THE ORIGINS OF BISHOP’S WALTHAM – Exploring the Unexplored


A very well attended meeting of the History Society was entertained by Tony Kippenburger to a talk which explored facts and theories about the history of Bishop’s Waltham from Roman times through to the present day.

The factual and sometimes amusing presentation explored the way the town had developed from an early settlement in the upper reaches of the Beaulieu River to its present day position as a thriving town.

The origins of the settlements were mainly due to its proximity to Winchester and the coast, and the meeting of two Roman roads.  A church was built around 6C.  Tony had researched the origins of the name and its associations with Royal estates. There had been a castle (the location of which is unknown) situated within the area, this was however demolished fairly soon after it was built and Henry le Bois, a Bishop of Winchester and part of the royal lineage at the time developed the palace on the Southern side of the town.  This palace was a very impressive complex and had been visited by most of the reigning monarchs up until the 18C.  The church to the North of the village had originally been built in 7C but was demolished with the present church having Norman origins. The town developed in the area between the church and the palace and was set out as burbage plots, some of which can still be identified today.

 It is known that in 1001 the Vikings burnt and pillaged the town, and we wonder what it was that they felt it worth them travelling specifically to Bishops Waltham to carry this out.  However the town was soon rebuilt.

Tony went on to explain that although very good records of the village are accessible, from Norman times onwards there is little of no information for the Saxon period.  The Domesday book however indicates that the town was the 10thlargest settlement in Hampshire implying that there had been an established population in this area for many years.  

Tony who is chairman of the Bishops Waltham society went on to say that as a result of this lack of knowledge of the very early history of the town, a project has been started to carryout detailed investigations and assessments of any evidence that would provide evidence of an earlier history.  This will include finding and inspecting small pottery finds.


Old Roads Through Titchfield

Tis map published by Milne in 1791 is one of the more advanced 18th century maps, but is does reveal very different travel patterns to those we experience today. The main road between Southampton and Portsmouth was the old medieval high road that went along the downs through Wickham and eventually down into Southampton through Stoneham. Progress would have been slow and a journey by sea was probably quicker.

As far as Titchfield is concerned, there was no forerunner of the A27. There was a track from Porchester, through Fareham and Catisfield that brought one down to the stone bridge adjacent to Place House. This was probably the route taken by Margaret of Anjou when she travelled from Porchester to Titchfield in 1445 for her marriage to Henry VI.

By far the more important road in 1791 appears to be the road to Gosport, which goes through Rowner and Crofton and down into Titchfield, entering the village on Bridge Street. The road follows the present route through South Street, High Street and up Southampton Hill and across the common to the Burseldon Ferry, and from there to the Itchen Ferry at Bitterne in order to reach Southampton.

What is also of interest in this map is that Titchfield at the end of the 18th century still retained its medieval importance. Apart from fareham, which seems to have just overtaken Titchfield in size, the ancient village is much larger than Wickham and Botley, and the  land between Titchfield and Gosport (not shown on this section) is only populated by farms and scattered cottages.

A Royal Wedding 1445

Medieval monasteries were amongst the most impressive buildings of their times. They were spacious, sumptuously built and maintained and were certainly fitting places for the accommodation of the well-to-do. The abbey at Titchfield, although by no means the largest or richest, was nevertheless well appointed and an appropriate place for a royal wedding.

The occasion was the marriage of Henry VI, to Margaret of Anjou, and the day was 22 April 1445. Margaret was 15 years old and Henry eight years her senior and this day was the culmination of a good deal of diplomatic effort over a protracted period. It was a highly political marriage with a great deal at stake, for the English at any rate, and it turned into a major political miscalculation by the English.

Activity around the idea of a marriage went back to the beginning of 1444 when the English were trying to construct a truce. French resurgence since the time of Joan of Arc made the English hold on Normandy increasingly tenuous and expensive and some breathing room was required. A marriage for Henry, now in his early 20s seems to be a way of securing this. Charles VII of France was amenable to the idea, but he would not propose his own daughters and attention then fell upon Margaret of Anjou. Her father, Rene, duke of Anjou was a cousin to the Valois king but other than that had little to offer. He had wasted a good part of his life pursuing his phantom title to the kingdom of Naples and bankrupted himself in the process. Therefore Margaret came only with a name and a dowry.

