Ewell Miscellany

A hard rain's a-gonna fall (1833)

The newspaper paragraph containing this snippet said that the October 1833 sitting of the Surrey sessions had nothing to excite public interest. I agree that a man attempting to steal a lady's umbrella at Ewell was mundane but would have thought that the sentence merited some comment - 14 years' transportation.

Coaching days (1891)

A coach and four near Ewell
A coach and four near Ewell

This extract, describing part of a coach journey from London to Reigate, appeared in the Surrey Mirror.
'On reaching the lower end of Coombe Wood the road turns short to the left, and the ugly low-lying village of Maldon is reached. This is really the only plain bit of road in the journey, and another mile sees us in charming scenery again, speeding on to Worcester Park. The country is looking delightfully fresh now and is quite at its best, but the four chestnuts are spinning along to time; the near leader just wanted one and it was a treat to see him get it. Mr Meredith did not pick at him as though he were trying to pick a penny out of a pint-pot, but turning his wrist gave him one, two neat and clean under the bar and a draw that made him skip up into his collar like a workman. Turning off to the right at the Plough a really charming bit of English rural scenery is traversed by means of a long winding lane, running parallel to a pretty stream with hills on either side, a picturesque vicarage and a cottage here and there being the only sign of bricks and mortar for miles round. At length we emerge once more from this charming lane, and hit off the main road to Ewell, which we gain some ten minutes or so in advance of the Dorking Coach, and rattling off the remaining two miles pull up at the Spring Hotel as fit as fiddles, and with a minute or so to the good. Good old Harry Rice is not there, however, to give us the usual cordial welcome, and it makes us sad, for he was a true lover of coaching and all sports connected with horseflesh. Our last team was now brought out to do the long stage into Reigate, and a rare lot of bays they were, as clean as a new pin on their legs, and a capital stamp, short-legged, deep-girthed and splendid quarters. Another "pal" has the privilege of driving them, Mr Christmas again taking his seat behind, having a quiet weed and a chat. The immortal spaniel who takes his morning exercise by sitting on the doorstep and howling dismally as the coaches pass was, for a wonder, an absentee. Possibly the influenza has claimed him for its own, but as we pass Mr Alderman Evans's house we get a merry greeting from a bevy of youngsters at the nursery window that does one's heart good, and if they take after their father as well as does the firstborn, who follows his father's hounds on his pony, they will all be sportsmen or sportswomen.'

Clergyman's manual comes up short (1893)

At this time villagers of West Ewell had to walk about two miles to St Mary's Church, which was apparently a rough journey in winter. Permission to enlarge St Mary's had been refused and so work began on All Saints in West Ewell. The foundation stone was due to be laid on 2 August 1893 and on 29 July this emergency request appeared in the Surrey Mirror.
'The Vicar of Ewell will be grateful for advice as to a short service for laying the foundation stone of a church.'

All Saints Church c1910
All Saints Church c1910
Image Credit: Mrs Challis

A burning dilemma (1899)

Epsom Fire Brigade
Epsom Fire Brigade
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

This all sounds rather like the Keystone Cops. On August Bank Holiday some children at Gibraltar, Ewell were playing with matches and set light to a haystack. The ten-man Epsom Fire Brigade got there eventually, having had some difficulty in acquiring horses because of the holiday. They had just unravelled the hose when the police informed them that the Epsom South Western Station was on fire and they decided that this was probably more serious, so they rolled up the hose and raced back to Epsom. On arrival they discovered that the new fire was merely some burning straw in a truck, dealt with it and galloped back to Ewell (this must have been a magnificent sight): they were still in time to save more than half of the slow-burning haystack.

Fancy that! (1902)

I did not understand what the Epsom and Ewell Fanciers' Society was (pigeons was my first thought), and, apart from the fact that people won trophies for exhibiting, I am none the wiser now, but I do at least know what categories they were hoping to add in the future.
'Various suggestions were made with a view to extending the usefulness of the society, and included a small dog show, classes for lads and more classes for dead poultry.'
Earlier in the piece the report spoke of the excellent work which the society was doing in its many examples of kindness to the dumb creation.

