A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Bishop's Sutton, containing 3,739 acres of land and 9 acres of land covered with water, (fn. 1) is of irregular shape, the central part, in which the village stands, being in the comparatively low ground [250 ft. above sea level] by the head-waters of the River Alre, while a long strip runs north-east between the parishes of Bighton and Ropley, rising to a height of 500 ft. South of the river the boundary extends to the high ground above Cheriton Wood and Bramdean Common [450 ft.], its eastward limit being about a mile from West Tisted church. The village lies on the south side of the Alre, which takes its source about a mile to the east. (fn. 2) The main road from New Alresford to Alton runs through the parish from west to east, dividing it into two almost equal portions. The church stands a little back from the main road on the north, and is at the west end of the village, approached from a road which runs north from the village street. At the corner of this road is the Ship Inn, with its brightly-painted sign-board, a steamer on one side and a sailing-vessel on the other. Opposite is an ancient timber-built house, and eastward from this point the road is lined by cottages with narrow flower gardens in front. Beyond them is the Fox Inn, one of a group of little thatched cottages; and past it on the outskirts of the village to the south of the road are several new villa residences and the large racing stables owned by Mr. A. Yates. As the road leaves the village and leads on to Ropley it passes through the low-lying country where the River Alre rises, running parallel with the railway, beyond which Sutton Beech Wood rises in the distance. About half a mile from Ropley Lodge a branch road runs southward to Bramdean, passing the fine beeches of Old Park Wood, which, extended at 95 acres and its timber valued at £60, was included in the sale of Bishop's Sutton manor to Sir John Evelyn in 1647. (fn. 3) Sutton Wood, Sutton Beech Wood, Hazel Wood, Barnett's Wood, Bower's Grove Wood, and Grant's Copse lie in the north-east of the parish.
There is a rifle-range in the south of the parish a little to the north of Old Park Wood. The soil round the village in every direction is a friable loam adapted to the growth of most crops, and particularly good for barley. Along the valley from the source of the river are rich meadow-lands, but on the outskirts of the parish, especially in the north-east and south-east, are tracts of land of an inferior quality. The subsoil is chalk, and hence the chief crops are wheat, oats, barley, and turnips. The parish contains 2,212½ acres of arable land, 1,028 acres of permanent grass, and 222½ acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 4) In 1685 Sutton Common or Windley Common, with the consent of the bishop of Winchester, was ordered to be inclosed and cultivated and divided among those copyhold and freehold tenements to which common of pasture there had always pertained.
At the same time twenty acres of the common were freed from tithes and annexed to the vicarage of Bishop's Sutton. (fn. 5) The remainder of the common lands were inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1796.
An interesting description of the manor as it was in the time of Edward VI exists at the Record Office (fn. 6) :—
'Sutton is distaunte from Alleresford a myle, and the mannor-howse being a verie olde howse, somtyme walled round abowte with stone, now decaied, well waterid with an olde ponde or moote adjoyning to it, and the ferme-howse being sett and within a stones cast of the said manner-howse, thowsing being but for a fermer, lying neer to Sutton churche. There is a xii score beneth the said manner-howse a corne-mill holden be copie, the ponde being the hed dam of the said mill, and a lyttell beneth that a faier great fermehowse belonging to the Lorde Chief Justice and holden by copie of the manner of Sutten. The parke of Sutton being a lyttell myle from Sutton Towne, and all the ground betwixt bi the heighwaie side parcell of Sutton ferme, having allso a greate sheape pasture enclosed lyeing round abowte thone haulf of the parke, all plaine, callid the Parke Downe, bi estymacion 400 acres, parcell of the ferme, and the parke being abowte two myles good pasture, and muche wood lately fellid ther, the lodge standing faier upon a hill towards the northe end of the parke. A greate wood lying from the sowthewest corner of the parke, full west, a two myles in length, and being a quarter of a myle or more over in moost places set with beache and thicke upon the Lord's common, and a faier plaine comon belonging to the said Lordeshipp, lying all alongest the northe side of the said longe wood.'
