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History of the Park
Early history up to 1450

The original park and access

Ewelme Park was apparently formed by the acquisition and merger of three areas of adjoining land - the original park, Haydon Ground and Grendonland, each of which has its own initial history.

Bigod, Earl of Wallingford, held the manors of both Ewelme and Swyncombe at the time of the Norman conquest. They passed to his daughter Matilda and her husband, the Norman Miles Crispin, and both were left to the Abbey of Bec, in Normandy, in about 1087. After years of claims, the Crown annexed both manors permanently with the start of the French Wars. Adam le Despenser, who had free warren in Ewelme since 1276, obtained royal leave to sell the manor, which his son did in 1295 to Sir John Bacon, whose granddaughter Matilda eventually inherited both manors. By marriage to her, they passed into the hands of Thomas Chaucer, son of Geoffrey, in the early 15th century. Their daughter Alice Chaucer inherited them, following the deaths of both parents, in 1437. She was then a widow, and had remarried to William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. They had lived in Ewelme manor house since 1430.

Although I have not found any reference to the formation of the original park, it was almost certainly in existence by the early 15th century. Its area cannot be ascertained, but may have been anything between 175-500 acres of the eastern part of Ewelme Park. It would have been one of more than 30 medieval parks in the county.
The park was not within the parish of Ewelme, and this may have been for various reasons, facilitated by the manors of both Ewelme and Swyncombe being in the same ownership. One reason may have been lack of suitable wooded land within the parish or manor of Ewelme itself, not already owned or occupied by others. In Domesday there is very little recorded woodland within the parish - only about 80 acres. Also, as previously mentioned, medieval parks were frequently created on marginal land and manorial waste and, therefore, often at some distance from the manor house to which they belonged.

Getting to the park from Ewelme would have entailed either going via Swyncombe manor and climbing the steep hill on the northern edge of the park, possibly in the area of Haycroft Wood, or taking the Oxford/Henley track and turning up the combe leading to Digberry Lane. One route may have been better than the other depending on seasonal ground conditions.