Barton Stacey History

The parish takes its name from Saxon times, when the village was Bertun (“ber” or barley and “tun” or place – another name for farmyard?), a Royal Manor of Edward the Confessor. In 1206 the Manor was bestowed on Sir Rogo de Stacey and became the Berton of Stacey or just Barton Stacey.

The Earliest Period

There is clear evidence that Barton Stacey has been inhabited since the Neolithic period dating from 3500 to 2000 BC with the burial mounds (barrows) on Moody’s Down. There are interesting exhibits on the early inhabitants of the area at the Iron Age Museum in Andover, just 7 miles away.

There was an Iron Age hill fort at The Andyke, Bransbury which formed its defences with the rivers Test and Dever and the marshes between them. Celtic field systems were in the area too, but have since been ploughed out and no visible traces remain.

There are a number of scheduled ancient monuments in the parish dating from this period:

Description Grid ref
3 barrows SW of Newton Down Farm SU 418 389
Long barrow 400m W of Moody’s Down Farm SU 4528 3877
Long barrow 400m SE of Moody’s Down Farm SU 4335 3867
The Andykes, Bransbury SU 426 426

Romans

There is evidence of a Roman camp east of Manor Farm, with the remains of ditches and banks, and the Roman road from Winchester to Cirencester – both important Roman towns – cuts across the southern area of the parish as part of a byway. Further evidence of Romano-British inhabitants was found in 1977 when the main gas pipeline was laid, with the discovery of a “plank” burial of a young woman between Barton Stacey and Bransbury.

Saxons

The Saxons were in Barton Stacey and it provided useful farmland for them. When King Edward the Elder founded New Minster in Winchester in 903 AD, he granted it land which included 3 hides at Drayton in Barton Stacey. The hamlet of Drayton does not exist now – but its location is marked by the Barton Stacey services on the main A303 truck road. The Saxons left their mark with the trackways – cattle droves – which run southwards along the parish boundary and continue to nearby Wonston.

Normans

The parish is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The Victoria County History of Hampshire. Volume IV, pages 417-419 gives this account,

The manor…formed a part of the ancient demesne of the crown and provided a half a days farm of King Edward’s farm.

The Normans left their mark in the parish with the fine church, which still has some 12th century stonework, among the mostly 13th century building which forms the largest part of the church today.

English

The parish continued to be a farming community through the next centuries – with Church Farm House dating from the 16th century, and Manor Farm House and Bransbury Manor dating from the 18th century. Pictured right, Barton Stacey mentioned in a manuscript from 1451.

The parish registers, held at the County Record Office, give the details of the baptisms, marriages, and burials in the parish for the period from 1713 to 1985.

In the late 1700s the village was host to occasional bouts of bull-baiting – one of the popular sports of the time.

You won’t find thatched roofs on the cottages in Barton Stacey; in 1792 a spark from the village forge set a great fire raging which destroyed many of the houses. But the village centre has a 200 year old pub, The Swan Inn, which sits opposite the church.

In 1830 agricultural workers in many parts of England protested against the social conditions, and men from Barton Stacey and neighbouring parishes petitioned King William IV for parliamentary reform. Some men went to remonstrate with local farmers, parsons and landowners, and these uprisings – part of the “Swing Riots” – led to severe penalties. James Annals, John Dore, James Whitcher of Barton Stacey were transported. Thomas Berriman and Henry Hunt of Barton Stacey were hanged.

The uprising is commemorated in a plaque on the outside wall of the “Coach and Horses” public house in nearby Sutton Scotney.

Excavations for an extension to the burial ground adjacent to the church in 1999 found numerous interesting bottles from the area, as well as a silver thimble from around the time of king William IV (1830-1835).

Bull Baiting

This extract from Salisbury and Winchester Journal, published on 20 October 1788, shows the entertainment of the time in Barton Stacey

Bull Baiting

At Barton Stacey on Monday the 27th October 1788.

  • Twelve shillings for the best dog
  • Six shillings for the second best and
  • Three shillings for the third best.

The Bull to be at the stake by 11 o’clock.

