A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Menes (xi cent.); Meones (xiii cent.).
The parish of West Meon covers 3,772 acres of hilly country, through the centre of which the River Meon runs east to west, while the land rises north and south from the valley, reaching a height of over 600 ft. above the ordnance datum in the south and of 500 ft. in the north near the Three Horseshoes Inn. The main road from Petersfield to Alton runs through the parish in a south-westerly direction, and crossing the main road from Petersfield to Winchester in the north, close by the George Inn, climbs a ridge and comes down into the low-lying ground of the Meon valley to become the main street of the village. Along a branch road from East Meon which approaches the village by the river bank from the south-east are several outlying houses and cottages, including Hall Farm, Hall Place, and Lynch House, which lie south of the road and river, and Shaft's Farm which lies to the north. Following the course of this road as it cuts across the main road, where the majority of the houses are grouped, and continues in a north-westerly direction towards Hinton Ampner, the village schools stand on the left close on the road. Beyond the schools is the church of St. John standing on high ground, from which the land falls away to the Meon valley to rise again beyond the river and become a long sweep of downland and woodland. Past the church the road goes uphill to Lippen Cottages, with their long trim gardens, and from here passing through fine woodland it reaches the high ground north of the parish, from which good views of the village and of the surrounding country can be obtained.
In the centre of the village at the junction of the two roads is a square piece of ground inclosed by a railing, in the middle of which is a stone cross surrounded by several seats, and shaded by some fine trees. A stone slab in front of the cross states that this ground was given to the West Meon Parish Council for the use of the parishioners for ever by the lord of the manor, Henry Johnson, 1898. On the south face of the cross an inscription tells that another cross (probably a market cross) originally stood on this spot, and other inscriptions on the east and west faces relate that the modern cross was put up in 1901 by the last surviving of the sixteen children of George Vining Rogers (1777–1846), for more than forty years medical practitioner in West Meon, and Mary Anne Rogers his wife (1783–1873). As the main road goes downhill from here past the village inn, the Congregational chapel, and the various groups of houses, shops and cottages composing the village, it crosses the river close by the mill, then turns sharply west near by the modern Queen Victoria Institute, erected in 1887, to run parallel with the river through peaceful pastoral country to Warnford parish. Here also, close by the smithy, a branch road turns south-east, past the rectory and several outlying cottages, to the railway station on the Meon valley line. There is no inclosure award for the parish. The soil is various, the subsoil chalk. The chief crops on the 1,192½ acres of arable land are wheat, barley, and oats. Of the whole parish 680¾ acres are permanent grass and 296¾ are woodland.
During the Civil War West Meon was the scene of several skirmishes previous to the battle of Cheriton (29 March, 1644). Major-General Brown with the London Brigade was directed by Waller to take up quarters at West Meon, three miles from the main body, on the night of 25 March. There they found, according to an eye-witness who was with the brigade, 'a partee of the enemies horse . . . which occasioned some action, though not much considerable.' The next day, Tuesday, 26 March, continues the narrator, 'we lay still, only our scouts brought in some prisoners, 6 troops incountring with 16 of the enemies, put them to flight and brought away 3 of them prisoners.' The day following the enemy took some few of their men who 'were straggling from their colours, and soon after appeared in a great body upon the hill on the left hand, the Town intending (as some prisoners confessed) to take us at church, it being the Fast Day.' However, 'this godly body of Londoners' had already kept the fast on the Wednesday before and were therefore 'provided to entertain' the enemy and drew their forces into a body near the town. Then marching out 'in the Forlorn-Hope expecting the enemy every hour to fall upon us' they were 'forced to make a stand a mile or so from the town in extream danger' till joined by Waller's forces coming from East Meon. (fn. 1)
A Roman building in Lippen Wood has been excavated in 1905–6, and proved to be of an interesting type. In plan it was a rectangle of 140 ft. by 60 ft., standing nearly north and south. The entrance was by a gateway on the east, opening to a central courtyard, on the north side of which was the dwelling-house, and on the south the outbuildings. The principal rooms in the house were arranged from east to west on either side of a central hall or corridor 11 ft. wide; at the east end the corridor opened to two rooms with well-preserved mosaic floors, each room about 21 ft. by 11 ft. The two largest rooms flanked the corridor immediately to the south of the first two, and both were about 20 ft. by 18 ft. 6 in., but had lost their flooring. At the north-west angle of the house was a room with a channelled hypocaust, and opposite to it, on the south of the corridor, were two small rooms. A good deal of painted plaster was found, and the house was evidently one of some importance. The south-west corner of the courtyard was at a lower level than the rest, and in it were three chambers, two of them apsidal, with pillared hypocausts; all were probably bath-rooms. The remaining buildings, in the south-east part of the inclosure, were too fragmentary to be identified. (fn. 2)
