>> History of Newtown
HISTORY OF NEWTOWN
By Doug Ellis
The Borough of Newtown
The medieval borough of Newtown was created by the Bishop of Winchester in the year 1218. It was formed from part of his estate of Burghclere and Highclere. Early documents show the name to be Nova Villa, (Latin for Newtown) or Novo Burgo de Clere, or Nova Villa de Sandleford. The latter reference is to Sandleford Priory (now St Gabriels School), which had been established some 20 years earlier.
On 29th May 1218 the Bishop was given the right to hold a weekly market in Newtown. The market was held each Monday on a broad street which was essentially what is now the drive to Newtown House. Sixty-seven building plots lined the street, rented out at a shilling a year to fifty-two burgesses.
In 1224 a ditch 300 perches long (1650 yards) was dug around the town at the Bishop's expense. It has been suggested that this formed the boundary with Burghclere along what is now the Adbury Holt Road, but it seems more likely to have surrounded the properties in the Street.
The borough had begun to decay by the 16th century. Oral tradition has it that it was harmed by the Black Death in 1349. However, this seems unlikely as the rents paid before and afterwards amounted to just over £8. The growth of the nearby town of Newbury may have taken trade from Newtown. The Hearth Tax returns for 1674 show there were sixty-four houses in Newtown. These included houses scattered all over the parish and so few of the houses built on the original sixty-seven plots in the Street could have remained at this time.
The only remaining houses on original Street plots are The Swan and Deepnell House, and possibly The Old Nursery. It is likely that any other houses, still there at the time, were demolished in the 18th century when Newtown House was built. No traces of the medieval borough can now be seen above ground. The land from the Church to The Swan, the field in front of Newtown House and the land from just above Newtown House down to the Adbury road is today listed as an ancient monument known as the "Deserted Medieval Town of Newtown".
Newtown House was built in 1740 and the southern wing was added in 1863. An understanding of the house, its estate and owners, is important in understanding the history of Newtown as a whole.
The house was built by the Pocock family. They owned it for two generations until the death of the Rt Rev Pococke (the Bishop had added the "e" himself) in 1768. The next significant owner was Edmund Arbuthnot, who bought it in 1824. Edmund's wife Elizabeth was a sister of William Chatteris, who bought Sandleford in 1835. When Edmund died in 1879 he left the house to William Chatteris. Chatteris never lived at the house, but was an important Newtown figure. His first wife was Edmund Arbuthnot's niece Anne. Anne died in 1848 and in 1858 Chatteris married Emily Hardy, a daughter of Admiral Hardy of Trafalgar ("Kiss me Hardy") fame.
On William Chatteris's death, his first wife Anne's brother, Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, who had occupied the house since 1881, became its owner.
In 1839 the Newtown House estate had been recorded as covering 154 acres of Newtown and included the house and 9 cottages. By the end of the 19th century they owned most of the cottages in the village. On Sir Alexander's death in 1907, his second wife Constance continued to live in the house and run the estate until after the First World War, during which time it was used as a military hospital. The inter-war period saw some of the land and many of the cottages sold, and a succession of occupants in the house. Capt and Mrs Harvey lived in the house and ran the estate from 1939, although by then it amounted to only 62 acres. Mrs Harvey continued to live there until 1968. The house was then bought by John Miller, who converted the stables into a house and sold Newtown House which was divided into three parts.
The modern main road, the B4640, existed before Newtown was established. There is a reference in 1377 to this road as "the old King's highway from Newbury to Winchester". With the formation of Newtown it became merely known as "the back lane". It came back into prominence after 1762 when an Act of Parliament provided for a Turnpike from Winchester to the Newtown River. At this time a toll house was erected immediately north of what is today the Swan Inn.
When the Street of the new borough became the centre of activity the main route south was up the Street and on across the common to Burghclere. This road became less important as the borough decayed, and in 1835 Edmund Arbuthnot was given permission to divert the road away from the front of Newtown House to its present route past the Church.
In about 1218 a chapel was built for the townspeople of the new borough. It was originally known as the Chapel of Sandleford and has always been attached to Burghclere Parish Church. The present church of St Mary the Virgin with St John the Baptist was built in 1864-65 on the site of the medieval chapel. The tower contains four bells cast by G. Mears & Co, and the cost of the new church was paid by Edmund and Elizabeth Arbuthnot.
The previous church, which was dedicated to the same two saints, was described as a small structure which was repaired in 1831 at a cost of £300. It had a nave, chancel and a small aisle and a wooden belfry with two bells.
