A Walk Along The Hogsmill River
With William Holman Hunt c.1850
This text was written by William Holman Hunt around the beginning of the 20th Century. It describes the Ewell and the Hogsmill around 1850. I have illustrated as best I can with photos available to show definite or supposed locations described.
Line Drawing of Ewell Spring. Taken from WHH's memoirs
Ewell.....in Surrey, at the time I speak of, had a true claim to be a home of repose....... when the pedestrian, a-dust, a-thirst, and sun dazed, stepped within the surrounding rails of the crystal well, his eyes rested on the refreshing waters ere he raised them to his parched lips. The wide earth's thank offering of a spring of water out-pouring in its sparkling purity is ever a delight to the soul of man.
The village itself had no sense of modern bustling or hurry; all was arranged spaciously, all work executed with deliberation, and with such unostentation that externally there was little to distinguish the chemists shop from the bakers, or any other tradesman from that of his neighbour. On the outskirts of the trading centre there were gentleman's' homes and farmsteads ......Banstead and Epsom Downs formed the horizon to the south........
The water from the spring bore itself away in an opposite direction, first carolling along a pebble-strewed channel into a shallow pool crossed by a flat bridge, whence by the quiet searcher might be seen red spotted trout poised in mid-water, and casting their sleeping sun shadows on to the mossy gravel below, steady as though painted there. In the region beyond, the stream expanded bordered by well-tended lawns, and patterned with gaily flowered garden beds; between these widened borders lay an islet with weeping willows kissing the surface of the water. Peering down between the reflected boughs into the varnished shadows of the forest of weeds, the loiterer, lightly tiptoeing forward, might see the suspicious fish flitting lightning-like into unsearchable caverns.
A stone's-throw off, the pulsing wheel drew ones attention, and enticed one's steps along a road to the face of the mill, where whitened men bearing sacks of flour descended and ascended inclined planks between upper doorways and vans.
A further mill was so walled up as to conceal the water in its channel.
The Upper Mill. 1966
In the meadows below, the young current revelled in freedom, ofttimes taking a double course around mounds of earth well furnished with flourishing growth, then joining again and channelling itself through ditch-divided banks, under a forest of willows, with but occasional signs of any masters control.
An opening in the wooded hollow led to a track of cart ruts, winding around the river, where it broadened out into a shallow ford; the wheel marks led the way and tempted reckless feet to ford the transparent glaze of shining water, leading to a road bordered by blossoming trees and an ancient orchard, the herald of a farmhouse telling of past centuries. Beyond the house was a nave of noble elms extending in perspective to the skyline.
Stopping at the entrance to the avenue, any lover of natures shy creatures would be drawn to-wards a large lonely tarn, well-nigh carpeted with duckweed and white blossom wherever the reeds and flags had not pierced through the surface, or where far, or near, the wild fowl, or farm ducks and geese, had not cleared a domain for themselves..........
My preferred location for the above description is the mill pond
for the Corning House pictured here. Today, the viewer would be standing
on the wooden bridge facing west, with the Pack Horse bridge 45 degrees
to the right and the running track 45 degrees to the left.
Our little river below had to narrow itself to pass under the span of a brick-built arch made for neat booted lasses and swains; ...it then deepened and passed between banks, husbanding the currents force for man's further will; it rippled along, circling in dimples as it was driven under sheltering willows, its banks strewn with long-disused millstones, discarded roller beams, and ruined timber cog-wheels. Soon the flood was imprisoned by sluice gates; close at hand were abandoned huts, shuttered, overgrown, and choked with rank weeds.
The Pack Horse Bridge.
A coloured postcard from the early 20th Century
Here the kingfisher arrowed his way, the wild pigeon chattered and cooed, and the distant cuckoo voice noted the season. Between all could now be heard the plash and cranking of a near water wheel. Now cut off from confiding trust, not even the lonely angler ventured thus far; the region was out of the ordinary world; being thus beyond the limits of common experience when, in the remoter solitude, a being, black as a creature of dark Avernus, passed by, he seemed fitly to haunt the scene. He was, however, only one who, for extra pay and much idleness, passed the day and night in turn with another man visiting at intervals a neighbouring gunpowder mill, shovelling up the deadly mixture always being ground by a revolving crusher on a circular platform.
This photograph shows the foundations of the corning house
in around 1947. But the moody lighting fits the description.
The actual location described is probably just a bit up-stream from here.
The water served two neighbouring mills, and then for a mile or so it revelled in wanton freedom, cutting deep down into hollow meadows, nearly covered in border tangle. It emerged again between well-trimmed banks for further mill service before it got finally free in wide meadow-land.
William Holman Hunt c.1850