A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Ropley is a large parish with an area of 4,684 acres, situated 4 miles east from New Alresford, with a station 1½ miles from the village on the Bentley, Alton, and Fareham branch of the London and South-Western railway, which passes through it on the north-west. Parallel to the railway runs the main road from New Alresford to Alton, which enters the parish at Ropley Dean, (fn. 1) close to Ropley Lodge, the residence of Mr. Bowdon, where it is joined by the main road from Petersfield. The village of Ropley is built on a ridge between these two roads, rising gradually from west to east, and approached by numerous narrow lanes running off north from the Petersfield road and east from the Alton road. Down the ridge runs a narrow road, entering the parish at the east and passing through the outlying hamlet of Lyeway. At the upper end of the village it divides, one branch going northwards to Gilbert Street, another continuing westward and forming the village street. The church stands in the north-east of the village, the street forming the southern boundary of the churchyard, while further down the hill on the south are the schools, the smithy, and the coffee and readingrooms, which were built in 1884 by Miss Hagen of Ropley House for the use of the working men of the parish. From the west end of the village the road runs on to Ropley Dean, the vicarage and Ropley House, with its well-grown beech trees, being on the north, while to the south is Ropley Manor (formerly Ropley Cottage), at present in the hands of Captain Holroyd. There are several scattered hamlets in the parish. Lyeway in the east; Gilbert Street, northeast of the village, on the road leading up to Kitfield and the outlying farm of Kitwood, in the highest part of the parish; North Street, with its little inn 'The Shant,' and Ropley Soke, with a mission-room, both lying on the main road from Alresford to Alton; Charlwood and Monkwood, situated in the east and the south of the parish respectively; and Four Marks, with an inn called the 'Windmill,' on high ground within about five minutes' walk from Medsted railway station. The last is partly in Ropley and partly in Medsted.
The original schoolhouse is a whitewashed and thatched cottage on the Petersfield road, near the Anchor Inn, built in 1828 for the instruction of the children of Bishop's Sutton and Ropley. The present schools were built in 1869 and enlarged in 1888. An additional school was built in 1902 a little to the east of Ropley Soke with funds raised by the vicar, the Rev. W. H. Leak. There is a small Methodist chapel near Malthouse Farm and Gilbert Street. (fn. 2) The kennels of the Hampshire Hunt hounds are situated in the parish, and near them are new stables, which were erected in 1889.
There are no wide stretches of uninhabited country in Ropley; everywhere are scattered farms and houses, and the parish is intersected by a network of roads leading to them. Many bungalows and villas have already been built, and many more are being erected, especially in the north and east, where the average height above the sea level is about 550 ft. Ropley is not on the whole well wooded at the present day, the only wood of any size being old Down Wood near Swelling Hill, but there are numerous little copses and many scattered pine trees. A surveyor gives the following description of Ropley in 1551:— 'Being a lyttell village a good myle from Sutton church, the lorde of Sutton being chief lorde ther, having sundry faier wodds lyeing four or five myles together in sundry places sett moost with beache, which woodds we came not in. (fn. 3) The following woods are named in a perambulation of the parish made about the same time: (fn. 4)—'Churlewood' containing 95 acres, 'East Byxtrydge' containing 148 acres, 'West Byxtrydge' containing 112 acres, 'Oysterslade' containing 150 acres, 'Rudgehomes' containing 78 acres, 'Highomes' containing 88 acres, 'Redhyll' containing 114 acres, 'Holthele' containing 136 acres, and 'Hamerdene' containing 116 acres.
Previous to July, 1882, Ropley was annexed to Bishop's Sutton for ecclesiastical purposes, but by an Order in Council dated August, 1882, it became a separate parish. It contains 2,277½ acres of arable land, 1,505½ acres of permanent grass, and 282½ of woods. (fn. 5) The soil is generally light, the subsoil chalk. The chief crops are wheat, oats, and green crops.
