A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Muchelmaries, Michelmares, and Muchelmarays (xiii cent.); Michelmarsh and Mitchelmarsh (xiv cent.); Mychelmers (xvi cent.).
The parish of Michelmersh is on high ground which falls in the west to the Test valley. North and north-east are wide stretches of woodland covering about 520 acres, while in the west near the more fertile valley is the pasture land of about 1,114 acres and the arable land of 1,847 acres. The modern parish, including Braishfield, extends over an area of 4,178 acres, 35 of which are covered by the Test; but until 1877, when Awbridge was formed into a separate parish from part of Michelmersh and Romsey, the whole area was 4,246 acres.
Although the more modern and growing part of the village with its shops and modern villas is in the south of the parish near the brickworks, the older part of the village is in the north, where several detached cottages and farm-houses are grouped on either side of the steep narrow road that rises between high chalk banks and overhanging trees from a height of about 100 ft. to 273 ft. near the church and rectory. Thus from Bellropes Field opposite the rectory, from the rectory garden, and from the fields round, can be seen wide stretches of the surrounding country. To the north is Michelmersh Wood, and beyond in the distance King's Somborne parish; to the south and east Romsey is seen in the distance over Timsbury and Braishfield; and away to the west, beyond the glittering Test, the village of Mottisfont nestles in the valley with a background of hills and woodland. Michelmersh House, the residence of Mrs. A. Wheable, stands back from the road among well-wooded grounds a few yards away from the church. A walk across the field called Agincourt at the back of the rectory leads to the manor farm, which is evidently the old manor house. At the back of the house are traces of fourteenth and fifteenth-century stonework, and what may possibly be the survival of an ancient chantry chapel.
A rough road from the southern part of the village leads downhill by Hunts Farm to the hamlet of Braishfield, which was made an ecclesiastical parish in 1855. About two miles from Michelmersh the road curves slightly to the north and leads round by quiet cottages and farmsteads to the main road from Romsey, along which the modern part of the village of Braishfield has grown up within the last century. The northern part of the main road branches to the right near the village inn to the church, vicarage and schools, and to the left along a shady lane to Braishfield House, the residence of Mr. Edward M. Eaton, and on to Pitt House, Pitt Farm, and Braishfield Lodge, the residence of Mr. George Deare Dietz. Nonconformity is represented in the village by a Primitive Methodist chapel and an Independent chapel a few yards apart on the west of the main road and south of the village.
The parish of Awbridge, formerly a hamlet of Michelmersh, lies for the most part on the low-lying country, stretching away from the right bank of the Test. Awbridge House, the residence of Mrs. Thurston, is in the north near the river in the midst of picturesque country, which slopes up to the high wood of Long Croft Copse in the north-west. An uphill road runs south-west from Awbridge House between field and hedgerow to fork east and west at the top of the hill, where there is a group of houses and shops, one of which serves as the post office. The western branch curves south again, passes by Awbridge Farm, and runs on to the village proper, which consists of several cottages and farms, the modern church built in 1876, and the Independent chapel built before 1874. The Awbridge Danes estate fills up most of the south-west corner of the parish. A main road to Romsey runs along to the west of Awbridge Danes, the residence of Mrs. Tragett. A branch from the road to Romsey, which cuts through the western part of the parish, curves south round the park and woodland, inclosing Awbridge Danes and a few houses.
