William Curtis.

A short history and description of the town of Alton in the county of Southampton online

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THE present work is largely the outcome of an attempt
to write a short history and description of Alton for the
Mechanics Institution, but I soon found that the materials
began to accumulate, and proved so numerous, that I
ventured to bring them together in book form.

Only one small sketch of Alton has appeared in print
before, so far as I am aware, and that was written by
Mr. Hy. Smith, and published in the Town in the
year 1873.

My information has been obtained from very varied
sources, from the British Museum, Record Office, and
Lambeth Palace Library, from many Authors, amongst
whom may be mentioned, T. G. Shore, Esq., Rev. G. N.
Godwin, The Hampshire Record Society's Publications,
the Church and Parish Books and Registers, etc.

Many friends have also rendered me most kind and
valuable assistance, for which I beg to tender them my
most grateful thanks ; amongst whom I should like to
mention the Rev. T. Hervey, Colmer ; Rev. F. Why ley,
Alton ; Rev. J. Vaughan, Portchester, Rev. H. E. Victor,
Brighton ; Frederick Crowley, Esq., Ashdell, Alton ; and
Benjamin Winstone, Esq., Ockeridge, Epping ; and many
others too numerous to mention.



vi Preface.

My best thanks are due to Mr. Piggott for the able
assistance he so kindly rendered me, in reading through
the manuscript before putting it into the hands of the

I also beg to thank Mr. Wm. Curtis Green for his
beautiful Pen and Ink Sketches of the Parish Church of
St. Lawrence and of the old Norman Arches ; Mr. Close,
for his two excellent Wood Engravings of Vicarage Hill
and Tanhouse Lane ; and Messrs. Vaus and Crampton,
of the Helios Works, Alton and London, for their excel-
lent illustrations.

To Messrs. Warren and Son I wish to express my
appreciation of the kind interest they have taken in the
work, and the care and skilful workmanship exhibited in
the printing and publishing of the Book.

As this is my first attempt as an Author, I trust I
shall obtain the indulgence of my readers for any imper-
fections in my work, and in offering it to the Inhabitants
of my native Town, I do so with the hope that they may
be as interested in reading it as I have been in com-
piling it.



December, 1896.



List of Illustrations xi

Chronological Summary xiii

Alton Origin of the Name I

Polling Districts - - 2

Ancient History 3

Hundred of Neatham 15

Alton governed by Bailiffs and Burgesses - - - - 17

District of Alton the resort of Robbers 19

Tenure of Land 21

Translations of Documents connected with Alton - - - 23

Royalty at Alton 38

Canterbury Pilgrims 38

Land bought by Winchester College 39

The Civil War 40

Preface to History of Church 50

The Parish Church of St. Lawrence 54

The Vicars of Alton 72

Parish Registers 77

The Church and Parochial Customs from 1600 - - - 85

Ecclesiastical History - - - - 96

All Saints' Church 100

The Order of St. Paul - 101

Alton Town Lands and Charities 102

Charitable Donations to the Poor of Alton - - - - no

The Cemetery 113

Tokens 114

The Old Map of Alton, etc. 115

Alton in the Seventeenth Century 116

Coaches 121

viii Contents.


