A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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WEYHILL with PENTON GRAFTON
The parish of Weyhill or Penton Grafton—in the latter name preserving the memory of its ancient subservience to the Abbots of Grestein (Normandy)—is bounded on the north by Wiltshire. The total area of the parish is 1,892 acres, comprising 1,214 acres of arable land, 434 acres of permanent grass and 124½ acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is light gravel, the subsoil chalk. (fn. 2) The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, swedes, sainfoin and grass. The land slopes gently from north to south, the highest point marked on the ordnance map being 388 ft. on the northern border.
Ramridge House, the seat of Lieut.-Col. Charles D'Oyly Harmar, J.P., is a fine mansion standing in a park of 116 acres. This park contains some fine old trees and is adjoined on the north by a large copse. It was evidently a well-wooded spot in the 14th century, for in an extent of the manor made in 1361 the pasture and underwood of 50 acres of wood were found to be worth nothing on account of the shadow of the trees. (fn. 3) A mile north-east lies the hamlet of Clanville. Clanville Lodge, situated in its park of some 60 acres, was formerly known as Blissmore Hall. It is at present occupied by Captain Thomas Faith. In Clanville there is an old house, probably mediaeval, built of wattle and daub, the appearance of which has, however, been somewhat spoilt by a modern addition. (fn. 4) The hamlets of Ragged Appleshaw and Nutbane are situated respectively in the north-west and north-east of the parish. Penton Grafton is in the extreme east and forms one village with Penton Mewsey.
The village of Weyhill lies towards the south of the parish on the high road from Andover to Devizes, about half a mile east from Weyhill station on the Midland and South Western Junction Railway. The church stands in the centre with the rectory hard by, and Weyhill House is at the east end. The fair ground is on Wey Hill, a little way west of the village.
A Roman villa on the north side of the lane between the hamlets of Clanville and Ragged Appleshaw was excavated in 1897. (fn. 5) Other Roman remains have been found about half a mile south between Ramridge House and Penton Grafton, and on the Devizes and Andover high road a mile north of Weyhill village on the east side of the road. (fn. 6)
Place-names in Weyhill are Heathe ditch, Ellemeade, Moremeade (fn. 7) (xvi cent.).
Weyhill Down, comprising 680 acres, part of which lies in Appleshaw, was inclosed in 1812. (fn. 8)
The manor of RAMRIDGE (Rammerugge, Ramryge, xiv cent.; Ramradge,
Ramsradge, xviii cent.), known earlier as
PENTON or PENTON GRAFTON (Penitone, xi
cent.; Penyton Croftyn alias Gresdeyn alias Greston,
xiv cent.), was held by Edith queen of Edward the
Confessor, and was granted by the Conqueror to the
abbey of Grestein in Normandy, (fn. 9) as appears from an
inspeximus of Edward II of a confirmation by Richard I
of the English lands of the abbey. (fn. 10) It pertained to
Wilmington Priory, a cell of Grestein, and in 1348,
when the lands of alien priories were in the hands of
the king, the abbot and convent of the Norman
house had licence to grant Ramridge and other
manors, with their knights' fees, advowsons and other
appurtenances, to Tidemann de Lymbergh, the king's
merchant, and his heirs and assigns for 1,000 years,
saving always to the king during the war with France
as much farm as the prior would render yearly, and
other profits that belonged to him, and to the chief
lords of the fee the due services. (fn. 11) Two years later,
however, the king granted licence to Tidemann to
demise these manors to whatsoever Englishman he
would—so long as it were not in mortmain—to hold
by the service of one knight's fee; he also pardoned
him and his successors the farm above mentioned,
which amounted in all to £86 11s. 9½d. yearly. (fn. 12) In
accordance with this licence Tidemann assigned the
property to Sir Thomas de la Pole, to whom in 1354
the Abbot of Grestein released Ramridge and the
other manors (fn. 13); but it was not until 1372 that they
were relieved from ecclesiastical taxation. (fn. 14) Sir
Thomas de la Pole died in 1361 seised accordingly. (fn. 15)
He left an infant daughter Katherine, whose death
occurred in the following year, (fn. 16) and Ramridge passed
to his brother Michael, afterwards famous as chancellor
to Richard II and first Earl of Suffolk. (fn. 17) In 1380
Michael de la Pole granted
Ramridge with Conock (co.
