John Keble's Parishes
by Charlotte M Yonge
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Transcribed from the 1898 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email



To explain the present undertaking, it should be mentioned that a history of Hursley and North Baddesley was compiled by the Reverend John Marsh, Curate of Hursley, in the year 1808. It was well and carefully done, with a considerable amount of antiquarian knowledge. It reached a second edition, and a good deal of it was used in Sketches of Hampshire, by John Duthy, Esq. An interleaved copy received many annotations from members of the Heathcote family. There was a proposal that it should be re-edited, but ninety years could not but make a great difference in these days of progress, so that not only had the narrative to be brought up to date, but further investigations into the past brought facts to light which had been unknown to Mr. Marsh.

It was therefore judged expedient to rewrite the whole, though, whenever possible, the former Curate's work has been respected and repeated; but he paid little attention to the history of Otterbourne, and a good deal has been since disclosed, rendering that village interesting. Moreover, the entire careers of John Keble and Sir William Heathcote needed to be recorded in their relations to the parish and county. This has, therefore, here been attempted, together with a record of the building of the three churches erected since 1837, and a history of the changes that have taken place; though the writer is aware that there is no incident to tempt the reader—no siege of the one castle, no battle more important than the combat in the hayfield between Mr. Coram and the penurious steward, and, till the last generation, no striking character. But the record of a thousand peaceful years is truly a cause of thankfulness, shared as it is by many thousand villages, and we believe that a little investigation would bring to light, in countless other places, much that is well worth remembrance.

For the benefit of those who take an interest in provincial dialect, some specimens are appended, which come from personal knowledge.

The lists of birds and of flowers are both from the actual observation of long residents who have known the country before, in many instances, peculiarities have faded away before the march of progress.

The writer returns many warm thanks to those who have given much individual assistance in the undertaking, which could not have been attempted without such aid.



The South Downs of England descend at about eight miles from the sea into beds of clay, diversified by gravel and sand, and with an upper deposit of peaty, boggy soil, all having been brought down by the rivers of which the Itchen and the Test remain.

On the western side of the Itchen, exactly at the border where the chalk gives way to the other deposits, lies the ground of which this memoir attempts to speak. It is uneven ground, varied by undulations, with gravelly hills, rising above valleys filled with clay, and both alike favourable to the growth of woods. Fossils of belemnite, cockles (cardium), and lamp-shells (terebratula) have been found in the chalk, and numerous echini, with the pentagon star on their base, are picked up in the gravels and called by the country people Shepherds' Crowns—or even fossil toads. Large boulder stones are also scattered about the country, exercising the minds of some observers, who saw in certain of them Druidical altars, with channels for the flow of the blood, while others discerned in these same grooves the scraping of the ice that brought them down in the Glacial age.

But we must pass the time when the zoophytes were at work on our chalk, when the lamp-shells rode at anchor on shallow waves, when the cockles sat "at their doors in a rainbow frill," and the belemnites spread their cuttlefish arms to the sea, and darkened the water for their enemies with their store of ink.

Nor can we dwell on the deer which left their bones and horns in the black, boggy soil near the river, for unfortunately these were disinterred before the time when diggers had learnt to preserve them for museums, and only reported that they had seen remains.

Of HUMAN times, a broken quern was brought to light when digging the foundation of Otterbourne Grange; and bits of pottery have come to light in various fields at Hursley, especially from the barrows on Cranbury Common. In 1882 and 1883 the Dowager Lady Heathcote, assisted by Captain John Thorp, began to search the barrows on the left hand side of the high road from Hursley to Southampton, and found all had been opened in the centre, but scarcely searched at all on the sides. In July they found four or five urns of unbaked clay in one barrow—of early British make, very coarse, all either full of black earth or calcined bones, and all inverted and very rough in material, with the exception of one which was of a finer material, red, and like a modern flower-pot in shape. Several of these urns were deposited in the Hartley Museum, Southampton.

Of the Roman times we know nothing but that part of the great Roman road between Caer Gwent (or Venta Belgarum, as the Romans called Winchester) and Sorbiodunum (Old Sarum). It can still be traced at Hursley, and fragments of another leading to Clausentum (Southampton) on the slope of Otterbourne hill.

In Dr. Milner's History of Winchester, written at the end of the last century, he describes a medallion of mixed metal bearing the head of Julius Caesar, which was dug up by a labourer at Otterbourne, in the course of making a new road. He thought it one of the plates carried on the Roman standards of the maniples; but alas! on being sent, in 1891, to be inspected at the British Museum, it was pronounced to be one of a cinquecento series of the twelve Caesars.

The masters of the world have left us few traces of their possession, and in fact the whole district was probably scarcely inhabited; but the trees and brushwood or heather of the southern country would have joined the chalk downs, making part of what the West Saxons called the Jotunwald, or Giant's Wood, and the river Ytene, and so Itchen seems to have been named in like manner.

These were the times when churches were built and the boundaries of estates became those of parishes. The manor of Merdon, which occupied the whole parish of Hursley, belonged to the Bishops of Winchester by a grant of Oynegils, first Christian King. Milner, in his History of Winchester, wishes to bestow on Merdon the questionable honour of having been the place where, in the year 754, the West Saxon King Cenwulf was murdered by his brother in the house of his lady-love; but Mr. Marsh, the historian of Hursley, proves at some length that Merton in Surrey was more likely to have been the scene of the tragedy.

Church property being exempted from William the Conqueror's great survey, neither Merdon nor Hursley appears in Domesday Book, though Otterbourne, and even the hundred of Boyate or Boviate, as it is in the book, appear there. It had once belonged, as did Baddesley first, at first to one named Chepney, then to Roger de Mortimer, that fierce Norman warrior who was at first a friend and afterwards an enemy to William I.

The entire district, except the neighbourhood of Merdon Manor on the one hand, and of the Itchen on the other, was probably either forest ground or downs, but it escaped the being put under forest laws at the time when the district of Ytene became the New Forest. Probably the king was able to ride over down, heather, and wood, scarcely meeting an enclosure the whole way from Winchester; and we can understand his impatience of the squatters in the wilder parts, though the Cistercian Abbey of Beaulieu was yet to be founded. Indeed Professor E. A. Freeman does not accept the statement that there could possibly have been thirty-nine village churches to be destroyed in the whole district of "Ytene."

The tradition lingered to the present time at Otterbourne that the corpse of William Rufus was brought back in Purkiss's wood-cart from Minestead to Winchester for burial in the Cathedral, along a track leading from Hursley to Otterbourne, called at each end King's Lane, though it is not easy to see how the route could have lain through both points.

The parish of Hursley lies in the hundred of Buddlesgate, and division of Fawley; and the village is situated on the turnpike-road leading from Winchester to Romsey, and nearly at an equal distance from each of those places.

The parishes by which Hursley is surrounded were, when Mr. Marsh wrote, Sparsholt on the north; Farley on the north-west; Michelmersh and Romsey on the west; Baddesley, North Stoneham, and Otterbourne on the south; and Compton and St. Cross on the east.

The whole parish was then upwards of twenty-eight miles in circumference, and contained 10,590 acres of land, of which 2600 were in common, 372 in roads and lanes, about 1000 under growth of coppice-wood, and the rest either arable or pasture.

The soil in the parish of Hursley, as may be supposed in so extensive a tract of land, is of several different sorts; in some parts it is light and shallow, and of a chalky nature; in others, particularly on the east and west sides of the parish, it is what is called STRONG land, having clay for its basis; and in others, especially that of the commons and fields adjoining, it consists principally of sand or gravel. Towards the west, it is entirely covered with wood, not in general bearing trees of large size, but some beautiful beech-trees; and breaking into peaty, boggy ground on the southern side. The northern side is of good rich loam, favourable to the growth of fine trees, and likewise forms excellent arable land. This continues along the valley of Otterbourne, along a little brook which falls into the Itchen. It is for the most part of thick clay, fit for brick-making, with occasional veins of sand, and where Otterbourne hill rises, beds of gravel begin and extend to the borders of the Itchen, through a wooded slope known as Otterbourne Park.

The boundaries of estates fixed those of parishes, and Otterbourne was curiously long and narrow, touching on Compton and Twyford to the north and north-west, on Stoneham to the south, and Hursley to the west, lying along the bank of the Itchen.

The churches of both parishes were probably built in the twelfth century, for though Hursley Church has been twice, if not three times, rebuilt, remains of early Norman mouldings have been found built into the stone-work of the tower. And on the wall of the old Otterbourne Church a very rude fresco came partially to light. Traced in red was a quatrefoil within a square, the corners filled up with what had evidently been the four Cherubic figures, though only the Winged Ox was clearly traceable. Within the quatrefoil was a seated Figure, with something like scales in one hand, apparently representing our Lord in His glory. The central compartment was much broken away, but there was the outline of a man whom one in a hairy garment was apparently baptizing. The rest had disappeared.