Stocks and Turnpike Gates 122

Macadamized Roads - - - - - - - -122

Manufactures - -123

French Prisoners 124

Riots - - - * . 125

General Description of the Town - - - 127

Workhouse 129

Grammar School 130

National Schools 131

British Schools ....-..-.. 132

The Friends 134

The Congregationalists 136

The Wesleyans 136

The Baptists 137

The Brethren 137

The Salvation Army 137

Town Hall 138

Philanthropic Hall 138

Assembly Rooms 138

Mechanics' Institution 139

The Queen's Coronation 146

The Prince and Princess of Wales' Wedding - - - - 147

The Railway 148

The Volunteers 149

The Alton Volunteer Rifle Corps 150

Volunteer Fire Brigade 151

Paper Mills 152

Police Station 152

Gas Works 153

Post Office 153

Building Firm 154

Foundries - 154

Breweries - -154

Asylum - - - 155

Contents. ix


Cottage Hospital 155

Nursing Societies 156

Urban District Council 156

Waterworks 157

Infectious Hospital - - - - 157

Recreation Ground 157

Messrs. Vaus and Crampton's Works 158

Friendly Societies - - - 158

Constitutional Club 158

Local Celebrities 159

A Tempest 163

Geology of Alton 166

Local Birds - 169

Local Quadrupeds - 173

Flora of Alton 174


Plate to face page

I. Alton from Windmill Hill, 1896 Frontispiece

II. The Hundreds of Hantshire, 1600 - - - - 2

III. St. Lawrence Church, 1830 - - - 48

IV. St. Lawrence Church, 1896 50

V. St. Lawrence Church. " Under the Belfry " - - - 52

VI. Interior of St. Lawrence looking East, 1867 - - - 54

VII. Fresco Paintings, XIV Century 56

VIII. Jacobean Pulpit and Lectern 58

IX. Interior of St. Lawrence Church looking West, 1867 60

X. Plan of Church Sittings, 1815 90

XL All Saints' Church, 1896 100

XII. Old Map of Alton, 1666 114

XIII. Old Swan Inn, 1845 116

XIV. Tanhouse Lane, 1844 118

XV. Vicarage Hill 120

XVI. The Alton Machine, 1750 124

XVII. High Street, Alton, 1896 126

XVIII. The Public Buildings, 1896 128

XIX. Eggar's Grammar School, about 1820 - ... 130

XX. William Curtis, Founder of Mechanics' Institution and

Museum - - -._._ j^g

XXI. William Curtis, the Botanist, 1800 160


Page 58 first line, last paragraph, for "west" read "south " entrance.
,, 79 third line, second paragraph, for "succeeding" read "preceding."

,, 113 first side note, for "Cemetery opened, 1895," read "Cemetery
opened, 1856."



600. Alton probably amongst the earliest West Saxon Townships.
825. Grant by King Egbert, of land at Alton to Monastery of

St. Peter and St. Paul, Winchester.
901. King Alfred left land at Alton to his eldest son.
980. A battle fought at Alton in the last Danish Invasion,
i oo i. A sanguinary battle fought between the Saxons and Danes.
1041. In King Edward the Confessor's time, Alton a royal manor.
1041. The Abbot of St. Peter's de Wincester holds Aultone.
1066. Half Alton, with its Church, etc., given by King William

to Hyde Abbey.

1066. Alton required to furnish men for army at Hastings.
1084. Hyde Abbey held Aultone.
1087. Grant of Alton Church by King William to Abbot of New


1087. Grant of Alton by Rinuallo, Abbot of New Minster.
1 1 01. Battle on verge of being fought and treaty signed between

Henry I and his Brother Robert.
1124. Alton Church restored to the Blessed Peter, Prior Ingulf

and his monks.
1135. King Stephen gave Neatham and Church to the Monks at


1174. The Canterbury Pilgrims.
1204. King John at Alton.
1207 to 1546. Land Holders.

1216. Alton governed by Bailiffs and Burgesses.

1217. King John at Alton.

1250. Permission given to celebrate divine service in Oratory at


126210 1361. Chancery Inquisitions, etc.
1267. Adam Gurdon the Outlaw.
1272. Sir Adam made Warden.
1290 to 1315. Patent Rolls.
1295. Hampshire first represented in Parliament.
1307. Edward II granted a Fair at Alton.

xiv Chronological Summary.


