The History of Horton Country Park
Take a journey through the park's history
Imagine Horton Country Park 5000 years ago, part of the ancient wild
wood, an English wilderness more used to the call of the wolf and bear
than the voice of a rare nomad called man. This was Horton Country Park immediately before the transforming influence of man.
that this tiny area of the Earth's surface has over millions of years
been submerged under seas, baked in hot deserts, sweltered in tropical
jungles and shivered under ice sheets.
Please click on the knight to proceed
Your journey back in time has begun.
Today Horton Country Park Local Nature
Reserve is managed, to promote good public access, whilst
maintaining and enhancing the site's ecological diversity.
2003 sees the creation of Epsom and Ewell Borough Council's
Countryside and Community Development Team which is set
up to allow greater focus on management of Horton Country
Park LNR, Epsom Common LNR and the Hogsmill LNR for the
purposes of nature conservation and public access.
The 1990's is seeing refinements
in the facilities Horton Country Park has to offer.
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council operates a
Ranger Service which aims
to steadily increase awareness of the Park, with more walks, leaflets,
displays, events and schools involvement. Plans also include the
restoring of ponds, planting hedgerows, managing woodland and much more.
You have already reached the last half of the 1980's, a
period of great development in the Park, with the opening of
the Farm, Golf and Equestrian Centres.
The Equestrian Centre is the large building on your
right. All the Centres are steadily increasing in
You are now travelling through the early 1980's and late
1970's, a time of quiet consolidation, which is seeing the
building of the car park, toilet facilities, conversion of
farm buildings to offices, tree planting, pond construction
and path building.
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council with support and grant aid from
Surrey County Council and the
Countryside Commission have just purchased
400 acres of former hospital farmland from the hospital authorities and
Horton Country Park is founded.
This year is the end of a period of 83 years when the land belonged
to the hospital authorities. They bought all the land belonging to the
Manor of Horton in 1890 to develop a complex of psychiatric hospitals
which was to become the largest in Europe.
Long Grove Hospital built 1907 one five hospitals!
The date is July 1969 Man has just landed on the moon. You are
walking along the public footpath leading from Horton Lane to
Chessington, past West Park Farm which belongs to West Park Hospital.
The farm is mixed with both arable and pasture fields, supplying the
hospital with its own meat, milk and vegetables and occupational therapy
Notice on your right the large tree stumps regularly spaced along the
hedgerow, these were until recently mighty elm trees. Dutch elm disease
has killed the trees and transformed the farm's landscape like many
other areas of Britain.
September 1939 and you are walking across a wooden footbridge over a
branch line of the
Horton Light Railway. Like everyone in Britain you
are reflecting on yesterday's terrible news that we are at war and you
take no notice of the steam engine Hendon transporting a load of coal to
the hospital boiler house.
Little do you know that Hendon and the
Horton Light Railway will play
an important role in the fight against) air raids. So much so that in
1941 the railway is attacked although little damage is caused.
It is now 1916 and you are walking through Long Grove Farm which
belongs to Long Grove Hospital, the farm is again mixed supplying the
hospital with produce and occupational therapy for the patients. If you
look to your right you can see the farm buildings and beyond the
buildings of Horton Hospital.
Horton Hospital has been turned into a War Hospital for wounded
soldiers from the Commonwealth. At present the hospital is treating
hundreds of Anzacs, soldiers from Australia and New Zealand, who have
been wounded at Gallipoli.
Wounded soldiers in the Great Hall 1916
King George V
and Queen Mary will be visiting the
The year is 1912. Long Grove Hospital on your right has been open for
five years and is already gaining a reputation for being one of the most
advanced and pioneering psychiatric hospitals in the world, a position
it will maintain for many years. Visitors are arriving from all around
the world to see the innovative work being carried out here. Indeed the
idea of one storey high villas in pleasant surroundings is being copied
1909 and you are standing on what will soon be the route of the
Horton Light Railway into Long Grove Hospital.
London County Council are to build a light railway to supply the
rapidly expanding complex of hospitals in the area. It has been decided
that a different route will be taken into Long Grove Hospital than the
one used by Foster and Dicksee the contractors who built the hospital.
In any case the line they constructed has already been dismantled almost
all the way back to West Ewell Station.
The Horton Light Railway will remain in use for 40 years
until its closure in January 1950.
You have now left the Twentieth Century, the year is 1815 and the
Battle of Waterloo only weeks away. The land here belongs to the Manor
of Horton which has been owned by the Trotter family since the 1780's.
The Lord of the Manor is currently James Trotter who is High Sheriff of
Surrey. The hay meadow here is called Lambert's Mead and as with all the
surrounding meadows has been like it is today for as long as anyone can
The wood over to your right is called Great Wood which like the
meadows has been here for as long as anybody can recall. Indeed it is an
ancient wood known in the middle ages and perhaps a remnant of the Wild
wood that covered Britain 5000 years ago.
