By Allen Guille
(From a talk first presented in October 2017) Please be aware that these territories are in foreign parts and outside of my comfort zone. Rumour be that there be dragons lurking. So, if I have got anything wrong, please let me know.
Horton Heath was once part of the Manor of Bishopstoke. Possibly the most important person to have been associated with Bishopstoke, is Samuel Sewell, who today, nobody has heard of. A new road in The Chase, Bishopstoke, leading to the cemetery at Stoke Common, bears his name, so who was he? Born in Horton Heath, Bishopstoke, in 1652, Samuel emigrated to Massachusetts in 1661 and settled in Boston. He attended Harvard University to study for the ministry but left to pursue a career in business. Samuel later entered politics, and was a magistrate that, in 1692, judged the people in Salem accused of Witchcraft. Sewell was the only magistrate who, some years later, publicly regretted and apologised for his role. His diaries have provided a valuable insight into life in New England during the early days of colonisation. He was also an early abolitionist who published an essay “The Selling of Joseph” in 1700, which criticised slavery. Whilst there is little recognition of him in the UK and here in his old village, he is held in very high esteem in America.
His memorial, centre front, commands a prominent position in the Granary Graveyard in Boston, along with other famous and influential members of early American society. Included in this picture are the memorials to the five victims of the “Boston Massacre”; the memorial to Samuel Adams, who signed the declaration of independence; the memorial to Paul Revere, who rode to warn the colonial militia of the approaching British forces. (This journey was immortalised in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride”), as well as memorials to many other notable Americans. The obelisk pictured in the centre of the Granary Graveyard is a memorial to Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.
By the late Victorian period, Horton Heath, whilst still a rural community, was much changed and modernised since the days of Samuel Sewell.
The village had become spread out along the road from Fair Oak towards Botley. This shop was near the cross roads with Knowle Lane and Burnetts Lane.
The shop by the cross-roads was popular with Victorian photographers.
Today this once rural junction is controlled by traffic lights.
Burnetts Lane, not Bennett’s Lane, as written on the photograph, in days gone by.
Traffic chaos heading towards Fair Oak. The Lapstone Public House can be seen on the right.
Traffic was less of an issue than it is today when you entered Fair Oak. White Tree farmhouse can be seen on the right.
Fair Oak was also once part of The Manor of Bishopstoke. On the outskirts of Fair Oak, a new senior school was built in 1935 to accommodate senior pupils up to the leaving age of 14. In 1958 the school became an Infants and Junior school when 248 senior pupils of 11 years and older, were transferred to a newly created secondary school in Eastleigh. The Secondary School pupils from Fair Oak were joined by children from Durley, Horton Heath, Colden Common, Upham and Bishopstoke. As the senior school was now located outside its catchment area, most pupils from the outlying districts had to travel to school and back from their respective villages by bus.
An old torn and tatty treasured photograph of teachers and pupils taken at Fair Oak County Senior School in 1951.
The new school was known as the Eastleigh Secondary School, and it occupied an old existing Victorian school building that had been vacated by Barton Peveril Grammar School. Within a year the Headmaster, Robert Blachford, chose the new distinctive name of Wyvern with the motto “Advance”.
For those pupils who went to Wyvern in the early 1960s this is a picture of their teachers at Desborough Road
Work on the new Wyvern School started in 1965. The new school opened in 1967, adjacent to the old original school at Fair Oak. It had been designed to accommodate 450 pupils but the number of pupils in the catchment area had risen to 750, so the old school in Eastleigh was retained as an annexe until 1978.
2017 was Wyvern’s Diamond Jubilee year, 60 years since the school was first established in Fair Oak.
For a century or more, these old cottages, just along from Wyvern, are still standing in Botley Road, just before you approach the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill heading towards Fair Oak Square. Just past these cottages on the right, Jack Coe, who had workshops in Bishopstoke Road for his haulage business, where the car wash is today, owned a large sand excavation site up until the 1960s. He also operated a major gravel extraction plant at Halterworth, near Romsey.
