A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The 2,349 acres comprising the parish of Ellisfield are part of the high sweep of country that rises southwest of Basingstoke and reaches its greatest height at Farleigh Wallop. Ellisfield, lying south-east of Farleigh, is practically in itself a hill, the ground rising to over 640 ft. above the ordnance datum almost in the centre of the parish between the two outlying groups which compose the village, the church and manor farm, which lie together towards the northwest, and the Fox Inn, and the various farms which are grouped together in the south-east. Although the parish is intersected by lanes and narrow roads, there is no main road running through it, the most important being that which enters the south-east corner, about a mile from Herriard Station, and runs a generally north-westerly course through the parish to Farlington and Cliddesden. This road mounts uphill, past Bushy Leaze Copse and College Farm, the Fox Inn, and Cooper's and Merritt's Farms and their outbuildings, then curves west past Widmore House, now known as Ellisfield Manor, the residence of Mr. Harry Hoare. At this point, the highest in the parish, the road divides, one branch running north-east, the other northward downhill to the church and manor farm, which both lie west of the road, the farmhouse, a square white stone house with a dark tiled roof, being immediately southwest of the church. Forming a foreground for the church and farmhouse, as the road approaches from the south-east, is the farm pond. On the opposite side of the road are two low flint cottages.
The chief charm of Ellisfield is not in its scattered village, but in the wonderful sweeps of woodland country that rise on every side. Every lane seems to run between or through copses carpeted in early spring by masses of primroses and wild anemones, and inhabited by rabbits and pheasants, which start up everywhere. Of the cluster of copses lying north of the parish the chief are Kingsmore Copse, Allwood Copse, Whinkney Copse, and Fryingdown Copse, while in the east are Park Field Copse, Smart's Copse, and Withy Copse, south of the manor farm and in the south-east, Great Reid's Copse, Warwick's Row Copse, Berry Down Copse, and Highwood. These cover the best part of the 562 acres of woodland in the parish. Crops of wheat, oats, and roots are produced on the 766 acres of arable land lying on the chalk soil and subsoil of the parish, 483½ acres are given up to permanent grass, and 562 to woods and plantations.
In the time of Edward the Confessor Auti had held ELLISFIELD as an alod, but at the date of the Conqueror's Survey it formed part of the great possessions of the bishop of Bayeux, of whom it was held by Hugh de Port, (fn. 1) with whose descendants the overlordship remained, passing to the St. Johns in the thirteenth century. (fn. 2) The family of Sifrewast held as mesne lords under the St. Johns except in 1386, when half of the manor was held directly of the St. Johns and the other half partly of Bernard Brocas and partly of John Bremshott. Richard de Sifrewast, (fn. 3) holding of Robert de St. John, was lord of Ellisfield in 1255, and owed suit at the courts of Basing and Sherborne. Of his grandson Roger Sifrewast (fn. 4) Ellisfield was held in 1361, and of John Sifrewast (fn. 5) in 1496. In the reign of James I, however, the manor was held of the heirs of Sir Edward Marvyn. (fn. 6)
The history of the manor cannot be traced earlier than the reign of Edward II, although the Pipe Rolls and Fines show tenants in the parish (fn. 7) at an earlier date. In the reign of Henry III, Nicholas son of Ralph held half a carucate and half a virgate in Ellisfield, and also a capital messuage, which seems to imply a not inconsiderable estate, the third of which, and of a wood called 'Wodehull,' and lands named 'Homcroft' and 'Middelcroft' (the latter forming part of the half-virgate), he leased to Peter de Chevelegh and his wife Sarah for their lives. (fn. 8)
