Stoke Common

Stoke Common

(Produced from presentations compiled by Allen Guille and Chris Humby in 2014, 2015 & 2016)

Stoke Common was once a small hamlet independent of Bishopstoke which, in 1899, formed part of the Parish of Stoke Park. This sketch illustrates the main features from 1910.We will feature The Forester’s Arms, The Smithy, Black Cottage, The Old Poor House, Stoke Common Chapel, Burrow Hill, and Stoke Park Farm. The plantation shown to the south (still there) was the northern boundary of the Longmead Estate.

This map from 1868 shows how rural the area was, other than grand houses of the Victorian era. Housing development for industrial workers in Bishopstoke did not commence until the late 1800s with the arrival of the L. & S. W. Railway Carriage Works in 1890. Stoke Knoll, Stoke Lodge, and Copse House Farm can be seen towards the top left. The Longmead Estate commanded most of what we know as Bishopstoke today.

A picture of Stoke Common children’s parade in Church Road to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth on 2nd June, 1953. Bobby Gough is the young pirate, Jean Caudr is the majorette and behind her is Jackie Braggins.

Children and parents in the Stoke Common playing field, Church Road, after the procession. The gentleman in the right foreground is Herbie Hansford with his two daughters.

Elsie and Eva Couzens in Church Road, by the Foresters Arms.

Eva Couzens married David Black and lived at 123 Church Road. The house is known as Black Cottage and stands near to the Foresters Arms.

The Couzens family were well known in Stoke Common. Pictured are Lillian, Rose, Leonard (Basil), Eva, Selina, Florence, and Elsie.


Elsie Couzens married Alfred Noyce and they lived at 121 Church Road. (pictured left), whilst Rose Couzens married Harold Woodford and lived at 122 Church Road. (pictured right) The Woodford family were blacksmiths, who lived opposite the Foresters at 6 Stoke Common Road.

A group of Bishopstoke Civil Defence volunteers pictured during WWII, possibly in the garden of Black Cottage. Pictured are Alf Collis, Bert Swinherd, Bill Collis, Mrs Davies, Eva Black (nee Couzens), Bert Churcher, Frank Pragnell, and Mr Griffin.

Another grouping of Civil Defence volunteers at Stoke Common. Back row: Alf Collis, Mrs Black, Bill Collis, Mrs Davies, and Bert Swinard. Front row (seated) Frank Pragnell, Bert Churcher and George Waterman.

The Foresters Arms was a Victorian beer house built about 1850 by Henry Twynam. There was a shop at the back of the pub which acted as a general store that served the villagers of Stoke Common which in those days was a self-contained community.

The Foresters was a popular watering hole for a quiet drink, although by the 1970s the old cottages alongside had been demolished and replaced with upmarket properties.

Like most pubs there have been many moralistic stories relating to these premises. Andrea Sermon recalled that in the 1940’s her uncle Brian used to come from Portsmouth to the Mount for treatment for TB. Her great aunt Lena drove him in her little black Ford. On one occasion she let him drive up Church Road, he must have only been about 10 years old. They sailed past the Mount and he ended up crashing into the outside toilet block of the Foresters. She said “his great aunt yanked him into the passenger seat and took the flack.” Moral of the story – do not let kids drive you to drink.

There was an Off Licence just inside the front entrance, with the lounge door on the left and the public bar on the right. Many a Bishopstoke lad from the 1960s remembers the landlord obligingly forgetting to check their age. The pub closed in 2015 and is now a private house.

This picture is probably from the early 1930s and seems to have been taken to commemorate winning a darts trophy.

Here is another photo of the Foresters darts team from 1935 outside the pub with another trophy. Note the people looking through the window and the dog in the front row. The Hants and Dorset Motor Services sign on the wall to the left is a reminder that Stoke Common once had a regular bus service. The number 49 bus terminated at the Foresters before returning to Eastleigh and onward to Woolston. It is rumoured that passengers on the last bus on a Friday or Saturday night would encourage the driver to have a drink, so they could have an extra pint before the journey home. There are some of us that can remember riding the 49 bus down the steep and winding slope of Church Road and past the river. Believe me it was not a journey that you would choose to make when sober.

The Foresters was also a popular place for other sports teams. This is a picture of Stoke Common Football Club from the 1921 – 1922 season. The squad consisted of two coaching staff, eleven players and one reserve.