Each dog to play one round before dinner.

NB A good ordinary on the table at one o’clock.

Source: Hampshire Record Office

Bull-baiting entailed the setting of dogs onto a tethered bull. The dog that grabbed the bull by the nose and brought it to the ground would be the victor.

This was by no means a one sided affair – it was common for the bull to kill or maim the dogs at such events.

Bull-baiting – along with bear-baiting – reached the peak of their popularity in England in the early 1800s until they were both made illegal in 1835.

The ban probably caused huge outcry at the time about the ‘death of a traditional sport’. But now, with over 100 years of hindsight, there are few people who would propose today that either ‘sport’ should be allowed.

The Last 100 Years

In the early part of 20th century, much of the area around Barton Stacey was owned by the McCreagh family. The last owner from this family, Michael McCreagh, was opposed to the tithe tax system which took one-tenth of the revenue of his farms, so he stopped them working and allowed them to fall into disrepair. Such was the effect on the area that Barton Stacey became known as a derelict village.

The derelict estates were requisitioned by the government around 1938-1939 for use as a military training area and this began the period of association between Barton Stacey and the army.

The parish became home to a large army camp – Barton Stacey Camp – and the parish church was used as the garrison church. The camp housed a variety of functions, particularly engineering units who carried out a number of repairs and restorations for the church.

In 1971 engineers from the camp repairing the church discovered under the north aisle a vault, probably sealed around 1740, containing 6 coffins thought to date from the 17th century. One of the coffins was opened and found to contain the body of a headless man – perhaps a victim of the civil war.

The camp played a significant role in World War Two when large numbers of American forces – particularly 5 Division – were stationed there as part of the preparation for D-Day on 6 June 1944.

The church’s wooden font cover was made by army apprentices at the camp in ?year.

The army has since left Barton Stacey, and the camp has closed, and the camp buildings were all demolished in the late-1980s. The army retains much of the land around Barton Stacey as training areas, and these are sometimes used for day and night exercises which involve firing.

The army also has a live firing range for small arms at Moody’s Down, which is used both day and night, mainly by young soldiers from the Army Training Regiment based at the Sir John Moore Barracks at Flowerdown, Winchester. Red flags and red lamps give a warning of the firing range is in use, but this doesn’t seem to disturb the farmers tending their fields or the sheep grazing. The range is subject to an interesting set of by-laws which set out the rights and obligations of the both the army and the public.

The army built a substantial amount of residential housing for married quarters in the 1950s and 1960s, with larger detached houses along West Road, Pheasant Close and Partidge Close for the officers, and smaller semi-detached and terraced houses along Roberts Road for the NCOs and other ranks. The Army houses were mostly sold to private residents in the mid-1990s. With its concentration of houses, the school, the green, and a football field, the Roberts Road area is a natural centre for much of the community.

Derelict Village of the 1920s

In the 1920s much of Barton Stacey was not well cared for – with serious consequences for the people of the village.

Background

In the 1920s Barton Stacey was owned by an eccentric landlord who had a particular point of view about taxation. This caused him to adopt an unusual approach to management of his land, affecting the livelihood of much of the village.

Extract from The Nation & Athenaeum, dated 6 July 1929

This travesty of a land system

Those who are satisfied with the workings of our land system might do worse than visit the little Hampshire village of Barton Stacey. They would find there what nothing but ocular evidence would allow them to believe. They would find farmhouses, farm cottages and 1,700 acres of good land laid waste more utterly than if an avenging army had passed over it. Approaching the village they would drive through mile after mile of derelict fields where forests of dock weeds rattle and hiss in the wind that spreads their seed over the neighbouring farms.

They would see cottages still inhabited where there are ragged holes in the thatched roofs, and the plaster is flaking off the walls; farm buildings in the last stages of decay, many already collapsed level with the ground that seems anxious to obliterate this insult to earth’s fertility, and farmyards and the front gardens of farmhouses choked with weeds and nettles five feet high. They would see five farms, three farmhouses, farm cottages, and many blocks of buildings crumbling away to ruin. These have been abandoned for eight years now.

