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Ewell of ‘Ancient Demesne’



Austin Lane Poole in a book of Ford Lectures under the title of Obligations of Society in the XII and XIII Centuries cites Ewell as an example of a manor of ancient demesne. This means those lands with which William I endowed the English Crown at the time of the Conquest, as a result of which the villein tenants on these estates enjoyed many immunities and privileges denied to the ordinary villeins. ‘They were relieved of the public burdens incumbent on the regular tenant in villeinage; they could leave their tenements when they wished; and they were protected by special writs provided to meet their case both against ejectment from their holdings and against any increase in their services. The privileged position of this class may be illustrated from the manor of Ewell in Surrey. Henry II granted it to the canons of Merton priory. In 1202 a certain Simon disputed the possession of some of the land within the manor by an assize mort d’ancestor. The evidence submitted by the prior is significant. He declared that all the tenants of the manor had been villeins of the king and now were villeins of the prior; and that it was never customary for an assize or sworn inquest to be held in the presence of the justices concerning the estates of the manor; but that a sworn inquest should be held among the villeins on the manor itself according to the custom of the manors of the king. Judgement was therefore given against Simon, and the assize was not allowed to proceed. This was, or at least became, the recognized law’.


It is a pity that some of these immunities and privileges do not apply today! The book was published in 1946 by Oxford University Press, price 18/-.







Following our report last month on the closure of Epsom Wells in 1665, Jeremy Godwin has provided the following extract from the Court Roll of Epsom, 1 October, 1668.


Ad hanc Curiam homagium Declarabant in his Anglicanis verbis sequentibus, videlict That the Homage being asked whether they did dislike of the pulling downe of the Wall or fence about A Well in Ebisham lyinge neare the principall Well called Ebisham Well which was sett up by the Order of Richard Evelyn Esq., Lord of the said Mannor they answered they did dislike the pullinge downe the said Wall and fence As prejudiciall both to the Lord and Tennants And to such persons as came thither to drinke the waters’.


Dorothy Hall has prepared a thesis on the history of Epsom Spa for her Diploma in Local History following research in the Surrey Record Office and elsewhere. We hope that this thesis will eventually be published but in the meantime we look forward to her talk at the Epsom Symposium.

Epsom Wells

1969 July p.2

Parish Registers

1969 December p.3

Phyllis Davies, Mabel Dexter and Nita Yardley are now working on the third register which covers the period 1723–1812. Pasted inside the front cover of the register is the story of the Vicar’s two cows:


‘August 15 1738. Whereas two cows of Mr. Shenton, Vicar of Ewell, were impounded by Mr. Lewen of the same place for grazing in the churchyard to which the said Lewen lays claim and were released this day upon the said Shentons remonstrating to the said Lewen that he had no right to the said Churchyard. And whereas I john Filch was desired to bring the said Cows from the Pound being no servant to the said Shenton but there accidentally with him and was denyed the said cows unless I paid a penny which I did out of my own pocket. These are to certify that the said penny was paid unwarily by me without the least knowledge of the said Shenton but with his great resentment when he knew it, and that I have had no satisfaction for the same’.


Witness my hand the day and year above written

The mark of John X Filch

Witness Henry Allen


I Henry Allen of Gracechurch Street London do certify that when John Fairbrother Servant of the above named George Lewen offered from his Master to Release the said cows for some acknowledgement from the said Shenton tho never so small He said Shenton utterly denyed in my hearing to pay one farthing which might be deemed an acknowledgement of the Right of the said Lewen to the Churchyard.


Henry Allen’


Presumably John Filch never did get his penny from the Vicar!


The Register records 23 deaths from smallpox in 1722–3 (details in the 1968 Bulletin), two explosions at ‘Mr. Bridge’s Mills for making Gun Powder’ (1768 and 1791), and the burial of David Skinner, a lad who suffocated by falling into a heap of powder in 1777. We hope that some of these notes can be incorporated into an outline history of the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Ewell for publication in connection with out Ewell Church Symposium to be held in the Church in May 1970.


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