A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Speresholte (xii and xiii cents.); Sparshall, Spershott (xvi cent. et seq.).
The parish of Sparsholt including the modern parish of Lainston covers an area of 3,672 acres. The whole of the parish is on high ground, which reaches its greatest height towards the centre of the parish, where the village of Sparsholt and Lainston House lie. The road from Winchester to Stockbridge branches south-west about two miles from Weeke, cuts across Lainston Avenue, passes Upper Dean Farm, and turns up a steep hill into the village. On the righthand side behind a high hedge is the vicarage, and a few yards higher up where the village street forks is the church of St. Stephen. The road to the left leads down between thatched and half-timbered cottages to Ham Green, to a smithy and group of cottages taking the name of the green. That to the right leads past some cottages and houses to Merecourt Farm. A shady lane to the right leads up another steep rough lane to Westley and the picturesque buildings of Westley Farm. Half a mile east of the village is Lower Dean Farm and the cottages and farm buildings forming the small hamlet of Dean. Lainston House, north-west of the village, stands in the midst of well-wooded country on high ground with an eastward fall. It is a fine H-shaped brick building with stone dressings, dating generally from the early years of the eighteenth century, but part of the east front belongs to an Elizabethan house. The main entrance is on the west through a picturesque forecourt with wrought-iron gates. To the north is a red-brick pigeon-house lined with chalk. Opposite the iron gates is a hexagonal walled garden which, with its long gravel paths, sun-dial, and rose gardens, seems to incorporate past centuries, and to go back to the days when the notorious Elizabeth Chudleigh was married in the now ruined church of St. Peter, which stands almost hidden among the trees to the south of the house. Stretching away to the west is the famous lime avenue, about three-quarters of a mile in length. Fine views can be obtained from Lainston: away to the south, over down and pasture land, Winchester is seen in the distance, and away to the north another long sweep of downland stretches away towards Littleton and on to Crawley. The south-west corner of the parish is thickly wooded, and the woods slope gradually upwards to the track of the Roman road which forms the southern boundary of the parish. Crab Wood, Burrow Copse, and Cow Down Copse are three of the best-known woods. Among place-names in the parish mentioned in the sixteenth century are Goose Acres, Floodfield, and Berksdeane. (fn. 1)
The manor of CHILCOMB as granted by King Edward to the church of Winchester in 908 included lands in Sparsholt. (fn. 2) Stigand bishop of Winchester, probably between 1050 and 1060, granted one hide at Sparsholt to Athelmar for his own life and that of Simon his son for such payment as he could make. As witnesses to the grant came Stigand and his following from the Old Minster and Alfwin the abbot and his monks from the New Minster and all the thegns of the shire. (fn. 3) In the Domesday Survey Sparsholt, though not mentioned by name, was evidently included in the manor of Chilcomb, the later manor of Barton and Buddlesgate, and one of the nine churches pertaining to the manor was probably the church of Sparsholt. (fn. 4) The manor of Barton and Buddlesgate still comprises part of Sparsholt parish.
Lands in Sparsholt were held independently, it would seem, of those held by the prior and convent, by Godfrey de Caritate in the reign of King Henry II. (fn. 5) On his death they descended to his son John de Caritate, who was employed in King John's service in 1215 and 1216. (fn. 6) Owing partly to some jealousy between the de Caritate family and the family that took the name of Sparsholt and held other lands in the parish, (fn. 7) the lands held by the de Caritate family seem to have been separated from Sparsholt probably by the beginning of the thirteenth century and to have become a manor known later as the manor of LAINSTON. (fn. 8) Unfortunately it seems impossible to gather any definite imformation concerning Lainston until 1342, when Sir Henry de Harnhulle conveyed by fine one carucate in Lainston and the advowson of the church of Lainston, held by Henry de Laverstoke for the term of his life, to John de Winton and Joan his wife. (fn. 9) John de Winton died seised of the same in 1361, leaving a brother and heir Richard de Winton, (fn. 10) was evidently in financial difficulties, (fn. 11) for he raised £200 on the manors of Soberton and Lainston in 1383, (fn. 12) but this was not enough to satisfy his creditors, and nine months later he was ordered to be imprisoned and his property valued in order that his debts might be paid. (fn. 13) He died, however, the same year, and immediately afterwards his widow Agnes married Nicholas Brus. (fn. 14) Nicholas and Agnes Brus dealt with the manor by