This is the Salvation Hall, built by volunteers in 1896, but closed in 1900 through lack of support. Mr Pember of Fair Oak Park purchased the old Salvation Army Hall in 1902 and opened it as a Working Men’s Institution. This building is now the 1st. Fair Oak Scouts Headquarters and stands near the junction of Eastleigh Road, Stubbington Way and Botley Road.
This photo, next to the Working Men’s Institution, was taken in 1905. Today, the stores and blacksmiths have been demolished and replaced with “The Oven Door Bakery”, Coral’s betting shop and Number One Barbers shop.
The Old George Inn, in Fair Oak Square, dates from the eighteenth century.
In days gone by, on 9th June every year, locals gathered for a fair under the oak tree in the square. This was discontinued after WWI. A story says that the that the tradition was for the first stall holder to erect his stall in the square, to call at the front door of the George Inn to claim the key to the Fair, and at the end of the day they were rewarded with a flagon of ale.
(The things they had to do in Fair Oak to make sure the key was returned).
Fair Oak Road, near the square in the 1950’s with the Post Office on the left.
An earlier picture of Fair Oak Road. This is what the Cricketers Arms looked like over 100 years ago. Previously known as The Queens Arms, The Cricketers was originally a 17th. Century Inn. It was remodelled in 1910.
Although this picture was taken many years ago, this scene can still be recognised today.
Fair Oak Square and the Oak Tree in the 1950’s.
St Thomas’s Church and the old Mortimers Lane junction adjacent to the church. This junction was relocated, I believe, in the 1960’s.
The Church of St Thomas was originally built in 1863. The old St. Thomas’s cemetery became full, and a new cemetery was opened in 1942. The local gravedigger and Sexton, Mr. Jesse Latimer from Crowd Hill, had the unenviable task of digging his own grave and being the first to be buried in the new cemetery. After digging the grave for the burial of another villager, Mr Latimer had been knocked from his bike in the village and taken to Winchester Hospital where he died. It was decided to bury him in the grave he had already dug.
Next to the church was the old Fair Oak school and the school master’s house.
This picture shows the school in relation to Fair Oak Square and the Church of St Thomas.
The old school, next to the church, was still operating as an Infants and Junior school when this picture was taken in the 1950s.
Across the road from the Church and opposite Mortimers Lane was Summerland’s Service Station. Who remembers Summerland’s Service Station when it looked like this in 1965. To put a tiger in your tank cost 3 shillings and 9 pence a gallon in those days. Nowadays the garage has become a Tesco Supermarket where you can buy all manner of things, even petrol.
In Mortimers Lane, where Mimosa Drive and Camelia Grove are today, stood Fair Oak Park. A Mansion and Estate of about 700 Acres it was the most notable house in the village.
The House enjoyed 120 Acres of well wooded parkland and gardens including a boating lake.
George Palmer, a retired stockbroker from London, bought Fair Oak Park in the early 1900’s. He was a Justice of the Peace, a County Councillor, a trustee of St. Cross Hospital, Winchester, and Chairman of the Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, in London. He died at Fair Oak Park on the 22nd. March 1921, and is buried in St. Thomas’s Churchyard. The house was destroyed by fire in 1932.
(Map reproduced by kind permission of the Warden and Scholars of Winchester College)
This map has been included purely out of mischief. The traditional belief is that the name Fair Oak originates from the oak tree which stands in the square, around which the village fair was once held. My colleague, Dr Mary South, a professional historian who specialises in medieval history, suspects that as this map of the area, from 1613, refers to the area as Bonfire Oak and Bonfire Hill, it is possible that the name Fair Oak was derived from Bonfire Oak being abbreviated to Fire Oak and then phonetically transcribed as Fair Oak from the Hampshire dialect of the time. It is also an indication that the hill was possibly once part of a network of beacons to warn of invasion.
Pyle Hill General Stores, stood on the hill in Winchester Road, near to the junction with Sandy Lane. Interestingly, considering the medieval area being called Bonfire Hill, the name Pyle may also hark back to medieval times in possible reference to a Pyre or pile of timber which may have formed a beacon.
