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This article is about the village in Oxfordshire. For the River Ewelme in Gloucestershire, see River Cam, Gloucestershire.
Ewelme - geograph.org.uk - 1082134.jpg
Ewelme village seen from the south
Ewelme is located in Oxfordshire
 Ewelme shown within Oxfordshire
Population 1,048 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference SU6491
Civil parish Ewelme
District South Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Wallingford
Postcode district OX10
Dialling code 01491
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Henley
Website Ewelme community website
List of places

Coordinates: 51°37′16″N 1°04′16″W / 51.621°N 1.071°W / 51.621; -1.071

Ewelme is a village and civil parish in the Chiltern Hills in South Oxfordshire, 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of the market town of Wallingford. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 1,048.[1]

To the east of the village is Cow Common and to the west, Benson Airfield, the north-eastern corner of which is within the parish boundary.

The solid geology is chalk overlying gault clay. The drift geology includes some gravel.


The toponym is derived from Ae-whylme, Old English for "waters whelming". It refers to the very fine spring just north of the village, which forms the King's Pool that feeds the rapidly flowing Ewelme Brook. The brook flows past Fifield Manor and then through nearby Benson before joining the River Thames. It formed the basis of Ewelme's watercress beds, which provided much local employment until well into the 20th Century.[2]

Almshouses and school[edit]

Ewelme almshouses

William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk and his wife Alice de la Pole established the school and cloistered almshouses from their profits from the East Anglian wool trade[3] in 1437. Alice was the daughter of Thomas Chaucer, Speaker of the House of Commons and granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. As lords of the manor, she and her father had both lived at Ewelme Palace which once stood in the village. The author Cynthia Harnett featured the school and church prominently in her children's novel The Writing on the Hearth. The action in the book is set around the time the school was built. Ewelme School is said to be the oldest school building in the UK still in use as a local authority school.[4]

The almshouses are officially called "The Two Chaplains and Thirteen Poor Men of Ewelme in the County of Oxford". The thirteen almsmen have now been reduced to eight, but the building is still run as a charity by the Ewelme Trust.

Under James I the original purpose of the position of Master of Ewelme Hospital was diverted to support the Oxford Regius Professor of Physic, with the change being made in 1617, confirmed by the 1628 attachment of the stipend to the chair.[5] At the same time the rectorship of Ewelme was made to support the Oxford Regius Professor of Divinity, who then served as Rector of the parish church.[6]

Parish church[edit]

Tomb of Alice, Duchess of Suffolk

Thomas Chaucer and Alice de la Pole are buried in the Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin adjoining the almshouses: Thomas, who died in 1434, was the son of Geoffrey the Poet and Philippa Roet, whose sister married John of Gaunt, son of Edward III. The tomb chest of Thomas and that of his wife Matilda Burghersh is topped with memorial brasses showing him in plate armour and her in mantle, veil and wimple with their respective crests (his a unicorn and hers a lion) at their feet.

Alice's alabaster tomb, almost undamaged by time, consists of a canopy of panelled stone, below which is the recumbent effigy of the Duchess atop the tomb chest which contains her remains; the space beneath the chest encloses her sculpted cadaver, which is viewed through elaborate reticulated arches. Her effigy was examined by Queen Victoria's commissioners in order to discover how a lady should wear the Order of the Garter.

Her second and third husbands were the Thomas Montagu, 4th Earl of Salisbury and the William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, Lord Chamberlain of England. Her six-year-old step-great-granddaughter, Anne Beauchamp, 15th Countess of Warwick, also died at Ewelme, but was buried at Reading Abbey. Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men In A Boat, and his wife Ettie are buried in St. Mary's churchyard.

Scenes in the 2012 film Les Misérables were filmed at the parish church of Ewelme.

The parish church with the almshouses on the right


Ewelme has a public house, the Shepherd's Hut, controlled by Greene King Brewery. The village store[7] is run by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis.

Ewelme Cricket Club was founded in 1933.[8]

Since 2006 Ewelme has hosted the annual Chiltern Chase, a charity run of two multi-terrain (cross-country) courses: one of 3 miles (5 km) and the other of 6 miles (10 km).[9] Both races start and finish on Cow Common. Normally two charities benefit equally from the proceeds of the event.


  1. ^ "Area: Ewelme (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Legh, 1999, page not cited
  3. ^ Rowley, 1978, page 118
  4. ^ Ewelme C of E Primary School
  5. ^ Page 1907, p. 156.
  6. ^ "Chapter 5, Ewelme under the Stuarts, and during the Civil War. Commonwealth and Restoration.". Ewelme – a Romantic Village its Past and Present. Its People and its History. Fords Farm. 
  7. ^ Ewelme Village Store
  8. ^ Ewelme Cricket Club
  9. ^ Chiltern Chase

Sources and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]