The Epsom Advertiser in 1930
The project that we are working on concerning the ‘Lost Farms of Ewell’ led Barbara and myself to spend a few hours in Epsom Library going through copies of the Epsom Advertiser published in 1930. Apart from the hope of coming across snippets of news relating to farms, the exercise was interesting for the insight it gave into the preoccupations of the period and the social attitudes. It seemed worth putting on record some of the items that caught our eyes.
Compared to a modern local paper, which has lots of photographs, the Advertiser of 1930 is visually rather dull, with great slabs of print and few pictures. Much of the news consists of accounts of court cases, most of which were of less than earth-shattering importance. They involved such things as domestic violence, deaths from natural causes, poaching, applications for divorce and keeping a dog without a licence. There were frequent references to motoring offences, one of the most frequent of which was riding a motorcycle that was not fitted with an approved silencer. Many motoring accidents were reported, and there appeared to be an ongoing debate on whether cars were too fast or pedestrians too slow! The story of a lorry that became stuck in mud had a happy conclusion: it was pushed out by an elephant that happened to be passing with a travelling circus.
Suicide appeared to be a common occurrence, with the gas cooker and Lysol figuring in many of these tragic cases. One of the few mentions of farms concerned the attempted suicide of a Priest Hill Farm worker, using Lysol. Perhaps that item should be coupled with a report that Surrey farmers were petitioning the Surrey Agricultural Wages Committee for a reduction in the minimum wage for agricultural labourers from 32s. 3d. to 29s. 2d. for a fifty-hour week.
The Advertiser covered council meetings at parish, district and county levels in lengthy accounts that make one reflect on the timeless quality of such discussions. Not that the outcomes were lacking in impact: on 31st July 1930 the Surrey County Council gave formal sanction to the construction of the Ewell bypass at a cost of £43,000, and decided to purchase the Guard House (Banqueting House) site for £1,500 for an exchange of land with the National Trust.
Murder was not a common occurrence, and when the body of a 20-year-old Scottish waitress was found in a ditch, it provided material for many issues of the Advertiser, including a full-page spread reporting on the inquest. The murderer had not been traced by the time we reached the end of December.
On 19th June 1930 the Ewell Old Boys’ Association held its annual reunion, with an Old Boys’ three-legged race, an obstacle race, and a special race for married women, the prize for which was ‘a week’s bread’. The Sutton Town Band led a procession of Old Boys to the war shrine, where Sir Arthur Glyn placed a wreath. On returning to the Rectory grounds, Sir Arthur entertained members of the Association to tea.
We had no time to on to 1931, and will probably never know whether that murderer was caught.