I have decided that the classes at a Fanciers' Society can be anything that someone fancies.

No white Knight (1903)

Frederick Walters of Green Man Street, Ewell had been charged with using obscene language. PC Knight was outside the Glyn Arms, where two men and a woman were quarrelling; he said that Walters and some other men, who were on the opposite side of the road, then shouted obscene language at him: his testimony was supported by another police officer. Walters claimed this was all a pack of lies and that he had come out of the pub, only to hear Knight using obscene language to the two men and the woman; the second officer had not appeared on the scene until it was all over. Knight then wrongly accused Walters of being drunk and the officer had refused to give his number. Several witnesses corroborated Walters' story and the case against him was dismissed.

Egg and veg (1903)

It must have been a very slow day for news in Tamworth, Staffordshire, since the local paper filled a couple of lines by reporting that an unnamed Ewell hedge-sparrow had made her nest and laid four eggs in a broccoli plant.

On second thoughts, perhaps that was a newsworthy item when you look at the structure of broccoli ….

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

One flew over the cuckoo's nest (1905)

Charles John Mantell of Cleve Cottage, Ewell died in 1904, aged 89. He had been an Excise Officer and was married three times, with seven children of his own and one step-son. A dispute arose as to Mr Mantell's final will, which had omitted his son, John, who now sought to show in the High Court that the old man had been of unsound mind.

One medical witness said that the deceased called a spade a spade 'with unnecessary warmth', but the fact that a man grumbled about his grievances and relations did not make him insane. Mr Mantell had complained about the servants, saying that the apples had diminished in quantity, the whisky had gone and the fowls had flown. A subsequent count of the birds revealed that there was one more than there should have been. Ultimately an arrangement was reached that the executors would make some provision for John Mantell out of the estate.

Reaching the parts that others can't reach (1906)

'Wanted for a small family in Ewell, a Cook and House-Parlourmaid (tall).'

The National Truss (1913)

Mr Norbury Pott, a gentleman of private means who lived at Staneway in Ewell, was Treasurer of a charity called the National Truss Society. 'This Society was instituted in 1786 for the gratuitous relief of the Ruptured Poor throughout the Kingdom'. Life donors at £5.25 or annual subscribers of 10s.6d (52.5p) were entitled to two letters per annum, but there was no mention of a complimentary truss.

Advert for the National Truss Society

Let them eat cake (1915)

Rifleman Dunscombe, serving in the trenches, wrote to his brother in West Ewell,
'We had rather an amusing incident in our little cook-house a few days ago. One of the fellows had a pudding and a cake sent out, both tied up in similar tins. We decided to have the pudding straight and boiled it for three hours. When we opened it we found it was the cake we had boiled! Result - bad language; but it looked all right, so we ate it and boiled cake wasn't at all bad.'

Ducking his duty (1921)

There was heady excitement in Ewell in August 1921 when the Birmingham Boys were involved in a major fracas: this was all to do with racetrack gangs and, if you haven't read it yet, I do recommend Dick Kirby's account on this website. As Dick says in the article, there had been a (wrong) garbled report to Epsom Police of a Sinn Fein riot at Ewell.

At that time the local police were on high alert and undertaking 'special Sinn Fein duty'. It was all too much for one constable, who took a rest on a public seat beside the Ewell spring. He was a bulky man and the seat collapsed, pitching him into the water. For some reason the Parish Council found this funny and agreed to make the necessary repair.

Lights out (1921)

In August 1921 comedian Mark Lester complained that he could not find his house in Ewell after dark because the street lamps were not lit. Ewell Parish Councillors had a rummage in the kitty and said they could afford to illuminate in October.

Lack of brightness (1922)

Charles Epler was fined £1 for needlessly pulling the communication cord on a train travelling between Epsom and Ewell. 'I thought it controlled the lighting of the train,' he said.

Voices from heaven (1928)

Dora Mary Smith (24) was found lying dead on the Cheam Road, Ewell, apparently having been struck very forcibly by a car: she had been a boarder in Epsom. The vehicle was never found and an open verdict was recorded, there being a suspicion that the girl might have flung herself into the road deliberately. Her mother had testified that Dora was highly strung, short-sighted and inclined to be careless. Dora's landlord did not consider that she was careless, but said that she had no friends at all and in his opinion she was mentally deficient, suffering from depression and hallucinations and believing that people in heaven talked to her; he had also heard her having conversations with imaginary people.

