St Mary Bourne Revisited


Short Historical Sketch of The parish of Hurstbourne Tarrant Published in the

Early 20th century

by the Revd. R.S.Arrowsmith finding no.68M79/PZ113


He seems to have been very negligent of his duties, for the registers were very badly kept during the time he was vicar. There are few entries of baptisms. This shows that he was either very careless in making the entries, or very careless in performing the duties of his office.

1593 Hurstbourne Tarrant and the whole of this valley was visited by that scourge of Old England- the plague. People in those days were not careful in matters of diet and sanitation. The science of medicine was not in a very advanced state and towns and villages were often unhealthy, consequently there was always danger of an outbreak of some frightful epidemic, the plague, sweating sickness, or malignant scarlet fever. When these epidemics did come they made short work of the people. Our Registers afford proof of this, for this is what I find: - In 1593, in one month alone, July, there were buried in our churchyard no less than 43 people, and the footnote adds: "All these died by ye visitation of ye plague." The vicar died; his wife died; his two sons died. The Hilliers were nearly swept away: John Hillier, Maud Hillier, Elizabeth Hillier, Richard Hillier, Thomas Hillier and Margery Hillier (grandmother). Epidemics were epidemics in those days and no mistake. Whole households died in a few days, even in a few hours. A pest house was set up on Conholt Hill. Many have doubtless heard of the Conholt Ghost. It appears only in the month of July, the month in which these people died, and it takes the form of a man dressed as the clergy were dressed in those days. Can it be the Vicar, John Atkins?. We know he was a careless man. Can it be that he neglected to visit the sick people in the pest house, and now in remorse haunts the scene of his former neglect? We know not. The tradition of the ghost is ancient and deeply rooted. Not even the prosaic age in which we live has "laid" it; nay reliable people declare they have seen the ghost in recent years. Let unbelievers in the story pass the July nights on Conholt Causeway and tell us what they see.

The death of the vicar was from all accounts, little loss. He had neglected his work; there had been few baptisms; the registers are for the most a blank while he was here. Poor man! He little thought that his memory and life would be dug up after 300 years from an old parish register !"Be sure your sins will find you out." It is as well to bear this in mind, even if it is 300 years in doing so. Here we take our leave of Rev. John Atkins, Vicar of Hurstbourne 1575-1593. I hope I have not maligned him. If I have, his ghost will doubtless, haunt me.

An active, conscientious man, the Registers were very neatly kept. He had a large family--Ten altogether, for their names are in the baptismal Register. Some of them married and settled down in the village. Mr. Richardson and his wife passed 37 peaceful (let us hope) years together. She died in 1630: he in 1637 after a vicariate of 44 years.

He succeeded Mr. Richardson, but was turned out by the Puritans in 1646.

From 1646—63 we have a period of great confusion. There are several Puritan “Pastors". During this time the Prayer Book was not used in the church, and the clergy were all turned out. The Registers are very badly kept and it is difficult to follow them. Entries were made by anyone, and the writing is bad, except under Pastor Henry Gough (1646-53) who kept them very neatly.

In 1663 Mr. Teesdale returned to his living after Charles 2nds.restoration in 1660. An act was passed restoring the rightful vicars who had been turned out by the Puritans. Mr. Teesdale, after much suffering and many humiliations, thus came into his own again. Mr. Teesdale had some trouble about his tithes. He has added a little note at the end of his Register:-

" Memorandum the 19thDay of February 1667--At the Assize held at Winchester there was a trial between Mr. William Huggy, Impropriator of the parsonage, and Christopher Teesdale, Vicar, for the tithe of corn upon a parcel of land near Pike Copice in Dily, then newly grubbed, the corn being claimed by the Vicar. The Impropriator brings his action of trespass, and was overthrown by the Vicar.

There was only one judge that Assises, Judge Archer."

The following are curious burial entries:

Ann Page of Upton, an ancient widow.

Old Richard Farr of Ibthorpe.


1680--86 Vicar’s name unknown.


Samuel Heskins 1686-1733 (47 years)

Mr. Heskins was vicar for the long period of 47 years. There is a monument to him in the South wall of the church, near which he and his wife are buried.

There is a note in the registers that on Sunday, of July, 1689, the Vicar read out an excommunication in church against Robert Janwey for not appearing in answer to a citation to exhibit a will. The excommunication was issued from the Archbishop's Court.

There is this interesting note in the Register:--

"November 27th. 1703 in the morning about 2 or 3 of the clock there was a most violent tempest of wind. It blew off the leads of the Church and Chancel. & did more harm in the country than had been known in the memory of men."

This great storm of 1703 was famous. It did enormous damage in London.

There is another curious entry:-

"March ye 6th. 1715 In the evening & most of the night were strange lights in ye air."

There is this Memorandum

"That the widow Deborah Hall at her own cost in ye North Aisle of ye church 1729, and Mr. Samuel Heskins erected ye seat by ye choir door."

It is a great pity that other Vicars did not make memoranda of interesting events. We should then have had a far more complete history of the church and Parish than is now possible. All churches should keep a parish diary for future reference.