However, the English government was interested. The arrangement promised a two year truce with the prospect of negotiating something of longer duration, and in a spirit of optimism Margaret was married at the church of St Martin at Tours on 24 May 1444 to Henry VI. Standing in as proxy for the king was William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk. Once the diplomatic business of the marriage and the truce was effected, the earl returned to England.

Six months elapsed and Suffolk, newly promoted to marquess, returned to France to escort Margaret to England. He was accompanied by Sir Richard Woodville and his wife Jacquetta. They were to spend some time in France. Margaret was unwell at this time and the winter weather that followed did not allow a crossing so it was not until April of the following year that they were able to cross the Channel.

The party landed at Porchester on 9 April but Margaret was again unwell. It seems to have been something more than sea-sickness as it was described as caused  ‘of the labour and indisposition of the sea by occasion of which the pocks broke out upon her.’ Whatever the complaint, it kept her down for seven days.

The chroniclers are vague about what happened to her. Gregory say that she went to Hampton (Southampton) to rest in God’s House, before returning to Titchfield. Gregory says that she went to Southwell (probably meaning Southwick) and Fabyan’s Chronicle also records that they were married at Southwick. It may be hard to make sense of all this. Porchester had been converted to a royal palace by Richard II and was perfectly able to accommodate large retinues. It was a practical place to house Margaret’s party. There was a connection with the Priory of Southwark since it was at one time within the walls of Porchester Castle until they decamped for their own place a few miles north in the middle of the 12th century and it is possible that Henry himself was staying there. It would make better sense for him to be lodging at Titchfield; otherwise why hold the ceremony there rather than Southwick? Margaret may have been taken to God’s house at Southampton because there were men there who could minister to her sickness. She would have been taken by water (by far the fastest way to travel) and returned to Porchester ready to progress to Titchfield.

Initially the marriage was considered a success by the English public since it promised years of peace in the future, but it quickly unravelled. In July a French embassy came to England to discuss a further truce and of course they wanted something in return. The County of Maine, at that time a buffer state between French Anjou and English Normandy, was desired by the French. Both Henry and Margaret, already asserting herself, were party to the negotiations and Henry gave a private undertaking to cede Maine to France in return for a 20 year truce. Suffolk and a few others were involved but the treaty was a secret one and by 22 December Henry agreed in a letter to surrender Maine by 30 April 1446.

Had this resulted in the intended peace the trade may not have been such a bad one but the Maine garrison, who had not been consulted or informed, refused to surrender. Charles chose to consider this a breach of the treaty and marched into Maine in February 1448. Two weeks later it was his. The following year he marched into Normandy and within two months had taken Rouen. Everything was quickly lost and England’s presence in France was now reduced to the Pale of Calais.

There is little trace of the abbey today. It was acquired by Sir Thomas Wriothesly, later Baron Titchfield and later still earl of Southampton in 1539 and he immediately set about converting the abbey into a splendid Tudor country house. Of that only the gatehouse and some walls survive.

There is a local legend that Margaret and her retinue crossed the River Meon at the bottom of Fishers Hill and indeed this bridge is often referred to as the”Anjou Bridge” today. This stone bridge dates from 1625 and doubtless there were earlier wooden bridges at this narrow crossing. There is no documentary evidence that I know of to establish this bridge as the crossing, one way or the other, but sometimes local legends are important.

Bryan Dunleavy

The Beestons of Titchfield

William Beeston was a prosperous man who was living at Posbrook House towards the end of his life. He was a tenant of the earl and had the means to educate his children. His eldest son, Henry, became Master at Winchester College and New College, Oxford and his second son, William became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica and was knighted. Great Posbrook House still stands today and would have been a substantial and expensive house when it was built. It is probably correct to assume that the Beestons were well-to-do and well-connected. William Beeston married Elizabeth Bromfield, a daughter of Arthur Bromfield, a man with manors middlesex and Hampshire. William Beeston died in 1638 and is buried in Titchfield. It should be noted that Sir William Beeston was born in 1636, two years before the older William Beeston died. This is possible of course as Elizabeth Bromfield, the wife of William Beeston, was considerably younger than her husband, although it has been suggested that Sir William Beeston may have been a grandson. The DNB states that he was the son of William Beeston of Posbrook.

