Stoneham War Shrine     Discovering the Park


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


The Saxon landscape: Saxon routeways and their relationship with common-pasture

Rackham has suggested origins of English commons as woodland-pasture where 'the pasture element gained the upper hand and grazing was sufficient to prevent the replacement of the trees' (1976, 136). He further notes that their later shapes taper '...away gradually into the roads which cross the common' (Rackham 1976, 139). A study of the local commons on the 1810 Ordnance Survey map demonstrates this tendency. It further shows that most of the ancient routeways of the area move across country by following stretches of common land wherever possible.

The Saxon charter evidence hints at a number of roads crossing the commons of the region. Many of these roads can be shown to correlate with routeways shown on the 1810 map. A major routeway was the road from North Stoneham Common to the Saxon port of Hamwic. There is a gate on the charter for North Stoneham of A.D. 932 roughly where the A33 enters Southampton Common. This gate is shown to be still present on the North Stoneham Enclosure Map of 1736 (HRO 102M71/E9). North Stoneham Common was still a large area stretching from the southern end of Chandler's Ford to Southampton Common in the eighteenth century, and is recorded as covering 2,200 acres in 1736 (HRO 102M71/E9). The gate on the A.D. 932 charter suggests an exit point from the Common for a road following the line of the later A33. This road bends SSE near the southern end of Southampton Common. In order to pass into the later medieval town of Southampton, the road has to turn back due south. If the original line leaving the Common is followed it leads directly to the site of the earlier town of Hamwic. The alignment of this road suggests that it was one of the main provisioning routes into Hamwic, particularly for livestock direct from the extensive grazing lands of North Stoneham.

As well as these major routeways, there are a number of other trackways in the area that can be identified as having Saxon origins. The most interesting of these holloways is that known as Doncaster Drove, now an unmade track passing from Stoneham Lane (SU 443175) across an old ford on Monk's Brook to Wide Lane (SU 451175). On the 1810 map this track can be seen extending across what is now Southampton Airport to North Stoneham and Chickenhall Farms, on the edge of the Itchen watermeadows. Further study of the map shows that the track can be extended west via Stoneham Lane to another holloway alongside Trojan's Sports Club (SU 435170) that led to North Stoneham Common. In the post-medieval period, this route was used to bring stock from winter pasture on the common down to the meadows for their spring feed. Both Chickenhall and North Stoneham Farms stood close to the site of Roman buildings, indicating even older continuity to their positions.

The track has ancient origins. In the eighteenth century that part that passes from the common to Stoneham Lane acted as the boundary of a post-medieval deer park (HRO 102M71/E9). The practice of bringing stock down to spring pasture near the Itchen probably dates from Saxon times. In Domesday Book, North Stoneham is recorded as having 224 acres of meadow (Munby 1982, 6.8), one of the largest recorded extents in England. The track also terminates near a feature mentioned on the bounds of a Bishopstoke charter, dated A. D. 960, as the West Steth, the 'West Landing Place' (Grundy 1921, 114). As the Bishopstoke charter does not cross the Itchen to the west bank, it must be assumed that the 'West Landing Place' was on the North Stoneham bank. This adds up to suggest that Doncaster Drove was part of a stock-moving trackway. The landing place on the river suggests access from this area down river to Hamwic, and is further indication of a provisioning routeway to supply a major Saxon town.