A recent discovery at Spring House, Spring Street, Ewell
During recent external redecoration of Spring House a small brass plaque (approx. 25mm square) was uncovered over the rear door under many layers of paint. The plaque (illustrated here) was fixed to the timberwork of the doorcase by four brass lugs on the rear. The front is engraved with the illustration of a squirrel set between the initials W.B. These initials are almost certainly those of William Baldwin who purchased the property (then known as Catwells) following the death of Robert Fowle in 1760. In the land returns for the year 1780 Roger Peck is shown in occupation of the property, whilst the owner is given as William Baldwin. On the death of the latter in 1783 his son (also William, who is referred to as a hop merchant) sold the property to William Barratty and it was enfranchised in 1787.
Little is known about the Baldwins except that W.B. senior was a homage at the manorial court in 1772, and also in 1783, at which time W.B. junior was a juror. Spring House is thought to date from the second quarter of the eighteenth century, so the plaque refers to a subsequent owner of the property and not the builder. A possible reason for a location over the rear door is the use of part of the site for industrial purposes (as it was in the nineteenth century) and business callers entering the house this way. The rear door case is of good quality, if not as grand as that at the front. It may be the squirrel was a trade mark and, given the building’s location, it would have been most appropriate if the red variety of squirrel took as much interest in the area as the present grey ones do. The squirrels who until recently occupied the roof space of Spring House had made a meal of some of the timbers (almost gnawing their way through a rafter) and chewed holes in the roofing felt. A variety of interesting materials were found in the construction of their nests when removed.
How many more small applied patches of this size on buildings that are painted over would reveal this kind of detail if cleaned off?
Thanks are due to Peggy Bedwell for the documentary references and Coventry Decorators for uncovering the plaque and passing it to the writer.