Titchfield on a Pilgrimage Route?

The British Pilgrimage Trust has been tracing old medieval pilgrimage routes and have recently discovered a route from Southampton to Canterbury. It is likely that the A27 runs close to the old footpath.

It is probable that Titchfield lay on this route and indeed it would make sense. Titchfield Abbey would have served as a refreshment point at least for travellers from Southampton and it would have been able to offer overnight accommodation if needed. Titchfield is about half a day’s walk from Southampton and it is probable that the pilgrims would have trekked on to Southwick for their overnight stay.

For more information about the British Pilgrimage Trust go to this link. https://britishpilgrimage.org/old-way/

A New Publication

This book, which has been put together by some History Society members has dug into the archive of old photographs, and used some new photographs, taken by Phil Burner, to show the scene as it it today.

There are more changes in 100 years than you might realise.

The book is 122 pages and is on sale for £10.

We will take pre-orders at the Titchfield history Society Christmas meeting at the Community Centre, 17 December 7:30pm

The book will arrive from the printers later this week.

Wig, Powder and Windows

Excise men on the lookout for smugglers

When Phoebe Merrick told her audience that she was going to talk about tax, there was a good natured groan from the audience. Who loves taxation? – although we all recognise its necessity for good government, and of course it has a history.

Phoebe worked for most of her career as an excise officer and opened by explaining the difference between customs and excise – customs is the collection of customary duties on imports and exports, whereas excise duty is a later invention which assessed charges against products at the point of manufacture.

Excise duties made their first appearance in England during Cromwell’s government in the 17th century. They were naturally focussed popular products such as alcohol and were unpopular in equal measure. The tax was paid at the point of manufacture and was relatively easy to administer and hard to evade. It is, as Phoebe pointed out, a tax on quantity rather than quality. Even today, a vintage bottle of Mouton Rothschild will attract the same amount of tax as a bottle of cheap plonk.

After some success with new taxes governments extended the range, but not always with good results. A hearth tax, which appeared at first glance to be a reasonable tax on property, was difficult to enforce as inspection required access to the house. It was abandoned and followed by a window tax which only required external inspection. This tax persisted until the 19th century and even today some blocked-up windows are visible reminders of attempts to avoid the tax.

The job of an excise officer in the 17th and 18th centuries could be hazardous. Some citizens were inclined to act violently to the idea of being taxed and the excise officer often had to call for help from the military and later the police. Not least of their issues was the delivery of the money collected, mostly in coin, to safety in London. In an age before bank notes and more sophisticated means of transferring money, revenue officers had to transport the money on slow-moving pack horses on uncertain roads. Attack and potential robbery was always a danger.

The talk was informative and delivered with wit and style. Whether or not any one in the audience will feel better about paying taxes in future is an open question, but one thing is certain, we are all better informed about the history and development of excise taxes.

Excise men raiding an illegal warehouse at London Docks

St George’s Day and Titchfield

April 23rd, St George’s Day, has two important historical associations with Titchfield; the royal wedding of Margaret of Anjou to Henry VI, and the birth of William Shakespeare.

Margaret of Anjou was the bride chosen for the hapless king Henry VI. She had royal connections in France; her father Rene, duke of Anjou, was a cousin to the king of France, but she came without a dowry as her father had bankrupted himself in the vain pursuit of a supposed title to the kingdom of Naples. English diplomats had agreed the marriage in 1444 in the hope and expectation that it would bring to an end the Hundred Years War with France. In this they were correct. War quickly ended with a complete loss of all French territory held by the English, with the exception of Calais. It was a high price to pay and perhaps not for the first time, a policy of appeasement ended with negative consequences. Within a decade, England was itself plunged into civil war.

Nevertheless, the wedding at Titchfield on 22 April 1445, the eve of St George’s Day, took place in a festive atmosphere at Titchfield Abbey. After this, the court journeyed back to London, where Margaret was crowned queen on April 30th.

The second association with St George’s Day is through William Shakespeare who was born on 23 April 1564 in Stratford upon Avon.The date is not accurate. He was baptised on April 26th and convention has assumed that he was born three days earlier. In the 1590s the young third earl of Southampton became the patron of our great poet and playwright and theories have been advanced that William Shakespeare, at one time or another, came to Titchfield. Strong advocates of this theory are our own Ken Groves and Londoner Stewart Trotter, who has written a book, Love’s Labour’s Found, which explores Shakespeare’s possible associations with Titchfield. The book is out of print but second hand copies can be found on Amazon.