What Nature Provided and how we used it
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
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^]
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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...