Abbotstone: a lost medieval village in Hampshire which has “great potential for archaeological investigation”


If you took a trip to Abbotstone, located on sloping ground on the east side of the Candover Valley, today you would come across beautiful countryside on either side of a windy road that dissects its way through the village.

However, it is one of the many villages in Hampshire where there is more than meets the eye due to its often forgotten historical history.

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The village, comprising a small cluster of houses, gardens, courtyards, streets, enclosures, often with a green, manor house and church, and with a community devoted mainly to agriculture, was an important part of the rural landscape in most parts of medieval England.

Villages provided certain services to the local community and acted as the main focal point of ecclesiastical, and often seigneurial, administration within each parish.

Although the sites of many of these villages have been continuously occupied to the present day, many others have declined in size or been abandoned throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the 14th century. and 15th centuries.

Abbotstone is an example that was abandoned centuries ago; although this particular deserted village has survived well, according to Historic England, and therefore has high potential for archaeological exploration.

The site is likely to contain underground archaeological and environmental information that would indicate the construction and occupation of the site and its relationship to the surrounding landscape.

A survey map of the ‘Deserted Village of Abbotstone’ ordinance

The village comprises a series of rectangular farm walls or property lines, surrounded by riverbanks with evidence of tofts or house platforms inside.

There are three parallel depressions, which indicate sunken lanes, one of which leads to the site of a cemetery to the west with a rectangular enclosure bounded by an embankment at the site of the church.

The medieval village of Abbotstone is also recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) when it included a mill.

Documentary evidence suggests that the colony flourished until the early 14th century, growing various grains in common fields and grinding corn in the local mill.

There were many roads that started from the Candover Valley and a large majority of them passed through land that was once part of Abbotstone Warren, covering an area of ​​about 300 acres, and prior to 1589 were in the Itchen Stoke Parish.

These roads suggest that in past centuries Abbotstone was an important center of road networks and that in Saxon-Norman times they were important through roads.

One of these was the route from Winchester to London passing through Abbotstone, Old Alresford, Bighton, Alton and Farnham, thus avoiding the marshy lands around New Alresford.

Due to the construction of the Great Weir and the formation of the Alresford Pond, the lands of the Upper Itchen Valley were drained and became passable.

A major route from Southampton to New Alresford developed, passing through Twyford, Morestead and then Fawley Down.

With the increase in foreign trade at the end of the medieval period, merchants took this route from Southampton to New Alresford bypassing Winchester, once the capital of Anglo-Saxon England.

With this development of other roads due to the growing importance of London, the road through Abbotstone became little used and this may have contributed to its decline.

The reasons for desertion were varied but often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land use such as enclosures or grabs, or population fluctuations following widespread epidemics such as plague. black (1348-49).

As a result of their abandonment, these villages are often not disturbed by subsequent occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Because they are a common and long-lived type of monument, they provide information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and the regional agricultural economy over a long period.

The difficulties of the wool industry were also a likely contributing factor; Abbotstone, less than eight miles from Winchester, may have faced similar economic problems. New Alresford was also in dire straits due in part to a fire in 1440, plague and poor harvests.

Eighteen heads of families are named in the Lay Subsidy Return for 1327, including William of St. John. He was the son of John of St. John, the Lord of the Manor, and may have lived in Abbotstone in 1327, although there is no well-established site of a manor on Chapel Close.

A few documents relating to 15th century Abbostone have been discovered and it seems that in 1428, some 80 years after the Black Death, there were less than ten heads of households living in the village.

As the village declined, St. Martyn’s Church became abandoned and its structure was removed.

Today, only the remains of the 18th century park, garden terraces and walled garden remain of what was once a prosperous area of ​​the county.

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