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Gill - A Short History of Micheldever Parish

Gill - A Short History of Micheldever Parish

Family in the fields 1928

Micheldever stands high. At the Station you are level with the Cross on the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The spelling of the name has varied with the ages. In the 9th century it was “ Mycheldefer”, in the 12th “Micheldeura”, and from the 13th to the 15th “Mucheldever”. Until the end of the 19th century it was written “Mitcheldever”. The river is pronounced 'deever', the village 'dever'.

It is thought that the name means “Much Water”, but this is open to doubt. At the present the only water is a small stream which eventually joins the Test, and would be seasonal in flow, if it were not for the artesian bores at the local watercress beds. The true name is the “North Brook”, but it is generally referred to as the “Dever”.

The parish of Micheldever now encompasses 7819 acres of mostly arable lands but with several villages and significant woodland with Micheldever village lying near the centre of the parish. The North Brook runs from an artesian well to the west of East Stratton towards Hunton before finally joining the Test at Wherwell.

The Roman road from Winchester to London runs through the south west of the parish skirting the western edge of Micheldever Wood which was identified as 'one of the finest oak woods in England' by Cobbett in his Rural Rides (1853 p.71).

St. Mary's Church lies in the centre of the village with the primary school opposite, beside which is a house which used to serve as a Post Office.

Approximately one eighth of the parish (1,056 acres) is woodland in three main areas. Micheldever Wood originally part of Pamber Forest, Blackwood on the northern border which was granted to Hyde Abbey by Audoenus Black in return for maintenance of his wife and himself as long as they should live and Bazeley (Bablysley) Copse which was leased to Sir Thomas Wriothesley with the rectory in 1537.

There must have been more water in time past, as the stream was capable of working a mill at Weston Colley, a part of the parish and there was a “fishery” here in 904 AD to supply the refectory at Hyde Abbey, Winchester. The mill was one of the most ancient in Hampshire and is recorded in the Domesday Book. The wooden machinery was recently removed and the building is now a dwelling house with the stream running beneath it. An old inhabitant told me that, when he was a boy employed at the Mill House, nearby, the mill was working.

The history of Micheldever is both long and well recorded. The study of a large Roman Villa in Micheldever Wood indicates that it was used around 380 AD. The parish was owned by King Alfred the Great whose Saxon capital was Winchester. The parish was enlarged by his son Edward the Elder before he gave it to the abbot and monks of Hyde Abbey, the New Minster, in 903 with the addition of land which included a fishery on the border with the Worthys. The Abbey refectory had considerable need of fish particularly during Lent. Ethelred II "the unready" confirmed the abbey charter circa 964.

Micheldever was mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) when it was assessed at 103 hides in the time of King Edward ( a hide being the standard unit of land which would support a household for the purpose of taxation). The village had a population of 64 villeins, 28 bordars and 22 serfs together worth £57 per annum to the Abbey, a mill, probably on the site of the Old Mill in Western Colley, 30 acres of meadow and woodland for 4 pigs as pannage.

Despite some contest between the abbot and the monks as to the tenure of the parish in the 13th.century, the Abbey retained possession of Micheldever until surrendered to King Henry VIII in 1538.

Subsequently King Henry sold it in 1544 to Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Chancellor and later Earl of Southampton who built a Manor House in the area now behind Rook Lane prior to his conversion of Titchfield Abbey into a grander residence more befitting his station for his personal use.

Wriosthesley, an acknowledged opportunist started to build his house in Micheldever in 1534 before being appointed Visitor to the Abbey in 1538 in which year he obtained a grant to demolish the Abbey and surrounding houses and sell the materials, a task which he completed very rapidly. Documents reveal that in 1534 Wriothesly took delivery of twenty principal oaks and that two years later he was urging the builders to complete a large house with gardens laid out in the latest manner. A deed of rent survives between Wriosthesley and the Abbey for a substantial property called Parsonage House in 1537 for £4 per annum. It is not known whether this reference is to the house commissioned by Wriothesley but it seems unlikely that such a small village would encompass more than one so substantial a property.

The Abbey is known to have rented the site of "the manor house" to a John Smith and it may be that Thomas Wriosthesley took over the lease from Smith. The house was sold by Thomas's son to John Hall of Sutton before passing to Robert Stansby by 1565 in whose family estate it remained for 132 years. The house was then sold to Robert Bristow in 1678 and retained by that family until 1778 but was demolished shortly before the end of the 18th. century and Alms Houses built on the site in the 19th. century.