This would excite no great interest are it not for the fact that John Aubrey wrote that he had been told by William Beeston that William Shakespeare was sometime a schoolmaster in the country. What Aubrey actually wrote was this:

Though, as Ben Jonson says of him that he had but little Latin and less Greek, he understood Latin pretty well, for he had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the county – from Mr Beeston.

This man was William Beeston, but not the buccaneering Sir William Beeston, who made a pile of money in Jamaica; he was a well known actor and producer of plays, the son of Christopher Beeston, an actor and colleague of William Shakespeare. This William Beeston was born 1610/11 and died in 1682

Any scrap of information about Shakespeare tends to send the imagination into overdrive and several scholars have been tempted to make the Beeston connection with Titchfield. Is there a connection?

At first glance the connection may rest only on the name. The Titchfield Beestons were, as described above, well-to-do and the sons and daughters would have good opportunities in life without considering the rough and uncertain trade of an actor. Both Henry and Sir William Beeston were able to slide into prestigious positions and need not have given acting a second thought. In William Beeston’s relatively straightforward will he bequeathed everything to his wife, presumably because the children were still very young.

Now let us turn to Christopher Beeston. He was a child actor in 1592 and grew up with the theatre. He acted with William Shakespeare in Ben Jonson’s play Every Man in his Humour and he probably did well enough out of his trade. He had at least one son, the William mentioned by Aubrey, and he died in 1638, coincidentally only a few days after William Beeston of Titchfield. He was probably born c. 1582.

If he was connected to the Titchfield Beestons, his choice of a career on the stage appears unlikely. It was possible to make a living during Shakespeare’s lifetime but most families would be very wary of a future for their sons in this trade. The large majority of the actors and playwrights of Shakespeare’s day came from modest backgrounds and had little to lose. They were clever men of course and could readily undertake the hack work of putting together a play. Boy-actors, who took the parts of women, were unlikely come from a well-to-do family.

Christopher Beeston doesn’t seem to fit.

Except, as Stewart Trotter has ventured, he was an illegitimate son. What is attractive about Stewart Trotter’s theory is that acting was in many respects the perfect opportunity for a boy born on the other side of the blanket. He had no reputation to lose and the more respectable opportunities enjoyed by his half brother or brothers were closed to him. William Beeston of Titchfield may have been a hard driving character and possibly only in his sunset years did he settle into marriage and family at Posbrook. Thomas Nashe, the pamphleteer and sometime playwright, wrote a pamphlet called “Strange News” and dedicated it to William “Apis Lapis” (Latin for Bee-stone). From the text William Apis Lapis emerges as a bon viveur who was not always scrupulous about the way he made money. He may also have fathered illegitimate children. The pamphlet also indirectly informs us that Beeston was a man about town (London) and one suspects that this washer he made his money before settling on a quieter life at Posbrook.

Could one of them have been Christopher Beeston? If this was the case then William Beeston would have taken minimal responsibility for the child, providing a few pounds for maintenance and then largely leaving the woman to make theist of it. In this scenario we can imagine young Christopher being put on the stage at an early age to help with the household budget He also signed himself Christopher Hutchinson,which may suggest that this was his mother’s name.

There may be an issue with dates. William Beeston was established and well-known in 1592 and we believe that Christopher Beeston/Hutchinson was about 10 years old at that date. This would place William Beeston’s birth in the early 1560s – possibly even 1564! That would place him in his mid-70s at the time of his death, and in his 70s when he sired his son William. Not at all impossible of course, but at the very least raising some questions.

I can’t arrive at any definite conclusions about the connection between William Beeston and Christopher Beeston – if any. Christopher may have come from another Beeston family altogether; however, there are some rounds at leat for considering a link.

For a fuller account please go to Stewart Trotter’s blog, The Shakespeare Code.

Titchfield Hundred

The manor and the hundred and the shire were Saxon administrative inventions and were adopted without change by the Normans. The French name of Manor was substituted as was County, but the Hundred  kept its Saxon name.

