A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Esse (xi cent.); Aisse (xii cent.); Asshe, Aysshe (xiii cent.); Esshemaners, Aisshe (xiv cent.); Ash (xvi cent.).
The parish of Ashe, stretching from Kingsdown in the north to Popham Beacons in the south, at each end reaches an altitude of 500 ft. above the ordnance datum, the middle of the parish being 200 ft. lower. It is situated in an undulating and well-wooded country 6½ miles west of Basingstoke and 1½ miles east from Overton. From each end of the parish extensive views are to be had over Danebury, Quarley and Tangley and the Highclere Hills. The main road from London to Exeter runs through the parish, which is also crossed by the London and South Western Railway in two places. Kingsdown in the extreme north, formerly part of the manor of Wolverton, was purchased by Mr. Joseph Portal from Mr. George Garnyer in 1763. (fn. 1) Ashe Warren Farm, which was built about 1790, was sold with Kingsdown in 1885 to Mr. Henry Cripps by Col. Robert Portal, and sold again to the Hon. Henry Augustus Stanhope, J.P., in 1887. (fn. 2) The farm-house now called Ashe Warren House was remodelled and added to by Mr. Stanhope in 1887 for his own residence, and was sold by him in March 1906 to the present owner, Mr. Arthur Frederick Clifford. (fn. 3) North of the main road is the old rectory, now called Ashe House, which was sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1907 (fn. 4) to Admiral the Hon. Walter G. Stopford, R.N., who now occupies it. The house dates from the reign of James I, and Jane Austen often stayed there as a guest of the Lefroys. It was improved by Mr. M. G. Thoyts when he bought the advowson. Further north is the church of the Holy Trinity and St. Andrew with the new rectory recently built from the proceeds of the sale of the old rectory (fn. 5) by the rector, the Rev. Leighton Brooke Barnett, B.A. The schools were erected in 1872–3 and enlarged in 1888. Near the rectory is the source of the River Test, which flows west to Overton. Ashe Park, the seat of Mr. Percy Mortimer, lies to the south of the London road and is approached from it by a long avenue. The parklands cover an area of 50 acres and are planted with oak, ash and elm.
South Litchfield, a hamlet lying about 2¼ miles south of the village, is the property of Mr. Robert Mills. Pilgrim's Copse and Beggar's Clump suggest the existence of an early thoroughfare. At the close of 1883 it was proposed to build a missionroom here, and the then owner, Mr. Alexander Cunningham, gave his consent. When, however, it was put up it was discovered that it had been built upon land which had been bought by the London and South Western Railway for a cutting. The cutting was thereupon altered to a tunnel, and the railway company granted a lease of the land at a rent of 1s. a year. (fn. 6)
The soil is light, the subsoil chalk. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats and turnips. In this parish there are 1,247½ acres of arable land, 684; acres of permanent grass and 302¼ acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 7) The following place-names occur in documents: Ashwood (fn. 8) (xvii cent.); Levers and Crooks Freehold (fn. 9) (xviii cent.).
