Ewelme (St. Mary)

EWELME (St. Mary), a parish, in the union of Wallingford, hundred of Ewelme, county of Oxford, 2 miles (E.) from Benson; containing 663 inhabitants. This place, from a very clear and copious spring that rises in the village, obtained the Saxon appellation of Æwhelme, signifying "a spring of water;" of which its present name is a modification. William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who obtained the manor by marriage with Alice, daughter and heiress of Thomas Chaucer, son of Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, in whose family it had been for many years, erected the present church and a noble mansion, of which latter only some of the outoffices now remain. The parish comprises 2346 acres, whereof 53 are common land or waste. The living is a rectory, annexed to the regius professorship of divinity in the university of Oxford, and valued in the king's books at £21. 10. 5.: the tithes have been commuted for £704. 18. The church, which is beautifully situated on rising ground, and backed by a row of fine elms, is a spacious and interesting edifice, in the early and decorated English styles, with a low embattled tower. There are some handsome monuments, one of which, to the memory of the Duchess of Suffolk, who died in 1475, is elaborately embellished; the Chaucer monument, an altar-tomb, is ornamented with numerous shields of armorial bearings, and inlaid with brasses on which are the effigies of a knight and his lady, in the costume of the fifteenth century: on the south wall of the chancel are monuments to two sons of Charles Howard, second Earl of Berkshire. In the churchyard are memorials to the descendants of Sir Matthew Hale. An hospital, called God's House, was founded by William de la Pole, and Alice his wife, about the year 1446, and endowed with 200 marks per annum, for thirteen poor men and a master. It was valued, in the 26th of Henry VIII., at £20 per annum, but was not dissolved, and the mastership was annexed in 1617 to the regius professorship of medicine in the university of Oxford, under which it still exists, for a reader and twelve poor men. It possesses a rent-charge of £200, issuing out of the estates in this county belonging to Hampton Court. An urn containing Roman coins was found on the common, near the line of the Ikeneld-street, which may be traced in the parish; and another urn was discovered on Harcourt Hill, nearly two miles from the village.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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