Land called "Sytus" in Epsom adjacent to the source of The Rye brook through Ashtead


A boundary between Ashtead and Epsom believed to have been established in Romano-British times ran in a virtually straight line from Woodcock Corner in the north to Nutshambles in the south as indicated by the following map of the manor of Ashtead based upon a survey in 1638. It appears that during the Middle Ages it was modified to follow the course of The Rye brook, west and south, to create a salient towards Epsom enclosing Lanthornes Green.

Ashtead Map 1638 - click image to enlarge
Ashtead Map 1638 - click image to enlarge
Image courtesy of Leatherhead and District Local History Society

In a description of the bounds reference is made to "some lands within Epsom called Sytus" that came after Lanthorns. These fields have been coloured yellow on an early edition Ordnance Survey Map from which it may also be seen that The Rye brook, in blue, ran along the western edge, having risen from a well or spring in plot 38 on the 1638 map.

1867 OS Map - click image to enlarge
1867 OS Map - click image to enlarge

One can only speculate on the derivation of "Sytus" but, because 'i' and 'y' may be found used interchangeably, the word could simply be Latin for a place where something originates or exists. The question then arises "site of what" and an answer suggests itself in "the source of The Rye brook". Since the stream is the only real supply of fresh running water in Ashtead it would have had great importance in antiquity and the spring could have become a cult centre.

The Domesday Book shows that in 1086 Epsom was a possession of the Abbey of Chertsey whose ownership has been reported to date back to 727. Early records of the manor of Horton are lacking but in the 15th century the abbot granted this estate to John Merston. By inheritance and marriage it passed down through the Merstons and over to a branch of the Mynne family. A Marriage Settlement drawn up on 4 December 1625, in contemplation of the union of John Mynne of that ilk with Alice Hale from Walden Regis, refers, inter alia, to "All that Messuage called Woodotte nowe or late in the Tenure of the said John Mynne" and "Siters Close contayning by estymacion Twelve Acres". The capital messuage of Woodcote, that had come to be held "of the manor of Horton", was, however, acquired by a distant kinsman, George Mynne, before 1626 when he purchased the rest of the Horton property.

Sytus appears to have formed part of the Woodcote estate. In 1638, George Mynne also held the freehold of Lanthornes (Lanterns) in the manor of Ashtead. That Mr Mynne died in 1648 without leaving a will and his son, also named George, survived him only until 1652. By a will dated 18 May 1663 of Anne Mynne, widow of Epsom, one of the co-heiresses to the family's real estate became her daughter Elizabeth (b 1629), who had married Richard Evelyn, Esq., during the year of her father's demise. John Evelyn's Diary mentions a journey to Woodcote on 16 August 1648 to attend his brother Richard's wedding to a "co-heir of Esquire Minn, lately deceased, by whom he had a great estate both in land and money on the death of a brother". Tragically, although the couple subsequently had four sons none of these prospective heirs survived infancy. Richard himself lived until 7 March 1669/70, his final illness being described in his brother John's Diary, - on 21 March, his body is reported to have been carried for interment within the chapel in Epsom Church belonging to Woodcote House.

Eventually, Elizabeth (Mynne) Evelyn's will dated 22 January 1691, proved 3 August 1692, left "Manor lands and tenements in Ebisham and Ewell etc. [Epsom Manor inherited from her mother, Mrs Ann (Parkhurst) Mynne] in trust for the benefit of her sister, Dame Anne (Mynne) Morley, as a life interest (lasting until her demise on 6 June 1704), with remainder first to Anne's son from her first marriage, John Lewknor, and secondly for John Parkhurst of Catesby, Northants. John Parkhurst in fact succeeded to that estate following John Lewknor's death on 19 February 1706. The Manor of Horton and "capital messuage called Woodcote House" were bequeathed to Charles Calvert, 3rd Lord Baltimore, described as "kinsman" because Elizabeth (Mynne) Evelyn was the grand niece of Anne Mynne wife of 1st Lord Baltimore, George Calvert.

