THE WATCH HOUSE, EWELL
The earliest record of what may be this building is a note of payment being made by the local authority for mending the fire engine house in 1777. There is also reference to an old engine being accommodated at a private house seven years earlier and it is known that a new engine was bought in 1770; this is now on display at Bourne Hall Museum. It is therefore possible that a new engine house was built around that time (though it cannot have been very well made if it needed mending only seven years later).
A visitor travelling through Ewell in 1790 noted that the building was 'just erected', which surely dates it later than 1770 and perhaps also suggests that the 1770s had produced a jerry-built shed which had to be replaced shortly after. The fire engine continued in use until the 1860s, when it was replaced by a new machine housed in a building in the High Street
There is no early information about the watch house which occupies the other compartment. It seems likely however that the building was dual purpose from the beginning, like the one at Epsom. Ewell miscreants would originally have been locked up in the market house which stood at the nearby cross roads until it was demolished around 1800.
There is a probably fictional story of a prisoner in the watch house who was cheered up by his friends in an unusual way. Being unable to pass a container of drink to him through the bars they poured cider down his grateful throat through a clay pipe instead. Versions of this story have appeared in other parts of the country and seem to go with 'olde worlde' watch houses.
Source: Jeremy Harte, Curator, Bourne Hall Museum
A leaflet on the Watch House, written by local author and historian Bob Ferris, may be viewed here (You may need Adobe Reader to view this file, this software can be downloaded free from Adobe).