You've probably seen the road signs north of Ewell approaching the roundabout with the Ewell Bypass....'Beggar's Hill'. So who? What? Why?
Information is scarce. The earliest reference I could find was during the Norman era of the 11th Century. Beggar's Hill, the incline on Kingston Road starting north of the Eight Bells Public House, was the southernmost point of Common Land then known as East Heath. This extended as far as Tolworth. It is now a local community hemmed in by the railway on one side and the by-pass on the other.
The southern foot of the hill
Kingston Road shows on conjectural maps of c1400 and possibly dates back to the Saxon era, although was originally on a different alignment at the southern end. One theory is that the origins of the name 'Beggar's Hill' followed the construction of this road; as traffic slowed down to climb, beggars would make their move alongside. It is a story related by many, but no-one could give me a definitive version; it all seems plausible, so we'll stick with it.
All south/north traffic came this way, and consequently through Ewell Village itself. Cottages were recorded at the junction of Kingston Road and Meadow Walk as far back as 1596. At that time Meadow Walk was a bridleway used to access Ewell Court Farm, Ewell's Manor House. Further cottages on the opposite side of the road were recorded as being in existence since 1699; these can be found as Plots 100 and 203 respectively on our 'Ewell Copyholds Individual Plots'
The Lower Mill had been established at the foot of the hill since at least 1730. Kingston Road was 'turnpiked' in 1755, giving the authorities the right to collect tolls for maintaining the highway. It was at this time that the road took the current alignment along the river. The Eight Bells
public house was recorded as being in existence in 1797, although the current building dates from 1905.
Under an act of George III in 1803, Common Lands were enclosed and the land became the freehold of persons to whom it was awarded; as a consequence records were kept giving us a snapshot of the area at the time, over 200 years ago. Below is the Enclosure Map for that period:
1802 Enclosure Map, with Beggar's Hill running diagonally through the centre
By the beginning of the 19th century the area was known as Kingston Common. Starting at the bottom of the hill on the west side (Plot 98) we have three houses and an orchard belonging to Thomas Hubbard. This soon became 4 houses. Next is a house belonging to James Holland; a second was added and they later became 37 and 39 Kingston Road. There are then three houses belonging to Mrs E.S. Chamberlain followed by a large area of land belonging to Sir George Glyn
. At the top (No. 106) is land belonging to William Northey
. Both these gentlemen owned a lot of land in Ewell.
From the bottom on the east side (No. 208) is a cottage belonging to William Batchelor, a significant name in our story; the family would later take possession of Hubbard and Holland's properties. The next two plots belonged to Henry Kitchen
, with two cottages on Plot 205. There then follows access to Plot 204, again owned by Sir George Glyn, and finally more land owned by William Northey (105).
Weather Boarded Cottages
During the 1830s weather-boarded cottages, using cheap Baltic Wood, were built up the hill. This is another theory for the name 'Beggar's Hill', i.e. housing on the cheap. These cottages were all owned by William Batchelor from Plot 208 and were to stay in the family, as we shall see.
By the 1840s the 11 weather boarded cottages had passed to William's son Jesse, a carpenter/builder, bringing the total number of Plots on Beggar's Hill up to 27.
Whereas previously the entire population relied on agriculture, by now other trades were becoming commonplace, sometimes in conjunction; George Stone
, a coal merchant, and George Picknell
the baker employed men who also worked on the Common. Barns and farm buildings were built within Ewell, at Hill Cottage, 9 High Street
, and in the former Goodship and Saunders's
On the other side of the hill, the London & South Western Railway opened their branch to Epsom on April 1859. Kingston Road was lowered to let the line pass overhead to avoid the need for a level crossing.
In the first Ordnance Survey Map of the locality in 1866, the area is described as 'Beggarshill' - subsequent maps refer to just that part of Kingston Road as 'Beggar's Hill'.
The 1866 Ordnance Survey Map
You will see that the area north of the housing is still open land.
were subsequently formed north of the housing under the 1887 Allotment Act, which specified that allotments should be provided if there was a demand. Further housing was added on Meadow Way, off Meadow Walk.
Before Ewell received a regular bus service, two stagecoaches
ran via Beggar's Hill:
Top: London to Brighton Coach, c1910, approaching the summit of the hill
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum
Bottom: Local bus 406 in the same spot
'Before and after the 1914/18 war two stagecoaches regularly ran in summer months via Kingston Road. One called the 'Venture' ran from London to Brighton, one day down and the next day back. It was painted black and red, and it was driven by a Mr. Vanderbilt, an American millionaire. On the outward run they changed horses at the Spring Hotel at 12 noon, and at 4.30 on the return. There were eight changes of horses on each run. The guard used to sound his horn before they came under Kingston Road railway bridge, and the groom would then have the other horses waiting at the Spring Corner. Old Mrs. Sally Axtell who lived in one of the wooden cottages on Beggars Hill used to wave to the coach every time it passed by, and on the last run of the season to London Mr. Vanderbilt used to throw her out a parcel containing a present. The other coach was called 'Olden Times'; this also ran every summer between London and Burford Bridge Hotel. This coach changed horses at Epsom and did the return journey the same day. The colour of 'Olden Times' was yellow and black. Both coaches were four-in-hands and were run by their owners as a hobby. Mr. Vanderbilt came over from America each year for the season'.
By 1910 Elm Road had been built between Beggar's Hill and the railway, and 'North View Villas' were added all the way along Kingston Road on the west side to where the railway line crossed.
The 1913 Ordnance Survey Map
The 1911 Census shows over 100 households with an average of 4 rooms, excluding scullery, WC and bathroom - if they had one. Employment was in working-class occupations, with a declining proportion dedicated to agricultural work. They would have been locally employed with quite a few working in the nearby mills. Many professions listed have passed into history, such as a Steam Roller Driver and Gas Company lamplighter.