There are several references in the Anglo-Saxon Charters to grants of land 'on the river Meon to the king's thegns and relations'; but it is impossible to identify any of them with the manor of WEST MEON, which was held by the bishop in 1086, and which according to the Domesday Survey had always belonged to the church. (fn. 3)
The manor of West Meon together with other manors and lands was confirmed to the prior and convent of St. Swithun, Winchester, in 1205, (fn. 4) and by a charter of 1284 John, bishop of Winchester, gave up for himself and his successors all rights in the manor saving the right of overlordship. (fn. 5) It was numbered among the St. Swithun temporalities in 1291, being assessed at £31 16s. (fn. 6)
West Meon was still in the hands of the prior and convent at the time of the Dissolution; and it was then assessed at £65 8s. 2d., more than double its former value. (fn. 7)
After the Dissolution the manor with the other possessions of the priory was granted in 1541 to the dean and chapter of Winchester by Henry VIII (fn. 8) for a yearly rent of £178 16s. 5½d., (fn. 9) West Meon, together with four other manors, being charged with the maintenance of six students in theology at Oxford and six at Cambridge. (fn. 10) The king, however, compelled the dean and chapter to surrender the five manors in 1545; and the maintenance for the students ceased. (fn. 11) In consideration of this surrender Queen Elizabeth in 1567 commuted £18 4s. 9½d. of the annual rent paid by the bishop, and in 1674 Charles II for the sum of £2,402 9s. 8d. granted £160 11s. 8d., the residue of the rent, to George, bishop of Winchester. (fn. 12) In 1544 West Meon was granted by letters patent to Thomas Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, who died seised of the manor in 1550, leaving an infant son, Henry, aged three years, (fn. 13) who as the second earl of Southampton held the manor until his death in 1581. He was succeeded by his son Henry, third earl of Southampton, who died in 1624, leaving a son Thomas. (fn. 14) Sir Thomas Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, became one of the most trusted advisers of Charles II, and he remained in close attendance upon him until his death in 1667.
Shortly before this time, Sir Thomas, who left no male heir, must have sold the manor of West Meon to Thomas Neale, for he was holding it in 1664 (fn. 15) (fn. 16); and in 1677 sold the manor to Isaac Foxcroft. (fn. 17)
Nearly a century later West Meon was still in the possession of the Foxcroft family; for in 1773 Henry Foxcroft was holding the manor together with all lands and tenements in West Meon, free warren and view of frankpledge. (fn. 18) In the same year, however, he sold it for the sum of £5,350 (fn. 19) to Charles Rennett, who was still lord of the manor in 1802. He was followed by John Dunn, formerly his steward, who held the manor until the marriage of his only daughter with Captain Aubertin; and by this marriage West Meon passed to the Aubertins, from whom it was purchased in 1894 by Mr. Henry G. Johnson, the present lord of the manor. (fn. 20)
At the time of the Domesday Survey there were two mills in West Meon, worth 10s. (fn. 21) In 1664 when Thomas Neale was holding the manor there were three mills. (fn. 22) In 1301 a grant was made to the prior and convent of St. Swithun of free warren in their demesne lands at West Meon. (fn. 23) View of frankpledge was granted to the dean and chapter of Winchester in 1542, (fn. 24) and the Foxcrofts held view of frankpledge and rights of free warren in 1773. (fn. 25)
The reputed manor of HALL PARK in West Meon is first mentioned in 1550, when it was in the possession of Thomas Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, who also held the main manor of West Meon. (fn. 26) Hall Park subsequently followed the descent of the manor of West Meon (q.v.). A fine house called Hall Place and Hall Place Farm now stands on the site of the so-called manor.
The earl of Southampton was also holding the socalled manor of COOMBE at the time of his death in 1550; (fn. 27) it is always mentioned with West Meon and follows the descent of that manor (q.v.) until the end of the eighteenth century, after which no further record of it has been found. It may possibly have become amalgamated with the main manor, though there is no place of this name at the present day in West Meon; or possibly the tithing of Coombe, now in West Meon, may mark its site.
In 1677 occurs the first separate mention of the so-called manor of WOODLANDS, (fn. 28) a name given to a porton of West Meon manor, with which its history is identical. It subsequently became merged in that manor; and its site is now occupied by the Woodlands estate and farm.