Wilts) to Thomas, one of his
younger sons, for life. (fn. 18) This
was converted a few years
afterwards to an estate in tailmale. (fn. 19) On the death of Sir
Thomas de la Pole in 1420 (fn. 20)
the manor passed to his son
Thomas, and eventually, on
the death of the latter without issue, ten years later, to
his second cousin, William
fourth Earl and afterwards
Duke of Suffolk. (fn. 21) The earl
had married Alice Chaucer, daughter and heir of Sir
Thomas Chaucer of Ewelme (co. Oxon.), by
Matilda daughter and co-heir of Sir John Burghersh. In 1437 (fn. 22) he founded the Ewelme Hospital or
God's House (co. Oxon.), endowing it in 1442 with
the manors of Conock (co. Wilts.), Ramridge (co.
Hants), and Marsh (co. Bucks.). (fn. 23) The sixth statute
of the almshouse is as follows:—
'Also we woll that this present wrytyng and ordynaunce verrely shewe and signifie all times to com that it is owre full and hole will that the same Maystre, techer of grammer and pore men and theyre successours for ever more have and holde of our yiffte and graunte to them and their successours for ever in pure and perpetuall almesse, to her sustenaunce and to here othir certeyn charges aftyrwardes in this oure present ordynaunce to be rehersed, iii maners with theyre hole appurtenaunce, excepte the advowsons of the churches perteynyng to the seide maners to us and to our heyres reserved; of the which iii maners one is cleped Ramruge in Hamptshyre, the secunde Connok in Wiltshire, the iiide is cleped Mersh in the shire of Bokyngham, lyke as it appereth in the dedes, munimentis, and grauntes openly made of the saide iii maners with their appurtenaunces to the said maystir and techer of grammer and pore men, and to their successours in perpetuite, withoute any impetycion, lettyng, or any occasion of us, of our heyres, or of oure assignes whatsooever they be.' (fn. 24)
The letter of this statute has been adhered to, and Ramridge is still the right of the chaplain and poor men of Ewelme. There is a considerable collection of court rolls and other MSS. belonging to the almshouse, from which information may be gleaned as to the conduct of the manor. Towards the end of the 16th century we find the lord claiming a brown cow as heriot, (fn. 25) and a little later there is an order that the tenants shall, in proportion to their holdings, dig a ditch, called the 'Heathe diche,' 3 ft. deep and 3 ft. wide, under a penalty; and that all the tenants shall keep the two meadows, 'Ellemeade and Moremeade,' without beasts. (fn. 26) In 1653 there was a mock presentment of Edward Walker for locking the buttery door contrary to the custom of the manor, signed Nicholas Nemo. (fn. 27) In 1658 and again three years later the farmer was presented for not allowing sufficient churchway, contrary to the statute. (fn. 28)
A windmill is mentioned as appertaining to Ramridge Manor in a 14th-century inquisition, (fn. 29) but there is none in the parish to-day.