King Ethelred in 985 granted eleven mansae at MICHELMERSH to a certain Ælfred for the term of his life. (fn. 5) The boundaries as given in the charter are difficult to identify with but two exceptions, namely, 'feora burnan' and 'ceomman bricge,' the former being represented by the present Farburn Farm on the borders of Braishfield and the latter by Kimbridge on the Test. Michelmersh remained the property of the crown until 1043, when it was granted by Queen Emma, together with eight other manors, to the church of Winchester. (fn. 6) Like several of the manors belonging to the church, Michelmersh was not mentioned in Domesday Book. In 1205 and again in 1243 Michelmersh was confirmed to the prior and convent of St. Swithun in general confirmations of their lands made by the pope. (fn. 7) In 1285 John, bishop of Winchester, quitclaimed to them all his right in the manor, (fn. 8) and in 1301 the king granted them free warren in their demesne lands in Michelmersh and their other manors. (fn. 9) William Briwere, who founded the priory of Mottisfont about 1200, granted to it all the land which he held in the manor of Michelmersh free from suit at his hundred-court of King's Somborne, and from all other services and secular exactions, to keep the anniversary of his wife Beatrice, and his gift was confirmed by his daughter Margery de la Ferté in her widowhood. (fn. 10) The prior and canons of Mottisfont remained in possession of this land for some time, but in 1231, owing to the fact that they had erected a house upon it to the damage of the prior of St. Swithun, an agreement was made whereby Stephen, prior of Mottisfont, surrendered to Walter, prior of St. Swithun, all his possessions in the parish in exchange for a meadow called 'Ruchenaye,' and lands and rents in the vill of Drayton. (fn. 11) During the fourteenth century further grants of land in Michelmersh were made to the prior and convent, (fn. 12) while in 1332 the king gave them licence to impark their wood of Michelmersh. (fn. 13) The manor remained in the possession of the monastery until 1539, (fn. 14) when it was taken into the hands of the king. (fn. 15) Unlike the other manors that had belonged to St. Swithun, Michelmersh was not granted to the dean and chapter in 1541, but was held by the crown until 1543. In that year it was granted with a reserved rent of £5 11s. 3d. to Sir William Sidney in recognition of his services as tutor and steward of the household to Prince Edward. (fn. 16) Sir William died at Penshurst in 1554, (fn. 17) leaving as heir his eldest son Henry, who ten years later obtained a release of the reserved annual rent from the manor and park. (fn. 18) Worn out by his hard work as lord-deputy of Ireland, unrewarded as it was by the capricious Elizabeth, Sir Henry Sidney died at Penshurst in May, 1586, at the age of fifty-seven. (fn. 19) His eldest son, the poet, courtier, and soldier, Sir Philip Sidney, died at Zutphen in September of the same year, leaving his estates to his younger brother Robert, the second son of Sir Henry, on condition that he should sell so much of the lands as should pay his own and his father's debts. (fn. 20) In 1588 Sir Robert Sidney (fn. 21) was made governor of Flushing, and in the same year the queen confirmed him in his estates. (fn. 22) Among these was the manor of Michelmersh, which had not been sold to pay Sir Philip's debts. During his tenure of the manor legal proceedings were taken against him by the tenants. In 1590 they complained that their 'immemorial rights of common' in a piece of waste called 'Typley Hill' had been broken by its inclosure and secret conveyance to Thomas Bacon and John Sidney. (fn. 23) Sir Robert at the same time filed a bill against the tenants that they had cut down divers great timber trees without licence, contrary to the custom of the manor and 'to the dysinherysone of Her Majesty, and the said orator and to the dangerous example of others to doe the like, yf condinge punishment be not speedily in that behalf provided.' (fn. 24) The tenants answered that by custom of the manor they had wood for house bote, plough bote, and other necessaries. (fn. 25) About the same time the tenants made another complaint that the lord of the manor did not exact the customary fine for admission of tenants, but asserted that the fines were uncertain. Judgement was finally given by decree of the Court of Chancery dated 20 May, 1598, that the fine was to be 8s. an acre certain, and an heriot. (fn. 26) On 7 June, 1606, Sir Robert Sidney, who had been created Viscount Lisle in 1605, was granted the reversion and remainder of the manor and park of Michelmersh. (fn. 27) Three days later he sold the same to Sir Thomas Stewkley of Hinton Ampner for a sum of £3,100. (fn. 28) Sir Thomas died in 1639, and the manor passed to his eldest son Hugh, who died in the same year as his father, leaving a son Hugh, who succeeded to the manor of Michelmersh. (fn. 29) His widow, Sarah Stewkley, married again in 1648, and lived at Michelmersh. (fn. 30) Sir Hugh held the manor until his death in 1719, when dying without heirs male he ordered the manor to be sold among his other possessions, giving his daughters preference as purchasers. (fn. 31) Michelmersh fell to his eldest daughter Mary, who in the same year married Edward, fourth Lord Stawell of Somerton. (fn. 32) She died in 1740, and was buried at Hinton. (fn. 33) Her husband survived her until 1755 when, dying without heirs male, he left Michelmersh to his only