The manor of ASHE, which had been held of Earl Harold by Ælwacre, at the time of the Domesday Survey was held directly of the king by Eudo the son of Hubert de Ryes. (fn. 10) One Richard held it in 1167. (fn. 11) Later it passed to the great Hubert de Burgh afterwards Earl of Kent, no doubt by the grant of King John. The exact date of the grant is uncertain, but in 1201 Hubert was seised of four and a quarter knights' fees in Hampshire, (fn. 12) and it seems likely that the manor of Ashe was included in these. On the death of Hubert in 1243 Ashe passed to his son John de Burgh the elder, (fn. 13) who held it for a considerable period. During Simon de Montfort's rebellion, however, for some reason it was taken into the sheriff's hands, and while in his care it was seized and plundered, not being restored to John de Burgh until 1265, in which year the king ordered the sheriff to reinstate him, as well as to give him the full value of all goods and chattels which had been taken from the manor. (fn. 14) From this date the de Burghs had little or no interest in the manor. Thus in an assize roll of 1280 it is stated that John de Manners, who had formerly held the manor of John de Burgh, then held it of the king in chief by the service of the fourth part of one knight's fee. (fn. 15) On the other hand in 1354 the manor was said to be held of the Countess of Kent, as of her honour of Camel by the service of the fourth part of a knight's fee, (fn. 16) showing that the former connexion of Hubert de Burgh Earl of Kent, lord of the manor of Camel Regis, (fn. 17) with Ashe was still remembered. However, seven years later it was returned as held of Princess Isabel as of her manor of Hampstead Marshall, as of the fee of the Earl Marshal, (fn. 18) while in the 15 th century the Bishop of Winchester, the owner of the neighbouring liberty of Overton, was said to be the overlord. (fn. 19)
The exact date of the subinfeudation of the manor is uncertain. If Nutshelf still formed part of Ashe at the time of Robert de Manners' grant to Waverley Abbey (q.v. infra) he must already have been holding the whole manor as a tenant in the first half of the 12th century. (fn. 20) This was not likely, however, for John de Burgh seems to have been the actual holder in the reign of Henry III, and it therefore appears more probable that it was just after its restoration that he granted it to Robert de Manners, apparently a descendant of the benefactor of the abbey, to hold of him and his heirs. Robert de Manners before 1276 had been succeeded by his son John de Manners, (fn. 21) who while lord of Ashe, or ASHE MANNERS as it was sometimes called, granted for life to Henry de la Lyegh, rector of Ashe, common of pasture in all his demesne lands for fifty ewes, fifty sheep, three bullocks, two cows and twenty hogs. (fn. 22) In 1297 John obtained licence to make an exchange of property with John Randolf and Joan his wife, giving up to them his manor of Ashe and receiving in return their manor of Chaddenwick (co. Wilts.). (fn. 23) This transaction must have been completed before 1301, for in that year a commission of oyer and terminer was granted to William de Bereford and Philip de Hoyville to try persons accused of trespassing upon John RandolPs manor of Ashe by Overton. (fn. 24) Four years later John Randolf and Joan granted the reversion of the manor to John de Drokensford, afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells (1309–29), and his heirs, (fn. 25) but they were not much longer allowed to stay in peaceful possession of the manor, since Robert de Manners, son and heir of John de Manners, claimed it in 1309 on the ground that Reginald FitzPeter had given it to his father in free marriage with Alice daughter of Reginald, and that therefore it ought to have descended to him in accordance with the form of the donation. (fn. 26) The case was adjourned several times, but finally in 1318 judgement was given in favour of John Randolf on the ground that John de Manners had succeeded to Ashe on the death of his father Robert, and held nothing in it of the gift of Reginald FitzPeter. (fn. 27) In 1330 Philip de Drokensford, brother and heir of John de Drokensford, granted the reversion of the manor after the deaths of John Randolf and Joan to John de Stonore, (fn. 28) upon whom it was settled in feetail in 1334. (fn. 29) John Randolf predeceased his wife, (fn. 30) but the exact dates of their deaths are unknown. John de Stonore had, however, succeeded to the manor by 1346, in which year he obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Ashe. (fn. 31) Eight years later he died seised of the manor, leaving a son and heir John de Stonore, (fn. 32) who died in 1361. (fn. 33) His heir was his son Edmund, who as soon as he came of age sold the manor to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester (1367–98) for an annuity of £20. (fn. 34) In 1392 the manor was settled by fine on William of Wykeham for his life, with remainder to William Perot and Alice his wife, the niece of the bishop, for life, with remainder to their son William of Wykeham in tail-male with contingent remainder to William's brother Thomas. (fn. 35) The manor consequently passed to Thomas, who in 1402 obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Ashe. (fn. 36) On his death the manor passed to his son and heir William, who settled the reversion in 1448 on William Fiennes, (fn. 37) son and heir of James Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele, and husband of his only daughter and heir Margaret. (fn. 38) William succeeded to the peerage on 4 July 1451. Twenty years later he was slain at the battle of Barnet, leaving a son and heir Henry, a minor, (fn. 39) on whom the manor was settled in 1474 on the occasion of his marriage with Anne daughter of Sir Richard Harcourt. (fn. 40)