These paintings surmounted three acutely-pointed arches, with small piers, and square on the side next the nave, but on the other side slender shafts with bell-shaped capitals, carved with bold round mouldings and deep hollows. Two corbels supporting the horizontal drip-stone over the west window were also clear and sharply cut; and the doorway on the south side had slender shafts and deep mouldings, in one of which is the dog-tooth moulding going even down to the ground on each side. This is still preserved in the entrance to the Boys' School.

These remnants date the original building for about the thirteenth century. It may have been due to King Stephen's brother, Bishop Henry de Blois of Winchester, who is known to have raised the castle whose remains still exist on his manor of Merdon, where once there had been a Roman encampment. So far as his work can be traced, the first thing he would do would be to have a similar embankment thrown up, and a parapet made along the top, behind which men-at-arms would be stationed, the ditch below having a stockade of sharp stakes. In the middle of the enclosure a well was begun, which had to go deeper and deeper through the chalk, till at last water was found at 300 feet deep—a work that must have lasted a year or more. Around the well, leaving only a small courtyard, were all the buildings of the castle meant for the Bishop's household and soldiers. The entrance to it all was probably over a drawbridge across the great ditch (which, on this side, was not less than 60 feet deep), and through a great gateway between two high square towers, which must have stood where now there is a slope leading down from the level of the inner court to that surrounded by a bank. This slope is probably formed by the ruins of the gateway and tower having been pitched into the ditch, as the readiest way of getting rid of them when the castle was dismantled afterwards. We are indebted to the late Sir John Cowell for the conjectural plan and description of the castle.

As soon as the Bishop had completed this much he would feel tolerably safe, but he would not be satisfied. He could hardly have room in his castle for all his retainers, and he could not command the country from it, except towards the south; therefore his next work was to make an embankment and the ditch on the outer side of it. It was then an unbroken semicircle, jutting out as it were from the castle, and protecting a sufficient space of ground for troops to encamp.

In case of an enemy forcing their way into this, the defenders could retreat into the castle by the drawbridge. The entrance was on the east side, and in order to protect this and the back of the castle, by which is meant the northern side, another embankment was made and finished with a parapet. Also as, in case of this being carried by the enemy, it would be impossible for the defenders in the northern part of the castle to run round the castle and into shelter by the main gateway, he built a square tower (exactly opposite to the ruin which yet remains), and divided from it only by the great ditch. On either side of the tower—cutting the embankment across, therefore, at right angles—was a little ditch, spanned by a drawbridge, which, if the defenders thought it necessary to retire to the tower, could at any time be raised (the foundations of the tower and the position of the ditches can still be distinctly traced). Supposing, further, that it became impossible to hold the tower, the besieged could retreat into the main body of the castle by means of another drawbridge across the great ditch, which would lead them through the arch (which can still be seen in the ruins, though it is partially blocked up). The room on the east side of this passage was probably a guard-room. In some castles of this date there were also two or three tunnels bored through the earth-work from the inner courtyard to the bottom of the great ditch, so as to provide additional ways of retreat for such men as might otherwise be cut off in those parts most distant from either of the great gates, in order to secure the outlying defence.

Henry de Blois must have been thinking of the many feudal castles of his native France. He was a magnificent prelate, though involved in the wars of his brother and the Empress Matilda. The hospital of St. Cross, and much of the beauty of Romsey Abbey, are ascribed to him, and he even endeavoured to obtain that Winchester should be raised to the dignity of a Metropolitan See. It does not appear that all his elaborate defences at Merdon were ever called into practical use; and when his brother, King Stephen, died in 1154, he fled from England, and the young Henry II. in anger dismantled Merdon, together with his other castles of Wolvesey and Waltham; nor were these fortifications ever restored. The king and bishop were reconciled; and the latter spent a pious and penitent old age, only taking one meal a day, and spending the surplus in charity. He died in 1174.


It was considered in the Middle Ages that tithes might be applied to any church purpose, and were not the exclusive right of the actual parish priest, provided he obtained a sufficient maintenance, which in those days of celibacy was not very expensive. The bishops and other patrons thus assigned the great tithes of corn of many parishes to religious foundations elsewhere, only leaving the incumbent the smaller tithe from other crops—an arrangement which has resulted in many abuses.

Thus in 1301, when Bishop Sawbridge or Points, or as it was Latinised, de Pontissara, founded the college of St. Elizabeth, in St. Stephen's, Merdon, by the Itchen at Winchester, for the education of twelve poor boys by a provost and fellows, he endowed it in part with the great tithe of Hursley. The small tithes having been found insufficient for the maintenance of the vicar, he united to Hursley the rectory of Otterbourne, giving the great tithes to the vicar of Hursley; and in 1362 Bishop Edyngton confirmed the transaction.

Mr. Marsh thus relates the transaction:-

"The Living of Hursley was anciently a rectory, and, as it is believed, wholly unconnected with any other church or parish. Unfortunately, however, for the parishioners, as well as for the minister, it was, about the year 1300, reduced to a vicarage, and the great tithes appropriated to the College of St. Elizabeth in Winchester. The small tithes which remained being inadequate to the support of the vicar and his necessary assistants, the church of Otterbourne was consolidated with that of Hursley, and the tithes of that parish, both great and small, were given to them to make up a sufficient maintenance—an arrangement which, in that dark age, was thought not only justifiable but even laudable, but which nevertheless deserves to this day to be severely censured, since not only the minister but both the parishes and the cause of religion have suffered a serious and continued injury from it.

"The person by whom this appropriation was made was John de Pontissara, alias Points, Bishop of Winchester, the founder of the college to which the tithes were granted; it was, however, afterwards confirmed by William de Edyngton, by whom the vicar's rights, which before were probably undefined, and perhaps the subject of contention, were ascertained and secured to him by endowment. This instrument is still in being, bearing the date of 1362. It may be seen in Bishop Edyngton's Register, part I, fol. 128, under the following marginal title:- 'Ratificatio et Confirmatio appropriationis Ecclesiae de Hursleghe, et ordinationes Vicarie ejusd.' The following is a translation of it, so far as the vicar's interests are concerned in it:- 'The said vicar shall have and receive all and all manner of tithes, great and small, with all offerings and other emoluments belonging to the chapel of Otterbourne, situated within the parish of the said church (viz. of Hursley). He shall also have and receive all offerings belonging to the church of Hursley, and all small tithes arising within the parish of the same, viz., the tithes of cheese, milk, honey, wax, pigs, lambs, calves, eggs, chickens, geese, pigeons, flax, apples, pears, and all other tithable fruits whatsoever of curtilages or gardens. He shall also receive the tithes of mills already erected, or that shall be erected. He shall also receive and have all personal tithes of all traders, servants, labourers, and artificers whatsoever, due to the said church. The said Vicar shall also receive and have all mortuaries whatsoever, live and dead, of whatsoever things they may consist. The said Vicar shall also receive and have all profit and advantage arising from the herbage of the churchyard. He shall also have and receive the tithes of all fish-ponds whatsoever, within the said parish, wheresoever made, or that hereafter shall be made. The said Vicar shall also have for his habitation the space on the south side of the churchyard, measuring in length, from the said churchyard and the rectorial house, formerly belonging to the said church, towards the south, twenty-seven perches; and in breadth, from the hedge and ditch between the said space and the garden of the aforesaid former rectory on the west, towards the east, sixteen perches and a half, with the buildings erected thereon.'

"Besides the above, John de Pontissara allotted to the Vicar the tithes of wool, beans, and vetches; but of the first of these he was deprived by Bishop Edyngton's endowment, and the latter have been so little cultivated that he has never yet derived any advantage from them, though his right to this species of tithes cannot, I suppose, be questioned, unless, indeed, they are comprehended under the term Bladum, and are consequently to be considered as the portion of the Impropriator. The tithes given by the Endowment to the President and Chaplains of St. Elizabeth College are—'Decimae Bladi cujuscunque generis, Foeni ac Lanae,' and no other.

"The church of Hursley is situated within the deanery of Winchester, and is a Peculiar; {17} a distinction which it enjoys, probably, in consequence of its having been formerly under the patronage of the bishop. The advantages of this are, that it is not subject to the archdeacon's jurisdiction; that the minister is not obliged to attend his visitations; and that he has the privilege of granting letters of administration to wills, when the property conveyed by them lies within the limits of the vicarage.

"The value of the benefice, as rated in the King's Book, is 9 pounds per annum, and the tenths are of course 18s. These the incumbent is required to pay annually, but he is exempted from the payment of the First Fruits. The land-tax with which the vicarage is charged is 14 pounds: 1: 2.5 per annum; and the procurations and diet-money payable on account of the Bishop's Visitation amount to 12s. 9.5d."

