Stoneham War Shrine     Discovering the Park


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


The Deer Park: medieval boundaries

Recent fieldwork has traced considerable portions of the boundary of the medieval park. That this had not been recognised earlier can be explained by its overgrown nature, and the erroneous belief that the medieval and post-medieval boundaries were similar.

The boundary was first recognised following the present property division between Wellington Sports Ground (owned by the University of Southampton) and the land of Eastleigh and District Angling Club to the south of Shrubbery Pond. The present fence-line stands on the crest of a broad bank, up to two metres high and over six metres wide. Although the ground on the side of the Sports Ground has been subjected to levelling, there are still traces of a wide ditch on the south side of the bank. Internal ditches are common features of medieval deer park boundaries, as they prevent the deer from leaping the bank or 'pale'. This orientation suggested that the park was south of this boundary. The bank survives for a length of about 220 metres from SU 43851732 to SU 43631730. It was previously assumed that the manor house had originated as a lodge within the park (Currie 1989, 10). It can now be shown to be later feature outside the earliest park.

Having discovered this surviving stretch, it is possible to conjecture the boundary eastwards towards the church. The present boundary follows the line of an old ha-ha, and it can be assumed that this reuses the internal ditch of the earlier park. Direct connection between the ha-ha and the unaltered boundary has been obliterated by later disturbances. When Shrubbery Pond was extended after 1818 to create a vista from the new mansion to the church, a bay in the south-east corner of the pond was dug. A dam had to be built around this bay to connect it with that part of the earlier dam left untouched. In doing this earth was thrown into the western end of the ha-ha, cutting it off from earlier boundary. More recently, Eastleigh and District Angling Club have rebuilt the dam of Shrubbery Pond returning it to its pre-1818 shape, and backfilling the south-east bay. This has led to more earth being dumped over the line of the earlier boundary.

Dumping in the ditch around this area by University staff has caused Eastleigh and District to cut through the medieval bank at SU 43851732 to allow any water flowing through the ditch to pass around this obstruction. Although water does not normally flow along this ditch, the Angling Club need to use it as an emergency overflow in event of flooding. At the west end of the surviving medieval bank it can be observed how the dam of Park Pond has been built over the earlier bank.

It is assumed that the park pale moved west over the stream valley which was later flooded to create the ponds. There is no trace of the pale on the south side of the ponds, nor could it be seen when Park Pond was drained down in 1990. It is therefore probable that it followed the approximate line of the later dam, and is partly incorporated therein.

The bank does not reappear until SU 43381742 where it can be observed heading south-west from the remains of the brick terracing of the 1818 house. Although the bank can not be traced from the point that it has been built over by the dam of Park Pond, there are slight traces to suggest its line. From just to the west of the current overflow to Park Pond (SU 43501740), there is a terrace overlooking the pond. This is one of the 'embankments' recorded by Prosser in 1839:

'Below these terraces [the brick terraces on which the house stood] is an ornamental piece of water, formed about ten years ago, and supplied by springs in the park, the bold declivities forming embankments being planted with American shrubs....' (1839, part IX).

The steepness of this 'embankment' on its south side is such that it would seem to be artificial. Although this was probably largely the work of landscapers after 1818, it is very likely that they were recutting an existing bank. This bank continues in a westerly direction under the brick terraces of the 1818 house. As the medieval pale begins again from the corner of one of these terraces, it can be assumed the pale followed this line also. The line of the surviving pale follows the top of the old stream valley side, and from this it hints that the vanished pale just discussed sought to follow this line also once it had crossed the stream valley somewhere under the present dam to Park Pond.

The surviving pale extends from the corner of the brick terrace described above (SU 43381742) south-west to SU 43281730, a distance of about 150 metres. The pale here is up to five metres across and 1.2m high. On the north side a small stream has been channelled into a ditch following its line. There is a steep drop down into the valley containing Park Pond on the south. Although there is no trace of an internal ditch, this can be explained. Either the valley side was so steep that the ditch was not considered necessary, or landscaping to create the terraces along the north side of the lake in the 1820s has removed all trace of it. This stretch is heavily overgrown, and has some of the largest trees in the area growing on the pale bank.

