Horton Cemetery 1952

Petition to reclaim Horton Cemetery from property speculator


The trustees of the Epsom charity The Friends of Horton Cemetery have appealed to the public to sign an online petition on change.org that calls for Europe’s largest asylum cemetery to be returned to the community. In a bizarre decision in 1983 the Epsom five acre resting place of 9000 patients was transferred by the NHS to a property speculator. Norman Fowler was the Conservative Secretary of State for Health at the time. The property speculator was a darling of the privatisation movement having been the first to obtain and “rejuvenate” Council tower-blocks. A former local Councillor serving Epsom and Ewell at the time recalls no efforts to transfer the Cemetery to the Council, despite it being in law the “burial authority”.

It has been neglected ever since with no planning application ever being submitted by the owner. Why he holds on to it is a mystery to the trustees of the Charity. According to Lionel Blackman, the Charity’s secretary and local solicitor: “Mr Heighes, who owns Marque Securities, has never replied to any of our correspondence seeking a dialogue about the future of the Cemetery. In my opinion only a special Act of Parliament could allow the Cemetery to be used for any purpose other than a Cemetery. Even using it as “amenity woodland” would be a breach of its recognised planning status.”

The Charity’s volunteers continue to research and publish on the Charity’s website the lives of those buried in the Cemetery.

Image: Horton Cemetery in 1952. Well maintained like this until sold in 1983

Complementing this work are the initiatives of the Surrey History Centre (SHC):

Glass slides of patients at the Manor Hospital, Epsom
Did you know that SHC holds a sizeable collection of glass plate negatives, yet to be identified, of male and female patients at The Manor Hospital, Epsom.  

A project is currently underway to digitise, identify and catalogue the loose negatives of male and female patients in 6317/3/- that date from the 1890s to the 1910s.  They are a fascinating and moving portrait of the men and women who were admitted to the Manor Hospital, and a valuable resource for anyone researching individual patients or generally interested in the history of mental health treatment in the late 19th to early 20th century. 

The first stage has now been completed, comprising 79 high resolution digital photographs of male patients, and thumbnail images have been added to the online catalogue (6317/3/-), see http://tinyurl.com/55sasppx.  

As well as identifying the patient name and hospital number, importantly the catalogue entries include a cross-reference to the relevant case book in Surrey History Centre reference 6282/14/-. The case book entries, which provide a detailed account of the patient’s illness and treatment, also include a photograph of the patient, and this has enabled us to match and identify the glass negatives.

For the next stage, there is one more box of slides of male patients to complete, and we’ll then continue with the larger collection of female patient slides. 

For more on the history of Manor Hospital, see the Exploring Surrey’s Past website.

Was your ancestor in an asylum?  This talk traces the history of the care of people living with mental illness or learning disability from the 18th century through to the 1990s.  Using the records of Surrey’s earliest private asylums, county institutions at Springfield, Brookwood and Netherne, charitable foundations like Royal Earlswood and Holloway Sanatorium and the ‘Epsom Cluster’ of Horton, Long Grove, The Manor, St Ebba’s and West Park, it traces the history of mental health care in Surrey, and uses medical records to uncover the hidden stories of individual patients, including some from Hampshire.  It draws on photographs and other records rescued when these vast hospitals finally closed to explore daily life in a psychiatric institution over the course of three centuries. 

Tracing the History and Experiences of Our Asylum Ancestors, 1700-c1990 

26 February 2024, 6pm to 7pm Online
A talk by Julian Pooley for Hampshire Archives & Local Studies

This talk will take place online, 6.00 to 7.00pm Tickets £6.00. For further information and to book visit:
Hampshire County Council (hants.gov.uk) 

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