Saturday 22 February 2020
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Denmead's History

Denmead was never a clearly defined settlement such as Hambledon or East Meon but consisted of a number of scattered farms and cottages. Until 1880, when All Saints Church was built and the parish formed, Denmead was a tithing and as such, part of the Manor of Hambledon. Therefore all written records before that date are to be found under Hambledon. 

Aspects of Prehistory

In prehistoric times the area now known as Denmead was covered with woodland and heath, and formed part of an extensive wooded area later to be called the Forest of Bere, which stretched from the Meon valley, in the west, to Havant, in the east. Over the centuries the forest has gradually been cleared for cultivation, firstly the chalk soils in the north and later the heavier clay area in the south. Many of our hedgerow trees and copses are relics of this great forest, the last vestige of which can be seen in Creech wood. In 1995 Hampshire County Council designated the Forest of Bere as one of the two Hampshire Millennium Forests which are to be studied as part of a positive resource in a multi-purpose countryside. The earliest evidence of occupation is the three Bronze Age burial mounds at Great Ervilles. Originally there were four but unfortunately one was destroyed. We know that the influence of Imperial Rome was felt in our area as, apart from stray finds of a billhook and a small amount of Romano-British pottery, the debris of a Roman building has been exposed by ploughing, about half a mile north-west of Rookwood Farm. The remains include shards of pottery, roof tiles, roof slabs of Purbeck limestone, and box tiles.

The Norman Conquest and Medieval Influences

It is difficult to estimate how much of the Denmead area had been cleared and cultivated by the Norman Conquest. Certainly much was still wooded and later, as Royal Forest, was subject to the cruel forest laws of the Norman kings. However by 1199, a settlement pattern was emerging. The Manor of Hambledon had been established and granted by the King to the Bishop of Winchester. Although Lord of the Manor, the Bishop probably visited the area on rare occasions, his steward managing his affairs and demesne (possessed by the Lord of the Manor) farm, which was and still is, situated in the main street in Hambledon. With the Manor of Hambledon there were various free tenants holding sub-manors. The Manor of Denemede was one such holding. The name comes from the Old English words, 'denu', meaning hollow or valley, and 'mede', meaning meadow, and therefore means 'the meadow in the valley'. It is generally accepted that Rookwood Farm previously named Denmead Farm, dating from around 1200, was Denmead Manor Farm. The stone walls and blocked round headed door ways show that the earliest was an impressive stone house with an outside staircase, leading to an entrance at first floor level. In this type of building, known as a 'first floor house', the ground floor or undercroft was used for storage. It is known from written records that during the thirteenth and fouteenth centuries there was an important family here called 'de Denemede'. A Mathew de Denemede is mentioned as early as the 1220's. By the beginning of the fourteenth century the Manor of Denemede was held for Philip Wayte in whose family it remained until 1561. In that year, the last Wayte, William, died, leaving all his property in Denmead and elsewhere to be divided among his six daughters.

Cromwell and the Civil War

Recent evidence has shown that Denmead did not escape the traumas of the Civil War, a war that not only divided countrymen but also families. Elizabeth Wayte who had inherited Denmead Manor as part of her inheritance, married a Richard Norton of Rotherfield near Alton. One of his grandsons and two great grandsons were staunch Royalists and were imprisoned for their beliefs. By the 1630's, they had leased Denmead Manor Farm to Thomas Land. However, Richard Norton's other grandson, by his eldest son Daniel, was Col. Richard Norton of Southwick Park. He was a great friend of Cromwell and was leader of the renowned troop of Hambledon Boys which fought so many successful battles for the cause for Parliament. Thomas Land must have felt very uneasy as a tenant of a strong Royalist family, in an area where many of the inhabitants were followers of Cromwell. In 1647 Thomas Land was attempting to claim compensation for the numerous times he had provided shelter for troops of both armies.

Enclosures and the emergence of Cottagers

The 1647 Parliamentary survey of the Manor of Hambledon states that there were 28 copyholders (owners of the land recorded in the court of Manor), 15 of these having a cottage or 'messuage'. The only freeholders were William Wayte's descendants, holding Denmead Manor. Many timber-framed thatched cottages of the 17th century copyholders can still be seen although a number were 'modernised' during the 18th century by the addition of flint and brick frontages. The survey also describes the Common Forest land of 1200 acres to the south of the Manor, called 'Hambludon Chase', the northern boundary of which follows a line from Great Ervilles in the west to Anmore Dell in the east. Here 'the Lord had a keeper to look to the game' and copyholders had a right to graze cattle and pigs; to gather underwood for fencing purposes; to use earth, sand, chalk and large timbers to repair their cottages. As always it was difficult to control where people lived and the occurrence of encroachment and the random building of cottages and 'hovils' became an increasing problem. Cottages such as those along Forest Road and around Furzely Corner are dwellings that developed probably from forest encroachments. The Common Arable Fields and Meadows situated north of Anmore road to Harrowgate Lane, appear to have been enclosed into Crofts and Closes even earlier than the survey date. However the Common Sheep Pastures on Broadhalfpenny Down continued until the 19th century. It is these topographical features running from north to south, which caused Denmead's early settlement pattern and led to the remarkable winding, sunken lanes in the north of the present-day parish.

Prosperity and Agricultural Expansion

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries although Denmead continued to be an extension of Hambledon the area was obviously fairly prosperous. There remains a number of substantial houses of this period, most built of flint and brick. The White Hart, Firgrove, Mill House and Denmead Farm are good examples. This prosperity was based mainly on the production of wheat for near and distant markets. Two extraordinary, barn-sized granaries on staddle stones can be seen on farms to the north of the village and there is evidence of at least two malt-houses, both bearing witness to the importance of cereal growing in the past.
By the 19th century, Denmead was one of a number of hamlets; others included Barn Green, Worlds End, Anmore, Furzeley Corner and Pit Hill. As the century progressed most of the remaining areas of woodland and waste were brought under efficient cultivation, to produce food for the growing naval port of Portsmouth and elsewhere. In 1814 the Common Forest land was enclosed and new roads such as Soake Road, Mill Road, Mead End Road and Forest Road provided access to the new fields. In 1819 a windmill was built (demolished in 1922) on the newly enclosed Denmead Heath, on the west side of Mill Road.

Crafts and Trades in New Denmead

Several of the crafts and services needed by the flourishing agricultural communities were established at Barn Green which gradually became the focus for expanding settlements. In the Post Office Directory of 1867, a wheelwright, a threshing machine owner and a blacksmith are listed as living in Barn Green; there was also a 'James Restall Grocer and Draper of Barn Green and Waterloo'. The directory includes reference to Ashling House, an imposing flint mansion of Victorian Gothic style which stood south of the Green, in the area of Ashling Close. Its grounds are now the King George V Playing Field. The house was demolished in 1960 but the handsome flint wall along the Southwick Road, near the Green. marks the northern edge of the grounds.