1307. William de Alton, a Dominican Friar, an Author, born at


1482. Lands bought in Town and Neighbourhood, by Win-
chester College.

1490. View of Frank-pledge.
1510101535. Grants.

1535. The Rectory of Alton appropriated to Hyde Abbey.

1560. John Pitts, or Friar Pitts, an Author, born in Alton.

1560. Security for Change of Residence.
1580 to 1644. State Papers.

1615. The Parish Registers commence.

1625. Churchwardens' Accounts begin.

1635. King Charles I came through the Town.

1641. Eggar's Grammar School founded.

1642. Civil War.

1643. Dec. i. Lord Crawford occupied Alton with his Army.
1643. Dec. 13. The great battle in the Church.

1649. Survey of Church Lands.

1653. Geales Almshouses built.

1665. The Plague.

1666. Alton Tokens.

1666. The date of Old Map of Alton.

1669. King Charles II passed through the Town.

1672. Society of Friends' Meeting house built.

1684. King James II rode through the Town.

1696. Congregational Chapel built.

1 742. New Treble Bell added to Belfry.

1746. William Curtis, Botanist, born in Alton.

1750. The Alton Machine or Coach.

1785. The six old bells recast and two new bells added.

1792. Union Workhouse erected.

1803. The first Volunteers in Napoleon's time.

1812. Town Hall built.

1814. French Prisoners located in Alton.

1815. Appropriation of Church Seats.

1815. Public dinner when peace was proclaimed.

1819. London and Gosport Road made by Macadam.

1825. Hampshire Friendly Society started.

1829. New Barrel Organ erected in Church.

1830. Riots threatened.

1831. A Board of Health appointed.

Chronological Summary. xv


1834. Boundaries of Parish perambulated.

1837. Mechanics' Institution founded.

1838. Queen's Coronation. Public dinner.

1839. Frescoe Paintings discovered in Church.

1840. Town Hall enlarged.

1841. National Schools erected.

1843. British Schools started.

1844. Gas Works constructed.

1844. Independent Order of Oddfellows started.

1845. Police Station built.

1846. Wesleyan Chapel built.

1850. An additional Service in Church added on Sunday


1852. London and South Western Railway opened.

1855. Mechanics' Institution occupied their new premises in

Market Street.

1856. Cemetery opened.
1856. Burial Board formed.
1856. The old Churchyard closed.
1856. Museum opened.

1858. Presentation of Plate to William Curtis, President of the

Mechanics' Institution.

1860. Treading the boundaries of the Parish.

1860. Local Board formed.

1860. Volunteer Rifle Corps gazetted.

1862. The Sewerage Works first constructed.

1863. Prince and Princess of Wales' wedding celebrated.
1863. Volunteer Fire Brigade formed.

1865. Alton and Winchester Railway opened.

1866. Treading Bounds given up.

1867. The Church restored.
1867. New Organ erected.

1867. Church Rates discontinued.

1867. New British Schools built.

1867. Town Footpaths re-paved with Brick.

1868. Office of Sidesmen revived.

1868. Cottage Hospital established.

1869. Churchwardens' Staffs of Office presented to Church.
1869. Ancient Order of Foresters started.

1869. Normandy Cottage opened for six old women.

1872. Constables given up for Police.

xvi Chronological Summary.


1873. Church Spire restored and covered with oak shingle.

1874. All Saints' Church consecrated.
1876. Water Works started.

1878, Charities of the Parish, Report on.

1880. Church Spire struck by lightning.

1880. The new Cottage Hospital opened.

1880. The Assembly Rooms opened.

1880. The new Mechanics Institution and Museum opened.

1880. The Museum presented to the Institution by

Wm. Curtis, Esq.

1881. The Museum to be named "The Curtis Museum," after

the late President.

1 88 1. Additional land taken into Cemetery and consecrated.
1886. New Oak Choir Stalls added to Church.
1889. Bells rehung and No. 7 recast.

