A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The parish of Abbotts Ann, which is partly in the hundred of Andover and partly in the hundred of Wherwell, covers an area of 3,396 acres. It lies 3 miles south-west of Andover in the Anna Valley, from which it takes the name that, unlike several of its neighbours, it has kept unchanged. The average height above the sea-level is about 300 ft., but the land on either side of Pillhill Brook, a tributary of the Anton running through the parish, lies low and is liable to be flooded. The soil is loam, the subsoil chalk, (fn. 1) and there are several chalk-pits. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats and swedes. There are 2,637½ acres of arable land, 211¼ acres of permanent grass and 288 acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 2) The principal woodland is the Great Wood in the west of the parish and Eastover Copse, Cossical Copse and Stonehanger Copse, which form a continuous strip in the south. Several woods in Abbotts Ann are specified in the grant of Henry VIII to Lord St. John in 1542, namely, 'Estover Coppes, Duncross Coppes, Woodstile Coppes, Handley Coppes and Grovecorris Coppes.' (fn. 3)
The main road from Andover to Salisbury passes through the east of the parish. The village is situated some distance west of the main road along the right bank of Pillhill Brook. Little Ann lies to the east and St. John's Cross half a mile south.
In Minster Field, on an elevation about a mile and a quarter south-west of the village, a villa was discovered and partly explored in 1854. (fn. 4)
In 1775 1,259 acres were inclosed in this parish by Private Act of Parliament. (fn. 5)
The manor of ABBOTTS ANN was among the earliest possessions of Hyde Abbey, for long known as the New Minster at Winchester. In 901 Edward the Elder granted 15 hides of land at Ann to the abbey that daily prayer and intercession might be made for him and his ancestors, the land to be held free except for the trinoda necessitas. (fn. 6) In King Edward's 'golden charter' of 903 the manor of Ann, containing 15 hidas cassatas and a church, is included. (fn. 7) Less than half a century later Ælfsige, a bishop, probably to be identified with Ælfsige, Bishop of Winchester, who died in 959, bequeathed his land in Ann to his nephew for life with reversion to New Minster. (fn. 8) The manor remained in the possession of the abbey until the Dissolution. At the time of the Domesday Survey it was paying geld for 8 hides as against 15 in the Confessor's day. (fn. 9) In 1291 it was assessed at £15 8s. 8d., (fn. 10) and in 1310 it was one of nine Hampshire manors out of which the Abbot and convent of Hyde granted an annuity of £60 to Master Jordan Moraunt, king's clerk. (fn. 11) The abbey had a grant of free warren over its demesnes of Abbotts Ann and elsewhere from Edward III. (fn. 12) In 1388 Richard II granted that on all voidances of the abbey this manor and other premises should be exempt from seizure and be enjoyed by the prior and convent, saving only the advowsons to the Crown, (fn. 13) since it had been found by inquest that the premises had from time immemorial belonged to the convent as distinct from the portion of the abbot. (fn. 14) At the time of the Dissolution £32 19s. 8d. was yearly paid for the farm of the manor. (fn. 15)
By letters patent (fn. 16) of 3 March 1542 various lands of the dissolved monastery of Hyde were granted to that rising statesman William Paulet Lord St. John, afterwards created Earl of Wiltshire and Marquess of Winchester. These included the manor of Abbotts Ann and its appurtenances with the advowson and rectory and certain woods in the parish. (fn. 17) In 1572 John Paulet second Marquess of Winchester mortgaged this manor with a number of others to the chancellor of the Exchequer, the attorney-general and the solicitor-general, as security for a debt to the queen, contracted by his father, the great lord treasurer. (fn. 18) The third marquess died seised of the premises in 1598. (fn. 19) By a fine dated 3 February 1610 (fn. 20) the manor and advowson of Abbotts Ann and other premises were conveyed to the Earls of Salisbury, Northampton and Exeter, Lord Burghley, Lord Danvers and Sir Thomas Dennys, who covenanted to stand seised in the same to the use of Lord Edward Paulet, youngest son of William fourth Marquess of Winchester, and his heirs male, with remainder to Lord Charles Paulet, another of the marquess's younger sons, and his heirs male, with remainder to William Lord St John, eldest son of the marquess, and his right heirs for ever. (fn. 21) In 1606 William fourth Marquess of Winchester had leased the manor to Walter Neale of Warnford (co. Hants) for thirtyone years, and in 1630 Lord Edward Paulet brought an action against Sir Francis Neale and others who had entered the premises, made secret estates and otherwise violated the agreement. (fn. 22) In 1634 another bill was filed in Chancery, this time by John fifth Marquess of Winchester, Lord Henry Paulet his brother and the tenants of Abbotts Ann, asserting that one William King had got an unjust lease of the premises from Lord Edward Paulet, to the complainant's prejudice. (fn. 23) How long the property remained to the Paulets is uncertain. (fn. 24) Nothing is known of the fate of Lord Edward, that treacherous brother of the 'loyal marquess,' who would have betrayed Basing House to the Parliamentarians. It is probable, however, that he died unmarried. Some time before the end of the 17th century the manor and advowson of Abbotts Ann came into the hands of Peter Blake of Andover, who died about the beginning of 1692, leaving his estates to his son and namesake. (fn. 25) Peter Blake the younger only survived his father a year, and the property, heavily mortgaged, (fn. 26) passed by bequest (fn. 27) to his sister Sarah, wife of Edmond Lambert of Boyton (co. Wilts.), with remainder to her heirs.
