For close to 100 years Epsom was home to five mental hospitals, all of which were presided over by a 100ft high water tower. The exception was Manor Hospital, which was only meant to be a temporary site, and as is the way of the universe it was open for the longest of any of the Epsom hospitals. We recently found ourselves taking a wrong turning and ending up at the foot of the old Horton Water Tower. Well, to be honest we thought we had, but all we found was a small plaque. What had happened, had the land pirates really gone over board and taken the whole things? Nope, NIMBY had struck, but unlike a wind farm, this was something that predated everyone who opposed it.
Epsom has had a chequered history with preserving and looking after their hospitals, it was only with West Park did a decent amount of the original buildings be preserved. Long Grove and Horton were gutted and only a small part of each was preserved (The Long Grove admin is fantastic, but the same cannot be said for Horton’s), and due to the ramshackle nature of Manor only a small part was kept. The biggest shame is that no a single main recreation hall has been preserved, just one of these would have made for a fantastic community centre. The only one that survived any vandalism was at St Ebba’s hospital, and even that was ripped down heartlessly. As TheTimeChamber understands it, The halls at West Park, Horton and Long Grove all suffered arson attacks.
The other great shame is the water towers, until recently three of them still stood proudly over the old estate (originally four towered over). That was until a local councilmen (Cllr Taylor and Cllr Buxton) backed a residential campaign to have to tower removed as it was an eye sore, apparently they were delighted when the demolition was announced. Surely the people who purchased the houses within the Horton Redevelopment would have known this? You cannot buy somewhere, and then declare that the pre-existing landscape is shit and something needs to be done – the only people who really can do that are the 1 percenters. Other Hospital redevelopments have successfully converted theirs, such as Netherne and Claybury. Even the Towers at West Park and St Ebba’s are being looked after and turned into flats. Why wasn’t Horton’s treated in the same manor? The need for £400k worth of under pinning may have been the principle cause that put off any developer tackling the project. So it stood empty, derelict until the hammer fell.
Anyway, this is a small ode to all the buildings throughout the UK that could have been something, but were in turn demolished due to the lack of care by their current owners. The Victorians must be spinning in their graves, if we hadn’t paved over them. Somehow this is progress and sustainable?