The following place-names occur in a court roll of 1628 (fn. 6):—'Kittiert, Lyshard, and Houndlose.' 'Grete Alberts and Threleggedcrosse' are found in the sixteenth century, (fn. 7) and in a patent roll of 1403 are the following (fn. 8):—'Alfedoun, Wandelesworth, Pollardeswode, Hokereslane, Brechelond, Rykemannescroft, Pudelston, Kyteswode, Merelond, Couperescroft, Amkyncroft, Hokecroft, Sweolynge, Lytelreode, Gervaisdoun, La Stubbyng, Inhome by Buxterigge, Le Guletter, Le Colynge, Hamerden, and Solrugge.'
A large portion of the parish of Ropley and the vill of ROPLEY itself formed part of the demesne lands of the manor of Bishop's Sutton, and thus belonged to the bishop of Winchester, as forming part of his liberty. (fn. 9) In a survey taken in 1551 the lord of Bishop's Sutton was said to be chief lord of the vill of Ropley, (fn. 10) and the fact that Sutton-cum-Ropley (fn. 11) and Sutton Ropley (fn. 12) are sometimes mentioned shows a very close connexion between the two parishes. The descent of these demesne lands necessarily followed that of the manor of Bishop's Sutton (q. v.). The earliest evidence of the manor of Ropley, which was held of the bishopric, is between 1304 and 1316, when Henry, bishop of Winchester, granted licence to William Gervays of Ropley to hear service in a chapel in his manor of Ropley. (fn. 13) In 1332 Robert le Botiller of Brown Candover settled a messuage, 3 carucates of land, 20 acres of wood, and £10 rent in Bishop's Sutton and Ropley on William Gervays and Christine his wife, with remainder in fee-tail successively to their sons, William, Roger, and John, and their daughter Isabel. (fn. 14) William the son died without issue, and the manor passed in accordance with the above settlement to his brother Roger. (fn. 15) In 1369 Andrew, son of Roger Gervays, granted 2 messuages, 2 tofts, 4 carucates of land, 10 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture, 100 acres of wood, and £10 rent in Ropley, Bishop's Sutton, and other places to William de Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, in return for an annuity of £20. (fn. 16) The bishop in 1392 obtained royal licence to alienate a part of these premises (fn. 17) in frankalmoign to the warden and scholars of the college called 'Seynte Marie College of Wynchestre,' which he had lately founded. (fn. 18) Ten years later licence was granted him to alienate the rest of the premises (fn. 19) to Winchester College for an annual rent of £3 18s. 9½d. and 1s. 6d. tithing pence. (fn. 20) In this way the whole of the manor of Ropley came into the hands of Winchester College, to whom it belongs at the present day. (fn. 21) A court of the manor was held there as late as 1706. (fn. 22)
In 1399 William de Wykeham let out at farm for a hundred years to Winchester College for a fixed money rent various tenements in Ropley, and this lease was confirmed by the king in 1403. (fn. 23)
Divers free tenants also held lands in Ropley of the bishop at various times. In 1332 Thomas de Wandlesworth of Winchester granted a messuage, 2 virgates of land, and 60 acres of wood in Ropley to William de Wandlesworth of Winchester and Agnes his wife to hold for their lives of Thomas and his heirs by the annual rent of a rose. (fn. 24) The same Thomas in 1356 was seised of a messuage, 10s. rent, 80 acres of arable land, and 20 acres of wood in Ropley within the liberty of the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 25) In 1361 a certain Thomas de Alresford died seised of a messuage, a carucate of land and rents in Ropley which he held of the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 26)
SHETE FARM (La Syete, La Schyte, and La Shete xiii cent.; Shete Ferme xvi cent.). Some time between 1250 and 1260 Ralph son of William de Wez granted to John Sanztere all his land of 'La Syete' which he had in the manor of 'Sultone, Roppele, La Syete, and Hedleghe' in exchange for all the land which John had in the vill of Overton, 30 marks, 4 quarters of wheat, 4 quarters of barley, 4 quarters of oats, 4 bacon pigs, and 2 robes for himself and his wife. (fn. 27) In 1266 John granted this tenement to the prior and canons of Selborne in frankalmoign to hold of the bishop of Winchester by the annual payment of a mark and suit at his court of Bishop's Sutton twice a year. (fn. 28) This grant was confirmed by the bishop the same year. (fn. 29) Towards the close of the thirteenth century, the question was raised as to whether the prior and convent were lawfully seised of this tenement. An inquiry was held and it was ascertained that the prior and his predecessors had been seised of it long before the Statute of Mortmain 'with just title and not by any fraud of parties or collusion.' A fine was accordingly levied whereby Richard de Wytheneye and Alice his wife quitclaimed from themselves and the heirs of Alice (fn. 30) a messuage and a carucate of land in Ropley to the priory. (fn. 31) This tenement remained the property of the priory till 1485, when it was transferred with the rest of its possessions to Magdalen College, Oxford. In a perambulation of the parish made in the reign of Edward VI the following is given as the property of the college:—A capital messuage called 'Shete Ferme,' a wood called Bromes and crofts called Rodebeche, Homefield, Hatchgatefield, and Pokefield, lying to the north of Lyeway. (fn. 32) There is still a Broom Copse near Lyeway, but the farm itself seems to have disappeared, although Magdalen College still owns property in the parish.
