Epsom Downs Racecourse - History and Facts | History Hit

Epsom Downs Racecourse

Epsom and Ewell, England, United Kingdom

The Epsom Downs Racecourse was the site of one of the most famous incidents of the women’s rights movement.

Lily Johnson

22 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Epsom Downs Racecourse

The Epsom Downs Racecourse is a historic horse racing venue, that was the site of one of the most famous incidents of the women’s rights movement. Today it continues to run horse races and is one of the most-visited tracks in the country.

Epsom Downs Racecourse history

The site of Epsom Downs Racecourse has hosted horse racing since at least the 17th century, when a number of records mention racing events including in the diary of Samuel Pepys in 1663. Charles II was also said to be frequent racegoer there.

The Epsom Derby was first run in June 1780 and is today the richest and most prestigious of the British Classics races. On 4 June 1913, the Epsom Derby saw tragedy when militant suffragette Emily Davison jumped in front of the King George V’s horse and was knocked down. She died four days later of her injuries.

Davison is said to have been holding a suffragette flag as she stepped out onto the racecourse, leading many to believe she intended to martyr herself for the cause of women’s rights. There is some dispute on this point however, with some believing she merely intended to attach the flag to the horse just before it crossed the finish line, as the incident occurred at Tattenham Corner – the final bend of the course.

Whatever her motive, she has been remembered to history as one of the key figures in the women’s rights movement in Britain, with her actions at Epsom one of its most well-known events.

Epsom Downs Racecourse today

Today the Epsom Downs Racecourse remains a working racecourse, and continues to run races throughout the year, including the Epsom Derby. As it is a public area attendance is free, making the racecourse one of the most frequented in the country. A plaque to Emily Davison may be found at the site, evoking contemplation of the moment the fight for women’s rights reached its dramatic pitch.

The Epsom Downs provide a pleasant walk, and visitors may get the chance to see horses training in the surrounding area. From the front of the site’s grandstand may also be admired a stunning view over Greater London on clear days.

Getting to Epsom Downs Racecourse

Epsom Downs Racecourse is located in Surrey, and is a few minutes from Epsom town centre following the B290, or alternatively may be reached by taking Junction 9 of the M25. There is plenty of car parking onsite. The closest train station is at Tattenham Corner, a half a mile walk away, while Epsom Station is a 10-minute taxi journey or bus ride away. The Metrobus 460, 480, and 406F bus services run from Epsom Town Centre to Tattenham Corner train station.