The patronage of the living, when a rectory, belonged to the bishops of Winchester, and afterwards, when reduced to a vicarage, was expressly reserved to himself and his successors by William de Edyngton; and so long as they kept possession of the Manor of Merdon, they continued patrons of the vicarage. This Bishop Edyngton, the same who began the alteration of the cathedral, is said to have built the second church of All Saints at Hurley, the tower of which still remains.

William of Wykeham, among his wider interests, seems to have had little concern with Hursley or Otterbourne.

The bishops possessed numerous manors in the diocese, and these were really not only endowments, but stations whence the episcopal duty of visitation could be performed. Riding forth with his train of clergy, chaplains, almoners, lawyers, crossbearers, and choristers, besides his household of attendants, the bishop entered a village, where the bells were rung, priest, knight, franklins, and peasants came out with all their local display, often a guild, to receive him, and other clergy gathered in; mass was said, difficulties or controversies attended to, confirmation given to the young people and children, and, after a meal, the bishop proceeded, sometimes to a noble's castle, or a convent, but more often to another manor of his own, where he was received by his resident steward or park-keeper, and took up his abode, the neighbouring clergy coming in to pay their respects, mention their grievances, and hold counsel with him. His dues were in the meantime collected, and his residence lasted as long as business, ecclesiastical or secular, required his presence, or till he and his train had eaten up the dues in kind that came in.

Whether the visit was welcome or not depended a good deal on the character of the prelate, and the hold he kept on his subordinates. The great courtly bishops, like William of Wykeham, generally sent their suffragans, titular bishops in partibus infidelium, to perform their duties.

One of the park-keepers of Merdon was judged worthy of a Latin epitaph, probably the work of a chaplain or of a Winchester scholar to whom he had endeared himself:

Hic in humo stratus, John Bowland est tumulatus Vir pius et gratus et ab omnibus hinc peramatus Custos parcorum praestans quondam fuit horum De Merdon, quorum et Wintoniae dominorum. Hic quinqgenis hinc octenis rite deemptis Cum plausu gentis custos erat in eis.

Festum Clementis tempus fuerat morientis Mille quadringentis annis Christi redimentis, Quadris his junctis simul et cum septuagintis. Hunc cum defunctis, protege, Christe, tuis.

Here laid in the ground, John Bowland hath sepulture, A man of faith and kindliness, and hence by all beloved. He was aforetime the excellent guardian of this park Belonging to certain lords of Merdon and Winchester. He for (lit. in) 50 years—(8 being taken away precisely) With the applause of all the community was guardian among them.

The Festival of Clement was his date of dying In years one thousand four hundred after Christ's Redemption, Adding to these four (?) (years) and seventy. Him, O Christ, befriend with those who are thine!

Unlike Hursley, or rather the Manor of Merdon, Otterbourne had many different possessors in succession, and is even at the present day divided into various holdings on different tenures.

In 1244 Walter and John de Brompton, sons of Sir Bryan de Brompton, lived at Hayswode, a name now lost or changed into "Otterbourne Park," the wood spreading over the east side of the hill. At the same time Sir Henry de Capella was possessor of the manor; but in 1265 it had passed, by what means we do not know, to Sir Francis de Bohun—a very early specimen of this Christian name which was derived from the sobriquet of the Saint of Assisi, whose Christian name was John.

From the son of Sir Francis in 1279 Simon the Draper obtained the Manor of Otterbourne for 600 merks, and a quit rent of a pair of gilt spurs valued at six pence! Simon seems to have assumed the gilt spurs himself, for he next appears as "Sir Simon de Wynton." Indeed it seems that knighthood might be conferred on the possessors of a certain amount of land. Wynton in two more generations has lengthened into Wynchester, when, in 1379, the manor is leased to Hugh Croans, merchant, and Isabella his wife for their lives, paying after the first twenty-five years 100 pounds per annum. And two years later William de Winchester conveyed the manor over to Hugh Croans or Crans.

The great Bishop William of Wykeham bought it in 1386, and gave it to his cousin, bearing the same name. It continued in the Wykeham family till 1458, when William Fiennes or Fenys, Lord Say and Sele, the son of him who was murdered by Jack Cade's mob, being married to the heiress, Margaret Wykeham, sold it to Bishop Waynflete for 600 pounds.

The bishop's treasurer was Hugh Pakenham; and being one of the feoffees to whom the manor was conveyed for the bishop, he pretended that he had bought it for himself, and absconded with some of the title deeds; but eventually he died in magna miseria in sanctuary at St. Martin's le Grand, Westminster. His son John renounced the pretended claim, and very generously the Bishop gave him 40 pounds.

In 1481, good Bishop Waynflete made over the property to his newly- founded College of St. Mary Magdalen at Oxford, in whose possession it has remained ever since, except small portions which have been enfranchised from time to time. It includes Otterbourne hill, with common land on the top and wood upon the slope, as well as various meadows and plough lands. The manor house, still bearing the name of the Moat House, was near the old church in the meadows, and entirely surrounded with its own moat. It must have been a house of some pretension in the sixteenth century, for there is a handsome double staircase, a rough fresco in one room, and in the lowest there was a panel over the fireplace, with a painting representing apparently a battle between Turks and Austrians. The President of Magdalen College on progress always held his court there. The venerable Dr. Rowth in extreme old age was the last who did so. Since his time the bridge crossing the moat fell in and choked it; it became a marsh; the farm was united to another, the picture removed, and the only inhabitants are such a labourer's family as may be impervious to the idea that it is haunted.

Simon the Draper, otherwise Sir Simon de Wynton, granted a plot of land to the north-west of the Manor House to Adam de Lecke in villeinage, and later in freehold to John de Otterbourne, reserving thirteen shillings rent. By this last it was rented on his wife Alice, from whom it passed through several hands to John Colpoys in the year of Henry VI., and twenty-two years later this same John Colpoys agreed with the warden and fellows of Winchester College to enfeoff them of one messuage, four tofts, twenty acres of arable land, and eighteen acres of meadow, to the intent that they should on the 7th day of April in every year celebrate the obits of Alice his deceased wife, of John Giles and Maud his wife (her parents), of Sir John Shirborne and of Joan Parke, and of Colpoys himself and Joan his then wife, after their respective deaths.

These obits, namely anniversaries of deaths when masses were to be offered for the person recollected, were to be secured by the fee of a shilling to the warden on each occasion, sixpence to each fellow and chaplain, and likewise to the schoolmaster, twopence to each lay clerk, sixpence to the sacrist for wax candles, and a mark or thirteen and fourpence to be spent in a "pittance" extra course in the college hall. The indenture by which Colpoys hoped to secure perpetual masses in remembrance of his relations and himself is in perfect preservation, with seals attached, in the muniment chamber of Winchester College.

The property has continued ever since in the possession of the College of St. Mary, Winchester, though the masses ceased to be celebrated after the Reformation.

In those days the rector of Hursley was John de Ralegh, probably a kinsman of the bishop of that name.

Before this, however, Bishop Richard Toclive had a dispute with the Knights of St. John, who claimed the almshouse of Noble Poverty at St. Cross as Hospitallers. They had unfortunately a reputation for avarice, and Toclive bought them off by giving them the impropriation of Merton and Hursleigh {25} for 53 marks a year.

PAGANUS DE LYSKERET, styled Presbyter, was collated in 1280. It appears that at this time there was a perpetual vicar established in the Church of Hursley as well as a rector; and that he was instituted by the bishop, had a certain fixed maintenance assigned to him, and was independent of the rector. In the register of John de Pontissera, Bishop of Winton, may now be seen what is there called the "Ordinatio Episcopi inter Rectorem et Vicarium de Hurslegh." It is therein settled that the vicar shall have a house as described and other emoluments, and that the rector shall pay to him forty shillings per annum. The vicar at this time was Johannes de Sta. Fide. The deed of settlement was executed in Hyde Abbey, in the year 1291; Philip de Barton, John de Ffleming, William de Wenling, and others being witnesses to it. Vide Regist. de Pontissera, fol. 10. Forty shillings or five marks was, it appears, the stipend usually assigned to vicars and curates at this time, the vicar being REALLY what we now call a curate.

HUGO DE WELEWYCK, styled Clericus, succeeded in 1296 on the resignation of Paganus and was the last rector, the benefice having in his time been reduced to a vicarage by the appropriation of the rectorial-house, tithes, and glebe to the College of St. Elizabeth. The PRETENCES assigned for this act, for true REASONS they could scarcely be, since in all cases of appropriation and consolidation they appear to have been almost exactly the same, were the unfinished state of the college buildings and the insufficiency of the revenues for the maintenance of the society, owing to wars, sickness, pestilence, and the like. But notwithstanding this serious deprivation and loss, a vicar it appears was still continued in the church, Hugh de Welewyck having presented two, viz. Henricus de Lyskeret in 1300, and Roger de la Vere in 1302; of whom the latter was certainly appointed after the appropriation.