Pyle Hill General Stores looks more attractive in this earlier picture, with children posing for the photographer.
On top of crowd Hill, the Fox and Hounds public house can be seen on the left, on what was a country road in the 1950s. The area around the Fox and Hounds has been subject to development since this picture was taken. There were proposals, which have now been abandoned, for this building to be demolished to make way for a new road to Allbrook.
Creating a new road to Allbrook was not on the agenda when this gathering took place in July 1906.
This photo is of Winchester Road, Crowd Hill. Today, the Wyevale Garden Centre is on the left. In the distance you can just see The Queens Head public house at Fisher’s Pond.
Fisher’s Pond is an artificial lake. The lake was constructed in medieval times to allow the Bishop of Winchester to have fish supplied to his table, especially in winter. Today the site operates as a fish farm with carp bred and sold to stock commercial fisheries.
In the 1930’s, the Fisher’s Pond Restaurant was a tea room where people would go for refreshments after boating and swimming in the pond.
It was originally called the Fisher’s Café.
There was swimming pool on the southern side of the pond, cordoned off from the rest of the lake. The Fisher’s Pond Café can be seen in the far left of the picture.
If today, you stand on the terrace of the Fisher’s Pond Restaurant and look to your right, the remnants of the swimming pool can still be seen.
In Victorian times, the main house at Fisher’s Pond was Foulis Court.
Archer Vincent Francis established a successful building company in Colden Common and was responsible for building Foulis Court. He lived, with his family, at what was the Black Horse public house, and his businesses employed a significant number of men from the village. He owned the first motor car in the village, a Clermont Bayard.
Near Foulis Court was the Queen’s Head public house.
The view today is somewhat changed. The garage has disappeared, and this busy junction is now controlled by traffic lights. The Queen’s Head is currently closed, boarded up and derelict.
Fisher’s Pond was once a small community which supported a garage, and a petrol station.
There was also a post office/general store.
In 1934 a developer planned to build a garden city at Fisher’s Pond. The Fisher’s Pond Cafe and this petrol station were built as well as six houses alongside the lake in Hensting Lane, but before any more construction could take place, in 1937, the area was declared as green belt, and further development prevented.
Some of the houses in Hensting Lane, built during this period. Hensting Lane is one of the roads that lead to Owslebury. English place names are sometimes not pronounced as they are spelt. An American from Diddly Squat, Idaho, the home of a comedic character played by Harry Enfield, visiting nearby Bishop’s Waltham may be forgiven for calling the place Bis-Hops-Walt-Ham, but what on earth would they make of this name. Posh incomers may poncifie the name as Owsselberry.
But locals, like what I am, calls it Uzzlebry. It is one of the highest villages in Hampshire. This is where I married my wife Cheryl in St. Andrews Church in 1980 and we had our reception at the Ship Inn. (Pubs have always been a major part of my life!!!) I also played for the village football team in the Winchester League in my earlier years and, although I have not trained for a while, I consider myself to still be in the peak of physical condition, unless I happen to look in a mirror. I just can’t remember where I left my boots.
Owslebury wasn’t always a peaceful place! According to the publication, Colden Common – A Village History, in December 1830 a special Commission of Assize was held in Winchester relating to the Swing Riots in Hampshire. These riots were the result of agricultural workers smashing farm machinery they believed would take away their livelihood. Among the plaintiffs were seven Owslebury men who had allegedly riotously assembled together to the terror of the King’s subjects.
These men were named as Boyes, Freemantle, Adams, Hoar, Fussell and Childs and they were accused of assaulting one Miles Stanbrook, who lived in Colden Common. Boyes was acquitted, Fussell was transported, and the others were mercilessly hanged.
Being high on a hill, Owslebury was a good place for a windmill. I believe that it was home to the last fully working windmill in Hampshire. Built in 1870 it provided a milling service to the village for 30 years before it was demolished.