fine in 1384, (fn. 15) but after this there seems to be a gap in the descent of the manor, which, however, ultimately passed to Michael Skilling, who presented to the living in 1445. (fn. 16) He was succeeded by John Skilling, either his son or grandson, who presented to the living during the episcopacy of William Waynflete. (fn. 17) He died seised of the manor and advowson in 1512, leaving as his heir his son John aged forty and more. (fn. 18) The manor remained in the possession of the Skilling family until 1613, (fn. 19) in which year Edward, Richard and Michael Skilling sold it to Anthony Dawley. (fn. 20) The latter died seised of the manor in 1616 leaving a son and heir Walter, (fn. 21) who died sixteen years later, his heir being his son Henry aged twelve. (fn. 22) Anthony Dawley, grandson of Henry, high sheriff in 1707, sold the manor in 1711 to Sir Philip Meadows, (fn. 23) from whom it passed by purchase in 1721 to John Merrill, (fn. 24) whose granddaughter Mary married Dr. Bathurst. Their son and heir, dying without issue, left the manor to his paternal uncle General Henry Bathurst, who dying unmarried left the property by will to Selina, the daughter of his eldest sister Lady Elwill, who married Sir William Freemantle. (fn. 25) The manor remained with their descendants the Harvey-Bathursts until a few years ago, when it was sold to the present owner Mr. Samuel Bostock.
From an early date, as has been shown, the family of Sparsholt held lands in the parish side by side with the de Caritate family. In 1258 Richard de Sparsholt, chaplain, granted one virgate of land in Sparsholt to Stephen Fromond and his heirs. (fn. 26) From Stephen this property descended to Richard Fromond of Sparsholt, the bishop's bailiff for the hundreds of Highclere and Overton, probably his son or grandson, who in 1318 in conjunction with Alice his wife acquired from Richard Beaupel one messuage, two carucates of land, 200 acres of pasture, 6 acres of wood and 60s. rent in Sparsholt. (fn. 27) These tenements must have been equivalent to the manor of SPARSHOLT, sometimes also called FROMOND'S COURT, (fn. 28) in the oratory of which he obtained licence to hear service during the episcopacy of John Stratford. (fn. 29) In 1337 John de la Berton, parson of the church of Farleigh, and Henry de Asshe, chaplain, quitclaimed 6 messuages, 3 carucates of land, 36 acres of meadow, 40 acres of wood and 16s. 6d. rent in Sparsholt and Stockbridge to Richard and Alice. (fn. 30) It is probable that this was a settlement on them of lands which they already possessed, but is just possible that it marks the acquisition of the reputed manor of Westley (q.v.). Richard was succeeded by John Fromond, to whom William Edendon bishop of Winchester granted licence to have mass celebrated in the oratory within his house of Sparsholt. (fn. 31)
The subsequent history of the manor is somewhat uncertain, but it was probably included in the twentyeight messuages, 4½ carucates of land, 28 acres of meadow, 1,000 acres of pasture, 60 acres of wood and 2s. 2d. rents in Sparsholt and neighbouring places which in 1433 were settled on Sir William Goushill and Julia his wife, widow of John Esteney, (fn. 32) for the life of Julia with remainder to Michael Skilling and his heirs. (fn. 33) John Skilling died seised of the manor of Fromond's Court in 1512, (fn. 34) and from this time the manor of Sparsholt, as it was afterwards more usually called, (fn. 35) has followed the same descent as Lainston (q.v.).
The origin of the reputed manor of WESTLEY is uncertain. It is possible that it was included in the property in Sparsholt and Stockbridge acquired by Richard Fromond and Alice his wife in 1337, but it seems more probable that it originally belonged to the Sparsholts, passed from them with the manor of Coldrey to the Coldreys, (fn. 36) and descended from Thomas Coldrey to his daughter and heir Christine, wife of Richard Holt. In support of this latter theory the following documents can be adduced: a fine of 1253, whereby the manor of Coldrey and rents in Lainston were settled on Philip Sparsholt for life with remainder to William Sparsholt, (fn. 37) and a fine of 1333, whereby a messuage, a carucate of land, 8 acres of meadow, 10 acres of wood and 40s. rent in Bentley and Lainston were settled on William de Coldrey and Alice his wife, (fn. 38) but whether these tenements represent the later manor of Westley is a debatable point. However, they descended to Christine wife of Richard Holt, (fn. 39) were granted by her to John Esteney and Julia his wife in 1427, (fn. 40) and were included in the lands settled on Julia for life in 1433 with remainder to Michael Skilling and his heirs. (fn. 41) John Skilling died seised of a capital messuage and 5 acres of land in Sparsholt, a tenement in Crawley and a tenement in Westley in 1512. (fn. 42) It is probable that to these tenements was afterwards given the name of the manor of Westley, the descent of which has been identical with that of Lainston.
