Ewelme Watercress Beds & Nature Reserve The Chiltern Society

Henry VIIIWell connected

Apparently Henry VIII sometimes stayed at Ewelme Manor and in 1540 he held a Privy Council there. The source of Ewelme Brook lies at the eastern end of the village at a spring known as King's Pool (pictured on this page). So called, because every time Henry visited he would bathe in the pool, presumably believing that the healing qualities of the water there would help his ulcerated leg.

History of the Beds

Sometime in the 1880s, after the corn mill burnt down on this site, George Smith of Lewknor bought the then vacant plot.

In about 1890 he started to dig out and widen Ewelme Brook to create the perfect conditions for watercress. He formed the structure of the beds, comprising of a central embankment or 'bund' and dams –  which control the flow and depth of the water – very much as they are today. For nearly 100 years, watercress was grown here as a winter crop and was taken to Watlington by cart and from there by train to supply markets around the country, including those in Birmingham, Manchester and London. The commercial production of watercress ceased in 1988.

Health and safety changes now prohibit the sale of Ewelme's watercress because of possible contamination by effluent from the adjacent roads.

In 1992 with the support of the Chiltern Society, the decision was made to save the beds for posterity. A photographic record by Clive Ormond, which includes the opening of the Watercress Centre in 2004 by HRH The Duke of Kent, can be seen here on Flickr.