Wickham Through The Ages
by Steve Manning
Neolithic & Stone Age (c 12,000BC-c 2,750 BC)
The earliest history of Wickham Village is unknown, but we can use our knowledge and understanding of the land to assume that Wickham has Stone Age origins with the first settlers attracted to the site as a ford across the River Meon.
The Middle Ages
Roman Rule (43AD – 410AD)
The Romans established a settlement at Wickham and probably built the first bridge over the river, the village being on the road from the Roman centres of Chichester and Winchester. Iron works have been found North East of the Village, and various roman finds to the South West.
Anglo-Saxon Era (c550 – 924)
It was during Saxon Britain when the first written mention of the village appears in a Royal Charter document dated 826. It is thought that Jutes would have settled in the area before the Saxons. Recent excavation (1965-70) at ‘The Manor House’ showed its grounds had dwellings and huts, evidence of Saxon settlement.
Norman Period (1066 – 1154)
After the Norman Conquest King William granted the Manor of Wickham to Hugo de Port and the Village appeared in the Doomsday Book of 1086, as part of the Titchfield Hundred. The present church of St Nicholas dates from 1126 and was run by an austere order of priests known as the Canons of Titchfield, the same priests that are thought to have ordered the construction of the now ruined Titchfield Abbey in 1221.
In 1269 King Henry III granted a charter to Roger de Scures, the Lord of The Manor at the time, for markets to be held on a Thursday. It is from this time that the layout of the village as we now know it began to emerge. The Village square is said to be one of the largest in Britain. The increasing population of skilled craftsmen and merchants had sufficient wealth to build themselves substantial houses and the new developments took place away from the old houses and the church on the west bank of the Meon.
In the year 1334 Wickham was worth 6 pounds, 8 shillings and 6 pence in taxes paid to the crown. (There were 20 shillings in a pound and 12 pence in a shilling). Wickham was worth more than Fareham so Wickham must have been a busy and prosperous place.
Mention should be made of Wickham’s most illustrious son William of Wykeham. Not born in Wickham along with his father, John Long, William of Wykeham moved there with his young family and it was then that the Lord of the Manor, John de Scures, noticed the clever boy and sent him to Winchester to be educated. John de Scures knew a bright lad when he saw one – the boy was William of Wykeham, as seen in Figure 1, who became Bishop of Winchester, twice Lord Chancellor of England and founder of Winchester College and New College Oxford. William was born in 1320 and died on September 27, 1404. His tomb lies in Winchester Cathedral.
Early Modern Britain
The Tudor Period (1485-1603)
In the mid-16th century the writer John Leland described Wickham as a ‘pretty townlet’. So even back then Wickham was recognised as an attractive settlement.
The Modern Age
Beginnings of Industrialisation (1770s-1780s)
Through the centuries Wickham was a tiny but busy market town. In 1700 it probably had a population of around 500. However in the 18th century there was a tanning industry in Wickham and in the 18th and 19th centuries a brewing industry. Both needed a supply of fresh water, which was readily available in Wickham. In those days the people of Wickham obtained their water from the dip hole (Figure 2, http://www.hampshirecam.co.uk/jul2108.html – 5th Sept 2013)
Wars in America and France help to unify British state (1770s-1815)
In 1801 Wickham had a population of 901 and compared to most of the villages in Hampshire it was a large community.
Later years saw plague, pestilence, butchers shops, coaching inns and the building of the Chesapeake Mill in 1820. This mill was built using timbers of an American frigate captured by The Royal Navy during the war with America in 1813.
Victorian Wickham (1837-1901)
Knowle Hospital was built in 1852 and was extended over the years. However it closed in 1998. The hospital was replaced by houses known today as Knowle Village.
The Wickham parish council was formed in 1894. Meanwhile during the 19th century Wickham fair continued. As well as horses there were pigs, cattle and sheep on sale.
By 1901 the population of Wickham was almost 1,200 and it was a flourishing village. Then in 1903 a branch railway was built from Fareham through Wickham, to Droxford and Alton. However it was closed to passengers in 1955.
The Great War (1914-1918) and beyond
In 1931 Wickham gained a gas supply. An electricity supply followed shortly afterwards. Rookesbury Park School opened in 1929.
Second World Word (1939-1945)
The first council houses in Wickham were built in the 1930s, with more being built after the war in 1945. Many private houses were also built and the village grew rapidly.
Height of Industrial Unrest (1960s-1980s)
Wickham Primary School opened in 1969.
By 1971 the population of Wickham was about 3,000.
Britain within the European Union (1970s-1980s)
In 1978 Wickham was twinned with the French village of Villiers-Sur-Mer.
Wickham Vineyard opened in 1984.
In 1990 an old brewery and village hall in Wickham were converted into flats called Riverside Mews. (The brewery shut in 1910 and the buildings were given to Wickham Parish Council to use as a village hall).
Bay Tree Walk opened in 1987 and the Wickham Community Centre opened in 1988.
Wickham continues to offer a rich shopping and dining experience in and around the Square, with restaurants, pubs, salons, beauticians, hardware and independent shops selling a range of antiques, clothing and unique gifts.