WILLIAM DE FFARLEE was collated Vicar of Hursley, on the death of Welewyck in 1348.

WILLIAM DE MIDDLETON was collated in 1363.


The rectorial tithe of Hursley having been given to St. Elizabeth's College, and apparently some rights over Merdon, the Chancellor Wriothesley obtained that, on the confiscation of monastic property, the manor should be granted to him. Stephen Gardiner had been bishop since 1531, a man who, though he had consented to the king's assumption of the royal supremacy, grieved over the fact as an error all his life. He appeared at the bar of the House of Commons and pleaded the rights of his See, to which Merdon had belonged for 1300 years. It was probably in consequence of his pleading that Wriothesley restored the manor, but when Gardiner was illegally deposed by the regency of Edward VI. on 14th February 1550, John Poynet, a considerable scholar, but a man of disgraceful life, obtained the appointment to the see, by alienating various estates to the Seymour family, and Merdon was resumed by the Crown. It was then granted to Sir Philip Hobby who had been one of King Henry's privy councillors, and had been sent on an embassy to Portugal, attended by ten gentlemen of his own retinue, wearing velvet coats with chains of gold.

Already had come to the hamlet of Slackstead in Hursley Parish another reformer, Thomas Sternhold, who had been gentleman of the bed-chamber to Henry VIII., and had put thirty-seven Psalms into English verse, in hopes of improving the morals of the Court. John Hopkins and Robert Wisdom completed the translation of the Psalms, which Fuller in his history says was at first derided and scoffed at as piety rather than poetry, adding that the good gentleman had drunk more of Jordan than of Helicon. In his Worthies, however, he says: "He was afterwards (saith my author) ab intimo cubiculo to King Edward the Sixth; though I am not satisfied whether thereby he meant gentleman of his privy chamber or groom of his bed-chamber. He was a principal instrument of translating the Psalms into English metre; the first twenty-six (and seven-and-thirty in all) {28} being by him performed. Yet had he other assistance in that work. Many a bitter scoff hath since been passed on their endeavours by some wits, which might have been better employed. Some have miscalled these their translations Geneva gigs (i.e. jigs); and which is the worst, father (or mother rather) the expression on our virgin queen, as falsely as other things have been charged upon her. Some have not sticked to say 'that David hath been as much persecuted by bungling translators as by Saul himself.' Some have made libellous verses in abuse of them, and no wonder if songs were made on the translators of the Psalms, seeing drunkards made them on David the author thereof.

"But let these translations be beheld by impartial eyes, and they will be allowed to go in equipage with the best poems in that age. However, it were to be wished that some bald rhymes therein were bettered; till which time, such as sing them must endeavour to amend them by singing them with understanding heads and gracious hearts, whereby that which is bad metre on earth will be made good music in heaven. As for our Thomas Sternhold, it was happy for him that he died before his good master, anno 1549, in the month of August; so probably preventing much persecution which had happened unto him if surviving in the reign of Queen Mary."

Such was Fuller's judgment and that of the author he quotes, nevertheless the version of the Psalms, being printed with the Prayer-Book, took such a strong hold of the nation that in 1798 Hannah More was accused of dissent, because the version of Tate and Brady was used in her schools. Mr. Keble preferred it to this latter as more like the Hebrew, and some of his versions (curiously enough proceeding from the same parish) remind us of these simple old translators. The Old Hundredth, and in some degree the 23rd and the opening of the 18th, still hold their place, probably in virtue of the music to which they are wedded.

Bishop Gardiner recovered the Manor of Merdon, with his liberty, on Queen Mary's accession. Then it was that Philip of Spain rode through one of these villages, probably Otterbourne, soaked through with rain, on his way to his ill-starred marriage with Mary.

Gardiner was no persecutor, and Sternhold's widow lived on at Slackstede. On his death, Queen Mary gave the diocese to John White, the same who preached to Elizabeth on a living dog being better than a dead lion.

Hobby then claimed the manor, but Bishop White made a strenuous resistance, appealing to Gardiner's former plea, and supported by the Attorney General Story, who is said to have been an enemy of Sir Philip Hobby. The case was argued in the House of Lords, and given against the bishop, though under the protest of several of the Lords Spiritual, who dreaded the like treatment.

Story was prosecuted by the Commons for pleading before the Lords, fled to the Netherlands and was trepanned on board an English ship, and put to death as a traitor.

Bishop White was deprived the next year, and retired to his sister's house at South Warnborough, where he died. Queen Elizabeth is said to have visited him.

Merdon was thus in 1558 for ever alienated from the diocese of Winchester. Sir Philip Hobby is said to have first built the Lodge, as it was called, of Hursley Park, about a quarter of a mile from Merdon Castle, which had become ruinous. Those were the days when the massive walls and minute comfortless chambers were deserted, defence being less thought of than convenience in our happy country; and indeed Sir Philip seems to have used Hursley as a residence instead of only a shelter on a tour. He died at Bisham aged 53, on the 31st of May 1558, soon after his victory over the See of Winchester, and is there buried, as well as his elder brother, Sir Thomas. He left no children, and was succeeded by his brother William, who had married the widow of Sternhold. On her death the following memorial was erected over a stone bearing the coat, "On a chevron embattled, between three griffins' heads erased, three roses; and on a brass the inscription:

If ever chaste or honest godly lyfe Myght merit prayse . of everlastyng fame Forget not then . that worthy Sternhold's wife Our Hobbie's make . Anne Horswell cald by name From whome alas . to sone for hers here left Hath God her Soule . deth her lyfe byreft, Anno 1559."

His property at Hursley descended to his son Giles Hobby, Esq., who, it appears clearly by the register and other records, was living in the parish very early in the seventeenth century. His last wife was Ann, the daughter of Sir Thomas Clarke, Knight of Avyngton {32} in Berkshire, to whom he sold the castle and manor of Merdon, reserving, however to himself and wife, a life-holding in the lodge and park. When this sale was made does not appear, but it is supposed to have been before the year 1602, as Sir Thomas was then living at Merdon, and his son married in that year at Hursley. Giles Hobby died in the year 1626, and his wife in 1630. They were both buried at Hursley, probably in the church, but no monument appears to have been erected to their memory.

"Sir Thomas Clarke may be considered as the next lord of Merdon, though he was never in possession of either the lodge or the park, and held only for a few years what he did possess. So long, however, as he continued proprietor of the manor, it is said that he lived at MERDON, I suppose at the castle, a part of which was probably then standing and habitable. Sir Thomas, it would seem, kept the demesne lands in his own occupation, requiring the tenants or copyholders of the manor, according to ancient usage, to perform the customary service of reaping and housing his crops: (1) The days employed in this service were called Haydobyn days; (2) and during their continuance the lord was obliged to provide breakfast and dinner for the workmen. Richard Morley, in his Manuscript, gives a very curious account of a quarrel which occurred on one of these occasions. 'Another time' (says he) 'upon a haydobyn-day (320 or 340 reapers) the cart brought a-field for them a hogs-head of porridge, which stunk and had worms swimming in it. The reapers refused to work without better provisions. Mr. Coram of Cranbury would not suffer them to work. Mr. Pye, Sir Thomas Clarke's steward, and Coram drew their daggers, and rode at each other through the wheat. At last Lady Clarke promised to dress for them two or three hogs of bacon: twenty nobles' work lost.' He adds, that 'a heire (hire) went for a man on the haydobyn-days, if able to carry a hooke a-field.'"

This "haydobyn" is supposed by Mr. Marsh to be a corruption of the old word "haydogtime," {34} a word signifying a country dance. It seems that when the tenants were called on to perform work in hedging, reaping, or hay-making, upon the lands of the lord of the manor, in lieu of money rent he was bound to feed them through the day, and generally to conclude with a merry-making. So, no doubt, it had been in the good old days of the bishops and the much loved and lamented John Bowland; but harder times had come with Sir Thomas Clarke, when it required the interference of Mr. Coram of Cranbury to secure them even an eatable meal. No doubt such stout English resistance saved the days of compulsory labour from becoming a burden intolerable as in France.

Roger Coram, gent., rented Cranbury at 17 pounds: 2s. Cranbury is a low wooded hill, then part of the manor of Merdon, nearly two miles to the south-east of Hursley, and in that parish, though nearer to Otterbourne. Several tenements seem to have been there, those in the valley being called Long Moor and Pot Kiln. Shoveller is the first name connected with Cranbury, but Mr. Roger Coram, the champion of the haymakers, held it till his death, when it passed to Sir Edward Richards.

