A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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Freshwater is an extensive parish including the modern parish of Totland (fn. 1) and the ancient tithings of Norton, Weston, Middleton and Easton. A narrow pebble ridge here cuts off the western extremity of the Island, which was formerly called Freshwater Isle. The bold chalk cliffs at the southwest extremity rise to a height of 600 ft. and terminate in the rocks known as the Needles. (fn. 2) At Freshwater Gate is a remarkable natural cave running into the rock some 120 ft. with an arched opening 35 ft. wide and about 20 ft. high, while about 500 yards from the shore to the eastward are two isolated rocks through one of which the sea has driven a picturesque arched opening. Extensive forts have been erected on the high ground and a military hospital established. The parish is supplied with water from works at the foot of Afton Down. On the west point of the entrance to the Yarmouth haven a watch and ward was kept day and night in the 14th century, and here in the reign of Elizabeth Sir George Carey built a 'sconce' called after his name, while half a mile to the west of it on the high ground of Norton Common Richard Worsley raised an outlook tower afterwards taken down by Lord Conway. Freshwater Isle was formerly divided into King's Freshwater and Prior's Freshwater. The soil is sand, gravel, and clay. The parish contains 3,526 acres of land, of which 1,111½ acres are arable land, 1,559½ permanent grass and 93½ woodland. There are also 291 acres of foreshore, 10 acres of land covered by tidal water and 2 by inland water. Totland contains 1,332 acres of land, of which 203 acres are arable, 154½ permanent grass and 25 woodland. (fn. 3) There are also 36 acres of foreshore. (fn. 4) Norton Common in this parish was inclosed in 1859 and Easton Common Fields in 1866. (fn. 5) There is a terminus of the Isle of Wight Central railway with an omnibus service to Totland.
The old village lies near the church to the north of the station and has now extended west along the road to Totland, passing the hamlet of School Green, where the National schools are situated. The Council school in Queen's Road was built in 1906.
Totland is a civil parish comprising Totland Bay, Alum Bay, Colwell, and Weston, formed out of Freshwater in 1894. (fn. 6) Of late years it has been greatly developed by building, and the main street from the coastguard station to the church has practically a continuous row of houses on either side. There is a good hotel at Totland and another at Alum Bay. The meteorological station midway between Ventnor and Bournemouth is situated at Afton. The curious formation of coloured sand at Alum Bay is well known. Weston Manor, the residence of Mr. E. Granville Ward, is in the parish. There are coastguard stations at Totland and Alum Bay. The schools attached to Christ Church are non-provided, built in 1880, and since enlarged; and there are also Roman Catholic schools, rebuilt in 1902. A lifeboat is stationed at Totland Bay.
In 1599 the fortification of Freshwater was described as an 'island … six or seven miles about and very strong by nature.' (fn. 9) In 1638 it was stated that 'the parish of Freshwater by a cut overland between the sea and haven may easily be made an island fit to receive the people of the country, their cattle, and supplies from the main, in case of invasion.' (fn. 10) Farringford was the residence of Alfred Lord Tennyson and is now that of his son. A memorial cross to Lord Tennyson stands on the Downs.
