A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Old Alresford covers a long sweep of rolling country of about 3,671 acres, (fn. 1) generally rising from south to north, from a height of 200 ft. above the sea level in the south near the valley of the River Alre and the village of Old Alresford, to a height of 600 ft. in the north-east near Woodridden Wood. The arable and pasture land is for the most part in the west of the parish; the woodland, Upper and Lower Lanham Copse and Woodridden Wood, lying away to the north. About two miles south-east of Old Alresford, in the parish of Bishop's Sutton, the River Alre 'beginnith of a great Numbre of fair Sylver Springes,' which 'resorting to a Botom make a great brode Lak, communely caullid Alsford Pond.' (fn. 2) This pond, the reservoir from which the Itchen is for the most part supplied, was formed by Bishop Godfrey de Lucy towards the end of the twelfth century in order to render the River Itchen navigable from Alresford to Winchester as well as from Winchester to Southampton (see under New Alresford). Entering the parish from New Alresford, immediately north of the pond, Old Alresford Park stretches to the east, in the north-west of which stands Old Alresford House, best known to fame from its connexion with Admiral George Brydges Lord Rodney (1719–92), who considerably enlarged and improved the original house during his residence. It is a large white brick mansion finely situated with its grounds gradually sloping down to the lake. Colonel Richard Norton, 'idle Dick Norton,' the farmer of the manor of Old Alresford, resided at Old Alresford House during the Commonwealth, and Oliver Cromwell paid several visits to him there. In the most westerly corner of the park, seeming almost to be within its boundaries, is the church of St. Mary surrounded by a churchyard. A large eighteenth-century house of red brick, north of the church, was till recently the rectory. It has lately been sold, and is now known as Old Alresford Place. The present rectory is a white building standing east of Old Alresford Place and opposite Upton House. The main block of houses, however, is some yards higher up the road, which rises slightly as it goes north. Here are the smithy, the village green—an irregularly-shaped plot of grass, the post office, an iron foundry, and the national school, built in 1846 by the Onslow family. There is also a group of almshouses, built to house three destitute couples in 1852 by the Misses Onslow in memory of their mother. Some yards still further north is an industrial home (Primitive Methodist), which was in existence by the middle of the nineteenth century. Manor Farm lies west of the village, and still further west, near the Itchen Stoke border line, is Fob Down Farm. About a quarter of a mile east of the village, reached by Kiln Lane, which cuts across the fields east and west, is Upton Hamlet, consisting of a few scattered farm buildings, and including Upton Farm and Upton House. The latter was occupied by a younger branch of the Onslow family during the early nineteenth century, but is now occupied by Mr. J. F. Christie, J.P.
Armsworth tithing covers the north-west corner of Old Alresford parish. It consists of Armsworth House, the seat of Mr. Thomas Alderman Houghton, J.P., and two or three cottages within Armsworth Park. The house is a modern building, standing a short distance to the west of the site of an older house, of which nothing but some outbuildings of comparatively modern date remains. An upper room in these buildings has for more than seventy years been used as a chapel, served from Old Alresford, and in it is an altar table of 1620, with a movable top and carved baluster legs, formerly in Old Alresford church. In the present house is preserved a very interesting fourteenth-century pix of copper gilt, found on the estate at a spot called Wield Row, and a set of silver coins of Mary, Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I, also found here.
As in New Alresford the principal industry is watercress growing, the best beds lying up stream beside the Bighton road.
The soil is mainly gravel on the lower levels round the streams; but higher up it is loam on chalk. The chief crops are wheat, oats, and turnips.
Parts of the parish of Old Alresford (Nythen Common) were inclosed in 1801–2. (fn. 3)
The tithe map is with the parish clerk. The tithes were commuted in 1843 for £747.
The following place-names occur in early records: Gooseland (fn. 4) (xv cent.), Fysshewareclose, Glen Pytts, (fn. 5) and Yardmanligh (fn. 6) (xvi cent.), and Pieway, Pingleston Lane, The Nythyn, (fn. 7) Bishopp's Meade, and The Cadefeild (fn. 8) (xvii cent.).
The manor of OLD ALRESFORD was included in the grant of the 40 mansae at Alresford made by Kinewald, king of the West Saxons, to the church at Winchester. Its history is given under Alresford Liberty (fn. 9) (q.v.).