Robert Cusyn and Joan his wife seem to have been landowners in Ellisfield in the same reign, since of them John son of Thomas de Beckering held a house and land, paying a yearly rent of two capons. (fn. 9) In the reign of Edward I Henry and William de la Stonhupe are mentioned in connexion with a house and land in Ellisfield and Herriard, (fn. 10) but none of these early tenants can be connected with the two joint lords of Ellisfield in the reign of Edward II. In 1316 the vill of Ellisfield was the joint possession of the priory of Southwick and Roger de Fyfhide; (fn. 11) in 1346 the prior was still holding, and Roger had been succeeded by William de Fyfhide. (fn. 12) The priory owned two-thirds and William the remaining third, the latter's portion being described as having formerly belonged to Hugh de Spaigne. (fn. 13)
In 1361 William de Fyfhide died possessed of land in Ellisfield, (fn. 14) and his son William, a minor at his father's death, had seisin of his estates in or about 1382. (fn. 15) He died four years later without issue, and the manor of Ellisfield descended to his cousin Joan, wife of Sir John Sandys. (fn. 16) Sir Walter Sandys (fn. 17) succeeded as lord of the manor, and died 16 June, 1435. He was followed by his son Sir Thomas, who held the manor until 1443, (fn. 18) when he was succeeded by his son Sir William, (fn. 19) whose son, also Sir William, inherited the manor in 1496. (fn. 20) This second Sir William enjoyed the favour of Henry VIII, who made him his lord chamberlain and created him Baron Sandys. His son Thomas, Lord Sandys, held the manor at the time of Elizabeth's accession, (fn. 21) whose grandson William, the third Lord Sandys, was in possession of Ellisfield until 1624. (fn. 22) In 1657 William, fifth Lord Sandys, son of Colonel Henry Sandys, who was mortally wounded in the service of Charles I at Cheriton fight, sold the property. The manor house, site of the manor, and land in Ellisfield were sold for £3,300 to Robert Stocker of Basingstoke. (fn. 23) For £736 the Berrydown portion of the demesne lands went to John Oades, yeoman of Preston Candover, (fn. 24) and for £150, £550, £65, and £266 10s. other parts of the estates were bought by Hugh White, Richard Wither, and William Beck, and Nicholas Merriott, husbandman, and Edward Panford, respectively. (fn. 25)
Robert Stocker was still holding the manor in 1668, but no further mention of him occurs, and the manor appears to have been divided, for in 1675 Henry Lincbrey and William Moleyns were parties to a fine concerning half the manor of Ellisfield, (fn. 26) and in 1685 another fine between Michael Terry and Robert Searle and Anne his wife deals also with half the manor and half the advowson. (fn. 27) The moiety held by William Moleyns under the conveyance of 1675 must have remained in his family, though details of the descent are not known, for in 1704 Mary and Anne Moleyns, spinsters, each held a fourth of the manor. (fn. 28) In 1756 one of these fourth parts was held by William Saltmarsh, (fn. 29) who was probably a descendant of one of these sisters, he being the son of Philip Saltmarsh, who had married Anne, daughter of William 'Mullins' (fn. 30) of Skervill Court, Hants. (fn. 31) As the bulk of the family property lay in Yorkshire William Saltmarsh sold his Hampshire property to Michael Terry of Dummer in 1756. (fn. 32) From the Terrys of Dummer the manor passed by purchase to the earls of Portsmouth, (fn. 33) John Wallop, earl of Portsmouth, holding the manor in 1789. (fn. 34) What became of the other scattered portions of the manor is nowhere shown. Possibly the Terrys had acquired more than the fourth part of William Saltmarsh, at any rate the lands of the earl of Portsmouth in 1789 are described, not as a portion of, but as the manor of Ellisfield. The lordship of the manor is still held by the earl of Portsmouth.
