The Surrey market town of Epsom lies 15 miles south-west of central London on the A24 and is surrounded by miles of green belt. There is public access to commons and downland including Epsom Downs, site of the racecourse. There’s easy access to both Heathrow and Gatwick airports thanks to the M25 nearby.
Estate agent Nicholas Hapgood of the local Hamptons branch, says families moving from south-west London get a lot more house for their money in Epsom, where prices are just breaking through the autumn 2007 peak. The average price per square foot worked out on Hamptons’ last 15 sales is £324.
Epsom is known today as the home of the world’s most famous horse race. The Derby, run each year at the beginning of June on the downs outside the town, is named after Lord Derby, who in 1779 first proposed a race over one and a half miles for three-year-old fillies. That race was named after his house, The Oaks.
A similar race for colts was proposed for the following year, this time named after the man himself. The Derby has been run at Epsom every year since 1780 except for two short periods during the First and Second World Wars when it was moved to Newmarket.
Epsom can thank a humble agricultural labourer, Henry Wicker, for its existence. Tending cows on Epsom Common during a dry summer around 1618, he noticed a trace of water in a hoofprint. He dug around the print and when he returned the next day the hole had filled with water, which the cows refused to drink. He tasted it and detected a mineral tang — magnesium sulfate, or “Epsom Salts”. Within a few years, healing properties were attributed to the water from the well, and the spa that developed around it became the most famous in the land.
Two more wells were later found in town and for 50 years until the middle of the 18th century, Epsom was a place of joyful revelry, declining when other spa towns such Bath and Tunbridge Wells became more fashionable.
What there is to buy in Epsom
Epsom offers a wide choice of property, ranging from lovely Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses, to Twenties detached and semi-detached houses, to tiny Victorian artisans’ cottages and modern town centre flats.
There are a number of conservation areas. Worth seeking out are the large late-Victorian and Edwardian houses in the Burgh Heath Road conservation area south-east of the town centre, and also the Ewell Downs Road and Higher Green conservation areas, both of which have large, detached Twenties houses built by famed local builder Ernest Harwood.
What there is to rent in Epsom
Tenants in Epsom include young professionals and families. The University for the Creative Arts has a campus in the town, so there is also a demand for shared student accommodation.
One-bedroom flats range from around £825 to £1,300 a month, with two-bedroom flats from around £950 to £1,500 a month.
Estate agent Nicholas Hapgood, of Hamptons, says Epsom rents remain stable so far this year, although a shortage of supply could push them up in the coming months.
Travel: Epsom is close to junction 9 of the M25 connecting to Heathrow and Gatwick. Trains from Epsom station take 45 minutes to Victoria and 40 minutes to Waterloo. An annual season ticket costs £2,044, or £1,876 on Southern Trains only to Victoria.
The area attracts: families from south-west London are drawn to Epsom’s good schools, large family houses and an easy commute. There is also a strong local market, with plenty of opportunities to move up and down the housing ladder.
Staying power: once settled in Epsom families tend to stay in the area, although at retirement some people cash in on their houses to fund their future, perhaps moving to live by the sea.
Postcodes: Epsom falls into three — KT17 to the east includes parts of Ewell and Stoneleigh, while KT18 to the south includes Tattenham Corner, Headley and Langley Vale, and KT19 to the north-west includes parts of Stoneleigh, Horton and Longmead.
Best roads: there are desirable roads in almost every corner of Epsom. The Ridge has very large, detached, modern houses overlooking the Royal Automobile Club golf and country club. The Green and Ewell Downs Road have detached Twenties houses to the east of the town centre. St Martin’s Avenue, a leafy street of mainly modern houses, lies close to the centre, to the south.
Also south of town are Burgh Heath Road, with detached Victorian and Edwardian houses, the Ashley Road area, including pretty streets of Victorian cottages, and the Wilmerhatch Lane area’s detached Arts & Crafts houses on the edge of town. West Hill Avenue, north-west of the town centre, has detached Twenties houses and Denham Road in the east is a private road with Edwardian detached houses.
Up-and-coming areas: small Victorian cottages such as those in the Adelphi Road conservation area are attracting first-time buyers.
New-build homes in Epsom
Until they were mostly closed in the late Nineties and early Noughties, Epsom was home to the “Epsom Cluster”, a group of five large Victorian/Edwardian psychiatric hospitals, on the north-western edge of town. Over the last 12 years five new estates — Manor Park, Livingstone Park, Clarendon Park, Elements and Noble Park — have been established on the site, providing 1,850 new homes. The mix is one of restored hospital buildings and new roads of houses. Noble Park, the final estate, is a joint venture between Crest Nicholson and Linden Homes, with the affordable element delivered by Rosebery Homes.
Only a few properties remain — Crest Nicholson has two four-bedroom semi-detached houses starting at £725,000, and Linden Homes also has two four-bedroom semis at £714,995. This summer Crest Nicholson will launch four flats converted from the landmark tower on Elements (the former St Ebba’s Hospital site) which are already attracting a lot of interest.
Denton Homes (through Goodfellows) is building The Elders, made up of 10 four-bedroom houses in Fir Tree Road, south-east of the town centre. Prices start at £530,000.
Council: Epsom and Ewell borough is controlled by the Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell. Band D council tax for 2014/2015 is £1,581.21.
Photographs: Graham Hussey
Shops and restaurants
The busy heart of Epsom revolves around the attractive clock tower, the Ashley Centre — a covered shopping centre — and the market. A general market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays, while there is a farmers’ market on the first Sunday of the month and a craft market on the last Sunday of the month.
