished in 1934. Three years later the Council built the new fire station with its accommodation block for firemen; this was on the site of an earlier station dating from 1911 and it is interesting to note that Nicholas Pevsner, the famous writer on architecture and townscape gave the new building a word of praise. Up till the war in 1939, fire services were another municipal responsibility, but at that juncture the Government created the National Fire Service and after the war the task was devolved back to county level. Epsom's first "official" fire force seems to have been established in 1869 when the engine - horse-drawn - was reportedly kept at the Clock Tower (although this seems to raise one or two questions and presumably the horses were stabled elsewhere. There may well have been earlier fire-fighting arrangements, possibly private and insurance company based - after all this was at a time when many of the houses were still of wooden construction. Later in the 19th century, a fire station had been established backing on to the railway embankment close to Epsom Station at a point, now the east end of Station Approach. It was shown there in an 1896 map and was doubtless the one replaced in 1911.

Moving on past the fire station, Nos. 39 and 41 proclaim themselves as the Conservative and Epsom Clubs respectively, both occupying former Victorian houses modified for their purpose, the former in particular having a newer entry hall grafted on to its front. The Epsom Club had in 1914 broken away from the Epsom Town Club, which as already has been mentioned had owned and used the Public Hall from 1883; it would seem that the latter organisation did not survive the demolition of its erstwhile home in 1934. Tucked away behind No. 41, there had formerly stood a small 18th century house, Hollies Cottage at No. 43, which had been listed.

The Epsom Club in Church St, Epsom
The Epsom Club in Church Street, Epsom. Date not known.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

This brings us to the United Reformed Church, which has an interesting background in the evolving history of Epsom. At this point the writer wishes to stress that the ensuing notes are not intended as a definitive statement of the history of non-conformism in Epsom, which he is certainly not qualified to give, but as elsewhere are intended to indicate the context in which extant buildings have come into existence. Non-conformism, in the sense of reluctance or inability to accept certain elements of the doctrine or practice of the new Church of England had early become manifest in the 16th century but those who felt such doubts often continued to be practising members of their local churches, especially perhaps during the Cromwellian Commonwealth. This situation changed with the Restoration in 1660 and the Act of Uniformity two years later which aimed to enforce subscription to the 39 Articles and certain other provisions, and clergy who would not conform were ejected from their churches, taking like-minded members of their congregation with them. These "dissenters" would then meet in private premises but were frequently subject to persecution by the authorities, in spite of which non-conformism persisted; but 1688 brought the "Glorious Revolution and the accession of William and Mary in place of the deposed James II and in the following year the Act of Toleration afforded relaxation of the Act of Uniformity.

In Epsom the illegal meetings, or "conventicles", had been held in houses in or close to Church Street. Subsequently a purpose-built Meeting House on land facing the street - the site that is still in use to-day - was and is probably in use by 1724 but apparently closed by 1785, later to be sold off and falling into disrepair. The non-conformist cause was kept alive at Bugby's Little Chapel built in or about 1779 off East Street by the Rev William Bugby, one of its earliest Ministers in the Calvinist tradition. The chapel in Church Street was re-acquired, restored end reopened. It was extensively renovated and enlarged in 1846, but following disagreements a number of members seceded and set up a temporary wooden Protestant Evangelical Chapel in The Parade in or about 1850, until the breach was healed in 1878. Just prior to this however the Parade congregation had decided on a new, more permanent building and obtained a site in Station Road but with the reunion this came to fruition in 1883 as the Sunday school and Lecture Hall, an imposing building with tall spire; it also became the venue for Sunday evening services. Then in Church Street a new Congregational Church - also with a spire - was built on the site of the older chapel, opening in 1905, the other building being officially registered as the Congregational Church Hall in 1917, though frequently known as the Lecture Hall. Financial pressures led the Church to agree in 1930 to permit the construction of two lock-up shops in Upper High Street on the forecourt of the Hall, which resulted in its virtual disappearance from public gaze - unless one knew where to peer through a narrow opening - except for a brief period when the site of the new post WWII office blocks inside Church Street were levelled, revealing a different perspective of the building.

Like other properties in Church Street, the Congregational Church was separated from the roadway, having a low brick wall with ironwork fencing and gate and these may have been surrendered during the course of WWII to assist the nationwide scrap metal drive. In July 1961, the main church was badly damaged by fire. The front was rebuilt to a completely revised design at its west end surmounted by a golden ball and cross atop a slender aluminium spire, presenting a much more modern appearance, and with the nave much modified. The new church was opened in 1964, the Lecture Hall having served as the venue for worship in the meantime. A post-WWII plan for a new church hall adjacent to the church was not initially realised but an opportunity in the late 1980's to acquire a parcel of land to the rear of the church enabled a new scheme to be drawn up to concentrate activities in a single site and with this being implemented in the early 1990's, the Lecture Hall was demolished. By this time, in 1972 in fact, two important strands of the non-conformist movement, the Congregationalists (also known formerly as the Independents) and the Presbyterians had come together in a reunion, formalized by Act of Parliament in that year, assuming the title of the United Reformed Church. In 1988 the church celebrated its tercentenary with the base date of 1688 already referred to, although as mentioned there had been earlier activity in Epsom (and elsewhere), and a display was mounted in the new church.