Earlier mention, however, of the Wallop family in Ellisfield occurs, for Robert Wallop, regicide, forfeited, with the manor of Farleigh Wallop, a farm called 'Dyer's Farm,' with lands in Ellisfield and Nutley, (fn. 35) which with Farleigh Wallop evidently descended to his son, as for upwards of two hundred years the Wallops have held lands in this parish (fn. 36)
Besides the manor held by the Fyfhides there was, in early times, a second manor held by the prior of Southwick. Before 1284 Bartholomew Pecche had granted, together with part of the advowson, a house, a carucate of land, woodland, and rent to the priory. (fn. 37) According to the taxation of 1291 a manor, 'apud Elleswelde,' was taxed at 15s. 11d. (fn. 38) In the reign of Edward II the prior appears as joint lord of Ellisfield, (fn. 39) and, moreover, in the same reign free warren was granted to the prior and convent in their demesne lands in Ellisfield by royal charter, (fn. 40) which was later confirmed by Richard II. (fn. 41) In 1346 the prior was said to hold two parts of a knight's fee, (fn. 42) and in 1337 and 1348 held with John de Roches one fee of Edmund and Hugh de St. John. (fn. 43)
In 1218 Maud de Munfichet appears to have granted to Beatrice de Bovill, William de Bremlessete, and Robert de Chinham 22 acres in Ellisfield. (fn. 44) The name Chinham then spelt Chunham occurs again in 1272, when Herbert Pecche died seised of 60 acres of land in Ellisfield, which he held of William de Chunham. (fn. 45) He left an heir in his son Bartholomew, who was probably that Bartholomew Pecche who made the grant of land and advowson in Ellisfield to Southwick Priory. (fn. 46) In 1284 John de Foxle, John de St. John, and Michael de Chillham (another variation probably of Chinham) were guardians of the lands and heir of Bartholomew Pecche. (fn. 47) In 1327 part of rents in Ellisfield and Bromleigh which were granted by Sir John Pecche to his mother Dame Joan was due from the prior (fn. 48) of Southwick.
Connected also with the priory as early landowners in Ellisfield were the family of De Roches, who probably acquired their lands and the advowson through the marriage of Geoffrey de Roches with Emma, daughter of Walter Fitz Roger, and heiress of her brother. (fn. 49)
In 1329 John de Roches held a knight's fee in Ellisfield of John de St. John, described as worth £6 14s., (fn. 50) and eight years later the name of John de Roches occurs with that of the prior of Southwick as joint holder of a knight's fee worth £10, (fn. 51) it being held of Hugh de St. John, and in 1348 they held the fee of Edmund de St. John. (fn. 52) Nothing more is known of the De Roches property, which no doubt passed to Sir Bernard Brocas with the advowson on his marriage with Mary de Roches at the end of the fourteenth century.
Property in Ellisfield was also held under the Sifrewasts by the prioress of Wintney. Avis, the prioress, in the reign of Henry III, held ½ a carucate by grant of Richard de Sifrewast, (fn. 53) of whom also Lucy, the prioress, held 3 carucates later in the same reign. (fn. 54) In the reign of Edward III the nuns of Wintney held 100 acres of pasture of Roger Sifrewast. (fn. 55) After the dissolution of Wintney Priory the land in this parish, including what is now Merritt's Farm, held with Herriard Grange, was allotted to Sir William Paulet, (fn. 56) and remained with Lord Bolton's family till 1851, when it was sold to F. J. E. Jervoise.
The church of ST. MARTIN has a chancel, nave, south porch, and west tower. The tower was built in 1884, and the rest of the church underwent a most unsympathetic 'restoration' in 1870, which obliterated nearly everything of interest. The chancel seems to have been lengthened at this time, and is lighted by modern lancets on north and south, and a modern three-light east window, on either side of which are plain corbels for images, re-used, and at the south-east is a length of moulded string-course, which is old work. Parts of the nave walls probably date from the first quarter of the twelfth century, the label and tall semicircular rear arch of a south doorway of this date being left in the wall above the present south doorway, which is plain work of fourteenth-century date, and opens to a brick porch now used as a vestry, its outer arch being built up. The chancel is of the same width as the nave, separated from it by a modern chancel arch, and was probably built round a smaller chancel, contemporary with the nave, at some time in the thirteenth century. At the north-east of the nave is a lancet window, which may be in part of this date, the wall at this point being cut back to give more room for a former altar here.
Externally the nave walls show some early-looking flint masonry, and there is some trace of the former existence of a north doorway, a modern window now taking its place. A blocked lancet window or thirteenth-century date shows on the outer face of the south wall of the chancel, and a few quoin stones mark the line of the former east wall, partly hidden by modern buttresses.
The tower has a curious vane shaped like a pineapple, which was once on the tower of Long Ditton church, whence it was taken and set up over the stables of Cawley Priory, finally coming to Ellisfield.
South-east of the rectory is the site of a chapel, belonging to the fraternity of the Holy Ghost at Basingstoke; it is still known as the Litton, and foundations of walls and graves have been found there. Near to it stood till recent years a small Jacobean house with cut brickwork details, now entirely destroyed.
