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Newsletter 43 - Spring 2005
Chandler’s Ford, Hiltingbury Lake and the Hursley map of 1588
I am sure that many members were interested in Robert Garnham’s article in the last issue (Newsletter 42) ‘The Ford at Chandler’s Ford’ (Garnham 2004). Not only does it throw light on a place that many of us have mistakenly considered to have no significant history, but it continues to add to the on-going debate about drove-roads. I have always had a particular interest in the county’s rivers, being a keen fisherman who has fished Monks Brook on many occasions.
The connection here with Robert’s article is perhaps slightly tenuous as it deals with one of the small tributaries streams that he mentions entering Monks Brook just above the ford. Milne’s map of 1791 does not show this stream, which rises in Cranbury Park, but the Hursley map of 1588 mentioned in the above editorial not only shows it, but also gives some fascinating information that was not previously suspected (Fig 1). Today the Cranbury stream passes through a string of four post-medieval ornamental ponds in Cranbury Park. From here it passes through Hiltingbury Lake, then under Merdon Avenue and on towards the ford in Monks Brook from which Chandler’s Ford takes its name.
At the time of the 1588 map, much of Chandler’s Ford was covered by Hiltingbury and Cranbury Commons, part of the wide expanse of common land that made up the southern part of the large Hursley parish (in those days it incorporated the later parish of Ampfield as well as much of modern Chandlers Ford). Neither Cranbury Park, nor its four ponds existed at that time. I had long been led to believe that Hiltingbury Lake did not exist in 1588. Local tradition ascribes the creation of this lake to the ornamentation of Merdon House in the late 19th century. It was only about 15 years ago that I attended the ‘reopening’ of the old water gardens of Merdon House. These were a series of small ponds and rills that existed between the main lake and Merdon Avenue. They had become hopelessly overgrown after the Second World War. The main lake was then a mass of lilies and silt in its final stages of decay, although some large carp still swam amongst the tangled lily roots in the 1960s. Early in the 1970s Eastleigh Council saved the main lake from its terminal decline by having it dredged out and cleaned, and it is today a passably pleasant open space.
Fig 1. HRO Photocopy 390 Copy of estate map of 1588 (original in Hursley Park)
The great surprise on the Hursley map of 1588 is that the lake is clearly shown amongst the waste of Hiltingbury Common, thereby showing it is at least 400 years older than previously thought. An even bigger surprise is the small copse with a house on the west bank of the lake called ‘Mill Bushes’. From this it seems reasonably certain that Hiltingbury Lake originated as a millpond feeding a mill on or just below the dam. Thinking about this unexpected discovery, it occurred to me that Hursley, one of the larger parishes of Hampshire, did not appear to have its own mill. This is not impossible, but it would be unusual as access to a mill was one of the prime requirements of a medieval manor. I have often come across manors without apparent mills, only to find this is merely a more recent occurrence, and, if a thorough search is made, lost mills can frequently be found, even on the smallest streams. Hursley appears to be one of these parishes/manors. All that is required to turn the most unpromising little stream into one capable of supporting a mill is a year-round flow and a good dam. Behind this dam, the ensuing pond can then work a modest corn mill. Exactly when the Hiltingbury Mill fell out of use is not known, but I cannot remember any mention of it in the later post-medieval records for the parish. If anyone can elaborate on this, I’d be glad to hear of it.
The Hursley map is a mine of information about the local landscape. It is here that Sybil Wade and I were able to solve the mystery of the wide track (now much overgrown) with large banks either side that runs along the edge of the present Hursley Park estate. The 1588 map shows it as a route between the now largely vanished hamlet of Merdon and Ampfield Common. It was clearly a local drove road giving access to common pasture. It even had its own funnel entrance that had subsequently become obscured on later maps.
The map also shows that Poles Lane was once broken up by a triangular green that formed the focus of the dispersed hamlet of Silkstead. During the later 16th century this isolated community was a hotbed of Catholic recusancy (Drew 1939, 84-85), but it is only with difficulty that one can imagine the ‘green’ today. Local questions that this map can unravel are almost endless. To add to its usefulness it even has a surviving terrier (HRO 63M84/46). I was privileged to study the original map but readers can check out the copy in Hampshire Record Office. I recommend you do so.
Documents in the Hampshire Record Office (HRO):