West Hill Cottage, Epsom: a nineteenth-century reclamation
A survey was recently carried out on West Hill Cottage, 38 West Hill, Epsom, which is the double fronted weatherboarded house facing onto the green above West Hill House. The front elevation has a very decorative trellis porch centrally located over which is a blind window, to each side of which are semicircular headed windows. There is a hipped slate roof over the front part of the property whilst the rear part is covered by a mono-pitch roof. For the full width of the house at the rear was an open verandah (now partly infilled) above which are casement windows. Internally the joinery dates from the late seventeenth century onwards, with good examples of six panel doors, panelled window shutters (used for cupboard doors and partitions) and wainscoting, the latter now set vertically to form a partition on each side of the present kitchen door.
By reference to nineteenth-century maps and comparison of contemporary detail with similar buidings of known date, it is suggested that the present dwelling was constructed about 1870. This and adjacent sites are shown with buildings on them on the 1843 tithe map, but these buildings do not seem to survive. Several of the present houses in this part of West Hill are dated between 1869 and 1875. It is interesting that a building with good quality features such as the porch and verandah incorporates so much reused joinery. This was probably for economic reasons, but the items reused were of good quality and the person responsible for their incorporation into West Hill Cottage clearly had a good eye for detail and a respect for quality workmanship of an earlier age.
Another building on West Hill (Nos. 4 and 6), is also of nineteenth century date and incorporates joinery from the seventeenth century onwards. I was told that in this case the dwellings were built by the foreman of Langlands & Sons (estate agents/property managers etc.) who got some of his materials from the firm’s builders’ yard. The items thus acquired had been salvaged from works on houses with which the firm had been associated.
Today there is an ever-expanding market for salvaged building materials resulting in the price for many items being greater than for new equivalents. However, in the nineteenth century the reuse of materials would have represented a substantial saving to the builder.