Before the Conquest the manor of FRESHWATER, assessed at 15 hides, belonged to Earl Tostig; in 1086 it belonged to the king and was assessed only at 6 hides, of which the Abbot of Lire held 3 virgates and William son of Azor 1 hide. (fn. 11) Presumably between these two dates the manor had, like Carisbrooke and Bowcombe (q.v.), belonged to William Fitz Osbern, the founder of the abbey of Lire, (fn. 12) and had been forfeited by his son Roger in 1074. Although in the 13th century Freshwater came into possession of the Earls of Devon it does not seem to have been granted like Carisbrooke to Richard de Redvers, but in the 12th century belonged to William de Vernon, (fn. 13) who was succeeded by his son Richard de Vernon. The latter crossed over to Normandy and forfeited his lands, including Freshwater, at the beginning of the reign of King John, but his son-in-law John Arsic, who had married his daughter Margaret de Vernon, claimed the manor in right of his wife and made fine of £100 to have livery of the same. (fn. 14) On the death of John Arsic in 1205 Margaret promised the king 40 marks and a palfrey to have livery of her inheritance in Freshwater with reasonable dowry of the lands of her husband's inheritance and that she might not be compelled to marry again. (fn. 15) However in the same year she married Thomas de Stok, (fn. 16) and on his death before 1213 (fn. 17) chose a third husband, William Buzun. The latter was reported dead in 1226, and the Sheriff of Hampshire was ordered to seize the lands of his widow Margery, since she had wrongfully consented to the marriage between Henry de Brayboef and the daughter and heir of William Buzun. (fn. 18) However, William Buzun was still alive in July 1227, and the sheriff was ordered to survey the manor, deliver one moiety to William and the other to Margaret until they were divorced by ecclesiastical authority or otherwise, and restore the arms and chattels of William which had been seized with the manor in the previous year. (fn. 19) Two months later the sheriff was ordered to give the manor to Geoffrey de Lisle and William de Shorwell, who were to cultivate the land at their own cost and to give half the profits to William Buzun and the other half to Margaret. (fn. 20) In March 1249 Henry III granted the reversion of the manor of Freshwater after the death of Margaret de Vernon to his kinsman William de Chabeneys, (fn. 21) and four months later he agreed with Margaret that she should give seisin of the manor to William de Chabeneys, on condition that a moiety was restored to her for life (fn. 22) with promise of the other moiety also if she survived William. Margaret was still alive in 1251, in which year the king granted William de Chabeneys £30 a year as long as she lived, but the date of her death is unknown.
William de Chabeneys either sold or forfeited the manor or died without heirs, since in 1262 Baldwin Earl of Devon died seised of Freshwater among his Isle of Wight possessions, (fn. 23) and from that date it followed the descent (fn. 24) of Carisbrooke (q.v.), passing back to the Crown in 1431 on the death of Philippa Duchess of York.
Worsley states that Freshwater was sold by Queen Elizabeth to Thomas Urry, (fn. 25) but he probably refers to two leases of it to Joan Hinde, Robert and Thomas Urry in 1590, (fn. 26) and to Thomas Urry in 1601. (fn. 27) In 1608 a detailed survey of the manor was taken while in the possession of the Crown, (fn. 28) and in 1623 it was chosen by the famous Duke of Buckingham 'in part of the value granted to him by the king.' (fn. 29) It was then apparently sold to the Urrys and passed through the marriage of Katherine daughter and heir of Thomas Urry to Anthony Morgan. (fn. 30) In 1746 Thomas Morgan and his wife sold the manor to Thomas Holmes, (fn. 31) afterwards Lord Holmes of Kilmallock in Ireland, and from this date the manor followed the descent of the fee-farm rent of Yarmouth (q.v.) until the death of William Frederick HolmesA'Court third Lord Heytesbury, when instead of passing to his widow it passed to his son Leonard Holmes-A'Court fourth Lord Heytesbury.
There was a windmill worth nothing (fn. 32) in the manor of Freshwater in 1262; a new windmill was built in 1300 and was valued at 100s. (fn. 33) There was also a rabbit warren on the coast of Freshwater.
PRIORS FRESHWATER evidently originated in a virgate of land which William Fitz Osbern granted out of the manor of Freshwater to the abbey of Lire soon after the Conquest. (fn. 34) In 1203 (fn. 35) the abbey owned 2 virgates of land in the parish which were granted with its other possessions to Sheen Priory in 1414. (fn. 36) After the Dissolution Priors Freshwater descended with Godshill (q.v.) to the Millers, (fn. 37) being owned by Sir Thomas Miller, bart., in 1781. (fn. 38) It then seems to have been purchased by Leonard the last Lord Holmes and settled by him on his younger daughter Catherine, wife of Edward Rushworth, who was holding it in 1810. (fn. 39) The manor now belongs to Lord Tennyson, having been purchased by his father, Alfred Lord Tennyson, in 1853.
