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Ellisfield Village, Hampshire

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All text and images below came from the original Ellisfield Village website and were reformatted for display here.

It is generally accepted that Ellisfield Green, and anywhere on high ground or a well used through route (such as The Harrow Way Winter Route), is the earliest settled part of Ellisfield. On the other hand it has been suggested that the field part of the name refers to a field in the Ax Valley, where old field patterns have been found. A fascinating study could be made of this but we are here concerned with the village’s more modern development.

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“History is a continuous narrative of events in which the inhabitants of Ellisfield
today are writing the pages for future generations.”  
Marion Sims-Williams

THE PEOPLE

The Parker FamilyMrs PattendenThe census of 1881 shows 52 dwellings with a population of 137 adults and 104 children. (4.63 per dwelling). Of the adults, only 30 were born in the village.

This is probably because there were frequent changes of employer at Michaelmas with many families moving between villages. Thus the local names which have disappeared from one village often re-appear in another nearby.

Left: Thought to be the Parker Family at the turn of the century
Right: Mrs Pattenden, the Village Schoolmistress


There were 35 agricultural labourers, the youngest aged 14. If we include shepherds, woodmen, farmers, carters (horses) and land bailiffs, 69 people gained their living from the land. One working blacksmith was listed and since it is likely that a large proportion of his work would have been on farm horses this brings the total up to 70, or just over 1 in 2 of the adult population.

10 residents were employed in domestic work, 4 of these living in The Rectory (now Brocas).  This contrasts with the present day with many, often self-employed, cooks, nannies, gardeners, etc. on a part time rather than live in basis and some from outside the village. More married women now have paid employment, which enables them to employ others.

In 1881 country dwellers tended to be either rich or poor with far more of the latter and only one official wage earner, often on subsistence wages, though many women did casual seasonal labouring jobs in the fields or on the roads.

One William Franklin was listed as Parish Clerk as well as agricultural labourer. This being 5 years before Parish Councils came into being he would have been Clerk to the Vestry with a job description which included a requirement that he be able to ‘read write and if possible, sing a little!’. One of his duties may have been the collection of the rate levied on landowners for poor relief.

Bert Parker, Ern Frankham & Mitch FrankhamParker's SmithyEllisfield today has a larger population with more houses but the occupancy rate is lower, with 236 adults and about 70 children in 118 dwellings. (2.59 per dwelling). The residents gain their living in a wide variety of ways with many travelling to Basingstoke or London for this. Official occupational details are not available but an estimated 11 people either own or work the land or did so until retirement (1 in 21).

Among the myriad trades or professions represented are: bankers, accountants, engineers, solicitors, IT experts, chemists, builders, decorators and teachers. None of these is mentioned in the 1881 census.

With the lack of pensions few people were able to retire in 1881, whereas today we have approximately 40 such residents.

Pictures: (left) Ernest Frankham, Bert Parker and Mitchell Frankham and (right) Parker's Smithy

SETTLEMENTS

Early rural development tended to be grouped around farms. Coopers and Merritts Farms in Bell Lane, Snow’s Farm in Church Lane, Hill Farm and Northgate Farm in Green Lane and Bishop’s (College) Farm in College Lane with Berrydown Farm on the outskirts.

There are now seven houses described as something farm, but only three are working farms. With less dependence upon agriculture buildings began to appear on the southern slopes and in the Ax Valley where few or no buildings were before and many former farm buildings and cottages were converted for residential use.

The result is a village community made of up several discrete settlements, drawn together by the green ribbons of the lanes.

Ellisfield Green and Church Lane

Three of Ellisfield’s earlier working farms (Northgate, Snow’s and Hill) triangulate and join these two settlements, with only Hill Farm remaining as a working farm. In Church Lane, Snow’s Farm has for many years been known as The Old Manor, with its agricultural origins almost forgotten.

These two settlements share much of their history and are possibly the only two which can see each other from ground level. From the window of the Rectory sitting room, some of the houses on Ellisfield Green can be glimpsed and Hill Farm buildings are visible from the field opposite the church.

With the exception of the pub, all Ellisfield’s public buildings are and have been in this part of the village. The congregational church, for many years a well attended and thriving centre, was demolished and rebuilt as Fox Hill House in the 1960s.

All Saint’s Church (in a field which now forms part of the grounds of Brocas) is forgotten, except for the name Hallowed Litton on the map. This is the church described in the Domesday Book.

St. Martin’s Church, in Church Lane, was built in the latter part of the 13th century. For some years there were these two churches, until the Black Death caused the village population to fall to 9 and All Saint’s Church was closed.

St Martin's Church - WeathervaneSt. Martin’s Church was extensively restored in 1872 for the princely sum of £500. One of the church’s claims to fame is the weathervane (pictured left), which originated at Long Ditton Church.

This is reputed to be in the shape of a louse, though a more prosaic explanation has been offered that it is a pineapple on its side.

Most people prefer the former story and various versions of how it came about are told.


