Weeke local History - Early History


Early History

The earliest history of Winchester is based on the archaeological remains found in Oram’s Arbour of an iron age fort. This was probably the forerunner of the Roman town of Venta Belgarum. As Oram’s Arbour is in the parish of Weeke this is its earliest history. When the Romans arrived in 70AD (URL 1) they probably built a wooden stockade for their troops who were here to keep control of the local population of Britons. Later when this was not an issue the stone Venta Belgarum was built and developed as one of the most important towns in Roman Britain. The development of Roman Winchester included the building of a series of roads which linked Winchester with other important towns in Roman Britain. One of these roads was the route to Cirencester which is the modern Andover road close to Winchester. Another was the route to Sarum, the Roman Salisbury. These two roads are important parts of the boundary to Weeke parish. It can be assumed that Weeke parish originally was bounded by the Roman Wall between Westgate (that still exists) and the now defunct Northgate (close to the modern junction between City Road and Hyde Street) and the roads to Cirencester and Sarum.

The first reference to the land including Weeke parish is in a Saxon Charter in 636 when the King Kynegils (Kineglis in the Victoria County History) (URL 4) granted to the church land within a seven mile circle of the city. The church was beginning to become established and the first Church had been built in Winchester.

Winchester became the capital of Wessex in 519. Wessex was a kingdom within England before the country was united. When the kingdom was united in 837 by Egbert he was crowned as the first king of England in Winchester (URL 2). It remained the capital until the time of William the conqueror when William was crowned in both Winchester and London. This lead to a period of two capitals and this came to an end when London superceded Winchester as the capital in the twelfth century.

Archaeological remains investigated by Martin Biddle (Biddle, 1983) suggest that the area outside the city wall in modern Sussex Street shows habitation in the ninth century. This seems to occur at a time when the city walls were being rebuilt because of fears of attack. It seems a strange development at such a time, but shows that Weeke was already seeing urban development. The parish could be divided, at this time, into two parts, the typical agricultural village and the Winchester urban sprawl.

By the time of the doomsday book in 1086 the seven mile circle of lands had been divided into several vast hundreds. These were listed in the doomsday book 'for the supplies of the Monks of Winchester'. The hundred of Falmer can be approximated to the subsequent parishes of Littleton, Weeke, Sparsholt, Hursley, Compton, Milland, Winnal, Easton, Chilcomb and Morestead around the city of Winchester. The record in the doomsday book for Falmer has been translated as follows:-

‘In ‘FALMER’ Hundred Bishop Wakelin hold CHILCOMB.
Before 1066 and now it answered for 1 hide. Land for 68 ploughs. In lordship 12 ploughs;
30 villagers and 115 smallholders with 57 ploughs. 9 churches; 20 slaves; 4 mills at £4; meadow, 40 acres; from grazing 23s 5d; woodland, 30 pigs from pasture.
Of this hide William holds for 3 ploughs; Manno held it.
Chipping holds land for 1 plough; he held it himself.
Walter holds land for 1 plough; Alfhere held it.
Hugh Mason holds land for 2 ploughs; Gerard held it.
Thurstan Red holds land for 1 plough; Aelmer held it.
Osbern holds land for 1 plough; Godwin held it.
Thurstan Small holds 30 acres; Alfheah held it.
The holders of these land before 1066 could not withdraw with their land to another lord; the present holders have in lordship 7 ploughs; 7 villagers and 30 smallholders with 2 ploughs.11 slaves; meadow, 4 acres.
Value of the whole manor before 1066 £73 10s; later the same; now, what the monks hold £80, what the men hold £24.
6 hides were attached to this manor before 1066 which Ralph of Mortimer now holds, but he does no service to the Church’.

(This extract is by kind permission of Phillmore, Chichester) (Morris, 1982)
(a hide is a unit of land thought to be about 120 acres)

The record shows 9 churches but does not divide the hundred up into the individual elements in a way that we can determine which part applied to Weeke. It is likely that at least one of the churches was in Weeke.

The Victoria County History (VCH) (URL 4) states that part of the church of St Matthew in Weeke probably was built in the late twelfth century. There were two main churches in Weeke that are recorded St Anastastius and St Mary in (of) the Valley. St Anastastius, according to Keene (Keene, 1985), was first mentioned in clergy documentation in Winchester in the twelfth century. This could be one of the churches mentioned in the Doomesday book. St Mary in the Valley was first found by Keene in 1238. St Matthews was a chapel of ease to St Mary in the Valley.