Broadly speaking the hundred was a definable area of land between 1000 and 3000 acres which would support a lord and his attendant families. These manors were assessed for taxation purpose in a measure known as a hide – about 120 acres. Each manor had its own court to deal with its own local disputes but where problems overlapped the territory of another manor the Saxons devised the Hundred Court. Manors were grouped together as Hundreds, that is a territory more-or-less equivalent to 100 hides, and these hundred usually took their name from the central meeting place. Titchfield was one such Hundred.

The history of the Hundred of Titchfield is not straightforward. Although, as we can see from the map, the hundred covered a territory, it represented a jurisdiction and from time to time powerful lords and the abbot of Tichfield withdrew from the hundred, such that by the time of Edward I the hundred consisted only of Wickham, Segensworth, Stubbington and Rowner.

At Domesday the hundred was, as represented on the map above, and included Titchfield, Faccombe, Meon, Bromwich, Bentley, Crofton, Funtley, Wickham, Segenworth, Hook, Stubbington, and Rowner. It  was assessed at 46 hides, a low value, which can be explained by the fact that the king, who held Titchfield directly excused himself tax and the very large and prosperous, and indeed populous, manor was only assessed at 2 hides – a tax which does not appear to have been collected anyway.

The Hundred itself was farmed out, that is the rights to the court were granted to  someone willing to pay for the privilege. It yielded 58s. 4d. in 1266 and 30s in the time of Richard II. The were the figures paid to the Treasury, so one assumes that the amount collected from taxpayers was in excess of those figures. This relatively low amount illustrates how the Titchfield Hundred had become fragmented and that the ability to make money from administering justice here was limited.

After the middle ages the Hundred continued to serve their function for the administration of justice and collection of taxes, but their importance declined from the 17th century as newer institutions emerged. In the 19th century the development of Poor Law Unions, sanitary districts and highways districts made them redundant. 19th century government acts which created County Councils and Urban and Rural Districts made them completely obsolete. Curiously the Hundred was never formally abolished by Parliament, so in a notional sense they still exist.

Today their only us is in one of those peculiarly British legal loopholes to allow MPs to give up their seats in Parliament without an election. MPs cannot resign their seats; only an election can unseat them. However, if they hold a royal office they cannot be a member of Parliament. So by applying for  the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds (in this case an unpaid royal perquisite) they are automatically barred from holding a parliamentary seat. Once those formalities are done with the MP resigns from the Chiltern Hundreds. The last person to be Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds was Sadiq Khan, now Mayor of London.

I have no idea who last held the rights to the Titchfield Hundred, nor whether that is discoverable. It’s an intriguing question.

in 1788, these areas made up the Titchfield Hundred.

Titchfield Park (Fareham parish; SU5307)
Abshot = Abshot (Fareham parish; SU5105)
Alverstoke = Alverstoke (Gosport parish; SZ6099)
Brunidge = Brownwich (Fareham parish; SU5103?)
Chilling = Chilling (Fareham parish; SU5004)
Crofton = Crofton (Fareham parish; SU5504)
Fareham = Fareham (Fareham parish; SU575061)
Gosport = Gosport (Gosport parish; SZ616998)
Gr. Funtley = Funtley (Fareham parish; SU5608)
Hellhead = Hill Head (Fareham parish; SU5402)
Hook = Hook (Fareham parish; SU5005)
L. Funtley = Funtley (Fareham parish; SU5608)
Leigh = Lee-on-the-Solent (Gosport parish; SU5600)
Leigh Marks = Lee Marks? (Gosport parish; SU50?)
Rowner = Rowner (Gosport parish; SU5801)
Stubington = Stubbington (Fareham parish; SU5503)
Titchfield = Titchfield (Fareham parish; SU541058)
Warsash = Warsash (Fareham parish; SU4906)
Wickham = Wickham (Wickham parish; SU575114)

Titchfield in 1066

900 years ago this year, England’s political structure changed. The new king very quickly replaced all the minor Saxon lords known as thanes and replaced them with more powerful barons and bishops. These men were granted great tracts of land, often scattered across the country, which they could hold from the king as tenants-in-chief. In turn they distributed land to their followers. In many parts of the country the change was noticeable and significant.