They might think it some accursed plague spot from which the inhabitants had fled away many years ago. Actually, the explanation is far simpler. The owner of this land is a little eccentric and has his own ideas about the tenancy system. He has, for instance, a strong antipathy to tithe-payment. At one time he had one of the best known and most progressive farmers in the county as tenant of 1,700 of his acres. Then the land prospered and grew food abundantly, and there was happiness and prosperity in the village. As it happens, I was a pupil on these farms then, and can testify from first-hand knowledge. But the tenant-farmer, much against his will, was compelled to give notice and leave the farm where he had been born because of the eccentricities of his landlord. His outgoing valuation was just upon £10,000. Largely through prolonged litigation and specialist enquiries, he eventually received just over £2,000 of this, after waiting two years for it.

After he went, disaster followed disaster in the village. Many acres were never let again, others to farmers of a type that misused the land abominably, then left owing money and have never been heard of since. There are many empty cottages in Barton Stacey now – a thing almost unknown in any other village. The inhabitants have been driven away to work elsewhere, and few remain in this haunt of desolation except those too old to start life anew in a happier district. Another 450 acres have gone derelict this year. Only one occupied farm on the estate now remains. It is rumoured that in the village that even that may be vacant soon.

The land is not bad. Forty years ago a poor farmer came to it and after farming it for thirty years died worth £40,000. Everywhere there are men eager and willing to take on small holdings of they could get them. But they are invariably told that no land is available. I have been standing inside the ruins of one of the old farmhouses where a prosperous farmer once lived and the laughter of young people once echoed. Now the ceilings have fallen through, the windows are broken, and the frames falling out; through the holes the wind comes in and blows the leaves round the crumbling rooms. To get in the front door I had to go almost on my hands and knees, for it is overgrown with creeper and weeds. I looked out on the tangled jungle that was once a garden and a tennis court, upon this stinking waste that is infesting the whole country round with weeds and vermin, and I could have cried, had not sudden anger filled me. Anger not much against the owner of it all, for eccentricity of this kind is a disease rather than a crime, but against the travesty of a system that allows such things to be and is so rotten that it cannot prevent them. For as the laws governing our agriculture stood, any owner of land may turn his property into a wilderness, throw hundreds out of employment, cause a huge sum of misery and loss to the community, and no one can hinder him.

During the war a temporary Act was passed that prevented such a waste of our resource. If, in the opinion of his fellow farmers, a man was grossly misusing his land, the privilege of cultivating it was transferred to another. This actually happened to one of the farms on this estate. At the end of the war the Act ceased to have effect, the land reverted to its owner, and it has been derelict ever since. This is not the only semi-derelict land in Britain. There is good land being wasted in many other counties. On the one hand, we have our huge bill for imported food and for paying the unemployed to do nothing, together with a widespread but unsatisfied demand for the opportunity of getting land to farm; on the other, acre upon acre of usable land that has been allowed to go to waste or is being grossly misused. The facts have been known to the late Government for years, and details of the Barton Stacey case have several times been brought to their notice. But they have done nothing. They have turned over in their sleep, muttered something about a special Act having to be passed to deal with such cases, and left the land to its desolation, the villagers to their poverty and unemployment. It seemed monstrous, as I stood in this tumbledown shell of a house which so recently was the hub of a thriving little community, and before my eyes, on the mildewy, indecent walls, I seemed to see in letters of fire the words: “Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting; thy Kingdom is divided.”

Moodys Down Byelaws

The firing range at Moody’s Down in Barton Stacey is subject to special byelaws which are displayed at key points around the range.

STATUTORY INSTRUMENT 1960 NO. 1747

MILITARY LANDS

The Moody’s Down Range Byelaws, 1960

Made 16th September, 1960

Coming into operation 21st November, 1960

THE MOODY’S DOWN RANGE BYELAWS

Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the War Department in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Part I of the Military Lands Act, 1892 (a) and of all other powers enabling him in that behalf hereby, with the consent of the Hampshire County Council so far as regards the interference with highways hereinafter mentioned makes the following Byelaws:

AREA OF LAND AFFECTED

1 The area to which these Byelaws apply (hereinafter referred to as “The Danger Area”) consists of the Moody’s Down Range (together with all Highways thereon, but excluding the public right of way between Moody’s Down Farm and Cocum Farm) in the Parish of Barton Stacey in the County of Hampshire the limits of which are set out in the Schedule hereto.

