The memorial at the Dipping Well, High Street, beside the Dog Gate entrance to Bourne Hall has the names, rank and units inscribed of 80 men from Ewell who lost their lives during the Great War. The tablet on which the names are inscribed is a piece of Portland stone measuring 4 feet by 3 feet, and stands on a small plinth, enclosed by cast iron railings. Historic England records that 'Local tradition says that the spring was enclosed to commemorate the peace of Waterloo. (Links on this site to Locals who died at the Battle of Waterloo and Railings)
If the 80 names on the Dipping Well memorial are compared with the names on the St Mary's Churchyard memorial it will be seen that they are all duplicated, but that St Mary's bears an additional 2 names i.e. Alfred George Muspratt and George Henry Gwilliam Tomsett.
At first inspection it appears that the names on the Dipping Well memorial are in no logical order; not alphabetical, not by rank or unit or actual date of death, whereas the St Mary's names are in alphabetical order. This is because the Dipping Well memorial started life not as a memorial erected after the war, but as a War Shrine erected during the war, and not on its present position but on the front of the Watch House. Names were added in the order of the dates of the officially confirmed deaths of the men. Some men were officially 'Missing in Action' and were not declared as presumed dead for some months or even years after they went missing. The first War shrine to be erected in the UK was at South Hackney around April 1916, and from then onwards many more were erected around the country, the Church of England being the main driving force.
At the Ewell Parish Council meeting held on 20 November 1916 the committee met to consider providing a Shrine for the Parish. They agreed to collect more information to find out the cost of a stone slab and lettering, and met 4 days later to consider the matter. (Full transcript of all the Parish Council minutes relating to Shrines/Memorials, see appendix 5). There appeared to be some confusion over whether the slab was a shrine or a memorial. The first meetings discussed erecting a 'shrine', and later meetings discussed the 'memorial'. My dictionary defines a shrine as 'a place hallowed by its associations', and a memorial as 'serving or intended to preserve the memory of anything'.
The estimated cost for the stone, fixing it to the Watch House, and lettering was about £10. The names were to appear in the order killed. Letters asking for subscriptions were to be sent out to the wealthier inhabitants of the Parish. The Epsom Advertiser of 15 December 1916 reported on the Council meetings (see appendix 6).
The Memorial committee met again on 15 and 19 March 1917 and agreed that the shrine/memorial should be unveiled at 3.30pm on Sunday 15 April, having had the first 29 names inscribed. The unveiling was reported in the 20th April 1917 edition of the Epsom Advertiser (full report appendix 7). Many people gathered in front of the Watch house to witness the ceremony, which lasted about half an hour. The service opened with the hymn, "O, God, Our Help in Ages Past," sung by the combined choirs of Ewell and West Ewell Churches. The Vicar read words of comfort for the living, and thanks were given to God for the great and glorious victory over spiritual foes and the victory over death.
The Chairman of the Parish Church (Mr. A.R. Glyn) then unveiled the tablet, which was draped by a Union Jack, revealing the names of the first 29 men confirmed to have been killed. Mr. Glyn then remarked that the tablet was now taken out of private hands and committed to the care of the Parish Council. The tablet was intended to be a permanent record to remind the parish of those who had given their lives in the service of their King and Country.
Dedicatory prayers were then uttered by the Vicar, after which the hymn, "On the Resurrection Morning" was sung, and the Benediction was pronounced. At the conclusion of the service "The Last Post" was sounded by Bugler J.C. Gydosii, a French-Canadian convalescent at Woodcote Park Camp, Epsom.
A vote of thanks was recorded in the council minutes to the Vicar for the very beautiful service he conducted on the occasion of the unveiling of the war memorial. The Rev. J. Wallace, in reply, said he was glad so many of the inhabitants were present at the unveiling of the tablet.
Additional names and information
It seems that batches of names were added periodically. The Epsom Advertiser for 15 June 1917 reports that the Parish Council decided to add the names of those who had fallen since the last names were added. Unfortunately no names or the number of names added was reported.
A request was made by the Ewell Old Boys Association to the Parish Council, reported in the 15 February 1918 edition of the Epsom Advertiser (see appendix 8) for a notice board to be added to the Watch House that would "make known the Old Boys' doings in the war". The board might show any medals or promotions awarded to those serving, or if they had been wounded or made a prisoner of war, any fact relevant to their service could be displayed, thereby, it was hoped, helping to keep up morale on the 'Home Front'.
So by the end of 1916 Ewell Parish Council had embraced the National movement to erect a shrine/memorial, decided on the form it should take, where it should be erected and had collected most of its cost. Now, if asked to say which years of the Great War were the deadliest, I suspect most people would say 1916 because of the Somme, or 1917 because of Passchendaele. Yet, for Britain at least, 1918 was the deadliest year.
It seems remarkable to me that at such an early stage in the war, the Parish Council had managed to, quite accurately, estimate the size of the Portland stone needed to display the 80 names that it was to finally bear. The names are arranged in three columns, the first two columns bearing 27 names each and the third bearing 26 names. Whilst there is space at the bottom that could possibly bear another 10 names, the layout is pleasing and not obviously out of balance. The first 29 names were engraved by April 1917.
The following table showing the numbers of fatalities for the dipping Well memorial throughout the War which approximately mirrors the National experience.
For many years between the world wars the memorial on the 'Watch House' was the focal point for remembrance ceremonies. The picture above taken c.1930s shows the memorial attached to the Watch House. The banner of Ewell school old boys association is held proudly aloft, and every man seems to be wearing a 'poppy', so this picture was probably taken during a remembrance day parade.
During the 1960s the Council decided that the Watch House should be restored to as near as possible its appearance when it was erected c.1770s. The memorial was thus moved to its present position at the Dipping well just outside the Dog Gate at Bourne Hall. I have so far been unable to find any detailed information regarding the move. I wonder, will this be its final position or will it be moved again?
Appendix 5. Parish Council Minutes relating to a Shrine/Memorial for Ewell.
Appendix 6. Epsom Advertiser report of Ewell Parish Council meetings.
Appendix 7. Epsom Advertiser report of Ewell Shrine/Memorial unveiling.
Appendix 8. Epsom Advertiser request for a notice board.