Horton Cemetery occupies a 5-acre site and is the largest abandoned hospital cemetery in the UK and Europe, holding burials from 1899 to 1955.
In 1983, the Department of Health and Social Care sold the Horton Cemetery site to property developer, Michael Heighes, director of private property development company called Marque Securities, with no conditions placed on its maintenance. Marque Securities is based in Kingswood Hall, Surrey.
Since then, the site has become increasingly a wasteland, in a poor state, derelict and inaccessible. In 2004 an elderly dog walker made a disturbing discovery on the footpath and in 2012, human remains were found to have surfaced on the site.
The Friends of Horton Cemetery has ambitious plans including reclaiming the site and transforming it into a beautiful, calming garden-arboretum. The Friends would also establish a memorial book to record for posterity each of those buried in the cemetery.
In 2021, we successfully gained Heritage Listing of the Cemetery, an important milestone for the Charity.
However, there are challenges to overcome before this vision can become a reality.
We have appealed to Marque Securities, the current owners, that they consider transferring the land to the Charity. However, this has not been successful to date.
Director Michael Heighes bought the land for commercial purposes and future investment. His bids to develop the site have so far been met with refusal from Epsom and Ewell Council.
For his part, the owner is still hoping to get permission one day to concrete over the graves and use the site for leisure development ‘suitable to that area’. At one time he asked if he would need special permission to turn the land into a pet cemetery.
Mr. Heighes offered the council “a useful chunk” of the cemetery ground where they could have put the memorial, but in return wanted the go-ahead for developing the rest of the site, which the council refused. The memorial was therefore placed outside the boundary of the cemetery.
More recently, the Friends approached Epsom and Ewell Borough Council with a legal case to request the compulsory purchase of the cemetery. Again, to date, the council have not been supportive which is both disappointing and surprising given the importance of the site to the history of the Borough. Further details recorded in the local press in April 2022 may be read in the Epsom and Ewell Times.