The Rector has always been the Rector of Burghclere, but in addition, until 1979 there was also a Priest, or Curate, at Newtown. In the 1860's when the church was rebuilt a Parsonage was built which became a private house called Leigh House in 1935. From then through to 1979 the Newtown Priest lived at what is now called The Old Parsonage.
In addition to the church, in the 19th century there was also a Baptist Chapel to the north of what is now Adbury Court. It was recorded in the 1851 National Religious Census as having 120 seats.
The Post Office
From the late 1850's Thomas Ball was a blacksmith at the Forge, now known as Deepnell House. By 1867 the Forge was also the Post Office, and remained as such until 1889. It only handled the post, however, and Newtown residents had to go to Newbury for a Money Order and Telegraph Office.
In 1889 a Post Office was established by William Stratton in the front room of what is now The Old Post Office. It was developed to become a fully equipped post office, with telegraph equipment for sending telegrams in Morse and receiving them for local delivery. His daughter Harriet Stratton (Mrs Hutchins after she married Henry Hutchins in 1904) ran the post office for 55 years until her death in 1944. Her son Alex then took over, and on his death in 1972, his wife Evelyn Hutchins became the sub-postmistress. She held this position until the Newtown Post Office closed in 1978.
The school was built in 1827. In 1862 a residence for the mistress was built at the expense of Edmund Arbuthnot, and the school was enlarged in 1874 at the expense of William Chatteris. The school was conveyed to the National Society by Sir Alexander Arbuthnot in 1893, and an enlargement of the schoolroom was carried out in 1902 by subscription. The school, which could accommodate 60 children and on average had about 45 pupils, closed in 1922. Bought by the Roskill family in 1933, the schoolroom is today a garage.
The Village Hall
The Village Hall was built in 1906 and paid for by Sir Alexander and Lady Arbuthnot, who presented it to a charity. By the 1970’s the hall had fallen into disrepair and was little used. In 1979 it was leased to the present Village Hall Committee for £1 per year and has since been renovated and is in regular use by local societies and for private functions.
The village stocks were at the front of what is now Cox's, although by the 1880's they were only used by the nearby schoolchildren in their playtime. The village pound for stray animals was further down towards The Swan on the left hand side, just north of Springfields, where today there is a large oak tree.
Electricity came to Newtown in 1934. Prior to this date oil lamps had been used, as Newtown has never been connected to a gas supply. Mains water was first available in Newtown about five years earlier. Previously residents had drawn water from the numerous wells in the parish.
On the subject of water, in 1948 the Metropolitan Water Board proposed to flood the Enborne from Wash Water to Brimpton to provide a reservoir for 55 thousand million gallons of water. It would have flooded Newtown up to the 300 foot contour line, submerging all the houses near The Swan. Only the spire of the church would have remained above water. A Newtown Resistance Committee was formed, and local resident Lord Teviot brought his influence to bear. The matter cropped up again a few years later but eventually the scheme was abandoned.
Lord of the Manor
The Lord of the Manor was the Bishop of Winchester from 1218 until 1802, apart from the period 1648 until the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. From 1802 to 1986 the Lordship was held by the Earls of Carnarvon. In 1986 for one day only it was held by a company and then transferred to Brian Hibbert, who in 1996 passed it to the present holders Jon and Kathy Summers of Newtown Grange. The ownership by this company, Bakewell Management Ltd, for one day in 1986 was important because it gave rise to a dispute about who owned Newtown Common, and what rights residents had to drive over the common to their houses.
Newtown Common is an open tract of 146 acres of land, partly wooded and partly open heath. It has been so from ancient times and was untouched by the 19th century Enclosure Acts. A Scheme of Management under the Commons Act 1899 was entered into in 1930 giving the management of the common to the District Council, which then delegated the powers of management to Newtown Parish Council, who still hold those powers today. Newtown Common was registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 with sixteen houses having registered rights to take wood and turf and graze certain animals.
The Land Registry decided in 1997 that the ownership of Newtown Common should be registered in the name of Bakewell Management Ltd. In 1999 this company asked for substantial sums from some of the householders for the continued right to drive to their houses. The Newtown Common Residents Association was formed later that same year to resist these demands. The residents contributed funds for the Association to fight a legal case to establish the access rights. They took the case through the High Court, and the Court of Appeal without success but on 1st April 2004 the residents won their case against Bakewell Management Ltd in the House of Lords. It was decided that twenty years driving across the common had given the householder the necessary rights.
Bakewell Management Ltd went into liquidation in July 2004 and in December of that year Newtown Common was bought by Hampshire County Council, with 56% of the purchase price being provided by householders living by or near the common. The exact terms of this arrangement between local residents and the County Council were embodied in a Deed dated 15th August 2008 between Hampshire County Council and a newly formed company named Newtown Common Residents Association Limited.