River Hamble


We’ve had a couple of lovely autumn mornings this week, so I stopped off  beside the River Hamble at Lower Swanwick today. O.K. although the south of the county is out of my usual remit, its on my commute to work, and I wanted to share it with you.

This part of the Hamble, upstream is pretty unspoilt. Like other Hampshire rivers, there is a strong connection to boat building.
In a historical context, the close proximity of woodland helped contribute to the Navy’s fleet for many years. One of Henry V’s mighty ship’s The Grace Dieu, has lied submerged upstream since 1439!



From Paper Mill, to Palace of Gin

Bombay Sapphire, Laverstoke Hampshire © Nigel Smith

Last weekend I was taken on a surprise visit to Bombay Sapphire‘s distillery and visitor centre, in Laverstoke, Hampshire. It’s quite near to us, and had heard good reviews. I’d even dropped some friends off there for a tour – but we hadn’t been ourselves. Maybe not knowing much about ‘Gin’ had delayed our reason to visit…

On the first day of Autumn, we enjoyed a sunny afternoon there looking around the site, learning about Gin and at the end of the tour sampling a glass by the River Test. I also got a chance to look round the buildings, with their own important history that is thankfully acknowledged. This was the site of the Portal’s Paper Mill which supplied paper for the Bank of England’s notes, (till production was moved to the newer site at Overton).

I have written in more depth about the nationally important history that Paper Making and the River Test shared in an earlier blog, so to finally visit one of the sites was a bonus!

© Nigel Smith

As you get ready to start the tour, there is a good exhibition highlighting it’s previous use and national importance as print factory, with some fine examples and photos. Lets face it most people aren’t there for that, but it communicates well and is hard to ignore.

Now, the setting works and creates an authentic location for it’s new tenants, as we continued our tour, I was equally pleased to see some of the period features restored from the time of the print works.

© Nigel Smith

The River Test, being regarded one of the finest chalk rivers in the UK, served the purposes of providing clean water with few impurites in the paper making process. Bombay Sapphire literally tap into it’s quality with their ethos, and process of gin making. The designer Thomas Heatherwick’s installed glasshouses use the location to good effect.

Laverstoke Mill on the River Test © Nigel Smith

when you first see them, the glasshouses are impressive, with their form and function. But I equally loved the link between the original building and how they seem to ‘reach out’ of it’s past.

A connection © Nigel Smith

So we enjoyed a great afternoon there. For me as well as sampling the gin, I got a good sense of sampling the premises previous life!

The staff were helpful in guiding us round, and were knowledgeable about the now (and then). I’d gladly suggest this as a fun activity for adults anytime of the year, (with transport links available).  Without wanting to introduce a tacky gift shop, I think whats there in the way of items could have had more in the way of substance… Is there a local book available on the history on the Mill, and more detail on the project to convert the site?

Whilst you are here…

With The Manydown Cafe Bus on hand, between drinks, maybe allow for a 30 minute stroll?  From the picturesque examples of mill workers cottages opposite, follow the Test to Freefolk and you will also sample the beauty of the River setting and local archictecture of thatch and flint, and gems such as 13th Century St. Nicholas Church and its contents. Its really close by…

St. Nicholas Church, Freefolk, Hampshire © Michael Ford



Popping back to Popham

Site of Popham’s Church © Nigel Smith

Breaking News… I have revisited the hidden cemetery and site of St. Catherine’s Church in Popham, Hampshire.  And, yes… I’ve finally seen a photo of what the ‘new’ church looked like! After more research I’ve also been able to locate the site of where the original Chapel was, so I feel I’m slowly piecing it together…

My earlier blog  was about the hamlet of Popham’s victorian chapel, and cemetery, (which still survives next to the A33). I also found there was an earlier chapel connected with the Popham family that was originally located nearer their manor. Old Ordnance Survey Maps showed the ‘newer’ chapel’s location, but I had to speculate on the location on the site of the former.


