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John Keble's Parishes: A History of Hursley and Otterbourne By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 13139

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The rectorial tithe of Hursley having been given to St. Elizabeth's College, and apparently some rights over Merdon, the Chancellor Wriothesley obtained that, on the confiscation of monastic property, the manor should be granted to him. Stephen Gardiner had been bishop since 1531, a man who, though he had consented to the king's assumption of the royal supremacy, grieved over the fact as an error all his life. He appeared at the bar of the House of Commons and pleaded the rights of his See, to which Merdon had belonged for 1300 years. It was probably in consequence of his pleading that Wriothesley restored the manor, but when Gardiner was illegally deposed by the regency of Edward VI. on 14th February 1550, John Poynet, a considerable scholar, but a man of disgraceful life, obtained the appointment to the see, by alienating various estates to the Seymour family, and Merdon was resumed by the Crown. It was then granted to Sir Philip Hobby who had been one of King Henry's privy councillors, and had been sent on an embassy to Portugal, attended by ten gentlemen of his own retinue, wearing velvet coats with chains of gold.

Already had come to the hamlet of Slackstead in Hursley Parish another reformer, Thomas Sternhold, who had been gentleman of the bed-chamber to Henry VIII., and had put thirty-seven Psalms into English verse, in hopes of improving the morals of the Court. John Hopkins and Robert Wisdom completed the translation of the Psalms, which Fuller in his history says was at first derided and scoffed at as piety rather than poetry, adding that the good gentleman had drunk more of Jordan than of Helicon. In his Worthies, however, he says: "He was afterwards (saith my author) ab intimo cubiculo to King Edward the Sixth; though I am not satisfied whether thereby he meant gentleman of his privy chamber or groom of his bed-chamber. He was a principal instrument of translating the Psalms into English metre; the first twenty-six (and seven-and-thirty in all) [28] being by him performed. Yet had he other assistance in that work. Many a bitter scoff hath since been passed on their endeavours by some wits, which might have been better employed. Some have miscalled these their translations Geneva gigs (i.e. jigs); and which is the worst, father (or mother rather) the expression on our virgin queen, as falsely as other things have been charged upon her. Some have not sticked to say 'that David hath been as much persecuted by bungling translators as by Saul himself.' Some have made libellous verses in abuse of them, and no wonder if songs were made on the translators of the Psalms, seeing drunkards made them on David the author thereof.

"But let these translations be beheld by impartial eyes, and they will be allowed to go in equipage with the best poems in that age. However, it were to be wished that some bald rhymes therein were bettered; till which time, such as sing them must endeavour to amend them by singing them with understanding heads and gracious hearts, whereby that which is bad metre on earth will be made good music in heaven. As for our Thomas Sternhold, it was happy for him that he died before his good master, anno 1549, in the month of August; so probably preventing much persecution which had happened unto him if surviving in the reign of Queen Mary."

Such was Fuller's judgment and that of the author he quotes, nevertheless the version of the Psalms, being printed with the Prayer-Book, took such a strong hold of the nation that in 1798 Hannah More was accused of dissent, because the version of Tate and Brady was used in her schools. Mr. Keble preferred it to this latter as more like the Hebrew, and some of his versions (curiously enough proceeding from the same parish) remind us of these simple old translators. The Old Hundredth, and in some degree the 23rd and the opening of the 18th, still hold their place, probably in virtue of the music to which they are wedded.

Bishop Gardiner recovered the Manor of Merdon, with his liberty, on Queen Mary's accession. Then it was that Philip of Spain rode through one of these villages, probably Otterbourne, soaked through with rain, on his way to his ill-starred marriage with Mary.

Gardiner was no persecutor, and Sternhold's widow lived on at Slackstede. On his death, Queen Mary gave the diocese to John White, the same who preached to Elizabeth on a living dog being better than a dead lion.

Hobby then claimed the manor, but Bishop White made a strenuous resistance, appealing to Gardiner's former plea, and supported by the Attorney General Story, who is said to have been an enemy of Sir Philip Hobby. The case was argued in the House of Lords, and given against the bishop, though under the protest of several of the Lords Spiritual, who dreaded the like treatment.

Story was prosecuted by the Commons for pleading before the Lords, fled to the Netherlands and was trepanned on board an English ship, and put to death as a traitor.

Bishop White was deprived the next year, and retired to his sister's house at South Warnborough, where he died. Queen Elizabeth is said to have visited him.

Merdon was thus in 1558 for ever alienated from the diocese of Winchester. Sir Philip Hobby is said to have first built the Lodge, as it was called, of Hursley Park, about a quarter of a mile from Merdon Castle, which had become ruinous. Those were the days when the massive walls and minute comfortless chambers were deserted, defence being less thought of than convenience in our happy country; and indeed Sir Philip seems to have used Hursley as a residence instead of only a shelter on a tour. He died at Bisham aged 53, on the 31st of May 1558, soon after his victory over the See of Winchester, and is there buried, as well as his elder brother, Sir Thomas. He left no children, and was succeeded by his brother William, who had married the widow of Sternhold. On her death the following memorial was erected over a stone bearing the coat, "On a chevron embattled, between three griffins' heads erased, three roses; and on a brass the inscription:

If ever chaste or honest godly lyfe

Myght merit prayse . of everlastyng fame

Forget not then . that worthy Sternhold's wife

Our Hobbie's make . Anne Horswell cald by name

From whome alas . to sone for hers here left

Hath God her Soule . deth her lyfe byreft,

Anno 1559."