Church Cottage (the "Old Post Office")The Rectory, with all its comings and goings, would probably be described as a public building by its inhabitants! This was originally the house called Brocas at Ellisfield Green. In 1914, on a change of incumbents, the present house in Church Lane was built.

Next door to The Rectory is Church Cottage, another of the older houses which for a long time was the post office (pictured right), run in a very similar way to the one in Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford.

The Memorial Hall, built in 1920 to commemorate the fallen in World War 1, has seen many changes to its interior and structure over the years and remains the hub of village social life.

Most of the remaining dwellings started out as labourers’ accommodation and many have either been extended or, in the case of terraces, knocked into one modern house for private occupation. Very few remain rented or for agricultural workers.

Bell Lane

Ellisfield SmithyBell Lane was virtually a hamlet in its own right, with two working farms (Merritts and Coopers), a barrelmakers, an inn close by and several cottages.

The Inn (the Bell and Crown) was closed at the turn of the century and then demolished.  The present Bell House was built on the site, retaining the original cellars.

As the years went by, one by one, the remaining working buildings were converted to housing with only a couple of barns now left in commercial use.

Lower (and Upper) Common

The Fox InnUpper Common is the location of the Fox Inn (pictured right). There has been a public house hereabouts for hundreds of years.

At one time it was situated at Lower Farm, which is the oldest building in this area.

Land at Lower Common was awarded to the village in the Enclosure Acts in the 1850s, partly for recreational use (Lower Common, pictured right below, with Furzen (Fuzzy) Lane running from lower left to centre)) and partly for a school to be built.

Lower CommonWith the advent of Cliddesden School in 1870 this became unnecessary and after World War Two the land was sold to the Rural District Council to build houses for rent.

The development was called Cannon Close, after the late Judge Cannon. Park View had been built for just this purpose in the 1930’s but had proved inadequate to meet the demand, as has the more recent provision of Farrier’s Field.

Most individual houses here appeared haphazardly over the past 100 years. In many cases it is difficult to work out where the first houses were, since they are simply described as ‘behind the Fox Inn’ or ‘on the common!’.

It is known that a house has existed on the High Wood site since 1918 and that Mayfield and Fairholme were built in the 50’s and 60’s.

Most of the other present houses are either new in the past forty years or replace dwellings on the same site.

Ax Valley

Ax ValleyThe Ax Valley complex, taking in the lower ends of Green Lane and College Lane, is almost entirely modern. In 1881 there were perhaps two cottages in existence. Its development is due to the arrival of the Frankham family in around 1877, with land bought and houses built for growing family members.

As time went by plots were divided and homes built for the children. Thus at least four generations of the same family have grown up in this area as well as other parts of the village.

Some of the houses are still lived in by the children and grandchildren of the original developers. Most began as two or three bedroom bungalows, though few remain at that size.

Widmoor (Upper College Lane)

Ellisfield ManorThe built history of this area, for the past 100 or so years is bound up in Widmoor Place, originally a large Victorian house. Owned in the 1880’s by the Botry-Pigott family, it was sold to Henry Hoare, a banker, in 1905 and renamed Ellisfield Manor (pictured left).

The family lived here for 52 years, expanding the estate, including the purchase of Widmoor Farm (see picture, below left, of Mrs Dawson the farm manager’s wife with their children at Widmoor Farm around the turn of the century), three cottages which are now one house called Drumbeg, and building the two cottages between Widmoor Farm and Drumbeg.


Widmoor FarmA large staff was kept by the house bringing work to the village and much of its social life was centred there with regular celebrations and parties for the village folk. The pool of young male staff made a useful addition to the village football and cricket teams.

On the death of Mr Hoare in 1956, the estate was sold and the house and its remarkable garden remained unused, a prey to vandals.

It was demolished in 1982 and the present complex built on the site. Two new houses were built and various satellite buildings such as the stables converted. All this now forms part of what is still known as Ellisfield Manor on the map.

However, the last house to be so called was recently re-named Mulberry House. The remaining family link is Widmoor Farm, where Henry Hoare’s grandson Tim Guinness lives with his family.

The Small Settlements

Halfway down College Lane, College Farm is still a working farm. In the past 100 years it has known several owners. Its buildings are greatly expanded and the present owners, the de Ferranti family, work all the village farmland which is not retained by Portsmouth Estates.

College Lane PondOpposite the farm is a pond, with duckhouse (pictured right), maintained by the Piper family. In earlier days this was a magnet for farmworkers' children, causing their mothers much washing.

Crickwood and Berrydown Farm are the first houses in Ellisfield on its southern border, along Berrydown Lane or the Axford Road as it is often known.

There is another house on the opposite side of the road, in Preston Candover Parish, called Berrydown House, so it is to be supposed that this complex once formed an independent farmstead.

On the north eastern boundary of the village, Grammarsham House is the first house, just beside the border with Farleigh Wallop. This is still a farmworker's house for Portsmouth Estates.

THE PEOPLE SETTLEMENTS Ellisfield Green Bell Lane Lower Common Ax Valley Widmoor Small Settlements

ELLISFIELD’S HISTORY, PEOPLE & SETTLEMENTS