St Mary Bourne Revisited



While researching my family history I discovered that some of my ancestors had originated from St. Mary Bourne, an area of north east Hampshire I was unfamiliar with, even though I had spent my childhood only 20 or so miles away. This discovery led me to visit this quintessential English village with its thatched houses, picturesque church, and clear waters of the meandering Bourne River.I was made aware that a book had been written about the village many years ago by the then retired Village doctor, Joseph Stevens, titled “A Parochial History of St. Mary Bourne with an account of Hurstbourne Priors Hants.” There are two reference copies available, one in the Hampshire Records Office in Winchester and one in the Newbury library. Hampshire Records office is the 1888 edition, and Newbury Library 1895 edition. These books are the result of the Doctors many years of research; he also published in 1863 a book titled “St.Mary Bourne Past and Present.” This was the forerunner of his later work. The only copy I am aware of is in the H.R.O. finding no.17A03/1. These books give an insight into the lives of everyday people in St. Mary Bourne and the surrounding area throughout the centuries. The doctor must have been acquainted with many of the villagers in the Bourne valley, from whom he draws a wealth of information from conversations he had with patients and friends, of stories, facts and myths. He also had access to the parish registers from which he copied many interesting entries from the early 1600’s.

Another source of useful information comes from Kathleen Innes who wrote "Life in a Hampshire Village: notes from past and present" in the early 1940's.Her father was Dr. Royds, formally of Reading, who was a friend of Dr. Stevens and the Doctor in St. Mary Bourne from 1895 to 1914. She has added notes about Dr. Stevens and added further interesting stories. Bringing the book up to date (from the latter 19th.century till the 1940's).

I have also included newspaper extracts from the Georgian through to the early Victorian era to illustrate the world that the doctor writes about. I have followed up some of the stories as reported at the time. Not all the stories are local to the Bourne valley or even the county of Hampshire, but help to illustrate this period in our history. The newspaper reports are as written and demonstrate the richness of their language and writing, and the humour and aspirations of our ancestors.

Finally a publication by the Reverend R. S. Arrowsmith who wrote the "Short Historical Sketch of the Parish of Hurstbourne Tarrant" sometime before 1914. In it he has copied several extracts from the parish registers and lists the vicars from the 1500's until 1907 when he took on the position, with comments about them, this is a complete copy.

All of the above mentioned books have been out of print for many years. They can be found as reference books in the Hampshire Records Office and in the library at Newbury.

It should be remembered that the extracts I have taken from Dr. Stevens book were written between about 1860 and first published in 1880 over 120 years ago. I hope this work to be of interest to the good people of St. Mary Bourne and the surrounding district and to historians and genealogists worldwide. I hope you enjoy reading it as I have enjoyed researching it. Kevin Holdway.(Kevin Holdway)


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