daughter Mary, (fn. 34) the wife of the Rt. Hon. Henry Bilson-Legge, fourth son of William, earl of Dartmouth, whom she had married in 1750. (fn. 35) In 1760 she was created Baroness Stawell of Somerton, with remainder of title to her heirs male. (fn. 36) Surviving her husband, by whom she had one son and heir, the baroness married Wills, first earl of Hillsborough, in 1768. (fn. 37) On her death in 1780 Michelmersh passed to her son Henry Stawell Legge, Lord Stawell, who died without heirs male in 1820. (fn. 38) Michelmersh then descended to his daughter Mary, who had married the Hon. John Dutton, only son and heir of James, Lord Sherborne. (fn. 39) The latter died in 1864, and the manor passed to his son, James Henry Legge Dutton, Lord Sherborne. (fn. 40) The present owner, Edward Lenox, Lord Sherborne, son of the latter, succeeded to the manor on the death of his father in 1883. (fn. 41)
Earl Godwin held AWBRIDGE (Abedric, xi cent.; Abberuge, Abbederugge, xiii cent.; Abbederygg, xiv cent.; Abrige, xvi cent.) of Edward the Confessor. After the Conquest William divided Awbridge into two portions, granting one part together with part of the parish of Houghton, which Godwin had also held, to the great Hampshire landowner Hugh de Port, (fn. 42) and the other part, which was then assessed at one virgate, to Bernard Pancevolt. (fn. 43) The part which was granted to Hugh de Port naturally followed the descent of Houghton. The other portion seems also to have lost its independence and from an early date formed part of the great manor of Michelmersh. (fn. 44) Thus in the dispute of Elizabeth's reign between Sir Robert Sidney and his tenants mention is made of the fact that the manor of Michelmersh comprised divers copyhold and customary messuages, lands, and tenements in Awbridge. (fn. 45)
BRAISHFIELD (Brayfeld, Braisfelde, xiv cent.; Brayesfeld, xv cent.) is not mentioned in Domesday Book, and its early history is somewhat obscure. In 1289 William Bonell of Braishfield granted a messuage and a carucate of land in Braishfield to Aimery de Somerset and Denise his wife. (fn. 46) Twenty years later Aimery granted a messuage, lands, and 14s. rent in Braishfield by Michelmersh to John de Braishfield and Maud his wife to hold of him for life by a rent of £2 10s., (fn. 47) and in 1331 he granted the reversion of these tenements to Andrew Payn and Alice his wife. (fn. 48) They perhaps descended to Roger Woodlock, who in 1346 was holding the fourth part of a fee in Braishfield formerly belonging to John Brayboef, (fn. 49) though this part may possibly represent the land in Braishfield settled on Roger Woodlock and Joan his wife by Roger de la Bere in 1316. (fn. 50) In 1428 this fourth part of a fee had passed to John Emery, but in what way it is difficult to ascertain. (fn. 51) Braishfield afterwards lost its independence and formed part of the manor of Michelmersh. Thus in the dispute of Elizabeth's reign, mention is made of the fact that divers copyhold and customary tene ments in Braishfield formed part of Michelmersh manor. (fn. 52)
Kimbridge water-mill on the Test on the borders of the parishes of Mottisfont and Michelmersh probably marks the site of the water-mill belonging to the prior and convent of St. Swithun in 1248. (fn. 53)
The church of OUR LADY, MICHELMERSH, consists of a chancel, north transept, nave with south aisle, and wooden south porch, and wooden tower at the south-west. A former south transept has been destroyed.
In 1847 a great deal of repair, not all judicious, was carried out, and as a consequence the history of the building is to some extent conjectural. The chancel is large in proportion to the nave, being 38 ft. long and 17 ft. 2 in. wide as against 48 ft. and 18 ft. 2 in. The north transept is about as wide as the nave, 18 ft. by 12 ft. deep, and it seems probable that both transepts and the chancel were additions of the middle of the thirteenth century, the former chancel having been smaller and narrower than the present, and co-eval with an aisleless nave whose general dimensions are preserved in that now existing. The south aisle may have been added in the fourteenth century.
The chancel has an east window of three lancets under an obtuse pointed arch, a north window of two similar lancets, and on the south a like window, all being contemporary with the chancel. To the east of the south window is one of c. 1330 of two lights with net tracery under a square head, having in its west jamb a small arched recess. The chancel arch dates from 1847, dying into the wall on both sides.
The arches to the transepts are segmental and round-headed, of a single order edge-chamfered; on that to the north transept are remains of red colouring, and part of the cross-slab of a stone coffin is built into its eastern jamb. In its western jamb is a lozengeshaped panel containing a shield, c. 1520; the arms are a crescent between three human heads impaling three fleurs-de-lis. The north transept has a squareheaded east window of three trefoiled lights with roll cusps, and a north window, also square-headed, of three uncusped lights. In both the stonework is old, but much patched, and its date is difficult to fix. Over the transept arch is a brass plate recording the repairs of 1847. The arch to the south transept is blocked, and a three-light window, perhaps from the south wall of the destroyed transept, is set in the blocking. The south arcade of the nave is of two bays, and of the same date and character as the chancel arch.
