Fitznells in the snow, March 2018 Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum
In the 1660s a London grocer called Thomas Turgis began buying up property in Surrey. He had acquired the rotten borough of Gatton, which gave him a seat in Parliament, and he was keen to acquire the landed interest that went with it. By the time of his death in 1704, he had purchased three sub-manors in Ewell — Fitznells, Buttalls and Ruxley — together with copyhold properties held of the manor of Ewell itself, and some freeholds in the village. The estate which Turgis had built up is summarised in one of the estate deeds as 26 messuages, 3 mills, 3 dovehouses, 36 gardens, 1200 acres of land, 200 acres of meadow, 200 acres of pasture, 100 acres of wood, and 80 acres furze and heath. It was sold in 1784 to Thomas Calverley from Sussex, whose son Thomas built Ewell Castle in 1814. In 1852 James Gadesden, who was already the tenant of the house and the estate, acquired title to it, and it remained with his family until it was sold off in 1902. (Click here for more on the Gadesdens.)
After remaining for many years with the family solicitor, the estate papers — called the Ewell Castle, Calverley or Gadesden archive — came in 1970 to Surrey History Centre, where they are now held as SHC 940. (They used to be under the number 1094). Ever since then, the documents have been stored in the order in which they arrived, by which they had been stored at the solicitors since 1902 or earlier. You can imagine them being handed down from the attic, a bundle at a time, each bundle tied up in pink legal tape and numbered. The numbers from 1 to 23 were given by the solicitors; 24 to 26, 27 to 44 (which came from a box marked 'Ewell Castle — Gadesden') and 45 to 53 (which were all packed together and marked 'Gadesden') were all numbered later by the archivists. 20 wasn't literally a bundle — it is so large it must have been a strongbox set aside for the manorial papers — so it was divided up into sections and subsections, although for some reason there was never any section 11, 14 or 20. Within each of the groups (either sections or bundles) the individual documents are numbered.
These groupings don't make much sense. For instance, the deeds for Ewell Grove start in bundle 25 and then the rest of them are found in bundle 31. Occasionally two copies of the same document are found in different places, such as the sixteenth-century rental in bundle 20 which appears in section 18X/ii and again in section 30. As far as I can see, the existing arrangement does not represent archival order and so, in order to make the documents a little easier to understand, I have taken the summaries which were made of them and rearranged these, in chronological order of bundle or section, under five headings:
The summaries were prepared by the Documentary Group of the old Nonsuch Antiquarian Society (now Epsom & Ewell History & Archaeology Society) when they were indexing local documents in the 1970s. At first their only goal was to note the names of people and places in a document, and although they soon began to supply more detail of what the document was about, their listings are not full archival schedules. As for accuracy, you have to remember that many of the manorial documents are abstracts made in the sixteenth century from court rolls which even then were up to a hundred years old. Then the transcribers of the Documentary Group had to read these copies; and finally we've copied the notes that they made. That leaves several opportunities for u to get confused with v, r with s, c with t.
Some of the confusion is due to the history of the estate itself. The oldest records came with the manors of Fitznell, Buttalls (which is spelt in a variety of ways — Battailes, Bottals etc.) and Ruxley (sometimes Roxley). Fitznells and Buttalls were put together in the thirteenth and fourteenth century out of scattered tenancies in Ewell, so they existed only as collections under a lordship and not as a property you could draw a line round on the map. The manor of Ruxley, on the other hand, was a separate area north of Ewell, afterwards Ruxley Farm. Because its lords managed it as a farm, they didn't need to hold courts for the tenants, and so there are no manorial records. You can see a summary of the descent of these three manors from the Victoria County History. There's more on the descent of Fitznells in the notes on its medieval Cartulary. Click here for more on the history of Buttalls.
Ruxley Farm in the snow
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum
Courts were held for both Fitznells and Buttalls, and the business transacted at them was recorded on manorial rolls. Unfortunately we don't have these, except for draft copies for Fitznells, 8 October 1484 and 21 October 1561 (20/12/i and /ii). Instead we have extracts copied out from the original rolls at various times in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These don't seem intended to trace the descent of a single property; they are more like jottings made by a lawyer to check claims that people were making from memory.