In 1086 a certain Roger (fn. 40) held 1 hide in Freshwater of William son of Azor, who held in chief and had succeeded one of Earl Tostig's reeves in its possession. The overlordship of this estate followed the descent of Yaverland (q.v.). In the middle of the 13th century the Prior of Domus Dei Portsmouth, Walter de Farringford (fn. 41) and the assigns of William le Leonn were returned as holding half a fee in Freshwater of William Russell, the lord of Yaverland. (fn. 42) In 1346 the estate was held in common by the Prior of Domus Dei and Giles de Beauchamp, (fn. 43) and in 1428 the prior was in possession of the entire halffee. (fn. 44) The 77s. 8d. which the prior derived from lands in the Isle of Wight at the Dissolution (fn. 45) may have included a rent from this property.
Before the Conquest Earl Tostig had held AFTON (Affetune, xi cent.; Affintone, xiii cent.; Afton, xvi cent.), which in 1086 belonged to the king. (fn. 46) Its overlordship followed the descent of Carisbrooke (q.v.) until these rights lapsed in the 17th century. (fn. 47)
Of the immediate tenants William de Afton died seised of Afton about 1224, when the custody of his lands was granted to Waleran Tyes. (fn. 48) In 1301 his successor Sir Richard Afton (fn. 49) conveyed the reversion of the manor after his death to John de Drokensford, (fn. 50) afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells, to whom he surrendered his life interest in 1307 in return for an annuity of 100 marks. (fn. 51) Like Crux Easton (fn. 52) (q.v.) Afton passed to Thomas Drokensford, who received a grant of free warren in the manor in 1343, (fn. 53) and in 1359 granted the manor to William Ringbourne for life. (fn. 54) In 1370–1 Sir Thomas Mandevile, jun., who was holding the manor in right of his wife Anne, entered into an agreement with William Ringbourne to settle on him the manor of Afton if he would cancel a debt of 40 marks of silver. (fn. 55) Accordingly William son of William Ringbourne was holding the manor in 1407, (fn. 56) and from that date Afton followed the descent of a moiety of Barton Stacey Manor (fn. 57) (q.v.), to the Brunes of Rowner and Fordingbridge. (fn. 58) In 1591 Henry Brune, son of Sir John, sold Afton to David Urry, (fn. 59) from whom it passed to three descendants of the same name, (fn. 60) the last of whom died childless in 1779, entailing the manor by his will on John Urry, second son of Captain Urry of Yarmouth, with contingent remainders to Thomas Urry of Sheat. (fn. 61) In 1804 one-third of the manor belonged to Edward Rushworth and Catherine his wife. Afton House and lands were purchased from one of the Hicks family by Charles Cotton, who was holding in 1850. Benjamin Cotton was holding in 1860. It is now owned by Mr. F. Tankard, who bought it from Mr. George Fletcher Jones. Afton Farm was in 1900 held by Mr. Tankard and Mr. Fletcher Jones, but was sold to Sir Charles Seely, who now owns most of the estate. (fn. 62)
In 1086 (fn. 65) the manor of COMPTON (Cantune, xi cent.), which Earl Tostig had held before the Conquest, belonged to the king, and being granted to Richard de Redvers c. 1100 its overlordship followed the descent of Carisbrooke Castle (fn. 66) (q.v.).