USE OF DANGER AREA

2 The Danger Area may be used for the firing of rifles, revolvers, light machine guns and machine carbines and for all activities ancillary to such firing.

PROHIBITION OF ACCESS

3. (1) The Danger Area shall be entirely closed to the public during such times as notice of firing is given by the display, on the day or night of firing, of the following signals that is to say by the display of a red flag by day and a red light by night hoisted at the following places:

(a) at a place near the entrance gate to the range on the Salisbury-Basingstoke road;

(b) at a place on the footpath near Moody’s Down Farm;

(c) at a place approximately equidistant between Moody’s Down Farm and Folly Farm

(d) at a place on the eastern side of the Roman Road at its junction with the Barton Stacey Newton Stacey road;

(e) at a place on the south side of the Barton Stacey-Newton Stacey road due north of Folly Farm:

(f) at a place on the south side of the Barton Stacey-Newton Stacey road at a point 100 yards from All Saints Church:

(g) at a place on the footpath from Moody’s Down Farm to Cocum Farm 330 yards west-north west of the roadway leading from the Salisbury Basingstoke road northwards to Barton Stacey

(2) When the Danger Area is closed to the public as aforesaid, no person shall

(a) enter into or upon or pass over or through the Danger Area, or

(b) be or remain in or upon the Danger Area, or

(c) cause or permit or suffer any vehicle, vessel, animal, aircraft or other things whatsoever to enter into or upon or to pass over or through or to be or remain in upon or over the Danger Area.

PROJECTlLES

4 No person shall dig or search for any projectile or any lead or other metal in or on the Danger Area or interfere with or take or retain or be in possession of any projectile or any lead or other metal found within the Danger Area or remove any projectile from the Danger Area.

GOVERNMENT STORES

5 No person shall interfere with or remove from the Danger Area any stores or articles belonging to the War department or otherwise the property of the Crown.

OFFENCES

6 Any person doing anything prohibited by or otherwise contravening any provision of any of the preceding Byelaws Nos 3. 4 and 5 thereby commits an offence against the Byelaw so contravened.

ENFORCEMENT

7 The following persons are hereby authorised to remove from the Danger Area and to take into custody without warrant any person found therein when it is closed to the public or committing any other offence against any of the said Byelaws and to remove from the Danger Area any vehicle, animal, vessel, aircraft or thing whatsoever found in the Danger Area or in contravention of any of the said Byelaws.

(a) the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command:

(b) the Officer in charge of the Moody’s Down Range

(c) any officer warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any military policeman, War Department constable in uniform and being for the time being under the Command of the said General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command or the Officer in charge of the Moody’s Down Range;

(d) any person authorised in writing by or on behalf of the said General Officer Commanding-in-Chief or the Officer in charge of the Moody’s Down Range: and,

(e) any police constable.

EXEMPTIONS

8. (1) Nothing done by a person using the Danger Area in persuance of Bye No. 2 or by a person acting under and in accordance with any authority or permission given by or on behalf of the Secretary of State or the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command or the Officer in charge of the Moody’s Down Range shall be deemed to constitute an offence against any of the Byelaws.

(2) If for any reason any aircraft is compelled to alight on or is unable to quit the Danger Area the presence of that aircraft in the Danger Area shall not constitute an offence against these Byelaws, provided that the owner of, and the persons in charge of, that aircraft shall, unless the Officer in charge of the Moody’s Down Range directs to the contrary, forthwith use and continue to use his or their utmost endeavours to bring that aircraft out of the Danger Area speedily as possible.

(3) These Byelaws shall not apply to Livestock belonging to persons having the right to graze livestock in the Danger Area except so far as they relate to the area between the firing point and the butts.

