Fitznells, Chessington Road, Ewell: I
Fitznells takes its name from the fourteenth-century owners of the property, a family from Buckinghamshire called Fitz-Neil. It has recently been acquired by Conifercourt Holdings Ltd of Sutton who, after refurbishment, will occupy the property as their offices with a residential unit at one end and a new courtyard development in the north east corner of the site. The operations on site are being monitored by members of NAS and this is the first of a series of articles about the property.
The oldest surviving above ground structure dates from the early sixteenth century when John Iwardeby was the owner. John had been knighted in 1501 on the occasion of the marriage of Prince Arthur, and John’s second wife was Sasha Carewe, one of the co-heirs of Nicholas Carewe of Beddington. He therefore had the social status and the wealth to construct a quality residence on the Fitznells site. Although only the solar wing remains of John Iwardeby’s house, the width of the Hall range can be established by the extent of unweathered timbers on the west side of this Phase I of the building where they were protected by the adjacent Hall Structure. The building at this time would have been of a shallow L plan. The solar wing is two bays long and consists of two floors with one room at each level. Originally there was a jetty at the south end towards the road, but this wall has been totally destroyed by later alterations. Access to both floors would have been through doors from the Hall range indicating that this was also of two storey design, a great improvement on the open hall of most contemporary dwellings. As a two storey structure the Hall would have required a smoke hood, to direct the smoke from the ground floor hearth to the roof, and a bressumer beam from this may be one that is to be found reused in a separate, later, phase of the building.
At first floor level, in the solar, the two bays are separated by a quite richly moulded arch truss with a crown-post roof above; this roof is complete except at the south end where the gable has been cut back to form a hipped end. One original unglazed window opening remains in the west wall, with a three-centred arch head, with pierced bat-wing spandrels, and grooved for a vertically sliding internal shutter. Below this, at ground floor level, there is evidence for a similar window whilst in the west end of the north wall the shutter grooves for a third window have been identified at first floor level. The main windows are likely to have been in the south wall. There are hollow-chamfered mouldings to the main ceiling timbers of the ground floor rooms and it is likely that the secondary ceiling timbers were always plastered over. Blocks of Reigate stone have been noted as supports under some of the main posts, and a quite thick raft of rammed chalk remains under the later wooden floors in this part of the property and presumably formed the original floor of the building. A relocated door of contemporary date remains close to the complete and original window in the west wall, and these features will be preserved in the restored solar rooms which will be used as conference rooms by the new occupant.
Later in the sixteenth century the solar range was extended northward by one more bay which was of similar proportion to the original solar bays, although its roof form is not known. Two original unglazed window positions, with diamond-shaped mullion sockets, have been identified on the ground floor and, as further stripping out progresses, more detail of this phase of the building’s construction should be revealed.