I am not sure if this building was the old windmill converted for a different purpose, or a separate construction, built around the same period. It is Owslebury’s wind pump. It was used to pump water to three standpipe taps for the daily use by the villagers. It ceased operation early in the twentieth century, although the main structure was not demolished until about 1960.
A little more majestic than the wind pump was Longwood house which stood just outside of the village. The earliest record is of a farmstead in the 13th century, although the house pictured, is likely to date from the early 19th century.
This house was requisitioned by the War Office during WWII and used for billeting American forces. The house became derelict, and was demolished in the mid 1960’s.
When entering Colden Common from Fishers Pond one of the first major buildings is the Church of the Holy Trinity, which was built in the 1840’s.
The Church was designed by a Southampton Architect called George Guillaume.
A feature for many years along Main Road in Colden Common was the Dunford’s family haulage and vehicle business.
It became a car scrap yard for many years before the site was developed for housing. The Dunford family had a bicycle repair shop in Bishopstoke in the early 1900’s, at Riverside, where the Chinese Takeaway is today.
Main Road, Colden Common looking towards the Village Garage with the old Black Horse public house in the foreground on the left.
Brickmaking in Bishopstoke, Allbrook, and Colden Common was, for a time, a major industry and I am grateful to the Colden Common History Society for pictures and information depicting Philips Brickworks at Colden Common in the 1920’s. Apparently, a man could make 1,000 bricks per day, working, from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (16 hours). Around 1900 there were five brickworks in Colden Common.
Brickmaking entailed a certain amount of skill and a lot of hard work. Men were paid entirely on piece work. When a man had made thirty bricks, he would wheel them to the hack, where they would be stacked.
After the bricks had been formed there was more work to be done. The bricks had to go through a process of skinteling to be dried, there was then the process of clamp building, burning, and loading for transportation.
With long hours, and hard work the brickmakers needed refreshment and this was often provided by beer. Although the hours the brickmakers worked did not leave much time for drinking. Time spent in the pub reduced their time to sleep or work and often they worked on Saturdays to make up for time lost during the week. Many a pub has been named the Brickmakers Arms although Colden Common, as a small community, was well served by the Rising Sun in Spring Lane, and the Old House at Home in Main Road as well as the Dog and Crook, near Brambridge. Some of the roads in Colden Common have been named after brickmaking, such as Brickmaker Road, Burr Close, Setters Close and Hack Drive.
Colden Common’s most important claim to fame is that my Mother-in-law was a resident when this incident took place. In 1974, Colden Common hit the national headlines when 70,000 tons of tyres caught alight. Fire appliances were called from all over Hampshire, at one time there were sixty-eight fire engines in operation. The fire burnt for a number of days. A column of thick black smoke rose high, and an acrid smell of burning rubber hung in the air for several weeks.
The site had been granted planning permission in 1958 for the storage of old tyres in a disused clay pit and brickyard in Vears Lane. This business was involved in removing the wire reinforcement from the tyres and exporting the remaining rubber to China. Waste materials had accumulated, and it is estimated that by 1974, a mound of material that had begun in a deep abandoned clay pit had risen to a height of 30 feet above ground level.
Local water supplies failed to keep pace with demand to combat the blaze. A water relay was started from Fisher’s Pond, using water from the lake. A major risk was the proximity of cottages in Vears Lane and a large number of caravans nearby. Several caravans had to be moved quickly, and others were hosed with water as the intensity of the fire grew. There was considerable damage.
Great credit must be given to the Fire Service for valiant work over this period in controlling a very serious situation.
The Black Horse, now closed, can be seen on the right and, in the distance, as you head towards Twyford, you can just make out the Old House at Home, now an Indian restaurant.
Next to the Black Horse, where he once lived, Archer Vincent Francis ran his builder’s business. In 1915 he also opened The Francis Gravel Works at nearby Highbridge. This picture is from a postcard sent in 1908.
