Tucked away in the north west corner of Hampshire, East Woodhay is rich in history.
On this page we offer some interesting extracts from a book about the Parish of East Woodhay. If you are interested in finding out more please contact Su Elsden for a copy of the book, cost £8.
Thank you for permission to use some edited extracts from the book for this site.
The Parish of East Woodhay dabbles its feet in the clear water of the River Enborne and has its head in the air at Pilot Hill (286 metres), the highest point in Hampshire.
The geology of the area is complex with a number of clays in the low areas changing to chalk downland in the south. The landscape is dominated by woodland and hedges and fields large and small. A number of small streams drain the land eventually into the Thames. The area is dotted with small hamlets which have gradually expanded over the years. A sprinkling of thatched cottages has survived down through the ages.
The economy of the area relied on agriculture probably since Neolithic days up until the 1950’s when the great estates of Stargrove, Hollington, Hazelby, Malverleys, Woolton House, Tile Barn and Hayes were split up.
Woolton Hill took on a more suburban appearance with large housing developments during the second half of the 20th Century, changing the character of the area forever. The south and west of the parish retains the rural landscape that hopefully will last another thousand years.
The earliest evidence we have of people living in the area goes back to somewhere between 10000 and 4000 BC. The Hampshire Sites and Monuments Record details a Mesolithic site around Abbey Wells and flint tools from the same period have also been found around Woolton House and in Ball Hill.
Evidence of Neolithic occupation of this area has been unearthed around Stargrove where a stone axe was found in 1939.
THE ROMAN PERIOD
There would appear to have been Roman occupation in the parish, around Abbey Wells, where Roman pottery, and coins bearing the head of Emperor Divo Claudius (268 – 270 AD), have been discovered. Coins from a later period, 350 AD, were unearthed in the garden of the Coopers Arms (now, Coopers Cottage in Trade Street) which suggests long term occupation of the area.
The Saxons left no evidence of their occupation but some of our boundaries were set at that time and have remained into modern times. Our northern boundary was set, at the River Enborne, in Saxon times and a Saxon charter given to Highclere by King Cuthred in 749 fixed our eastern boundary, Honey Way, which is Highclere’s western boundary, along the present Andover road. This remained until the Boundary Commission realigned the boundaries in the 1980s.
East Woodhay is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, the document produced in 1086 by the new Norman occupiers. Possibly it was part of Ashmansworth which was given to the Bishop of Winchester by the King.
We come then to the Medieval period. A church has stood on the site of the present St. Martin’s since at least the 12th Century. The Hospital of St. Cross at Winchester by its charter of foundation in 1132 acquired an interest in the church, which had to pay an annual pension of 400 shillings. This sum was paid as late as 1535.
In the first half of the 13th Century the Bishop of Winchester was active in the assarting or enclosure of land. Assarting means to clear waste or forest and cultivate the land. The population at Burghclere, Highclere and above all Woodhay increased considerably.
We have another possible medieval site in a field to the west of Park Lane at Heath End. Local legend has it that this was the Bishop’s Palace. Archaeological surveys have not revealed the true purpose of the site. There were extensive buildings and a road that runs through the centre.
The farming in the manor of Woodhay was almost entirely arable. There were no cows kept on the Bishop’s land at Woodhay. The area around Woodhay and the Cleres was also part of a vast royal hunting forest. Woodhay was in Digerley, which was part of Chute Forest.
The Bishop at an early period granted the greater part of the estate to various tenants retaining only a small portion for his direct use. In 1428 Thomas Byfleete, John Herries, John Sterregrave, Edmund Lynche, Nicholas Jurdan and John Att Sele each held a separate part of the parish. Perhaps Stargroves is a derivative of Sterregrave, and Zell House once Sele.
We know nothing of how other great events of the Medieval period affected our parish such as the abandonment of the site we call the Bishop’s Palace at Heath End.
To read more please contact Su Elsden for a copy of the book, cost £8.
Providing some historical information of a much later sort, Graham Heald has undertaken some research into the history of the Parish in WW1, and his informative and interesting article can be found at the following link WW1-2014.