1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Epsom

EPSOM, a market town in the Epsom parliamentary division of Surrey, England, 14 m. S.W. by S. of London Bridge. Pop. of urban district (1901), 10,915. It is served by the London & South-Western and the London, Brighton & South Coast railways, and on the racecourse on the neighbouring Downs there is a station (Tattenham Corner) of the South-Eastern & Chatham railway. The principal building is the parish church of St Martin, a good example of modern Gothic, the interior of which contains some fine sculptures by Flaxman and Chantrey. Epsom (a contraction of Ebbisham, still the name of the manor) first came into notice when mineral springs were discovered there about 1618. For some time after their discovery the town enjoyed a wonderful degree of prosperity. After the Restoration it was often visited by Charles II., and when Queen Anne came to the throne, her husband, Prince George of Denmark, made it his frequent resort. Epsom gradually lost its celebrity as a spa, but the annual races held on its downs arrested the decay of the town. Races appear to have been established here as early as James I’s residence at Nonsuch, but they did not assume a permanent character until 1730. The principal races—the Derby and Oaks—are named after one of the earls of Derby and his seat, the Oaks, which is in the neighbourhood. The latter race was established in 1779, and the former in the following year. The spring races are held on a Thursday and Friday towards the close of April; and the great Epsom meeting takes place on the Tuesday and three following days immediately before Whitsuntide,—the Derby on the Wednesday, and the Oaks on the Friday (see Horse-Racing). The grand stand was erected in 1829, and subsequently enlarged; and there are numerous training stables in the vicinity. Close to the town are the extensive buildings of the Royal Medical Benevolent College, commonly called Epsom College, founded in 1855. Scholars on the foundation must be the sons of medical men, but in other respects the school is open. In the neighbourhood is the Durdans, a seat of the earl of Rosebery.