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Micheldever - Best kept village 1977

Micheldever - Best kept village 1977

Front Cover of the Hampshire Magazine -October 1977

Hampshire Life Magazine October 1977 

MICHELDEVER, Hampshire's Best kept Village of 1977, is a happy choice for several reasons: it has, as one of its historians has pointed out, a long and distinguished pedigree; its buildings,  ancient and modern, achieve an agreeable harmony not always evident in our villages, and, even more important, a similar harmony has been achieved between newcomers and those born and bred locally which not only makes village life pleasant but also makes possible the kind of community effort which has brought success in the competition.

Although the fact is not taken into account in the competition - all competitors are judged strictly on how the villages have been cared for, not on natural appearance - Micheldever is extremely attractive, six miles north of Winchester, and well insulated from the almost non-stop roar on the A33, which is about a mile away.  There are many old timber and thatch cottages as well as some modem houses and bungalows, built mostly in the last 20 years, which blend comfortably with the older parts.

Happily, Micheldever still has many inhabitants born and bred in the village, and they combine well with the newcomers -  many, young couples with children - to form a really happy community.  The Rev. A. B. Milner, a former vicar, writes in his "History of  Micheldever" that "Micheldever may boast of a pedigree as long, if not as distinguished, as London, or any other place in the British Isles.  The finding of flint instruments, arrowheads, etc. in the fields, the remains of a Roman villa in the Wood, the discovery of numerous Saxon relics at the time when the railway was built in about 1839, and written history since Alfred's reign, all point to a continuous occupation from pre-historic days.

"In the days of Alfred the Great Micheldever was a  royal vill i.e. the King's own personal property, and it may be  reasonably assumed that he paid one or more visits to the village in  which he was personally interested, as Winchester was the capital of the  kingdom, where he held court at Wolvesey Palace." Be that as it may,  the people of the village have a rich and varied history into which to delve, and a good number of people have been interested in its eventful past.

In July 1973, there came a unique opportunity to exercise their minds, muscles, and keenness when a "rescue dig" was made on the site of Micheldever Manor. Volunteers from the village augmented a  band of student archaeologists under the guidance of archaeologist  Helen Sutermeister, appointed by the DoE. The students camped on the site and were given lodgings in the village during the three short weeks allowed for the dig. Unfortunately, one of the weeks was so wet that the camping students had to be rescued themselves! One girl student made a remarkable find in a 14th-century latrine pit (luckily after six centuries not as noisome as it must have been) which turned out to be an almost complete white glazed jug imported from Spain with Moorish writing in green as decoration; this was dated about 1400.

The archaeological investigation proved most rewarding  with three separate buildings being found; the earliest was probably  the monastic grange attached to Hyde Abbey,

Micheldever was the principal gift of King Alfred to endow the Abbey. The grange building appeared to have given way to the  Tudor Thomas Wriothesley built early in his career before he became Earl of Southampton and who was principally concerned in the dissolution of  Hyde Abbey. On top of the Tudor house, and incorporating part of it, was the 18th century Micheldever House, with its garden walls and interesting cellars full of (unfortunately) broken wine bottles.

Fired by the success of the rescue dig, a course on archaeology and the history of the village has been held every winter since, with the tutorship of Peter Fasham, the archaeologist in charge of the M3 rescue dig. Everyone has great amusement and probably sees the village in a new light when looking at medieval trackways, earthworks,  parish records, ancient hedgerows, and boundaries, and the activities stretch through the summer months, as well.

The present church of St. Mary the Virgin, is, apart from the beautiful old tower, dated about 1544, very ugly on the outside, but the interior is most attractive and unusual. A splendid avenue of lime trees lines the pathway to the church. The tower is a  massive stone structure, less elaborate looking than others in the district. There is a noted peal of bells, the six bells being inscribed as follows: one, two, three, and five, "J. Taylor and Co., Loughborough  MDCCCXCII;" four and six, "Tho. Perrey, Will. Fifield, C.W., Rob. Cor,  1703." The "C.W." stands for churchwardens, and the Cors were bell founders at Aldbourne, Wiltshire.

The tower had certainly been built by 1544, and during the period of its building the church and Abbey at Hyde were being demolished, and some of the stone was used to build the tower. The tower is now very active, the bells well maintained, and there is a team of a  dozen or more ringers, taught mainly by the captain and the local blacksmith, Mr H. Symes. Recently the tower has been equipped with rope guides which shorten the distance from the ground floor to the first floor to about 15ft., which reduces whip and gives better control. Many bands of ringers visit the tower and remark on how well the bells handle.

There is an "Eton" touch about the Northbrook Hall  Play-group, for the waiting list includes babies who will not be eligible until they are three years old but whose parents want to secure a place for them in advance; vacancies in the group are soon filled.

It was established 11 years ago and is now registered for 18 children aged three to five, meeting three mornings a week.  Children come from as far away as Sutton Scotney. The aim is to provide a  happy atmosphere in which to prepare the children for school life,  helping them to overcome the problems of leaving the home environment,  making friends, and adjusting to the organisation.

The village is, in fact, an excellent place for young people: it still has its own village school, there is a pack of  Brownies, a Guide Company was formed recently, and about three years ago a group of young parents raised about £500 by whist drives, dinner dances, discos, jumble sales and the like to provide a children's recreation ground. It is now complete, with swings, a sea-saw, a  climbing frame, and a rocking horse, and provides a great deal of enjoyment for the younger element. There is even a seat for tired mums!

The Women's Institute, with about 45 members, was founded in 1918, celebrating its golden jubilee in 1968. Members enjoy interesting talks on a variety of subjects, and arts and crafts of various kinds are encouraged and enjoyed. It also organises the village flower and vegetable show every year.

Another village organisation that gives a great deal of pleasure is the Merry and Bright Club, which also meets at the  Northbrook Hall and enjoys a sociable afternoon with entertainment of various kinds, bingo, and, of course, a nice tea!

The River Dever works its way westward through the village until it runs into the Test at Wherwell; from the bridge, trout can be watched darting about in the water, and occasionally a kingfisher flashes along the stream.

The Parish Council Jubilee Committee is in the course of constructing a small waterside garden on the north side of the brook with a seat, and is planting trees; when completed this should be a  pleasant place in which to walk or take a rest. There are, in fact, many lovely walks all around the village in every direction, and recently the Parish Council has appointed a Way Warden who has completed an interesting and helpful booklet with maps of all the public footpaths in the district.

The village still has cricket and football clubs and is fortunate to have two splendid shops - a general store-cum-Post  Office and a butcher's shop.

Micheldever is surrounded by beautiful farmland, and many village folks continue the tradition by working on the farms, and there are some commuters who travel to surrounding towns from  Micheldever station. Villagers are delighted and proud to have won the  Best Kept Village competition and are determined to keep up the high standard in future years.

Thank you to Jill Lee for finding this article

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