Tag Archives: exton

Wandering: South Downs Way – Exton to Winchester

26 Sep

After a break of almost a month my wife and I were back walking the South Downs Way last Saturday. This was the last section taking us from the tiny village of Exton to the city of Winchester, both in Hampshire and although the distance was only twelve miles they did seem a world apart.

The highlight of Exton for me (apart from it being an ancestral village) was the River Meon (see below), a beautifully clear chalk stream and I could have stood for hours watching the trout feeding in the shallow waters. Winchester has its own river (the Itchen) which is quite pretty in its own right, but Winchester also has a motorway, crowds, shops, cafes, noise and everything we had been blissfully free of on our walk over the Downs.

The weather wasn’t perfect, visibility was pretty poor on our journey down and we wondered whether we would actually be able to see anything once we reached Exton. Fortunately the sun did come out as the weather forecasters predicted and started to burn of some of the mist and fog. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before the sky clouded over and we were left with slightly better visibility but by no means perfect.

The sun did reappear after lunch, but it was a little too late in the afternoon. I had hoped for a clear view of Winchester as we descended from the hills, but instead we were greeted by a rather dull and grey jumble of buildings, rather disappointing in the end.

Footbridge over the River Meon at Exton, Hampshire

We passed through many places with ancestral connections during the day, both whilst walking and whilst getting to the start. It is a beautiful part of the country and one which I have ever intention of visiting again and exploring further. Public transport is not brilliant among the small villages and hamlets, so some careful planning is need.

So that is it, the walk is over, we reached our destination but it did take an incredibly long time. It was actually only ten days, which works out at ten miles a day, but we didn’t have the luxury of lots of free time to complete it, so it was stretched out over many more months than we would have liked. Next year I will try to do it all in one go.

So here is the final set of facts and figures for the walk:

Starting point: Exton, Hampshire
Finishing point: City Mill, Winchester, Hampshire
Distance walked: 12.0 miles
Highest point: Beacon Hill (659 ft)
Places of note: Exton, Beacon Hill, Lomer, A272, Cheesefoot Head, Chilcomb, Winchester
Number of trig points spotted: One – Beacon Hill
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg and cress, cheese and onion)
Number of times I said “my ancestors used to live here”: I lost count, but probably too many times!
Number of bus journeys taken: One (we had to get an early start so my wife drove us to the station)
Number of train journeys taken: Five
Number of ice creams eaten: None
Shorts or long trousers: Long trousers (although it did get quite warm once or twice)

The River Itchen and City Mill, Winchester, Hampshire

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Wandering: South Downs Way – Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton

27 Aug

My wife and I were out and about again today, walking another section of the South Downs Way. The weather was reasonably good, slightly cooler than previous walks and mostly dry. The photo below shows the first climb of the day, as you can see there was lots of broken cloud, but around midday the cloud became thicker eventually leading to some light rain and ultimately one heavy, but very brief shower.

There had obviously been some very heavy rain recently because there were some very large (almost unpassable) puddles and many patches of mud, which made some of the paths a little awkward.

Butser Hill, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Hampshire

I like this particular section, partly because of the almost continuous views of the village of East Meon and that it finished in Exton, both of which have family connections, partly because there are some superb views to the south to Southampton and the Isle of Wight and partly because it is a section I am not that familiar with (unlike some of the Sussex sections).

The biggest surprise of the day was the state of HMS Mercury, last year when I walked this section the site contained many derlict buildings that made up this naval establishment. Today although the security fences were still there but the buildings had gone, or rather they had been reduced to big piles of ground-up rubble. I don’t think there was anything architecturally outstanding about the buildings but it was still sad to see them gone.