The ‘New’ Chapel

First things first – Hurrah! I now know what St. Catherines / Katherines Church looked like. Thanks to Hampshire Record Office, the photos were taken by a Terry Hunt on glass plates around 1915. I’ve been trying to visualize what it was like for ages, so to see an image of the church was amazing. I wasn’t dissapointed. Although small, the building looks grander than I imagined. The church was in exisitence for just 70 years. The reasons for its final demise were its struggle for existence in a sparse parish. And when the foundations were damaged by a nearby German raid in 1944, the cost of repairs were the final straw. Demolition started in 1946.

c1915 and Now…

Lets look as close to the Locations Terry Hunt’s photos were taken.

From the A33 Winchester Road, the original flint wall was strengthened, as it butts
up the modern A33 road ©Googlemaps

If it were possible to stand on the M3 southbound, you could still just make out the surving wall. The M3 was dug out so is lower now than when the
original photo was taken. ©Googlemaps

The oiginal wall looking to where the church was.

I don’t know who has ultimate responsbility for the cemetery, but in this year as we mark the centenery of WW1 ending, I hope the War Graves Commission will come and do a clean up… Over the year, the brambles have really covered most graves up. I took the below picture back in spring but my trip yesterday it was hard to see anything!

Facing the A33 direction, the church would have filled the middle plot

Before we look at the old chapel, its worth reminding the major changes that have taken place to the landscape. My previous blog has more maps to compare, but the The M3 cuts through Popham manor and its path to the church, but thankfully because of the war graves, the site was preserved.

© National Library of Scotland Archives

I’d like to know about this road below which is slowly being taken back by moss and bramble. Was a road put in to serve the chapel? If so, its life would have been shortlived, or might it have been a slip road for the motorway from Popham nearby? When looking at maps from the 1970’s a link road to the then new motorway’s terminus seems more likely. This too was surpassed by the M3 extension, which made this redundant. Thats the thing about this place, nothing seems to stay the same for long!

The mysterious road to the chapel…


The Old Chapel

I have since found an earlier map of Popham, which shows clearly the site of the old chapel on the other side of the estate to where I imagined!


1876 OS
© 1876 O.S. Map of Popham

The Chapel was between the Popham Court and the farm. Alas there is no access to Popham Court, but this new evidence at least gave me more a chance seeing the site from viewpoints around, I can get to. The house and what was the farm buidligs are still there.

Popham Court © Google Maps

I did a trip out to Popham in June. The first viewpoint I got to looks back on the line of trees, The house is to the right, but wasn’t visable through the trees.


So I walked on, by the pond and turning right I passed a pretty row of cottages. The footpath is going away from the court, but this was the closest I could get. You can see the chimneys of Popham Court, so the chapel would have been to left of this…


The one feature known to survive from the chapel was the font. In 1883 as the old chapel was closed, it was given to neighbouring St Michael’s in North Waltham. (Why it didn’t go into the new church isn’t recorded). There may have been a few features used and incorprated into the new church, but sadly with its own demise, nothing is know of them now.

The Font originally from the Old St Catherines

Incidently as a footnote, and a nice link for me, North Waltham’s old font then came to my Church, St. Mary’s Eastrop!

So I have found a photo of the St Catherines, the only one I know of. I now know where the old chapel was located, and I got to see a part of the old church preserved. Its helped fill a few gaps nicely. And yet…
(So far), it’s been hard to find much evidence from press sources relating to the closure of St Catherine’s. It therefore isn’t surprising that we have almost forgotten the existence of this place in 70 years. It was never a big church. Most of the history was lost with the old church’s closure and the new church never had the archictecural importance to save it. I’m grateful for a journalist and a local photographer who passed it, took time to record it!

The Other Stratton Park


It turns out there are 2 Stratton Parks just 6 miles apart… One is near Kempshott, the other is a much larger estate near the Stratton villages, which I have written about before. Different places, I was looking if there could be any connection between the two in the past.

As I have discovered through my previous blogs, The Baring family became major landowners in North Hampshire, and in the 1900’s the area of Kempshott was still a rural one.