The Abbot and convent of Grestein also possessed land in CLANVILLE. (fn. 30) Precisely when it became their property has not been ascertained, but a confirmation by Edward II of gifts to the abbey recites the grant that William de Mersey made of all that land in Penton Grafton and Clanville which had belonged to Randolph de la Hulle and Alice his wife. (fn. 31) This gives an approximate date, for Randolph de la Hulle conveyed land in Clanville to William de Mersey in 1252. (fn. 32) In 1293 Nicholas Durdant died seised of land in Clanville belonging to the fee of the Abbot of Grestein, (fn. 33) and three years afterwards, when William de Mersey granted a messuage and land in Penton Grafton and Clanville to John de Kudelinton, the transaction was confirmed by the abbot as overlord. (fn. 34) In the Nomina Villarum of 1316 the vill of Clanville is assigned to the abbot, (fn. 35) and it is to be presumed that the subsequent descent of this holding is identical with that of Ramridge Manor. In an Inclosure Award of 1812 it is stated that the whole of the hamlets or townships of Penton Grafton, Clanville and Nutbane are comprised in the manor. (fn. 36)
The 1½ hides in CLANVILLE (Clavesfelle, xi cent.; Clevefelde, xiii cent.; Clanefeld, xiv cent.), which Azor held of King Edward as an alod and Herbert held of Hugh de Port in 1086, (fn. 37) represents the estate later known as BLISSMORE HALL (Busemerhale, xiii cent.; Besemerale, xiv cent.). The overlordship continued with the descendants of Hugh de Port, Clanville occurring in lists of the St. John knights' fees as late as 1349. (fn. 38) In the 17th century it was held of the king as of the manor of Greenwich. (fn. 39) The intermediate lordship belonged to Herbert Fitz Peter and his descendants. At the beginning of the 13th century half a knight's fee in Blissmore was held by the heirs of Robert le Markaunt of Herbert Fitz Peter. (fn. 40) Henry le Markaunt, a descendant of Robert le Markaunt, was the holder at the beginning of the reign of Edward III. (fn. 41) He apparently soon parted with the estate, for in 1346 Richard Crul (sic) and the Prior of Ogbourne were stated to be holding the fourth part of a knight's fee in Blissmore and Clanville, which had belonged to Henry le Markaunt. (fn. 42) The same holding was in the possession of John Crabbe and the Prior of Ogbourne in 1428. (fn. 43) Blissmore Hall Acre is frequently mentioned in the disputes over Weyhill Fair in the 16th and 17th centuries as the site in which part of the fair was held. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries the Kent family (fn. 44) (co. Wilts.) held Blissmore Hall, but by the early part of the 19th century, when it was held by Henry Bosanquet, sheriff of Southampton, (fn. 45) its name was changed to Clanville Lodge (q.v. supra).
Weyhill Fair is one of the largest and most celebrated in England. Originally held on 28, 29 and 30 September, it was subsequently postponed until 8 October, its duration being lengthened to six days. (fn. 46) For many years, however, it has been held on 10 October and the five days following. There is a singular dearth of early records concerning it, and the date of its foundation has not been discovered, though there is a late and doubtful reference to a lost charter of John (fn. 47); but Langland mentions it in Piers Plowman, coupling it with the great fair at Winchester. More recently it has been celebrated in literature by Mr. Thomas Hardy in The Mayor of Casterbridge. It drew folk from all parts of the country, insomuch that in 1665 it was deemed expedient to forbid its being held for fear of spreading the plague. (fn. 48) Cobbett visited the fair and described it in his Rural Rides (published in 1822). He found a depressing state of affairs. A few years earlier £300,000 would have changed hands; at that time probably under £70,000, though the rents of the sheep-sellers were, perhaps, as high as ever. 'The countenances of the farmers were descriptive of their ruinous state.' On another part of the down, he visited the horse show, and 'saw horses keeping pace in depression with the sheep.' In the great days of the fair 140,000 sheep were sometimes sold in a day, (fn. 49) but conditions have altered since then. In 1895 the total sales were reckoned to have been between 17,000 and 20,000. (fn. 50)