1889. A new Clock added to Church Tower with Westminster


1890. Post Office removed to its present large premises.

1890. Recreation Ground opened.

1891. Baptist Chapel built.

1891. Salvation Army Barracks built.

1893. Purchase of Normandy House and Garden for Mechanics'

Institution Extension.
1893. The old building adapted for Museum, and Art and

Technical Schools.
1893. Constitutional Club opened.
1893. Infectious Hospital opened.
1895. Church Lads' Brigade started.

1895. The Order of St. Paul settled at Beach Camp.

1896. Additional Land bought to enlarge Cemetery.

IN writing this sketch of Alton, it is intended to trace its
history as far as possible from the earliest ages to the
present time. Material for this purpose is very meagre,
but within the last few years a great deal has been done to
bring to light the hidden things of the past

The town of Alton stands in the north-eastern portion
of the County, and is now placed in the Eastern, or Peters-
field, Parliamentary Division. It is situated in a purely
agricultural district, is 47 miles distant from London, 12
from Aldershot, 9 from Farnham, 18 from Winchester, 30
from Southampton and Portsmouth, 12 from Petersfield,
1 1 from Basingstoke, and 8 from Odiham.

Alton is divided into five Manors :

The Manor of Alton Eastbrook.
The Manor of Alton Westbrook.
The Manor of Chauntsingers.
The Manor of Truncheaunts.
The Manor of Anstey.

Taking the origin of the name itself, there have been
two opinions with regard to it. The older and more
commonly received derivation is from the Anglo-Saxon,
eald, old, and tun, a town ; or simply old town.

But in Lewis' Topographical Dictionary it states that
" Al " in Alton, or Aulton in Hants, is not, as has been
assumed, the old town, but the town on the " Awel," the
name of the river, or as Kemble says, " of the head springs
of a river."

Woodward and Wilks' History speaks of Alton as the
"town of the stream," not as misreading of its ancient
name has interpreted it, "the ancient town." 1

1 Woodward and Wilks' History of Hampshire, Vol. iii, p. 308.


History of Alton.


In Memorials of a Quiet Life, by Augustus Hare, it
says, Saxon, ea-wal-ton, "the place of beautiful springs,"
corrupted to Awltoun (Domesday Book), hence Alton.

It was formerly spelt in a variety of ways ; Aulton,
Aultone, Altone, Aweltone, and ^Eweltune.

In early days it was no doubt a very small place, and
of minor importance to Neatham in King Alfred's time, as
Alton was in the Hundred of Neatham.

On reference to the old map of Alton, dated 1666,
we find about 225 houses represented, and on taking an
average of five persons to a house, it would bring the
population at that time, roughly speaking, to 1125.

The population of Alton Parish, according to the official
returns since 1801, was as follows :

Increase in 10 years Increase since 1801









































Rateable Value.

The area in acres in the Urban District is 3925.
The rateable value, 20,537.



Parishes comprised in the Eastern or Petersfield
Division of Hants, and showing to which Polling District
they belong. These are arranged in accordance with the
" Redistribution of Seats Bill " of 1885 :

Polling District. Parishes.

Alton ... ... Alton, East Worldham, Holybourne, Ne.itham,

Shalden, West Worldham.
Bentley ... ... Bentley, Coldrey, Froyle.

Bentworth ... ... Bentworth, Lasham.

Binsted ... ... Binsted, Kingsley.

Plate II.


Ancient History.

Polling District.

Bishop's Waltham
Bramshott ...
Brown Candover



Curdridge ...




East Tisted...

Froxfield ...
Hambledon ...
Hinton Ampner


Meonstoke ...
New Alresford






Bishop's Waltham.


Brown Candover, Chilton Candover, Northing-
ton, Swarraton.

Blendworth, Catherington, Clanfield.

Chawton, Farringdon.



Droxford, Soberton (part of), Swanmore.


Colemore, East Tisted, Newton Valence (part
of), Priors Dean.

Froxfield, Privett.



Beauworth, Bramdean, Cheriton, Hinton Amp-
ner, Kilmiston.

Chalton, Idsworth.


Greatham, Hawkley, Liss.

