Our History | Epsom College

In 1851, Dr John Propert was moved to establish a school to help widowed medical families, naming it The Medical Benevolent College. The name changed to Epsom College in 1910, but benevolence has remained at the heart of the College to this day.

Today’s medical profession is a far cry from that of the mid-1800s. Today doctors undergo extensive education and training, their counterparts in the 19th century were qualified by apprenticeships and a grounding in science was not required. Illness could be blamed on all manner of causes – wet feet, night air, violent emotion – and cured by leeches or a change of air. 100 years before the NHS, a visit to the doctor was a financial stretch for most – and payment was difficult to enforce. As a result, finances were often perilous for medical families.

Yet the biggest threat was exposure to the illnesses they attempted to treat. Death rates were high, and the families left behind had little means to support themselves.

Royal Approval

The dire straits faced by medical families moved Dr Propert to establish the College. He would educate the children, provide financial support to widowed families and house older members of the medical community. A national fundraising campaign – one of the first in Britain – followed, and Queen Victoria gave the College Royal Approval.

In 1855, The Royal Medical Benevolent College was opened by Prince Albert with Queen Victoria as Patron. Every reigning monarch since has acted as the College’s Patron.

The College's Founder, Dr John Propert

Charitable Support Today

Today, The Royal Medical Foundation is an independent charity based at Epsom College. While it no longer provides housing, it continues to offer pensions for retired doctors and their families who are in financial hardship.

The Foundation also awards one-off grants when emergency help is needed and assists with school fees to maintain educational stability in moments of crisis. Children can be educated at any school to qualify for assistance – not only Epsom College.

Visit the Royal Medical Foundation Site

Any questions?

To find out more about Epsom’s history, or if you have any information about the College’s past, please get in touch with the College Archivist Mrs Rebecca Worthy.