The Mesolithic period in Ewell

1968 May pp3–5

 

The earliest known human inhabitants of Ewell were the nomadic hunters of the Mesolithic Period or Middle Stone Age approximately 8000 to 4000 BC. The Hogsmill and the Springs formed a natural watering place for animals and birds and abounded in fish (many trout were caught in more recent times) and this also attracted the hunters. The Mesolithic occupation of Southern England began when the resurgence of vegetation followed the last glaciation (12000–8000 BC) and was well advanced by 8000 BC when Britain was still joined to the continent.

 

As the larger animals became extinct, particularly after Britain was finally separated from the continent around 5000 BC, these forest people from France (Sauveterrian) and Denmark (Maglemosian) had to rely on fishing and gathering food such as roots and berries. They became masters of flint craft – flint points for arrow shafts, knives, saws and gauges for shaping wood and bone, scrapers for preparing hides and heavy axes for forestry. Although essentially nomads, they often settled for short periods in one place and dug pits and covered them to provide shelters.

 

The late Mr. W.F. Rankine in his Mesolithic Surveys published by the Surrey Archaeological Society suggests that the Thames and its tributaries provided the chief routes by which they entered the area and the Maglemosian (named after a site in Denmark meaning the Great Moss or Bog) sites are to be found where swampy conditions once prevailed. When this country became separated from the continent the two cultures (Maglemosian and Sauveterrian) became fused and they developed techniques and new tools to deal with the increasing woodlands. They also favoured well-watered, warm soils, often sandy areas, with hills of flint-bearing chalk to provide unlimited supplies of material for implements and with good food supplies nearby. Their flint chipping floors around these sites are characterised by extensive debris and Mr. Rankine estimated that only 3% of the material flaked was converted into finished tools. For instance, out of 85,000 odd pieces of flint taken from the Oakhanger (Hants.) chipping floor about 3,000 were finished implements.

 

One such area was the Hogsmill valley and a number of flint implements and flakes have been found in Ewell as you will see below. Details and drawings of the flints are given in the publications indicated, the site references are taken from the Ordnance Survey and noted by Jeremy Godwin.

 

2198 6275 Glyn Pool

Cores, blades, core graver, scrapers and flakes, tool making debris etc. A concentration in Thanet Sand noted by L.W. Carpenter and A.H. Jenkins.

 

2199 6267 7 High Street

Flints, blades, flakes, scrapers, microliths, a complete tranchet axe and fragments of two or three others, tool making debris (N.H. Nail in NEAS Bulletin 5 (1965), final report pending).

 

2178 6280 and 2183 6267 Bourne Hall

Cores, flakes, blades, transverse arrowhead and a round scraper, also ‘pot boilers’. (NEAS Bulletin 1964, final report pending).

 

2167 6315, 2169 6311 and 2372 6312 Hogsmill area

Flints including Horsham point found by Mr. T.K. Walls (reported to OS in 1950 by Brian Hope-Taylor, no details).

 

217 631 to 214 632 and 211 636 to 214 633 Old Schools Lane and Meadow Walk

Over 300 flints comprising cores, flakes, scrapers, points, axe-sharpening flakes and six microliths found scattered over two areas, outside of which they seem to cease. Area A (217 631) is the Salesian playing fields north of Old Schools Lane extending NW across the railway line to approximately furthest point. at 214 632. Area B (211 636) is the allotment gardens parallel to and SW of Meadow Walk. The flints are of a most attractive colouring ranging from creamy white-grey-honey-red-to dark brown, but no particular focal point or site was identified over years of observation and trial hole digging. Above information supplied by Tom Walls, who hopes to put the flints on exhibition at Bourne Hall Museum next year.

 

2179 6234 Tayles Hill

Cores, blades, microlith (SAC 43)

 

2184 6213 Purberry Shot

A number of worked flints, chiefly flakes and cores but including a few implements were derived from all levels, but were most numerous in the sand immediately overlying the undisturbed subsoil. (A.W.G. Lowther, SAC 50, 1949).

 

2193 6224 Persfield

Two or three end scrapers (A.H. Jenkins)

 

2193 6244 The Grove (now Ewell Council School)

Microlith and core (S.F. Frere, SAC 40 and 48)

 

2205 6237 Ewell House Parade

‘Worked flints’ in Stane Street metalling possibly brought from elsewhere.

 

2206 6244 Staneway

Scraper from Tabards.

 

2130 6180 Priest Hill Farm

Cores and blades found amongst cruder work of probable late Bronze Age date (L.W. Carpenter, 1958).

 

Nonsuch Park (precise location not given)

1. Tranchet axe found in 1938 described in SAC 50.

2. Tranchet axe found by Mr. P. Shearman, now in Epsom library.

3. Discoid scraper found by Mr. C. Yardley in 1961.

 

Chalkpit Field

Flint flakes and two implements found but not dated (Martin Morris, NEAS Bulletin 2ii, 1962).

 

King William Garden Site

Flints found, report pending.

 

Sources:

Clark, J.G.D., The Mesolithic Age in Britain (1932)

Clark, J.G.D., The Mesolithic Settlement of Northern Europe (1936)

Clark, J.G.D., Star Carr (1954).

Copley, Gordon J., An Archaeology of South East England (1958).

Man, the Toolmaker (HMSO)

Leakey, L.S.B., A Mesolithic site at Abinger Common (Sy. Arch. Research Paper 3).

Nail, Dorothy, ‘Some notes on the background of Mesolithic finds in Ewell’, NEAS Bulletin 5, August 1963.

Rankine, W.F., A Mesolithic Survey of West Surrey Greensand (Sy. Arch. Research Paper 2).

Rankine, W.F., A Mesolithic Survey of Southern England (Sy. A.S. Research Paper 4).

Stanley, Thomas, Pre-Roman Britain (Studio Vista, 1965).