Epsom Downs is the home of the Epsom Derby, said to be the world’s most famous horse race. The inaugural event took place in 1780 at the behest of Lord Derby, the race is now held every June in front of thousands of spectators.
In June 1913, five years before women were granted the vote and when the women’s suffrage movement was fully active in the United Kingdom, Emily Wilding Davison traveled to Epsom Downs from London to watch the event.
Standing at Tattenham Corner, along the last bend of the course, Davison breached the barrier rails and stepped out in front of King George V’s horse, Anmer. She reached for the reins and was trampled by the horse. Knocked unconscious, she underwent surgery, but was unable to recover and died four days later from a skull fracture.
There is much debate as to whether Davison had planned to walk out in front of the horse beforehand. It’s believed she was attempting to pin a suffragette banner to the king’s horse. Additionally, a return train ticket was found in her possession, along with a ticket for a dance for later that day. It’s a question that has gone unanswered for generations.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled on the Tattenham Corner bend of the course that recognized Emily Wilding Davison’s work and death. A visit to the memorial, frequently adorned with flowers, also offers wonderful views across Epsom Downs, and on clear days, a view of London.
Know Before You Go
There are several trails that can be explored nearby including Langley Vale Centenary Wood which commemorates a century since the end of World War I.