Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path) walk …
Ewell in Surrey was first recorded as such in the Medieval period, in the thirteenth century, having earlier been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Etwelle (note, though, that the site was almost certainly settled at least as long ago as Roman times, lying on the Roman road from Chichester in Sussex to London, and note also that much evidence of prehistoric activity has been unearthed hereabouts). It takes its name from the Old English aewell, meaning “spring”.
The church of St Mary the Virgin was originally built in the thirteenth century, with records of incumbents dating back to 1239. It was subsequently substantially demolished and rebuilt in 1848.
Only a bell-tower of around 1450 survives of the structure of the Medieval church, and the pulpit, font and chancel screen of the fitments.
The Domesday Book of 1086 records 52 tenants, presumably tenant-farmers; and a later survey or custumal of 1290, 68, including Ralph the Chapman, William the Tanner, Richard the Mason and Thomas the Carter (Harte, 2012, Scenes from Medieval Life in Epsom, Ewell and Cuddington … ). Later inhabitants of what at the time would evidently have been a largish village died in the “Third Plague” of 1369; and still others were caught up in the “Peasants’ Revolt” of 1381. A water-mill had been built on the Hogsmill, a tributary of the Thames, by 1408, as indicated in the rental of that year. The trade in wool lay at the centre of the Medieval village’s economy, with sheep being reared in surrounding farmland (around 5 to the acre).
By the post-Medieval period, the population of Ewell had become polarised into farmers who had land, and labourers who did not, as evidenced by the manorial survey of 1577. The Lord of the Manor, Henry Lloyd, was granted licence to hold a market here in 1618. Samuel Pepys visited the village a number of times in the later seventeenth century, between 1663-5.
Bourne Hall was built here in 1770, although of the original building only the so-called “Dog Gate” survives to this day; Ewell Castle, in 1814.
Henry VIII built Nonsuch Palace nearby in the post-Medieval period, demolishing the Medieval settlement of Cuddington in the process (see July 21st posting).