top of page

Southbrook House - The Almshouses

Southbrook House  - The Almshouses

Southbrook House - The Almshouses 1900'S

Rook Lane led originally to Micheldever Manor House. The Manor House was built by the Earl of Southampton from materials bought from Hyde Abbey.

The Manor House was demolished in about 1800, and replaced with Alms Houses. In the 20th century these were converted into flats and demolished in 1965.

The Manor House was built by King Henry VIII’s Advisor, Thomas Wriothesley (later Earl of Southampton) from materials brought from the monastic grange belonging to Hyde Abbey in Winchester. The Church Tower is built from materials brought from the dissolution and demolition of Hyde Abbey. A carved stone from the original fabric (and now rebuilt) part of the Village Church stands at the garden door of Bryony Cottage.

Rook Lane leads into a footpath known locally as “Coffin Walk”. This path leads to East Stratton village, and until the East Stratton church was re-built in its current site, the East Stratton dead had to be wheeled all the way to Micheldever Church for the funeral service, a last bumpy ride.

Excerpt from Margret Bassett memories of life in mid 20th Century

" To get to the Almshouses, the straightforward way was out of the gate from School House (now Flint Cottage), turn right past the school and the next two cottages (now 62-67 Church Street) and right again into  Rook Lane. These two cottages had quite high steps leading up to the front doors which meant that as a child I would run down the street, up the first flight of steps, over the top and down again and so to the next flight of steps. My guess is that originally the road had been a track and that as the track had disappeared so the front door to the houses rose, which meant adding steps. Anyway, the right turn was made, going down the lane past Mrs Viney's on the left (now The Cottage) with the bow window – she was a very august person with strong Methodist views. Her husband ran the shop at the bottom of the village, from whence I once stole some make-up which mother discovered and made me put back on the shelves without anyone knowing! When I got married Mrs Viney was very ill and a couple of the rosebuds from my bouquet which I had given to Gran found their way down to Mrs Viney. She thought I was wonderful whereas I knew Gran was wonderful!

Next to the Viney's was a farm (Southbrook Farmhouse) and at the bottom of the lane was a track which led over the fields to Bobby's Copse and continued through to the main London road at East Stratton. This was a short cut to East Stratton and a marvellous place to pick the thousands of bluebells each year which were carted home to Gran and Mum to put in vases! By this track was a gate with a notice which informed everyone that trespassers would be prosecuted, beyond which was a coppice which belonged to Micheldever House and Mr Brandt. However the actual lane turned left into the entrance to the Almshouses.

It was here that Gran brought me on some of her visits to Miss Clapshaw. Miss Clapshaw was an elderly resident in the almshouse, living in what appeared to be a flat. I know now that Gran went down to see her to help by doing all the tidying up etc in the flat, which was always very untidy, dirty, smelly and contained not only the half-finished milk bottles which had turned rather sour sitting on the table, but also some coal stacked in the corner for the fire. The room was also extremely dark, being on the wrong side of the house for the sun. She went there at the suggestion of Miss Stuart who thought that doing something for someone else would help Gran to get over the death of Grandad. Despite all this I grew very fond of Miss Clapshaw. Miss Stuart, on the other hand, was lovely and had marvellous tales to tell of the times she spent with Queen Victoria's lady-in-waiting, and in fact she gave me a piece of material which was regency-striped black and white, with black rosebuds. She said this was a piece from one of Queen Victoria's gowns – I played with it with my dolls, and I only wish I had taken more care of it all, but children never do. Her brother was coachman to Queen Victoria. She had some china dogs which sat on her mantelpiece, like the Staffordshire dogs, and when she died she left them to me. All three of the dogs are still in my possession, I can not make a pair out of any two, and now that I have the larger Staffordshire dogs from Fred's home they sit like parents with children on the top of my cupboard.

The Almshouses were later turned into flats. One of the new occupants was the Glasspool family, really an elderly couple who had retired, but their granddaughter came and stopped very frequently. I used to play with her quite a lot but she had leukaemia and died when I was about 12. I was asked to be one of the bearers at her funeral, dressed up in mother's only good black coat (I was just big enough to fit into it), and I helped carry the coffin from the road up the Church path into church, and later at the graveside I helped lower it in. Later the Glasspools asked me to choose something as a memento of her, and I picked a brooch of a lady with a parasol done in rhinestones. This occasion made such an impression on me that I vowed never to attend another funeral unless it was my own. I did actually attend a few but not until 1972 when my friend Mike died of leukaemia.

Another set of residents were the Walkes (who still resided there in 1995). They had a daughter called Patricia, who was wheeled round in a large pram all the time. She was known as a 'blue' baby, because she had a hole in the heart and so she had a blue tinge round her mouth and a bluish-grey face which was surrounded by a mass of curls, always held to one side by a ribbon, and the slightest exertion made her puff and pant.

On the space between the 'no trespassers' gate and the Almshouses were some long chicken sheds. These were taken down to make way for some council houses, and our family had a great time helping to demolish them. I imagine we helped so that we could have some of the wood, but I managed to stand on a plank which contained a nail, and the nail went right through my wellington! We watched with interest as the council houses were built on this site (and the part opposite), and I got very friendly with the occupants of one pair of semi-detached. On the right by the track lived Patricia Hogden who went to my school, and next to her lived Joan Richardson and her husband...and children. I believe mother was rather annoyed that, again, I got in with the wrong crowd, as Joan treated me as an equal and taught me much. She used to let me feed the string of babies which arrived and told me the facts of life which I didn't want to ask my mother. There was tragedy in her life in that she left the youngest child in his pram with a bottle while she went and did something else, and the baby died from inhaling its own vomit. This again made a distinct impression on me in that I never left any of my children with a bottle, and tried to make sure my granddaughter, Lauren, was not left alone with a bottle. The sad couple emigrated to Australia some years later when I was 17.

When I wanted to go down and see Joan, I took the short cut, taking my life in my hands. I was never sure whether anyone would catch me and prosecute me when I dashed over the school field, across the copse, over the gate and into the lane! "

bottom of page