A Guide to the Industrial History of the Borough of Epsom and Ewell

Peter Wakefield
Date published: 

The Borough of Epsom and Ewell is the smallest of the districts in Surrey, occupying an area of 3411 hectares in the northern part of the County. It is bounded on the south-east by Reigate and Banstead district; to the south-west by Mole Valley district; with the London Boroughs of Sutton and Kingston-upon-Thames to the north-east and north-west respectively. The population was 67,007 at the 1991 census.

Broadly, the geology is: chalk downland to the south and east; a band of Reading Beds running north-east/ south-west across the centre; with London clay and alluvium covering the north and west. The ground height ranges between about 22 and 152 metres above mean sea level.

From prehistoric times there would have been hunting and forestry, but agriculture and livestock farming became the main occupations, supported by their traditional trades and crafts, continuing until almost totally eclipsed by the urban sprawl of the first half of the 20th century.

Much evidence in the form of stone implements and other relics indicates that the area has been occupied from Neolithic times. Later remains of a smelting hearth were uncovered at Purberry Shot in Ewell and considered by some to be Iron Age and by others as possibly Roman. Considerable traces of Roman occupation have been discovered in the area, leading to the understanding that Ewell in particular was an important settlement on Stare Street.

The roots of the Borough are in the Manors of Epsom, Ewell and Cuddington. The Urban District of Epsom was formed in 1894 and, with the inclusion of Ewell and Cuddington which were formerly part of Epsom Rural District, in 1933 became the Urban District of Epsom and Ewell. Incorporated by Royal Charter, in 1937 it became the Municipal Borough of Epsom and Ewell.

Various suggestions have been made regarding the derivations of the names of the two towns which are most likely to have originated in 10th century Saxon: Ãwiell ('the Spring/Well' = Ewell), and Ebbis Ham ('Ebbi's Place' = Epsom).