All lit up for the Royal Wedding
The flags and bunting for Saturday's Royal Wedding's street parties are now being carefully put away (there were eight street parties in the borough where road closures had been requested - unlike some councils we do not charge for such closures).
Weddings in the Royal Family have always been a time for public rejoicing but are there any local tangible benefits? Well, in the case of Epsom & Ewell, the answer is, according to Bourne Hall Museum, yes. They say that it is to a royal wedding that we owe the street lighting of the Borough.
In 1839, some local businessmen had got together to improve the town. John Bailey from the Assembly Rooms, John Steele from the school at Hylands House and others put money into a scheme for the new fangled gas lighting. In December they’d got as far as buying land off East Street for gasometers. And then came the bombshell. The young queen Victoria was going to be married on in three months’ time. They’d better hurry up – and they did. By the day of the Royal Wedding on 10 February, they had laid a gas main down the middle of Epsom High Street.
Huge crowds assembled in St. James’ Park to cheer on Victoria and Albert as they made their way to the chapel. After the wedding,bands played God Save the Queen and tremendous cheers resounded through the park. In the evening, everyone made their way home happy and tired – some of them to Epsom, to admire the new illuminations in the town from the new gas light.
Actually, it wasn’t that bright and within five years residents were demanding more light. Luckily in 1847 the new railways brought in cheap coal for the gasometers, and the supply was increased. In 1902 the Council replaced gas with electricity but there were still businesses using gas lighting up to World War 2.
The Spread Eagle junction with one of the original gas lights
(image from Bourne Hall Museum)