A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Exton covers a long sweep of high ground of about 3,567 acres, of which 1,208¼ are arable land, 460½ permanent grass, 591 woodland, and 6 water. (fn. 1) Part of Corhampton, including Preshaw Park, the high ground north and west of Exton village, was transferred to Exton parish in March, 1894, (fn. 2) and from this part of the parish fine views can be obtained of the low-lying parishes to the north, Beauworth, Kilmeston, Hinton Ampner, Cheriton, and Tichborne. The south and centre of the parish through which the River Meon flows is lower country, and is the most fertile part of the parish, where the bulk of the arable land lies, while the River Meon affords good trout fishing.
The village itself is in the extreme south of the parish, immediately north of Corhampton. The three villages of Exton, Corhampton, and Meonstoke lie so near together as almost to form one village. Exton is approached most easily by a road which branches west from the main road from West Meon to Droxford, and runs for some way parallel with the river, beyond which to the south of the village is a wide stretch of low-lying marsh land. A large grey stone house, formerly the manor-house, but now used only as a farm, stands at the entrance to the village on the north side of the road. A few yards beyond is the small stone church of St. Peter and St. Paul, and opposite on the south of the road are some quaint thatched cottages in strange contrast with the little red-brick schoolhouse which stands near the church. Beyond the school, on slightly higher ground, is the rectory, a handsome house in fine grounds, near which are The Grove and Exton Cottage. Further south, on the road which connects Exton with the main Corhampton road, is another small group of houses, including the little general shop and the Shoe Inn, and close by, on the right bank of the river, is the old mill-house which has now fallen into picturesque decay. The soil of the parish is chalk and clay, subsoil gravel, chalk, and stone. The chief crops are wheat, oats, and barley.
The first mention of EXTON is apparently in 940, when a grant was made by King Edmund to his thegn Ethelgeard of 12 mansae at 'East Seaxnatune' or Exton, on the River Meon. (fn. 3) Between 940 and 1086 Exton must have passed into the hands of the priory of St. Swithun, for which it was held by the bishop of Winchester as it had been in the time of King Edward. Formerly it had been assessed at 12 hides, but in 1086 at 8 hides only. Its value, it is said, had fallen from £16 in the time of King Edward to £12; and though by 1086 the value had only risen to £20 the land was subject to a tax of £30, which was a burden heavier than it could bear. For twenty years Lening had held 2 hides of this land and a mill worth 2s. (fn. 4)
Exton was confirmed to the priory of St. Swithun at Winchester in 1205, and again in 1285, and remained to the prior and convent until the dissolution of the monasteries. (fn. 5) In 1291 Exton was numbered among the St. Swithun temporalities, and was assessed at £20 13s. 10d. (fn. 6) After the Dissolution the manor was granted in 1542 to the dean and chapter of Winchester, (fn. 7) to whom it was confirmed by James I in 1605. (fn. 8)
At the sale of the dean and chapter's lands in 1649 the manor of Exton was bought by William Collyns and Neville Larymore for £1,518 16s. 8d., (fn. 9) but at the Restoration it was recovered by the church, and in 1682 it was still a possession of the cathedral church of Winchester. The present lord of the manor is Col. William Woods of Warnford Park (in Bishop's Waltham), who succeeded his father, Mr. Henry Woods, in 1882.
At the time of the Domesday Survey there were two mills in Exton worth 20s. (fn. 10) After the Dissolution there is an entry on the ministers' accounts for the farm of one water-mill worth £5, (fn. 11) and at the sale of the dean and chapter's lands in 1649 a water-grist mill was sold to William Collyns and Neville Larymore. (fn. 12) There is a ruined mill in the parish at the present day. A grant of free warren in their demesne lands of Exton was granted to the prior and convent of St. Swithun in 1301, (fn. 13) and in 1649 a free fishing in 'the river of Exton' passed with the manor to William Collyns and Neville Larymore. (fn. 14)
The church of ST. PETER and ST. PAUL is a small building with chancel 22 ft. by 18 ft. 10 in., north vestry, and organ chamber, nave 56 ft. 8 in. by 21 ft. 5 in., south porch, and wooden bell-turret over the west end of the nave. It has undergone very thorough repair, and its details are for the most part modern. The chancel, which dates from c. 1230, has a marked southward deviation from the axis of the nave, and the latter may contain work of an earlier date, though no architectural features remain to prove it.
In the east wall of the chancel are two large lancets with a quatrefoil over, in the north wall a single lancet with a wide internal splay, and in the south wall two similar lancets. All have external reveals, but only in the north window is any old stonework preserved. A heavy moulded string runs round the interior of the chancel below the window sills, and at the south-east is a double trefoiled piscina recess with a modern oak shelf. The masonry of the chancel arch is partly modern and partly retooled. The nave has four windows on each side, the eastern window on the north being a thirteenth-century lancet with old stonework, while the next to it and the western window on this side are similar lancets in modern masonry. The remaining window of three cinquefoiled lights is of the fifteenth-century style, and retains a little masonry of that date. On the south side the eastern window is of two lights in fifteenth-century style, while the other three are single lancets; none have any old stonework. Between the second and third windows on this side is the south doorway, with a plain round arch of uncertain date, under a modern porch, which follows the lines of the probably thirteenth-century porch at Warnford.
The roofs and other woodwork are likewise modern, together with the bell-turret, which can only be reached by means of a long ladder from within the church. The west end of the nave is screened off to form a vestry, and near the south door is the modern octagonal font of thirteenth-century style.
The first book of the registers contains all entries from 1579 to 1720; the second, baptisms and burials 1720–80, and marriages to 1754; the third and fourth are the printed marriage registers 1755–99 and 1800–11; and the fifth the baptisms and burials 1780–1812.
In 1086 there was a church at Exton which, together with the manor, was in the hands of the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 15) In 1284 the king gave up all claim in the advowson of this church to the bishop. (fn. 16) In 1291 the church owed a pension of 8 marks to the hospital of St. Cross at Winchester, (fn. 17) but this pension appears to have lapsed before 1535. The bishop of Winchester is still patron of the church.