As you enter Twyford, this building was once part of young’s brewery, but in this old photo its Standfield’s General Stores. They sold grocery’s, drapery, hardware, cigarettes, and confectionery. On the left you can see the garage which specialises in old 1960’s and 70’s mini cars. This picture was taken in the early1950’s.
This picture of Richardson’s Garage was taken many years before the mini car was invented.
This photo of Brewery House on the High Street was taken in 1905. Nearby is Brewers Lane.
Twyford was mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086 and, like Bishopstoke, belonged to the Bishop of Winchester. The name Twyford is thought to mean double fords that cross the River Itchen.
A picture of the Bugle Inn in 1920. This popular public house was very popular with the troops stationed at Hazeley Down Army Camp during WWI.
In 1915 work began to build a transit camp at Hazeley Down, near Twyford, to accommodate 6,500 troops.
Conditions at Hazeley would have been far from ideal. The following first verse from a poem by an anonymous soldier, stationed at Hazeley, illustrates a moment in time.
“There is an isolated, desolated spot I’d like to mention. Where all you hear is Stand at Ease, Slope Arms, Quick March, Attention. It’s miles away from anywhere, by Gad, it is a rum un, a chap lived here for fifty years and never saw a woman”.
We have heard that the Bugle Inn was a popular watering hole for the troops from Hazeley Camp. We have also been informed that the normal practice at closing time was, for those that had over indulged, to be thoughtfully placed, by the Landlord, around the base of the tree that can be seen on the right of this picture, with the aid of a wheelbarrow. Apparently there was a standing arrangement that a wagon from the camp would arrive shortly after closing time to collect the “not so empties” and return them to the tender care of their Sergeant Major, so they could be tucked up warm and cosy for the night.
This card was sent home by a Welsh soldier, from Twyford, in July 1917. The opening sentence being: “Just to let you know I am still alive.”
(Hazeley Camp is covered in more detail in our web page article The Great War Remembered).
Nearby, and opposite the Bugle is Queen Street. Can you see the young boy lurking furtively behind the tree.
In later years this scene was also captured in Queen Street.
The Phoenix Inn was originally a 17th century coaching Inn, on the old Winchester to Portsmouth turnpike road. As you can see in the photograph the Phoenix Inn advertised itself as a Lady Cyclists House. The sign outside the Phoenix welcomed these Ladies into their “house” and offered them a protected environment.
Another Public House in High Street was “The Scotch Ale House”. In 1862, an excerpt from The London Gazette reported that Edwin Fairer, formerly of the Phoenix Inn, Twyford, victualler and grocer, then and now of the Scotch Ale House, Twyford, retailer of beer, grocer, baker, coal dealer, and licensed dealer in tobacco had, in all his business dealings, been less than successful and adjudged bankrupt. He was required to present himself to Court, at a meeting of his creditors in Winchester.
The Scotch Ale House closed in 1921 after a fire had destroyed most of the top half of the building. It never re-opened.
The Dolphin Inn was an 18th century coaching Inn on the London to Southampton route. The Winchester Brewery Company Ltd., which is advertised on the building was established in 1843 at Hyde Street, Winchester.
The Dolphin Inn closed in the 1990’s and was converted into private flats.
This picture of Twyford Post Office from the early 1900’s is a more tranquil setting than today at this busy cross-roads. Perhaps the man with the wheelbarrow is waiting for traffic lights to be installed.
Twyford has a most important connection in my life. After my wife and I were married in Owslebury, our first abode was this flat at number 2 High Street, next-door to the then Antique shop. To prove it, there is our red Ford Capri pictured on this postcard of Twyford Post Office from the 1980’s.
Slightly upmarket from my early accommodation and up the hill towards Winchester stands Twyford House. It was originally a Tudor or Jacobean Mansion, built around 1700. There have been a number of alterations over the years.
This picture, taken in 1905, shows the rear gardens of Twyford House.
As does this picture.
In 1820 a new toll road had been driven through the grounds by William Cobbett, leaving the house cut-off from a rather splendid avenue of pink and white chestnut trees. The land where this avenue of chestnut trees stand, is now incorporated into Twyford School.