HMS Mercury (23 June 2010)

HMS Mercury (27 August 2011)

As with previous walks here are some facts and figures for today’s walk:

Starting point: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean, Hampshire
Finishing point: Exton, Hampshire
Distance walked: 10.1 miles
Highest point: Butser Hill (889 ft) [said to be the highest point on the South Downs]
Places of note: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Butser Hill, HMS Mercury, Wether Down, Coombe Cross, Meon Springs, Old Winchester Hill
Number of trig points spotted: Two – Wether Down (although we didn’t get up close) and Old Winchester Hill
Number of sandwiches eaten: Two halves (egg mayonnaise and cheese ploughmans)
Number of taxi journeys taken: One (from Petersfield to QECP) [quicker than waiting for the bus, meant we could start walking sooner]
Number of bus journeys taken: Four
Number of train journeys taken: Three
Number of ice creams eaten: Three! (a bumper section of the SDW for ice creams)
Shorts or long trousers: Long trousers (a few warmer spells but not warm enough for shorts)

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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Ancestral Profile: Harriet WRIGHT (c1840-1925)

20 Jan

Harriet WRIGHT was my 2x great-grandmother and her exact date and place of birth (along with the details of her baptism) are bound up within the mystery surrounding the early years of her father Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT.

It is quite possible that her birth was registered under the surname SHORNDEN, and it seems likely that she was born not long after her parents marriage in 1840, all census information points to a birth around that year. The place of her birth is not quite so clear, with conflicting information given

  • 1851 – Ospringe, Kent
  • 1861 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1871 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1881 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1891 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1901 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1911 – Cowfold, Kent [there is a Cowfold in Sussex, but I haven't found one in Kent]

At the time of the 1851 census Harriet was living with her parents and siblings in Alton, Hampshire and in theory this means the information was given by Henry and ought to be most reliable. From 1861 to 1901 she is living with her husband William Henry MITCHELL, who obvious wouldn’t have known first-hand where she was born. In 1911 she is widowed and living with one of her married daughters, so again not first hand knowledge of her mother’s birth.

Returning to the 1851 census we find an eleven year old Harriet with her parents and siblings (Mary Ann, Henry, Emma, William and George) in Normandy Street in Alton, Hampshire. Her father is described as a cutler and lodging house keeper.

On the 4th February 1860 Harriet married William Henry MITCHELL at the parish church in the small village of Exton, Hampshire. Both were living in Exton at the time, which is where William Henry’s parents spent their married life together. [It is also conveniently situated on the South Downs Way so I was able to pay it a brief visit last year]

Together Harriet and William Henry MITCHELL had a total of thirteen children:

  1. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 26 February 1860)
  2. Henry James MITCHELL (baptised 3 November 1861)
  3. Robert Charles MITCHELL (baptised 25 January 1863)
  4. James MITCHELL (baptised 18 December 1864)
  5. Sarah Ann MITCHELL (baptised 10 May 1866)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 22 December 1867)
  7. Emma Louisa MITCHELL (baptised 11 July 1869)
  8. Elizabeth MITCHELL (baptised 9 April 1871)
  9. George MITCHELL (baptised 25 May 1873) [my great-grandfather]
  10. Alfred MITCHELL (baptised 12 September 1875)
  11. Albert MITCHELL (baptised 5 May 1878)
  12. Harriet Ellen MITCHELL (baptised 21 December 1879)
  13. Frederick MITCHELL (baptised 5 February 1882)

These children were born and baptised in a range of villages across Hampshire and Sussex, as the family moved their way across the counties, presumably travelling wherever it was necessary for William Henry to find work. Many months ago I put this information on a Google Map to show the places that the family passed through.

The couple eventually ended up in Sussex, by 1901 their children had all left home and they were looking after one of their grandchildren in Funtington, Sussex. William Henry died in 1908 (aged 74 years) and was buried at Funtington on the 1st October 1908.

In the 1911 census Harriet is living in Portsmouth, Hampshire with one of her now married daughters (Harriet Ellen HUTFIELD with a husband in the navy). Harriet herself died in 1925 (aged 85 years) and was also buried in Funtington on the 12th September 1925.

Four font photos

23 Jul

After showing you the beautifully carved marble font at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to show you a few of the other fonts I have photographed this year.

They are all from rural churches in the counties of Sussex and Hampshire and all have a family connection. As you can see they are not quite as ornate as the one at St James’s and most of them are not as old.

From left to right they are:

Chilcomb, Hampshire – the VCH of Hampshire says that “all the internal fittings are modern, the font, with a small bowl on an octagonal shaft, standing on a marble coffin-lid”.