Now a recreational ground,  Stratton Park has has plenty of its own history.  There has been evidence of occupation since the Bronze Age. A long barrow exists less than half a mile to the right,  and can be seen on maps. The land became primarily used for farming and also had part of Basingstoke’s own race course running through.

The park – a much needed open space © Photo  Nigel Smith


Stratton Park, north of Kempshott © Ordance Survey

The modern park owes its name to Sidney Stratton (1898 – 1966). Involved locally and a champion of amateur sports particularly football, he was an advocate of ‘sport for all’. The park was named in honour of him in the early 1970’s, when it was opened.

The history bit…

For centuries, There was a meeting of several tracks at a place that became known as Five Ways – the main route Pack Lane was part of the ancient Harrow Way. Another old route, the roman road that linked Winchester and Silchester passed nearby.  The area was farmed and one, Buckskin Farm was where there were a few clustered properties. And it’s still standing today!

The old Buckskin farm house – still standing © Nigel Smith
Old farmland towards Buckskin

Whilst the farms have gone and housing estates have taken their place, this large open space is enjoyed by the residents of Kempshott, Buckskin and South Ham.

For more about old farms in the area, read my article here.

Towards Buckskin, from the park © Nigel Smith

A History of Horse Racing

It may be a surprise to learn that Basingstoke had it’s own a race course. Racing was reguarly held on the downs near Kempshott, and from historic maps we can see where the site was marked, it run across what is now Stratton Park. With our modern take on horse racing, we think of the grandstands, the personel involved and the side show(s) that accompanies a race meeting. In times past there was less paraphernalia, but it was seen as important social event for the calendar and a popular past-time.

raceclose up

Racing is first recorded taking place at Basingstoke in 1687 in the London Gazette. Local landowners would have enjoyed participating, but riders nationally were also being encouraged to enter. By 1729, the course was marked out with posts, so it was being held on a regular basis, till around 1788.


After a gap of 23 years racing returned to Basingstoke in 1811, (and Jane Austen is said to have attended a 2 day meeting, with her family in 1813). Racing became a regular feature again, more often than not, and was last ‘revived’ in 1845. The final staged meeting in Basingstoke was recorded in 1850. By this time, the nearby Newbury course was growing in stature. A more relevant successor to Basingstoke would be nearby Hackwood Park, which today will still holds several events, although more of the  ‘Point to Point’ discipline. The fact the site of the race course was still being shown on maps 50 years later, shows the significance it brought to the area.

Even in the 1960’s the race site was being shown © Ordance Survey

These trees below on the southern edge of the park run alongside the racecourse, but they are much more recent addition! For more information on horse racing, see the excellent Kempshott History Group website with much recorded detail.


A growing Village

As Kempshott grew, a village hall was erected on a site adjacent to what was to become the park. (You can see in this photo the open farmland around). In 1968, The current hall replaced the one pictured below, and has been expanded several times since. Though not connected to Stratton Park, its location surely has been mutually beneficial for both!

Original Village Hall
The ‘second’ village hall © Kempshott History Group

It would be highly unusual for two separate estates, with the same owner to share the same name. But this particular landowner who had several estates in the North of Hampshire, could have feasibly had land in these parts.

Other than what I have read in research, I know nothing of Sidney Stratton, but the park is a fitting memory to a man who would not had the wealth of Lord Baring, yet has a sizable tract of land in honour of him!
Turns out it was just a nice coincidence, and I indirectly increased my knowledge about the race course!

Malshanger Biking Meander

Malshanger Park, Hampshire

A couple of Saturday’s ago gave us one of those glorious early summer evenings, ideal for a cycle. I didn’t go out with the intention of gathering ideas for a post, but the sights I came across, made me want to share my experience, and show you a bit of Northern Hampshire along the way…

As a cycle, I probably only covered 3 or 4 miles here, but you could easily add more miles to your route as North Hampshire has some great cycling country for all abilities and marked cycle routes on the maps. I guess it depends what you look for in a cycle… I sit firmly on the ‘enjoy it’ seat, more than an endurance boot camp, but you can find both around here with the North Wessex Downs.


