A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Whitwell lies to the south of Godshill, and extends to the southern shore of the Island. It contains 1,910 acres of land, 687 acres in 1905 being arable land, 775½ acres permanent grass, and 74½ acres woodland. (fn. 1) The village, consisting of one short street with cottages either side—many of 17th and 18th-century date, (fn. 2) with stone-mullioned windows and thatched roofs—lies in the low ground between the downs, with an ascent towards the church which stands at its southern end. Here the road branches west to Niton. Nearly opposite the road from the station is a 17th-century stone-mullioned cottage, at one time used as the church house.
The Hermitage, a house under the east slope of the down, was built by Michael Hoy, a Russian merchant who settled in the Island at the beginning of the 19th century, and who erected a pillar on the top of the down in honour of the visit of the Czar Alexander after the battle of Waterloo. It has lately been sold to the nuns of the Visitation.
The manor of WHITWELL does not appear by name in the Domesday Survey, but was probably included in the manor of Gatcombe held by William son of Stur, which three brothers had held before the Conquest, each having his aula. (fn. 3) It certainly afterwards formed part of Gatcombe Manor, (fn. 4) and was held by the Stur family, Maud widow of Walter de Lisle being in possession toward the end of the 13th century. (fn. 5) In 1292 her son Sir William de Estur, kt., died seised of the manor, (fn. 6) which had been settled as dower on his wife Agnes. (fn. 7) Geoffrey de Lisle, brother and heir to Sir William de Estur, died before his sister-in-law, and the manor passed on her death in 1298–9 to Geoffrey's son Baldwin. (fn. 8) From that date it followed the same descent as Gatcombe (q.v.) until the 16th century, (fn. 9) when both manors were divided between the Poles and the Ernleys. Richard Ernley in 1564 sold his moiety of the manor to Richard Worsley, Governor of the Isle of Wight. (fn. 10) It then passed with Appuldurcombe (fn. 11) (q.v.) to Sir Richard Worsley, the first baronet of Appuldurcombe. Owing to a complete absence of any deeds after 1604 relating to this part of the manor it is difficult to decide how it descended after this time. It is not mentioned among the possessions of Sir Richard Worsley at his death in 1621, but Appuldurcombe, which he must then have held, is not mentioned either. He may have conveyed it to the Newmans, who held the other moiety, as at the beginning of the 18th century their estate is called 'the manor of Whitwell'; but as William Newman held only half the manor in 1639 it seems probable that the Worsleys retained their share and that it has remained in the family from that time to the present day.
The Poles sold the manor to Richard Newman, (fn. 12) who in 1596 divided it with Thomas the son of John Worsley, Newman taking the property east of the village street, Worsley taking that to the west. (fn. 13) William Newman died seised of half the manor in 1639, (fn. 14) being succeeded by his son Thomas. The Newmans held their moiety till 1709, when Thomas Newman (presumably the grandson of William) sold it to Sir Robert Worsley, bart. (fn. 15) It thus became united with the other moiety of the manor, and the whole then followed the descent of Appuldurcombe (fn. 16) (q.v.) until 1855. Whitwell was not sold by the Earl of Yarborough, but passed to his second son the Hon. E. C. Anderson-Pelham, to whose son Major Cecil Henry Anderson-Pelham it now belongs.
The manor of WYDCOMBE (Wytecumbe, Wydecoumb, xiii cent.; Wydnecumbe, xiv cent.) was held of the manor of Appuldurcombe. (fn. 17) It was granted to the abbey of Montebourg by Maud de Estur in the latter part of the 13th century, (fn. 18) having been held by her family since the time of Domesday. (fn. 19) This grant must have been before the time of the Testa de Nevill, as the Abbot of Montebourg is there entered as holding a fee in Wydcombe, (fn. 20) and twelve tenants of the 'manor' of Wydcombe were impleaded in 1304 for pasturing on the abbot's land. (fn. 21) Wydcombe followed the same descent as the manor of Appuldurcombe (q.v.) until the middle of the 19th century, (fn. 22) when it was purchased by Captain, afterwards Major, Dawes, (fn. 23) and passed from him to the present owner, M. de Chabannes. (fn. 24)
NETTLECOMBE may have formed part of the manor of Wathe, now St. Lawrence, held by the de Aula and Russell families. It is first mentioned in 1316, when it belonged to the heir of William Russell, (fn. 25) from whom it descended with the manor of St. Lawrence (q.v.) to the Worsleys and Pelhams. (fn. 26)
The estate called LITTLE WOOLVERTON, in Whitwell, was evidently intimately connected, if not identical, with the estate held by the Woolvertons in the parish of St. Lawrence, as its name Little Woolverton under Wathe implies. It seems to have followed the same descent as Great Woolverton in Shorwell, (fn. 27) and it first appears under the name Little Woolverton in 1640, when in a sale of Great Woolverton is included 'all that capital messuage or farm called Little Woolverton in the quarter of Whitwell in the parish of Godshill.' (fn. 28) This estate, whose further descent has not been traced, has long ceased to be of any importance, and a ruined building of the 14th century (fn. 29) lying south of the road to Ventnor may be associated with the early holders. A cottage with stone mullioned windows—about the middle of the 19th century converted to a house—represents the tenants' dwelling of the 17th century.