The year is now 1407 and you have just walked into a wood known as Brettgrave. The wood was planted exactly 100 years ago in 1307 on the
John-De-Rutherwyk the Abbot of Chertsey, who owns much of the
land in this area. Trees are a vital resource in these closing years of
the Medieval period. Wood has many uses from building houses to making
baskets and providing fuel for heating. To ensure a regular supply of
wood, Brettgrave is managed by coppicing and you are standing beside an
area that has recently been coppiced.
Coppicing works by gradually clearing a wood in small
sections known as coupes, taking many years to coppice the
whole wood. Most trees native to Britain don't die when cut
down and new shoots quickly regrow from the stump known as a
stool. This cycle gives the stools time to send up a new
crop of stems before being harvested once more. The length
of the cycle is dependent on what uses the locals have for
wood. For example they may leave hazel to regrow for only a
few years before coppicing the thin stems for basket making.
Oak may be left for thirty years if the wood is to be used
for making charcoal . Some trees within a coupe are known as
standards and they are left to grow into large mature trees,
big enough to provide timbers for building houses and ships.
As you travel further back in time you will discover the
reason for the woods name of Brettgrave, however if you were
to suddenly return to your own time you would find that the
woods name has changed to Butcher's Grove. Nobody knows for
certain exactly why or when the change in name happened,
however it seems to have happened sometime early in the
Nineteenth Century. It is thought that the reason for the
name change may well be the Hornbeam trees within the wood.
For centuries the hard wood of Hornbeam has been used for
making Butcher's chopping boards.
The year is now 1197, through the trees on your right is
Brettgrave a Norman moated farmstead.
Owned by the Abbot of Chertsey who owns most of the land
in this part of Surrey. Brettgrave is the original Manor in
the parish of Epsom. At present Sampson-De-Horton is Lord of
the Manor of Brettgrave. The family name of Horton is
derived from old English where "hor" means muddy and ''ton"
means town.' It is certainly a very appropriate name for
this area, where the clay soils become a sticky quagmire in
the wet winter months. The Manor of Brettgrave is destined
to fall into disuse by the Fourteenth Century and even the
name will be lost with the area becoming known as Castle
Hill. However Brettgrave will not be forgotten entirely.
Eventually it will become a scheduled Ancient Monument and
the name Brettgrave will live on as a street name in
Twentieth Century Epsom. Horton Manor will succeed
Brettgrave as the Manor in this part of the Parish of Epsom.
You are now travelling rapidly through the Dark ages of
the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Centuries. During this period
since the Romans left, society in Britain has been very
disrupted. Land once farmed has been abandoned in many
areas. The Wild wood is starting to return as you can see on
The track you have just crossed is an ancient right of way.
Even now in Roman times it has been used for hundreds of years.
The land here is all farmed and only two miles to the South lies a
Roman Villa and tile factory.
You have now travelled a further 3,000 years back in time, long
before the arrival of the Romans. Man has only just begun to farm in
Britain. He clears small areas of the wild wood, grows crops for a few
seasons and then moves on when the soil is exhausted, allowing the wild
wood to return.
You are now walking through an area where the wild wood is returning.
Already however this period is seeing the first farming settlements.
The streams in this area flow all year round even during the driest
summers making it a good place to settle. As you can see the new farmers
have started to clear large sections of the wild wood.
The wood you are standing outside has no name it is the Wild wood and
stretches for many miles to the South. It is full of wildlife such as
Deer, Beaver, Wild Oxen and many species of bird. There are even Bears
and Wolves in the area so be on your guard as you enter.
By a quirk of fate this part of the Wild wood is to remain woodland
right up to the end of the Twentieth Century when it will be known as
Pond Wood. Although much affected by mans activities the woods
continuous history makes a vital connection with the future enabling you
to travel forward 5,000 years to the end of the Twentieth Century. As
you walk through the wood it will very quickly take you forward to your
own period in time and history.
Already you have returned to the end of the middle ages. The pond is
owned by the Abbot of Chertsey.
The pond's clay dam will be burst by a bomb in 1941 and lie drained
and overgrown for fifty years until restoration work begins in the
You are now travelling through the early decades of the Twentieth
Century. You will notice that the wood has now changed to knarled old
These have been here since the 1870's when the field
within Pond Wood known as "Peaked Riding" became disused and
A Monday afternoon in June 1941 the crater on your left has just been
made by a bomb which was aimed at the nearby railway line.
For once you are grateful that you are late!
As you emerge onto the track you are back in your
own time. We hope
you enjoyed your journey through some of the history within Horton
Country park. There is much more, so why not come along to one of our
guided historical walks.
Thank you for travelling with us, please
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