Titchfield, however, was probably immune to this change. It was held directly by King Edward before 1066 and assumed by King William after the Conquest, and because it was held by the king, the Domesday Book of 1086 is less helpful than it is with other manors. Usually the entries express a value of the land as it was in 1066 and its present (i.e. 1086) value. Sometimes this went up and sometimes down and more often than not stayed the same. Titchfield was not given a value in either 1066 or 1086. Since it was not subject to any pillaging by the invading army in 1066, it is probable that the villagers placidly went about their work and the value of the land stayed constant.

The size of Titchfield is also difficult to estimate from the Domesday entry. It did become a very large parish, stretching to the Hamble river in the west, to Rowner in the south east and to Wickham in the north east. We cannot be absolutely sure that this was the extent of the parish in 1066, but by eliminating manors held by others we may arrive at some estimate. William’s powerful baron, Hugh of Port, held Wickham, Segensworth, Hook and Stubbington. Count Alan held Crofton and Funtley. William Maudit held Rowner. So by eliminating these manors Titchfield in 1066 might not be too far from our present understanding of its domain. That is, it probably extended from Segensworth to the Solent on the west side of the river and included Titchfield Common, Whiteley, Sarisbury and Swanwick.

Another difficulty is being able to read the tax assessment. The Anglo-Saxon system used a unit called the hide. It is not a precise measure as its value would depend on the quality of the land, but scholars reckon that it was about 120 acres in most parts of England. A manor assessed at 10 hides would cover about 1200 acres. For comparison purposes here, Wickham was assessed at 12 hides and Crofton at 7.

Titchfield is only assessed at 2 hides, so by using the above calculation we would be looking at an acreage of about 250. This is clearly wrong because there are other indicators to show that it is quite prosperous. There is land in Titchfield for 15 ploughs, whereas Wickham has land only for 7 ploughs and Crofton 5. Something else is happening, and that is that the good villagers of Titchfield are not being assessed for tax. They are presumably paying their rental to the king but the king is content to waive any further taxes. So the inhabitants of Titchfield were in a favourable position.

There appear to be other indications that this competitive advantage is working for them. There are two mills in Titchfield, each valued at 20s. Wickham has only one mill of the same value and Crofton’s mill is valued at 12s 6d. Titchfield also has a market with the toll rights amounting to 40s. (Let me also add that while these amounts appear trivial today, they were huge in 1086.)

16 villagers, 13 smallholders and 4 slaves are recorded at Titcfield in 1086. The villagers probably worked 30 acres each and the smallholders half of this or less. The slaves of course had no rights and possibly worked the king’s land. If we assume that each of these individuals counted here represents a family of, say, 4, then including two millers, we might have found a population of 140-150 in Titchfield in those days, and, small as this appears to us today, they formed a larger community than any of the surrounding manors.

St Margaret’s Priory

The first thing that can be said about St Margaret’s Priory is that it was never a priory. The name was adopted in the 20th century as a fashionable name for an old building.

Parts of the building date from the late 16th century or early 17th century and the dominant feature of the building, the brick tower, dates from this period. The residential part was substantially enlarged in the late 18th century.

The question as to why it was built is a challenging one. Some have suggested that it was built as a lookout tower to spot game in the park, although the practicalities of communicating that information to the hunters is difficult to imagine unless they had developed some kind of semaphore system. More plausible is the theory that it was built at the time of the Spanish Armada invasion as a lookout point. Certainly there is an unimpeded view for miles.

Once built it may have occurred to the third earl that it could be developed as a residence, possibly for one of his officials, or, as has been suggested, a dower house. It was certainly used for the latter purpose during the period that the Delmé family owned the estate.

From the 1620s onwards the house was occupied by a farmer and it was known as St Margaret’s Farm. A document dated 1641 describes it as “a capital messuage (house and associated buildings) and farm called St. Margaret’s, wit a parcel of land enclosed from the great waste of Titchfield (Titchfield Common) and two closes (enclosed fields) called Low Lamber and the Outash.”

It was occupied by tenant farmers until the Delmé family appropriated the building for their own use, and considerably enlarging it in the process.

It was purchased in 1919 by Herbert Hughes-Stanton, who, being of a romantic disposition, added many “Tudor” features to the building. Hughes-Stanton was a respected artists and Royal Academician and one of his sons, Blair Hughes-Stanton, became even better known as an artist.

In recent times the building has been subdivided into three separate properties.