This 1000 year old Pilgrims church situated adjacent to the Ridgeway Path in a valley surrounded by fields of sheep and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a haven of peace and continuity.
The present building has not changed greatly for almost 600 years, having been reordered in 1437. It is a rare opportunity to see a place of worship with strong echoes stretching back over 100 years before the Reformation. Many people come to see the tomb of Alice de la Pole, Geoffrey Chaucer's granddaughter.
The church owes much of its present form to Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who lived in Ewelme, and to his daughter Alice, whose husband was Duke of Suffolk. It was their vision to found a chantry chapel and trust. The Ewelme Trust was set up in 1437 with royal license from Henry VI and exists to this day.
Alice de la Pole’s tomb is unique and cut entirely of alabaster. The upper section is a conventional, solid tomb chest, decorated with figures of angels set under canopies. Supported on this is a full length effigy of the Duchess, wearing her ducal coronet and the Order of the Garter round her left forearm. Underneath is another portrait of Alice, this time as a desiccated corpse, loosely wrapped in a shroud. It is the only life size cadaver of a woman that has remained intact in England, and the only cadaver in the country made in alabaster.
The Tudor connection in Ewelme began around 1449 when a high born girl named Lady Margaret Beaufort entered the household of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. King Henry VI married her to his half brother Edmund Tudor in 1455, at the age of 12 and she gave birth to the future King Henry VII in January 1457.
In 1525, Henry VIII gave Ewelme to Charles Brandon, but claimed it back in 1535. This proved beneficial for Ewelme when Henry VIII because as patron he did not dissolve the chantry at Ewelme when breaking from Rome. Next to the font there is a brass memorial to 5 year old Edward Norreys, son of Sir Henry Norreys. He was a friend of Queen Anne Boleyn and one of four men falsely implicated by Thomas Cromwell in a charge of adultery with the Queen.
After becoming Queen, Elizabeth I visited Ewelme with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. There is an account of Elizabeth riding pillion behind Dudley to visit the tombs of the crusaders in the church at Aldworth in 1570.