4 Jun 2015

Fyfield and Ewelme, Oxfordshire



Before we went down to see our family in Berkshire we spent some time in south Oxfordshire and stayed at the very interesting Fyfield Manor Hotel as bed and breakfast guests and had an evening meal at The Red Lion in Britwell Salome.
A lime tree walk drive with rooks cawing overhead, bluebells, a water wheel in the woodland area, two ponds and a stream running through the grounds - it was a delightful way to spend an overnight stay and then wander in the garden after breakfast before going on to the nearby village of Ewelme. Fyfield Manor would have been worthy of one of those television programmes such as The Restoration Man and our hostess was lovely and very welcoming. You can see more on the website if you wish and read the story of the restoration of the building and ethos of living there. For example, the woodwork was impressive.

I've been planning this part of our trip for a while as I wanted my husband and I to spend some extra time in this area on my birthday before going on to Reading by way of Henley and Sonning-on-Thames.





The Wind in the Willow characters - Ratty and Toad


The first thing you notice when you come into Ewelme is the brook that runs alongside the lane, the small ponds and watercress beds and the large pool in the centre of the village. Ewelme is said to have derived the name from the Saxon Aewhylme which describes the abundant water whelming up from underground springs.


The King's Pool, so called because Henry VIII is said to have taken 'a dip' in it during a visit to Ewelme with his new bride, Katherine Howard.
There were probably many other royal visits to the village by other Tudors.

Going back to earlier times, Geoffrey Chaucer was connected with Ewelme as his son, Thomas and his daughter-in-law, Matilda Burghersh, lived at Ewelme Manor and the poet would most likely have visited and found the place a welcome, quiet retreat away from London life. Geoffrey Chaucer had met and married Phillipa Roet, a Flemish lady who was one of Queen Phillipa's attendants. He had become a favoured member of Edward III's court. (Phillipa Roet's sister, Katherine, became the third wife of John of Gaunt, King Edward III's third son. Their romance is written about by Anya Seton in the novel 'Katherine'). It is believed that John of Gaunt visited Ewelme with his wife, Katherine, as he was Thomas Chaucer's godfather. Through royal patronage Thomas rose to become Speaker to the House of Commons.

Thomas and Matilda had a daughter, Alice. She was betrothed at the age of 11 to a nobleman who died before she reached maturity. She then married the Earl of Salisbury and after she was widowed married the Earl of Suffolk (William de la Pole) who later rose to the rank of Duke. Finding favour with Henry VI  he was appointed Lord Chancellor and Alice became lady-in-waiting to Henry VI's wife, Margaret of Anjou. In a turn of events her husband lost favour in the Plantaganet intrigues of the day and was killed whilst Alice survived and remained a wealthy and influential woman.
However, before this, the Duke and Duchess lived on their estate in Ewelme where they enlarged the manor house, improved the surrounding land, rebuilt the church and founded the almshouses and school.



The village stores and one of the pretty cottages in Ewelme


The church of St. Mary the Virgin is situated on a hill and looking over the churchyard wall there's a view of the almshouses, the walled kitchen garden, the school and fields below.







Jerome K. Jerome, who lived in Ewelme, the author of 'Three Men in a Boat', is buried in the churchyard.







From the west door of the church a covered corridor leads to the Almshouses of St. John's Hospital or 'God's House at Ewelme'. The elderly residents can walk under cover from their living quarters into St. John's Chapel for daily services. If you've ever read Anthony Trollope's novel The Warden the basic system for living in almshouses under a similar foundation trust will be familiar, although this will have been up-dated for modern times, of course.




Tudor oak canopy font cover.  A Tudor rose, also carved in wood, holds the hanging weight above and is inscribed with the date of 1513.


A corbel head on the arch next to the font is said to resemble Edward III.


The Chapel of St. John the Baptist

The ceiling is of Spanish chestnut wood with angel carvings.


The East window is made up from fragments of medieval glass.


The floor tiles are original and bear the Burghersh and Roet arms of a double-tailed lion and wheel (yellow on red background)


A corbel head bears the same lion and wheel motifs.
The Christogram, IHS, (Iesus Hominus Salvator -Jesus, Saviour of Men) decorates the walls.


The Chaucer Tomb (above) The monument to Thomas Chaucer and Matilda Burghersh is of grey marble and decorated with many family coats of arms. On the top are full length brasses of the couple.


The tomb of Alice, Duchess of Suffolk (above)



It is usual for a woman to have a small dog at her feet on a carved effigy, but in Alice's case it is a lion which emphasises her important standing as does the fact that she wears the badge of the Order of the Garter on her left wrist (not shown).


The tomb is of alabaster and believed to be of Italian craftsmanship. On either side of the tomb are eight angels holding painted shields showing the arms of the many noble families with whom Alice was connected. More angels decorate the canopy above and are some of the earliest known examples of angel figures in English wood carving. Alice's head rests on a pillow supported by angels.


The entrance to the Almshouses. The garden and cloisters are open to the public.







Ewelme School (above and below) The entrance with architectural details of a trefoil motif, high arch and step gables suggests that a Flemish architect might have been involved in the work.