Medstead, Wield.

Corhampton, Exton, Meonstoke.

Bighton, Bishop's Sutton, Godsfield, Itchen
Stoke, New Alresford, Old Alresford,
Ovington, Tichborne.

Soberton (part of).

Buriton, Petersfield, Sheet, Steep.

Ropley, West Tisted.

Empshott, Hartley Mauditt, Newton Valence
(part of), Selborne.


Durley, Upham.

Warnford, Westmeon.

8550 electors, 1895.


"The earliest inhabitants we can trace in this part of
England are those who made rude stone implements by
chipping flints into the form of hatchets, spear heads, and
other weapons, and are known as the Paleolithic people, or Paleolithic
men of the early stone age. They have also been named
the River Drift men, from the circumstance that these
relics are found in beds of gravel, which have been formed

B 2


History of Alton.

Flint celts.



by the drifting power of rivers and floods, that have washed
the gravel down from higher parts of the country." *

A few of these flint celts, or axes, have been found at
Alton, Milcourt, Kingsley, East and West Worldham, and
Newton Common, specimens of which are exhibited in the
Curtis Museum.

" The Paleolithic period is so remote from our own that
England at that time was no doubt connected with the

" The bones of the people of the Neolithic, or Newer
Stone Age, are the earliest human remains which are found
in Hampshire or the adjacent counties, and they have been
found in barrows or tumuli." x

The precise settlement of the Celts in Hampshire is
unknown. " The Celtic earthworks were the refuges which
the tribes or clans threw up as defences primarily against
the attacks of neighbouring tribes. In Hampshire these
several tribal clans were in some cases separated by wide
belts of forest land. The forest land south of Alton, which
formed the western extremity of the great forest after-
Andredsweaid. wards known as the Andredsweald, cut off the Celtic
people living in the valley of the Wey from those living in
the valleys of the Rother and the Meon." 2

" In the situation of some of the Celtic tumuli in this
county we find a trace of the reverence of the Celts for
water sources, as emblematical of a new and revivyfying
life. The custom of burial near springs, both occasional
and permanent, has survived in some instances in this
county until our own time. The stream at Holybourne,
near Alton, rises in considerable volume from the church-
yard itself." 3

" The Celts who occupied Hampshire have left behind
them some of their knguage. To this day many of the
water names in the County, the names of springs, rivers,
ponds and lakes, have been derived from the names which
the prehistoric races gave them.

1 Shore's History of Hampshire, p. i, 2.
2 Notes and Queries, vol. vi, p. 122, 3. * Ibid., vol. vi, p. 123

Burials near

Celtic words.

The Roman Period. 5

" In this neighbourhood, Gwy or Wy, water, occurs in
the river Wey.

" Ac and Ach, a spring or watercourse name, occurs in
Ashley, and Ashdell.

" Wysg, another water name, occurs in Isington, Isnage,
and perhaps in Tisted, anciently Isted or Ystede.

" Curn, a hollow between hills, occurs amongst others in
Stancombe and Kitcombe.

" The Celtic word, Ock, occurs in Ockhanger, now Oak-
hanger." l

" The most enduring remains which the Romans have Romans,
left in Hampshire are the ruins of cities, villas, and the
remains of their great roads. The chief cities are Sil-
chester, Winchester, and Porchester." 2

Alton certainly was in existence at the time of the
Romans, as traces of Roman settlements have been dis-
covered in the town and neighbourhood. At Westbrook
House, Messrs. Dyer's yard, the Butts, etc. ; also at
Bonhams, Neatham, Freeze End, Alice Holt, Binsted,
Kingsley, Selborne, and Blackmoor. Amongst the dis- Roman

fa . J & .. remains.

covenes may be mentioned a quantity of pottery fragments
and encaustic tiles, urns, lachrymatories, or tear bottles,
bones, signet rings, bronze, Roman, or Etruscan scarabaeus,
fibulae, or brooches for the toga, an old Roman horseshoe,
and coins ; also some Roman hollow bricks from Old
Alresford. Many of these specimens are to be seen in the
Curtis Museum.