A year later Henry Fiennes granted the manor to Richard Duke of Gloucester and Morgan Kidwelly, (fn. 41) while in 1476 he released an annuity which he had been receiving from it to trustees for the use of Morgan. (fn. 42) Twenty years later by fine Morgan Kidwelly and his wife Joan granted the reversion of the manor to Richard Fiennes, son and heir of Henry who had died in 1476, (fn. 43) and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 44) Morgan died at Ospringe (co. Kent) in 1505. (fn. 45) Shortly after his death it was ascertained by inquisition that he had held the manor to the use of Richard III, and that it ought therefore to have escheated to Henry VII in 1485 on the attainder of Richard III, (fn. 46) but the following year the king, taking pity on Morgan's widow Joan, pardoned her all offences and intrusions into the manor of Ashe next Basingstoke, and granted it to her with all revenues for life. (fn. 47) She died at Buckland (co. Somers.) in 1524, (fn. 48) and about a month later the king granted the manor to his serjeant-at-arms Henry Thornton to hold for twenty-one years at a rent of £21. (fn. 49) Richard Fiennes had died in 1501, (fn. 50) but his widow Elizabeth, who had married as her second husband William West, was still alive, and, thinking herself entitled to the manor by the settlement of 1497, petitioned the king to restore the manor to her, alleging that the inquisition taken after the death of Morgan Kidwelly was untrue, and swearing that he had never been seised of the manor to the use of Richard III. (fn. 51) By the king's orders another inquisition was taken at Winchester on 24 January 1533 to ascertain the truth of her statements. (fn. 52) The testimony of the jurors bore out her story, but notwithstanding this the manor remained the property of the Crown until 1553, (fn. 53) in which year Edward VI made full restitution to Richard Fiennes, (fn. 54) the grandson of the Richard who had died in 1501. (fn. 55) On his death in 1573 it passed to his son and heir Richard, who in 1590 sold it to James Deane, a wealthy London draper, (fn. 56) afterwards knighted, who died in 1608. (fn. 57) By his will dated 19 August 1607 he endowed the almshouses called The Hospital, which he founded in Basingstoke for six poor old men and women of the town of Basingstoke and two from the parishes of Ashe and Deane with an annual rent-charge of £55 from the manor of Ashe, which was in addition burdened by an annual payment of £21 for 'the maintenance of a good and learned preacher a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge in the town of Basingstoke and for the better keeping of a good and learned man to instruct the children and youth of Basingstoke (the present pension allotted to the schoolmaster being too small),' by an annuity of £5 4s. to the poor of the parish of St. Katharine Coleman, and by a like annuity to the poor of the parish of St. Olave's, Hart Street, the total sum issuing out of the manor to charitable uses being £86 8s. (fn. 58) The manor he bequeathed in fee-tail to his nephew Andrew Holdip the son of his sister Alice Holdip, with contingent remainder in fee-tail successively to his nephews John Chamberleyn son of Margery Chamberleyn, and Michael Shrimpton son of Margaret Shrimpton, and his cousin John Deane. (fn. 59) In 1618 Andrew sold the manor to Thomas Willis, clerk of the Crown in Chancery, (fn. 60) from whom it passed by sale in 1649 to John Trott. (fn. 61) John Trott son and heir of the latter was created a baronet in 1660 and died without male issue in 1672, when the manor passed to his only daughter and heir Catherine the wife of Sir Hugh Stewkley, bart., of Hinton Ampner. (fn. 62) Catherine the eldest daughter of Catherine and Hugh brought the manor in marriage to her husband Sir Charles Shuckburgh, bart., of Shuckburgh (co. Warw.), from whom it passed in 1705 to his son and heir Sir John Shuckburgh, bart. (fn. 63) Robert Reynolds ' by God's blessing on his industry purchased and acquired' (fn. 64) the manor from Sir John in 1707, (fn. 65) and on his death in 1721 it went to his daughter Elizabeth, who two years before married the Rev. Reginald Jones, the rector of Brighstone (fn. 66) (I.W.). On her death in 1763 Ashe passed to Joseph Portal, to whom she had bequeathed it by will. (fn. 67) The manor remained with the Portal family until 1894, being held successively by William Portal son of Joseph Portal from 1793 to 1846, John Portal brother of William Portal from 184610 1848, Colonel Robert Portal son of John Portal from 1848 to 1888, and Melville Portal brother of Colonel Robert Portal from 1888 to 1894. The present owner is Mr. Percy Mortimer, who purchased the estate in 1894. (fn. 68)
Ashe Park is mentioned in a terrier of the glebe of about 1580 (fn. 69) whereby Richard Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele exchanged land with the then rector Mr. Harris to enlarge his park, and is also included in the sale of the manor to Thomas Willis in 1618. (fn. 70) The mansion called Ashe Park, the seat of Mr. Percy Mortimer, the lord of the manor, is situated on ground which was formerly part of the old park, and was rebuilt in 1865 by the late Colonel Robert Portal.