On the other hand, Brambridge, which stands in Twyford parish, but held part of the hundred of Boyatt in Otterbourne, was in the hands of the Roman Catholic family of Welles, who seem to have had numerous retainers at Highbridge, Allbrook, and Boyatt. Swithun Welles made Brambridge a refuge for priests, and two or three masses were said in his house each day. One "Ben Beard," a spy, writes in 1584 that if certain priests were not at Brambridge they would probably be at Mr. Strange's at Mapledurham, where was a hollow place by the livery cupboard capable of containing two men.

Swithun Welles went later to London and took a house in Holborn, where Topcliffe the priest-catcher broke in on Father Genings saying mass, and both he and Mr. Welles were hanged together for what was adjudged in those days to be a treasonable offence, implying disaffection to the Queen. {36}

The modern house of Brambridge affords no priests' chambers. It is believed that an older one was burnt down, and there is a very dim report that a priest was drowned in a stone basin in a neighbouring wood.

The register of Twyford Church contains the record of a number of the Welles family buried in the churchyard clandestinely, by night. John Wells, mentioned in the Athenae Oxoniensis as an able man living at Deptford, retired to Brambridge, and died there in 1634. This accounts for there having been the Roman Catholic school at Twyford, whence Alexander Pope was expelled for some satirical verses on the master. The house is still known.

The vicars of Hursley at this period were John Hynton, presented by Bishop Gardiner, but deprived in on account of his tenets. Richard Fox was presented in his place by William Hobby. It must have been owing to the reforming zeal of this vicar of Hursley that the frescoes in Otterbourne Church were as far as possible effaced, white-washed over, and the Ten Commandments painted over them in old English lettering, part of which was still legible in 1839. Otterbourne was apparently still served by the vicar of Hursley or his assistant.

Parish Registers began at this date, and here are the remarkable occurrences recorded at Hursley:


1582. A great hail storm happened at Hursley, Baddesley, and in the neighbourhood, this year. The hail-stones measured nine inches in circumference.

1604. The plague made its appearance at Anfield. It broke out in November, and continued till the following February. Many persons died of it, and were not brought to the church, but buried in the waste near their residence.

1610. A person of the name of Wooll hanged himself at Gosport, in the parish of Hursley, about this time. He was buried at the corner of Newland's Coppice, and a stake was driven through his body. (The place still bears the name of Newland's Coppice.)

1621. A planked thrashing-floor first laid down in the parish this year, viz. at Merdon. Chalk-floors used before. It was reckoned a memorable improvement.

1629. A great fall of snow in October. It was nearly half a foot deep, and remained on the ground three or four days.

1635. A copyholder was hanged for murder this year. His copyhold was seized by the lord as forfeited, but afterwards recovered, viz. in 1664.


After his dispute with the haymakers, Sir Thomas Clarke sold Merdon to William Brock, a lawyer, from whom it passed to John Arundel, and then to Sir Nathanael Napier, whose son, Sir Gerald, parted with it again to Richard Maijor, the son of the mayor of Southampton. This was in 1638, and for some time the lodge at Hursley was lent to Mr. Kingswell, Mr. Maijor's father-in-law, who died there in 1639, after which time Mr. Maijor took up his abode there. He seems to have been a shrewd, active man, and a staunch Protestant, for when there was a desire to lease out Cranbury, he, as Lord of the Manor, stipulated that it should be let only to a Protestant of the Church of England, not to a Papist. The neighbourhood of the Welleses at Brambridge probably moved him to make this condition.

The person who applied for the lease was Dr. John Young, Dean of Winchester, who purchased the copyhold of Cranbury before 1643, and retired thither when he was expelled from his deanery and other preferments in the evil times of the Commonwealth, and there died, leaving his widow in possession.

Whether the lady was molested by Mr. Maijor we do not know. He was no favourite with Richard Morley, who rented the forge in Hursley, the farm of Ratlake and Anvyle, as Ampfield was then spelt, and thought him a severe lord to his copyholders. Morley was born at Hursley, and was sent to school at Baddesley in 1582, the year of the great hailstorm of the nine-inch stones. He kept valuable memoranda, which Mr. Marsh quotes, and died in 1672, when he is registered as:-

"Ricardus Morley Senex sepultus fuit, August 1672." (Senex indeed, for he must have been 97.)

Of Maijor, Morley records, "He was very witty and thrifty, and got more by oppressing his tenants than did all the lords in 60 years before him. He was a justice of the peace, and raised a troop in the cause of the Parliament." It must have been in the army that Oliver Cromwell made his acquaintance, and in 1647 began the first proposals of a "Marriage treaty," between Richard, Oliver's eldest surviving son, just twenty-one and educated for the Law, and the elder daughter of Mr. Maijor (which Carlyle always spells as Mayor). For the time, however, this passed off; but, apparently under the direction of Mr. Robertson, a minister of Southampton, and Mr. Stapylton, also a minister, the treaty was resumed; and three weeks after the King's execution, Oliver wrote to Mr. Maijor.

For my very worthy friend, Richard Mayor, Esq.: These.

LONDON, 12th February 1648.

SIR—I received some intimations formerly, and by the last return from Southampton a Letter from Mr. Robinson, concerning the reviving of the last year's motion, touching my Son and your Daughter. Mr. Robinson was also pleased to send enclosed in his, a Letter from you, bearing date the 5th of this instant, February, wherein I find your willingness to entertain any good means for the completing of that business.

From whence I take encouragement to send my Son to wait upon you; and by him to let you know, that my desires are, if Providence so dispose, very full and free to the thing,—if upon an interview, there prove also a freedom in the young persons thereunto. What liberty you will give herein, I wholly submit to you. I thought fit, in my Letter to Mr. Robinson, to mention somewhat of expedition because indeed I know not how soon I may be called into the field, or other occasions may remove me from hence; having for the present some liberty of stay in London. The Lord direct all to His glory.—I rest, Sir, your very humble servant,


Probably this was the time when the public-house of Hursley took the name of "The King's Head," which it has kept to the present day. But young Cromwell was inclined to loyalty, and when at Cambridge used to drink "to the health of our landlord," meaning the King! He was one- and-twenty when, with his father's friend Mr. Stapylton, he made a visit to Hursley, and was received by Mr. and Mrs. Maijor with many civilities, also seeing their two daughters, Dorothy and Anne. In a letter of 28th February, Cromwell thanks Mr. Maijor for "The reception of my son, in the liberty given him to wait on your worthy daughter, the report of whose virtues and godliness has so great a place in my heart that I think fit not to neglect anything on my part which may consummate a close of the business, if God please to dispose the young ones' hearts thereunto, and other suitable ordering of affairs towards mutual satisfaction appear in the dispensation of Providence."

Mr. Stapylton was commissioned to act for General Cromwell in the matter of settlements, over which there was considerable haggling, though Oliver writes that "the report of the young lady's godliness causeth him to deny himself in the matter of moneys." More correspondence ensued, as to the settlement of Hursley upon Dorothy and her heirs male, and the compensation to her younger sister Anne. Cromwell was anxious to hurry on the matter so as to have it concluded before his departure to take the command in Ireland.

The terms were finally settled, and Richard and Dorothy were married at Hursley on May Day, 1649, before Cromwell's departure to crush the ill-arranged risings in Ireland. Her sister Anne shortly after married John Dunch of Baddesley, with 1000 pounds as her portion. Morley of Baddesley chronicles the marriage in no friendly tone: "When" (says he) "King Charles was put to death, and Oliver Cromwell Protector of England, and Richard Maijor of his privy council, and Noll his eldest son Richard married to Mr. Maijor's daughter Doll, then Mr. Maijor did usurp authority over his tenants at Hursley." In another place he says that "he" (i.e. Mr. Maijor) "set forth horse and man for the Parliament, and was a captain and justice of peace. Lord Richard Cromwell was also a justice of peace, and John Dunch a captain and justice. These all lived at Lodge together in Oliver's reign; so we had justice right or wrong by power; for if we did offend, they had power to send us a thousand miles off, and that they have told us."

Richard, having no turn for politics or warfare, preferred to live a quiet life with his father-in-law, in the lodge. There were two walnut avenues planted about this time, leading to the lodge from the churchyard on one side, and on the other towards Baddesley; and the foundations of the house can still be traced on the lawn to which both lead.

Oliver writes in the summer after the marriage that he is glad the young people have leisure to make a journey to eat cherries. There is little doubt but that this must have been to the gardens in Ram- Alley near Chandler's Ford, originally Chaloner's Ford, where numerous trees, bearing quantities of little black cherries called merries, used to grow, and where parties used to go as a Sunday diversion, and eat, before the days of the station and the building.