Collective memory was very long. At Fitznells it went back to the survey of the manor made c.1315 by Robert Fitzneil, the survey of Ewell made in 1408 by Merton Abbey, and the second manorial survey made in 1476 by Robert Leversegge. These are cited in a rental (20/12/xxi/25) which carries the sequence for selected tenancies up to the reign of Elizabeth.
Working through old rolls to check up on rights and duties is what you would expect from a new owner. At Fitznells, this was probably Edward Horde, who acquired the lordship in 1562; at Buttalls it would have been William Saunder when he acquired the lordship on the death of his sister-in-law Jane in 1553. They left notes for themselves — for Horde, to 'enquire of Dowse how many acres he has in Elliottes Close in Nether Northcroft, and upon whose ground the hedge stands between Waterer and Elliott, and whose the berry is at Rydon, and whose the wood is att above Rydon, and whereabout Talehill begins and how far it goes' (Fitznells 20/12/xxi/27); for Saunder, to bring old rolls of the Court (1461-2) to disprove George Codyngton's claim to hold freely and not from the manor (Buttalls 20/25). Buried by accident among the working papers is a letter of the 1560s to Horde from Richard Duithe of Berkhamsted with the fees for his son at boarding school: 2s 6d per week for bed and board (Fitznells 20/12/xxi/6).
For us, their enquiries are valuable because they preserve glimpses of the medieval administration of the manors, in the days when Abbottes Pitte really was the pit of the abbot, and tenants were still paying Romescot to the Pope (Buttalls 20/18X/ii). The servile tenue of four days' work at harvest and one at haymaking is recorded from 1423 to 1526 (Fitznells 20/12/xxi/25) and rents could be paid with four fat fowls as well as money (Fitznells 20/12/i). There is little sign of dislocation by the building of Nonsuch, although a strip which once belonged to Cuddington Field is said to be 'now' (i.e. between 1558 and 1580) inside the park of the Earl of Arundel (Fitznells 20/12/xxi/5). The estate later included more lands in Nonsuch Park but these seem to have been acquired afterwards (Freeholds 2/1 to 9).
By matching the tenancies copied from the old court rolls with the estate survey made for William Newland in 1711 (transcribed from Estate 20/17 — see the link above), and then taking the sequence forwards to the properties owned by Calverley in 1802 at the time of Enclosure, it should in theory be possible to reconstruct the sequence of tenure for properties in the estate from the present day back to medieval times, perhaps even to 1315. But there are obstacles to this. Firstly, all the medieval field strips were swept away before the 1802 map was made, so that it is not possible to identify them on the ground; and even if we could, the ownership of land in Fitznells and Buttalls was broken up by frequent exchanges with tenants of the manor of Ewell itself.
The manorial documents continually refer to acres and half-acres in the open fields, which are identified by the names of their furlongs, and allowing for variant forms and scribal corruption these match up with the forms given in the 1408 and 1577 manorial surveys of Ewell. There are also several names for other fields and features, among them curiosities like Jack of the Cap 1771 (Copyholds 10/29), Cuckoo's Pen 1794 (Estate 15/9), Maudlin Millers 1797 (Estate 15/5), Punch Pond 1802 (Freeholds 48/6b) and Money Pit 1812 (Copyholds 1/10). It is not always clear where these were.
Then, when it comes to residential properties, there may been exchanges and enfranchisements among these. Besides, not every property lasted until the modern period: there is a sad Victorian reference to a cottage 'formerly on one plot fallen down from decay, far back from road, at a distance from any railway station or road used by public conveyances, too isolated to be used as building land, and not eligible anyway' (Estate 43/11b). Not much use looking for that.
Some of the tenancies were in Epsom or Cuddington; a few of them may have been outside the area altogether. And when trying to place a reference in context, you have to allow for the tenacious repetitiveness of the legal mind. Amongst the appurtenances of the house at Ewell Grove was 'the church pew formerly belonging to Henry Kitchen, and in the gallery erected by him' (Estate 32/8), duly included by the solicitor in a deed of 1868 even though both pew and gallery had been pulled down twenty years before in the demolition of the old church.