INTERPRETATION

9. (1) The Interpretation Act, 1889 (b) shall apply to the interpretation of these Byelaws as it applies to the interpretation of an Act of Parliament, and as if these Byelaws, and any Byelaw revoked thereby, were Acts of Parliament

(2) In these Byelaws the expression:-

“projectile” includes any shot or shell or other missile and any portion thereof:

“aircraft” includes any craft or contrivance which though not an aircraft is for the time being airborne.

DATE OF OPERATION OF BYELAWS

10. These Byelaws shall come into operation on the twenty-first day of November 1960, and may be cited as the Moody’s Down Range Byelaws, 1960.

THE SCHEDULE

The limits of the Danger Area are as follows.

ON THE SOUTH

Commencing at a point on the north side of the Salisbury-Basingstoke Road (A30) with the roadway leading northwards to Barton Stacy and on the western side of the latter, thence for a distance of 760 yards in a direction WEST-SOUTH-WEST along the northern side of the Salisbury-Basingstoke road to a point 80 yards east-north-east of the Winchester-Andover crossroads. Thence by a line for a distance of 100 yards in a direction almost due WEST, to the eastern side of the Winchester-Andover road, 50 yards north-north-west of Basingstoke cross-roads; thence

IN THE WEST

From the last mentioned point and running in a direction north-north-west the eastern side of the said Winchester-Andover road and its continuation, the Old Roman road to Cirencester for a distance of 1680 yards to a point on the hedge between Folly Farm and Moody’s Down Farm, 620 yards north east of the northernmost corner of Newton Down Farm Buildings. Thence in a direction EAST- NORTH-EAST for a distance of 210 yards along the hedge between Folly Farm and Moody’s Down Farm. Thence by a line for a distance of 1300 yards in a direction. NORTH-NORTH-WEST to a point on the south side of the Barton-Stacey-Newton Stacey road 495 yards north-east of its junction with the Old Roman road; thence

ON THE NORTH

From the last mentioned point and running along the south-eastern side of the Barton Stacey Newton Stacey road for a distance of 380 yards in a NORTH-EASTERLY direction, thence EAST NORTH-EAST for a distance of 660 yards to a point 560 yards due west of All Saints Church, Barton Stacey and 120 yards due south of the Barton Stacey-Newton Stacey road; thence

ON THE EAST

From the last mentioned point and running in a direction SOUTH-SOUTH-EAST for a distance of 1325 yards to a point on the hedge between Folly Farm and Moody’s Down Farm, 200 yards west- south-west of the roadway running southwards from Barton Stacey to the Salisbury-Basingstoke road, thence along the said hedge in a direction EAST-NORTH-EAST for a distance of 200 yards to the western side of the roadway running south from Barton Stacey at a point 1140 yards south of All Saints Church, Barton Stacey. Thence in a direction SOUTH by EAST along the western side of the said roadway running south from Barton Stacey for a distance of 1780 yards to the point of commencement. But excluding nevertheless the footpath between Moody’s Down Farm and Cocum Farm which is situated within the boundaries described above.

(b) 52 and 53 Vict. c.63.

The boundaries of the area described above the marked by boundary post.

Dated this sixteenth day of September 1960.

(signed) C. M. Fife, Assistant Under-Secretary of State.

By Order of Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary State for the War Department.

The consent of the Hampshire County Council to the making of these Byelaws. so far as regards the restriction of the use of the highways mentioned therein (but excepting the public right of way between Moody’s Down Farm and Cocum Farm).was given by a resolution dated the eighteenth day of July, 1960 (signed) G. A. Wheatley.

NOTICES

PENALTY FOR OFFENCES

1. By Section 17(2) of the Military Lands Act. 1892, it is provided:

If any person commits an offence against any Byelaw under this Act, he shall be liable, on conviction before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction to a fine not exceeding FIVE POUNDS, and may be removed by any Constable or Officer authorised In manner by the Byelaw from the area, whether land or water, to which the Byelaw applies, and taken into custody without Warrant, and brought before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction to be dealt with according to law, and any vehicle, animal, vessel, or thing found in the area in contravention of any Byelaw, may be removed by any Constable or such Officer as aforesaid, and on due proof of such contravention, declared by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction to be forfeited to Her Majesty.

