A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The parish of Bursledon is a beautiful little tract of country, 1,100 acres in extent, on the right bank of the Hamble River, which is here tidal. The north-west boundary of the parish touches the eastern side of Netley Hill, on a southern spur of which stands an old ivy-covered windmill which serves as a landmark for miles round. On the upper slopes of Netley Hill is a tract of moorland covered with bracken and heather; thence the country slopes rapidly down to the sea, and is thickly wooded to the water's edge. The main road from Fareham to Southampton, crossing the river by a wooden bridge immediately to the north of Bursledon village, strikes across the parish in a north-westerly direction, cutting it into two nearly equal portions. The bridge was built by private enterprise about 1783, and is subject to a toll. With the exception of this road, communication in Bursledon parish is by winding lanes overhung with trees. The London and South-Western Railway line from Netley to Fareham enters the parish at the south-west, and running north-east has a station on the river bank below the village, crossing the Hamble by a bridge a little above the toll bridge.
The village of Bursledon stands on steeply-rising wooded ground on the east bank of the river, which here turns sharply to the south-east and again to the south-west. The steepness of the path and the combination of woods and tidal water recall a Devonshire sea-side village. At the north end of the village stands the church, called by the villagers 'Jerusalem,' from its position above them. Immediately below it, set against the steep bank on the river's edge, is a group of houses known as the Salterns, in distinction from the upper village, which is called Old Bursledon. Between the church and the southern part of the village, where the vicarage stands, is Elm Lodge, the residence of Capt. Shawe-Storey, in wellwooded grounds. South-west of the village, where the ground falls again to a tributary stream of the Hamble, is another group of houses called Hungerford. About a mile inland, higher up the course of the same stream, and just below the point where it is crossed by the Southampton road, lies the much larger village of Lowford or New Bursledon, a red-brick suburb raised within the last twenty years.
From its position midway between the inland forests and the harbour of Southampton Water, Bursledon was a natural ship-building centre in the days of wooden warships. (fn. 1) The narrowness of the creek moreover at this point diminished the danger of attacks from French privateers. It is said that two eighty-gun ships were built at Bursledon in the time of William IV, (fn. 2) and certainly Mr. Philemon Ewer had a private ship-building yard here early in the eighteenth century. Among other ships he built the Anson, of sixty guns, called after Admiral Anson, afterwards baron of Soberton. Mr. Ewer's monument, on which there is a model of the battleship of the period, is in Bursledon parish church. At the latter end of the same century Mr. Henry Parsons employed shipwrights at Bursledon, launching among other ships the Elephant (seventy-four guns), in which Nelson sailed to the battle of Copenhagen. The ships used to be launched on the top of high-water, and towed round to Portsmouth Harbour, where they were sheathed in copper. The ship-building trade has long ago vanished, but traces of the old docks may still be seen close to the present railway station. The inhabitants are now chiefly engaged in strawberrygrowing. Other crops are wheat, oats, and barley. There are 292 acres of arable land in the parish, 341 of permanent grass, and eighty-one of woods and plantations. (fn. 3) The soil is light and sandy.
The common lands in Bursledon, known as 'the waste lands of Bishop's Waltham Manor,' were inclosed in 1857. (fn. 4).
There was no separate manor of BURSLEDON, but the lands formed part of the ancient manor of Bishop's Waltham (q.v.). From the year 1235 onwards the name occurs regularly as one of the tithings of Bishop's Waltham on the Court Rolls of that manor. (fn. 5) In 1328 John Milyr, parson of the church of Eversley, conveyed to John Screeche and Ellen his wife one messuage, twenty acres of wood, 20s. rent, and half a carucate of land, in Bonewode, Titchfield, Bursledon, and Botley, with remainder to William le Wayte and his heirs. (fn. 6) William le Wayte was holding this piece of land in 1339. (fn. 7) In 1541 Walter Chandler conveyed a tenement in Bursledon to Sir Thomas Wriothesley, (fn. 8) who had been possessed of the lands of Titchfield Abbey in this county since 1537. (fn. 9)
The church of ST. LEONARD, BURSLEDON, has a chancel with south organ chamber and vestry, north and south transepts, and nave with wooden west porch and bell-turret. Its later history has been that in 1833 two transepts were built, and in 1888 they were replaced by those now existing, the organ chamber and vestry being added at the same time, and the nave lengthened westward about 8 ft. The west porch and bell turret are also of this date, and the whole building was repaired and the roofs covered with red tiles. The architect was Mr. J. D. Sedding.