The Cycle

I started (and finished), by Oakley Village pond. Should you need them, A pub, Coffee shop and village store 300 yards from here… There are some lovely cottages around the pond, and of more historic importance, is an example of a 18th
Century barn, which looks like its about to get some TLC.

Oakley Village Pond ©Nigel Smith

2) There was a time when ‘Church Oakley’ and ‘East Oakley’ were in effect 2 villages, clustered around their farms. From the pond, The lane is called Rectory Lane and there are many fine examples of old buildings too see. Opposite The church and old school, I turned right into Station Road. With some old ‘estate’ properties then fields, It still feels like a remote country lane that hasn’t seen much change.

3) After a slight assent, (well I thought so), you can see the old Oakley station on the left. The track is still a main line for trains between The South West and London, but Oakley station closed in 1963.

Cross with care the Andover Road (B3400), into Malshanger Lane. Its a tree lined avenue, and is worth a visit in all the seasons.

The term ‘Hangers‘ although not totally unique to Hampshire, are closely associated with the county’s landscape, especially in the east of the county, near Alton and Selborne. They refer to wooded slopes.

At this stage I wasn’t thinking ‘blog’ so I didn’t photograph! so here’s a fine example I saw  of ‘Malshanger Lane’ by A.J. Trickett


One I did snap was here to prove I was on a bike…

4) As the lane takes sharp turn to the left, There is a picturesque lodge on the corner by the gate into Malshanger Park. (This spot in itself is a good place to start a cycle and there is some off road parking). I wasn’t sure of the access on bike through the park, so I pushed the bike through the grounds.

© Nigel Smith

5) I never tire of visiting the grounds of Malshanger Park. Often you’ll see sheep grazing –  and they also have a herd of Alpacas…. There are some fine old trees throughout the park and n March and April there is a great display of daffodils. On this occasion, I was fortunate to see a couple of Dear in the trees and a Muntjac roaming. There are glimpses of the house, and there are several properties showing the using flint in their design, leading to the house, including a walled garden, and a tennis court.

6) A Manor at Malshanger was recorded in Doomsday. Though there is nothing left of the original buildings, we have a glimpse of its Tudor past with the octagonal tower that survives next to a later 18th Century house. It was the family home to William Warham (c. 1450 – 22 August 1532), who become an archbishop of Canterbury.  Part of  the house is currently used a retreat and conference centre.

The octagonal tower © Nigel Smith


© Nigel Smith

7) At the cross roads by the Bowls club, Turn left, and down a gradual slope. You soon see a cluster of beautiful flint decorated cottages around a triangle. You join Hook Lane. At some point I imagine would have been housing provided for estate workers. Now they just have some very fortunate residents! Follow the road left and at the T junction turn left into Summer Down Lane.

An estate cottage, Malshanger © Nigel Smith

8)  I cycled down Summer Down Lane. I find capturing the essence of this part of Hampshire can appear a bit flat in photos, when there is quite a lot of undulation in the landscape. This evening the light allowed far reaching views.

(9 At the next junction turn right and the road bends around to the left into Ivy Down Lane. It was along here I was close to part of the Wayfarers Walk.

Part of the Wayfarers Walk © Nigel Smith

10) Less than half a mile, and under a railway bridge, you arrive at the junction of Clarken Green. There is a pub (and Hotel) at the junction. Turn right here on to the B3400. Just take a bit of care care crossing there is a bend from the left direction, which obscures the view a bit.

11) Take the first first road on the left – its a triangle, and then its left at the junction. We are going back towards Oakley. Opposite is one of the Old Estate houses that was part was Oakley Hall. We’re back into Rectory Lane.

Old Lodge, Oakley © Nigel Smith
Fields along Rectory Lane © Nigel Smith

12) I took a little detour here to look at Oakley’s Church – St. Leonards.  If not, carry on along Rectory Lane for half a mile, back to the pond.

I walked through the lynch gate and behind the cemetery. (Just be considerate where to leave the bike – its perfectly safe, but it might be in someones way who maybe visiting the cemetery). Its a grade 2 listed medieval church, but altered and rebuilt in the 16th and 19th Centuries. I visited the church in an older blog when the weather was rather different! There is alot of open landscape behind the Church and is a popular spot for walkers and runners!