The advowson of Ellisfield can boast of a longer descent than the manor. A church existed at the time of the Domesday Survey, but by the reign of Henry III there were two churches, one dedicated to the honour of St. Martin, the other to All Saints.
In 1284 a suit was brought against the prior of Southwick by John de Foxle and his wife Constance for the recovery of land and of a third of the advowson of the church of 'Ellisfield.' (fn. 57) The prior it seems was able to produce a charter in witness that the property had been granted to him by Bartholomew Pecche. It is not certain to which of the two churches in Ellisfield this grant referred, nor is there any subsequent record of the ownership of the advowson by the prior of Southwick.
The churches of St. Martin and of All Saints were at the end of the thirteenth century in the patronage of the De Roches family, (fn. 58) members of the same family also having filled the living, Geoffrey de Roches being rector of Ellisfield in 1284 and Hugh de Roches in 1305. (fn. 59) Between 1282 and 1304 Hugh de Roches presented, and in the fourteenth century the name of John de Roches occurs as patron of both churches. (fn. 60) John de Roches, whose only son William was an idiot, settled in 1338 the advowson of All Saints upon his daughters, Alice and Mary, after the decease of himself and his wife Joan, the latter daughter being then wife of Sir John Boarhunt. (fn. 61) On the death of Joan, Mary, widow of Sir John Boarhunt, inherited the advowson, (fn. 62) her sister Alice having predeceased her mother.
Her second husband was Sir Bernard Brocas, who towards the end of the fourteenth century was patron. (fn. 63) In the year 1383 the two churches of All Saints and St. Martin's were united (fn. 64) on the petition of Sir Bernard Brocas and William Fyfhide, lord of the manor, who appears to have shared the advowson, as had his father before him, (fn. 65) and had presented to St. Martin's towards the end of the fourteenth century. (fn. 66) The plea was made on the ground of the poverty of the churches, All Saints being then a ruin. (fn. 67)
The Brocas family continued to share the advowson with the lords of the manor, the names of Sandys and Brocas occurring alternately, (fn. 68) until the manor was sold to Robert Stocker, to whom the advowson must have passed also, as he presented in 1668. (fn. 69) On the subsequent partition of the manor the advowson was also split up and was held by owners of portions of the manor successively. (fn. 70) In 1661 Thomas Taylor appeared as patron; his name had before occurred in 1634 and 1648 in conjunction with that of Brocas. (fn. 71) In 1783 Thomas Brocas, in 1734 Thomas Terry, and in 1785, and 1830 Richard Willis presented. (fn. 72) In the reign of George III the advowson descended to the natural son of Bernard Brocas of Beaurepaire, Bernard Austin, who had assumed the name of Brocas. (fn. 73)
Bernard Brocas of Beaurepaire was the last of the Brocases to hold the advowson. He married first Anne Dolly, daughter of Paynton Pigott, and secondly, Miss Raymond Barker, who sold the advowson about 1870 to Mr. Henry and Mr. Alfred Welch-Thornton. Upon the death of the Rev. Richard Paynton Pigott, brother-in-law to Bernard Brocas, the Messrs. Welch-Thornton presented the present rector, the Rev. Botry Pigott, in 1885. The trustees of the latter have since bought the advowson.
In 1736 Thomas Ellisfield by his will gave to the poor £20 to be put out for their use, and directed that 20s. a year should be paid for ever for the use thereof. The principal sum of £20 has been lost.
In 1737 Stephen Terry by deed charged his farm and lands called Tilbroughs in this parish with a clear yearly rent of £3, of which 40s. was to be paid to a schoolmaster or school dame for teaching six poor children, boys or girls, to read and say their prayers and the catechism, and 20s. in buying two Bibles and other religious books to be given to the best scholars. The annuity is paid by the earl of Portsmouth.
In 1896 a scheme was established by the Charity Commissioners, whereby the £3 a year is to be applied in granting prizes or rewards, not exceeding 10s. each, to children bonâ fide resident in the parish attending elementary schools, including the gift of a Bible.