On 26 April 1765, Captain Robert Eden of the Coldstream Guards married the Hon. Caroline Calvert, daughter of Charles 5th Lord Baltimore. Their son, Frederick Morton Eden, was born, 13 June 1766 (to be named after his uncle, the 6th Lord Baltimore of Woodcote Park, one of the witnesses signing the register at his parents wedding). The birth is believed to have taken place in Ashtead House, on Farm Lane, a property rented by Robert Eden. The latter resigned his commission as a captain in the Coldstream Guards, 14 July 1766, and a second son, William Thomas Eden, arrived on 13 April 1768. In August 1768 Frederick, Lord Baltimore, conveyed various pieces of real estate in Epsom to Robert Eden including "Citers [a corruption of Sytus], about ten acres abutting the Ashtead parish boundary". The Eden family had, however, embarked for Maryland so that Robert could be installed, in an act of nepotism, as Governor of the Calvert's proprietary colony. During 1769 Robert and Caroline Eden sold on Citers, with other properties, to John Durand of Carshalton. Durand re-sold the ten or so acres, described as Caters, to Nathaniel Smith of Ashtead House in 1786. From that date what had originally been called Sytus was united with the area containing the source of The Rye brook within the Ashtead House estate.

Now the stream issues from a substantial pond to the south-east of Little Park Farm, off Farm Lane, Ashtead. The fields comprised in Sytus remain largely undeveloped between what was Marsden's Nursery and Woodcote Stud being accessed from Wilmerhatch Lane, Epsom.

Brian Bouchard © 2009
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society


Appendix

Ashtead / Epsom Boundary
Following R. A. Lever Proc. L & D LHS Vol. 4, No. 5, 1981
Lawrence's Itinerary, Ashtead, 1638   Chertsey Cartulary, Epsom, 1495
  North  
  Woodcock Corner  
Woodcock Park 1 Kocshete (Cockshoot)
  2 King's way from Kyngeston to Walton on the Hill
Lanthorn Green near to Epsom Well 3 Werehull , a place in the heath.
[Ware - Middle English from Old English waer - watchful /attentive.
Hil - Middle English from Old English
Hyll - little hill, to distinguish from, dun, as used for "The Downs"]
"Lookout Hill" would have been an incline or slope, heap or mound, probably the elevated ground, that on which the Wells Estate now stands. Epsom Common was heathland in contrast with Ashtead's "Forest".
The boundary from this point appears to turn eastwards, around freehold land traceable to 1543, following the course of The Rye to Lanthorns Corner and side of Lanthorns before continuing along lands within Epsom called Sytus - in August 1768, Citers - about 10 acres lying east of Ashtead House   Intriguingly, a "Mound" is marked at this point on the 1870 OS Map. In 1902, there was, in the area, "a filter bed for a local section of Epsom drainage system...Against this [was] a small stone mark but any inscription [had] entirely disappeared."

Searches for the mound, reported to have been ditched and rising only one foot above normal ground level, proved unsuccessful in 1966 & 1999.
Abbot's Pit Lane
Abbot's Pit (Pleasure Pit) [distinguish from Abbotisput]
4 Merlesherne iuxta Ashtead
[Merle - Middle English from Old French, from Latin merulus/merula - blackbird;
more likely a corruption of
Marle - Middle English - Marl
Herne - Middle English from AngloSaxon/Old English hyrne - a nook, corner or angle]
The Breech (Shepherd's Walk)
[to the west of Nutshambles]
5 Portway
[to the east of Motshambles]
Nutshambles 6 Motschameles ( Motshambles)
  South  
Mynne G
Horton Manor
Woodcote Park
Woodcote Park
Rev. Boucher
Rev. Boucher
Rev. Parkhurst
Rev. Parkhurst
Sir Fredrick Eden
Sir Fredrick Eden
Mynne G
George Mynne
Darcy E
Edward Darcy
Kingswood Warren
Kingswood Warren
Pitt Place, Epsom
Pitt Place