work in progress: Wells estate, Epsom, Surrey

os map epsom

Doing some map surfing and came across the Wells estate on Epsom Common, Surrey. It’s a 1930s housing estate in the middle of the eastern edge of the common.

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Wells estate, Epsom

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Wells estate, Epsom 51.326214, -0.290279 Wells estate, c.1930s, Epsom Surreyhttp://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/EpsomCommonShort.htmlhttp://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/descriptions/798540Epsom England, United Kingdom (Directions)

epsom common

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1871 OS Map shows the farm at the centre of the circle:

1871 os map epsom
https://maps.nls.uk/view/102347460

 

epsom estate
google street view of The Crescent

Thanks to some asking around on Twitter by Municipal Dreams, and some basic information on local history websites, the site is based around the ancient Epsom Salt well but this had long gone. There was an 18th century farm there that made the rectangular encroachment, but I’m still looking for information on the rest of it. (http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/EpsomCommonShort.html: states, “The obvious feature is the circular area whose origin is the “Epsom Wells”. By the time of the late 18th century and early 19th century these days were long gone and the area was a farm with farm buildings and a windmill. The rectangular area to the south was removed from the Common to enlarge the area of Wells Farm and as such was never an encroachment, more of an eventual occupation but it seems that the farm struggled to survive and by the 1850s was no longer a complete working farm and became a residence for a wealthy tenant. The 1851 Census return shows John Richard (Landed proprietor) in residence at the Old Wells. It was probably during this time that occupancy of the rectangular area took place, with many small individual plots (the 19th century version of allotments) combining and overtime, the first cottages started to appear about 1858.” But notably the website doesn’t then say anything about the 1930s estate.

Here’s a picture of the well, apparently dressed by the church, on 8 July, taken by Simon Webster:

well at epsom

I’m hoping a trip to Surrey History Centre will provide more information on the landownership and development of the estate. As always, I’m interested in how the residents conceived of public space, especially in being in such an unusual position on the common.

Any information or further reading welcome before I go and find out. Comment below.

locales: Kennington

Kennington Park, 22 Feb 2018

I’m involved with a great HLF-funded project by the Friends of Kennington Park to commemorate the Chartist monster meetings of 1848 on what used to be the common.

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Kennington Common

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Kennington Common 51.481370, -0.107095 [caption id=\"attachment_274\" align=\"alignnone\" width=\"6000\"] Kennington Common, Feb 2018[/caption]Kennington Park, site of mass Chartist meetings since 1839, culminating in the monster meeting on 10 April 1848.Go to the post on Kennington and video of the 10 April commemorationsKennington Park Gardens England, United Kingdom (Directions)

Here are some pictures of a very cold February lunchtime walking round the park, followed by some commonplace snippets of the long history of public use of the space in Lambeth, south London.

Kennington Common, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington park, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington Common, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington park, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington common
‘common’ on the other side of the park boundary

 

Kennington park
cherry blossom just emerging

 

The monster meetings on Kennington Common were just one of the many uses of the open space.

Here’s a potted history of the park in Curiosities of London by John Timms (1855):

http://mapco.net/cary1837/cary44.htm
1837, Cary’s new plan of London and its vicinity, http://mapco.net/cary1837/cary44.htm

Site of execution:

The common became renowned as a site of execution in the 18th century, most notably of Jacobites in 1745.

read the popular ‘last confession’ pamphlets below:


Site of new religious practices:

The site was also renowned as where the Methodist leader George Whitefield preached:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Whitefield#/media/File:George_Whitefield_(head).jpg

Site of Chartism:

ok here’s the famous daguerrotype of the 10 April 1848 mass meeting.

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/kennington
https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/kennington

 

Kennington Common
Kennington  park, 22 Feb 2018
http://www.unionhistory.info/timeline/Tl_Display.php?irn=7000002&QueryPage=../AdvSearch.php
http://www.unionhistory.info/timeline/Tl_Display.php?irn=7000002&QueryPage=../AdvSearch.php

Dave Steele has done some excellent research piecing together exactly from where it was taken, and consensus is that it is from the second floor of a building that stood on the site of what is now a brutalist Job Centre.

  • See F. C. Mather, ‘The railways, the electric telegraph and public order during the Chartist period, 1837-1848’, History, Volume 38, Issue 132 (February 1953), 40–53 on how the army and police were kept informed by telegraph about the Chartists’ movements.
  • David Goodway, London Chartism 1838-1848 (Cambridge 1982)

Protest meetings had been occurring on the common since at least the 1830s:

The Champion, 23 April 1838, on the mass trades’ procession to call for the pardon and repatriation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, which assembled at Kennington Common:

The Chartists held their first big monster meeting on the common in 1839:

NorthernStar17Aug1839
Northern Star 17 Aug 1839

There was trouble at the Chartist meeting in August 1842, when the police were alleged to have attacked some of the participants in the meeting. The Northern Star continued to comment on the brutality of the police with reference to this meeting.

Northern Star 1842
Northern Star 27 August 1842

Here’s a report of the mass meeting of 10 April 1848:

Northern Star 15 April 1848
Northern Star 15 April 1848

In reaction to the monster Chartist meetings of 1848, the common was quickly enclosed. In part this was reflective of the wider Victorian public parks movement that wanted to have accessible spaces for working class leisure in urban areas, but in this case it was definitely about control. The railings, set out walks and flower beds, and the park wardens patrolling and shutting up the park at night, ensured that the ‘respectable’ classes could control both the leisure activities of the working classes and prevent mass political meetings using the space.

  • Kennington Common, &c. Improvement. A Bill to Empower the Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Works and Public Buildings to Inclose and Lay Out Kennington Common in the County of Surrey as Pleasure Grounds for the Recreation of the Public (1852)


The ‘Prince Consort house’, a show-house for the respectable working classes displayed at the Great Exhibition, was a material symbol of this new attitude in the Victorian public parks movement.

Prince Consort Lodge
Prince Consort Lodge