St Leonard’s Church, Oakley © Nigel Smith
St Leonards Church © Nigel Smith.

There you have it – As I said I’m more for stopping and taking in the landscapes, (and maybe resting), but there is a good amount of variety on this route.

A Holy Hinterland

Drivers on the A33, have you ever wondered what this is?

The M3 and A33 run close to each other for several miles to Winchester. In between these 2 roads are pockets of history hidden away, which could easily get forgotten about.

One such curiousity I pass on the A33, near Popham, and I have happened to find out a bit more what it is…

On first appearance it looks like a wall to a property, shielding the noise of the traffic, or maybe it is to do with the motorway.  Whilst I had been researching another idea for the blog at a nearby spot, using the phone maps, helped me pin it’s location…

The curious rectangle… © Google maps

There’s quite a lot that can be said about the A33 road layout here – (going back to when the M3 ended and merged into the A33, before 1985), but for now, I’m drawn towards the grass rectangle marked between the 2 roads. Its marked on current O.S. maps.


I can’t see any relation to the road or other properties. So my instict was to look at older maps of the same spot. (The National Library of Scotland has a brilliant resouce for peeling back the layers of time…)

So, going back in time we can see a symbol marked for a church on the spot.

O.S map from circa 1885

By the time we get to a post war O.S. map, its marked as a cemetery, but no church is marked by this stage – intresting…


But then below, on this 1950’s One-Inch map suggests there is a building, but no name…


I saw enough to make me want to go on foot and explore the site in a bit more detail. The layby by here, sadly seems a spot for fly-tipping. The track is surfaced, but slowly being covered by a creeping moss. I sense its a place of debauchery from time to time! The track is defined so it looks like I can go on. I have to be honest here and say that earlier in the day curiousity had got the better of me, so I had an idea of what I’m going to find, but its still exciting, if a bit creepy!

The track slowly turning to moss

So I’m glad its still daylight…  There are iron gates beneath forboding trees. It seems something out of a Hammer Horror film…

© Nigel Smith
The gates… © Nigel Smith
Popham Cemetery © Nigel Smith

So here it is.. Popham Cemetery. There are some ‘recent’ war graves from WW2 in here and scattered some other plots, but that’s only half the story. The maps tell there was a church here at some point, and I want to find out what happened to it…

looking inside Popham Cemetery © Nigel Smith

Looking back again over the maps… on the 1888 -1913 survey, at last I have a name for the church “St. Catherines”. We have the site, but with no evidence of building now. So what become of it?


St Catherine’s Church

I really want to see an old photo of what it looked like… I have been able to find several sources that tell me about St. Catherine’s, (or St Katherine’s Church, as older documents refer to it). I also got in touch with Church of England Record Centre in Southwark to see what information they held. It seemed they had similar accounts to what I had found, and parish records, but sadly no photographic evidence they knew of. Still, I have an invite to go up and see the originals, which I may well do!

The Church & The Popham connection

I’ve discovered The Popham family is linked to the fortunes of this church. The first mention of the Popham family can be traced back to the 13th Century to a Gilbert de Popham, (c1195 – 1251). It seems from a time after the Norman Conquest, his family came into possession of an estate tied with lands of Hyde Abbey near Winchester. The De Pophams became known as The Pophams, and their name was associated to the manor.

popham crests
The Popham coat of arms (centre) and examples in that can be found at Colyton, Devon & Wellington, Somerset

Already aspiring to law making and governace in Hampshire, Henry Popham (c. 1339 – 1417/18) was Sherif of Hampshire. Later branches of the Popham family began to hold other estates in Berkshire, Somerset and Devon. Some of these decendents were to become influential figures in British politics and courts, such as Sir John Popham (c. 1531-1607) the Lord chief Justice & Edward Popham (1610–1651).