These and other factors make it hard to reconstruct a full topographical history. Properties in the two manors (plus Ruxley, for which there is much less history) were supplemented in the eighteenth-century build-up of the estate by other copyhold and freehold properties in Ewell, and this can be confusing. But even as they stand, the Gadesden papers offer a unique view of Ewell over a long span of time, starting in the mid-fifteenth century and continuing unbroken down to the compulsory purchase of railway land from the 1840s onwards (Estate 52/1 to 11). In 1845 the Epsom & Croydon Railway Co. agreed that 'if station is built within sight of windows of Ewell Castle and considered by occupants to be unsightly, it will plant trees, shrubs and evergreens to conceal it' (Estate 21/4). Active development of the estate seems to have come to an end in the 1880s, and the last document is dated 1905.
The records are also rich in family information. Several sections contain copies of wills, baptismal, marriage and death certificates, along with statutory declarations about the family and property relationships of a deceased neighbour. Apart from a pedigree of the Calverleys (Estate 24) these records usually deal with names that were familiar in village life: Ansell, Butcher, Hall, Hebard, Kitchen, Jubb. They provide a useful genealogical resumé as well as showing the links between the main local families.
Ewell Castle in the snow
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum
Some of the clearest documents in the archive deal with farms, all recognisable on the map with the exception of Goldsmiths Farm, which I think was Marsh Farm: at least this was occupied at one point by the Goldsmith family, and lay near the field Cuckolds Haven which is mentioned in conjunction with Goldsmiths Farm. Another uncertain property is the Sheep Walk, of 53 acres (Estate 23/8, 32/5) or 44 acres (Copyholds 11), apparently on the Ewell Downs.
There are several agricultural leases from the nineteenth century — Ruxley Farm with a list of fields in 1828 (Estate 22/2), North Looe Farm in 1864 (Freeholds 53), Ewell Court Farm in 1882 (Freeholds 35), Longdown Farm in 1884 (Estate 26/9). In 1827 the rent of Longdown was 'such a sum of money as shall be equal to the price or value of 24 loads of wheat of the Imperial measure' (Estate 22/1).
Several documents give an insight into farming methods. There are some day-to-day records of this from the seventeenth century (Estate 20/17) and the manorial courts dealt with questions like the one brought at Fitznells — 'whether we may lop great lodes or cutt down coppyes woodes growing upon the wased lands yff the tenents will permyt us to come upon the grounds' (20/12/xxi/11b). The courts allotted duties for clearing watercourses — the ditch from Stowelles to Black Pond in 1561 (Fitznells 20/12/ii), Godkepes Pond and Kippings ditch in 1576 (Buttalls 20/25).
Good husbandry was often required in leases, like the one stipulating that the tenant of a cottage in 1811 shall 'preserve all the fruit trees in the orchard and plant young ones to replace' (Copyholds 5/5). At Ruxley in 1836 the farmer had a right to dig chalk from Thomas Calverley's chalk pit in Long Furlong, presumably for marling the fields (Estate 22/6). Staff weren't forgotten, either; covenants for farming practice at North Looe in 1888 include a requirement that lessor provide a bath with housemaid's sink, hot and cold supply, and new kitchen range (Freeholds 53/2).
Ewell was still very much a farming village. On 29th October, the day of Ewell Fair, two acres of pasture off the High Street were reserved in 1791 for William Martin to occupy so he could 'show horses and cattle' with two gates made in the hedge and an obligation 'to put up posts and rail for tying them up with least possible damage' (Estate 17/7). Fair rights for horses and pigs (though not for sheep or cattle) were awarded to Calverley at Enclosure in 1802 and he sublet the tolls to Mary Kitchen, widow of Henry Kitchen II, the builder.
Most industry in Ewell was in the service of agriculture. These are frequent mentions in the estate papers of the Upper Mill, which was in Fitznells Manor; the Lower Mill was independent by the time that the main sequence of documents begins, but several properties abutted onto it and William Jubb the paper manufacturer is often mentioned. In 1798 Calverley builds 'a certain Wind Mill for grinding corn and also a house for the Miller also Corn Mill etc.' (Estate 15/20); this is the windmill on the parish boundary off East Street. In his will of 1821, Richard Mason the mealman leaves his nephew John £500 and goodwill of trade, with 'flour waggon, sacks, and 5 horses as selected' (Freeholds 48/15). A tanyard is mentioned in 1720 (Freeholds 6/3) and in 1866 William Butcher was working seven acres off West Street 'as a brickfield, with kiln, cottage, and buildings thereon' (Estate 42/24).