The intermediate tenants were the Compton family. (fn. 67) Thus in 1167 Robert de Compton owed a mark for land in Hampshire, (fn. 68) and in the 13th century Odo de Compton owned a knight's fee in Compton and Atherfield. (fn. 69) He held the manor in demesne and at the same time three tenants held land in Compton under him: the Abbot of Quarr held I virgate in free alms without service, William White I virgate by service of a pair of spurs and Adam de Compton a tenement. (fn. 70) The latter, who was the son of Odo, succeeded him in the manor about 1296 (fn. 71) and died ten years later, leaving a son John, then eighteen years old. (fn. 72) The custody of his lands and heir was granted in 1307 to Robert le Noreys at the instance of Queen Margaret. (fn. 73) John de Compton died apparently without issue before 1316, when the manor belonged to Adam de Compton, probably his brother, (fn. 74) who was succeeded before 1337 by a son, Sir John de Compton. The latter in that year complained that Sir John de Kingston and others had taken his eldest son John from the manor of Compton and married him against his will. (fn. 75) Margery the widow of Sir John de Compton, the father, died seised of the manor in 1350, leaving as her heir her grandson Richard de Compton, son of John, then only four years old. (fn. 76) Before 1431 the manor had come into the possession of John Lisle of Gatcombe and Calbourne through marriage with Isabel, daughter of Thomas de Compton, (fn. 77) who was probably brother or son of Richard. On the death of John Lisle, Compton was divided between two of his daughters, Agnes wife of Simon Aylward and Jane wife of John Bull. (fn. 78) Jane granddaughter of Agnes married John Gunter of Racton (co. Suss.) and brought his moiety of Compton into the Gunter family.
The moiety of Jane wife of John Bull descended to Richard Bull, probably her son, who died seised of half the manor in 1528, leaving a daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 79) The latter seems to have married a Robert Goodman and with whom she joined in a settlement of her property in 1573, (fn. 80) but by 1609 either by reversion or settlement this half of Compton had also passed to the Gunter family, and the whole manor was held by Sir George Gunter, (fn. 81) grandson of the above John and Jane. (fn. 82) Sir George died in 1624 and was succeeded by his grandson George son of John Gunter. (fn. 83) He suffered for his loyalty in the Civil War, and although commended by Fairfax as one whose 'fair demeanour deserves all civil respect' (fn. 84) he was heavily fined and forced to sell some of his estates. Compton was purchased by his creditor John Comber of Donnington (co. Sussex), who died without issue, leaving as heir his sister Mary wife of Mark Miller, an alderman of Chichester. From this date the manor descended like Froyle (q.v.) in the Miller family.
The Abbot and convent of Quarr received a grant of free warren in their land at Compton in 1283. (fn. 85) The ninths of their temporalities in the parish were estimated to be of the annual value of 6s. 8d. in the reign of Edward III. (fn. 86) They still owned property here at the Dissolution. James I granted a lease of it in 1610 for sixty years to Edward Kendall, (fn. 87) but there seems to be no further trace of it. In 1574–5 Michael Dennis died seised of land in Freshwater which he held of Arthur Gunter and — Holbach as of their manor of Compton by service of a pair of spurs worth 2d. and suit at the manor court. (fn. 88) It is possible that this holding, which passed to his son Thomas and is described as a third of the manor of Compton in 1576, (fn. 89) was the property which William White held in the 13th century.
WESTON (Fresshewater, xiii cent.; Weston Brayboef, xiv and xv cent.; Weston Brayfrys, xvi cent.; Western Bray Beife, xvii cent.) is probably to be identified with the land in Freshwater which William de Vernon, lord of Freshwater, granted to Geoffrey de Lisle in the 12th century. (fn. 90) Walter de Lisle, son of Geoffrey, held it in the time of King John by the service of half a knight's fee. (fn. 91) His daughter brought it to the Brayboef family by her marriage with William de Brayboef, (fn. 92) and from this date it followed the descent of Eastrop (fn. 93) (q.v.) until Sir Henry Whitehead sold it in 1611 to Robert Urry, (fn. 94) from whom it passed to David Urry of Afton. (fn. 95) It followed the descent of Afton (fn. 96) (q.v.) until the 19th century, when it was purchased by the Wards of Northwood. Mr. Edmund Granville Ward is now lord of the manor.