The 'verie olde howse,' mentioned by the surveyor was no doubt the bishop of Winchester's palace, concerning which Mr. Duthy in his Sketches of Hampshire (1839) writes: 'Within the memory of many persons now living considerable vestiges of a strong and extensive building stood in the meadows to the north of the church, which were the dilapidated remains of an ancient palace of the bishops of Winchester. The walls were of great thickness and composed of flints and mortar, but it was impossible to trace the disposition of the apartments or the form of the edifice.' He conjectures that it was destroyed in the course of the Civil War. This conjecture seems a plausible one, for many skirmishes must have taken place in the neighbourhood both before and after the battle of Cheriton. In 1830 the remains of the palace were used as a malt-house, but only the site now remains. The bishops of Winchester kept a kennel from very early times in Bishop's Sutton. (fn. 7) In the early part of the thirteenth century mention is made of the expenses of keeping the king's hounds at Bishop's Sutton, which suggests that the king paid frequent visits to the bishop for hunting, and brought his hounds with him. (fn. 8) The bishops also had a park in Bishop's Sutton, (fn. 9) covering an area of 250 acres, which in 1649 was sold to Sir John Evelyn, together with 'all that warren of conies within it.' (fn. 10) A fair was held at Bishop's Sutton on the Feast of St. Giles and the following days from very early times. It seems to have been a popular one, for as long as it lasted seven men acted as constables (custodinarii), (fn. 11) and two others were employed to guard the woods, presumably against poachers. (fn. 12) As late as the middle of the last century two fairs were held—one on the Thursday after Holy Trinity and the other on 6 November, (fn. 13) but they seem soon afterwards to have died out. At the time of the Domesday Survey there were four mills, (fn. 14) but there is now only one, situated a little to the north-west of the site of the Bishop's palace, and probably occupying the site of the mill which in the reign of Henry VI was situated near the 'Court of Bishop's Sutton,' (fn. 15) and which in 1649 was described as 'all that messuage or tenement and mill commonly called Sutton mill, late parcel of the manor, consisting, as the same is now divided, of a dwelling house, two corn-mills, and a malt-mill, being now or late in the tenure of Jane Frost, widow.' (fn. 16) Among place-names mentioned in local records are 'Swetley, Pylk, Blayputtesthorne, Motynyard, Honeylynch, Windley, Verdelay, Brynkeworth, Mulcrofte, and La Holte.' (fn. 17)
William Howley, archbishop of Canterbury, 1828–48, was the only son of William Howley, vicar of Bishop's Sutton and Ropley, and was vicar of Bishop's Sutton from 1796 to 1813. He published several charges and sermons, and his library now forms part of the Howley-Harrison Library at Canterbury.
It seems probable that part of the parish of BISHOP'S SUTTON was included in a grant made by King Ine to the church at Winchester in 701. (fn. 18) The lands are described as having been previously granted to the church by Ine's predecessor, Cynewalh. The northern boundary of the land thus granted started from Candover (Cendefer), thence to Bogmoor Hill (Bucgan oran), thence apparently along the northern boundary of Old Alresford parish, and into Medsted parish as far as Green Lane Farm (Grenmenes stigele). The eastern boundary started from Green Lane Farm, going south through Medsted parish, and entered Bishop's Sutton parish. The southern boundary started from Rampscomb Farm (Hremmescumbers geate), thence to Drayton Farm (Dregtune) in the parish of Bighton, and thence south-west as far as Tichborne (Ticceburnan). The western boundary passed north through Tichborne, Itchen Stoke, Swarraton, and Brown Candover. If the identifications of the place-names are correct, the land thus granted included the parishes of Godsfield, Bighton, Old and New Alresford, and Swarraton, and parts of the parishes of Brown Candover, Medsted, Bishop's Sutton, Tichborne, and Itchen Stoke. The part of the parish of Bishop's Sutton thus granted seems to have been the tongue of land which now separates the parishes of Bighton and Ropley. It seems probable that at the time of the grant this piece of land formed part of the parish of Bighton, from the fact that in the grant of Bighton by King Edwy to Hyde Abbey (fn. 19) there is mention of Brennescumbes Geat (probably for Hremmescumbes Geat), now probably represented by the modern Rampscomb Farm, which is situated in the north-east of the parish at the south of the tongue of land.