Girls only (and no tradesmen either) (1929)

John Reedham Erskine Berney must have felt really privileged to join this family if he ever read his birth announcement.
'Lady Berney, wife of Captain Sir Thomas Reedham Berney of Barton, Bendish, Norfolk, has given birth to a son and heir at Mickledown, Ewell. It is claimed for Sir Thomas's family that they have never wanted a male heir, and that they are one of the few families that have never been in trade.'
John never lived to inherit: he was killed in the Korean War in 1952.

The revenge of Tiddles (1934)

Cats Eyes
Cats Eyes
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2013

An unnamed cat must have been feeling rather hard done by, since it had climbed to the top of a 50-foot Ewell fir tree only to be badly pecked by crows. A resident phoned the RSPCA officer, but he was out, so she then called the Epsom Fire Brigade. A fireman began to climb the tree but it would not bear his weight so he used the ladder normally employed to evacuate people from burning buildings. By now the wretched animal was petrified and bit and scratched the fireman so badly that he dropped the cat, which fell to the ground and ran away, apparently uninjured. The fireman required hospital treatment for his wounds.

The miracle worker (1940)

Older readers will remember this stuff and I certainly do.

It doesn't happen so often now but years ago advertisements often contained a ringing endorsement from a beaming, satisfied customer. I always wondered if they were genuine, but in this instance there does seem to have been a Mrs Gladys Frost of Ewell, Surrey at around the relevant time. Gladys said, 'Here's the simple washing method I use to wash clothes whiter than ever!
Simply fill the copper or tub with medium hot water.

Sprinkle in enough Oxydol to swish up into good lathery suds. You only need a little.

Let your clothes soak for 15 minutes. Then rinse in the usual way. Hang on the line* and you'll be amazed how dazzling white your wash will dry - whiter than ever before!'

*I assume that the clothes were meant to hang on the line, unless Gladys was an acrobat.

There was more. 'After the weekly wash Mrs Frost actually had enough Oxydol left in the package to do all these other washing jobs as well:
Washed scullery shelves and saucepans

Washed sitting-room paintwork

Washed loose cover for sofa

Six days' washing up

Washed 4 overalls and pair of dungarees

Washed chamois gloves'

Gladys must have been the inspiration for the Peggy Lee song 'I'm a woman'.

'I can wash out 44 pairs of socks and have 'em hangin' out on the line
I can starch and iron 2 dozen shirts 'fore you can count from 1 to 9
I can scoop up a great big dipper full of lard from the drippins can
Throw it in the skillet, go out & do my shopping, be back before it melts in the pan
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again'

The battered husband (1945)

These days you do sometimes read of domestic violence by a woman against a man, but it would have been virtually unheard of in the 1940s. Thus, Mr Stanley Gray of Chessington Road, West Ewell must have been embarrassed to stand up in the Divorce Court to give evidence of assaults on him by his wife. He said that she had punched him in the face, thrown a rolling-pin and bottles at him, caused injuries by dashing a glass of milk in his face, cut him by slashing at him with a bread knife, spat in his face and struck at him with a shovelful of ashes. After all that she left him It seems that during the War she had been evacuated to Somerset, where she met another man, and the assaults began when she returned home. Mr Gray was granted a divorce.

Five die in gas tragedy (1949)

Mrs Alma K Beck (30), of Fendall Road, West Ewell, was of Indian origin and married an army sergeant whom she had met whilst a nurse in India. On the night of 31 January 1949 she and her four young children, all aged under five, were found dead in a gas-filled bedroom. A gas ring and gas poker had been installed just a few days previously. Sergeant Beck said that during his last leave Alma had been depressed and had complained of the cold weather. Neighbours said that she was always talking about the cold and had had no coal in the house for two weeks. The verdict was that she had murdered the children and killed herself.

Linda Jackson
February 2013

HV Usill
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