Stoneham War Shrine     Discovering the Park


North Stoneham Park: its origin and development (1992), by C K Currie


The Deer Park: later expansion

Knolls held the park as pasture. The association of the park and 'le lawnys' with a trackway that was thought to be a connecting route between the pasture of North Stoneham Common and the spring pastures of the Itchen valley around the 'West Landing Place' can not be coincidental. Knolls' holding Chickenhall is believed to be the site of the Saxon 'landing place' on the Itchen. It seems therefore that in the mid-sixteenth century Knolls had pasture on the Common and in the park, with a well-establish stock-moving trackway connecting this to his main holding on the Itchen.

As well as indicating long-term continuity in the landscape of North Stoneham, this suggests that the park was being used to pasture animals such as cattle and sheep in the sixteenth century. It seems that during the period of the absentee lordship of the Wriothesleys (1538-99), the park had ceased to be used exclusively as a deer park. This is further indicated in the document transferring the manor to the Flemings in 1599, when 'the Parke' is referred to as 'arable land, pasture and wood-ground' (HRO 5M53/441). It is possible that this change in regime may have occurred in the later medieval period, and may partly explain lack of mentions at this time. That is, the abbot had leased the park to tenants who used it for more general farming.

There would appear to have been no attempt to revive the status of the park until the arrival of the Flemings. An inventory of 1638, on the death of Thomas Fleming II, shows that a considerable mansion had been constructed by the family at North Stoneham. This document lists at least 29 rooms in the house, plus ten possible outbuildings (HRO 1638A058/2). Further work on the gardens, which then contained at least three ponds, is recorded between 1680 and 1683 (HRO 102M71/E2-3). From this it might be expected that parkland would have been attached to the house as part of the status landscape around a residence of such substance.

The earliest extent of the park dates from the enclosure map of 1736, which shows a similar boundary for the area designated specifically as the 'deer park' as that shown on the survey of 1818. It might be expected that the area known as the 'Avenue', sixty acres plus to the north of the mansion, was also incorporated within the 'park' by this time. However, it should be noted that some surveys are careful to distinguish between the area known as 'The Park' (which includes the Avenue) and the 'deer park' (which does not include the Avenue). Where discrepancy appears between surveys over the extent of the park, it may derive from a confusion between the Park, as an overall concept, and the 'deer park' as a specific unit within it. For convenience, this survey suggests that the Avenue, although part of the larger 'park', was never part of the deer park area.

The 1736 Enclosure Map for part of North Stoneham Common shows the west boundary of the 'deer park' identical to that shown on the survey of 1818. This shows that the deer park had been expanded from the 80 acres of the mid-sixteenth century to at least 300 acres by this date. This map does not show the full extent however, merely the western boundary with the Common (HRO 102M71/E9).

The first map to depict the full extent of the park is Taylor's map of 1759. This is a county map, and should be viewed with caution, as it is nearer a pictorial representation than an accurate plan. This map highlights the problem of definition outlined above. It shows what appears to be a wooden fence, or pale, around the entire park, not just that area designated as the deer park. This seems to include the Avenue, which was never enclosed in a pale as far as can be determined. Curiously, it seems to omit that triangular area in the south-east corner of the park discussed earlier (see page 11). Taylor is the only survey to exclude this area.

There are a number of possible explanations for this. The most obvious is that Taylor is inaccurate. This seems to be supported by his inclusion of the Avenue within the paled area. His scale and the pictorial representation of features do not inspire confidence. However, it is possible that John Knolls used this track as a short cut across the park to take his stock to his farm at Chickenhall, and the land to its east became enclosed as a separate field. This may have become detached from the main body of the park, and was not reincorporated until after 1759. Knolls' use of the park as pasture for cattle and sheep might argue that the park was temporarily disemparked in the sixteenth century, and divided into separate fields. The third possibility is that this path was the eastern boundary of the medieval park, and although the sixteenth century extent of 80 acres argues against this, it can not be entirely dismissed.

The next depiction of the deer park is Milne's map of 1791 (Figure 5). This shows the extent of the deer park follows the western boundary of 1736, the northern boundary of the 1818 map, the road from the Common to Stoneham Lane as its southern boundary, and Stoneham Lane as its eastern edge. The triangular piece of land in the south-east corner is now incorporated in the park, but the Avenue is excluded. The boundary incorporates not only the house, but the church. On first impression, this can be dismissed as an error, but Prosser, writing in 1839 says that the church 'stands within the east boundary of the park' (1839, part IX). Such minor anomalies suggest that it must have been a matter of opinion exactly where the boundaries ended at this date, and discrepancies between maps were as much personal interpretation as statements of fact.

The first edition of the Ordnance Survey (one inch to the mile) of c. 1810 does not show any great detail, and only gives the overall extent of the park, including not only the Avenue, but Summergate Wood (now Home Wood) and Wood field to its west, and the meadow strips on its east side. It is debatable whether these fields were ever thought to be part of the park.

The 1818 map is the first detailed survey. This was made to coincide with the demolition of the old house near the church, and the building of a new mansion nearer the centre of the park. This survey also highlights the discrepancy between the area held to be part of the park. The map itself adds the area known as the Avenue and the Lawn to the 'park'. The award contradicts this information. Only that area given number 183a is called the 'park' here; the Avenue is recorded separately as number 187. As the outline of 183a coincides with the area shown on the map of 1791 (with the exception of the area around the church and the house), it might be assumed that 183a is showing the outline of the deer park. As these are also largely coincident with those boundaries shown in 1736, it might be assumed that this was the area of the post-medieval deer park before 1818.

There is one major addition shown, and that is the area south of the track to the Common. This area, formerly known as the 'Lawn' is incorporated into the park for the first time. That this had only just been done is indicated by a separate map in the same survey, showing this part of the park divided up into three fields: 'The Lawn', 'Six Acres' and 'Bunney Field'. All are listed as 'cultivated' (SRO D/2 639).

That the above was not an error, and the 'Lawn' had been incorporated into the deer park is confirmed by the tithe map. This is described in the Award's text as being c. 1840, although it was not confirmed until 1846. Here the 'deer park' and the 'Avenue' are recorded separately. An internal boundary (shown on the 1736 map with gated access) has now become the western boundary of the area called the 'deer park'. That part that was formerly part of 183a, but now shown to the west of the deer park, had been enlarged by incorporating a former fir plantation and other woodland, and is depicted as the 'Upper Park and Rough Ground'. It is uncertain whether this was still thought of as part of the deer park or not. It is probable that this internal division, shown to exist since at least 1736, was invoked during timber planting cycles to keep deer away from young trees, but could be dispensed with once the trees were sufficiently grown.

The Flemings ceased to live at North Stoneham before the end of the nineteenth century. Fishing on the ponds near the house was leased to Southampton Piscatorials Angling Society from 1898, and the records of this club indicate that the estate had become run down. Regular vandalism is recorded from the 1920s (Minute Books, Southampton P. A. S.). A golf course was created in the western part of the park by 1905. In the mid-twentieth century, just before much of the area was converted in playing fields, that part of the park outside of the Golf Course was used to graze cattle, mainly from Park Farm. This has been an equestrian centre since the early 1970s, utilising only those fields around the Avenue as pasture.