Memories of life in Ewell around 1930
West Street, Ewell, c 1870
Painted by Alice Taylor.
This image is available as a note card.
Reading the article on Ewell Village circa 1930 prompted me to sift my memory for anything that I could remember so far back.
I came to Ewell from Clapham Common in 1927 as a child of ten. I thought that compared with the house and school that I had left, Ewell was very primitive; no one had even heard of it at Clapham. Our house was built at the further end of West Street (no 91) in the first wave of building and expansion from out of Morden. The underground station1 was not yet opened and the ride to Ewell on the 70 Dorking bus was a country one for its entire length.
Half our building plot was on an old orchard and a ditch ran across the middle of the garden. We often dug up horse-shoes or ancient coins. West Street was an ancient sunken way lined with Elm trees which were gradually felled as they became diseased. There were more orchards over by the station in a place called the "Lyncets" - now the "Headway", where we could go and pick up windfall apples. Further down towards the village was a large cherry orchard watched over by a one-legged man with a gun, who would fill our hats with black cherries for 3d a time.
I kept a pet rabbit and bought hay from "Stones" the corn merchant whose barns lay behind a high wall running from beside Wilkins the bakers to Cracknells the butchers with only a pavement between them. Cracknells still had an open-fronted shop with wooden shutters that closed at night, and which left the meat exposed to the road in the day time. The animals were slaughtered in the slaughterhouse beside the shop in Spring Street.
From being a London Brownie I joined the local pack and enjoyed real country meetings where we were taken along a very lovely lane2 running past the vicarage to a field on the right of the path. Sometimes we very daringly crept into the field which we called Queen Elizabeth's ballroom3 - now exposed to the by-pass. This lane went on to Cheam, skirting the park. There was a deep pond containing large fish, which, when the new road to Cheam was cut in the cornfields, our neighbour rescued and brought back home to his pond. In an August meeting of the Brownies we were taken by steam train to Worcester Park for the haymaking. There were trestle tables inside the field with jugs of lemonade - the sort made with the brilliant acid yellow lemonade powder. All the other Brownie packs assembled here and we built stockades of hay and, at a given signal all raided each other's castles. At the end of the day we went home tired and happy - and the hay had been well tossed.
Sunday mornings a carriage would drive through the village from the Durdans
Epsom and in it would be Lord Rosebury's grand-daughter Ruth Primrose - so I understand. Sir Arthur Glynn would be seen walking the village at all times as he passed the time of day with all and sundry.
Sir Arthur Glyn c.1930
As new ratepayers to the parish my father and his neighbours would go to the parish meetings which were held in a room over the so-called fire station, which was somewhere near Williams the Newsagents (next to the old bank). The old hand pump engine used to be at the back of the open space - I don't ever remember seeing any appliance in use.
Mr Willis's shop was on two levels inside and when I was sent to buy something in there the bell would clang and some seconds after steps would be heard from the darkness and he would call out from on high. If he hadn't got what you wanted he didn't come down as he appeared to have difficulty in walking - but buying nails or other tiny items took ages. There was no hurry in the village in those days.
At the other end of the village we used to buy produce from the garden at Purberry Shott, and they owned huge Great Danes which were shut up in a special iron railed cage. Kingsway was a deeply rutted clay road and almond trees hung over the garden of Purberry Shott, the boundary of which ran the length of the wall to the Rise. Half-way down was an alley which led to a pit called the Rifle Range, which again bordered on "Snakey Alley", that now runs at the back of the Grammar school to Fairfield Rd and the brickworks.
I was with my father, shown over the brickworks one day, and we stood over the kiln and watched them open up little holes and throw down coal dust into the red heat underneath. A man outside was making bricks by hand in a shed. I don't remember that they were all made by hand. Then one night there was a huge fire and the brickworks went up in flames. The fire engines came from Epsom but they had great difficulty in getting anywhere near enough and they had to draw the water from the ponds in the spent clay pits. I have picked up many an old oyster shell over in those pits.
A postcard of the Bonesgate c.1910
"Bones Gate" Chessington was a once-a-year black-berrying expedition. There was a large pond on the opposite side of the lane, full of bull-rushes, and a pretty lane led up to the Church - not a house in sight. Another favorite picnic trip was to take our kettle and tea up "Old Schools Lane", over the style and down to the river. We children paddled while the grown-ups brewed up. Sometimes our peace would be broken by about a dozen frisky young horses galloping around. From here one could cross the Hogsmill and follow a dusty farm road by corn fields and farms to the pack-horse bridge and on to West Ewell, and come back on the main road.
Derby week we used to take an early seat down by the "Spring" and watch the inevitable traffic jam through the village, but it was very colourful with horse-drawn traffic brought out especially and dressed up for the outing. It seemed to stand still or crawl past for hours. We used to go home for lunch and resume our seats after to watch the return when the crowd was in an even more jovial mood.
An aerial photo of some of the Derby traffic passing the Spring in Ewell taken in 1921.
Image courtesy of Bryn Elliott
Great excitement for me was the rise of the Bourne which one year filled the cellars of the Market House Stores and flowed down the High Street, causing a flood at the Spring, which extended from one side to the other, joining up with the pond behind the wall at Glynn House. This was subsequently put into a drain after months of pumping operations, just before the last war.
I went to Rosebery County School as it then was, a year after it opened, and traveled to it on an open-topped bus. Sometimes I fear a great trial to the driver when our hats blew off and had to be retrieved, or on pouring wet days we hid under the large waterproof covers and made the conductor come up and collect the fares in the rain. At 4pm a 'Pirate' bus called "St George" would arrive at White Horse Drive just in front of the regular service, scoop up all the fares and rush to our delight at breakneck speed to Epsom.
About once a week the Boxhill and Dorking Stage coach, pulled by four horses would pass the "White Horse" and the driver would blow his horn to the delighted audience of school girls.
I used to think that Ewell was the dullest place to live in as a teenager - our only recreation was tennis, for which we had to go to Epsom, swimming at Burgh Heath, Ashtead or Sutton or skating at Streatham - and I could hardly wait to go to work in London.
These memories were recorded some time ago by Grace Boswell © 2009
Before WW2 there were plans to extend the Northern Line from Morden to a new station to be built in the middle of Castle Parade, Ewell (diagonally opposite The Organ and Dragon Inn) but the plans never came about due to post war austerity.
This was Vicarage Lane.
Queen Elizabeth's Ballroom field is thought to be the site of the Banqueting House of Nonsuch Palace
Detail from the 1933 OS Map - click to enlarge.
The approximate location of the Palace and the location
of the smaller Banqueting House (shown as Guard House on this map) are marked in red.