In 1505 Sir John Cottesmore, who seems to have been the guardian of one of the Whiteheads, accused Thomas Kingswell and others of breaking one of his closes at Weston Brayboef and taking sea birds worth £10 in a certain rock there, and of entering his free warren and taking coneys, pheasants and partridges. The defendants stated that the close and free warren were part of the king's manor of Freshwater and that they had entered them as his bailiffs. (fn. 97)
Before the Conquest WILMINGHAM, consisting of 1 hide of land, belonged to Ulviet the huntsman. It had been granted with Freshwater to William Fitz Osbern, but in 1086 (fn. 98) belonged to the king, having been forfeited like Freshwater and Carisbrooke (q.v.). In the 13th century the Prior of Christchurch Twyneham held one-fourth of a fee in Wilmingham and the tenement which Henry Huse held in Freshwater, (fn. 99) and the estate remained with the priory until the Dissolution.
Wilmingham was among the lands lately belonging to that priory which in March 1544 Henry VIII exchanged with Thomas Hopson for the manor of Tyburn and other property. (fn. 100) According to Worsley it was afterwards purchased by Thomas Cotele and passed through marriage with his daughter and heir to Lord Edgcumbe. (fn. 101) Wilmingham certainly belonged to Richard Edgcumbe in 1705, (fn. 102) and descended with Niton (fn. 103) (q.v.) to his grandson George Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, who was holding it in 1787. (fn. 104) In 1795 it was held by Edward Rushworth and in the 19th century by Lady Heytesbury, who sold to Charles Seely, father of the present owner.
The church of ALL SAINTS stands at the head of the estuary of the western Yar, and consists of a nave with north and south aisles, chancel with north and south chantries and a western tower. Of the church mentioned in Domesday (fn. 105) no visible trace remains, and the earliest work consists of an arched opening—originally in the west wall of the south chantry (fn. 106) —of the second half of the 12th century, at which period the church must have been rebuilt. The building of the chancel evidently took place first, to be followed, at the close of the century, by that of the nave with its triple arcades to north and south. In the middle of the 13th century (fn. 107) a general lengthening took place. The chancel was extended eastward, the nave westward, another bay added to the aisles at the junction of the new work and a massive bell turret formed at the west end. No further work was carried out till the 15th century, when the aisle walls were raised and new windows inserted, north and south porches added and the bell turret converted into a tower. The 19th century found the church in a somewhat deplorable state, what with galleries, wooden mullions and whitewash, and in 1874 the increasing demands of a growing parish necessitated extra accommodation, which was obtained by pulling down the aisle walls and extending the chancel. In 1902 the vestry was extended northward, and to allow of access to the church the easternmost window of the north chantry was moved 3 ft. to the west.
Looking at the church as it now stands the tower deserves first notice. It springs from two piers united by a pointed arch, above which the upper stage is corbelled out, the whole being finished with an embattled parapet having crocketed angle finials. The ingenious way in which the 15th-century builders converted it to its present purpose is apparent from the inside, (fn. 108) where two massive piers—the north containing a stair—have been carried up to support the superstructure.
Of the north and south arcades, the former is slightly the earlier. Both have pointed arches with a single chamfer springing from square capitals splayed at the angles. The capitals to the north opening from the chancel have simple transitional 12th to 13th-century foliage. In the south wall of the south chantry is a sepulchral recess with a cusped inclosing arch of late 13thcentury detail. (fn. 109) A 13th-century font with central drum and attached shafts stands at the west end of the church under the tower. The 12th-century arch from the west wall of the south chantry (fn. 110) has been inserted as a door to the modern north porch and the north chancel window (fn. 111) removed to the new portion of the chancel south wall. There is a brass (fn. 112) in the vestry, a good example of late 14th-century mail, formerly in the floor of the church, and two matrices of canopied figures (fn. 113) which in 1850 formed part of the paving in front of the tomb in the south chantry. They may safely be adjudged as belonging to members of the Afton and Compton families, who at this period were notable residents in the neighbourhood. The way up to the rood-loft is visible in the jamb of the westernmost pier of the north arch. (fn. 114)
The plate consists of a flagon (fn. 115) and paten, given to the church by David Urry of Afton in 1748; a chalice and paten, the gift of Benjamin Culm, rector 1745–68; a chalice and paten presented in memory of Jane Hicks 1861, and a chalice and paten (1907) used principally in the district churches.