In 1973 the Department of the Environment financed an excavation of the area in question when Winchester District Council drew up plans partly to determine the precise site of the house so as not to overlay it. The dig which was very informative revealed a house which was abandoned in the late 18th. century but which had overlaid a rather larger house of the Tudor period which itself replaced a building of the 13th.-14th. centuries. Thus we know there were a succession of houses on the site but not that it was the site of the only substantial house or that the original house was that built by Thomas Wriosthesley.

Sir Thomas Wriothesley's estate passed through his family to his great grandson Thomas, who was made Lord High Treasurer at the Restoration. On his death in 1667 Micheldever was assigned to his second daughter, Rachel Vaughan who resided at East Stratton House which Wriothesley had bought from the Crown in 1546 and whose second marriage was to William Lord Russell who was executed in 1683 for involvement in the Rye House plot to kill Charles 11.

It is interesting to note that during Lady Rachel's lifetime, on November 27th 1703, there was a terrific storm, which raged for three days. The losses in London, then a comparatively small place, were about £2,000,000. Ships were blown from their anchorages and never seen again. There were 8,000 deaths in wrecks off the coast of Holland. In Kent 17,000 trees were uprooted. Twelve warships with 1,800 men on board were sunk in sight of land. The Bishop of Bath and Wells and his wife were killed in their house, by falling masonry.

Lady Rachel’s son and his wife were staying at East Stratton at the time and narrowly escaped death, when a chimney crashed through their bedroom. She says in a letter “My farms are torn to pieces, corn and hay may be seen hanging from the trees, Hampshire is in all desolation”.

In the same year, 1703, she presented Micheldever church with a magnificent chalice and this was probably as a thank-offering for her son’s and daughter-in-law’s escape.

The estate passed to her grandson who inherited the title of Duke of Bedford and whose own son, the eighth duke, Francis, sold Micheldever to Sir Francis Baring in 1801. The Stratton Estate encompassed the villages of East Stratton and Micheldever, the mansion and Stratton Park plus 10,000 acres of prime agricultural land for the sum of £150,000.

Sir Francis Baring's son, Sir Thomas held courts in Micheldever in 1811. His eldest son Francis, who was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Lord of the Admiralty, was created Baron Northbrook in 1866 taking the title from the name of a tithings in the parish. The estate then passed to his son,Thomas George Baring, who was  Viceroy of India 1872-6, at the end of which term he was created Earl of Northbrook in the county of Southampton and Viscount Baring of Lee in the County of Kent.

The second earl sold much of the estate in 1920 when many residents took the opportunity to buy their houses. The Earldom became extinct in 1929 when the 3rd. Baron died without any children. The present Lord Northbrook, the 6th. Baron and a hereditary peer in the House of Lords lives at Woodlands just outside the parish. The Baring family are one of the most distinguished and ennobled families in the United Kingdom.

Barings bank was forced into receivership in 1995 after the Nick Leeson scandal but the Baring family still own property in the area, particularly around East Stratton. Lord Nortbrook is the patron of this church and the Baring/Northbrook influence is still felt here and in the neighbouring villages.

Other Information

The village forge was here when Wriothesley bought Micheldever and must have been in existence long before that date. The triangular area with the tree on it in the centre of the village and known as the Crease was in all probability where the village Cross stood and the present name is a corruption of the word "cross". In the middle of the Crease there used to be a cottage with a shoemaker's shop and a small garden.

The road from the Crease to Borough was at one time called Sloe Lane and Duke Street was originally Duck Street. Winchester Road generally spoken of as Gin Hill was Annell or Hawthorn Lane.

There used to be an ice house in Manor Farm to supply East Stratton House.

A headstone now removed in the churchyard recorded the burial of "Savage Bear" in 1813. The entry in the registers states that he was from Hursley. Who the man was with his unusual name is still a mystery.


The Marquis de Ruvigny

Henry Marquis de Ruvigny fled from religious persecution in France because he was a Huguenot. He entered the service of William III as a Major General and by so doing he surrendered his estates in France.

In 1691 he fought in the battle of Aughrim in Ireland. In 1692 he was made Commander in Chief in Ireland and created Viscount Galway.