The church of ST. STEPHEN, SPARSHOLT, has a chancel 24 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. 6 in. with modern organ chamber and vestry on the north, nave 36 ft. by 19 ft. 6 in. with north and south aisles and south porch, and west tower 9 ft. square, all measurements being internal. The walling is of flint rubble with stone dressings, and the chancel and south aisle have red-tiled roofs, while the nave and north aisle are leaded, and the tower has a wooden upper story with a steep shingled roof.
The plan has developed from an aisleless nave and chancel church of twelfth-century date, part of the nave walls of which, including the north-west angle, still exist. About the year 1200 a south aisle was added to the nave, and in the fourteenth century the chancel was rebuilt on a larger scale, becoming of equal width with the nave. The tower is a fifteenth-century addition, built against the old west wall of the nave. In modern times the chancel has been lengthened 8 ft. eastwards, a north aisle added to the nave, and a north vestry and organ chamber to the chancel, under the direction of Mr. Butterfield.
The chancel has an east window of three cinquefoiled lights with fifteenth-century tracery, moved to its present position when the chancel was lengthened. In the south wall is a two-light window with tracery of the same date, but a new mullion, and just to the east of it a blocked priest's door of the first half of the fourteenth century. There are modern sedilia and a credence, and in a glazed wooden case against this wall a pewter coffin chalice and paten, taken from the grave of a priest found in the church, and probably dating from c. 1250. The chancel arch is four-centred, of two continuous moulded orders, with plain late fifteenth or early sixteenth-century detail, but the masonry of the jambs up to 5 ft. 7 in. from the floor is of quite different character from the rest, and seems to be twelfth-century work moved outwards at the widening of the arch, and cut to the later section.
The nave has arcades of three bays, that on the north being Butterfield's work; the two eastern bays have arches of two chamfered orders with clustered columns, while the west bay has a plain arch, the break between it and the other bays being caused by the passage of the flue of the heating apparatus. The south arcade has semicircular arches of two chamfered orders, and round columns with plain capitals and moulded bases, good and simple work of c. 1200; the nave clearstory has three three-light windows and one single light on the north side, all modern, and no windows on the south.
The south aisle has an east window of two lights, all modern except the fifteenth-century tracery in the head, two square-headed south windows of two and three lights, both modern, and a two-light west window with fifteenth-century tracery and modern jambs. The south doorway, moved by Butterfield into the west bay of the aisle, dates from 1631, having a semicircular head above which is a panel with the churchwardens' names and date of its insertion, and preserves its contemporary door, a very pretty piece of woodwork with square panels and strapwork in low relief filling its arched head. The south porch is modern, of wood on a stone base. The tower is of three stages, having an eastern arch with continuous mouldings like those of the chancel arch, and a west window in the ground story of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head, which seems to be old work much patched with new stone. At the south-west angle is a large diagonal buttress, added at some time to counteract a failure of the foundations, some signs of which are yet to be seen on the tower. The belfry stage is of wood and modern, and contains pits for five bells, though only four are now in existence. The treble, third, and tenor are of 1742, by Robert Catlin, and the second by Thomas Mears, 1820.
During the alterations to the church a good many remains of wall paintings were found, among them being a figure of St. Stephen under a mutilated stone canopy. The paintings have perished, but the canopy is now set over the inner face of the south doorway of the nave.
All the fittings of the church are new, except for a good eighteenth-century organ screen on the north side of the chancel, with pillars carrying a moulded cornice.
On the south-east angle of the south aisle is an incised sundial.