* The historical information about Ewelme is mainly taken from a booklet written by Miss E.M. Prister Cruttwell, daughter of the Rector 1901-11



In the lane opposite is Ford's Farm



29 comments:

  1. What a wonderful place to visit, such beautiful surroundings and so much history. I'm not familiar with this part of England or the events you've posted about so it was really interesting to read. I love those Wind in the Willow characters.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed, Jo. Those old statues of The Wind in the Willows characters in the garden that stand by the pond look really at home!

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  2. Oh my goodness Linda! There is so much to see and comment here. I just kept exclaiming in delight as picture upon picture came into view. I need to come back and spend more time looking at everything again. Let me just say now that one of my favorite things is to look at are pictures of country lanes leading around corners such as what you began with. I always wonder what can be around that bend, and peeking around this corner was pure delight. I felt like I was there walking around with you. What a blessing to be able to live in a land so steeped in history and beauty.

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    1. I've been wanting to spend that quality time in Ewelme for quite a while and I'm glad I had the opportunity to get there. For me there's nothing better than a birthday spent in the English countryside on a sunny May day including a visit to an old country church.

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  3. my favorite time to wander is early AM before and after breakfast. in all this beauty i would not get much walking done, and hubby would be impatient with me because he would be standing in one place to long. this is snap heaven.. so beautiful.

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    1. Well actually Husband and I sat for quite a while in the sunshine on a bench in that churchyard on the hill. It was lovely just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful countryside.

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  4. I have just looked Ewelme up on Google maps as it looks such a delightful place with some lovely quintessential English architecture and gardens. How fortunate we are to have so many interesting and different places to visit right on our doorsteps.

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    1. I do love the villages and towns in the Chilterns, but there are many interesting places that I would like to visit or revisit!

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  5. Such a charming village and the church has so many interesting details as well. No wonder you wanted to plan your visit carefully. So glad that you enjoyed it so much. xx

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    1. Our time in Oxfordshire was very enjoyable especially as we had good weather for walking around Ewelme and Henley-on-Thames later in the day.

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  6. Another scenic village in your beautiful country. I'm always overwhelmed by the rich heritage and history of England. There are still so many places I want to visit.

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    1. There were several places where I thought I would like to spend part of my birthday this year, but top of the list was Ewelme, especially with a visit to the church and almshouses and the experience did not disappoint.

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  7. What an incredible historic place! Oooh, I love the look of that church!x

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    1. It's a beautiful church in a lovely setting on the hill. I think the attached almshouses and the school also add to the attraction of Ewelme.

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  8. Che meraviglia!!!! E' staro come leggere un romanzo, ben illustrato ed egregiamente descritto. E' sempre un grande piacere venire a trovarti. baci
    Emi

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    1. Grazie Emi per il tuo complimento. Un abbraccio,
      Linda.

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  9. It is an area of the country I'm not familiary with, Linda so it was wonderful to see all your photos and read all the associated history. Ewelme looks such a pretty village and the church fascinating:)

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    1. I do love this part of the Chilterns; lovely woodlands and there's the Ridgeway Trail if you like walking. The villages and towns are full of references to the past.

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    2. Oh, so many delicious views, architecture, history, and stories tied together in this delightful post! I'm particularly fond of your comment that Henry VIII may have skinny-dipped in this pool with Katherine Howard :)

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    3. Glad you enjoyed the post, Becky. History comes alive when there's tangible evidence of times past. I'm not sure Henry VIII skinny-dipped i.e. no clothes. One version says he was playfully pushed into the water whilst on honeymoon with his new bride, Catherine (Katherine) Howard. The other is that he went for a 'dip' into the water, which was considered to have healing properties, to bathe the sores on his legs.

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  10. What a beautiful place love the little cottages, and the... well all of it really, your photos show it of very well. So nice the weather was good for your birthday and to be able to spend some time just sitting and wondering around, my kinda break..
    Amanda xx

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    1. The break in Oxfordshire was very relaxing as was all of our time away :)

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  11. What a marvelous post, seeped in history, a wonderful interesting read. And what a lovely overnight stay! Isn't that waterwheel fantastic...that, ratty and toad would fit right into my garden! "Whelming up".....how beautifully evocative. Super pics!!!xxx

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    1. It was an interesting place for our overnight stay in a wonderful setting. The water-wheel in the stream contributes to the electricity supply. Yes, ratty and toad would look perfect in your garden! How about a willow tree as well?

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  12. I was born and bred two miles outside Oxford and went to school with pupils from Fyfield..... but I never visited Ewelme! This is a lovely post. the next time I'm visiting my relatives in Oxford I will make a detour and take a look at the church!! Jx

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    1. How interesting, Jan! Ewelme is one of those villages that's a little off the beaten track. We've passed by so many times when we've been in the area, but never stopped to take a look, although I knew about the church and almshouses. I think you'll find the church interesting.

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  13. Extraordinary! So interesting to read your wonderful posts. I must move The Warden up on my list. I've read Barchester Towers, so I'm out of order already! :O) Have a wonderful week, Linda! Bess

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    1. I enjoyed reading and rereading The Warden, but haven't read any other works by Anthony Trollope. My reading has slowed down lately. I hope you have a good week yourself :)

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  14. Love, love learning about the history of the amazing places you visit!

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