The Assembly Rooms
The Assembly Rooms is the most important surviving building of Epsom’s golden period as a fashionable spa town. It was not just used as meeting rooms, however, but was also the town’s principal tavern, coffee house, billiard room and gaming rooms – with a bowling green, cockpit and possibly a bear-baiting pit as part of the complex behind the building. Shops were also included – in 1735 the tenants included a chapman, a pastry cook and a baker.
When the Assembly Rooms building was constructed in 1692 by two London based gentlemen, Thomas Ashenhurst and Michael Cope the bowling green was already there.
As social life after the 1660 Restoration of Charles II allowed for the free intermingling of the sexes in social gatherings, purpose-built assembly rooms were put up to facilitate the process. They had to be large enough to accommodate a lot of people, especially for such activities as dancing and watching plays, and so were built relatively long and thin as building technology of the day dictated.
The Epsom Assembly Rooms were one of the first to be built in England and the oldest surviving. They are also thought to be unique in their layout, which allowed for carriages to be driven and sedan chairs carried the full length of the downstairs central alley/courtyard.