A school for boy’s has existed in Twyford since the 17th Century. Twyford School moved to its current site in 1809 and is considered to be the oldest preparatory school in the UK. Old Twyfordian’s have included many luminaries in the professions of Science, Art, Politics, Religion, Finance and Law.
Bishopstoke connections to Twyford School include Charles Kempe, who designed the east window in St Mary’s Church, in memory of Alfred Barton. It was Alfred Barton who built Longmead House, Dean Garnier, longest serving Rector of Bishopstoke and Dean of Winchester Cathedral and also his son, a member of the winning Oxford team in the first boat race in 1829 and who later became Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, and Lt General James Gubbins, Assistant Adjutant-General of Malta in the mid-1800s, who later, lived at Longmead House in Bishopstoke. All were scholars at Twyford School. This picture of the school was taken around 1900.
These pupils are gathered for official school photographs. The picture on the left shows members of the Twyford Preparatory School Band, whilst the picture on the right shows masters and preparatory school pupils wearing their day uniform. It is believed that these pictures were taken in the very early 1900’s.
This picture was taken in 1901 and was sent by a pupil at the school in January 1903 to his aunt. He explains that this is an official school postcard showing the school bathing place. Looks like a stretch of the River Itchen to me and the water would have been none too warm. Numbness to the nether regions comes to mind, but than as a private preparatory school it was probably claimed such activity helped to build character.
Like Bishopstoke, Twyford also had a Saxon church recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1088. The church pictured, complete with steeple, is also called St Mary’s and was finished in 1878.
In the 1700’s, local resident William Davis lost his way in the dark. When he heard the church bells ringing, he knew he was travelling in the wrong direction and brought his galloping horse to a standstill, just before they reached the edge of a steep quarry. When Mr Davis died in 1754, he left a guinea to the bell ringers of Twyford to ring a peal of bells morning and evening on 7th October, the anniversary of his salvation, to help travellers should they be lost on the same night. This tradition still remains. The bells are rung on the 7th of October, each year, and the bell ringers enjoy supper together afterwards. This custom is known as the Bell Ringers’ Feast.
It is believed that druids regarded the yew as sacred and planted it near their temples. As early Christian churches were often built on these sites, yew trees have long been associated with churchyards. This mushroom shaped clipped yew tree in Twyford churchyard is reputed to be the oldest clipped yew tree in the country with a girth of 14 feet. The yew tree in Bishopstoke’s old church yard is somewhat more neglected.
This is a view from Shawford Down looking towards Shawford Station and the church of St Mary’s, Twyford can be seen in the distance.
Shawford Station was opened on 1st September 1882, nearly 43 years after Bishopstoke Station. Nowadays, Shawford Station is now unmanned. You can understand why it is unmanned if the station staff kept standing in the middle of the track.
North of the station was Shawford Junction. The viaduct in the distance is still standing. This viaduct connected the main line in the early 1880’s, to the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway. Their station at Winchester, in Chesil Street, was closed in the early1960s.
Twyford and Shawford Golf Club was founded in 1890 on Shawford Down, and only 50 yards from Shawford Station.
It is recorded that by 1902 a lady’s section had been formed, but Ladies were not allowed to play on Saturday afternoons and no play for ladies nor gentlemen was allowed on Sundays.
These photographs show Shawford Golf Pavilion. The last year membership was recorded was 1940. There is no record of the club after this date.
Although the Golf Club Pavilion is no longer there, you can still see the Memorial Cross on Shawford Down, originally erected in memory of the fallen of Compton and Shawford during WWI.
One of the names recorded on this memorial, and also Bishopstoke’s WWI Memorial, is Lieutenant William White (M.C.). He was the son of Henry and Alice White of Oakbank, Bishopstoke, who died in battle on 12th of October 1916 at the age of 23.