INSPECTION OF BYELAWS AND PLAN

2. A copy of these Byelaws and a plan showing the Danger Area may be, inspected at the Offices of the Garrison Adjutant, Barton Stacey, the Moody’s Down Range Warden and the War Department Land Agent, Blandford House. Farnborough Road, Aldershot, Hants where copies of the Byelaws may also be obtained at the price of one shilling for each copy.

RECOVERY OF PROJECTILES

3. Any person who finds a projectile within the Danger Area must not disturb it but should report the finding of it to the Officer in charge of the Moody’s Down Range or the Moody’s Down Range Warden or to the Police at the first opportunity.

PUBLIC NOTIFICATION OF FIRING

4. Public Notification that firing will take place will be given by sending notices, not less than seven clear days before the day or night of firing, giving particulars of the intended time and duration of the firing and of the signals mentioned in the Byelaws to the Occupant of Wades Farm and to the local police.

ADDITIONAL PRECAUTIONS

5. In addition to the signals referred to in Byelaw No. 3, a sentry will be posted at each end of the footpath from Cocum Farm to Moody’s Down Farm whenever firing is taking place and will signal for firing to cease should any person wish to cross the Danger Area by way of this footpath.

Roberts Road

Lord Roberts of KandaharRoberts Road in Barton Stacey was named after an illustrious British military leader.

Lord Roberts of Kandahar was born in 1832 in India and died in 1914 in France. Also called (from 1892) Baron Roberts Of Kandahar, but known affectionately as ‘Bobs’ by an admiring public and soldiers alike, he was among the most respected officers of the British Army.

He was an outstanding combat leader in the Second Afghan War (1878–80) and the South African War (1899–1902), and the last commander in chief of the British Army (1901–04 – the office was then abolished). Foreseeing World War I, he was one of the earliest advocates of compulsory military service.

Lord Roberts was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy while serving as a Lieutenant in the Bengal Horse Artillery (Indian Army) during the Indian Mutiny. The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for gallantry. In 1899, his son, Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts, was awarded the VC posthumously for his actions at the Battle of Colenso during the South African War.

Lord Roberts is commemmorated in the poems by Rudyard Kipling, ‘Bobs’ written in 1898 and ‘Lord Roberts’ written in 1914.

Roberts Road in Barton Stacey formed part of the large married quarters area for Army units based at the former Barton Stacey camp, but now the houses are privately owned.


The following extract from Encyclopaedia Britannica Online (1999 edition) gives an outline of Lord Roberts career.

Roberts (of Kandahar, Pretoria, and Waterford), Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl, VISCOUNT ST. PIERRE. Also called (from 1892) BARON ROBERTS OF KANDAHAR (born Sept. 30, 1832, Cawnpore, India, died Nov. 14, 1914, Saint-Omer, France), British field marshal, an outstanding combat leader in the Second Afghan War (1878-80) and the South African War (1899-1902), and the last commander in chief of the British Army (1901-04; office then abolished). Foreseeing World War I, he was one of the earliest advocates of compulsory military service.

Roberts first distinguished himself during the suppression of the Indian Mutiny (1857-58). On September 1, 1880, he scored the decisive victory of the Second Afghan War, defeating Ayub Khan’s Afghan Army near Qandahar. From 1885 to 1893 he was commander in chief in India. As the second British commander in chief (December 1899-November 1900) in the South African War, he ended a succession of British defeats; captured Bloemfontein, capital of the Orange Free State Republic (March 13, 1900), and annexed that Boer state as the Orange River Colony (May 24); took the cities of Johannesburg (May 31) and Pretoria (June 5); and defeated Boer commandos at Bergendal (August 27). A field marshal from 1895, he gave way to Horatio Herbert Kitchener as commander in chief in South Africa in November 1900.