A sixteenth-century perambulation of the manor, preserved at the Public Record Office, (fn. 10) shows what a large area it covered. 'Beginning at the bridge of New Alresford at the end of the great weir, and thence west where the stream runs to the southern angle of Fobdowne, thence north to the angle of the manor of Abbottystone near a fulling-mill there, thence east to Harymsworgate, (fn. 11) and thence north to Bugner Corner (fn. 12) and thence to the park of Welde, and round the park east to the common of Weld, thence to Dedhob, (fn. 13) from Dedhob to Weldbayle, thence … to Bentworth Holt, thence to Howpenn Corner … and thence to a certain road near the Dell there … and then the way stretches south to another angle on the east of Lister's wood called Ron Downe, and abutting upon the way opposite Rede Busshes … and then stretches south between Rede Busshes (fn. 14) on the west and the common of Chawton on the east … thence even to a void plot of land called Fowremarkes (fn. 15) near Cookemere and called Fowremarkes because the four tithings abut together there—Medsted, Ropley, Faryngdon, and Chawton, thence west … even to the Greane Dene, thence west … to Gullett Mere (fn. 16) and thence between the land called Solrydg (fn. 17) on the north and the land of the warden of New College on the south to the great trench in Ramscombe wood, (fn. 18) and thence west over Pyewey to Byckton Down, thence north to the Pounde Post, thence north to Myll Oke, and from Myll Oke to Hangyng Beche, and by a lane leading to Layneham Downe, (fn. 19) and thence west by Bykwodd and Byckton Feld even to Cokeslane, and by the said lane even to London wey and over the way to the east of the Nythen, and thence south to Furdley Dyche Corner, and thence west on the south of the great pond even to the bridge where began the perambulation.'
From these boundaries it is clear that the manor comprised the whole of the modern parishes of Old Alresford and Medsted, and part of the parish of Wield. The bishop derived a large income from his property, his chief sources of wealth apart from the rents of assize being the woods and copses, the great pond, fisheries, and mills.
In the reign of Edward VI woods and copses in the manor comprised an area of 464 acres made up as follows: Le Lawnde Copys 30 acres, Great Haywodd Copys 36 acres, Peked Haywodd Copys 18 acres, Fyncheley Copys 60 acres, Bradley Copys 7 acres, Burley Copys 3 acres, Stancombe Wood by Hangyngbeche 34 acres, Little Stancombe by Stancombe Gate 21 acres, Stancombe Hill 81 acres, Le Holte 96 acres, and Ramscomb 78 acres. (fn. 20) Pannage of pigs in these woods was an important asset. They were looked upon as so valuable that the surveyor sent down from London to survey the whole bailiwick of Bishop's Sutton previous to its purchase by Sir John Gate in the reign of Edward VI advises him as follows: 'Thoughe your lordship like not to take the holl bailiwicke, yet I wold you forsooke not Old Alresford and Sutton for the wodds' sake and the comodities and gretness that shall ensew to your tenaunts of Ludshett.' (fn. 21) He adds as a further inducement: 'The tenants at Alresford have no woods in the lords' woods but by byinge for their money and otherwyse they do not medyll there … But the tenants desyre to bye some nowe or els they shall dye for could this winter.' (fn. 22) The next source of income, the great pond, increased the bishop's revenue in various ways. It was his custom from early times to farm out the reeds and flags growing in it for 8s. a year. (fn. 23) An additional sum of £1 6s. 8d. was paid every year for the privilege of catching eels called 'Srigges' and water-fowl in the pond. (fn. 24) The fishery in the pond was worth another £1 a year when it was farmed out. (fn. 25) When the bishop failed to find a tenant he committed it to the charge of a servant, who, however, was not allowed to help himself to the fish, a certain John Colson being fined heavily in Elizabeth's reign for appropriating pikes and perches from the pond and giving them to his friends. (fn. 26)
The bishop also had various other fisheries in the manor: the fisheries of Boblesham or Bubblesham and Burrow which were farmed out for 6s. 8d. and 8d. respectively, a fishery from Dean Bridge to Jening's Mill, and from thence to Broadwater and Mousewater, which was let with the mill, and a fishery called the Compe from the Bonte to the Compehole which was leased together with New Mill. (fn. 27) Other fisheries mentioned in the deed of sale of Old Alresford manor to Thomas Hussey in 1648 are the Shittles and a fishery at Andrewes Mills and from them to the borough. (fn. 28) These fisheries also indirectly augmented the bishop's income from the manor, the bailiff of the borough of New Alresford paying 1s. 4d. every year for 'lez fysshestalles' in the market place of New Alresford. (fn. 29) To pass on to the mills, which were another valuable asset. In 1086 there were no fewer than nine in the manor of the annual value of £9 2s. 6d., (fn. 30) and there is frequent mention of mills in subsequent documents. Of these the most important were two water corn-mills called Burrowe Mills, two fulling-mills called Andrewes Mills, a fulling-mill called Jening's Mill or Jones Mill or Black Mill, a fulling-mill called the New Mill, and a water-mill called the Weir Mill, (fn. 31) and in the ministers' accounts and court rolls there are also mentions of various other mills the names of which are not given. (fn. 32) In the course of the seventeenth century the cloth-trade declined, and a hint of this is afforded by an entry in a court roll of 1612 to the effect that Henry Perrin paid a fine for licence to destroy an old fulling-mill called Jening's Mill or Black Mill, and to take the timber thence to his own use. (fn. 33) About the same time Andrewes Mills were converted into corn-mills, and consequently four corn-mills called Burrowe Mills or Town Mills or Andrewes Mills were included in the sale of Alresford Liberty to Thomas Hussey in 1648. (fn. 34) The lord of the manor derived a good income from the various mills, the Town Mills alone being farmed out at £10, (fn. 35) but he was sometimes forced to disburse a considerable sum in repairing them, as may be seen from a study of the various ministers' accounts. For instance, the farmer of Old Alresford in 1399 gave in great detail the debts he had incurred in repairing the various mills, including the hire of four men to bring a new mill-stone for the mill of the borough from Portsmouth to Alresford. (fn. 36) Only two of these mills now survive—Weir Mill and a disused fulling-mill built across the Alre.