LITCHFIELD GRANGE (Nutescheolva, Nutesself, Nutshelve, xii cent.; Nyteshull, xiv cent.; Nutsell, Newetsell, Nuthilve, xvii cent.), together probably with the whole district of South Litchfield, was, as has been mentioned above, granted by Robert de Manners to Waverley Abbey at some date previous to 1147, in which year the gift was confirmed by Pope Eugenius III. (fn. 71) The abbey obtained further grants of confirmation from Richard I, (fn. 72) John, Edward II and Edward III, (fn. 73) and remained in possession of the grange, which in 1291 was valued at £5, (fn. 74) until the Dissolution, when it was granted with the other possessions of the abbey to Sir William Fitzwilliam, (fn. 75) who was raised to the peerage as Earl of Southampton in 1537. On his death without issue in 1542 it passed with the greater part of his estates to his half-brother Anthony Browne, who died six years later and was succeeded by his eldest son Anthony, created Viscount Montagu in 1554. In 1567 Anthony Viscount Montagu and Magdalen his wife obtained licence to alienate one messuage, one garden, one orchard, 200 acres of land, 80 acres of meadow, 200 acres of pasture and 100 acres of wood in Steventon, Overton, Ashe and Quidhampton, no doubt representing the grange and its appurtenances, to Roger Hunt. (fn. 76) On the death of the latter in 1601 it passed to his son and heir John, (fn. 77) who must have parted with it before 1628, in which year Richard Hale and Edward Hayes sold it for £1,400 to Thomas Coteele. (fn. 78) In 1646 a Royalist, Piers Edgcumbe of Mount Edgcumbe (co. Devon.), was the owner, and in that year being seised of the farm and demesne of Nuthilve or Litchfield and other property in Overton was admitted to composition. (fn. 79) It remained in the Edgcumbe family until about 1760, (fn. 80) when Richard Lord Edgcumbe sold it and other property to Robert Mackreth of Ewhurst, from whom the estate passed by sale in 1769 to Thomas Benet of Tisbury (co. Wilts.). (fn. 81) During the 19th century the property seems to have changed hands frequently. (fn. 82) From Mr. Alexander Cunningham, who purchased it in 1880, the estate has recently passed by sale to the present owner, Mr. Robert Mills of Shefford Park, Newbury.
The church of the HOLY TRINITY AND ST. ANDREW was built in 1877–8 on an old site and consists of a chancel 23 ft. 4 in. by 19 ft. with a vestry and organ chamber on the north side, and a nave 48 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft., with a south porch and a west bell-turret.
The destruction of the original church was so complete that there are only a few details of it left. One of these is the basin and jambs of the 14th-century piscina in the south wall of the chancel, and in the vestry is a 12th-century pillar piscina which was found built up in the wall. It is a good and early specimen, c. 1120, with a plain foliate capital and moulded base.
