Our vision is to renovate and convert Horton Chapel into a new arts centre, with flexible spaces that highlight the building’s heritage features, and an exciting cultural programme of events, course and activities.
Aims of The Horton Chapel Project
- To establish a year-round hub for creativity in the region.
- To offer creative learning and high-quality arts entertainment opportunities
- To preserve and maintain Horton Chapel on a sustainable, income-generating, not-for profit model
- To ensure the heritage of Epsom’s Hospital Cluster is collected and shared through a permanent multi-media exhibition, accessible free of charge
- To work with local partners to bring benefits to the community
About Horton Chapel
North Epsom has a rich and unique heritage, but it is not well-known and is in danger of being lost. A Cluster of five hospitals for people with mental illness was built by London County Council between 1890 and 1927. It was the largest of its kind in the UK, possibly in Europe, and was almost entirely self-sufficient; like a second town built for thousands of ‘pauper lunatics’, on the edge of a borough associated with wealth, privilege and royalty. Thousands of patients from some of the poorest parts of London came to Epsom, and many remained for the rest of their lives. Pioneering treatments were researched and trialled here.
Horton Chapel was built in 1901 to serve the new Horton Asylum but has been empty and unused since the early 1990s. Constructed from distinctive yellow bricks made on-site from indigenous clay, it once stood proudly near the entrance to Horton Hospital. Today it is fenced off in a corner of the Livingstone Park housing development, and described as an ‘eyesore’ in the local press. Designed to accommodate hundreds of patients and staff, it is an imposing space. Many of the original Edwardian features are still in place along with poignant memorials to staff who served in the First World War, when the asylum became the Horton (County of London) War Hospital.
The coming of the psychiatric hospitals created a community and a culture that lasted for a century, and while many patients and staff were glad to see them close, others grieved the passing of a way of life.
Protecting Epsom’s heritage
We intend to include a permanent interactive exhibition about Epsom Hospital Cluster in the arts centre. The focus of the exhibition will be on the impact it had on the town – in terms of both physical geography and the people who lived and worked in them. The town’s relationship with the hospitals was at times uncomfortable, and the exhibition will explore this. It will be interactive and will include a strong oral history component, enabling people to engage directly with the voices of people from the recent past.
An arts centre for all
Our intention is to create an inspirational hub within the building and its grounds, that offers a dynamic and varied programme of events, courses and creative opportunities for all; a place where people from Epsom, and from further afield, can come to experience the arts, as audiences, participants and supporters.
Our aim is to make the arts in Epsom a more prominent, accessible and valuable part of local people’s lives.
Activities would include special events, performances of all kinds, screenings and exhibitions, as well as hands-on opportunities to learn a variety of creative and artistic skills through high quality facilities and tuition. We intend to offer flexible rehearsal, performance and teaching spaces for hire to local artists and organisations.
The centre would provide community space for hire. The exhibition and café would be a focal point for local people, open to all. We envisage welcoming schools and other groups, to learn about the unique history and heritage of the Epsom Hospital Cluster. We will link with local partners and offer skills training and work-place learning opportunities.
Our long-term aim is that the centre should have a positive impact on people’s cultural experience, health and wellbeing in the wider community, as well as the local economy.
A charitable structure
We have formed a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Horton Chapel Arts & Heritage Society, to manage the development and renovation project, and ultimately to oversee the staff running the new centre. This will enable the local community to be involved in its management and direction.