This is the view from the Memorial Cross on Shawford Down, looking back towards the village. One of the houses in the background is “Brackenlea”, which in 1949 was a Maternity Home. My colleague Chris Humby’s mother was admitted to this nursing home due to complications in pregnancy in 1949. (He has always been a problem) and she went into labour whilst walking on Shawford Down near to the Memorial. At least being downhill, she was able to make a rapid descent. As Brackenlea is now a care home for the elderly, it may now be appropriate for him to be returned there.
This picture of Shawford, at the bottom of the downs shows the old Queen Victoria Memorial and railway bridge.
Through the arch you can see The Bridge Public House.
Life was a little more rural and tranquil when this picture of the pub, complete with hay cart, was taken in the early 1900s.
This view of the railway arch shows the location where, many years later, the character, Victor Meldrew met his end in the final episode of the comedy TV series “One Foot in the Grave”.
In 1974 the actress Sophia Loren was filmed getting out of a car at Shawford Station for a film called “Brief Encounter”. I suspect the regulars at The Bridge public house would have rushed out with far more enthusiasm to administer CPR to Sophia Loren, had she met the same fate, than they would have done for the curmudgeonly old Victor.
Next to the Bridge Public House, the Itchen Navigation passes through Shawford, on its way to Bishopstoke.
There is an old water mill at Shawford, originally built in the 11th century, around the same time as a water mill was built at Bishopstoke.
With the River Itchen and Itchen Navigation meandering through Shawford, these tranquil scenes have remained unchanged for many years.
Beyond Shawford, Otterbourne lies on the old Roman road between Winchester and Southampton. As the name suggests, with the close association with the River Itchen, this is a location where Otters were once abundant. The house on the right, called Elderfield, was once home to the celebrated Victorian novelist, Charlotte Mary Yonge, who grew up here.
(Charlotte Mary Yonge 1823 – 1901)
In her day Charlotte was a major celebrity, publishing more than 100 novels of an ecclesiastical nature. In 1868 the Ecclesiatical Parish of Eastleigh was created. Charlotte was accorded the privilege of naming the new parish. Whilst new Bishopstoke and Barton Peverel were contenders, according to Arthur Drewitt in his book Eastleigh’s Yesterdays, it is thought that East was chosen to reflect a rising sun, a rising faith and a rising town, whilst Leah is an Anglo Saxon name for a clearing in a forest. Today, Charlotte is best recognised as “The Wench on the Bench”, outside Eastleigh Railway Station.
Close to where Charlotte Yonge was raised stands the Parish Church of St. Matthews. The Vicar of Hursley and Otterbourne, appointed in 1838, was John Keble. Keble College, Oxford, was founded in his honour.
This parish church serves the Cranbury Park Estate, which is a private residence owned by the Chamberlayne-Macdonald family. A previous resident of note, in the early 1700’s, was Sir Isaac Newton. The present house was built in 1780 and has been in ownership of the Chamberlayne family since the early 1800s. The Chamberlayne family once owned most of the land in and around Eastleigh.
Between Otterbourne, and Colden Common, in Kiln Lane, stands Brambridge House. The original house was built in the 16th century, although the current house was built around 1870 and is now converted as flats. One of the rooms in the earlier original house was consecrated as a Roman Catholic Chapel and the house was used as a refuge for Roman Catholic priests.
Brambridge House was owned by the Wells family and Swithun Wells was born at Brambridge in 1536. He was a practising Roman Catholic, which at the time was illegal. Swithun Wells was executed, in London, for his Catholic beliefs, in December 1591, and Canonised by Pope Paul VI in October 1970.
(Maria Anne Fitzherbert 1756-1837)
Another famous resident of Brambridge was Maria Anne Fitzherbert, the eldest daughter of Walter Smythe who, at the time, owned Brambridge House. She met the Prince of Wales and he fell in love with her. He married her in 1785, knowing that the marriage was invalid. She had been married twice previously and the marriage act of 1722, stated that any marriage conducted by a member of the royal family, under the age of 25, and without the Kings accent, was null and void. Although not technically married she was treated socially as if she was the wife of King George IV.