Epsom Congregational Church in 1971 after thge fire
Epsom Congregational Church in 1971 after thge fire
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Before we move on from the URC, the writer makes no apology for the following paragraph by way of a diversion from our exercise in Church Street, He is aware that comparatively few in Epsom have seen or even know of the existence of the Bugby Chapel, but it is a little gem of a building with historical overtones. It must look much as it did 200 years and more ago and it has a number of old gravestones against its walls. 30 and 40 years back, it stood - behind the GPO building - in a little wilderness with some excellent and prolific blackberry bushes and flowering shrubs around - all uncultivated but of a flavour to which the writer can readily testify. In that era one or two paths led through from East Street and if one wished one might park one's car in that road without hindrance. Today one must go round by Church Road, turn off by Truelove's funeral parlour along Hawthorn Place and walk nearly to the end, still entitled Prospect Place. There it stands, though in the intervening years it has served for a time as a synagogue and in more recent times as an office building. The door bears a descriptive nameplate The Meeting House and it now stands in a grassed area, its external walls treated in a lightly coloured shade, but its main features little changed. Between it and East Street, but shut off from the latter, are lines of pleasant new houses and a few older ones.

It might also be mentioned at this point that Epsom's Methodists had their first meeting place in a cottage on the Common and later in a barn in Furniss Yard (presumably behind the corner of West Street and Station Approach). They then moved to a distinctive and substantial building off Waterloo Road and approximately behind the site of the future Post Office later to be erected in the High Street. This new church was in position in 1896 and probably earlier. Finally in March 1915 they moved to the present location in Ashley Road which offered more scope for the development of church activities.

On the Methodists moving from Waterloo Road, their building seems to have been taken over by the Wesleyans. It was still marked on a 1932 map but was apparently no longer there by the end of the war in the mid forties. Instead the site was occupied by the Forresters Hall, which was rather a planer and smaller structure. The Forresters were one of a number of Friendly Societies with a self-help motivation, which flourished up to the war when there was not very much in the way of social assistance but seemingly declined thereafter. It was demolished in the 1970's, regretted by some Epsomians. A colleague has told that the Saturday evening dances were a well-recognised meeting spot for the young people of that time. With the disappearance of the Forresters Hall its vacated site became used for market stalls and car parking.

Another Baptist Chapel was established in the Dorking Road possibly post WWII approximately opposite The Hylands. It was formerly known as Salem but this name is no longer used. It is in the strict Baptist and Calvinist tradition and has no remembered links with Bugby's chapel.

So after this digression on the subject of faiths which stood aside from the Anglican Church, and the various marks they have made on the fabric of the town, let us return to Church Street and, leaving the United Reformed Church behind, we come to the Hermitage at No. 45. At first glance, nothing very exceptional - but it can lay claim to being the oldest house in Epsom, the sole survivor from the pre-spa village. True it was much renovated in the past 20 years to fit it out for a further lease of life, this time as offices, but it contains elements dating back to 1600 and inside, its floor level is quite lower than its surrounds and its exterior was worked upon with the minimum of alteration. Immediately beyond are the old stables from another old house Acacia House or The Acacias which formerly stood where the modern villas are located now. There is also part of an old, possibly 18th century wall, one of many still to be found in Epsom.

The Hermitage, Church Street
The Hermitage, Church Street in August 1971
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Across the road and past the car park are the County Ambulance station and next to that the Police Station. Incidentally outside are three fine trees, one a magnificent cedar which unlike those a little further up, was able to survive the 1987 great storm. When opened in July 1963, the Police Station was occupied by the local unit of the Metropolitan force but some ten years or more later, their duties were taken over by the Surrey Police. Prior to 1963, Epsom's first station had been in Ashley Road from 1855; it was partially destroyed during World War II by a V1 flying bomb in July 1944 then rebuilt and reopened in February 1946. After the Met moved out, the building was taken over by other occupants including Martin's Bank, a firm later to be absorbed by Barclays Bank but subsequently demolished.

On the corners of Worple Road and Grove Roads with Church Street, there are a few fair-sized 20th century houses, but before crossing these side roads, there is one other building to mention, which has long since vanished and the location of which is uncertain, though its appearance is known from a painting of 1823. This shows an attractive large two-storey house in its own grounds and described as the Charity School; the concept may have been introduced in Epsom a hundred years or so earlier, funded by donations by public-spirited citizens, though probably not in this same building. Early in the 19th century a national scheme for education of the children of poor families was instituted with a religious basis and the school in Church Street may have come within its ambit. It seems possible that it was superseded when in 1828 a new National School was built on the corner of East Street and Hook Road (then Kingston Lane); this was later rebuilt and enlarged, and lasted up to 1964, latterly being known both as Hook Road School and also as the Church of England School, catering for children up to age 11 - it is not to be confused with Pound Lane School built in 1907 further along Hook Road.

