A Brief History of Ewhurst

Pre-history

Ewhurst lies on the edge of the Weald which, 125 million years ago, was an area of shallow lakes and marshes. The Wealden clay is rich in fossils and in 1983 a complete skeleton of a dinosaur was discovered. This was found to be a previously unknown species of flesh-eating dinosaur and was named Baryonyx Walkerii, meaning 'heavy claw', in honour of its finder, William Walker. It is now on display at the Natural History Museum.

Early man

The stone age and bronze age peoples avoided the dense impenetrable forest of the Weald in favour of the higher ground to the north and this area was on of the last parts of Britain to become permanently settled. At the end of the Iron Age a hill fort was constructed on Holmbury Hill.

The Romans

The roman road of Stane Street passes through this part of Surrey and a branch road runs almost the full length of the parish from Rowhook in the south to Horseblock Hollow in the north. The Romans established a villa at Rapsley, which was excavated in the 1960s. The site is thought to have been occupied from AD80 - AD330 and interesting discoveries include fragments of a glass goblet and an unusual vase decorated with a 'Mural Crown'. A tile-kiln had already been discovered and excavated in 1836 to the south west of the villa site

An artist's impression of the Roman Villa

An artist's impression of the Roman Villa

The Saxons

After the Romans left, the Weald was still largely uninhabited and wild. The Saxons settled in the sheltered valleys to the north but looked to the Weald as a source of timber and for hunting and grazing animals. At first they would have only journeyed into the forest in the summer months, but gradually small settlements developed and eventually these would have come to be inhabited all the year round. The people who lived in these isolated farmsteads would have still looked to their parent villages to the north for their communal needs and it was much later before a village was established at Ewhurst.

The Norman Conquest and after

The feudal system of manors had developed under the Saxons and, at the time of the conquest, Ewhurst was part of the Royal Manor of Gumshall. By the medieval period Ewhurst was developing into a separate community with its own church and became a parish in its own right in 1291.

Ewhurst church

Ewhurst Church

The Medieval and Tudor periods

The richness of the Weald's natural resources led it to become the industrial centre of Britain, as both the iron and glass industries needed large amounts of timber for fuel. There is a site of a bloomery iron works at Coneyhurst Gill and two glass making sites at Ellen's Green and Summersbury. The wealth of the area can also be seen in the many fine timber framed houses dating from this period.

Summersbury Manor, 16th century

Summersbury Manor, 16th century

17th, 18th & 19th Centuries

By the 17th century coal replaced timber as fuel and the industries moved north and the area declined. The heavy clay and poor roads contributed to its isolation. Farming and woodcrafts formed the basis of the local economy but there was much poverty and poaching and smuggling was rife.

Ewhurst Windmill

Ewhurst Mill was said to be a rendezvous for smugglers

Victorian Period & 20th Century

The village remained small and isolated until the late 19th century, when improved communications and a growing appreciation of the beauty of the wild Surrey countryside encouraged many wealthy businessmen and artistic people to move into the area. They commissioned architects to design new houses for them, or restored and enlarged the old timber frame houses.

Woolpits

Woolpits designed in 1884 by Sir Ernest George for Sir Henry Doulton

A school had been established in the village in 1846 and by the twentieth century the village was a thriving and self-contained community with many shops and businesses. Today the village still has a school, 2 churches, shops & Post Office, local pubs and a wide range of sports facilities and social clubs.

Ewhurst School

Ewhurst School

Ewhurst History Society
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Other Information
About Ewhurst
A brief history of Ewhurst
Links to other Societies

Current Research
Manorial Records
Census
Tithe Map

Current Publications
St Peter and St Paul - A Guide and History
Ewhurst Houses and People
Ewhurst & Ellen's Green - A Parish Heritage 1995
A Short History of Ewhurst School