A notable feature of Brambridge House is the old carriage drive avenue of double Lime trees leading to the front of the house from Highbridge Road. It is believed that these trees were pollard to make gunstocks to arm soldiers in the fight against Napoleon Bonaparte.
There are a series of bridges across the River Itchen and the Itchen Navigation between Brambridge and Allbrook.
Today these bridges form part of a busy highway, although the surrounding area is still relatively rural.
This picture of traction engines is believed to have been taken at Highbridge, between Brambridge and Allbrook where gravel and clay was extracted. The name Kiln Lane links the area back to the days of brickmaking.
The Gravel Works at Highbridge. This picture was taken in 1927.
These are the gravel works owned by Archer Vincent Francis, at Highbridge, which opened in 1915. Archer Francis designed and built the gravel washing machine, which you can see in the background. The site was sold to Hall and Company in 1943.
The road under the Allbrook railway bridge has been a bottle neck for many years, even when this picture was taken, larger vehicles had to drive in the centre of the road, which bends as it sweeps under the bridge. Eastleigh Borough Council proposed an Eastleigh Local Plan, which planned to create a new road from Fair Oak to Highbridge to cater for a large new housing development. This plan required this road to be lowered to accommodate large HGV’s and met with a certain amount of scepticism by some of the locals. Winchester County Council and Hampshire Highways Authority objected to the proposal and the plan has now been deferred.
The road under the railway bridge has also been subject to flooding, on occasion, for many years, so it is difficult to see how lowering the road would have improved matters. It is also a risk in cold weather if the water freezes as it did when this picture of Allbrook Saw Mill, which stood alongside the River Itchen, was frozen solid on February 8th 1895.
Near to the railway bridge is an old building, which dates from 1659. Allbrook Farmhouse is a grade 2 listed building. Between 1665 and 1670 it was home to a lady portrait artist called Mary Beale and her family. Mary Beale was one of our leading female artists of the time. Allbrook Farmhouse is believed to be the earliest surviving workplace of any professional painter in the country.
It is thought that the Beale’s moved from London to Eastleigh to escape the Plague, which was sweeping the Capital at the time. During the few years in Eastleigh, Mary Beale’s self-portrait of 1665 was produced. She also wrote the ‘Essay on Friendship’ which put forward the radical idea, for the time, of equality of men and women, both in friendship and marriage. They returned to London, where Mary established a successful artist’s studio.
This view of Allbrook Hill has changed little in the hundred years or so since this picture was taken. If of course you ignore all the cars which back up as they try to negotiate the parked cars and traffic calming measures that have been installed.
In the early 1800’s, Allbrook was a hamlet of 4 cottages. However, later in the century, the community expanded as workers were attracted by the timber yard and the saw mills next to the Itchen Navigation, and, of course, the nearby gravel and brickworks at Highbridge.
A village school was added in 1873.
It is not known when this picture depicting the Hampshire Marathon Race was taken, but I would estimate it to be during the very early 1900’s. It is such a good picture I thought you would like to see it. Plenty of people have gathered to watch the runners sweep by.
This is a picture from Allbrook of the Pitmore Road and Maypole Villa’s Street Party on VJ Day, 1945, in Lovegrove’s field. As you can see, a lot of children have gathered to celebrate, with treats that were hard to come by during times of rationing and austerity.
Near the top of Allbrook Hill stood Rookwood Maternity Hospital, which was closed in the late 1970’s. After WWII there was a bit of a population explosion. Men had come home from war and, their wives had been pleased to see them. Many an Eastleigh and Bishopstoke family have celebrated the arrival of their offspring in this building. By the time they took the little angel’s home, it began to dawn on them that life’s problems were just beginning!
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for reading this article, I hope you have enjoyed it.
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Clark, Paul (2016) Fair Oak: A Study, Tricorn Books.
Douglas, Helen (1994) – The History of Fair Oak & Horton Heath.
Downs, K.M. Swithun Wells and the Brambridge Story.
Pearce, Doreen; Crooks, Stanley (1999) Twyford: Ringing the Changes, George Mann Publications.
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