In 1784 a 'sudden and terrible fire' broke out in a booth called the 'White Hart,' and spreading to neighbouring booths did damage to the extent of £888 13s. 9d. (fn. 51)
It seems probable that the fair (though never specifically named in the inquisitions post mortem) was originally an appurtenance of the manor of Ramridge and passed with it to Ewelme Hospital (vide supra). This explains why Princess Elizabeth was interested in the fair since Edward VI had granted her for the term of her life the manor and park of Ewelme, (fn. 52) which carried with it, according to the statutes drawn up by William de la Pole, the patronage of the hospital. (fn. 53) Accordingly in 1554 Princess Elizabeth wrote to Cecil, her future treasurer, to complain of the misdeeds of Thomas Key, paymaster of 'myne almeshouse in Ewelme,' who, among other iniquities, was endeavouring to bring about the removal of Weyhill Fair to Andover, to the great damage of the tenants of Weyhill. Key and his accomplices were trying to effect this purpose by Act of Parliament, and Elizabeth besought Cecil to frustrate them. (fn. 54) In this the secretary was evidently successful. Nothing is heard of the removal to Andover for many years to come. Nevertheless the question of the ownership of the fair gave rise to disputes, owing to the fact that it was held partly on the Ramridge demesne land, partly on Blissmore Hall Acre (vide supra) and partly on the glebe. Thus, when Elizabeth was on the throne, Alexander Bolton, the master of the hospital, fighting his own battles this time, went to law with Robert Noyes, tenant of Blissmore Hall. This was the sequel to an earlier dispute between John Spence, a former master, and Sir John Rogers, a former tenant, which Sir William Paulet, the treasurer of England, had decided in favour of the almshouse. (fn. 55) Again, in 1672, W. Tayleur (fn. 56) lodged a petition with the Lord Chancellor, stating that as the rectors had ceased to reside by reason of the ruinous condition of the rectory house, the tenants of Ramridge were little by little drawing the trade of the fair on to their own grounds by setting up stands for tradesmen, pens for sheep and such like. (fn. 57)
In this year is heard the first note of a dispute which was to result in a tedious and complicated series of law-suits. Randall Saunderson, the rector of Weyhill, writing in August to Williamson, the clerk of the council, gives some interesting details. As already stated, there were three persons who benefited 'by breaking the ground at Weyhill Fair.' First, there was the parson himself, who paid for the privilege both in first-fruits and also yearly in tenths, as Saunderson had learned at the Exchequer at the time of his institution in 1649; secondly, the landlord of Blissmore Hall—at this time one Mr. Kent, 'an idiot or changeling'—and, thirdly, Mr. Drake, who farmed Ramridge under Ewelme Hospital, as he and his father had done for forty-five or forty-six years. The writer goes on to state that Mr. Baker (presumably a slip for Drake) claimed the profits of tollage, &c., under a charter of King John, which was alleged to have been lost, and that these let for £30 a year. This was an injustice both to the parsonage and to Blissmore Hall, but another danger threatened which made it necessary for Saunderson to join, for the present, with Mr. Drake and 'afterwards play my own game with the oppressor and extortioner of Ramridge.' (fn. 58)
The trouble was that of late years the men of
Andover had been putting forward a claim based on
their charter of 1599 and endeavouring to move the
fair from its old ground. (fn. 59) In September 1672
a caveat was issued that no grant should pass for
holding a fair near Andover to the prejudice of
Weyhill nor for removing that at Weyhill nearer
Andover. (fn. 60) This, however, had little effect. At
the fair in the following year the men of the borough
made a disturbance, endeavouring to move it from the
hospital lands. The king was petitioned to intervene; and an order in council was issued in favour of
the ancient site. But even that failed to quiet the
men of Andover; and the master and poor men of
Ewelme with their tenant, William Drake, and
Constance his wife, accordingly brought an action at
law, which was decided in their favour 26 July
1674. (fn. 61) But this was not the end of the matter.