CHRIST CHURCH, Totland, built in 1875 and enlarged in 1888, 1905 and 1910, consists of a nave with south aisle and chancel. An oak lych gate was placed at the entrance in 1906 in memory of Mr. F. Burnett. At Norton Green and Freshwater Bay there are chapels of ease to All Saints.
The advowson of the church of Freshwater was granted by William Fitz Osbern Earl of Hereford to the abbey he founded at Lire in Normandy. (fn. 116) The abbot received a confirmation of this grant from William de Vernon in the 12th century. (fn. 117) Freshwater belonged to him until the 15th century. (fn. 118) During the greater part of the 14th century the possessions of the abbey were in the hands of the king on account of the war with France, (fn. 119) and after the dissolution of alien religious houses formed part of the endowment of Sheen Priory. (fn. 120) The church of Freshwater was probably included in the grants of the site of the priory to the Earl of Hertford and Duke of Suffolk and in the restitution to the priory by Queen Mary. (fn. 121) After the final dissolution of the priory it was held by the Crown until 1624, when it was granted to St. John's College, Cambridge, (fn. 122) to which it still belongs. (fn. 123)
The chapel of Brook was at one time dependent on Freshwater. (fn. 124)
There are Congregational, Wesleyan, Baptist, and Bible Christian chapels, and meeting-rooms for the Brethren, Plymouth Brethren, and Salvation Army. The Roman Catholic private chapel belonging to the manor of Weston, now in the parish of Totland Bay, is open to the public.
By the scheme the income of the charity of Dr. Culm and others (£10 11s. 4d.) is applicable in apprenticing poor children in the ancient parish of Freshwater or in grants towards outfits of persons under twenty-one years, and the yearly income of the remaining charities in supply of clothes or other articles in kind, medical or other aid in sickness. The trustees are also empowered to apply the whole or any part of the income of Neale's and Cotton's charities in a pension of not less than 5s. a week to a deserving person selected from the civil parish of Freshwater.
In 1714 David Urry by will devised his messuage and lands at Brook Green, the rents to be used for instructing sixteen children. The trust property now consists of 1 rood of land and £1,849 10s. 2d. consols, arising from sales of land.
The Rev. Benjamin Holmes by his will, proved in 1823, bequeathed £100 consols for purchase of Bibles and prayer-books for distribution on St. John's Day among scholars at the National school. The legacy, less duty, is now represented by £82 17s. 6d. consols.
In 1875 Miss Elizabeth Anne Hamond by deed conveyed 2 acres of land as a site for a church or chapel, residence for minister, and a school, the rent of any part not so appropriated to be applied in promoting religion, piety, and education. The rent, about £8 a year, is applied in the formation of a library, in the payment of school fees, or in the distribution of devotional books.
In 1897 Miss Fanny Cotton by her will, proved at London 21 July, bequeathed £250, the interest to be applied in blankets for the poor at Christmas. The legacy, less duty, was invested in £203 3s. 2d. consols with the official trustees. The annual dividends, amounting to £5 1s. 4d., are under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, 1 October 1901, made applicable in fuel and warm clothing as well as in blankets.
The Bowen Prize Fund, founded by declaration of trust, 11 February 1892, consists of £80 2½ per cent. annuities, with the official trustees, the income of £2 a year to be applied in prizes to scholars in the National school for proficiency in knowledge of the New Testament.