Weeke has always been so connected to the city of Winchester that its success has always been totally dependent on the success of Winchester. Hoskins (Hoskins, 1984 App 1) has produced a ranking of provincial towns in England, based on available tax records. In this list Winchester may have been still growing, but compared to other provisional towns, it was in decline through out the period Hoskins was considering. In the list for 1334 Winchester was 17th in the ranking, in 1377 it was 29th and in 1523-7, 1662, 1801 and 1861 Winchester was not in the top 42 provincial towns.

The city and Weeke grew as the population expanded through the thirteenth and first half of the fourteenth centuries. In 1348 the first wave of the Black Death hit Hampshire as it arrived from Asia via Europe.

The population had grown to the point that some historians have thought that the population was greater than could be supported by the agricultural technology being used at the time. Their view is that the population was unstable and was ripe for a major adjustment. The Black Death was therefore this adjustment. This is not generally held as a reasonable view and that the arrival of the Black Death in itself was the devastating event (James, 1999). The high population was probably a factor in the transmission of the disease since the close proximity of people lead to easy transmission.

The Black Death comes in two forms. Bubonic plague results in swellings in the lymphatic system, in the groin, the armpits and the neck. This version thrives in the summer months and is transmitted through rat fleas. The second version is pneumonic plague which infects the respiratory system and is transmitted by coughing, kissing or sneezing etc. This form is transmitted in winter months and is not dependent on the rat flea. A third form is septicaemic which is based on bubonic plague but the infection develops rapidly in the blood stream and can cause death in hours. Generally the plague when it first arrived was called ‘the pestilence’.To separate it from the Great plague in London in 1665 we now call it the Black Death.(James, 1999)

The Black Death arrived in the summer of 1348 probably through one of the south coast ports. As James (James, 1999) states this suggests it arrived in the bubonic form. It was virulent through the winter months as the pneumonic form, but some reports suggest that the septicaemic form was also active. The effect was devastating estimates suggest that over half of the rural community died in this first wave and even more in urban areas such as Winchester. This affected every aspect of life and the clergy were hit just as much as the lay people. Not only were there problems providing rectors for every church there was also far too many churches for the people left. In Winchester there were 55 ordinary churches before the Black Death struck and although it took considerable time to impact by 1450 there were only 31 (Keene, 1986 Table 1). The Black Death was not a single event it returned in 1361, 1369, 1374 creating further decline. In fact every time the population began to recover a further wave of the disease hit. This continued until the Great Plague in 1665. By 1670 the disease had disappeared from Britain. The population of Winchester did not return to the pre Black Death level until 1841.

The dramatic reduction in the population led to many economic effects. Land prices went down and labour wages rose as far fewer labourers were available. The effect on Weeke completely disabled the urban development and probably returned the parish to its rural past. Much of Weeke was very much down land that was only fit for sheep rearing and so the population was largely constrained. One of the down areas was called Teg Down based on the word 'teg' which is an immature sheep (ie older than a lamb but less than 2 years old). In fact in 1801 the population of Weeke parish was only 65 indicating that it was still only a rural community.

In the sixteenth century the Weeke parish was held by the prior and convent at Winchester as part of the manor of Barton. In the inventory of the prior the rents of Sparsholt, Weeke and Fulfood (Fulflood was always part of Weeke parish) were £32 19s 6d while the fine, tallages and perquisites of court were 20s. There was also a special rent of 33s 4d called ‘Downe Silver’ from Weeke. In 1541 in the dissolution of the church these lands were granted to the dean and chapter of Winchester (URL4).

The boundary of the parish probably followed the line of the City wall between West Gate and North Gate. This was a line that ran parallel to modern Sussex Street then ran at right angles at the modern junction of Jewry Street and City Road. Over time the wall was left to disintegrate and its stones probably removed for new building projects in the city. New buildings were built and roads laid that crossed the wall line leading to the Weeke boundary becoming less clear and some land became part of St Thomas, one of the city parishes. In 1755 (Carpenter Turner, 1992 p113) the paving Commission in the city considered the North Gate to be so decayed and unsafe that it should be pulled down (North Gate was close to the modern cross road between Hyde Street, Jewry Street, North Walls and City Road). This started the removed of the final remnant of the line of the wall over the following 50 years.

The long term effect of the Black Death saw the closure of the two main churches (St Anastastius and St Mary in the Valley) and in 1492 the Chapel of ease St Matthews became the main church. Although only a small church it was adequate and well positioned to support the mainly rural community which in 1801 was only a population of 65. In 1492 the church was renovated and one of the main benefactors was William Complin who is commemorated in the church by a statue to St Christopher and an inscription (church).