Lawsuits multiplied and became so costly that the
borough was constrained to borrow money with which
to carry them on. In November 1682 an order was
made that these loans should be repaid out of the
profits of the fair, if the same should be recovered. (fn. 62)
The hopeful tone of this order was induced by the
fact that the borough had recently surrendered its
charter and obtained a new one which empowered
the burgesses to hold a fair wherever they pleased on
Weyhill. (fn. 63) They at once removed it to Cholderton. (fn. 64)
The master of the hospital and his tenants, however, were prepared to fight the matter to the end,
and in 1684 obtained verdicts both at the assizes and
at the Exchequer from juries of Hampshire men. (fn. 65)
They also obtained an injunction in Chancery to
quiet their possession. (fn. 66) But in 1685, the Exchequer
verdict having been set aside on the ground that the
jury was prejudiced, a Middlesex jury found for the
borough. (fn. 67) The plaintiffs appealed, and the Lord
Chancellor ordered Sir Robert Sawyer, the attorneygeneral, to mediate. (fn. 68) Representatives of the contending parties met at Highclere, the attorneygeneral's Hampshire seat. What passed is told in
the following note:—
'Note yt on tewsday 10 Aug. 86, Mr. Attorney-Generall in ye presence of severall members of Andever Corporacon, and of Dr. Dixon, Rector of Wayhill, proposed an accomodacon an yt Andever should be kynde to ye church, and should give him for ye use of his glebe £20 per ann. duringe faire at Wayhill, and remitt ye 3 last years profitts and hit part of ye costs, ye Dr. craved tyme to consider of it till tewsday then next following, at wch tyme he declared yt he would not assent thereto unlesse Andever would give him £10 per ann. more.' (fn. 69)
In 1694, as the result of an action brought by the town of Andover against Dr. Dixon, it was decreed that the town should have that parcel of glebe-land on which part of the fair was held to its absolute use during fair time, paying the rector £35 yearly for the same. (fn. 70) Dr. Dixon does not seem to have made a good bargain, for, at the fair of 1683, 30,000 sheep standing on his glebe had brought him in £65. (fn. 71) Meanwhile the profits of the fair accruing to Mr. Drake, as tenant of Ramridge, had been assessed at £177, which on 20 April 1687 the plaintiffs were ordered to pay over to the defendants. (fn. 72) In the following June, the money having been paid, the Master of the Rolls ordered that the bill should be absolutely dismissed. (fn. 73) This was not the end of the matter. On a bill of review the lords commissioners, on 22 November 1690, ordered a new trial between the same parties at the King's Bench, before a Hampshire jury, who found for the plaintiffs, their verdict being affirmed by the lords commissioners on 22 May following. On 22 September, however, the defendants obtained an order from the commissioners, enjoining the hospital from setting up pens, &c., on their own land, otherwise than as the town should appoint. Then, getting secret leases of the glebe and of Blissmore Hall Acre, they set up the most profitable part of the fair there. The hospital took the matter to the House of Lords, who on 4 February 1692 reversed the decree of 22 September. (fn. 74) Henceforth the borough seems to have contented itself with taking leases of the glebe and Blissmore Hall Acre. (fn. 75)
The church of ST. MICHAEL consists of a chancel 24 ft. 10 in. by 13 ft. 6 in., with a small modern vestry to the north, nave 50 ft. 4 in. by 15 ft. 3 in., north transept 18 ft. 8 in. by 14 ft. 7 in., south aisle 41 ft. 2 in. by 12 ft., and south porch, all inside dimensions.
A great part of the building is modern. The transept was built early in the 19th century, the south aisle and porch in 1864–5, the nave has been rebuilt except part of its north wall, with a new wooden bell-turret, and the chancel was restored in 1880. The chancel arch probably dates from the end of the 12th century, and the chancel itself is of the 13th century, preserving its original north windows and the inner jambs of one of those on the south, together with the south doorway. The chancel is not on the same axis as the nave, but set to the north of it; its south wall is probably on the line of that of the earlier chancel, but its north wall is on the same line as that of the nave. The southeast quoins of the aisleless nave are partly visible under the ivy, and look early, but too little of them can be seen to settle the point. The east window of the chancel is a modern one of three lancet lights, but the inner jambs are old, and evidently belonged to a single-light window. The two north windows have internal rebates and chamfered rear arches, the eastern window also has an old edge roll to its sill inside. Of the pair on the south wall the western is entirely modern, the other is modern outside. The chancel arch has square jambs with small edge chamfers stopped out above the floor; the abaci are quirked and hollow chamfered, and the arch is semicircular with small chamfers stopped square over the abaci.
A modern arch opens from the nave into the north transept, and east of it is a small modern woodframed window to light the pulpit. Two modern lancets light the nave on the north; the west window of two lights is also modern.
An arcade of three bays with round pillars and pointed arches divides the nave from the aisle. This has single lancet windows in its east and west walls, and on the south two lancets and a two-light window. The south doorway is set between the second and third windows, and, like the rest, is modern.
The low-pitched roof is old, probably 16th-century work, the ties, purlins and principal rafters being moulded. The bell-turret is a modern one of oak with foliated and louvred openings to the bell chamber; over it is a low four-sided spire covered with oak shingles.