At the time of the Domesday Survey Bishop's Sutton was held by Count Eustace III of Boulogne. (fn. 20) In Edward the Confessor's reign it had been held by Earl Harold. Eustace IV, son of Eustace III, married Mary of Scotland, and had a daughter Maud, who became the wife of King Stephen. The manor thus came to the crown. In 1136 the king exchanged it with his brother Henry de Blois, bishop of Winchester, for the episcopal manor of 'Morden' (co. Surr.). (fn. 21) This exchange was confirmed by Henry II (fn. 22) and by Edward I. (fn. 23)
Edward II in 1324 confirmed a grant of a messuage and lands in Bishop's Sutton, afterwards called Western Court Farm (q. v. infra), made by Henry bishop of Winchester to William son of William de Overton. (fn. 24) The latter after the confirmation encroached upon the bishop's manor, (fn. 25) and in 1357 William de Edendon, bishop of Winchester, brought an assize of novel disseisin against William de Overton and Isabel his wife and Thomas the son of William and Isabel and others for unjustly disseising him of his 'free tenement in Bishop's Sutton.' (fn. 26) The case was decided in favour of the bishop, who recovered his seisin of the premises. The same year the bishop in the King's Court at Westminster recovered his seisin against William de Overton of three messuages, 3 virgates and 21½ acres of land, 10 acres of pasture, and 76 acres of wood, in Bishop's Sutton, Twyford, and Cheriton. (fn. 27)
Richard Fox, bishop of Winchester 1500–28, granted a lease of the manor in 1519 to Lewis Wingfield with the proviso that he should not let over the lease in his lifetime. Lewis on his death willed it to Henry Wingfield, who in his turn granted it in 1539 to Henry Norton, (fn. 28) who was still holding the site of the manor, in accordance with this indenture, in the reign of Edward VI. (fn. 29)
On 14 February, 1551, Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, was formally deprived of his bishopric, and the episcopal lands came into the king's hands. (fn. 30) With John Poynet's accession a month later Bishop's Sutton was included in the exchange of the episcopal lands for a fixed income of 2,000 marks, (fn. 31) and in 1551 was granted to Sir John Gate, together with the hundred and park. (fn. 32) Queen Mary, however, restored the manor to the bishopric in 1558. (fn. 33) In March, 1647, the manor of Bishop's Sutton was included in the sale of the bishop's lands, being purchased by Sir John Evelyn of West Dean (co. Wilts.), for £2,727 13s. 9d. (fn. 34) The manor and premises sold to him in this year, together with the royalties of hawking, hunting, fishing, and fowling, were stated to be of the annual value of £147 19s. 0½d. (fn. 35) Two years later the same John for £1,717 7s. 6d. purchased Sutton Park, which was then in the tenure of Sir Thomas Stewkley, an under-tenant, Sutton Mill, several parcels of meadow or pasture-ground commonly called Park Down and Brinkworths, and various other premises which were described as late parcels of the manor of Bishop's Sutton. (fn. 36) After the Restoration the manor was restored to the bishop, and at the present time the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as representing the bishops are lords of the manor.
WESTERN COURTFARM (Westercourte xvi cent.; Westend Courte xvii cent.) is the farm described by the surveyor of Edward VI as 'the faier great ferme-house belonging to the Lorde Chief Justice and holden by copie of the manner of Sutten.' (fn. 37) No name is given to it in this survey, but in a perambulation of the parish made about the same time it was stated that Sir Richard Lyster was holding a capital messuage called 'Westercourte' with the lands belonging to it. (fn. 38) This farm was, as has been shown above, in origin the messuage and lands granted by Henry bishop of Winchester to William son of William de Overton. In 1346 William obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Bishop's Sutton, (fn. 39) which shows that by this time the property thus granted to him had developed into a manor. He died seised of the so-called manor of Bishop's Sutton in 1362, leaving a son and heir Thomas. (fn. 40) A Thomas de Overton, probably son or grandson of the latter, is described as 'of Sutton gentleman' in 1431. (fn. 41) From this date the history of the manor is uncertain until 1501, in which year John Wayte of Titchfield recovered seisin of the manors of Bishop's Sutton and Medsted against Eleanor Courte. (fn. 42) From John it passed with Medsted to Sir Richard Lyster, who died seised of it in 1553, his heir being his grandson Richard, aged twenty years nine months. (fn. 43) In the inquisition taken after his death it was called the manor of Bishop's Sutton, and was said to be held of the bishop of Winchester in socage for a money-rent. Some time after this Richard Lyster conveyed the manor to Sir John Leigh. The exact date is not known, but it was probably about 1557, for in that year there was a similar conveyance from Richard Lyster to Sir John Leigh of the manor of Coldrey in Froyle parish. (fn. 44) In 1567 Edward Fitzgarrett and Agnes