The church of OUR LADY was entirely rebuilt in 1753, a west tower was added in 1769, and in 1862 the eighteenth-century work, except as regards the tower, was Gothicized, and a south transept, north organchamber, and vestry added. As a result the building is of very little architectural interest, though the tower is a good specimen of its kind, of red brick with roundheaded western doorway and belfry windows, and finished with a parapet carrying stone ball finials at the angles.
The only thing of note in the church is the monument of Mrs. Jane Rodney on the north wall of the nave, dated 1757, a fine piece of eighteenth-century work in white marble with figure sculpture. Her husband afterwards became the famous admiral, Lord Rodney, and in the church are monuments to the second and third lords.
There are six bells, by Wells of Aldbourne, dated 1769 and 1770, a tablet on the west face of the tower recording their casting, as well as the building of the nave and tower.
The plate comprises an undated seventeenth-century communion cup and paten, a standing paten of 1679, a flagon of 1717, and a small bowl of 1845.
The first book of the registers contains baptisms 1556–1727, marriages 1559–1729, and burials 1562– 1701. The second has the burials in woollen, 1678– 1728, and the third runs from 1728 to 1779, the marriages only to 1752. The fourth and fifth have baptisms and burials 1780–1812, and the sixth marriages 1754–1812.
At the time of the Domesday Survey there were three churches in Alresford worth £4 (fn. 37); one of these churches possibly became later the parish church of Medsted, the other two the parish church of Old Alresford with the chapelry of New Alresford attached. The church of Old Alresford with the chapel were of considerable value at an early date; for in 1291 they were valued at £26 13s. 4d., (fn. 38) in 1340 the ninths came to £8 16s. 4d., (fn. 39) and by 1535 the rectory of Old Alresford alone was valued at £50. (fn. 40)
The advowson of St. Mary's Church at Old Alresford has always been in the hands of the bishop of Winchester. The living is now a rectory in the gift of the bishop.
Peter Heylyn, the distinguished theologian and historian, became rector of Old Alresford in 1633. He lived at New Alresford, and while there was a good friend to smiths and carpenters, saying that 'he loved the noise of a workman's hammer, for he thought it a deed of charity as well as to please his own fancy by often building and repairing to set poor people a work and encourage painful artificers and tradesmen in their honest callings.' (fn. 41) At the time of the Commonwealth he was voted a delinquent, and his goods, chattels and livings sequestered, but in 1662 he was restored to his living. He died, however, shortly afterwards. Another distinguished rector was the poet and dramatist John Hoadly, (fn. 42) youngest son of Benjamin Hoadly, bishop of Winchester, who was presented to the living in 1737.
In 1642 John Pinth gave £10, and John Edgur (date unknown) gave £10 for the use of the poor. The two gifts were united, and by accumulations amounted in 1822 to £30, which was laid out towards building two tenements, in respect of which 30s. a year is distributed in half-crowns to indigent persons.
In 1705 Christopher Perin by his will devised 17 perches of land and cottages thereon for the occupation of poor widows. The cottages are let at weekly rents to poor persons, and after payment of rates, insurance, and repairs, about £2 10s. a year is distributed among the poor.
In 1886, 1 a. or. 24 p. and buildings thereon, was conveyed to trustees for the establishment of an institution for the orphans of Primitive Methodists and others. In the event of the determination of this trust, the trustees are empowered to sell the premises and apply the proceeds for the benefit of the Connexion.