What Nature Provided and how we used it

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The River Meon brought life to Titchfield. Rain water runs on a chalk substrate far below Butser Hill, to springs near South Farm. Flowing through the Meon Valley, it provides food, irrigation, power and once took away waste! The weather is kind to Titchfield, tucked away in a sleepy hollow, it seems to hide from the worst extremes. 

We take a look at how things changed. Initially Titchfield 'Hundred' (status between a parish and a county) with its canal was ideally placed to lead but lack of accessibility by road affected its  development from a kingdom into a village.

Life Giving Water

The waters of the River Meon flow down a chalk substrate below old Wincheter Hill and rise from springs at South Farm near East Meon. Hidden largely by the great Forest of Bere, they run through a quiet valley, leaving the estuary the preserve of visiting hunters and fishermen.

Roman roads pass through Wickham 4 miles away and venture not to Titchfield. The Meon estuary remains unpopulated until Saxons who style themselves 'Meonware' are the first to realise its potential.

By 688 when the church of Saint Peter is built and becomes a centre for Christianity along the coastal region. In 732 the Venerable Bede records that it is a Minster served by several priests. At last visitors beat pathways here and Titchfield starts to establish a dominant presence.

The first taxation, Danegeld is levied in the realm after the Danish invasion in 878. They raise an army and this starts specialisation and what nature gave starts to change; wood from the forest is used to build and the space cleared is used to graze livestock.

[1610 map - rotated north^]

 1610 Map with ammendments

Success brings changes

The 1611 map shows evidence of clearing of land for grazing livestock and the introduction of  coppicing. Arable fields were fertilised with seaweed and mud carried from the sea shore and feeding them with urban dung from Gosport and Portsmouth. 

The oak forest was devastated to supply wood for building ships for the navy not only for the wooden hulls themselves but to make charcoal to fuel the iron furnaces.

Titchfield Mill still enjoyed its own supply of water from the Meon but we also see the how it did not merge again, the mill branch going on to feed the canal.

[1791 map]

 1791 Map

Wriothesley's Roads

On the 1732 map Fareham centre is shown about the same size as Titchfield, but the green line shows that Crofton, Catisfield  and Funtley were still in Titchfield Hundred, more or less as they were described in the Domesday book.

'Titchfield H' or Place House (former Titchfield Abbey) stands in Titchfield Park, which forms the hub of earley roads. Its western approach gives its name to Park Gate, Mill Street leads to the village, Fisher's Hill via Anjoiu Bridge to Catifield, Crofton and the farms beyond.

A number of routes in Fareham Park have become farm tracks. One runs from Fisher's Hill to the "Iron Mill Factory", rejoining just before Funtley. The shading was an early attempt to indicate land contours, the result is not too good.

[1826 map]

 1826 Map

Shipping it out 

Successful trade demanded better links with Fareham and Portsmouth. By 1710 there are two small additional bridges over the Meon and the Canal. An outbuilding from Bridge House on Mill Road is demolished and the narrow gap allows Titchfield Hill to join East Street with the top of Ranvilles Lane. A road to Blackbrook runs on to the east. Mill Street also gets a proper surface to complete the provision for wheeled transport access for the corn mill, iron mill and other industries who are spared the old route via Stony (or Anjiou) Bridge and Fishers Hill.

At the time of this map there seems to be a lot of water laying in the meadow below Crofton House and on the 1610 map, ships are depicted, still some distance from Titchfield industries. Did they get any further upstream? Many believe so.

For more information on the 3 maps above visit
http://www.geog.port.ac.uk/webmap/hantsmap/hantsmap/hantsmap.htm

The Turn of the Wheel

Medieval road travel was on horseback or in clumsy carriages and wagons. It was painfully slow; a journey from London to Dover took several days with many stopover points.

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries wheeled traffic was chiefly confined to slow-moving carriers’ waggons, which linked the main towns at infrequent intervals. The travelling coaches of the wealthy covered only a few miles a day, otherwise pack and riding horses maintained communications.

A stage-coach service was established in England in 1655 from London to Coventry, and eventually they were set up to link most of the important towns with each other and with London. Stage-coaches carried passengers for fixed distances for fixed fares, and in theory ran to regular time­tables. But over the bad and heavy roads of the period travelling was slow and often dangerous. A stage-coach carrying half­a-dozen passengers and a hundredweight or so of luggage was drawn by a team of four horses. A journey from London to Oxford, for example, took two days, an average speed of three miles an hour. A team typical of those which would have been available in stables at the Bugle or the Queen's would only draw the coach for about 14 miles before needing changing.

Titchfield roads would have been adequate for most local purposes at this time because local life continued to revolve around the former abbey. It was the hub of the community and most of the roads radiate out from it. Mill Street was the main route to the village. At its junction with East Street one could only turn right and continue into High Street. East Street did not connect with Titchfield Hill, the easterly bound road was via the former abbey, Stony Bridge and Catisfield.  There was a direct road joining the abbey and St. Margaret’s Farm which has now disappeared. Points West were served better with Southampton hill leading off to Sarisbury and Botley. The old signpost by the Parish Rooms tells the story, its arms still point to Funtley, Crofton and Sarisbury; once a visitor enters sleepy hollow, there's no apparent way out.

Knowl Junction

 

The Coming of the Railways

The coming of the first railway in 1841 changed the lay of the land in Funtley. Initially  a single line linked Gosport, Fareham with Eastleigh and gave access to London. There was a branch to Stokes Bay where one could catch the steamer for Ryde on the Isle of Wight and another to Lee on the Solent which terminated by the pier.

The Gosport line also served Queen Victoria's personnel station and the pier head in Clarence Yard, to allow her to embark on the royal barge to Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight. When the Queen died at her Island retreat on 22nd January 1901, the barge and the royal train were used in her funeral procession.

The Fareham to Southampton line, not built until 1889, strides across Titchfield Hundred on Segensworth embankment. Henry Peter Delme, who died in 1883 had worried about where the line would bisect his estate. Who knows the route it would have taken had it rolled through Catisfield. The Fisherman's Rest was originally created as the Railway Hotel, perhaps a clue to where it might have been?

In 1903 another single track line was opened which made its way across the Meon Valley linking Fareham Wickham and Alton. When the Fareham tunnels showed structural weakness, a dual tracked deviation loop was built to bypass both, the abattoir and Funtley to avoid any delays when sidings were in use. At Knowle Halt there was a siding leading to a small marshalling area and the tracks ran past tripled before shedding a siding the Meon Valley line.  

Funtley Halt Siding

The former Funtley abottoir siding

Titchfield Village Centre 2004

 

Transport in the new millennium

The romance of the railway ended and Companies preferred to send goods by road. The nationalised British Rail network closed all its loss making lines including the Gosport, Bishops Waltham and Meon Valley lines.

Many relate a charming British film about the closure of a railway line called 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' to our village but there never was a station.

Titchfield catches the edge of the Gosport traffic disaster every morning and evening, yet there is continuing pressure to build more houses on its peninsular. A tramway link is being proposed but Central government says it wouldn't be cost-effective

When the M27 was built there was a plan for a link nearer to Titchfield but it got left out, perhaps for the better...