his wife, daughter and heir of Sir John Leigh, and John Leigh conveyed the manor of Bishop's Sutton, as it was then called, to John More and Richard Bostock, (fn. 45) obviously in trust, as in 1575 John Leigh, nephew and heirmale of the same Sir John, died seised of it, leaving an infant son and heir John. (fn. 46) John's mother Margery married, as her third husband, William Killigrew, and in 1596 John Leigh, William Killigrew, and Margery his wife conveyed the manor in trust to William Onslowe and Walter Dickman. (fn. 47) John Leigh married Elizabeth West, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas West, and died in 1613, leaving a son and heir Thomas, aged six. (fn. 48) In the inquisition taken after his death he was said to be seised of the manor of Sutton. From Thomas West it seems to have passed to John Venables, who died in 1648 aged twenty-nine. (fn. 49) In 1685 it was called the manor of Westerne Court or Westend Court, and was in the possession of John Venables of Woodcote in the parish of Bramdean. (fn. 50)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS, BISHOP'S SUTTON, has a chancel 34 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 6 in. (at the west end 16 ft.), nave 55 ft. 4 in. by 19 ft. 8 in., north and south porches, and wooden bell-turret over the west end of the nave. The nave has been but little altered in its main features since its building about 1150, and preserves four original windows, plain round-headed lights set high in the walls, two on the north and two on the south, and north and south doorways set midway between the pairs of windows. (fn. 51) The west wall is 3ft. 9 in. thick, and the east wall 3 ft. 5 in., the two side walls being only 3 ft. 3 in.: they are built of flint rubble with a few Roman bricks, brought to a face with a thick coating of brown mortar, which has been in great measure removed in the course of modern patching and pointing. Three of the four original external angles remain, with large ashlar quoins, the north-east angle having given way and been rebuilt in red brick with a heavy brick buttress. The north and south doorways have semicircular arches of two orders and a chamfered label, with nook-shafts with scalloped capitals to the outer order; the inner order being square and the outer moulded with a heavy roll, and in the case of the south doorway a line of beak-heads. The north doorway is as usual of plainer character, and has moulded wedge-shaped projections in place of the beak-heads. At the east end of the south wall a widely splayed lancet, c. 1220, has been added (fn. 52) to light the south nave altar, the plain circular piscina of which is in its sill. The original west window of the nave, if there was one, has given place to a two-light uncusped fourteenth-century window, and over it in the gable is a small narrow lancet, probably of the same date, and lighting the second stage of the wooden belfry. The belfry stands on four massive posts within the church, and from the absence of detail is difficult to date. It rises as a square above the nave roof, and its vertical sides are covered with oak shingles, with small wired openings near the eaves which admit air rather than light to the bell-chamber. It is finished with a pointed red-tiled roof. The chancel arch has evidently failed and been rebuilt with the old stones, and is now of two square orders of 13 ft. 9 in. span, bluntly pointed, and having nook-shafts on its western face with scalloped capitals which have lost their abaci.
The chancel, though retaining at its west end the width of the twelfth-century chancel, has probably been entirely rebuilt in the last years of the thirteenth century, and no part of its masonry seems earlier than that date. It has an east window of three trefoiled lancets under an inclosing arch, the rear arch of which is moulded, and the arch having spread, the head of the central light has opened and been repaired by the insertion of an extra stone, so that the light is wider at the top than at the bottom. Externally pairs of modern buttresses are set at the angles of the east wall. In the north wall is a single trefoiled lancet, to the west of which was formerly a north chapel or vestry, now destroyed, a blocked squint from it, just west of the lancet, and commanding as usual the place of the high altar, being its only remaining feature. It is of the fourteenth century, as was probably the vestry, and the lower stones of the west jamb of the thirteenth-century lancet have been inserted when it was made. In the south wall is a trefoiled lancet corresponding to that on the north, and to the east of it a trefoiled piscina recess with three drains. It seems probable that the two outer drains are the original ones, the number being normal for the date, and the central drain a later addition, possibly super-seding the other two at a time when the use of a pair of drains was abandoned. West of the window is a plain south doorway, and further west a two-light window widely splayed, with modern tracery of fourteenth-century style and a small quatrefoil in the head.