The Church Street Conservation Area reaches south to the foot of Burgh Heath Road, taking in Grove Road, Laburnum Road and parts of the nearby Church Road, Worple Road, Heathcote Road and The Parade. The stretch of Church Street south from Grove Road sets the tone for the area. It is narrow, almost enclosed in appearance, with a varied array of large buildings of good quality. The Cedars (No. 14) is of late 17th and early 18th century construction with later extensions and it has an imposing brick front and doorway. It takes its name from two magnificent cedars of Lebanon, sadly blown down by the great storm in 1987. Today two young cedar trees, one grown from the seed of the old ones, stand outside. The builders used mathematical tiles for an extension, which may be seen on the Worple Road side. Next door at No. 16 is Cedars Cottage, a more modest 18th century building with 19th century bay window. Built as coach house and stables for The Cedars, this was privately occupied until quite recently. No. 18, of the late 17th century with a 19th century porch, was the Vicarage until post WW1. There is a 19th century extension beside it with an interesting tile-hung tower, containing pleasant two-storey accommodation and a single-storey coach house. Then comes No. 20, Richmond House, the central part of the late 17th century with a new early 19th century frontage. This is perhaps the finest house in this row, with its pilasters and pediment. It was converted and extended in 1995 and used as a private nursing home.

Richmond House, Church Street
Richmond House, Church Street on 18th June 1973
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

A detour can be made to Grove House, though it is not actually in Church Street. It is a large mansion, built around 1770, which stands in its own grounds and which has now been divided into apartments. It can be reached by a short diversion along Grove Road and into The Grove, taking the first turning to the left.

Returning along Grove Road to Church Street, we pass Beechwood (No. 57) by the corner behind its old walls. This was built around 1870, and is used as offices. Between No. 57 and the Church lie Nos. 59 and 59A, Stone House. Formerly the two addresses formed a single residence. Stone House is an 18th century updating of a 17th century timber-framed house, while 59A is a 19th century extension. It has a modern doorway, put in when the two properties were separated. Right behind them, visible from the church forecourt but not from the road, is Church House, occupied by the parish offices and two halls on two floors. This started life as a brewery and up to its closure in 1922, this brewery spread halfway across the church forecourt, shutting off the view of the west door from the road.

Across the road at No. 24 is the early 18th century Park Place House with later side wings, which was formerly Parkhurst. This stands end-on to the road, with its doorway entered on the south side up a semi-circular flight of steps. Nos. 24A/B in its grounds formed the coach house, stables and accommodation for the outdoor staff. Tradition has it that Charles II provided stabling here for Nell Gwynne's horses, but as these buildings are early 18th century, they were not the ones used by the King's mistress. Today the two buildings are occupied by a single owner. Next again, and directly opposite the church forecourt, is Ye Olde King's Head, a weather-boarded house built in the late 17th century and converted to a pub in the following century. Its inn sign has for many years, displayed Charles II, who is further commemorated next door by Charles Stuart House. This is an office block built in two stages in the 1980's, on the site of the former Farm Garage (Ford car sales and servicing).

Finally on this west side we reach No. 50, National Counties House, the headquarters of the building society of that name since 1994; it was previously known as Ebbisham House. The centre section, dating from 1722, was built for an Epsom merchant and the original wrought iron gate is still in use. The two wings, added more recently echo harmoniously its 18th century design. Across the road, behind the wall that runs along Pitt Road and Church Road, stands Pitt Place. This is a modern apartment block which perpetuates the name of a splendid property on the same site, developed in 1770 from an older farmhouse. This was the place where the debauched life of the 2nd Lord Lyttelton came to an end at the young age of thirty-five in 1779. Despite being under a preservation order the building was bulldozed in 1967 and, of its complex of out-buildings, only the 18th century ice-house was spared. The 18th century wall separating it from the church forecourt also survives. Today this forecourt is mostly used as a car park while at one time it was the site of the maypole with its annual observance.

Pitt Place, Church St, Epsom c.1810
Pitt Place, Church St, Epsom c.1810
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

And so we come to the Church of Saint Martin of Tours, Epsom's parish church. No doubt a church has stood on this very site since Saxon times, and one is certainly mentioned in the Domesday Book. The early church would have been built of timber but in the 13th century it seems to have been rebuilt in stone. This was replaced about 1440 by a new and larger church with a tower surmounted by a slender spire at the northwest corner, and this in turn gave way in 1824/25 to a still larger building, although the old tower was retained. Then around 1900 plans were drawn up for a massive new church in Gothic style, with a porch in a large square tower on the north side. In the event, only the eastern half was built, so that the chancel and transepts are of 1908/09, leaving the smaller 1824 nave along with the tower of c.1440. Oddly the two halves are at a very slight angle to each other, obvious in aerial views and easily visible from inside. This is the building that remains today, except that the spire was removed after storm damage in 1947. The tower is the oldest surviving structure in Epsom.

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