In 1693 he went to Flanders and commanded the English and Huguenot Horse at the Battle of Louden. He was captured by the French, who released him because of his honourable record. In 1704 he commanded the English forces in Portugal and lost his right hand in battle. He captured Madrid in 1706. In 1707 he lost his right eye at Almanza. In 1709 he commanded the English at the battle of Caya.

He visited Lady Rachel Russell in 1720 and died while staying with her. He was buried at Micheldever on September 6th of that year. His grave is unknown.

He was described as “an aged general maimed and covered with honourable wounds, by birth a foreigner, by sentiment and inclination an honest Englishman, a gentleman of rare and eminent qualities that equally rendered him proper for cabinet or field”.

In 2001 the Huguenot Memorial Society placed a plaque in his memory on the south wall of the tower.

Benjamin Whitaker

On the outside wall of the chancel is an oval tablet inscribed “In memory of Benjamin Whitaker, Chief Justice of the Province of South Carolina, died November 1751 aged 53”.

He was Chief Justice of the Province from November 7th 1739 to 1749, when he was removed “being a paralytic”.

The registers record the burial of a Benjamin Whitaker in November 1728. This man was evidently the father of a Judge, who expressed the desire to be buried “as near my honoured father as possible”.

There is a memorial to his wife in the chancel of St Philip’s church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Barings

The Baring family, which is mentioned frequently in these notes, came from Bremen, where Franz Baring was a Lutheran pastor. His son John came to England and was a clothmaker in Devon. It was Francis, son of this man, who bought East Stratton House and founded the banking firm of Baring Brothers. He was born in 1740 and although he was deaf all his life, this did not prevent him from being a financial genius.

There are some fine monuments to the Barings in the chancel, in particular, a group of three based on the theme of the Lord’s Prayer. The centrepiece is by John Flaxman, the noted 19th century sculptor and Royal Academician, and was erected in 1806 with a gothic surround designed by George Dance, to commemorate Harriet Baring the wife of Sir Francis, who died in 1804. The two side pieces by Sir Joseph Boehm were originally in the chapel at Stratton Park, the family seat, and commemorate Sir Thomas' son, also called Thomas, who died in 1873.

The Hon. Arthur Baring

He was the second son of the first Earl of Northbrook and was a midshipman serving in H.M.S. Captain, the first ship in the Royal Navy to be fitted with gun turrets. She went through the Bay of Biscay on her trial trip with many distinguished Admiralty officials and the designer on board. She turned turtle and sank in September 1870 and only a few were saved.

Arthur Baring was one of those who perished. The memorial to him is on the south wall of the chancel and the tower and clock at the village school were presented by some friends of the family in his memory.

Henry Cook

In 1830 the parish and surrounding district were aroused by the agricultural revolt. There had been risings in Kent for a living wage, because the newly invented threshing machine was considered a menace by the farm workers and the machines were often smashed and ricks burnt.

The demand was for a wage of twelve shillings per week instead of the customary eight. In answer to this, Parliament passed a law making the smashing of the machines and demands for more money capital offences.

At Northington, not far from Micheldever, the seat of a branch of the Baring family, Bingham Baring, a Justice of the Peace, ordered some labourers, who had gathered outside his house, to disperse. While doing this, his hat was knocked off by a Micheldever labourer named Henry Cook, aged nineteen. Cook was charged with attempted murder, tried at Winchester, hanged and buried in Micheldever churchyard.

Legend has it that snow never remains on the site of his grave, the position of which is unknown, but no bare area was found after a search during a recent snowstorm. At the instigation of the union Unison, formerly an agricultural Union, a plaque was erected in 2009 to remember this event. It is on the North West corner of the octagonal nave, adjacent to the memorial to the vicar of Micheldever of this time.

Vice Admiral Sir Norman Denning

On the south wall at the back there is a plaque in memory of Sir Norman Denning to mark his service as Head of Naval Intelligence in the last war. He lived in this village and was a churchwarden of this church. He died in 1979 and is buried in the churchyard. His brother, Lord Denning, who died in 1999, was Master of the Rolls.

Royal Visitors

King John stayed at Micheldever from July 27th to 30th in 1205, probably for hunting.

He was accommodated at the guest house somewhere on the south side of the church, perhaps where the Manor Farm now stands.

King Edward I was here on September 20th 1285. Robers de Hamulton was his Chancellor and also clerical rector of Micheldever and it is very likely that he entertained the king.

Taken from A short history of Micheldever Parish & Church by Rev. Gill 1966

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