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Transcribed from the 1898 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price,
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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

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.

18th June 1898.


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

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

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

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

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