The church of ST. PETER, ROPLEY consists of chancel 21 ft. by 14 ft. 3 in. with north and south chapels, and nave 44 ft. by 19 ft. with north aisle, south-east tower, and south porch. The oldest parts of the building belong approximately to the middle of the twelfth century, the church of that date having had an aisleless nave and chancel with a transept chapel at the southeast of the nave, and probably another like it at the north-east. The plan was very like that of Colemore church, but on a larger scale. The only architectural detail of this date is the small west doorway of the tower, but parts of the south and west walls of the nave and tower and of the east wall of the chancel are original work. The walling is of flint rubble with dressings of chalk and a brown sandstone. A south chapel was added to the chancel in the latter part of the thirteenth century, and probably about the same time (or perhaps somewhat earlier) the north transept chapel was lengthened westward, and made to open to the nave by an arcade of two bays with a round central column. It is not clear at what date the existing wooden southeast tower was built within the south-east transept chapel, but this may have been a fourteenth-century alteration. In the early part of the nineteenth century a north chapel was added to the chancel, and in 1896 the north transept chapel was lengthened westward and became a north aisle of equal length with the nave, its east and west walls being pulled down and a new north arcade of four bays built, the old arcade of two bays being destroyed. At the same time the west wall of the nave was heightened in gable form, having previously ended with a level top, the west end of the nave roof being hipped.
The chancel has an east window of three cinquefoiled lights with fifteenth-century tracery under a fourcentred head, the jambs being perhaps older and cut back to suit the inserted tracery. On the north and south of the chancel are arcades of two bays with pointed arches of two chamfered orders and an octagonal central pillar with moulded capital and base, the arches dying into the walls without responds at east and west. The south arcade is of late thirteenth-century date, while the north is a modern copy of it. The twelfth-century chancel had quoins in its internal angles, as may still be seen in the east wall where the south wall has been cut away for the arcades.
The south chapel has a three-light east window with net tracery, the stonework being modern, and in the south wall a single trefoiled light, below which are a small piscina and a locker. West of the south window is a round-headed doorway, in modern stonework, and to the north of the east window are traces of two small thirteenth-century lights, one above the other. Under the east window are remains of two stone brackets for the images over the altar which once stood here.
The chancel arch is modern, and with the north arcade of four bays dates from 1896, and all the windows of the north chapel and aisle are likewise modern. On the south side of the nave is a pointed arch opening to a vestry under the south-east tower, and west of it a square-headed sixteenth-century window of two trefoiled lights. The south doorway of the nave is of the fifteenth century, with a four-centred arch under a square hood-mould with carved foliage in the spandrels. It doubtless replaces the original south doorway, and opposite it on the north side of the nave, before the building of the aisle, was a blocked north doorway. The west window of the nave is of three lights with modern tracery, but the jambs are old. The south porch is of timber and plaster, and in its north-east corner is an octagonal corbel for a holy-water stone.
The tower is a good specimen of timber framing, covered with weather-tiling in the upper part where it rises above the masonry and roof, and finished with a low-pitched pointed roof. Its lower stories are lighted by modern windows on the south, one above the other, but with a common round-headed reararch, the masonry of which seems to be old. The west doorway, near the south-west angle, has a plain round head and a chamfered string at the springing.