Opposite the Foresters, the blacksmiths at Stoke Common had been run by the Woodford family since 1871 until it closed in the 1950s. John Woodford was born at Carisbrook, on the Isle of Wight in 1832, and trained as a blacksmith. He is first recorded as resident at the smithy in Stoke Common in 1871. He married Emma Richards in 1861, and they had 5 children, all born in Bishopstoke. One of his son’s William Arthur Woodford continued the business from 1911 until 1939, when his son Basil followed in the family tradition and took over from his father until 1954. This is William Arthur Woodford, outside the Smithy in Stoke Common, probably with one of his three sons sitting on the horse.

This picture of William Arthur and Sarah Ann Woodford was taken in the back garden of their home at 6, Stoke Common Road. The house was a detached brick dwelling with a slate roof. It had 3 bedrooms, sitting room, kitchen, scullery with mains water supply, and a cellar. Adjoining was the brick-built smithy and shoeing shop.

This is not the smithy at Stoke Common but is similar in appearance. The gates at the entrance of St. Mary’s Churchyard, in Church Road, were made by John Woodford the blacksmith at Stoke Common, probably around 1890 when the Church was built.

In 1792, members of the vestry from the old St. Mary’s church, formed a committee to oversee the building of the “House of Industry” (the poor house) in Stoke Common Road. The site of the old poor house is now called Pendula Way. This building was to take in some of the destitute poor of the parish, who in turn for board and lodging and “decent apparel” would be set to work to earn their keep. It is probably no coincidence that the Vestry Committee chose to build it as far away as possible from the more prosperous community of Bishopstoke.

Samuel Lovedee, a sack maker, and his son Samuel Lovedee junior of New Sarum (Salisbury) Wiltshire, were appointed to take charge of the poor house and its occupants. They agreed to maintain and clothe the poor for three years in return for £157,10 shillings a year from the church wardens, plus the benefit of the labour of the poor that lodged there. Surgery and medicines for any sick people were to be provided by the churchwardens, but the Lovedee’s were to bear the cost of burying any that died. This clause making those responsible for care of the residents to pay for their burial, was a strong incentive to ensure that occupants of the poor house were reasonably well nourished and cared for.

In 1840, the House of Industry was sold by auction at the Anchor Inn, on orders of the Poor law commissioners, together with garden, orchard, and paddock of 2 acres. The building was converted into 5 cottages on one side and three on the other into a “L” shape. Mrs Pike, one of the residents in the 1950s, recalls there was no electricity, one cold tap outside all the cottages had replaced the well that had been the water supply. The tin bath was kept in the garage across the garden and water heated up in a boiler, emptied into the bath and cold water added. After the bath was finished, the water had to be emptied by the bucketful. The toilets were in sheds at the bottom of the gardens and ran into cess pits, as there was no main drainage in the top end of Church Road and Stoke Common until the 1960’s.

Mrs Pike’s cottage had 2 rooms downstairs, (a kitchen, and living room) and two bedrooms upstairs. The stairs led straight into the first bedroom and the bottom of the stairs lead into the kitchen. This was one of the larger cottages, some cottages only had three rooms. In one of these 4 room cottages Mr & Mrs Shehan raised twelve children.

Raising twelve children in a two-bedroom cottage may seem miraculous, but it is not their most miraculous tale. Originally from Ireland, the Shehan family lived at 71, Stoke Common Road for 50 years where they raised 6 girls, and 6 boys. Five of the boys served in the army during the Great War. Thankfully, all survived and returned home safely. Pictured are Maurice, William, Edmund, James, and Michael.

Not all families that lived in the old poor house building had such good fortune. Robert Callen was born in Bishopstoke in 1803, but died in 1874, in Australia. He married Sarah Savage at Bishopstoke on February 11th,1827. Sarah had 3 illegitimate children by different fathers before she married Robert’ and they had four more children of their own. The Cullen’s were extremely poor, because it was a period of great agricultural depression. There was little work and no benefits of any kind for the unemployed. Families would often resort to theft to sustain themselves, but the punishments were severe, including imprisonment for offences which today we would consider trivial.

George Callen’s crimes were that he had in the neighbourhood of Otterbourne, feloniously stolen one eel net property of Jonathon Diddams. He had also feloniously stolen one sack, property of Richard Pink and had received a further charged of feloniously stealing from a dwelling in Bishopstoke, a quantity of knives and forks, property of Charles Bailey, and finally feloniously stealing a plough, the property of John Scovell of Bishopstoke. Today he would most likely received a small community service punishment. In 1832, he was sentenced to 14 years transportation to Australia. George Callen served a full 14 years of penal servitude.