The elder Mrs. Cromwell paid a visit to Hursley after parting with the Protector on his voyage to Ireland; but he never seems to have gone thither in person, though he wrote kindly paternal letters to his son and daughter. He wishes Richard to study mathematics and cosmography, and read history, especially Sir Walter Raleigh's. "It is a Body of history, and will add much more to your understanding than fragments of story." And to Dorothy, he gives advice on her health and religious habits.

John Hardy had been Vicar of Hursley but was expelled, and Mr. Maijor, as patron of the living, provided persons for the ministry and kept a close account of their expenses, which is still preserved. Seven different ministers in the half year after Christmas 1645 were remunerated "for travell and pains in preaching," after which time Mr. Richard Webb settled for a time at Hursley, and Mr. Daniel Lloyd at Otterbourne, though several more changes took place.

A parish register at Hursley, 1653, recording births (not baptisms), mentions the opening of a chalk-pit at Hatchgate in 1655, and at Otterbourne. The children of William Downe of Otterbourne Farm are distinguished by double black lines below their names.

Oliver Cromwell, according to an old village tradition, sunk his treasure at the bottom of Merdon Well, in an iron chest which must have been enchanted, for, on an endeavour to draw it up, no one was to speak. One workman unfortunately said, "Here it comes," when it immediately sank to the bottom and (this is quite certain) never was seen! The well was cleaned out in later times, and nothing was found but a pair of curious pattens, cut away to receive a high-heeled shoe, also a mazer-bowl, an iron flesh-hook and small cooking-pot, and a multitude of pins, thrown in to make the curious reverberating sound when, after several seconds, they reached the water. A couple of ducks are said to have been thrown down, and to have emerged at Pool hole at Otterbourne with their feathers scraped off.

On 3rd September 1658, the family party at Hursley was broken up by the unexpected death of the Protector. He was not yet sixty years of age, and had not contemplated being cut off before affairs were more settled; and when, in his last moments, he was harassed with enquiries as to his successor, he answered, "You will find my will in SUCH a drawer of my cabinet." Some of his counsellors thought he named his son Richard; and no one ever found the drawer with the will in it, in which it was thought that his son-in-law Fleetwood, a much abler man, was named.

At any rate, Richard was accepted in his father's place by Parliament and army, and went to much expense for the Protector's funeral. It must have been a great misfortune to him that his shrewd father-in- law, the witty and thrifty Mr. Maijor, was sinking under a complication of incurable diseases, of which Morley speaks somewhat unkindly, and he died in the end of April 1660.

Richard had never been a strong partisan of the Commonwealth, though he had quietly submitted to whatever was required of him. He had been member of Parliament for the county of Hants, and had been placed at the head of the list of his father's attempt at a House of Lords, and he allowed greatness to be thrust on him in a quiet acquiescent way. He dismissed the fictitious parliament that his father had summoned, and then offended the strict and godly of the army by promoting soldiers of whom they disapproved. "Here is Dick Ingoldsby," he said; "he can neither pray nor preach, and yet I trust him before you all."

No one had any real enthusiasm for the harmless, helpless man, "the phantom king of half a year"; and it was just as old Mr. Maijor was dying that Richard was requested by the "Rump" to resign, and return to Hampton Court, with the promise of a pension and of payment of the debts incurred by his father. While packing for his departure, he sat down on a box containing all the complimentary addresses made to him, and said, "Between my legs lie the lives and fortunes of all the good folk in England!" He then returned to Hursley, where he found himself pursued by those debts of his father which the Long Parliament had engaged to pay, and which swallowed up more than his patrimony, though the manor of Merdon, having been settled upon his wife, could not be touched. He was sufficiently alarmed, however, to make him retreat to the continent and change his name to Clarke.

In 1675 Mrs. Richard Cromwell died, leaving out of a numerous family only one son and two daughters. The son, Oliver, inherited the estates, and seems to have been on good terms with his father, who, in 1700, came to live at Cheshunt under his name of Clarke, and made some visits to Hursley. Richard married under this assumed name, and left some children.

When Oliver died without heirs in 1706, his father Richard, according to the original settlement, succeeded to the property, but his two daughters set up their claim, and the case was brought into court. It is said that the judge was Cowper, but this has been denied. At any rate the judge seems to have been shocked at the undutiful litigation, and treated the old man with much respect.

The case was decided in his favour, and he lived between Hursley and Cheshunt till his death in 1712 in his 86th year.

As Mr. Palgrave writes:-

Him count we wise, Him also, though the chorus of the throng Be silent, though no pillar rise In slavish adulation of the strong, But here, from blame of tongues and fame aloof, 'Neath a low chancel roof,

The peace of God He sleeps; unconscious hero! Lowly grave By village footsteps daily trod; Unconscious! or while silence holds the nave, And the bold robin comes, when day is dim, And pipes his heedless hymn.

These are a poet's meditations on him, more graceful than the inscription on the monument erected to him by his two undutiful daughters, ere, in 1718, they sold the estate. It was a large tablet of marble, surmounted by death's heads. It is of gray or veined marble, in the Doric style of architecture, and is in height thirteen feet, and in breadth nearly nine. The inscription upon it is as follows:-

This Monument was erected to the memory of Mrs. Eliz. Cromwell, spinster (by Mr. Richard Cromwell and Thomas Cromwell, her executors). She died the 8th day of April 1731, in the 82d yeare of her age, and lyes interred near this place; she was the daughter of Richard Cromwell, Esq., by Dorothy, his wife, who was the daughter of Richard Maijor, Esq. And the following account of her family (all of whom, except Mrs. Ann Gibson, lie in this chancel) is given according to her desire.

Mrs. Ann Gibson, the 6th daughter, died 7th Dec. 1727, in the 69th year of her age, and lies interred, with Dr. Thomas Gibson, her husband, Physician General of the Army, in the church-yard belonging to St. George's Chapel, in London.

Richard Cromwell, Esq., father of the said Eliz. Cromwell, died 12th July 1712, in the 86th year of his age.

Oliver Cromwell, Esq., son of the said Richard Cromwell, died 11th May 1705, in the 49th year of his age.

Mrs. Dorothy Mortimer, a seventh daughter, wife of John Mortimer, Esq., died 14th May 1681, in the 21st year of her age, but left no issue.

Mrs. Dorothy Cromwell, wife of the said Richard Cromwell, died 5th January 1675, in the 49th year of her age.

Mrs. Ann Maijor, mother of the said Mrs. Dorothy Cromwell, died 13th of June 1662.

Richard Maijor, Esq., husband of the said Mrs. Ann Maijor, died 25th April 1660.

Mrs. Dorothy Cromwell, a fifth daughter, died 13th December 1658, in the 2nd year of her age.

A fourth daughter died 27th May 1655, in the 1st year of her age.

Mrs. Mary Cromwell, a third daughter, died 24th September 1654, in the 2nd year of her age.

A son of the said Richard and Dorothy Cromwell, died 13th December 1652, in the 1st year of his age.

Mrs. Ann Cromwell, a second daughter, died 14th March 1651, in the 1st year of her age.

Mr. John Kingswell, father of the said Mrs. Ann Maijor, died 5th March 1639.

The lime-trees, beautifully surrounding the churchyard, are said to have been planted by Richard Cromwell, and there was certainly an excellent fashion of planting them in the latter end of the seventeenth century, partly due to a French custom, partly to Evelyn's Sylva. The beautiful avenue of limes at Brambridge, in three aisles, was probably planted at this date by one of the Welles family.

In taking down the old lodge of Merdon or Hursley, a large lump of metal was found, squeezed into a crevice of the wall, and was sold by Mr. Heathcote as a Roman weight; but on being cleaned, it proved to be the die of the seal of the Commonwealth. Richard had caused a new seal to be made for himself by Simon, a noted medallist, and he had probably thus disposed of the die as a dangerous possession. Mr. Vertue saw it in 1710, in the collection of a Mr. Roberts, but it has since disappeared.

There was a stone inscribed to Edward Reynell and Mary his wife, who died respectively in 1698 and 1699. They are believed to have been friends of Oliver Cromwell the grandson, who certainly named them in his will. There was a tradition in Hursley that this Reynell was actually the executioner of King Charles.


As it was just at this time that the customs of the manor of Merdon were revised, this seems to be the fittest place for giving Mr. Marsh's summary of them.