The nave has three tall square-headed north windows, each of three cinquefoiled lights, the western window of the three being entirely modern, while the other two retain a little fifteenth-century stonework. In the west wall is a plain doorway of uncertain date, and over it a window of two uncusped lights. The south aisle is lighted by three single trefoiled windows of fourteenth-century style with ogee heads, retaining a little old masonry, and the south doorway of a single edge-chamfered order is apparently an insertion, though its masonry may be old.
In the south wall of the nave near the west end is an opening at some height above the floor, probably a doorway to a former west gallery. At the west end of the south aisle is the font of thirteenth-century date, with human heads and well-carved foliage on the bowl and a round moulded base. There is some good early seventeenth-century panelling on the walls here, but no other woodwork in the church is old except the timbers of the chancel roof, a chest in the north transept, and the seventeenth-century altar table. The tower is old but of uncertain date, covered on the outside with weather boarding. In the south-east window of the chancel is a little fifteenth-century glass, with the heads of St. Paul, an archbishop, &c.
On the north side of the chancel is a fine freestone effigy of a knight in mail, c. 1320, with a mail cap, a long surcoat beneath which the quilted gambeson shows, and knee cops of leather or plate. The surface of the arms and legs is smooth, and perhaps the mail was here shown by painting instead of carving. The pommel and guards of his sword remain, hung to an ornamental belt, and on his feet are rowel spurs. On the left arm is a shield bearing two cheverons, the head rests on two cushions with seated angels on either side, and under the feet is a stag.
On the north wall behind the effigy is a very pretty little mural tablet with an inscription between the small kneeling figures, carved in low relief, of 'Trustram Fantleroy, Squyre,' 1538, and his wife, and at the west end of the south aisle is the monument of Sir William Ogle, Viscount Catherlough, 1682, a black marble tablet with a pediment on which is the coat of Ogle, Argent a fesse between three crescents gules impaling Tame, Argent a lion azure crowned gules fighting with a dragon vert.
There are three bells inscribed 'R. Wells of Aldbourne fecit 1769.'
The plate consists of one silver chalice inscribed 'For Michelmersh Church, 1635,' and one modern (1807) silver chalice and cover; one silver paten dated 1721 and a silver paten cover; two flagons, one plated, one pewter; one pewter almsdish dated 1674, one wooden almsdish with a plated edge, and one glass cruet.
The first register contains mixed entries from 1558 to 1648; the second baptisms and marriages from 1717 to 1754 and burials from 1718 to 1773; the third marriages only from 1754 to 1812; the fourth baptisms and burials from 1773 to 1812.
The churchwardens' accounts begin in 1774.
The church of ALL SAINTS, AWBRIDGE, consecrated in 1876, is a building of brick faced with Swanage stone, in the Gothic style, erected at a cost of £2,800, the greater part of which was subscribed by the late Rev. T. H. Tragett. The register dates from the year 1877.
The church of ALL SAINTS, BRAISHFIELD, was built in 1855, of red brick with tiled roof, in Gothic style, with belfry at west end containing three bells.
The advowson of the church of Michelmersh was from an early date in the hands of the bishop of Winchester, (fn. 54) and was confirmed to him by Edward I in 1284. (fn. 55) The living is at the present time a rectory with net income £366, 58 acres of glebe, and residence, and is still in the gift of the bishop.
A certain John Cole was presented to the rectory by James I in 1621, during the vacancy of the see, (fn. 56) and in 1629 the churchwardens of Romsey presented John Mowle for saying that the 'bishops of Cant rbury and London' and two others of the lord bishops were no more able to argue in the Scriptures than 'one old Coles of Abridge who goeth about a begging.' (fn. 57)
In 1248 the prior and convent of St. Swithun and the rector of Michelmersh came to an agreement concerning the tithes of the mill and the meadows of the prior and convent in the parish. (fn. 58) The manorfarm is tithe-free at the present time.
The living of Awbridge is a perpetual curacy, net yearly value £250, with residence, in the gift of the bishop of Winchester.
The living of Braishfield is a vicarage in the gift of the bishop of Winchester.
In 1679 George Reeves gave £30 for education, and in 1711 Thomas Manningham, bishop of Chichester, and a former rector of the parish, gave £100; and John Cox in 1721 gave £40 for the same purpose. These sums have been invested in the purchase of £179 3s. 8d. consols, the dividends of which are applied under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 30 November, 1897, in granting prizes or rewards not exceeding in value 10s. to children qualified by attendance at a public elementary school.