St Mary Bourne Revisited

Housing in St. Mary Bourne 16th - 18th century


The houses of the better off yeomen families were of half timber construction of single storey the walls between the timber frame being lathed and plastered, or filled in with “mud wall” a material composed of chalk or clay mingled with chopped straw. The floor was the bare earth, or sometimes a carpet of rushes was the only relief from the native soil. The roof thatched from reeds grown locally, the windows small and without glass as only the very wealthy could afford such luxury.

Inside the house the accommodation would have been open plan with the focal point being the kitchen with a Gabbern fireplace the heating and cooking apparatus for the whole house, a semi lunar range of iron, with its lever for pot or kettle, was fixed on the right of the hearth at the base of the chimney, its stop knobs of iron burnished as of silver. Dogs of massive iron, the handy work of the village blacksmith, supported a rod and behind which was a seething fire of peat or logs, coal being altogether unavailable before the coming of the railways. While overhead amidst smoke and soot were sundry sides of bacon, bronzed and snug in a capacious recess known as the bacon loft.

The bedrooms under the thatched roof were reached by means of a rude staircase or ladder, the bed would consist of a mattress filled with straw or for the better off feathers, in earlier times it would not be possible to stand up in the space due to the low roof line, later on houses were designed with better accommodation and bedrooms allowing for a four poster bed with curtains.

Houses thus described would later on have been occupied by the poor as the yeoman farmer would have moved on or built a new house in keeping with his new status.

The labourer however lived in even poor conditions, single storey dwellings while the walls were of posts wattled and plastered with mud or clay. The floors of these homesteads which were often below the level of the ground were sufficiently filthy, but the surroundings were disgustingly dirty from the accumulations which were permitted to fester around the doorway. These drained where they best could in rainy weather, and polluted the dipholes and the village brook, for these houses were always near the stream, if one ran through the settlement.

To anyone interested in things of the past, other objects worthy of attention are not wanting. The quaint old homesteads dotted all over the parish have much to tell the intelligent enquirer. Some of the oldest and most interesting of these stand in Rickett’s lane leading to Stoke, and are known as Roe’s, (Which burnt down in 1886) Butlers, and before alteration, the Old Bourne farm. But the difference in age between such dwellings generally is so small, as to mark one common building period and that, judging from the universality of the movement throughout the parish, must have been a period of great energy, as well as one of change in the distribution of land. There is no mistaking these old fashioned places wherever met with, as they are all built on much the same plan. Some of them have porches and oak doors, while all have walls ribbed with oak, of sufficient stoutness to furnish materials for half a dozen cottages as built at the present day. As large tracts of forest were in process of removal about the time these houses were erected, the lavish use of oak timber is sufficiently accounted for. A few of these old places are still connected with farm buildings, and small plots of land; in the neighbourhood of most of them, in fact, the remains of farm buildings are traceable, pointing plainly to a time when they were homesteads to small holdings of land, when, as Goldsmith writes in his highly coloured description of the past: - “Every rood of ground maintained it’s man”. As the land gradually got massed into larger farms, most of these little farm houses came to be what they are now, the residences of labourers.

A good deal of land in the parish was originally downland, under the names of Bourne, Eggbury, and Wadwick downs. They were uncultivated till 1772, when they were broken up, and divided into small allotments.

It should not be supposed, however, that the land had not been occupied in small bargains previous to this time; on the contrary, small plots of ground had hundreds of years before been held by yearly tenants; and it is likely that most of the houses built about 1676, took the places of yet older and humbler abodes. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)

Houses of special beauty and interest

Two typical and lovely Hampshire cottages are on the right hand side of the road at Link, coming from the station. The first has been lived in for 60 years by Mr. Henry Barnes and was lived in also by his father. It is thatched, with timber, brick and wattle walls, whitewashed. A little further on is Hollyside (formally Tilleydown ),sold by Mrs. Jones, a granddaughter of the Rev. W. E. Easton, to Mr. William Cook, who lived there for 60 years. It is thatched, and has brick and flint white washed walls. Mundays cottage is perhaps the next oldest house after Butler’s. From Butlers a beam in the kitchen, dated 1590, was removed in the 1920’s.the chimney is dated 1670. For some years in the 19th.century it was two cottages; now it is modernised and one house. One bedroom was found to have been a granary with corn lingering in crevices. The original boards with wooden nails are upstairs. Till the 20th century there was a bacon loft in the hall chimney, and the bacon hooks are still in a cupboard in one bedroom. (Kathleen Innes)

The “Great Fire”

On the 30th July 1900 a fire demolished a number of the most picturesque of the old thatched cottages from the site of Mr. Lloyd Breadmore's bakery and shop, where sparks from the bakehouse chimney started the disaster, to Diplands corner. In 1895 a fire had begun from the same cause, but effective action did not follow the warning. In 1900 the fire destroyed Mr. Breadmore's property a good deal of Mr. Culley's and a large part of his cottages, thatch was carried on to a shed near the Plough Inn. Early in the fight the hose burst, and the local fire engine was useless. Andover and Whitchurch brigades were summoned by telegraph and a well opposite the bakery was used, as the river was dry. Men fought the fire with saturated blankets, etc., on the roofs, but it speedily became a question of rescuing what was possible, though Munday's was saved by soaked blankets, rushed out from the doctor's house. It may be noted that two days later, on August 1st. the Annual Flower Show was held as planned.

Within a few years a fire, originating in Mr. John Page's bakery burnt down his cottage by the school, and Long Rank was destroyed in another fire. (Kathleen Innes)