The chancel walls and parts of the nave are therefore the only ancient portions of the church, and they appear to date from c. 1230. The east window of the chancel is of three lights in fifteenth-century style, but only the jambs are old, and on them are traces of painting. In the north wall is a small thirteenth-century lancet, discovered in 1888; the head has been renewed. The chancel arch is also of the thirteenth century, of two chamfered orders, with alternate voussoirs of dark and light stone, and was taken down and reset at a higher level in 1888. The inner order springs from moulded corbels with short shafts resting on human heads. In the nave the thirteenth-century north and south doorways, with segmental rear arches, remain, but are blocked, and the two windows to the west of them on each side of the nave are in modern stonework. The external arch of the south doorway, with a roll label, remains perfect, but of the north doorway only part of the west jamb, with an edge roll, survives. The west window, likewise modern, is of four lights, and below it is a large modern wall-painting of the Maries at the tomb of Christ. The west doorway opens to a charming wooden porch, covering the west end of the church, and from it a path runs to a modern lych-gate on the north side of the churchyard.
The font in the south-west angle of the nave is of the twelfth century, with a round bowl ornamented with an arcade of narrow arches, which for nearly half the circumference are round-headed and intersect each other, while the rest are pointed and do not intersect. It stands on a round shaft and base, both modern.
The monument of Mr. Philemon Ewer, the shipbuilder, who died in 1750, is in the north transept, and records that he built 'seven large ships-of-war for his Majesty's service during the late war with France and Spain … . gaining the reputation of an ingenious artist, an excellent workman, and an honest man, dying with a fair character and a plentiful fortune.'
The first book of registers runs from 1653 to 1717, the second contains the marriages for 1754–1836, and the third the baptisms and burials 1792–1812. The incompleteness of the list is accounted for by the fact that many Bursledon entries are made in the registers of Hamble.
The name of Bursledon does not occur in Domesday Book, nor is it found in the registers of the bishops of Winchester. Bursledon was probably a chapelry dependent upon the priory of Hamble (itself a cell of the Benedictine monastery of Tirou in Chartres), the lands of which were purchased in 1391 by William of Wykeham to assist in the foundation of Winchester College. (fn. 10) Bursledon is not expressly mentioned among the lands of Hamble Priory at this date, but in a subsequent lease by Winchester College (dated 1 Henry V) of the lands of Hamble Priory, the tithes of Bursledon are mentioned as appurtenant. (fn. 11) Subsequently the chapel was held by Winchester College until 1849, when Bursledon was formed into a separate parish, the advowson being in the gift of the bishop. The history of Bursledon chapel cannot therefore be carried back beyond the fourteenth century, unless a conjectural identification of Bursledon with Brixenton be accepted. (fn. 12) A charter of Henry de Blois (1129–1171) to St. Cross Hospital, Winchester, makes a grant of 'the church of St. Peter of Waltham, with the church of Upham and with the chapel of Durley, and with the "capella de curia," and with the chapel of "Brixentona," which the monks of Hamble hold of the said Hospital for a yearly rent of two shillings, with all tithes, etc.' (fn. 13) The monks of Hamble moreover are known to have possessed the tithes, services, and dues arising from a hide of land at 'Brixedone,' which they had under a grant from Henry de Blois made with the consent of the parson of Bishop's Waltham, to which church these tithes had belonged. (fn. 14)
Another theory is that Bursledon is the second of the two churches of Bishop's Waltham Manor recorded in Domesday. (fn. 15) This theory is borne out by an entry in the Bishop's Waltham parish registers, dated 1736, in which it is stated that 'Mortuaries are due in the parishes of Hamble and "Busseldon" to the Minister of Bishop's Waltham.' (fn. 16)