He had insufficient money to return home, and was married in Australia, at the age of 50, to Susan Bell, aged 16, in July 1855. On the marriage certificate he states he is a bachelor, so, with a wife and children back in England, he has committed bigamy. He has 9 children with Susan, the last to be born, Esther was 11 months old, when George died in May 1874, aged 70. He is buried in Bathurst, New South Wales, having spent 50 years in the colony.

This is Pendula Way, off Stoke Common Road, where the House of Industry and the old cottages once stood.

Close to the old poor house, the Methodist Church in Stoke Common was opened in 1848 and is shown to the left of picture. The story starts much earlier. Charles and Harriet Benham had previously opened their home for Bible Christian worship. As the number of worshippers grew, the cottage was found to be too small.

Mr and Mrs. Benham had a Chapel built in some of the cottage gardens, near to their home, in Stoke Common Road and it was affectionately named “The Chapel in the Garden.”

This picture shows the interior of the Chapel from 1911. The Chapel was re-built in the 1920s, and this may be reflected in the layout shown in the picture below.

William Woodford, the blacksmith, and his wife Sarah were life-long members of the “Chapel in the Garden”. For over 60 years, he was Society Steward, Trust Steward, Sunday School Teacher and Superintendent. He was also a local preacher for 50 years. His Wife was also a Sunday School Teacher and Organist. Eva Page, who lived in the old poor house cottages recalls in her childhood reminiscences that the girls had wooden hoops and the boys, iron ones with a skimmer, these were made by Mr Woodford the blacksmith. The Woodford’s sons and daughters attended the chapel, and once a week there was a Band of Hope meeting. The blacksmiths brother, walked around the village, lighting the gas lamps with a long pole, he did it every morning and evening for years.

In this picture the Stoke Common Bible Christian Band of Hope are holding a parade to promote temperance and abstinence from alcohol. In many parts of the country, the conditions for children were wretched and alcohol misuse was often implicated. The Band of Hope was adopted nationally by Christians of all faiths. Meetings and events, like the one pictured were held regularly. In 1897, Queen Victoria, in her jubilee year became patron and, at the height of their activity, the society had a membership of over three million.

C:\Documents and Settings\Chris\My Documents\My Pictures\Humby Documents\Fred Humby - Alchohol Knowledge Certificate.jpg

This certificate was awarded, in Bishopstoke, to Frederick Humby, aged nine, for satisfactorily passing an exam in the understanding of “Alcohol and the Human Body”. The picture on the certificate depicts the boathouse at The Mount. We have previously mentioned that Mr Woodford, the village blacksmith, and his wife attended this church for over 60 years. Another prominent figure was William Pope (Frederick Humby’s grandfather), a local preacher, respected for his musical contribution during the early years. In 1851, this small Bible Christian Chapel hosted an attendance of 60 in the afternoon and 89 in the evening. On Christmas mornings, about 6.00 am, the chapel choir would visit the houses in Stoke Common carrying lanterns and singing carols. Would they be welcome so early in the morning now on Christmas Day?

Until Edward Avenue was built in the 1920s, Stoke Park Road did not connect with the rest of Bishopstoke, other than at its junction with Church Road. This is a view of Burrow Hill taken from the track which leads to Stoke Park Woods. The two people are stood on the track that leads to Stoke Park Farm. In the distance there is a cottage on the corner of Jockey Lane and a track leads past the allotments, over the brow of the hill, and joins with Church Road. The farm track is now Sewall Road and leads past Bishopstoke Cemetery, through a housing estate, to Stoke Park Farm.

Alongside where the previous picture was taken, the Bishop of Winchester consecrated a new Bishopstoke Cemetery on the site of an old sandpit in 1958. This garden of rest had become necessary due to the increase in housing created in the 1950s. This cemetery is again being expanded as housing development continues to grow in the village.

The earliest mention of Stoke Park Farm is in the church rates book of 1755. It was noted as a farm where poor children were sent to work and it is most likely it would have employed some of those living nearby in the House of Industry. From census information, many of the residents from Stoke Common were employed as agriculture workers, on the farms in and around Bishopstoke.

Reginald Allen and then George Allen owned Stoke Park Farm in the 1930’s. R. B. Dunford bought Stoke Park Farm, and Manor Farm, to the south of Bishopstoke in the 1960’s, they are still owned by the Dunford family. Interestingly there is a record that shows Stoke Park Farm was owned by an Edward Dunford in the 1880s, but there is not thought to be a family connection. This picture was taken at Stoke Park Farm, probably in the 1940s or 1950s. The tractor is believed to be an Allis-Chalmers Model B, manufactured in America between 1937 and 1957.