" About 560 to 600 the Saxons began to form their seo.
numerous County tuns or townships. Winchester became Townshl i )S -
their chief tun ; its alternative name of Winton appears to
have been given to it by early settlers. Aulton, with
others, was probably among the earliest of the primitive
West Saxon townships." 3

In 802 Egbert came to the throne, and his reign is an KmgEgber
epoch in English History, for he established his authority 802 '
over the whole county, and made Winchester his capital.

1 Shore's History of Hampshire, p. 35 and 36. Ibid. , p. 45. Ibid. , p. 50.

History of Alton.

It appears that King Egbert left land at Alton to the
Monastery of St. Peter and St Paul, Winchester ; the deed
of gift is written in Latin and Anglo-Saxon. I here give
the translation, which I have obtained from the British
Museum :

Grant of lands "Translation of the grant by King Egeberct to the Monastery

Egbert. 8 of St. Peter and St. Paul, Winchester, of land at ^Eweltune, or

Alton, co. Hants, iQth August, and 26th December, A.D. 825 ;

with subsequent lease of the land by Bishop Stigand, A.D. 1047

and 1052. *

"This is Aweltun's land-charter and the fifteen hides' testi-
mony which King Egbyrht gave to Old-Minster of Winchester
for his soul's sake, for the love of God and His glory, and that of
His blessed Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, for an eternal

" The authority of the Old and New Testament declares that
the provident dispensation of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ
has elected all His Saints pre-ordained to eternal life before the
making of the world : from among whom He has set before
the universal church, which He has redeemed with His blood,
two luminaries, that is to say, Peter the blessed prince of the
Apostles, and his co-Apostle Paul, unto whom especially he has
granted power of binding and loosing both in heaven and on
earth, in order that they may receive all the faithful, according
to the merits of good works, into eternal tabernacles, but by their
word only they may drive away the unfaithful and the adversaries
of truth from entering the kingdom of heaven.

" Wherefore I, Egeberct, endowed with royal dignity, desire
to be found faithful among the faithful, and desiring to be made
a participator with the faithful in the kingdom of the heavens by
the intercession of so great Apostles, do grant for ever to Almighty
God, a certain portion of land which my predecessors and relatives
have left to be possessed by me by hereditary right, to wit, fifteen
hides in a place which is customarily called yEweltune by the
inhabitants. And I bestow this portion upon the Old-Minster
and the Church of the same blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, in
the city of Winchester, to the use of the family which devoutly
therein, for the health of the whole Christian people, serves

1 Cartulariuni Saxonicuni, No. 390.

Deed of Gift by King Egbert.

" This land, forsooth, a certain most faithful one among my
prefects, named Burhghard, formerly held of my gift, but having
afterwards died without issue left the same land without disposing
of the inheritance, for there was no one surviving him, and thus
that land with all its boundaries reverted to me who formerly
possessed it, in accordance with judicial decree of my nobles.
But I lifted up my eyes and my hands to God the lofty Creator
and possessor of heaven and earth, and being mindful of the
benefits which He has thought worthy to confer upon me with
bounteous hand, I have granted the same land to the aforesaid
Old -Minster to be held in right for ever for love of Him, and for
the everlasting redemption of my soul and the souls of all my
successors. I also confirm this my gift, corroborating it, at the
desire and suit of Wigleyn, bishop (of Winchester), with this
condition, that no one among secular men presume to trespass
upon the aforesaid land nor fraudulently by encroaching take
away the little fields adjacent to the same land, but as long as
the orbit of this transient age rolls on, let this land itself be under
the dominion of the Old-Minster, with the hills and woods,

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Online LibraryWilliam CurtisA short history and description of the town of Alton in the county of Southampton → online text (page 1 of 16)