This article by Keith Hayward brought our attention to previously unconsidered documents that may point to a much later construction of the canal, or “new river”, than previously believed.
TITCHFIELD HAVEN AND NEW RIVER
A booklet entitled ‘The parish church of St Peter, Titchfield’1 states anonymously that “the river mouth was closed in the reign of Charles II and a canal was dug from the sea to where the old tanyard stood”. In 1742, during a court case concerning the Earl of Southampton’s Charity, it was reported that “circumstances had been greatly altered by reason of the loss of the river, which at the Earl’s demise was navigable from the sea to the town and therefore very useful in carrying on the woollen trade. This channel had however been diverted by the Earl’s heirs for their benefit, and the woollen trade had been totally lost”.2 In a letter of 1752, the estate agent Clement Walcot refers to a change in the area of land leased to the Stares family, supposing that the land was originally surveyed “before the New River was made”.3
The original lease goes back to the 1640s. It has been stated that the New River was built in 1614, but the source of this information is not given.4 Under 24th June 1611 the Parish Register states that “the same day Titchfield Haven was shutt out by one Richard Talbotts industrie under gods permisione at the costs of the right honorable the Earle of Southampton”.5
On 14th April 1629 Richard Talbutt “the Sirvayer of Water Woorkes at Meenelane end” was buried.6 A lease to Richard Tamye dated 6th June 1614 includes inter alia 20 acres of land “lately recovered from the overflowing of the sea”. 7
These last three statements can reasonably be linked to the construction of the sea wall, but no reference to the construction of a two-mile watercourse from the village to the sea can be construed from them.
The Tamye lease supports the idea that the purpose of the sea wall was land reclamation.With such distant and imprecise testimony as this mostly is, small wonder that it has proved so difficult to determine the origins of the New River. However, on 4th October 1676 a volume of presentments at the Manorial Court of Titchfield8 included the following recently discovered entries: “Wee p’sent that ye Lord of this mannor by Cutting ye new River hath taken away & doth detaine one acre of Land from John Cooper which belongeth to his Coppiehold. Also wee p’sent that ye said Lord doth detaine Two acres of Land from John Landy which belongeth to his Coppiehold, Taken away by Cutting ye said New River.” These entries provide four new pieces of information: a new and firm terminus ante quern for the construction of the New River; it was the Lord of the Manor that did it, and the names of two people whose land was adversely affected by its construction.
However, questions still remain. Neither the reason for its construction, nor the date, are given, but at the risk of inferring from insufficient data one might suppose that a tenant would complain promptly about the severance of his land and not wait years to do so.
That suggests a construction date in the early to mid-1670s, which would also be consistent with the first three references quoted above.
However, it would be unwise to make a more definite assertion until more evidence emerges.
1Hampshire Record Office TOP313/1/4
2Smith, D.G.: Four centuries of the Earl of Southampton Trust, The Trust, 1997, pp 8-9
3H.R.O. 5M 53/1129/43
4Everard, M.: Water meadows, Forrest, 2005, p.207
7HRO 5M 53/331-3328