The Ashley Centre has a House of Fraser department store and many high street chains such as M&S, Waitrose, H&M and Superdry. In the High Street, Lester Bowden, in The Old Spreadeagle hotel, is a menswear and traditional sporting wear specialist, and Pullingers Art Shop is handy for students at the art college. The bottom end of the High Street and Upper High Street are lacklustre, and for a prosperous market town, few interesting independent shops have taken root.
The town has a number of chain restaurants including Pizza Express, Café Rouge and Ask, while Field to Fork in South Street is a brasserie specialising in local produce. There’s an Indian restaurant and also an Italian in The Derby Square in front of the Ebbisham Centre, a conference and community venue off the High Street. The Derby Arms on Epsom Downs is a popular gastropub, part of a small Surrey-based chain.
Leisure and the arts
There’s an Odeon cinema in the Upper High Street and the Epsom Playhouse theatre in Ashley Avenue puts on a variety of entertainment including plays, music and comedy. Bourne Hall in the centre of Ewell Village is a futuristic Seventies building that houses the local museum.
Surrey is well-served for golf clubs, and those nearest to Epsom are Horton Park in Hook Road, Epsom Golf Club in Longdown Lane South, and the Royal Automobile Club in Woodcote Park. The Rainbow Leisure Centre in East Street is the local council-owned swimming pool and there are private pools at the David Lloyd club in Horton Lane and LA Fitness in Ruxley Lane.
Open space: there’s plenty of walking, riding and cycling to be had thanks to the many local open spaces. Epsom Common, where the first of the spa wells was discovered, and adjoining Ashstead Common are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, lying to the west of the town centre.
The Thames Down Link, a 15-mile walking route, passes across the common on its pathway between Kingston and Box Hill. Horton Country Park is a 400-acre nature reserve with a children’s farm, a horse riding centre and a golf course. Epsom Downs and the racecourse are to the south of the town centre.
Rosebery Park is a popular garden park in the town centre, given to Epsom by Lord Rosebery. Nonsuch Park, a former royal hunting lodge in Ewell, was once home to Henry VIII’s most magnificent palace. The park is now dominated by a Georgian house, Nonsuch Mansion, which is a wedding venue and houses a small local museum.
WHAT THE LOCALS SAY ON TWITTER
@RJacksonwrites A short walk from town is Epsom Common, with two pubs including the Cricketers with a country-feel with acres of woodland.
@RJacksonwrites An ideal place for families, excellent sought-after juniors schools. If you want to combine town and country, Epsom's a great place to live.
@AshteadOsteo Epsom Downs Race Course is a beautiful place to take the kids kite flying in the summer!
@marilynccameron good rail journeys from Epsom, choice of Victoria, Waterloo or London bridge
@marilynccameron I have lived in Epsom on and off for thirty years. It's safe and green and pretty boring!
@MrsJaneRace Epsom also has some of the best schools in the country as well as safest hospitals!
@MrsJaneRace Yes! It's a lovely place to live, especially this time of year!
Three things about Epsom
When did ER and Doctor Who actress Alex Kingston sport a primrose?
Alex Kingston was a pupil at Rosebery School in Epsom. The school is named after Lord Rosebery, prime minister between March 1894 and June 1895, who was Epsom’s great benefactor. Lord Rosebery’s family name was Primrose and the flower is the school’s emblem.
Where did a palace disappear to pay a gambling debt?
Nonsuch Park, outside Ewell, was the site of Nonsuch Palace, Henry VIII’s most magnificent residence. It was built mainly between 1538 and 1541 at a cost of £24,000 — over £100 million in today’s money. In 1670 Charles II gave it to his mistress, Barbara Palmer, lst Duchess of Cleveland. In 1682 she demolished it and sold whatever she could to pay off gambling debts. A recently built model of the palace, commissioned by the Friends of Nonsuch Park, is occasionally on display at the Service Wing Museum at Nonsuch Mansion, a later Georgian house in the park.
Which famous diarist took the waters at Epsom and lost a friend’s dog?
Samuel Pepys visited Epsom several times. On one occasion he failed to find lodgings and was forced to stay in Ashstead. On another occasion in July 1663 he went riding in Nonsuch Park and a friend’s dog went chasing sheep and got lost. The diary recounts a day spent frantically searching for the dog, to no avail.
Almost all of Epsom’s primary schools are judged “good” or better by the Ofsted education watchdog. Those judged “outstanding” are Southfield Park in Long Grove Road; the very popular Wallace Fields Infants and Juniors in Dorling Drive and Wallace Fields; Ewell Grove Infants (ages three to seven) in West Street, and West Ewell Infants (ages four to seven) in Ruxley Lane.
Comprehensive and further education
There are three comprehensive schools — one for girls, one for boys and one co-educational. Rosebery (girls, ages 11 to 18) in White Horse Drive, and Glyn (boys, ages 11 to 18) in The Kingsway both get excellent results at GCSE. Blenheim High (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Longmead Road does less well but is still judged to be “good”. There are grammar schools in nearby Sutton and Kingston.
Nescot on Reigate Road is a large further education college that is rated “good” by Ofsted.
Epsom College (co-ed, ages 13 to 18) in College Road is a leading private day and boarding school set in 84 acres of parkland with historic Victorian buildings. City of London Freemen’s (co-ed, ages seven to 18) in Ashtead Park is a private day and boarding school, one of three schools run by the City of London Corporation.
St Christopher’s School (co-ed, ages two to seven) in Downs Road is a private nursery and pre-prep school. There are two private prep schools — Kingswood House (girls, ages three to seven, boys ages three to 13) is in West Hill, while Downsend (ages two to 13) is spread around Ashtead, Leatherhead and Epsom, with Epsom Lodge in Norman Avenue a pre-prep taking pupils from two to six. The Cornerstone School (co-ed, ages four to 16) in West Hill is a Christian school. Ewell Castle (co-ed, ages three to 18) is an all-through private school in Church Street.