His property at Hursley descended to his son Giles Hobby, Esq., who, it appears clearly by the register and other records, was living in the parish very early in the seventeen

th century. His last wife was Ann, the daughter of Sir Thomas Clarke, Knight of Avyngton [32] in Berkshire, to whom he sold the castle and manor of Merdon, reserving, however to himself and wife, a life-holding in the lodge and park. When this sale was made does not appear, but it is supposed to have been before the year 1602, as Sir Thomas was then living at Merdon, and his son married in that year at Hursley. Giles Hobby died in the year 1626, and his wife in 1630. They were both buried at Hursley, probably in the church, but no monument appears to have been erected to their memory.

"Sir Thomas Clarke may be considered as the next lord of Merdon, though he was never in possession of either the lodge or the park, and held only for a few years what he did possess. So long, however, as he continued proprietor of the manor, it is said that he lived at Merdon, I suppose at the castle, a part of which was probably then standing and habitable. Sir Thomas, it would seem, kept the demesne lands in his own occupation, requiring the tenants or copyholders of the manor, according to ancient usage, to perform the customary service of reaping and housing his crops: (1) The days employed in this service were called Haydobyn days; (2) and during their continuance the lord was obliged to provide breakfast and dinner for the workmen. Richard Morley, in his Manuscript, gives a very curious account of a quarrel which occurred on one of these occasions. 'Another time' (says he) 'upon a haydobyn-day (320 or 340 reapers) the cart brought a-field for them a hogs-head of porridge, which stunk and had worms swimming in it. The reapers refused to work without better provisions. Mr. Coram of Cranbury would not suffer them to work. Mr. Pye, Sir Thomas Clarke's steward, and Coram drew their daggers, and rode at each other through the wheat. At last Lady Clarke promised to dress for them two or three hogs of bacon: twenty nobles' work lost.' He adds, that 'a heire (hire) went for a man on the haydobyn-days, if able to carry a hooke a-field.'"

This "haydobyn" is supposed by Mr. Marsh to be a corruption of the old word "haydogtime," [34] a word signifying a country dance. It seems that when the tenants were called on to perform work in hedging, reaping, or hay-making, upon the lands of the lord of the manor, in lieu of money rent he was bound to feed them through the day, and generally to conclude with a merry-making. So, no doubt, it had been in the good old days of the bishops and the much loved and lamented John Bowland; but harder times had come with Sir Thomas Clarke, when it required the interference of Mr. Coram of Cranbury to secure them even an eatable meal. No doubt such stout English resistance saved the days of compulsory labour from becoming a burden intolerable as in France.

Roger Coram, gent., rented Cranbury at £17: 2s. Cranbury is a low wooded hill, then part of the manor of Merdon, nearly two miles to the south-east of Hursley, and in that parish, though nearer to Otterbourne. Several tenements seem to have been there, those in the valley being called Long Moor and Pot Kiln. Shoveller is the first name connected with Cranbury, but Mr. Roger Coram, the champion of the haymakers, held it till his death, when it passed to Sir Edward Richards.

On the other hand, Brambridge, which stands in Twyford parish, but held part of the hundred of Boyatt in Otterbourne, was in the hands of the Roman Catholic family of Welles, who seem to have had numerous retainers at Highbridge, Allbrook, and Boyatt. Swithun Welles made Brambridge a refuge for priests, and two or three masses were said in his house each day. One "Ben Beard," a spy, writes in 1584 that if certain priests were not at Brambridge they would probably be at Mr. Strange's at Mapledurham, where was a hollow place by the livery cupboard capable of containing two men.

Swithun Welles went later to London and took a house in Holborn, where Topcliffe the priest-catcher broke in on Father Genings saying mass, and both he and Mr. Welles were hanged together for what was adjudged in those days to be a treasonable offence, implying disaffection to the Queen. [36]

The modern house of Brambridge affords no priests' chambers. It is believed that an older one was burnt down, and there is a very dim report that a priest was drowned in a stone basin in a neighbouring wood.

The register of Twyford Church contains the record of a number of the Welles family buried in the churchyard clandestinely, by night. John Wells, mentioned in the Athen? Oxoniensis as an able man living at Deptford, retired to Brambridge, and died there in 1634. This accounts for there having been the Roman Catholic school at Twyford, whence Alexander Pope was expelled for some satirical verses on the master. The house is still known.

The vicars of Hursley at this period were John Hynton, presented by Bishop Gardiner, but deprived in on account of his tenets. Richard Fox was presented in his place by William Hobby. It must have been owing to the reforming zeal of this vicar of Hursley that the frescoes in Otterbourne Church were as far as possible effaced, white-washed over, and the Ten Commandments painted over them in old English lettering, part of which was still legible in 1839. Otterbourne was apparently still served by the vicar of Hursley or his assistant.

Parish Registers began at this date, and here are the remarkable occurrences recorded at Hursley:

Extraordinary Occurrences, Etc.

1582. A great hail storm happened at Hursley, Baddesley, and in the neighbourhood, this year. The hail-stones measured nine inches in circumference.

1604. The plague made its appearance at Anfield. It broke out in November, and continued till the following February. Many persons died of it, and were not brought to the church, but buried in the waste near their residence.

1610. A person of the name of Wooll hanged himself at Gosport, in the parish of Hursley, about this time. He was buried at the corner of Newland's Coppice, and a stake was driven through his body. (The place still bears the name of Newland's Coppice.)

1621. A planked thrashing-floor first laid down in the parish this year, viz. at Merdon. Chalk-floors used before. It was reckoned a memorable improvement.

1629. A great fall of snow in October. It was nearly half a foot deep, and remained on the ground three or four days.

1635. A copyholder was hanged for murder this year. His copyhold was seized by the lord as forfeited, but afterwards recovered, viz. in 1664.

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