On either side of the east window are painted consecration crosses in red within a circular yellow border. None of the woodwork of the chancel is old except the roof, which has plain trussed rafters and was formerly ceiled, and the seventeenth-century altar rails, 2 ft. 9 in. high, with good turned balusters and a carved rail. On the floor are a number of marble slabs, on one of which are the mutilated brass figures of an armed man and his wife, c. 1500; while another retains the nails which once fixed another brass, and at the west of the chancel is a slab with indents of a shield and an inscription plate.
The south door of the nave is old, with its lock and strap hinges, and the roof is of the same type as that of the chancel, and probably of the same date. Both roofs, as well as that of the bell-turret, are covered with red tiles. The south porch of the nave is of eighteenth-century brickwork, with benches on east and west, and the north porch is modern and serves as a vestry, having no external door. On the south-east quoin of the nave are traces of two sundials. The font stands by the south door of the nave, large and baluster-shaped, with a moulded base, and inconveniently high. It is of eighteenth-century date. There are five bells, all re-cast by Warner of Cripplegate in 1893.
The plate includes a notable piece, a small silver paten of c. 1500, the centre being engraved with I H S on a gilt ground, in lettering of very good style and design. Besides this there is a communion cup of 1678, an alms dish of 1751, and a modern pewter flagon.
The registers are not preserved before 1711, the first book continuing till 1783, with marriages to 1754: the second has marriages 1754–1812, and the third baptisms and burials 1783–1812. There are also books of vestry minutes from 1842 to 1890.
At the time of the Domesday Survey there was a church in Bishop's Sutton with one hide attached, and it then belonged to Eustace count of Boulogne, lord of the manor of Bishop's Sutton. (fn. 53) Count Eustace granted the advowson of the church to the prior and convent of Merton (co. Surr.), (fn. 54) who continued to be patrons until the dissolution. (fn. 55) In 1539 Henry VIII granted the advowson to Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, in tail male. (fn. 56) He died in 1545, and his two sons Henry and Charles on 16 July, 1551, without male issue. In the latter year John Poynet succeeded to the see of Winchester and obtained a grant of the advowson of Bishop's Sutton. (fn. 57) Three months later, however, it was granted with the manor and hundred to Sir John Gate, (fn. 58) but was restored to the bishopric by Queen Mary in 1558. (fn. 59) However, in 1563 it was again taken from the bishop and granted to William Stanley, Lord Mounteagle, son and heir of Mary Mounteagle, who was one of the three daughters and co-heiresses of Charles duke of Suffolk. (fn. 60)
In 1604 James I granted the advowson to Anthony Crewe and William Starkey. (fn. 61) The following persons have since presented to the living: John Lowman in 1622; Thomas Jones in 1672; Mrs. London, widow, in 1711; Ann Alexander in 1724; James Brown Alexander in 1746; John Wood and George Jackson in 1757; the Rev. William Ralph and others in 1796; the Marquis of Abercorn in 1811; and the Marquis of Abercorn and wife in 1818 (fn. 62); Sir Thomas Baring, bart., and John Deacon are given as the patrons in 1831, and John Deacon as the patron in 1849. (fn. 63) The Misses Tanner were the patrons in 1878. The living is now a vicarage in the hands of the Peache trustees.
By an undated deed between the canons of the church of St. Mary of Merton, and Stephen, chaplain of Bishop's Sutton, it was agreed that Stephen should have all the tithes of the chapel of Ropley and all the land belonging to it by the rent of 3 marks, and that the canons should have all the tithes of the mother-church of Bishop's Sutton. In return for this convention Stephen gave up to the canons all the land which he held of them in Bishop's Sutton except his messuage in that vill. (fn. 64)
In 1796 under the provisions of a Private Act for the inclosure of the common fields in this parish and Crawley (34 Geo. III, cap. 81), an acre of arable land was awarded in respect of the right of the parish in a common field. The rent of £1 a year is applied by the churchwardens towards church expenses. (fn. 65)