One plausable naming of the church could be attributed to a Medieval interest there was in saints and pilgrimage. ‘The cult of St Catherine‘ gained popularity specially in Northern European countries during the 13th & 14 centuries, with a fascination of her life and Martyrdom. In fact, St. Catherine’s Hill, near Winchester was named after her, and was a popular place of pilgrimage – some 15 miles from Popham. There are other parallels from research I’ve carried out that suggest to me, The wider Popham Family held St. Catherine, (or Katherine) in high esteem. John Popham (c. 1395 – c. 1463), Treasurer to Henry VI, rebuilt St. Sepulchre Church, on Newgate Street, London around 1450, and the church had been know as ‘fraternity of St. Catherine‘. A later John Popham (1603-1637), was a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. St Catherine is it’s patron saint, and their chapel is named after her. Popham himself gave a large donation towards the installation of the screen. In fact the family crest was there, but the Chapel was remodelled again in the 1857. However, some of the glass work survives and can be seen.

(You can read more of The Pophams history in these articles here and  here.)
George Popham (1550–1608) left Somerset to establish a Colony that would bear his name in Maine, North America. (For more Interest in the Popham colony see here.)

An Older Church…

The M3 divides them now, but the Church and the Manor were once more accessable to each other, and from the documents I’ve seen say there was an older church. The original church is referenced in The National Gazetter (1868) as ‘ajoining the Earl of Popham’s Mansion’. The British History Online site says the old church ‘stood at the back of the manor farm’, saying very little survived and talks of the new church… 

Old maps seem to back this up. (Taylors – 1751, below), whilst not the most accurate representation, implies that a church was closer to the manor and the example clearly sets it away from the main road… Milnes map 40 years later, also shows a church ajoining a house, not by the road.

Taylors map 1751
Milnes map 1791

Having walked around Popham, The court has its wall around it (which looks easily several hundred years old), and does it’s job stopping any viewing so I’m none the wiser in suggesting the old church’s location…

I’ve really been hoping to find some evidence of the old church – something physical to make a connection, so you can imagine my delight in finding the font from the original church now resides in St. Micheal’s North Waltham! As its stands, this is the only surving artifact known of… (some tiles were mentioned as being used in the ‘new church’ but alas no more).

popfont richard Tanner
The15th Century font from St. Catherines © Richard Tanner

Its that Man again… A new church


This 1894 map clearly shows some detail  © Ordanance Survey

The O.S. maps I started with, (from late 19th Century onwards), show the church sited by the Winchester Road. It had a chancel and nave and a belfry for one bell. And its here a name pops up I’ve heard of before – by the 19th Century, Popham Court was in possession the of Lord Ashburton. It seems that by 1875 the old church in some state of disrepair, so Baring  financed the building of a new church. BHO describes it : “The church of St. Catharine is a building of flint with stone dressings, erected in 1879, in a modern Gothic style, at a cost of £2,500, defrayed by Lord Ashburton”. Like before, it may have also been a convienent reason to move the site away from his residence. I now know there are several other Churches rebuilt as projects by Lord Baring in villages ajoining his lands such as nearby Woodmancott. He certainly seemed happy to finance these projects.

A vicarage & final years

Site of the old vicarage in relation to church
Possibly the old gates?

The ‘new’ church was to survive less than 100 years. The main problem always for a church here was a small population it relied on. With its restraints it shared a vicarage with Woodmancott. Not easy to picture, again, the Motorway has cut through older lanes though I tried to join the pieces…

Whilst in the local library, still hoping to find a photo, I did find a couple of articles from the Basingstoke Gazette, written by local Journalist and historian Arthur Attwood. He speaks of passing the church on journeys he made, and he felt it ‘looked comparatively new.’ He also thinks the reason the church closed, was due to structural damage from nearby bombs dropped in World War 2, (maybe jettisoned after a raid?), but by around 1950, the church had been pulled down.

In 65 years or so, traces of a church have all but gone… The Cemetery is maintained, but closed and nature is taking over the roads. Its amazing how easily we loose our links to history. What was once connected to Popham Court may well have been more of architectural interest, whilst its replacement not in exisitance long enough to be historical value. But I’m still on that quest for that photo… and will add it here if I find one!