Monday, 18 August 2014



The weathervane on the church tower at KINGSCLERE in the north west of Hampshire is rather unusual – it depicts a ‘bed bug’!  Back in the 12th century, King John had occasion to spend the night at the local Crown Inn and was severely bitten by bed bugs.  The story goes that as a result of this unfortunate experience, the King ordered that an effigy of a bed bug be displayed on the church tower.   And so, a rather regal bed bug weathervane is to be seen on the church tower.

WHITCHURCH  is a town on  the River Test in Hampshire  of Anglo Saxon origin. It is in an area of Special Scientific Interest and the church is a Grade 11 listed building.
A well preserved gravestone, over 1100 years old, was found embedded in the north wall of All Hallows Church in 1868 during restoration work.    The carved stone dates to C900 and the inscription across the top reads :
(Here the body of Frithburge reposes. Buried in peace.)
The Saxon female name of Frithburge means  ‘Pledge of Peace.’

WINCHESTER  is an historic Cathedral City dating back to Roman times and county town of Hampshire.
A gravestone in the graveyard at Winchester Cathedral records the unusual death of a soldier :
‘ In memory of THOMAS THETCHER,
A Grenadier in the North Regt. Of  Hants. Militia,
Who died of a violent Fever contracted by drinking Small beer when hot
the 12th of May 1764, Aged 26 years.
In grateful remembrance of whole univerfal good will towards his comrades,
This stone is placed here at their expence, as a fmall teftimony
of their regard and concern.
Here fleeps in peace a Hampfhire Grenadier
Who caught his death by drinking fmall Beer.
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall
And when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all.’
This memorial being decay’d was reftor’d by the Officers and the Garrifon A.D 1781.
An  honeft Soldier never is forgot
Whether he die by Mufket or by Pot.
The stone was replaced in 1802 and again in 1966.

Punishment was extremely harsh in former times and it was not only murderer’s who were hanged.  A weathered gravestone under the old yew tree in the churchyard at ITCHIN ABBAS, commemorates the last man to be hanged in this country for horse stealing.   The epitaph reads :
‘ In memory of John Hughes, who died March 19th 1825, aged 26 years.
A faithful friend, a father dear, an unfortunate husband lieth here.
The Lord removed his earthly body into the realms of everlasting day.’
The church register reads :
‘ John Smith alias Hughes, a gypsy, a wanderer, aged 26, March 20th 1825.
But why should an executed man be so commemorated?   It appears that the rector of Itchin Abbas, the Rev. Robert Wright, befriended Hughes and it was he who was responsible for the gravestone.  Hughes had been convicted of horse stealing at Winchester Assizes under the alias of Smith.   The judge, Sir James Burrough, Recorder of Portsmouth, had addressed him as follows:
‘ John Smith, you have been convicted of a crime which from its frequent occurrence it has been highly necessary to put a stop to.  The crime of horse stealing prevails to such an extent that it is absolutely necessary the severest punishment should be inflicted to deter other persons from the commission of such offences.   I myself have tried 30 or 40 horse stealers and others have been tried by my  brother judges and those convicted have been sent abroad for life.  But this has been found insufficient to check it.   An example is necessary to repress the crime and your case in one of that description, which merits the severest penalty of law.  You break open a stable from which you take a horse and saddle and at no greater distance of time after you are found with another horse in your possession, which produces a capital charge against you in the county of Surrey.  How the other horse was disposed of does not appear.  I cannot therefore hold out to you the slightest hope of mercy.’  
He was sentenced to death and was subsequently hanged.
The Rev. Wright had tried to save his life and failing this he had visited Hughes in prison, promising the young man that he would bury him alongside his infant daughter under the churchyard yew, and indeed carried out his promise.


Oliver Cromwell didn't need a gallows in 1642 when two of his soldiers were found guilty of murder and were hanged on the spot in ROMSEY. They were in fact hanged on a fine wrought iron bracket which displayed the sign of the Swan Inn in the town.  The bracket, which is a good example of Hampshire wrought iron work, has withstood the centuries of time and can still be seen on the wall outside the building which is no longer a pub.

Florence Nightingdale, the name is legendary, the popular heroine of the Crimean War.  She was actually born in Florence, Italy, on 12th May 1820 of a well to English family, and on her return from the Crimea, she settled in the family home at EAST WELLOW in Hampshire and eventually became something of a recluse.   She died on 13th August 1910 and was buried in the family vault at St Margaret’s church, Wellow, where a very simple memorial can be seen – just a simple engraving of a cross inscribed – FN, Born 12 May 1820. Died 13 August 1910 -  in accordance with her express wishes.


