A look around Romsey

Stuarts Thorpe nature ramble In Timsbury, Lockerley and Ampfield


The summer still seems so very far away but it wont be too long before greyness turns to gold and colour is born once more. One of my favourite rambles lies just outside Lockerley by the side of a river where the suns tiny golden shafts strike through the trees. It is easy to see why. In the Timsbury area most mornings just after daybreak, it's possible to see herds of deer, sometimes numbering in excess of fifty plus. The photo below was taken just before 6.30am.


Deer at Timsbury, near Romsey

Deer at Timsbury, near Romsey


The River Dunn at Lockerley, near Romsey


Lockerley, near Romsey


Ampfield Church

Follow the main road from Romsey to Winchester and you will pass through the tiny village of Ampfield. The village is named after the spring that rises in the grounds of the church. It was first called "An-felde" , "an" being the Celtic word for a spring. Gods Port , an old pilgrims inn, once stood on the old Saxon road where Gosport Farm is now. The inn is said to have got its water from an ancient spring called "Washers Well". According to local legend a man was supposed to have hung himself here in 1610 and to stop his soul being taken by the devil a wooden stake was driven through his heart. Known locally as "the church in the wood" St Marks church lies in an idyllic setting and was consecrated in 1841. Sir William Heathcote of Hursley Park and Hursley's famous vicar of the time, the Revd John Keble, felt that there was a need for a church in the growing hamlet. Heathcote donated the land and provided funds for the cost of the building. The bricks that were used are an unusual blue-grey colour. The roof is comprised of Welsh slate. In the church grounds on the edge of the wood stands a memorial to five U.S airman who were killed when their Cessna Bobcat crashed in the woods in 1945 at the end of the war. They were returning from Normandy.


St Marks church Ampfield


Memorial to five U.S airman in the St Marks church grounds (See notes above photos)

West Tytherley Parish Church

Close to the Hampshire/Wiltshire border, seven miles northwest of Romsey is the charming village of West Tytherley. A mixture of both old and new dwellings set in a wooded countryside. The word Tytherley means 'young wood' and the forest surrounding it was probably young when the name was entered into the doomsday book as 'Tederleg'.
As far as I can establish a church was built here c1190 which was granted by the Bishop of York to the church of St Deny's and its cannons. This was demolished in 1831.
The present church was built in 1833 and is dedicated to St Peter. It has a marble font that was saved from the old church.
The churchyard has members of the Baring family amongst its more illustrious occupants and their family vault lies outside of the main entrance. The Barings lived at Norman Court which is now a school. Norman Court was purchased in 1906 by Wasington Singer, the son of Isaac Singer, famous for his domestic sewing machines.
The estate then stretched from Dean Hill to the A30 and from West of Bentley Wood to the Lockerley Hall estate and had over 400 villagers working on it.
When Washington Singer died suddenly in 1934 a lot of the land had to be sold off in order to pay the the enormous death duties. As a result many of the tenant farmers bought their own land.
For a short time Norman Court passed to Grant Singer but he was killed in 1942 at El Alamein


West Tytherley parish church


Churchyards Serenity

It seems to me that churchyards have a curious quality of being forbidding yet at the same time irresistible. One of the many attractions of churchyards is their peacefulness. Even when you come across one in the middle of a busy town, a momentary respite from the noisy traffic, the hustle and bustle of shops and the heat of a torrid day can surely be found. Many of them are likened to a fairy grotto where one is inclined to whisper instead of shout and there is always the cool shade of an old tree to be found. Charles Dickens described the typical nineteenth-centaury city churchyard in The Uncommercial traveller thus: 'The illegible tombstones are all lop-sided, the grave mounds lost their shape in the rains of a hundred years ago. the Lombardy Poplar or Plane-Tree that was once a dry-salter daughter and several common-councilmen, has withered like those worthies, and its departed leaves are dust beneath it. Contagion of slow ruin overhangs the place.' Of course ruin implies neglect, and it is the very air of neglect that gives churchyards their serenity Churchyards have defied the influence of so called 'progress', whatever that may be, and give themselves up for quiet reflection. It is estimated that the area of land used for burial purposes in England and Wales is approximately 25,000 acres. This includes cemeteries as well as churchyards. Nevertheless it is a startling statistic- nearly forty square miles of ground. In many cases it is probable that a churchyard is considerably older than the first churches they contained, since the first churches were made of wood and eventually had to be replaced. The chief population of churchyards consists of countless legions of forgotten and obscure people whose monuments can be seen as their little share of immortality. The value of a grand monument is an illusion It is only by a mans deeds that he is remembered and the vast majority of us must resign ourselves to oblivion. It could be said that monuments are for the benefit of the living, not the dead. Surviving friends and family do not need a monument to help them remember.

Sign Of The Times

Think of Romsey and you think of Broadlands. The two of course are synonymous. The illustrious former home of Lord Mountbatten was once owned by Lord Palmerston whose statue, the work of Mathew Noble, stands in the town square today. The old building standing adjacent is nowadays home to the Conservative Club. In years gone by however it used to be an inn known as The Old Swan Inn. The name and the inn itself may have long disappeared into the mists of time but one relic still remains. The enormous wrought iron sign outside. This iron structure is very long and equally strong. A sinister test of its strength was accomplished in the 1640's when Lord Fairfax, a general in the Parliamentarian army during the Civil War, stayed at Romsey. Fairfax, a man renowned as a no nonsense disciplinarian, lodged at the inn and found the wrought iron structure to be of great value when it came to hanging deserters. Not only that but the length of the structure meant that he could hang two at the same time. Over the years there have been numerous reports of eerie sights and sounds, perhaps from tortured spirits, from that very place. Fact or fiction. Who can tell?