Early in the 18th century Abbotts Ann was the property of Thomas Pitt, governor of Madras, who purchased Little Ann in 1710, (fn. 28) and probably acquired the neighbouring manor about the same date. (fn. 29) Governor Pitt died in 1726, having by his will, dated 18 July 1721, (fn. 30) confirmed an entail of the manor previously made. In 1763 Sir Brian Broughton Delves of Broughton (co. Staffs.), bart., acquired various estates in Hampshire, including the Abbotts Ann property, which he contracted to purchase from 'the Honourable Thomas Pitt, esquire,' great-grandson of Governor Pitt and afterwards first Lord Camelford. Dying in 1766 he left all his real estate in Hampshire to his wife Mary daughter of Thomas Hill of Tern (co. Salop) and sister of the first Lord Berwick. (fn. 31) The result of this disposition was a suit in Chancery. Sir Thomas Broughton, Sir Brian's brother and heir-at-law, thought that this substantial legacy should make void an annuity of £1,000 settled on Lady Delves at her marriage; so he ceased paying the annuity. Lady Delves, who had meanwhile become the wife of Henry Errington, of the Northumbrian Erringtons, claimed both legacy and jointure and commenced equity proceedings against her brother-in-law. A verdict was given in her favour 28 January 1772 and the decree was affirmed by the House of Lords 8 March 1773. (fn. 32) Henry Errington died in 1819, having survived his wife nearly seven years, (fn. 33) and the property came to her nephews, the Hon. William and the Rev. the Hon. Richard Hill, (fn. 34) afterwards Noel-Hill, who succeeded in turn as third and fourth Lords Berwick. (fn. 35) Thence the manor passed by sale in 1841 to the Rev. Thomas Best of Redrice House. He was succeeded by his son Thomas Best, whose son Captain Thomas George Best is the present owner. (fn. 36)
At the time of the Domesday Survey there were three mills, worth 37s. 6d., in Abbotts Ann. (fn. 37) At the beginning of the 13th century Geoffrey de Ford was holding half a hide of land and a mill in Abbotts Ann from Hyde Abbey, (fn. 38) and in 1272 a messuage, a mill and other premises there were settled upon John de Ford and his heirs. (fn. 39)
In 1692, and again in 1760, 1762 and 1823, two mills went with the manor and advowson. (fn. 40) At the present day there are two mills on Pillhill Brook, the Upper Mill and the Lower.
The tithing of LITTLE ANN (Anna, xi cent.; Anne, xiii cent.) lies within the hundred of Wherwell, and comprises a separate manor. At the time of the Domesday Survey and before (fn. 41) it was held by the abbey of Wherwell, in whose possession it remained till the Dissolution. In 1245 Henry III granted to the Abbess Eufemia and her nuns that their assarts and purprestures in 'Everhanger, Uppinne and Ann' should remain arable land, saving to the king his regards in the eyre of his regarders. (fn. 42) In 1291 the manor was valued at £9 3s. 4d. (fn. 43)
In November 1539 Wherwell Abbey surrendered its possessions, (fn. 44) and on 24 March following Little Ann, with the site of the monastery and several neighbouring manors, was granted to Thomas West ninth Lord De La Warr, (fn. 45) who had already written urgent letters to Cromwell to that end. (fn. 46) For more than a century and a half the manor was held by the Lords De La Warr, (fn. 47) although in 1605, with the other Wherwell estates, it was seized into the king's hands by reason of the non-payment of a bond given thereon (fn. 48); and in 1615 a licence to sell was granted to Thomas third baron of the new creation. (fn. 49) John sixth Lord De La Warr sold the manor in 1695 to Edmond Boulter of London, (fn. 50) who in 1698 sold it to Cornelius Cornwallis of Earlstone (co. Hants). (fn. 51) In 1710 (fn. 52) it was purchased by Thomas Pitt (from whom does not appear), and has since descended with the manor of Abbotts Ann.