Roberts was created a baron in 1892 and an earl and viscount in 1901. Both of his sons having predeceased him, the barony became extinct, but the earldom and viscounty devolved, in turn, on his elder and younger surviving daughters.

The Great Fire of 1792

Over two hundred years ago, at about mid-day on a day in early May, a spark flew out of Mr Moody’s blacksmiths shop at the north end of the village – somewhere near Wheat Cottage – and started a train of events that shapes Barton Stacey today.

In the Press

Luckily for posterity and amateur historians, twenty years earlier, the Hampshire Chronicle had started in Winchester and its vivid report gives a story of the event which would be hard to improve on.

In five brief paragraphs the unknown author not only chronicles the horror of the fire, but also gives a fascinating glimpse of the village life at the time and adds a touch of (unintentional) humour with the moral story of Farmer Friend.

Unfortunately the village does not seem to have stood a chance.  By the time a rider could have reached the fire services in Winchester of Whitchurch and the engines returned to Barton Stacey, it would have been all over.

This is a transcript of an article from the Hampshire Chronicle dated 14 May 1792.

Fire at Barton Stacey

On Tuesday last, about the middle of the day, the most awful conflagration ever beheld by human eyes, desolated this village. Some people being at work in Mr Moody’s shop, smith and edge-tool maker, a large flake of red hot iron flew out of the shop window, and, falling on some dry litter near a cucumber-bed, set it instantly on fire. This communicating to an adjacent mill-house, covered with thatch, where a horse was at work, the whole, in a few minutes, was in flames. Every exertion was used to extricate the horse, but in vain. The poor animal, irritated by flakes of fire falling continually upon him, and frightened by the flames, was in so dreadful a state of agitation, that he flew round with such impetuosity, that it was impossible to release him; and he was burnt to ashes.

These premises being situate at the northern extremity of the parish, the wind high, and blowing in a direct line with the street, carried the thatch like a storm of fire, swifter than a man could run, from one house to another, till the whole village was in flames!

The sight, from the adjoining hills, presented to the imagination an awful emblem of the last and final day! Volumes of liquid fire occupied the atmosphere, which, taking different directions, was whirled by the wind to a prodigious height; till the flame and combustible material roaring and bursting with a most tremendous noise, fell again in showers of fiery hail, until everything covered with thatch was entirely consumed! At once instant 20-7 houses, 13 barns, 10 stables, several granaries, and 4 ricks of capital wheat, were in flames. The thatch upon several extensive garden-walls was completely burnt up; every privy, though detached, and at the upper end of the gardens, was reduced to ashes; with a great number of waggons, carts, thrashed and unthrashed corn, 20-8 pigs, a great quantity of poultry, and all the furniture and entire property of great numbers of poor people, who are reduced to the most deplorable circumstances, and to the utmost penury.

Happening in the middle of the day, only 1 life was lost; and that through obstinacy. Farmer Friend, at the advanced sixty, perished in going upstairs after his money. He was supposed to have about 400 guineas in a coffer; which he said he was determined to save or perish in the attempt, which was unhappily his fate; for he had no sooner reached the top of the stairs than the roof fell in upon him; and so completely was he burned to ashes, that no traces whatever can be found of his body, except one small piece of the back bone.

Two engines, one from this city, and another from Whitchurch, came to the assistance of the sufferers; but not in time to prevent the ravages of the fire, which completed its devastations in little more than an hour. About eight or ten houses remain uninjured, among which are the parsonage-house, the farm house occupied by Mr Courtney, and some cottages which stood out of the line of the wind. The principal loss is sustained by Mr Courtney, and we are sorry to hear that a very small part of the property destroyed was insured.

The Dean and Chapter of Winchester have generously sent £20 and a quantity of bread, for the present relief of the unfortunate sufferers, who were obliged to take shelter in the church. Joshua Iremonger, Esq. of Wherwell, and several other gentlemen, have also humanely extended their assistance towards their immediate necessities.