Mr. Heskins died in the year 1733. We find this entry in the hand of his successor - “The Rev. Mr. Heskins who had been the worthy Vicar of this parish seven and forty years died upon the Eleventh of February, and was buried on the 14th.following."


Mr. Mutel kept the Registers very carelessly. His writing is bad. He was evidently idle and indifferent. He died in 1740.

His successor was Mr. Wilkins, and he puts this note in the Registers:--

" Having found this Register extraordinarily ill kept, I design to put it into the best form I can for the future, and not make any manner of neglect in any article, for such negligence has often been injurious to particular persons ; and I therefore wonder how any man who has the care of these records can ever be guilty of such neglect."

And again at the beginning of his Baptismal Register he says;--

"I shall put the Register in some better order than I found it. God knows there is room enough for it."

There is this Memorandum;--

"Oct.10th.1741 there was a yew tree planted in the churchyard pretty near the outward rails. By the order and at the expense of James Wilkins M. A. Vicar of this parish."

There is this entry among the burials:--

"May 9th.1746 was buried Martha Wilkins, a lovely infant. She was 4th.daughter and 7th.child of the Rev. Mr. Wilkins, Vicar of this parish."

In 1752 we have this:--

"N. B. The year now begins on Jan.1st. New Year's Day, according to an Act of Parliament made last session."

In that year it was altered the New Year formerly was held to commence on March 25th, instead of Jan.1st.

In 1755 Mr. Wilkins died:

"The Rev. Mr. James Wilkins worthy Vicar of this parish, died upon the 29th. Of August, and was buried upon the 31st following by his lamented friend Erlys Peachy Rector of Faccomb."

"Benefici hominis memoria eril clerna Ps. 112, 6.

The Righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance."


Mr. Debary was Vicar here for the long period of 59 years. His is the longest Vicariate of any recorded. He continued to do his duty until the beginning of 1813 when his health failed. The last entry is in 1813 and the hand writing is very shaky. He died in 1814. He kept the registers very neatly and very carefully all the time, but I wish he had used better ink. The 18th.century entries are more difficult to read than the 16th, because the ink was inferior. As to modern entries, written with Vestry pens and Vestry ink, they won't last fifty years.

There are one or two curious entries such as the concise:

"March 4th. 1756 was buried Ann Wilkins.......measles."

Mr. Debary left a legacy of £25 to the Parish. He had a distinguished son, Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who died in 1841. There is a mural tablet erected to him in the Chancel.

Mr. Debary has an elaborate tombstone just outside the N.E. corner of the Chancel.

He was Rector of Burbage as well, but lived in Hurstbourne.


Mr. Russell did not reside here; and there is no entry in the Registers signed by him. He put in a Curate in charge, Rev. J. S. Gale, who did the duty here from 1814 to 1841, when a new Vicar came and turned him out. What became of him I do not know

Mr. Fisher resided here until 1822 but didn't like the place, so he went to live at Burbage, a living which he (and his predecessors) held in conjunction with this. Vicars in those days were allowed to hold more than one living at a time.

There is one or two curious entries made by Mr. Gale in the Registers:--

In 1814 he tells us, in connection with a burial, that the man was killed by a wagon going over him on Windmill Hill.

In 1816 he buried Charles Faulkner, and adds that he "died of the blows received when fighting with George Baily."

In 1817 he buried Nathaniel Lambden and adds, "Found dead on the common, where he was a keeper of cows."

In the same year he buried (I copy the exact entry)

"A man unknown, a beggar, found dead in Mr. William Purver's barn, Returned by the coroner’s Inquest, Died by the visitation of God, supposed about 70 years old”

In 1819 John Breadmore of Upton fell from a wagon and was killed.

In 1830 John Blackmore died of the smallpox.

In 1831 Alfred Osmund, aged 2 was buried. He had been found drowned in the river. A similar case occurred a few years ago.

In 1832 Charles Ward, aged 17 was buried "Killed by a fall from a hay loft window"

On Nov.4th, 1833 there is this entry:--

Buried "a woman unknown, found murdered in the road above Ibthorpe, supposed 60 years of age. A verdict of wilful murder was brought against Rose, her reputed husband, and he was tried at the ensuing Assizes at Winchester and hanged."

In 1840 John Briant, the Dene, was found dead in his bed.

In the same year a travelling man was found dead by the side of a tent on the common.

In 1841 Sarah Piper, aged 11, was accidentally burnt to death.



In 1871 Vernham, which had hitherto been included in the living of Hurstbourne Tarrant was made a separate living.

Vicar of All saints Alton 1892-1912 now Rector of Chawton.

Mr. Sumner took in hand the much needed restoration of the church, and collected funds for the purpose.

During the Vicariate of Mr. Oliver the restoration of the church was completed: a new classroom was added to the school;

The churchyard was enlarged Mr Oliver resigned in 1907, and died the following year.

Book Published about 1914.

"To be sold for the benefit of the organ fund" Price 1/-

Oldest names in the parish register of Hurstbourne Tarrant are Munday, Bunny, Holdway, Farr, Gosling, Bulpitt, and Talmage.