Spotlight on Epsom

The world’s greatest flat race and Epsom salts are what made this country town famous. Now its easy commute into town has made it popular with Londoners, discovers Anthea Masey
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"Sir Percy" ridden by Martin Dwyer (right)
© Reuters
"Sir Percy" ridden by Martin Dwyer (right) joins a long line of Epsom Derby winners in 2006
A horse race, a prime minister and magnesium sulphate have, in their own ways, brought international fame to the small Surrey town of Epsom, 18 miles south-west of London. In the 17th century Epsom became a spa town when the sulphate — better-known as Epsom salts — was discovered in its water.

But it is the Derby, the world’s most prestigious flat race for three-year-olds, that has come to symbolise the town. The race, which has been run on the downs outside the town since 1780, is now celebrated in the town itself with a dramatic statue outside the Ebbisham Centre.

Epsom’s local hero, Lord Rosebery, was prime minister at the end of the 19th century. He was famously sent down from Oxford for buying a racehorse and entering it in the Derby. Such was his love of the turf and the town that he became its benefactor, and his memory survives with a park and a school named after him.

Estate agent Scott Ford of Hamptons describes the town has having two faces: “In one direction it looks towards London — there are even magnificent views of the metropolis from the downs — and in the other it looks outward to the Surrey countryside.”

Pretty homes in Epsom’s Chalk Lane
Pretty homes in Epsom’s Chalk Lane
One-bedroom flat: £155,000
Two-bedroom flat: £196,000
Two-bedroom house: £268,000
Three-bedroom house: £303,000
Four-bedroom house: £411,000
Source: Hometrack

One-bedroom flat: £750 to £950 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £850 to £1,300 a month
Two-bedroom house: £900 to £1,350 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,250 to £1,600 a month
Four-bedroom house: £1,500 to £2,200 a month
Five-bedroom plus house: £2,500 to £4,000 a month
Source: Residential Direct (Epsom)

Houses and flats to rent in Epsom

Photographs by Barry Phillips

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