The east window of the chancel is of 14th-century style, of three lights with tracery, and in the south wall is a window of two trefoiled lights with a square head, and another of a single trefoiled light. All the nave windows are of two trefoiled lights with square heads.
The tall and well-proportioned oak screen between the chancel and nave is a careful reproduction of a fine piece of 15th-century woodwork, of which enough remained in the west gallery of the old nave to make a certain restoration possible. Parts of the mullions and cornice are old, but the tracery on the heads of the lights and the cresting is modern. In the south wall just west of the screen is a small square hole closed with a little iron door, in which is kept the carving of a bird sitting on its nest. This is a record of the building of a nest by a robin during the restoration of the church, on the top of the screen, with the shavings left by the carpenters.
There is an old chair in the vestry cut out of four pieces of wood with a tapering seat. On the back are carved the initials t r.
There is only one bell in the turret, made by John Warner in 1860.
The plate consists of a silver chalice and paten cover of 1671, also a plated flagon and a salver used as a credence plate and a glass water cruet mounted in electro-plate.
All the registers are contained in one book, and it begins with baptisms, marriages and burials mixed from 1619 to 1729, after which they were entered separately as follows:—baptisms 1729 to 1812, burials 1730 to 1812, and marriages 1730 to 1753. At the other end of the same book art some more marriages from 1757 to 1810.
On one page is a rough 18th-century seating plan of the church showing a chancel with a window in the east, north and south walls, and a nave of the same width with one north and one south window and a west doorway.
There was a church in the parish at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 83) The advowson followed the descent of the manor until 1608, (fn. 84) when it passed to Simon Holdip in accordance with the will of Sir James Deane dated 19 August 1607. (fn. 85) In 1660 Andrew Holdip the son of Simon sold the advowson for £360 to George Wither of Hall, (fn. 86) now Oakley Hall, in the parish of Deane, and from that date it followed the descent of that property, passing on the death of Charles Wither to his daughter Henrietta Maria, who married Edmund Bramston of Boreham (co. Essex) in 1748. In 1755 Edmund Bramston and Henrietta Maria sold three presentations to the rectory to Benjamin Langlois, (fn. 87) who in 1783 presented his nephew Isaac Peter George Lefroy. (fn. 88) On 3 March 1806 John Henry George Lefroy, son of Isaac Peter George Lefroy, was instituted on the presentation of the executors of his father's will to whom the advowson had descended on the death of his uncle Benjamin Langlois, and on 4 November 1823 Benjamin Lefroy, brother of John Henry George Lefroy, was instituted on the presentation of the executors of his brother's will. (fn. 89) At his death in 1829 the presentation reverted to Wither Bramston of Oakley Hall, the son of Edmund Bramston and Henrietta Maria. (fn. 90) It passed with Oakley Hall (q.v.) to the Beaches, with whom it remained until 1867, in which year it was purchased from William Wither Bramston Beach by Mortimer George Thoyts of Sulhamstead (co. Berks.). (fn. 91) The patron at the present day is the Rev. Francis Walter Thoyts, M.A., of Woodspeen Grange, Newbury, to whom it was conveyed in fee by his father, Mortimer George Thoyts, in 1873. (fn. 92)
On 10 April 1592 the churches of Ashe and Deane were united by letters patent of Queen Elizabeth with the consent of Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester, and the patron James Deane. (fn. 93) After a union of only twenty-seven years they were again divided by a Private Act of 1609–10 entitled 'An Act for the disuniting of the parsonages of Ashe and Deane being presentative and with cure of souls, (fn. 94) and from this date the rectories have remained separate, although from time to time they have been held by the same incumbent.
On 28 July 1332 the bishop absolved Richard de Havenage from the sentence of the greater excommunication which he had incurred by his presence at a conflict which had then recently taken place near the church of Ashe, on which occasion the church was polluted by the shedding of blood. (fn. 95) In the following year Richard de Chaddesle, chancellor and vicar-general, granted permission to Brother Benedict, Bishop of Cardica, to purge the church with holy water in the prescribed form so that divine service might not be suspended. (fn. 96)