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History of Preston Candover and Nutley
The village of Preston Candoveris probably of Saxon origin. It was originally called Prestecandavere - the Candover belonging to the Priests.
The name derives in part from the Candover Brook, which rises from springs just to the south of the village, and from a religious community which flourished here before the Norman Conquest. The name Nutleyapparently derives from “the Lea where the nuts grew”. The two parishes were originally separate, both lying within the Hundred of Bermondspit, but the Vicarages were amalgamated at the time of the Civil War and from then on their affairs were closely interlinked.
By Saxon times the villages of Preston Candover and Nutleywould have appeared as small settlements in the valley bottom, surrounded by large arable fields. Beyond the fields would be forest and open grazing land with tracks winding away to other villages. The peasants’ cottages and crofts would be grouped around the church, while at the end of the village would be the Manor House. The hamlet of Axford lay on the border between Preston and Nutley, and the householders there farmed land in both parishes.
By the eleventh century Preston parish had been carved up into six Manors. The land from which they drew their revenues became organised into the common field system. This was based initially on three large fields worked in common by the villagers, although new fields were added as the population grew. The fields were divided into furlongs, each furlongs being divided in turn into strips of about one acre in size. A family’s holding consisted of a number of strips dotted about each of the common fields.
Much of the higher ground in the valley was devoted to rough grazing and also held in common, this land comprising Preston and Nutley Down, Southwood Green, and Oakhills Common. At one time Preston Down was joined to those of Brown and Chilton Candover, and this made it an ideal route for the drovers and their herds. The trackway across the down is still known as the Oxdrove.
The common fields of Preston and Nutleywere eventually enclosed and reorganised under the provisions of an Act of Parliament of 1820. The Act treated both parishes as one and allowed for the enclosure of 1800 acres of common field and down. Oakhills Common was excluded from the Act and was not finally enclosed until 1870.
Under the Act the land was reallocated to all persons “in proportion to their respective properties, rights of common and other interests in the same”. By 1820 nearly 80% of the land was held by three landowners – George Purefoy Jervoise of Herriard Park, John Blackburn of Preston House, and the Wardens and Scholars of Winchester College who owned the Moundsmere Estate. The latter had once been monastic land, owned by the Priory of Southwark, but it had passed into the hands of Winchester Collegeafter the Reformation.
The effect of the enclosure on the landscape of Preston and Nutleywas enormous. The tiny strips were swept away and the open arable fields and pasture carved up into large rectangular fields. Most of the downland pasture was ploughed up in the “high farming” of the 1850s. The ridgetops were often covered in a wet sour clay and this land tended to be reserved for woods and coverts.
By Victorian times Preston and Nutleyhad a population of over 500 people. The land was divided between six main farms, ranging in size from 200 to 1000 acres. The village at Preston formed a long straggling settlement. The cottages were a mixture of styles, some timber framed, others built of brick or of flint with brick dressings. The roofs were thatched or tiled.
Preston and Nutleyeach had a church dedicated to St Mary. Preston ’s church lay at the southern end of the village. It had been built in the seventeenth century, the original church, dating from 1190, having been destroyed by fire. The village also had a Methodist Chapel, built in 1865.
Two fine gentlemen’s houses, North Hall (1769) and South Hall (1812), stood at the southern end of the village. At the northern end stood Preston House, built in about 1700. The parkland around these houses was considerably enhanced during the mid-nineteenth century, and this would eventually give the village a much less open appearance than it had had in earlier years.
Victorian Preston had a fair selection of trades and crafts. There was a butcher’s shop and three grocer’s shops. One of these also had a bakehouse, another kept the Post Ofice. There were two pubs, the New Inn at Preston (rebuilt in the 1860s and renamed The Purefoy Arms) and The Crown at Axford, plus a beer shop at the front of the Forge Cottage. There was also a village carrier, blacksmith, carpenter and wheelwright, bricklayer, boot and shoemaker, and tailor. Up on a hilltop to the west of the village was a small brickyard.
A most influential figure in the life of Victorian Preston was its Vicar, the Reverend Sumner Wilson. He came to the parish in 1861 at the age of 31 and remained there till his death in 1917. His major achievement was the building of a new church at Preston. It was consecrated in 1885. The old church was largely demolished to provide materials for the new one, but the chancel was retained as a mortuary chapel. Sumner Wilson also had the rectory, originally a very humble dwelling, enlarged into a substantial house. He subsequently sold it and in 1873 moved into a fine new vicarage. He was a dominant figure in the life of the village school, which during his time came to cater for some 60 pupils. He himself conducted some of the lessons and for many years acted as attendance officer.
The early 1900s saw major changes in the ownership of the parish. The Jervoise lands were put up for sale in 1906. The Preston House Estate, acquired by Henry John Hope in 1887, was sold off in part in 1909. Preston House itself was let and Mrs Hope had a new mansion, called Preston Grange, built to the south of the village. Also, in 1906 Winchester Collegesold the Moundsmere Estate to Wilfred Buckley. He was a Birminghambusinessman while his wife was a New York Fifth Avenueheiress. Following their arrival in Preston, the Buckleys brought about substantial changes to the estate, in particular the building of an impressive Palladian style mansion called Moundsmere Manor, and the laying out of formal gardens, driveways, tennis courts and golf course. Buckley became a progressive farmer of wide renown, especially in the production of clean milk, and during the 1920s he played a leading role in the campaign to improve the hygienic quality of the nation’s milk supply.