Inside the church are a number of memento's and a copy of the Scutari Cross.  This cross is believed to have been given to Florence by a British soldier during the Crimean War (1854 – 56).  It was made of shot and shrapnel from the battlefield.  She left it to the church when she died, but very sadly the original cross was stolen from the church on 20th December 1991 and has not been recovered.

The Rufus Stone in the New Forest to the north of BROCKENHURST, which can be seen in a clearing at the side of an unclassified road north of the A31, recalls the death of King William 11 (1056 – 1100).  It was erected in 1745 to replace a tree which had marked the original spot where William Rufus was killed by an arrow whilst hunting in the New Forest.   But was the death an accident ?   Called Rufus supposedly because of his ruddy appearance, William was a man, so it is said, who was ill tempered and small both in body and in mind.  He was loathed by his people and few tears were shed when he was killed, and indeed the clergy at Winchester Cathedral refused religious rites to his remains.



Whilst his death was probably an accident, the King's companion, Sir Walter Tyrrell, has by tradition been suspected of being responsible.   Was it an accident or was it regicide?  We will never know.    The Sir Walter Tyrrell Inn  can be found nearby.  



The former forge at nearby AVON is where, according to legend, Sir William stopped before fording the river, and made the blacksmith reverse his horse’s shoes in order to mislead his pursuers, whilst fleeing the scene.



BROCKENHURST is a village in the heart of the New Forest.
A very fine marble stone in the old churchyard marks the grave of an unusual New Forest character, Harry Mills, who died in 1905 aged 67 years.   Better known as ‘Brusher Mills’ he had lived in an illegal shack in the forest for almost 30 years.   Actually the shack was burned down just one day before the 30 years required to claim the home and land upon which it stood under ancient forest law.         He was known as ‘Brusher’ simply because of the meticulous way he brushed the village cricket pitch.   His main occupation however was that of ‘snakecatcher’ and he is credited with having killed a total of 3186 New Forest adders which he sold to London Zoo as live feed for the larger snakes.   The gravestone depicts a carving of Mills near to his shack and several snakes.    The local pub is called ‘The Snake Catcher.’




This village inn at MINSTEAD in the New Forest has a curious name, the origin of which lies in a picture at Winchester College,    The Trusty  Servant  embodies a pig which will eat any scraps;  a padlock which shows that he will tell no tales; stag’s feet for swiftness; a laden hand for hard work and a sword & shield to protect his master.  
A useful fellow to employ.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried in the nearby churchyard.

In the New Forest we can see The Knightswood Oak which has a girth of 21ft and is said to be 600 years old,





and also an old oak and beech tree which are fused together – known as inosculation, unusual in different tree species. 







 The Royal Victoria Park stretches along the bank of Southampton Water at NETLEY near Southampton.


This was the site of the large Royal Victoria Military Hospital built in the 1850's at the suggestion of Queen Victoria. The Queen laid the foundation stone of the fine buildings and regularly visited the hospital. The grand main building was the longest building in the world when it was built but the practicality of the hospital was somewhat criticised by Florence Nightingale on her return from The Crimea. The hospital which was virtually a village, was demolished in 1966, but the chapel was eventually saved as a lasting memorial to the hospital and has been converted to a visitor centre.


There was a landing pier on the waterside and the hospital was also serviced by a branch line from Netley Railway Station.





The former Officer's Mess has been converted into private flats.


To the east of the park and accessed by a non traffic lane through charming woodland is a military cemetery.







Liner spotting is a pleasant pastime on Southampton Water

A rather curious farm building can be seen alongside the A3051 road just south of BOTLEY in Hampshire, at Fairthorne Grange Farm.   It is a very fine Tudor granary, supported on staddle stones which keep the whole building clear of the ground.  The idea being to keep rats and rising damp away from the grain.

The spiritual home of cricket is at Halfpenny Down north east of the village of HAMBLEDON.  This is where Hambledon Cricket Club, founded in 1760, gradually developed the laws of the modern game.   A granite monument in a corner of the cricket ground marks the hallowed site.   The old ‘Bat and Ball Inn,’ once used as the clubhouse, stands nearby.



 For more than 500 years, PORTSMOUTH has been a Royal Dockyard and is Britain's foremost navel port.



SOUTHAMPTON has been a port since Roman times with berths for the largest cruise liners.
The Isle of Wight ferry leaving Southampton heading to the Isle of Wight.



1 comment:

Angeline Beech said...

I just stumbled upon your blog while trying to research Fairthorne Grange Farm which is just 5 minutes up the road from me. Your blog is amazing and as a parent who home educates her children, I will now be using some of what I've read here to teach my children about our local area - things that I didn't know despite living here all my life. Thank you.