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of a chancel 25 ft. by 16 ft., nave 49 ft. 6 in. by 24 ft., and a west tower 12 ft. square. It was rebuilt in 1716 by 'Governor' Pitt, and nothing of the earlier building appears to have been preserved except the bells and a small brass. It is of plain style, in red brick with stone cornices and angle pilasters and low-pitched roofs, and is lighted by large round-headed windows, some of which are now filled with modern tracery.
The chancel has three round-headed windows, one in each wall, each now divided into two lights with quatrefoils over. Each side wall has a doorway, that on the south opening into a small vestry. The chancel arch is round-headed. The nave has four windows a side, the eastern pair in each wall being treated like those of the chancel, and the others being left in their original condition with iron frames. A gallery runs across the west end, the front being carried on oak posts. Round-headed doorways open into the tower above and below the gallery. The tower is in three stages with a projecting stair turret on the south side up to the second stage. The bottom stage serves as a porch, and the belfry stage is lighted by segmental-headed windows. The parapet is embattled, and at the corners are crocketed pinnacles of Gothic character.
The altar table, pulpit, font—a small one of oak—and the seats are all contemporary with the building. The only old monument is a small brass inscription in the chancel floor to Elizabeth wife of John Johnson, doctor of divinity, rector of this church, archdeacon of Worcester and treasurer of St. David's; she died in 1613. She was the only child of Richard Monday of Derbyshire, and by her mother descended from the family of Stewkeley of Huntingdonshire.
The ancient custom of hanging funeral chaplets in the church in memory of maids and unmarried men is still practised here, and the parish is probably unique in this matter. The chaplets are made of card, more or less like a crown with arches, and covered with paper rosettes. From this are suspended imitation gloves cut out of a special paper on which are inscribed the names of the deceased, or verses from a hymn, texts, &c. These are carried at the funeral, afterwards remain a week suspended from the gallery, and then are hung from iron stays projecting from the cornice of the nave, with a small shield behind bearing the name and date of each person. There are now some thirty-nine in position, some in a ruinous condition, whilst in five places they have gone altogether; the earliest remaining is one dated 1740 to John Morrant.
The tower contains five bells: the treble inscribed 'Fear God, honour the King 1729,' by John Corr of Aldbourne; the second inscribed 'Hope well'; the third 'Love God'; and the tenor 'Feare the Lord'; all by John Wallis of Salisbury, 1607. The fourth is by Robert Wells of Aldbourne, 1764.
The first book of the registers contains baptisms, marriages and burials from 1561 to 1739, the second marriages 1740 to 1754 and baptisms and burials 1740 to 1812, and the third marriages from 1754 to 1812.
In King Edward's charter of 903 a church is mentioned with the 15 hides in Ann granted to the New Minster. (fn. 55) The advowson belonged to the monastery until the Dissolution, though in 1386 there was a dispute between the king and the abbot as to the right of presentation, and Wykeham was forbidden to institute until it was settled. (fn. 56) John (Morton), Bishop of Ely (1479–86), presented once during the episcopacy of William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester (1446–87). (fn. 57)
At the Dissolution the advowson was granted to William Paulet Lord St. John (fn. 58) and continued to descend with the manor until the close of the 18th century. On 25 August 1716 Governor Pitt wrote to his son Robert, 'I would have the work required in the chancel of Abbots Anne done with all the good husbandry imaginable' (fn. 59); and a fortnight later he wrote, inclosing an estimate of the cost of rebuilding the chancel, 'I return Grist's paper, of which I can form no judgment; but desire that all may be done with good husbandry, and no more of the usual profuseness and carelessness. Grist must be well looked after.' (fn. 60)
In the early 19th century the advowson belonged to John Burrough, (fn. 61) and successively to his sons Thomas and Sir James Burrough, passing to the heirs of the last named; it is now in the hands of the trustees of his grandson, the Rev. James Burrough Fenwick, sometime rector of the parish. (fn. 62)
A mandate was given at Marwell 11 September 1395, and sealed 27 January 1403, which changed the feast of the dedication from the Sunday after the Assumption of the Virgin (15 August) to the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14 September), with forty days' indulgence to all who should attend the feast. (fn. 63)
Thomas Criswick, as appeared on a monument in the church, gave £3 yearly in 1727 for educating poor children. The annuity is paid by Captain Thomas Best, thelord of the manor,and carried to the school account.