By the 1900s the village was becoming much less isolated. A public telephone was installed in 1910 in a greenhouse next door to the Post Office. Sales reps from the Basingstoke department stores would regularly visit the parish, travelling in a wagonette in which they would carry their samples of off-the-peg clothes and shoes. The invention of the bicycle gave village people a much greater mobility than hitherto. It also led to the establishment of a bicycle shop in the village, located next door to the smithy.
Between the Wars
A major change in the appearance of the village occurred in the 1920s at the point where the Basingstoke-Alresford Roadmet the road to Wield. Previously there had been just a pond lying at the fork in the road. In 1870 a parish pump was installed next to the pond. In dry summers it was much used by farmers from Wield and Ellisfield, while the brick steps became a favourite spot for visiting Methodist preachers to conduct meetings and for pedlars to display their wares. A memorial was erected in 1919 in honour of the 16 men of the parish killed in action during the Great War. Finally in the mid-1920s the Parish Council had the pond filled in and grassed over, thus creating a very attractive village green.
The years between the wars saw several changes amongst the owners of Preston House. The most significant of these was Colonel Miles Courage, a director of Courage and Co., who bought the estate in 1932 and remained there till his death in 1961. Wilfred Buckley died in 1933 and two years later the Moundsmere Estate was bought by Hermon Andreae, a merchant banker. Both men were very keen equestrians, Mr Andreae serving as Master of the Hampshire Hunt from 1944-52.
The Village Smithy at Preston Candover in the 1920’s
Blacksmith William Padwick is on the left, his nephew Walter Murphy is on the right. Walter carried on the business until the 1980’s
Motor transport began to make a major impact on village life in these years. In the early 1920s the carrier exchanged his horse and wagon for a Ford van and then for a lorry. The business, however, was soon eclipsed by the growth of rural bus services. The first service to be provided in the Candovers began in 1925 and was operated by Tom Perry of Winchester. This was succeeded in the late 1920s by the Venture Bus Company which operated from Basingstoke. The cycle shop evolved into a car repair workshop. The business was taken over in 1926 by Henry Nobbs who enlarged the workshop and had petrol pumps installed. Nobbs also bought a succession of coaches and with these, he provided a school bus service and also a special bus service to Basingstoke on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
Traditional social activities such as the cricket and football clubs, scouts, guides and brownies, and the annual flower show all continued to thrive, while new ones were introduced, including a branch of the Women’s Institute, established in 1919. Such activities were enhanced in the early 1920s when the village acquired a former army hut for use as a parish hall, erected on land opposite the school. Some public tennis courts were laid out behind the hall in the early 1930s. The man responsible for this initiative was the Headmaster, Edward Harman. He also introduced amateur dramatics into village life in partnership with the Reverend Edward Gough, the Vicar at Chilton Candover. Their productions of Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Hamlet earned the village considerable acclaim throughout the locality.
War and Affluence
With the outbreak of war in 1939 Preston became a reception area for evacuees from Portsmouth. They amounted to about 30 children. Land near the neighbouring village of Lashambecame a Mosquito bomber station while Northington Grange became the HQ for the 47th US Infantry Division. Moundsmere Manor was used as a military hospital. Volunteers in the parish manned the ARP Service while some 40 men served in the local Home Guard unit. The area had its fair share of rumours and false alarms and it received several bombs and landmines, but once the threat of invasion passed, life in the valley carried on much as usual.
Electrification reached the village just at the outbreak of war. Mains water followed in 1947. From the early 1950s onwards the parish began to share in the affluence enjoyed elsewhere in the country. During the farming depression of the pre-war years about half the land in Preston and Nutleyhad been put down to permanent pasture. Most of this land was ploughed up during the war and it remained in arable cultivation thereafter. New types of farm machinery and implements were introduced while corn driers and silos and other facilities were installed at the farmstead. Car ownership became more widespread. Television aerials sprouted on the cottage chimneys. Inside the cottages the refrigerator gradually superceded the traditional “cold spot” in the pantry while the kitchen range, wash tub and mangle were replaced by the electric cooker, washing machine and spin drier.
Also, as elsewhere, measures were taken to improve the housing situation. A small Council estate called Stenbury Drivewas built in 1949. It comprised 12 dwellings, plus a bungalow for the District Nurse and a house for the village policeman. Another Council development of six bungalows for pensioners was later built at Axford. Several new houses were built for farm workers, whilst other houses were built for the growing influx of middle class professionals who wanted a home in the country from where they could commute to work each day in Basingstoke, Winchesteror even London.
Many of the local families also started commuting to work. This trend had begun during the war when special early morning bus services were laid on to take village people to work in Basingstoke. It continued in the post-war years and by the mid-1960s nearly 40% of the working population in Preston were employed outside the parish.
During the 1950s and ‘60s Preston retained its pubs, the butcher’s shop and two general stores, a builder, a painter and decorator, and a motor repair workshop. The carpenter and wheelwright closed down in 1944, but the blacksmith continued in business till the early 1980s, moving from horseshoeing into agricultural engineering and, in his final years, into ornamental ironwork.
The village school became the Primary School for the locality. A new school was opened in 1965, by which time it was catering for 80 children. During the mid-1950s the village acquired a smart new village hall to replace the former Army hut. It was also during these years that Preston ’s vicar began to assume responsibility for the neighbouring parishes, beginning with Bradley and then extending to Wield, Candovers and Northington.
[This information has been compiled by Philip Sheail who is the author of two books about Preston Candover: A Downland Village (1979) and Wilfred Buckley of Moundsmere and the Clean Milk Campaign (2003).]
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