The roofs and fittings of the church are entirely modern, but in the vestry is a seventeenth-century communion table, and the font, at the west end of the north aisle, is of the fifteenth century, with a plain octagonal bowl and short panelled stem, and on the chamfer at the base of the bowl plain shields alternating with paterae of foliage.
There are five bells, the ring having been recast
from four old bells into five by Samuel Knight in
1701. The tenor bears the inscription:
John Gilberd did contrive
To cast from four this peale of fife.
John Gilberd was evidently the foreman in charge of the work. The fourth bell was recast by Robert Catlin in 1749, and the third is now cracked. The bell frame was made new at the general recasting, and is inscribed IG TO 1701.
The registers are complete from 1538, the first book running to 1675, the second to 1704, and the third to 1783, with marriages to 1753 only. The fourth contains the marriages 1755–1804, the fifth and sixth respectively the baptisms and burials, 1783–1812, and the seventh the marriages 1804–37.
During the reign of Henry III there appears to have been some dispute in connexion with the chapel of Ropley. (fn. 33) In 1241 the sheriff of Southampton was ordered to remove the lay force by which the men of the prior of Merton were being obstructed, so that they might have free entry to the chapel. The sheriff was further commanded to attach Master Aubrey, the official of the archdeacon of Winchester, to answer for his action in collating and instituting to the chapel contrary to the claim of the king, in whose hands the right of presentation had devolved by reason of the voidance of the see of Winchester.
The chapel seems soon afterwards to have been annexed to the parish church of Bishop's Sutton, and from this time the descent of the advowson was identical with that of Bishop's Sutton till 1882, when by an Order in Council of August, 1882, Ropley became a separate civil parish. Since that date the advowson has been in private hands, the living, which is a vicarage of the net yearly value of £160, being at present in the gift of the Rev. E. J. Woodhouse.
The rectory, tithe-barn, and tithes of Ropley belonged to Merton Abbey until its dissolution, and were farmed out by the abbot for varying terms of years. John Pynke, who was the farmer early in the reign of Henry VIII, was succeeded by Robert Bulbecke, who gave up his right to William Wygmore. (fn. 34) On the dissolution of the abbey Henry VIII granted a lease of twenty-one years to William Wygmore, who sold his right to William Marten. Queen Elizabeth granted to the latter a lease of twenty-one years in return for £48 to hold by the annual payment of £12. (fn. 35) At the expiration of that term the queen leased the rectory, tithes, and tithe-barn to Humphrey Aplegarth for the term of the lives of the said Humphrey, Helen his wife, and their son William by the annual payment of £12, and on the deaths of Humphrey, Helen, and William, 20s. in name of a heriot. (fn. 36) They were to keep the chancel of the parish church of Ropley in good repair, but were to be allowed to take timber for that purpose, also 'housebote,' 'hedgebote,' 'firebote,' 'ploughbote,' and 'cartebote' from the premises thus let to them. (fn. 37) In 1606 William Aplegarth granted the reversion of the tithe-barn and rectory after the death of his mother, Helen, to Thomas Albery and Oliver Drawater, (fn. 38) but he still seems to have been holding them in 1629. (fn. 39) Sir Berkeley Lucy dealt with the grange and rectory by indenture in 1693, (fn. 40) and was the impropriator in 1706. (fn. 41) The tithe-barn is still standing.
In 1875 Henry Joyce Mulcock by will left £500 to be invested and the income applied in the distribution of meat and other gifts to the poor at Christmas and otherwise for the benefit of the poor, the charity to be called 'The Ropley Trust Fund.' The legacy is invested in £528 15s. consols, held by the official trustees of charitable funds, who also hold a sum of £51 11s. 11d. like stock, under the title of 'Charity for Poor,' arising from investment of the proceeds of the sale of cottages built on waste land granted by the lord of the manor in 1849, the dividends upon which are under a scheme of 31 January, 1890, applicable in augmentation of Henry Joyce Mulcock's Charity. (fn. 42)
In 1890 Mrs. Rosa Anna Onslow, by will proved this date, gave to the rector and churchwardens £300 to be invested in government securities and the income applied for the benefit of the parish in such way as they and their successors should consider most expedient. The legacy, less duty, was invested in the purchase of £273 1s. 6d. consols with the official trustees. (fn. 43)