At SU 43281730 the pale stops. It is here that the conjectured line of the pale would have crossed the valley. Although the ditch containing the small stream continues downhill to empty into the pond, it would appear that the pale has been levelled by landscaping on the north side of Park Pond. As the line of the pale would have passed through an area that was flooded by the pond when it was at its original extent, it is not expected that traces would remain. By crossing the valley it is possible to pick up the pale on the south side of the valley continuing on the previous south-west alignment. The pale has become very badly degraded here, and is heavily covered in moss. It is about three metres across, and up to 0.5m high in places, but shows signs of a longer period of neglect than elsewhere. There is a ditch on the south side, and a number of very large trees grow from the bank, including a particularly fine beech. There is some evidence of minor quarrying (probably gravel diggings) on the line of the bank. This stretch can be traced through the woods from SU 43201723 uphill to the corner of the number 3 tee on the golf course (SU 43161715), a distance of about one hundred metres. The pale disappears under the modern earthwork serving as the number 3 tee.

There are very faint traces of the bank continuing southwards across the golf course at this point, but it has been extensively levelled. Only a large oak on the barest traces of the bank south of the tee suggest that it has turned southwards from its earlier course. Following this alignment for a short distance finds the eastern boundary of a small plot of land opposite the site of a building known as Park Cottage on the 1897 Ordnance Survey map (it is referred to as the Dog Kennel (1818), and the Keeper's House (1840) on earlier maps). The boundary here becomes a typical post-medieval hedge boundary: a narrow bank, with traces of a ditch on the east side. The undergrowth along its line was too dense for detailed examination. Further access to this property could not be obtained.

The pale seems to have turned south to follow the edge of this presumably later plot. The location of a building here traditionally ascribed to a park keeper may suggest that this, and not the manor house, was the site of the medieval lodge. However, this is not conclusive, and the site may be entirely of post-medieval origins.

Although the southern boundary is uncertain, an old trackway extending from the Common to Stoneham Lane seems to pre-date the creation of the park. As the northern boundary appears to swing round and meet this track, it is probable that it would have been respected, particularly as it can be shown to have continued in use throughout the post-medieval period.

This trackway has been tarmacked, and the fields around it levelled to make sports fields. Little survives of any original features to support a thesis that it was the southern boundary of the medieval park. Two minor clues can be seen, but they should be viewed with caution. The first of these is a stream following the course of the road. On the northern boundary the edge of the park followed a stream for a while, and it was common for ancient boundaries to follow such features. For a short stretch of the modern road there is a length of a broad ditch on the north (deer park) side of the road. This starts at approximately SU 43911699, and extends to SU 43891700, a distance of about 30m. Elsewhere this ditch has been levelled, or obviously recut.

It is thought the boundary extended to Stoneham Lane, although Taylor's map of 1759 seems to show the boundary following a trackway leading behind the church. Although this is a possibility, the loss of the triangular area between this track, the road to the Common and Stoneham Lane would remove some fifteen acres from the proposed extent of the medieval park. As will be seen below, this does not fit the evidence.

If it can be assumed Stoneham Lane formed the eastern boundary, there are few clues left on the ground to support this. Again levelling for playing fields along this edge has removed all traces of the important inner face of this boundary. The bank appears to have dropped steeply down into Stoneham Lane. This may suggest that the bank here was once a substantial boundary akin to a park pale, but it could also be explained by the fact that Stoneham Lane is a deeply cut holloway.

The last clue to the line of the original boundary can be found in the churchyard. At present the churchyard wall revets a higher ground level within the yard than on the road side. Again this can be explained by the nature of Stoneham Lane, but approximately mid-way between the entrance to the churchyard and its southern edge, a change in the construction of the revetting wall can be clearly observed. In line with this change and heading west, a low bank can be observed running across the yard. Much of this bank has been obscured by later grave digging, but two large trees stand on the alignment.

This observation is supported by documentary evidence. In 1868 the churchyard was extended by taking in a small part of the park. Although this area is slightly less than an acre, a plan shows that the old boundary clearly followed the line of the low bank noted above (HRO 102M71/T162). The boundary must have then gone behind the church to join up with the line taken by the later ha-ha, thus completing the conjectured circuit.

If this boundary is accepted, the area encompassed covers approximately 77 acres. Considering the closeness of this measurement to the 80 acre extent of 1599, and the variable way in which acreage was measured in the past, it can be considered that the bounds of the medieval park have been determined.

A further clue that the association of this area with the park is correct, comes from the mid-sixteenth century rental ascribing 'le park' to the tenure of John Knolls. Knolls also held an area known as 'le lawnys'(HRO 5M53/764), but seems to have held no further land outside of the sub-manor of Chickenhall, on the eastern edge of the manor near the River Itchen. The name, 'le lawnys' survived until 1818 when it is the name of a field of 45 acres on the south side of the track thought to be the southern boundary of the deer park. As 'le parke' and 'le lawnys' are at some distance from Knolls' holding, it might be expected that they might form closely associated blocks of land.