"The quantity of land in cultivation within the Manor of Merdon or parish of Hursley is, as I imagine, not less than three-fifths of the whole, or about 6000 acres; of which the greater part was anciently copyhold, under the Bishop and Church of Winchester. The tenure by which it was held, was, and indeed is still, that denominated Borough English, the most singular custom of which is, that the YOUNGEST son inherits the copyhold of his father, in preference of all his elder brothers. The origin of this tenure, according to Sir William Blackstone, is very remote, it being his opinion that it was 'a remnant of Saxon liberty'; {53} and was so named in contradistinction to the Norman customs, afterwards introduced by the Conqueror, from the Duchy of Normandy. The reasons commonly assigned for the peculiar usage just mentioned are given by Blackstone, but they are evidently not satisfactory to him, and, as it should seem, not founded on truth. His own way of accounting for it is far more rational and probable, though, it must be confessed, it is only conjectural. He supposes that the ancient inhabitants of this island were for the most part herdsmen and shepherds; that their elder sons, as soon as they arrived at manhood, received from their father a certain allotment of cattle, and removed from him, and that the youngest son, who continued to the last with him, became naturally the heir of the family and of the remaining property. Whether this were really the case or not will probably ever remain a question of great uncertainty; and it is a circumstance of too trifling a nature to deserve much investigation. It is, however, worthy of remark that to this day this custom of descent to the youngest son prevails among the Tartars; and that something very like it was anciently the usage among most northern nations. {54} But whatever be its origin, or in whatever way it be accounted for, such is the custom now existing in this manor; and I have had frequent opportunities of observing that it is held, especially by the inferior class of copyholders, as sacred, and that they would, on no consideration, divert their tenements out of the customary order of inheritance.

"But besides this custom, there are others also in this manor which indicate great antiquity, and which, there can be but little if any doubt, are the same as were in use before the Norman Conquest. We are told, indeed, by Judge Blackstone, that after that event the ancient Saxon system of tenure was laid aside, and that the Normans, wherever they had lands granted to them, introduced the feodal system; and that at length it was adopted generally, and as constitutional, throughout the kingdom. There does not, however, I think, appear to be sufficient reason for supposing that this new system was received into this manor, the customs here in use being evidently those of a more remote age, and in their CIRCUMSTANCES, if not in their NATURE, altogether unlike those which were at this time established by the Normans.

"Under the feodal system, the tenant originally held his lands entirely at the will of the lord, and at his death they reverted to the lord again. The services to be performed for the lord were uncertain and unlimited. The copyhold was also subject to a variety of grievous taxes, which the lord had the privilege, upon many occasions, of imposing—such as aids, reliefs, primer seisin, wardship, escheats for felony and want of heirs, and many more, altogether so exorbitant and oppressive as often totally to ruin the tenant and rob him of almost all interest in his property. {56} The difference of the circumstances under which the lands in the manor of Merdon are, and, as it seems, always were held, is remarkably striking: here the copyhold is hereditary, the services are certain and limited, the fines are fixed and unchangeable, the lord has no right of wardship, neither is the copyhold liable to escheat for felony; the widow of a tenant has also a right of inheritance, and the tenement may be let without the lord's consent for a year. All which circumstances appear to bespeak an original and fundamental difference of tenure from that of the feodal system, and are, I presume, to be considered, not as encroachments that have gradually grown upon that system, but as being of a more liberal extraction and much greater antiquity. {57a} But besides these differences, the supposition here advanced has this farther ground to rest upon, viz. that neither the name of MERDON, nor that of HURSLEY, is so much as mentioned in the great survey of the kingdom, called Domesday-Book, which, if the intention of that survey be rightly understood, {57b} it seems next to a certainty that one or other of them would have been had the new system been here adopted. Nor, when it is considered that this was CHURCH property, and that in many instances the alterations were not enforced, {58} out of favour as it is supposed to the landholder, who was partial to the more ancient tenure, ought it to be thought extraordinary that the customs in this manor did not undergo the general change; since, if favour were desirable and shown to any, who were so likely to expect and to find it as the clergy? But however this point may really be, it appears evident that the tenants of this manor have, from the earliest times to which we have the means of resorting for information, enjoyed many unusual rights and immunities, and that their services were, in many respects, far from being so base and servile as those of the strictly feodal tenant.

"When it was that disputes first arose between the lord and tenants concerning their respective rights is not, I believe, known with certainty; but it appears that in the time of Mr. Maijor many of the lord's claims were complained of by the tenants as usurpations; as, on the other hand, many of theirs were by the lord as new and uncustomary. But it was in vain then for the tenants either to resist the lord's pretensions or to assert their own; such being Mr. Maijor's power and interest with the Cromwellian Government as to enable him, as they well knew, easily to defeat all their efforts. In justice, however, to Mr. Maijor, it should be mentioned that he acted, in one instance at least, with great liberality towards the tenants; as by him it was that the customary personal services were commuted for pecuniary payments—an exchange which could not fail of being peculiarly acceptable to them, as they were not only relieved by it from a service they considered as a grievance, and performed reluctantly, but had the prospect of being in the end great gainers by it. But though by this concession on the part of the lord some ground of discontent was removed, yet disputes and animosities still continued to subsist with respect to other customs; and no sooner was Mr. Maijor dead, and the Cromwell family dispossessed of its power, than the tenants laid aside their fears and renewed their opposition. The circumstances of the times being now in their favour, it might perhaps have been expected that they, in their turn, should establish all their claims without contention. The case, however, was quite otherwise, as neither Mrs. Cromwell nor her son would tamely forego any one of their supposed privileges—on the contrary, Oliver defended them in the true spirit of a Cromwell, and relinquished none but such as the decisions of a jury, which were more than once resorted to, deprived him of. In this state of strife and litigation things continued until the year 1692, when most of the principal tenants concurred in a determination to appeal to the Court of Chancery. A bill of complaint was accordingly presented to the Court, stating their supposed grievances, and soliciting its interference. Several hearings and trials, ordered in consequence of this application, for the investigation of the disputed customs, then ensued; after which, though not till more than six years had elapsed, the Court finally adjudged and decreed the customs of the manor to be, and continue for the future, as they here follow:-

"Custom 1. That all the copyholds and customary messuages, lands, and tenements within the said manor are, and have been time out of mind, copyholds of inheritance, demised and demisable to the copyholders or customary tenants thereof, and their heirs in fee simple by copy of Court Roll, according to the custom of the said manor.

"Custom 2. That the customary tenements within the said manor do descend, and ought to descend, as tenements of the tenure, and in the nature of Borough-English, not only to the youngest son or youngest daughter, and for default of such issue of such customary tenant to the youngest brother or youngest sister, but also, for default of such brother and sister of such customary tenant, to the next kinsman or kinswoman of the whole blood of the customary tenant in possession, how far so ever remote.

"Custom 3. That if any tenant of any copyhold die, seized of any copyhold, his wife living, then she ought to come to the next Court or Law-day to make her claim and election, whether she will pay a penny and hold for her widow's estate, or pay half her husband's fine, and to keep the copyhold tenement during her life.

"Custom 4. That the husband of any wife (as customary tenant of the said manor) dying, seized of any customary tenement within the said manor, is entitled to have such customary tenement of his wife so dying, during his life, though the said husband had no issue of the body of his said wife.

"Custom 5. That if any copyholder or customary tenant of the said manor die, and leave his heir within the age of fourteen years, that then the nearest of kin and farthest from the land, have had, and ought to have the guardianship and custody of the body of such heir and his copyholds, held of that manor, so that at the next Court or Law-day he come in and challengeth the same, and to keep the same until the heir come to be of the age of fourteen years.

"Custom 6. That the heir of any customary tenant within the said manor is compellable to pay his fine to the lord of the said manor, and be admitted tenant before he attain his age of one and twenty years, if he come to the possession of his customary estate.

"Custom 7. That the fine due to the lord of the said manor upon the admission or alienation of any customary tenant, to any customary tenement within the said manor, is, and time out of mind was, double the quit-rent of the said customary tenement; that is to say, when the quit-rent of any customary tenement was twenty shillings, the tenant of such tenement did pay to the lord of the said manor forty shillings for a fine.

"Custom 8. That every heir and tenant of any customary lands of the said manor may sell his inheritance during the life of the widow of his ancestor, who enjoys such customary estate for life.

"Custom 9. That it is lawful for any of the copyholders or customary tenants of the said manor, to let her, his, or their copyholds for one year, but not for any longer term, without a licence from the lord of the said manor.

"Custom 10. 'That no CERTAIN fine is payable to the lord of the said manor from any customary tenant of the said manor for a licence to let his customary tenement; but such fine may exceed a penny in the pound of the yearly value of such customary tenement.

"Custom 11. That every copyholder of inheritance of the said manor may sell any of his coppices, under-woods, and rows, and use them at pleasure; and may dig for stone, coal, earth, marle, chalk, sand and gravel in their own grounds, to be employed thereon; and may also dig any of the commons or wastes belonging to the said manor for earth or gravel in the ancient pits there, where their predecessors have done, for the improvement of their copyholds.