The Aftermath

Whilst the homeless sheltered in the church, John Courtney who had lost most the day before, appealed to the public through the columns of the Chronicle not to respond to any requests to charity until the total loss had been calculated and certified by the minister and officers of the parish. A week later a formal committee, under the chairmanship of William Powlett, MP, was formed at the first of many meetings at the Coach and Horses in Sutton Scotney. They resolved to forward thanks to those who had provided immediate help to the sufferers and to send five hundred circular letters to gentlemen in Winchester and other towns in the county “to beg them to apply for and promote the contributions desired on behalf of the sufferers”.

At a meeting two days later it was resolved that the total loss was in the region of £2000 and recommended “the wretched state of the sufferers to the humanity and charitable aid of the public”. They also decided to print the names of all subscribers in the county papers. All bankers in the county were asked to receive donations and forward a weekly statement to the committee chairman, furthermore Hampshire gentlemen resident in London were also to be solicited for contributions.

By the end of the month a full account of the damage was printed thus.

£6,874-0-0 Aggregate loss

————-

£2,640-0-0 Insured loss

£2,810-0-0 Loss of those not requiring public relief

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£5,270-0-0 Loss not requiring public relief

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£1,604-0-0 Loss of those requiring public relief

The response was dramatic and from all of the county! In the first week a Mrs Wright of Fulham sent £100 (probably the same Mrs Elizabeth Wright who had contributed £1400 to two separate Barton Stacey charities in 1784 and 1791), the gentry of Wherwell six guineas and the rest four pounds and nine shillings, Mr Smith and Mr Roe one guinea each. And so on for column after column of the chronicle. For comparison, in 1792 a single fare to London by stage-coach from Winchester was half a guinea (52p) inside, seven shillings (35p) outside! Each week a new week of subscribers was published between columns describing the horse race meetings on Worthy Down and at Danebury, Stockbridge as well as long and horrifying advertisements for patent medicines for the most gruesome diseases and skin conditions!

Throughout June, July and August, the contributions kept coming, each individually acknowledged in print when it was possible to do so by the committee, now firmly based at the Coach and Horses. By August 22nd a total of £2098-6-6 had been collected of which £603-8-2½ had been distributed. The committee in what seems to have been a winding up meeting recommended the farmers, tradesmen and others insure their buildings in future. The treasurer, Mr Twyman, was also thanked for his punctuality and the accuracy of his accounts. This seems to have marked the end of the major fund-raising exercise, although further meetings of the committee were recorded on September 3rd and 17th and October 8th.

Rebuilding

The rebuilding of the village would have taken place over several years, however as all the guidebooks point out, it has resulted in a collection of very attractive Georgian houses built to a similar pattern with a central staircase rising from the front door, originally two up-two down with a rear kitchen/dairy covered by a “catslide” or “linhay”. Naturally thatch was not a favoured roofing material mot houses would have a well near the back door given the level of the water table and easy chalk digging. Whether the famous detached privies were rebuilt at the ends of the gardens is not known. We certainly seem to have lost most of the walls that were covered in thatch.

Yew Tree Cottage we know was built soon after the fire as all its documents survive intact. It was built on the site of two “tenement buildings” destroyed in the fire.

Survivors

Eight to ten houses survived the fire and it would be interesting to know how many are still standing in some form or other. According to the account the parsonage was spared as was Mr Courtney’s farmhouse. One of these would be today’s Church Farm. A Mr John Courtney owned Barton Cottage in 1819 when he willed it to his wife May, whether this is the house mentioned, is guesswork.

Two interesting old maps of Barton Stacey exist, however, one is 50 years before the fire and was produced as a land record rather than a catalogue of homes. The other map from 1841 shows the village in great detail and depicts many of the houses in the village today. As a result clues to survivors are few: The Swan Inn despite being in the line of fire, certainly seems to be older than 200 years. Ash Farm House would also be away from the line of fire.

Looking at the 1741 map it is interesting to see what has survived. The field pattern is virtually unchanged. Gravel Lane seems to have been straighter than it is in real life but most of the plots line the main street as they do today. It is not known when the village pond disappeared or when the church crossroads were realigned.