A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Littleton, covering about 1,303 acres, (fn. 1) lies on the downs which stretch away north-west of Winchester. The road leading from Winchester to Stockbridge through Weeke village sends off two branches at Weeke Mark, where the boundary lines of Weeke and Littleton meet, one branch going northcast through Harestock, the other going north-west through Littleton village and on to Crawley. After a long descent this road rises abruptly near Flower Down and continues generally uphill until it descends to form the short village street of Littleton. From the top of the hill the roofs of the thatched cottages and farm buildings are seen in the near distance backed by high downs. The church of St. Katherine, more commonly called the church of St. Mary Magdalene, is on the right beyond most of the houses and stands on a high mound; while behind the church is the village schoolhouse. Opposite is the manor farm, in front of which is one of the few small ponds in the parish. Away north and east of the village are grass downs reaching away to the thick belt of hedgerow which lines the Roman road from Winchester to Andover and forms the eastern boundary of the parish. The soil is loam with a subsoil of chalk. The arable land producing ordinary crops of wheat, barley, and oats is mostly in the south of the parish and round the village itself.
It seems to be impossible to discover any early mention of the place-name of Harestock, which is a group of houses, mostly quite modern, in the south of the parish, although it would seem likely that it was originally a field-name.
Harestock House is the residence of Maj.-Gen. Adolphus Brett Crosbie.
Place-names in the parish that occur on the thirteenth and fourteenth-century Court Rolls and Ministers' Accounts for Littleton (fn. 2) are Woodcot, Lupenshull or Lyppinghulle, Mydle Furlonge Close, Longacre, and Basyndowne. The tithe map is in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
LITTLETON was probably included in King Kinegils' grant to the church of Winchester of land within a seven-mile circle of the city. (fn. 3) As such it seems to have been considered as part of Chilcomb and excluded from individual mention in the various charters to the church even in the confirmation of its possessions made by the pope in 1205. (fn. 4) It is first definitely noticed as a manor in 1243 in the confirmation made by the pope in that year. (fn. 5) King Edward I granted the prior and convent free warren in their demesne lands of Littleton in 1300, (fn. 6) and in the levy for a feudal aid made in 1316 the prior was returned as holding the 'vill of Littleton.' (fn. 7) In 1334 there is an entry on the Receiver's Roll for the priory of £5 for rents from the manor, but evidently, like Chilbolton, Littleton was most valuable for sheep-farming, as its yearly receipts for wool reached £15 13s. 1d. (fn. 8) The village was evidently visited by the plague in 1364, since rents from various tenements were returned on the Ministers' Accounts as unpaid, owing to the death of the tenants by the plague (causa pestilenciae). (fn. 9) In the description of the proceeds of the manor made in the sixteenth century there is an interesting entry among the rents from the tenants of 10s. rent for having common rights on 'Basyndowne.' At that time the manor was farmed by a certain Laurence Bell at an annual rent of £17. He had also the farm of the tithes of the manor, and the demesne lands valued at £1 13s. 4d. The fines, tallages, heriots, strays, and perquisites of court only amounted to 10s., while 6s. 8d. was due yearly for the 'farmer' of the manor pro toga sua. (fn. 10)
The details of a lease made in 1500–1 by Prior Silkstead of 40 acres at Littleton near the hospital or house of St. Mary Magdalene to William Atkins the custodian of the same, seem to show that at Littleton, as at Silkstead, there was a house where the brethren of St. Swithun went for country air, and it is suggested that the chimney of the old vicarage, the present schoolhouse, represents its only surviving remains. (fn. 11)
In the ordinary sequence of events Littleton passed into the king's hands at the Dissolution, and was granted to the newly-founded dean and chapter in 1541, (fn. 12) with a special stipulation that the 6s. 8d. above mentioned should continue to be paid to the 'farmer.' (fn. 13)
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE (originally ST. KATHERINE) is a small building with an irregularlyshaped nave 26 ft. by 15 ft., with a north aisle, and a chancel 18 ft. 10 in. by 10 ft. 9 in. with a marked northward inclination, having a modern vestry and organ chamber on the north side.
The nave walls are thin, 2 ft. at the east and 2 ft. 3 in. at the south, and are probably of twelfth-century date. The jambs of the chancel arch belong to the later years of this century, and are the oldest pieces of detail now to be seen. The chancel belongs to the first half of the thirteenth century, and the north aisle was added during the same period, and from that time till the nineteenth century no additions were made to the plan. The walls are of flint with stone dressings, and the roofs are red-tiled.
The chancel has an east window of five trefoiled lights under a transom, with an arched head above filled with tracery dating from 1885. In the north wall are no windows, but a wide modern arch to the organ chamber, and on the south side is a widely splayed thirteenth-century lancet and a narrower trefoiled light to the west of it. The chancel arch has old jambs with a roll worked on the angles, of late twelfth-century style, and is only 4 ft. 7 in. wide, flanked on either side by square-headed openings. The chancel arch is segmental and modern, as are the heads of the openings, and above them there is a pointed modern arch. In the east wall to the south, at some height from the floor, is a quatrefoiled opening blocked with brickwork, which may have lighted the roodstair, but all traces of the old arrangement are gone, and the south-east angle of the nave has been rebuilt.
The north arcade of the nave is of two bays, with pointed arches of two chamfered orders and round central pillar with half-round responds; only the arches are old, the pillar and responds having been renewed. In the north aisle no old details are preserved, and the pointed south doorway of the nave is also modern, under a modern porch, as is the tracery of the only window in the south wall, of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head.
The west window, with a wide round-headed light, is also modern, but has old stonework in the jambs, and over it in the west gable are two pointed arches containing two small uninscribed bells, with the date 1897 on the stonework. The font, near the south door of the nave, is the most interesting thing in the church, belonging to the last quarter of the twelfth century. It is of Purbeck marble, with a square bowl carved with scalloped and imbricated ornament, and having a circular sinking, the angles of the upper surface filled in with foliage. It stands on a central and four angle shafts, with moulded capitals and bases.
There are two bells without inscription.
The plate consists of a chalice and two patens, dated 1836, of plated metal, and the registers before 1813 are contained in a single book beginning in 1738.
The church of Littleton existed at the time of the Domesday Survey, as one of the nine churches included in Chilcomb. (fn. 14) It evidently belonged to the bishop of Winchester until granted in the twelfth century by Bishop Henry de Blois to the prior and convent of St. Swithun ad religiosos hospites suscipiendos. (fn. 15) The church was confirmed to the prior and convent by the pope in 1205, (fn. 16) and again in 1243. (fn. 17) At the Dissolution it was granted to the dean and chapter of Winchester, (fn. 18) who are the patrons at the present day.
Its original dedication in honour of St. Katherine is recorded in Wykeham's register. (fn. 19)