"Custom 12. That all the customary tenants of the said manor, when and as often as their old pits, where they used to dig earth, marle, chalk, sand, clay, gravel, and other mould, were deficient, and would not yield the same for them, that they, the said customary tenants, may and have used to dig NEW pits in any of the wastes and commons of the lord within the said manor, and there dig and carry away earth, marle, chalk, sand, clay, gravel, and other mould at their pleasure, for the improvement of their customary tenements, or for other necessary uses, without the licence of the lord of the said manor.

"Custom 13. That the ancient customary tenants of the said manor (other than such as hold only purpresture lands) have always had common of pasture and feedings in all the lord's commons belonging to the said manor, viz. upon Cranbury Common, Hiltingbury Common, Ampfield Common, Bishop's Wood, Pit Down, and Merdon Down, for all their commonable cattle, levant and couchant, upon their respective copyhold tenements, within the said manor.

"Custom 14. That no customary tenant of the said manor can or ought to plough any part of the land upon the aforesaid wastes and commons, to lay dung, or for improving their customary lands.

"Custom 15. That the Customary tenants of the said manor have not had, nor ought to have in every year, at all times of the year, common of pasture in the wastes, heaths, and commons of the lord of the said manor within the said manor, for all their commonable cattle, without number or stint, exclusive of the lord of the said manor.

"Custom 16. That the hazels, furzes, maples, alders, wythies, crab- trees, fern, and bushes, growing upon the aforesaid wastes and commons, or in either of them, as also the acorns when they there fall, do belong to the customary tenants of the said manor, not excluding the lord of the said manor for the time being from the same. And that the customary tenants of the said manor have had, and used and ought to have, right of cutting furzes growing upon the wastes and commons of the said manor for their firing, and to cut fern for their uses and that the said customary tenants, in like manner, have right of cutting thorns, bushes, wythies, hazels, maples, alders, and crab-trees, growing upon the wastes and commons of the said manor, or in either of them, for making and repairing their hedges and fencing of their grounds, but they are not to commit any waste to the prejudice of the breeding, nursing, and raising of young trees of oak, ash, and beech, which do wholly belong to the lord of the said manor, to have, use, and fell; and that the acorns, after they are fallen, do wholly belong to the customary tenants of the said manor.

"Custom 17. That the customary tenants of the said manor have right to feed their cattle in the three coppices called South Holmes, Hele Coppice, and Holman Coppice, within the said manor, and a right to the mast there.

"Custom 18. That the lord of the said manor ought not to cut down the said coppices, or one of them altogether, or at any one time, but by parts or pieces, when he pleases.

"Custom 19. That when the lord of the said manor doth cut down any, or either of the said coppices, he, by the custom, is not compellable to fence the same for seven years after such cutting, nor to suffer the same to lie open.

"Custom 20. That neither Thomas Colson, William Watts, alias Watkins, nor the customary tenants of the tenement called Field House, have a right of selling or disposing sand in any of the wastes or commons of the lord of the said manor within the said manor.

"Custom 21. That any customary tenant of the said manor seized of any estate of inheritance, in any customary tenement within the said manor, may cut timber, or any other trees standing or growing in or upon his said customary tenement, for repairs of his ancient customary messuages, with their appurtenances, and for estovers and other necessary things to be used upon such his customary tenement, without the licence or assignment of the lord of the said manor, but not for building new messuages for habitation.

"Custom 22. That no customary tenant of the said manor can cut, sell, or dispose of any trees growing upon his customary tenement, without the licence of the lord of the said manor, unless for repairs, estovers, and other necessary things to be used upon his customary tenement.

"Custom 23. That any tenant seized of any estate of inheritance in any of the customary tenements of the said manor, may cut down timber trees or other trees, standing or growing in or upon one of his customary tenements, to repair any other of his customary tenements, within the said manor.

"Custom 24. That no tenant of any customary tenement of the said manor, may cut any timber trees or any other trees from off his customary tenement, nor give or dispose of the same, for repairing of any customary tenement, or any other customary tenement within the said manor.

"Custom 25. That the said customary tenants, and every of them, may cut down any old trees, called decayed pollard trees, standing or growing in or upon his customary tenement, and sell and dispose of the same, at his and their will and pleasure.

"Custom 26. That the lord of the said manor for the time being, when, and as often as his mansion-house and the outhouses called Merdon Farm House, shall want necessary repairs, may cut, and hath used to cut down, one timber tree from off one farm or customary tenement, once only during the life of the customary tenant of such one farm, or customary tenement, for the necessary repairs of the mansion-house and outhouses called Merton Farm House.

"Custom 27. That the lord of the said manor, for the time being, cannot cut down more trees than one, from any one customary tenement in the life-time of any customary tenant thereof, for the repairs aforesaid, nor can he take the loppings, toppings, boughs, or bark of such trees so by him cut down, nor can he carry the same away.

"Custom 28. That upon any surrender made before the reeve or beadle, with two customary tenants of the said manor, or before any two customary tenants of the said manor without the reeve or beadle, no herriot is due to the lord of the said manor, if the estate thereby made and surrendered be from the right heir.

"Custom 29. That by the custom of the said manor, the jury at the Court or Law-day held for the said manor, have yearly used to choose the officers of and for the said manor, for the year ensuing, viz. a Reeve, a Beadle, and a Hayward, and such officers have used, and ought to be sworn at the said Court, to execute the said offices for one year until they are lawfully discharged.

"Custom 30. That the Hayward's office hath been to collect and pay to the lord of the said manor such custom money as was agreed for in lieu of the custom works."

The boundaries of the manor of Merdon, including Cranbury, and up to the brook at Chandler's Ford, have been kept up by "progresses" round them. Probably the "gang" or Rogation procession was discontinued by either Sir Philip Hobby or Richard Maijor; but on the borders between Hursley and Baddesley, at a spot called High Trees Corner, near the railway, is marked in the old map, "Here stode Gospell Oke." It is not far from Wool's Grave, the next corner towards the Baddesley road. There, no doubt, the procession halted for the reading of the Gospel for Rogation week.

There are two curious entries in the old accounts:-

Chirurchets {67} vi Hennes and Cockes as apereth } in the old customary which I had from John } 44 Seymour. }

And in the old book of Fines written in 1577 -

The Reve doth gather by his scores—37 pounds 18 2. The Bedell gathers the escheats. The Reve the rents and eggs and is keeper of the West heth.

A small farm near the church was held by Corpus Christi College, Oxford, having probably been granted by Bishop Richard Fox, the founder, who held the See of Winchester from 1500 to 1528. The bearing in his coat of arms was a "pelican in her piety," and the Pelican was the name of the public house and of the farm that succeeded it down to the present day. The title as well as that of the college are of course connected with the emblem of the Pelican feeding her young from her own breast. Little pelicans, alternately with Tudor portcullises, profusely adorn Fox's chantry in Winchester Cathedral.


Great changes began at the Restoration. Robert Maunder became vicar of Hursley in 1660, on whose presentation is unknown; but that he or his curate were scholars is probable, since the entries in the parish registers both of Hursley and Otterbourne begin to be in Latin. Cranbury had passed from Dean Young to his brother Major General Young, and from him to his daughter, the wife or Sir Charles Wyndham, son of Sir Edmund Wyndham, Knight Marshall of England and a zealous cavalier. Brambridge, closely bordering on Otterbourne, on the opposite side of the Itchen, though in Twyford Parish, was in the possession of the Welles family. Brambridge and Otterbourne are divided from one another by the river Itchen, a clear and beautiful trout stream, much esteemed by fishermen. In the early years of Charles II. a canal was dug, beside the Itchen, for the conveyance of coal from Southampton. It was one of the first formed in England, and for two hundred years was constantly used by barges. The irrigation of the meadows was also much benefited, broad ditches being formed—"water carriages" as they are locally called—which conduct the streams in turn over the grass, so that even a dry season causes no drought, but they always lie green and fresh while the hills above are burnt brown.

Another work was set in hand during the reign of Charles II., namely the palace he designed to build in rivalry of Versailles. Sir Christopher Wren was the architect. The grounds were intended to stretch over the downs to a great distance, and on the highest point was to stand a pharos, whose light would be visible from the Solent. Fountains were to be fed from the Itchen, and a magnificent palace was actually begun, the bricks for it being dug from a clay pit at Otterbourne, which has ever since borne the name of Dell Copse, and became noted for the growth of daffodils. The king lodged at Southampton to inspect the work, and there is a tradition (derived from Dean Rennell) that being an excellent walker, he went on foot to Winchester. One of his gentlemen annoyed him by a hint to the country people as to who he was, whereupon a throng come out to stare at him, at one of the bridges. He escaped, and took his revenge by a flying leap over a broad "water carriage," leaving them to follow as they could.

His death put an end to his design, when only one wing of the building was completed. It was known as "the King's House" and was used as barracks till 1892, when it was unfortunately burnt to the ground.

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