The earliest mention of PUNSHOLT (Punsold, xiv cent.; Poundesolte, Ponsholt, xvi cent.; Punsholes, Punsalls, xvii cent.) is found in 1341, when Walter de Ticheborne and his wife Agatha were holding in right of the latter half the manor of West Tisted and 40s. rent in Bramdean and Punsholt. (fn. 29)
Again, in 1511 William Tisted, lord of the manor of West Tisted, died seised of the reversion of two tenements, forty acres of land, twenty acres of pasture, and six acres of woodland in Punsholt which he held of the priory of St. Swithun as of the manor of West Meon. (fn. 30) It seems probable therefore that Punsholt followed the descent of West Tisted (q.v.).
On the death of William Tisted's brother and heir, Thomas, a few years later, these tenements were divided among his four sisters and co-heirs and their descendants. (fn. 31) Three of them sold their shares to Richard Norton, (fn. 32) whose descendant, Richard Norton, died seised of the so-called manor or capital messuage of Punsholt in West Meon and Privett in 1584, leaving a son and heir, Anthony, (fn. 33) who ten years later granted three-fourths to his sister, Isabel Norton. (fn. 34)
Isabel married Thomas Lovedean of East Meon, and owing to his recusancy two-thirds of his lands and tenements, including a messuage called Punsholt, were granted in 1608 for a term of forty-one years (fn. 35) to John Casewell, Christopher Stubbs, and Thomas Hutchinson.
On the death of Thomas and Isabel, Punsholt descended to Anthony Lovedean, on whose death in 1635 it was described as a messuage or tenement, and a virgate of land in the parish of West Meon held from Thomas Neale as of his manor of West Meon by a rent of 26s. 8d. (fn. 36) His heir was his son Sebastian, aged ten and a half years, who was a recusant like his grandfather. (fn. 37)
After this the only record concerning Punsholt seems to be in the year 1791, when Thomas Marchant and John Marchant and Ann his wife were holding a moiety of the so-called manor of Punsholt, which they conveyed to Richard Pratt and John Greene. (fn. 38)
Punsholt Farm in the north of West Meon parish now indicates the site of the manor of Punsholt.
The church of ST. JOHN was rebuilt in 1843–6 to the north of the former church, nothing of the older building being preserved. It is a fine building in geometrical style, of carefully faced flint with stone dressings, and has a chancel with north vestry and organ chamber, a nave of five bays, with an embattled porch, and a tall western tower. The roofs are covered with blue slates. The old font was removed at the rebuilding, and is now in St. Edmund's, Lombard Street; its successor stands at the west end of the nave, and is octagonal, of thirteenth-century design. There are eight bells, six of 1850 and two of 1897.
The plate includes a set given in 1846, consisting of two chalices and patens, a larger paten, a flagon and two alms dishes. There is also a gold dish given in 1844, and a plated chalice and paten given in 1900.
The first book of the registers contains all entries from 1542 to 1639, the second runs from 1640 to 1688, the third from 1690 to 1733, the fourth from 1675 to 1733, and the fifth from 1733 to 1812. The sixth and seventh are the printed marriage registers, 1745–1817.
There are some entries of burials as early as 1536, two years before the passing of the Act for the keeping of parish registers.
At the time of the Domesday Survey there was one church in West Meon to which was attached one hide of land; the church paid 50s. towards the farm of the manor. (fn. 39) In 1284 the king gave up to John, bishop of Winchester, and his successors all right and claim in the advowson of the church of West Meon with the chapels. (fn. 40)
The advowson, except during the Commonwealth, has always been in the hands of the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 43) The living is a rectory.
In 1391 there was a chapel of the Holy Trinity in West Meon, and an indulgence was granted to those penitents who visited and gave alms to the 'fabric of the chapel.' The same indulgence was also granted to those penitents who gave alms towards the chapel of St. Mary the Virgin in Punsholt. (fn. 44)
In 1846 William Butterworth Bayley by deed conveyed to trustees schoolhouse, master's house, and three acres of playground, and by a deed in 1853 Miss Mary Touchett endowed the school with three tenements, blacksmith's shop, and coach-house. In 1897 the blacksmith's shop was pulled down and upon the site an institute called the 'Queen Victoria Institute' was built at a cost of £377, provided by voluntary contribution. The income is about £17 a year. (fn. 45)
In 1867 a village green was granted by the lords of the manor for the use of the inhabitants.
In 1872 Hannah Batten by will, proved this date, left £100 consuls, income to be divided yearly among three poor widows on last day of January by the rector and churchwardens.
In 1873 Elizabeth Sibley, by will proved this date, left £5 a year for the daily ringing of the church bell, to denote certain hours and the day of the month. The funds consist of £166 13s. 4d. consols. The sums of stock are held by the official trustees.