The plate consists of a communion cup and cover paten of 1826, given by the Rev. William Masters, vicar of Sparsholt; a flagon of 1869, given by the Rev. Edward Stewart; an almsdish of 1766, given in that year by the Rev. Richard Barford; a standing paten of 1715, the gift of Philip Eyre; and two glass cruets, silver mounted.
The plate belonging to the ruined church of Lainston is also kept here, and consists of a cup and cover paten of 1628, with the monogram of the maker, T.F., whose mark occurs on a number of fine pieces of plate from 1609 onwards, and a standing paten or bread-holder of 1723, given in that year by John Merrill. It bears the mark of the famous goldsmith, Paul Lamerie.
The registers for Sparsholt and Lainston are contained in a single book, and record the baptisms from 1607, marriages from 1630, and burials from 1628, down to 1812. During the summer of 1666 the village was scourged by the plague, over a score of entries in the register for that year showing how men, women, and children died and were buried in their own gardens. The churchwardens' accounts begin in 1818.
The ruined church of ST. PETER, LAINSTON, is a simple aisleless building, the north, south, and west walls still standing. Enough remains to show that it was of late twelfth-century date, but its windows are later insertions, none of the early lights being preserved.
There was originally a separate register for Lainston Church taken to London during the trial of Elizabeth Chudleigh in 1776, and never recovered.
One of the nine churches mentioned in Domesday Book as pertaining to the manor of Chilcomb was probably the church of Sparsholt. (fn. 43) The advowson from early times belonged to the prioress and convent of Wintney, (fn. 44) and it is just possible that it was granted to them by a member of the Coldrey family, for the Coldreys were benefactors to this priory, (fn. 45) and as has been shown above owned property in the parish.
After the Dissolution the living remained in the gift of the crown, (fn. 46) notwithstanding Queen Mary's grant to the bishop of Winchester in 1558, (fn. 47) and under the Tudors was leased out with the rectory to various persons. (fn. 48) It is at the present time a vicarage, net yearly value £177 with residence in the gift of the Lord Chancellor.
The rectory of Sparsholt was at an early date appropriated to the priory of Wintney. (fn. 49) Anne, prioress of Wintney, in 1534, granted a forty years' lease of it to William Abbott. (fn. 50) Notwithstanding this, Henry VIII, in 1539, granted the rectory for life to his servant John Cook, (fn. 51) and his gift was confirmed by Queen Mary, who in 1553 granted it to him during her good pleasure without account or payment. (fn. 52) However, William Abbott was reinstated in 1561, in which year Queen Elizabeth granted to him the rectory and advowson to hold for twenty-one years at a rent of £10. (fn. 53) Nine years later Elizabeth granted the reversion of the rectory and advowson after the expiration of the lease to Robert Jones, (fn. 54) who sold all his interest in the premises to Walter Sandys, (fn. 55) on whom Elizabeth settled them in 1587 with remainder to his wife Mabel with remainder to his son William for life. (fn. 56) Walter Sandys was the farmer of the rectory in 1591, (fn. 57) notwithstanding Elizabeth's grant to Henry Best and John Welles earlier in the year, (fn. 58) and died seised of the same in 1610. (fn. 59) After the death of Sir William Sandys in 1628 (fn. 60) the rectory and advowson reverted to the crown in accordance with the settlement of 1587. The advowson, as has been shown, remained with the crown, but the rectory was afterwards granted to the Heathcote family and remained with them for a considerable period, (fn. 61) Sir William Heathcote, bart., finally alienating it to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
The church of Lainston, as has been shown, probably owed its origin to the jealousy between the de Caritate and Sparsholt families. (fn. 62) The advowson has followed the descent of the manor (fn. 63) with but few exceptions. (fn. 64) The living is at the present day a rectory, of the yearly value of about £54 in the gift of Mr. Samuel Bostock.
The question of tithes was dealt with by the Court of Exchequer in 1591. (fn. 65)
The Parliamentary Returns of Charities for the poor, dated 1786, mention that Richard Bricknell, — Sims, and — Wade gave £5 each for the poor. These sums have been invested in the purchase of £16 15s. 5d. consols.
In 1875 the Rev. Edward Stewart by his will left £50, the income to be applied for the benefit of the poor, invested in £52 19s. 5d. consols.
The same testator left another sum of £50, invested in £53 0s. 10d. consols. The dividends are applied in the distribution of clothing in pursuance of the trusts declared by deed, dated 22 December, 1875.