Berelay, Ford and Southford are small holdings in the parish. (fn. 30)
The church of ST. MARY AND ST. RADEGUND stands on rising ground at the south end of the village street and adjoining the rectory. It consists of a nave with south aisle of three bays, a chancel with south aisle in alignment with the east wall, a western tower and a south porch. The original church evidently was an aisleless one with narrow chancel, divided by an arch, (fn. 31) built towards the close of the 12th century by the lords of Gatcombe, who raised there an altar to their patron, St. Radegund. (fn. 32) In the 13th century a narrow south aisle was added, it may be for the Montebourg tenants of Wydcombe, and an altar placed at the east end in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was in the 16th century, probably soon after the decree of 1515, (fn. 33) that the widening of the south aisle took place, (fn. 34) when at the same time it was lengthened eastwards and a connecting arch pierced through into the chancel. (fn. 35) The tower was also added at this period, and a south porch with stone ribs, as at Arreton and Niton. To support the tower the westernmost arch was strengthened by a pier and a cross arch thrown over the aisle. In the south wall, at the east end of the aisle, is a square-headed piscina and credence. (fn. 36) A general remodelling was undertaken in 1868, when most of the north and west walls were taken down and new windows inserted. At this time a wall painting of the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus (fn. 37) was discovered, but soon crumbled away. On the floor of the tower stands the only ancient bell, inscribed in Lombardic character, 'Michaelis campana fugiant pulsante prophana ✠/P.W.'
There is a good Jacobean altar table in the chapel of St. Mary, also a pulpit of rather later date, and a parish chest inscribed 'WN. · OF SOVTEFORD · RC · AD 1632 C.W.' (fn. 38) There is a chalice of the 16th–17th century, inscribed on the cover 'THE CVPE OF WHITWEAY · CHVRCH +,' with a Tudor rose on the centre boss. (fn. 39)
The chapel of Whitwell was annexed to the vicarage of Godshill, and followed its descent until 1867, when the livings were separated. (fn. 40) Whitwell was then constituted a vicarage, and the advowson was purchased by the Rev. Robert Bennett Oliver, who is still the patron. The chapel of Godshill, mentioned in the valuation of churches in 1536, (fn. 41) is perhaps to be identified with the chapel of Whitwell.
The advowson of the chapel of St. Radegund appears to have belonged to the lords of Gatcombe under the name of the chantry of Gatcombe. (fn. 42) The rector of Gatcombe in the 14th century took all tithes of the demesnes of Baldwin de Lisle in Whitwell in the parish of Godshill and oblations of the altar of St. Radegund, (fn. 43) and in 1781 still received the rent from the lands with which the chantry was endowed, and had to officiate in the church at certain times; but this duty was then compounded for. (fn. 44) The chapel of St. Radegund was kept in repair by the rector of Gatcombe, and that of St. Mary by the inhabitants of Whitwell, who were parishioners of Godshill. These latter were buried at Godshill, while the parishioners of St. Radegund were buried at Gatcombe. (fn. 45) By a decree of 1515 it was established that the vicar of Godshill and the rector of Gatcombe were jointly to provide a fit chaplain to reside at Whitwell and conduct services there. (fn. 46) In former times the chapel of St. Mary had doubtless been served by the monks of Appuldurcombe.
In 1574 the church house of Whitwell was leased to John Brode, provided that if the inhabitants should at any time wish to hold a church ale for the maintenance of the chapel it should be lawful for them to use all parts of the church house. (fn. 47)