The Complin family remained senior members of the Weeke community through out the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries (Baigent, 1865). After the Civil War the family no longer plays a key role in the life of Weeke. Complin family members had moved during this period and established themselves in other places. The male line eventually died out and was replaced by the Godwin family in about the 1640s. They had the most hearths in the tax of 1665. The Godwin family were prominent members of the Weeke community until the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is not clear but in the 1820s William Burnett, who had been a successful businessman in Winchester became the major land holder. The Manor House is thought to have been built in the eighteenth century (Hampshire Treasures), possibly on the site of an earlier house used by the Godwin family and it seems likely that the house was built by the Godwin family.

The last Godwin was Elizabeth Long who married the Reverend Hollis and most of the estate was purchased by a Winchester business man William Burnett who was followed by his daughter and her husband Thomas Hitchcock, a doctor. The next owner was their son Col Thomas Burnett Hitchcock who died in 1908. Various tenants lived in the House until the second world war when the house was requisitioned and housed evacuees from Portsmouth. After the war it was taken over by the Red Cross as their local headquarters and museum. In recent years (2003) the Red Cross sold the site and have moved to a unit on an industrial site in Winchester. The house has been converted into three dwellings and housing built in the grounds.

The last one hundred and seventy years has been a period of great change for Weeke and defined the future development of the parish. In 1837 the New Winchester Union Workhouse was opened on land within the parish on Oram’s Arbour. This must have been a dramatic change for the local population. Within three more years the Railway line from London to Southampton was routed through the parish. This was to have a major impact on Winchester and Weeke parish in particular. In a way it changed the boundaries of the parish. In the same way that modern motorways have defined the limits of towns and cities so the railway defined the limits for the city of Winchester. Beyond the railway could from then on be considered suburbs. This resulted in that part of Weeke on the city side of the railway ie Sussex Street, Gladstone street, Newburgh Street etc were developed to their full capacity as part of the city. The railway lead to a new population expansion often involving railway workers who needed housing and the natural place for this was in the land of Weeke parish. The railway had a significant effect on the growth of Winchester which could easily be reached by day trippers from London. People could easily move to the area from other parts of certainly southern England.

In 1860s the Winchester Rifles Regiment were looking for an area not too far from their base in Winchester for a rifle range for their troops to practice. They approached the Dean and Chapter about using Teg Down. This was agreed and from 1860s to 1897 it was used as a rifle range. When it was abandoned for this purpose this area became the Royal Winchester Golf Club, which continues to flourish to the present day.

The boundary of Winchester through Weeke parish had been defined to be up to the Ditch which crossed Oram’s Arbour and was probably part of the early Iron age earth works. In 1802 the city borough was extended to a line from the Cock Lane Turnpike gate (near the modern Hilliers Garden Centre) up to the location of the modern Roebuck Inn and then across to the modern Jolly Farmer public house before leaving the parish. This was extended in 1902 (HRO W/C1/5/574) to a line from Sarum Road (near to Teg Down Farm) across to the modern junction of Stockbridge Road and Chilbolton Avenue then along a line parallel to Bereweeke Avenue. The final extension took place in 1932 (HRO W/A8/15) when the whole of Weeke parish came into the Winchester borough boundary.

Although the majority of Weeke had been a rural parish it has been overtaken by urban development of Winchester. The development took place over a period from the 1850s to the 1970s as large parts of the parish became built over.

The first period of urban development was up to the first World War when Fulflood saw most of the development with the establishment of Peter Symmonds school and Winchester High School for girls. The Tennis club on Bereweeke Road was established in 1906 (Mussell, 1994). Col Thomas Burnett Hitchcock started the lay out of Chilbolton Avenue and Bereweeke Road just before the end of the nineteenth century. During this period housing further out beyond the Roebuck Inn and Jolly Farmer was based on larger single houses.

After the first world war the expansion continued up the hill with more infill and closer to the second World War Bereweeke Avenue was established and individual house development continued.

The final expansion into a fully urbanised area did not happen until after the second world war when the large estates were built. These were the Weeke Manor Estate, Teg Down Meads Estate and Harestock Estate during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Since then development has been very much in fill and slowly many of the larger houses have been converted into multi occupation or the houses have been replaced by new building often flats.

Version 1.0 last update 11/12/07

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