On a beautiful Summer evening I joined David Brooks, from Bourne Hall Museum, on one of his fascinating history walks across Epsom Common. Our starting point was beside the pond near The Cricketers, or as we were informed formally the Bat and Ball, From the beginning of the walk the group I was with , which was made up of family, couples, and groups of friends as well as individuals, were amazed to learn that at one point there were 4 pubs within a stone throw of each other in the 1800’s.
The area we were in was the village of Stamford how long people have lived in the area is unsure, Bronze and Iron age items have been found, but the first know resident was Alice Hyde in 1495 who was now days would be know as a squatter. Squatting became so bad that controls had to be put in place in the 1500’s to stop the spread of illegal homes. The history we learnt in this small area we knew we were in for a fascinating evening
From the Cricketers we took a short walk around the corner to an area know as Goose Green, by the junction of Stamford green Road and Bramble walk. Called Goose Green as the locals would let their geese and other livestock roam here. The group where amused to learn of the amount of pigs which households kept and what happened to them when disease struck. As well as keeping and selling livestock residents were know for making Crabapple Jam which was very popular. David at this point showed as early photos of the type of buildings you would find in the area. As well as other interesting facts including a Fish and Chip shop.
From here we moved to The Jolly Coopers, parts of the building are said to be from the 1700’s but the building you see now is a lot earlier. This is a great example of a Public House , Pub, The homeowner would use his front room to sell drink thus making his home a Public House. Here we learnt about the original road on to the common Summer Gate, called so as only really passable in the summer. We also learnt about police raids in WW2, the workers from the Brickworks and Laundries. A little pub with so much history. from here we walked down the original Wheelers Lane which is at the side of the pub.
At the junction of Wheelers Lane and Lewins Road we were told stories of Witch who would force people to help her and of the ghost of an old lady, this was not the only ghost we learnt about on the walk, which were know in the area. It was also here David explained about the major laundry businesses that were in the area and how washing would come from London in the morning and be washed , dried and ironed and returned on the evening trains back to London all in a day. Without the use of a washing line, David explains why,.
Moving up Lewins Road by the junction of Bramble Walk we are given the history of the Epsom Common Brickworks. The area had good clay deposits and huge pits were dug and the clay used to make bricks which were used in Epsom town centre as the town grew in popularity due to the Wells and taking the water. One such building is now the Assembly Rooms pub in the High Street. The bricks used to build it came from the common. But it was not just in the local area after the great fire of London in 1666 bricks were in short supply so bricks from the common were used to rebuild London.
Walking up Summer Gate path towards the Wells we come upon open grassland ,surrounded by trees and bushes, with a single goal post. David points out to us the trees and bushes mark the boundary of a formed clay pit which was filled in, like the majority of the pits, with soil from the building of the Longmead housing estate. At the same location by turning around and looking deep into the bushes we could see the remains of one pit not filled in but now overgrown with trees and bushes. From here we headed to the famous Epsom Wells.
After about 5min walk with David pointing out other interesting facts we came to the Wells Estate. On the corner of Spa drive and The Crescent with a fabulous view across to Headley Church way off in the distance. From this area the famous landscape artist John Constable would sit and paint the view between 1806 – 1812 and you can see why. Now days it hard to get a clear view because of the houses but in its day the views would be as spectacular as Epsom Downs viewing area and Box Hill is today.
Once at the Well the amount of history and facts that David told us is too much to put in one small blog. We learnt about how a farmer discovered the well in 1618 and on tasting the water became the first person to know the effects of drinking Epsom Salts, We learnt about the royalty and famous people of the times like Samual Pepys who would visit, We learnt about drunken bone setter Mrs Mapp who was offered 1,000 guineas NOT to leave Epsom but instead she chose love and ended up penniless. The list goes on. By now it was getting late and the light was fading slowly so we headed back across the common but not without a few more amazing facts Like the windmill on the corner of Wells Road which burnt down in 1873 and the racecourse, the first in Epsom, which is now lost on the common and why the Wells estate is built in a circular patten.
The walk back to the start was a pleasant walk despite being bitten alive by Midges/mosquitoes, I would advise walking across the common in the summer time wearing long trousers and spray some anit-mosquito spray on, more amazing stories kept coming from David. How the Canadian army learnt to blow up trees before D-Day, how the common was saved from being built on in 1869 by a local councillor, how if you dig down 2 feet you will find water, how in 1700’s plans to put a canal through the common to the south coast were stopped due to the high cost. Stories of police stalking out the woods to capture WW1 Canadian soldiers with local girls. The facts about the common just kept coming until we got back to the start point.
Conclusion: I have been on several of David’s history walks around Epsom & Ewell and every time I learn something new. I was born in the borough and have lived here all my life and I thought I had a great knowledge of where I live but I don’t. David walks are great way to find out more about where you live, the people that made it what it is and of course the ghost stories everyone loves.
This walk, like all the others cost £5 and is limited to just 25 people. It lasted just under 2 hours. Distance traveled? unsure but must have covered a couple of miles if not more but with all the interesting facts and stories I never noticed how far we had walked.
Advice? sensible footwear, anti-mosquito spray and listen. David has so much local knowledge and has written several books , available at Bourne Hall Museum, He is a priceless gem to the local community.
David has several walks over the Summer up until the 1st September in Epsom and Ewell. For more details Click Here summer walks 2019