A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Tanners Brook is the only natural waterway in the parish, and forms part of the western boundary. The land, which has an average height of 150 ft., slopes up gradually to the centre of the parish, which is 200 ft. above the ordnance datum. It is fertile and densely wooded. Lords Wood in the south and Chilworth Common in the south-east cover a considerable portion of the parish. There are 785 acres of wood, 312 acres of arable, and 287 acres of permanent grass land. (fn. 1)
The soil is loam or sand, the subsoil gravel, and that portion which is cultivated yields rich crops of wheat, barley, and oats. It is, however, especially favourable for the production of oak, which here grows in great luxuriance.
The village of Chilworth is very small, and consists of a few thatched cottages and barns in a little hollow, on the main road from Romsey to Botley. The small parish church stands to the north of the village on higher ground. The children from this village attend the schools at North Baddesley.
In the south of the parish, towards Southampton, are Chilworth Manor, owned by Mr. J. E. A. Willis Fleming; Chilworth Towers, which belongs to Miss Fortescue; and Ingersley, the property of Mr. H. E. Sugden. Near Chilworth Court, the residence of Mr. C. Simpson, is an old gravel-pit, but this, like the clay-pit in the east, is now disused.
At the time of the Domesday Survey CHILWORTH belonged to Bernard Pauncefoot, to whom it, with four other manors in Hampshire, had passed from Earl Godwin. Then, as in the time of King Edward, it was assessed at two hides, and amongst its appurtenances were three houses in Southampton. (fn. 2)
The overlordship of the manor passed from the crown to the Bohuns, earls of Hereford and Essex, before the middle of the thirteenth century, (fn. 3) and remained in that family until the end of the succeeding century, (fn. 4) after which no trace of their retaining any title to Chilworth is found, and it seems probable that their rights had lapsed. (fn. 5)
Agnes Peverel was holding lands in Chilworth as early as 1230, when a dispute concerning the boundary between her estate and that of the abbot of Hyde in North Stoneham (fn. 6) was settled by a perambulation. She still held the same, for half a knight's fee, in 1270, (fn. 7) and her son Thomas, who died in 1306, left Chilworth to his grandson and heir, William Peverel. (fn. 8)
William's property in Chilworth is described in the inquisition taken at his death in 1337 as a manor, which descended to his son Henry. (fn. 9) He died in 1363, (fn. 10) and two years later Chilworth Manor was sold by his son Thomas to Thomas Tyrell, knt., of Essex, (fn. 11) who prior to the year 1372 conveyed it to John Daccombe, (fn. 12) in whose family the manor remained for the next century. It was held by Thomas Daccombe in 1477, (fn. 13) and sixty years later it was purchased from his son John by John Dowse, (fn. 14) who, dying in 1558, left it to his youngest son Thomas, in tail-male. (fn. 15) During the latter half of the sixteenth century Thomas and Richard Dowse, grandsons of John Dowse, succeeded in recovering a sum of £300 from John Daccombe, which they claimed under the agreement made between John Daccombe and John Dowse at the date of the sale of the manor. (fn. 16)
Richard, who in 1602 succeeded to the Chilworth estate on the death of his father, (fn. 17) shortly afterwards conveyed the estate to John More, serjeant-at-law, (fn. 18) who died in 1620. (fn. 19) His son and heir survived him only a few months, and Chilworth passed to a younger daughter, Anne wife of Edward Hooper, of Hurn Court, (fn. 20) and from them to their son Sir Edward Hooper, who held the manor in 1676, (fn. 21) the entail having been barred in 1671. (fn. 22) Before 1714, however, the manor, with the advowson, had passed to Gilbert Serle, (fn. 23) probably by purchase, although the exact date of the transfer cannot be found. The Serles continued as lords of the manor for the next century. (fn. 24) Peter Serle, who succeeded his father Peter in 1782, was a philanthropist who endowed many charities in the parish of Chilworth and the surrounding districts, and rebuilt the church in 1812.
In 1825 he conveyed the Chilworth estate to John Fleming, who was to enter into possession on Peter's decease, subject to the payment of a jointure of £600 to Charlotte Malazena Serle. (fn. 25) Mr. Fleming obtained the manor in 1827, and it is now in the possession of his grandson, Mr. John E. A. Willis-Fleming.
The church (? dedication unknown), built by Peter Serle in 1812, the first stone being laid on 16 September, has a chancel, shallow transepts, nave and west tower in a dull and plain 'Gothic' style, the whole covered with Roman cement outside and plaster inside, and having a wood and plaster vault. The transepts were built to contain the comfortable pews of the period, and had fireplaces, and the fittings generally were such as might be expected. The stained glass of the east window, representing the four evangelists, cost £160. Nothing of the former church is preserved except the font, which has a square shallow bowl of Purbeck marble, of late twelfth-century date, and formerly much deeper; on the underside are the capitals of the four angle shafts on which, with a central shaft, it stood. The shafts are lost, and the bowl is now balanced on a wooden post.
In the tower are two small bells, both blank, but of very early type, with domed crowns, straight sides, and a sound bow of angular section on the inner face. They may date as far back as the twelfth century, and are probably the two oldest bells in the county. Bells of this early type are to be met with here and there at very wide intervals all over England, but that two such bells should have survived together is an event of the greatest rarity.
The first book of the registers begins in 1721, and contains the baptisms to 1800, the marriages to 1769, and the burials to 1799. The second has the baptisms and burials 1760 to 1812, and the third the marriages 1744–1811.
The church of Chilworth is mentioned in Domesday among the lands of Bernard Pauncefoot. Probably the church passed into the possession of the Bohuns in the same way as the manor of Chilworth. (fn. 26) It was certainly held by Humphrey de Bohun in the reign of Edward I, for he then confirmed the gift made by his father of the church of Chilworth, with its appurtenances, to St. Denys' Priory, Southampton. (fn. 27) The priory continued to hold the church until the Dissolution, after which, in 1550, it was sold by the crown to Nicholas and Roger Prideaux, (fn. 28) and before the year 1591 had passed into the possession of Thomas Dowse, lord of the manor. (fn. 29) Since that date the advowson and manor of Chilworth have always been held together. (fn. 30)
In 1828 George Frederick Pitts by will left £100, interest to be applied in the distribution of bread on Easter Day and Christmas Day. After payment of legacy duty and expenses the balance of the legacy was applied in the purchase of an annuity of £4 charged upon a close known as Smith's Close, now belonging to Mr. John Edward Arthur Willis-Fleming, of Chilworth Manor. The annuity is duly paid and applied.
In 1853 the Hon. Richard George Quin by his will left £800 stock—now represented by £781 18s. 10d. consols with the official trustees—one moiety of the dividends to be applied in the distribution of clothing, and the other moiety in providing medical aid for the poor of the parish. The dividends, amounting to £19 10s., are applied one-half in clothing and the other half in payment of a doctor's fees.