59 South Street, Epsom
During August 1987, the above properties were demolished and the developers were most cooperative in allowing a continuous monitoring of the structure during demolition (most of which was done by hand) in addition to our usual full measured survey. The buildings had for a long time been obscured by the Pallant and Foulsham showrooms, but when these were demolished a few years ago, the buildings were overhauled and appeared at first glance to be of mid nineteenth century date with modern doorways. However, stone quoins had been noted during the refurbishment which, in conjunction with red field bricks, indicated a date towards the close of the seventeenth century.
There were two principal periods of construction noted. The original buildings took the form of a pair of semi-detached houses, each consisting of a basement with two floors and attics over. The latter were certainly used to provide habitable rooms as was indicated by the remaining floor construction. Each house was one room deep and had a central entrance flanked on each side by one room. The stairs appear to have been located at the rear of the ‘outer’ rooms. Against the party wall were back to back fireplaces to heat the ‘inner’ rooms. An outshop may have existed at basement level as it would be unusual for the stepped and raking brickwork of the rear wall to have been an external feature on this type of property. In the mid nineteenth century the attic storey was built up into a second floor and a new range built parallel to the original for the full length of the rear. It also had floor levels and provided one large room on each floor, plus a replacement staircase. New low-pitch slate roofs covered both sections of the property which were rendered to give uniformity externally. Most of the joinery was of nineteenth century date or later, but the archway and cornice in the entrance of no. 59 were retained from an earlier period.
Careful note was made of as much structural detail as possible of the earlier building, including the numbered joints that correspond with the numbers in the spine beams. However it was the extensive use of stone at basement level (was it originally rendered?) and in the quoins that proved to be of exceptional interest. Firstly there are few Epsom buildings that use stone as a major constructional component before the nineteenth century and, secondly, this stone has been reused: one piece is a well-dressed and moulded block from a window surround, and the other is one side of a rebated and chamfered edging to an, as yet, unidentified detail. Both items are of Reigate Stone, but other stone types were noted on the site. Having regard to the date of the buildings that until recently existed in South Street, and recalling that items of worked stone were recovered from cesspits on the Ashley Avenue Development, it is most likely that this material had formerly formed part of Nonsuch Palace.
Once again, Epsom has lost an important link with its past and a structurally sound and fully used building destroyed. A full report is being prepared on this property and it will probably form part of a report on the important group of properties that once existed close by.