An industrial project which would have transformed the village, but which never came off, was the plan to canalise the Hogsmill. A full costing of this survives (transcribed from Fitznells 20/3A/xxii — see above), copied from what may have been a submission to Quarter Sessions. It isn't dated, but was compiled between 1754 and 1769 when Jane Challoner was miller at the Upper Mill. Although Ewell never made it as an inland port, there may have been works to the Hogsmill about this time, since there are references in 1771 to meadow land some of which abutted on the Old River and some on the New River, as if its course had been changed (Copyholds 10/29).
Pubs are usually the easiest property to trace through the years, but there weren't many in the estate. The Hop Pole in West Street was added to the portfolio in 1855 (Freeholds 49); there was also the Organ Inn, not the pub on Kingston Road but another property in West Street so called in 1811. At some point before 1770 it had been 'in the occupation of Roger Bundy, organ maker', which can hardly be a coincidence (Copyholds 4/1 to 5). The White Horse in the High Street may once have been a pub, but it was no longer used as one in 1819 and by 1865 Ebenezer Jull was running a drapers and general store there, equipped with 'chaise house, stable, warehouse, salt room, and drying room... with malt yard in the granary, shed, and poultry house' (Freeholds 41/5; cf. 43/8).
A few of the big houses in the village belonged to the estate, in addition to Ewell Castle itself (Estate 21/1, 26/3, 42/47), for which there is an inventory of furniture from 1843 when the Gadesdens moved in (Estate 21/5). Details of houses and grounds can also be found for Tayles Hill in 1760 (Estate 17/1), Chessington House in 1798 (Freeholds 48/2), Ewell Grove in 1840 (Freeholds 31/1), Park Hill House in 1869 (Freeholds 37), and Hill House in 1871 (Freeholds 33/1).
Many smaller landmarks around the village make their appearance, such as the Common Pound, next to Pedlars Rest opposite the Eight Bells, which is mentioned in 1872 (Estate 43/11c), or the steps leading down from the Ewell West railway bridge into what is now Gibraltar Rec, laid out in 1865 as 'a swing gate with steps, on embankment of the road leading to Ewell Station, to enable A.W. Gadesden and his tenant to have access to his land at foot of embankment (Estate 26/5). Gibraltar Rec itself appears in 1854 as The Cricket Field, formerly Calverley's Close (Freeholds 47/1).
Down Old Schools Lane in 1852 was the 'School House built by Thomas Calverley, now used as National School, also 11 perches land as playground' (Estate 32/5). The 'land known as Lahase' in 1712 turns out to be the Grove, 'measuring 511 feet long from the common Epsom Road on South East of said premises to Gallows Street Lane on North West and in breadth at South East and from garden wall of Thomas Williams to a barn belonging to Thomas Banks 39 feet, and in breadth at North West end from the house of Thomas Williams to a farmyard in the possession of Richard Calverley 45 feet' (Buttalls 20/13).
At the foot of West Street, deeds of 1826 record 'ground on which were the buildings belonging to the parish called the Almshouses but which being much out of repair and in no respect beneficial to the parish, the Vestry has ordered to be pulled down and disposed of' (Estate 42/9). Thirty years later, James Andrew made a will bequeathing a garden at Gibraltar Place, between Europa Point Cottage and another cottage 'which said freehold ground is the only piece remaining unsold of the land purchased by me from the Guardians of Epsom Union' (Copyholds 38/19).
And so Ewell changed over the years. It is fortunate that this one archive has preserved so many details of property stretching back from the brink of the twentieth century far into the middle ages. Credit should go to the members of the Documentary Group of the Epsom & Ewell History & Archaeology Society who worked for so long on these papers, to Barbara Abdy who transcribed their records, and to Louise Aitken who prepared them to go online.