Interesting local history documents are sometimes found almost by accident. Item 6000/3/327 at the Surrey History Centre is scheduled as ‘Epsom and Ewell UDC later BC papers on the market incl. 1914 byelaws, (1685) – 1953’.
I could not understand how any Urban District Council papers could date back to 1685 and decided to find out what they were. This led to the discovery of a Chancery Patent Roll relating to Epsom market from the first year of the reign of James II, hence the date 1685. There was also a report on the market written by Edward Moore, the Town Clerk of Epsom and Ewell in 1953. I knew that Charles II had granted Elizabeth Evelyn, the lady of the manor, the right to hold a weekly market and two fairs at Epsom and that the grant was renewed by James II, together with a grant to hold a court of pie-powder at each of the fairs: it says as much in the Victoria County History of Surrey. (The derivation of ‘pie-powder’ is dusty-footed, a term commonly applied to an itinerant trader, hence its association with a court held to administer justice among dealers at a fair). However, I had not seen a transcript of the James II document, and was pleased to be able to do so.
The patent roll starts by referring to an inquiry held by command of James II ‘at the house of Mr. Clynch situated in Epsom in our county of Surrey on the twentieth day of May last passed’. This inquiry established that ‘on the oath of respectable lawyers known in that county recently our brother Charles II granted to Elizabeth Evelin widow her heirs and assigns one market and two fairs to be held at Epsom... a market in and upon any Friday in any week and the first of the fairs to begin in and upon the feast of St. Michael the Archangel and the second in and upon the feast of St. James the Apostle annually forever... any such fair being about to last three days’. Further on, there is reference to power and authority being given to hold a market in Epsom ‘in and upon each Friday in any week’. ‘Any profit advantage and emolument whatsoever’, from tolls for stalls, fines and penalties, were to go to ‘Elizabeth Evelin her heirs and assigns in perpetuity’.
The report written by Edward Moore in 1953 established that when Epsom Urban District Council wished to set up a Saturday market in Epsom in 1913, they became involved in negotiations with the Trustees of the lord of the manor that resulted in an agreement that the Council would lease the market for a period of three years at a yearly rent of £20 with an option to purchase the right of the Trustees for the sum of £500. The option was not taken up and the rights remained vested in the Trustees, whose agents arranged for the letting of pitches for stalls and the collection of rents.
Presumably this situation continued until 29 September 1955, when Epsom and Ewell Borough Council purchased the lordship of the manor, so that today the mayor is always lord of the manor.
With acknowledgements to the Surrey History Service