Tom Pocock provides further reminiscences; written many years after, there are inevitable discrepancies such as Mrs Perry becoming Mrs Petty, but we learn that the weather boarded cottages passed to 'Congy' Batchelor, son of Jesse:
'Past the entrance to Meadow Walk are two wooden cottages. In the first one [27 Kingston Road], facing down Kingston Road, lived Congy Batchelor, who was a miser. He had all the windows of the cottage boarded up. When he died lots of gold sovereigns were found hidden under the floorboards. The next two brick houses were run as laundries, the first by Mrs. Whittington, and the second by Mrs. Petty. They did the laundry for some of the large houses in Ewell. There was then a large vegetable garden (where the shops now stand), then two pairs of wooden cottages, one pair still standing. In the third house lived Mr. Everett, a chimney sweep. All these properties belonged to Congy Batchelor.
Past the wooden cottages were the allotments, then the row of semi-detached houses to Elm Road. Past Elm Road was the grocers and sub post office run by Mr. Frank Pocock, and then houses in blocks of four to the railway, except for the large house at the side of the railway, built and owned by Mr. Alf Longhurst, the undertaker. The shop and blocks of four houses were built by Mr. Charlie Kendall, with yellow stock bricks from Epsom brickyard. At the time of completion Mr. Kendall sold some at £1,000 for a block of four'.
From the same source, describing the east side:
'Then the Eight Bells pub, full licence; the landlord was Mr. Bert Lee. In the pub yard were three cottages, plus stables. In the corner cottage next to the pub lived Mr. Sid South, the local knackers' man, who kept his horse and cart in the stables. In the cottage next to the stable lived Mr. Tommy Lee (no relation) who was the poultryman at Garbrand Hall; then the two cottages adjoining, which lay back from the road; then the detached house, Mill Cottage, where Mr. Alf May, the coachman at the mill, lived. Next two pairs of feather-edge wooden cottages, painted white, with large gardens at the side, then a single wooden house painted the same. Next was a pair of red brick cottages, and then another pair of the same type of wooden house.
Then the Jolly Waggoners pub, the landlady a Mrs. Esther Morris. It was only a beer house, with one bar, seats at the side, and a tap room. The millers always used this pub. At one side of the pub was a large kitchen garden, on the other side were the outbuildings used mainly for chickens. The pub had a large half-moon pull-in with a horses' water trough at one end. It was well used by carmen stopping for a break in their journeys. Past the pub was a field, where Shortcroft Cottages now are. They were built early in the 1920s by Epsom Rural Council, and were the first council houses to be built in the area. The field was used by Mr. Thomas Pocock, the local transport contractor, who had a stable and van shed at the top. It was in a field next to this, that belonged to the Stoneleigh Estate, that the first aeroplane landed in Ewell. It was flown by a Mr. Graham White (so it was said) who was a friend of one of the Stevens daughters. At the end of the field a house was built by the Ruddles brothers from West Ewell. ['now the veterinary surgeon's' in 1978]. At the same time, about 1912, the new road was made (now called Park Avenue) to London Road. The contractors who made it were Stephen Kavangher of Tolworth. After the new road was a high bank as far as the railway'.
In 1915 a little girl was knocked down and killed by a taxi-cab
. The jury 'expressed the opinion that the ten-mile speed limit should be extended along the Kingston Road to the top of Beggar's Hill'.
The Coming of the By Pass
The 1932 Ordnance Survey Map
In July 1932 the Ewell By-Pass was built leaving Kingston Road by a roundabout on the other side of the hill. This was accompanied by further housing on the east side of Beggar's Hill and the by-pass towards Stoneleigh. House numbering had started to take place and many local areas in general lost their name as a consequence, becoming assimilated into the greater part of the town/village in which they were located - 'Gibraltar' at the end of West Street is an example.
In 1947 a vets was opened in North Lodge (now numbered 150 Kingston Road) near the roundabout and has been there ever since.
During the 1950s the Jolly Waggoners and the surrounding houses were rebuilt. On the opposite side, a small collection of shops known as Rosebery Parade were constructed, named after Lord Rosebery
The last of Batchelor's weather-boarded cottages were demolished on 13 December 1958 and the following advert for the Hill Press (part of Rosebery Parade) seemed to signify the end of the name for the area, tying in with the theory that the name was derived from the construction of these cottages:
Hill Press Advert
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum
However, the name didn't disappear....for a start, a local folk band from the 1970s took their name from the district and their history can be found here
and reviews here
The Beggars Hill LP sleeve
Image courtesy of David Frohnsdorff
In 2001 a band from Poland also used the name.
The Jolly Waggoners has recently been demolished to make way for a block of flats. The loss of the local pub could be another reason for an area to lose its name, yet the name lives on - ostensibly to identify the by-pass roundabout and bus stop used by two services, the 406 between Epsom and Kingston and the E16 between Epsom and Worcester Park. Situated on the other side of the hill, this is one of the busiest stretches of road in Surrey. However, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council also recently used 'Beggar's Hill' to describe the location of their Allotment
, as did the local paper when reporting a burglary in the area
....so unlike 'Gibraltar' and other local names, 'Beggar's Hill' has stuck...I confess I still don't know for certain why the area got its name, but with the area up to and including the allotments currently falling within the Ewell Conservation Area - with locally and statutorily listed individual buildings and proposals that the boundary be moved north - perhaps the name will never go away.
Listed Buildings have meant Beggar's Hill retains its charm
Text and Photos (unless credited otherwise) by Nick Winfield March 2014
Thanks to Peter Reed and Linda Jackson