Bourne Hall Lake, Ewell: I

1990/5 pp4–5


Bourne Hall Lake,  Ewell: I


With one of the longest periods of continuous dry weather for many years, members may have noticed that the lake in Bourne Hall has virtually completely dried up. The Council also noticed this and has taken the opportunity to dredge the bottom of accumulated silt and mud; this was last carried out in 1976. It has been interesting to note various features revealed by the dry conditions. Steve Nelson and Jeremy Harte in the museum have kept watch on the dredging operations and the following is a preliminary note of observations so far.


It has been assumed that the present extent and shape of the lake dates from the building of Garbrand Hall in about 1770 for Philip Rowden, although it is known that the islands were added later, as they do not appear on the 1802 Enclosure Award Map. It is also apparent that there have been many repairs and renewals carried out to the walls lining the lake but these, in general, seem to be of red bricks only very lightly frogged, which would accord with a date in the latter part of the eighteenth century.


There is a curious anomaly in that the junction of the retaining wall to the lake on the west and the bridge, by the Dog Gate, is obviously a butt join and must be a later build than the bridge itself which, with its regular and symmetric design of central arch with ornamental rusticated stone voussoirs, flanking blind arches and square panels, must date to the 1770s. It is interesting to note that inspection under the bridge arch showed a matching stone arch (though not so ornamental) embedded in the current structure indicating that originally there was a clear bridge, some 20 feet wide, over what must have been flowing water. This was later blocked with an apsidal end culverting the stream, and a lodge was constructed between the bridge and Spring Street. This must have been after 1859 as a sale plan of that date does not show the lodge. Within the bed of the lake itself there are at least two brick walls clearly earlier than the existing lake area of c.1770. The full significance of this walling is still a little enigmatic but it apparently defines a smaller pond area of about half the size of the present lake. This smaller area, in the north east, showed quite obviously lower when the lake was finally drained. The bricks in the construction are quite thin (about 2 inches) and would seem to be at least seventeenth-century in date if not earlier, and must be associated with the mansion of the Saunders family, predating the Garbrand Hall building of 1770, and known to have existed in the area of Bourne Hall from medieval times. The 1577 survey of Ewell mentions a pond enclosed by Saunders, although it is said to be of stone not brick. Interestingly much building demolition debris is scattered along the edge of the lake nearest to the flat lawn area of Bourne Hall. The brickwork is not substantial, only a single brick wide and three or four courses deep, and presumably represents the lower courses of an earlier, perhaps late medieval pond area in what is probably the lowest part of Ewell village. A slightly wider wall runs straight across the lake parallel to the south wall; this is difficult to interpret.


On the south western corner of the lake the broken end of a double, brick-vaulted conduit is just apparent, cut through by the lake retaining wall and aligned northeast/ southwest on the frontage of Spring House. Documentary references to the medieval springs of Ewell point to various sites in the area of Spring House and this conduit, built of early narrow bricks, may be connected with the medieval topography of this area of the village which was apparently so altered by the development of the later eighteenth-century mansion.


Stop Press: After the above note was written, further clearance in the lake has revealed a length of wall built of flint and Reigate stone blocks, some of which show moulded architectural details. The wall runs south from the main island, parallel to the brick wall about 2m to the west. Its southern end is uncertain. The significance of this walling is that it would seem to equate with the reference in the 1577 survey of Ewell to N. Saunders’ holdings, especially a portion ‘inclosed with a stone wall’. The survey states that this had been carried out some 30 years before, i.e. in about 1547. The forms of the moulded stones are very similar to material from Merton Priory being demolished at that time for Nonsuch Palace. Lengths of timber have also been revealed between the larger island and the modern bank, possibly forming the base of a timber trestle bridge.



‘Nichas Saunder holdeth frely as of his manor of Buttalles A faire mansion howse with a gatehowse a forecourte hall p’lor & other edifices & buildinges with ij backyardes stables & barnes also a dove howse twoo gardens & an orchard (in which he holdeth a pcell of the same at the southwest corn’ thereof cont by est j rod by Copy of Ewell) All wch abutt’ vpon the said hedd of the Ryver called Kateswell & vpon the Ryver of Ewell of thest pte vpon the strete called beggerstrete of the Southe vpon the lane or highwaye to the Marshe comon of the west & vpon the landes of Edward Skeete of the Northe cont by est… The same Nichas holdeth a pcell of the wast grounde or Ryver of Ewell lately inclosed with a stone wall & within the same a litle bancketing howse late erected & pondes & fishe therein within the same inclosure abbut’ vpon the Ryver as now it is of thest pte & the said backeside of the said Mansion howse of the same Nichas Saunder of the west pte cont by est. (Note that the first setting upp of the said inclosure was abowte xxx yeres past by report & knowledge of George dowse & diu’s other the tenntes & inhtnntes of Ewell)’.


Stephen Nelson