The altar table is modern; to the south of it stands a small 18th-century table used as a credence. The pulpit is a modern one of stone and stands in the north-east corner of the nave. The font is octagonal, quite plain, and whitewashed, with a very shallow bowl: it has the marks of staples in its upper edge, but otherwise shows no signs of antiquity.
The turret contains a clock and four bells, only the tenor of which is hung for ringing; it is by Mears & Stainbank, 1907, as also is the third; the second is ancient, inscribed in Lombardic capitals '+ SCS MICHAEL.' The treble is an old one recast in 1907, its inscription is '+ SANCT MICHAE.'
In the east wall of the vestry is set an ancient stone, apparently a coffin-lid, the lower half of which has a cross of early form, with expanded ends to the arms, set in a sunk panel; the cross stands on a pedestal with a spreading foot. The upper part of the stone has been defaced, and a generation or two ago, when the stone stood in the south wall of the nave, the old villagers used to point this out to their children and bid them curse the memory of Cromwell, the presumed author of the disfigurement. It seems possible that it contained a hand issuing from clouds as at Romsey and Headbourne Worthy; the slab is probably not later than the beginning of the 11th century. To the south of the church is the base (now retooled) of a cross found in the churchyard by the present rector in 1904; it has sloping sides, a round mould at the bottom, and it is pierced right through each way by pointed openings. In it has been set a cross of orange red 'stone of unction,' brought from Jerusalem in 1905.
The plate consists of a silver Elizabethan chalice, a chalice and paten of 1722, given by Eliza widow of John Kent of Devizes, a silver flagon of 1871, and an alms plate of 1692 (?), given by Henry Bosanquet of Clanville Lodge in 1815.
The first book of the registers contains mixed entries from 1564 to 1780, the second has marriages 1754 to 1799, the third continues them to 1813, and the fourth has baptisms and burials 1781 to 1813.
The church of Weyhill, which is mentioned in Domesday Book, (fn. 78) was granted with the manor to the Abbot of Grestein by William the Conqueror. (fn. 79) Following the descent of the manor (fn. 80) it came, in the middle of the 14th century, to Sir Thomas de la Pole. When, however, William Earl of Suffolk endowed Ewelme Hospital in 1442 he reserved the advowson, (fn. 81) which, it is to be presumed, came into the hands of the king on the attainder of Edmund Earl of Suffolk in 1504. (fn. 82) In 1626 Charles I, at the suit of the queen, granted this and other Hampshire advowsons to Queen's College, Oxford, (fn. 83) the provost and fellows of which foundation still present.
In the 13th century the fruits of this living were equally divided between the rector and the Abbot of Grestein, each portion being valued in 1291 at £3 13s. 4d. (fn. 84) This accounts for the expression, 'Institution to a moiety of the church,' found in the registers of Bishops Woodlock, Sendale and Asser. (fn. 85)
Part of Weyhill Fair is held on the glebe land, (fn. 86) a circumstance which involved the rector, Thomas Dixon, in the lawsuits with the town of Andover recorded above. Dr. Dixon had been presented to the living in 1682. The circumstances of his appointment were somewhat peculiar. 'To the amazement of everybody Mr. Crosthwaite has resigned Weyhill. The Provost, upon his giving it up, desired me to carry him to the tavern and to give him as much wine as he could drink, that he might say he was not himself when he did it. Several other remarks have been made upon it both by him and others, so that I am forced to take it to avoid such imputations. The glebe, tithes and from £50 to £60 from the two days' fair held there, have generally been let for about £215 a year.' (fn. 87)
In 1759 Richard Taunton, by will, left £200, the interest to be applied in the distribution of bread. The legacy is represented by £212 5s. 9d. consols with the official trustees, producing yearly £5 6s., which is duly distributed in bread.
The official trustees also hold £345 Midland Railway 2½ per cent. preference stock and £173 Great Western Railway 5 per cent. rent charge stock in trust for the charity of Henry Fowle-Smith Donalson, producing a yearly income of £17 5s. 6d.