Ewell has a history which goes back many thousands of years. The name has been known since about 675 A.D. and literally means 'river spring'. John Aubrey, writing in the late 17th century, described the water here as a 'most plentiful spring, the head of a crystal brook'.
Man has been attracted to the place by the springs, which bubble out of the ground and form the source of the Hogsmill River, which flows into the Thames at Kingston. Prehistoric material has been found at Ewell including a large number of flint tools. 6,000 years ago or more the springs would have attracted wild animals, which would have been comparatively easy pickings for the hunter lying in wait for them. The springs would also have made the area an ideal camping ground for the nomads of the Mesolithic period.
It was in Roman times that a substantial settlement grew up at Ewell. The Romans constructed a major road, now known as Stane Street, to connect London with Chichester and it passed close to springs here. The combination of a good water supply and its position on the road made it a natural stopping off point for travellers. Evidence of Roman buildings and many Roman artefacts have been found on a large number of sites in the village.
At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 Ewell was held directly by King William. Two mills are recorded but no church. Curiously, however, Domesday records that Leatherhead Church was attached the manor of Ewell. The present parish church of St Mary, Ewell, was built in 1848, replacing a medieval church on a different site. The tower of the old church survives. Henry II (1154-1189) granted the manor to Merton Priory but when the priory was dissolved in 1538 Henry VIII gained control of Ewell.
In the same year Henry embarked on the building of a sumptuous palace near Ewell. It was to be like no other and was thus named 'Nonsuch'. This was a truly magnificent palace with polygonal towers and elaborate decoration on the outside walls. For example, the south-facing outer wall was covered with dazzling white stucco reliefs and carved and gilded slate. Stucco reliefs on the walls of the inner court included figures of gods and goddesses, busts of Roman emperors and, opposite the entrance , of Henry himself with his young son, the future Edward VI. Nonsuch also had magnificent gardens and two parks.
Nonsuch was unfinished at the time of Henry's death in 1547. Queen Mary sold it to the Earl of Arundel who completed it at such cost that he nearly went bankrupt. Queen Elizabeth often visited Nonsuch - it was one of her favourite palaces. Unfortunately, it was very expensive to maintain and it was demolished during the 1680s.
The first railway station at Ewell opened in 1847 and soon began to attract new residents. However, Ewell has not lost its village atmosphere and it still retains a plethora of ancient buildings and secret nooks and crannies.