Exton, Hampshire – this font is not as old as it seems, according to the VCH of Hampshire, “near the south door is the modern octagonal font of thirteenth-century style.”

Singleton, Sussex – described in the VCH of Sussex as being “octagonal, perhaps 15th-century”, not very descriptive really.

West Dean, Sussex – much of this church was destroyed by a fire in 1934 and this is obviously a modern font, which doesn’t even get a mention in the VCH of Sussex.

South Downs Way: Exton to Winchester

29 Jun

South Downs Way sign

Today I completed the final section of the South Downs Way, from Exton to Winchester (both in Hampshire). It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision last night, and it meant another early start and a marathon bus journey to get home.

The weather started rather grey and overcast, with a forecast of rain, but I was still in my shorts and short-sleeve shirt (and an umbrella in my rucksack). I did wonder whether I had got it wrong, but once I started walking it became clear that although the sun was not visible it was still a going to be a warm day.

I spent a little longer than I had planned in Exton, mainly at the church (pictured below), St. Peter and St. Paul, which was open and is a delightful church. There were several baptisms, marriages and burials of my ancestors that took place at that church and it was good to see it in detail at last.

Exton Church

I hurried off from Exton, trying to make up for the time I had spent in the church, heading in a north-westerly direction up Beacon Hill. The first half a mile or so was a gentle rolling landscape and I could almost see my ancestors working on these fields 150 years ago. Then things got steep and the thoughts of my ancestors turned to thoughts of mountain goats.

Stile on a slope

The view from the top was worth the climb, even in the gloom and haze there were quite spectacular views to the south and west. Also there was a trig point there as well, which made it really worthwhile. From Beacon Hill the South Downs Way continues in the same roughly north-westerly direction, and to be honest the path became a little dull again.

The views were very limited, often blocked by hedgerows either side of the track. The only thing that kept me going was trying to catch up with and stay ahead of a couple of groups of walkers, who had also got off the bus at Exton. My dalliance at the church had allowed them to get ahead of me, but it was a great motivator to try and catch up with them.

Fingerpost on Gander Down

The path started to open up a bit more after the halfway point and also it started to rain, fortunately it was nothing more than a few spots, although the skies threatened more. Within an hour or so the clouds started to break up, there was more blue sky than cloud.

The views at Cheesefoot Head were quite spectacular, and before long the city of Winchester came into view, then promptly disappeared as I rounded the side of the hill, but at least I could now see where I was heading, albeit still more than a couple of miles away.

Chilcomb church

As I descended towards Winchester I checked my watch and decided I could fit in a visit to Chilcomb church. I couldn’t remember exactly which one it was, but one of my MITCHELL relatives was baptised here, and I felt that I ought to get a photo otherwise I would probably never get around to visiting it again. It is such a delightful little church, I was really glad I took time out to visit, there are stunning views of Winchester from the churchyard.

The final couple of miles from Chilcomb to Winchester were not particularly interesting, the entry in the city is across a footbridge over the motorway, and then about a mile along pavements into the heart of the city. The final stretch is along the side of the River Itchen, which was quite nice, but it seems all traces of the South Downs Way had disappeared from the city.

Despite my brief efforts, I couldn’t find any sign marking the end of the South Downs Way, the statue of King Alfred has apparently been adopted as the end (or start) of the route, but having walked the 12 miles from Exton (and over 100 miles from Eastbourne over the last couple of months) I had hoped to find some official indication that I had reached the end.

King Alfred at Winchester

I must confess the path did bring me into a different part of the city, one which I hadn’t seen before because it is at the opposite end of the city from the Hampshire Record Office, and it was a much nicer part of the city, and somewhere I would like to come back to and explore further.

Then came the question of getting home. There were two options, bus or train. I had been hoping I would get to Winchester in time to get the bus, because I have been wanting to get the bus home from Winchester for over six months now, so I made my way to the bus station.

The bus journey home is an epic journey, and one that cuts through my Hampshire ancestral homeland. From Winchester the bus goes to Alton (home of the WRIGHT family) and then on to Guildford, Surrey. The journey takes about an hour and forty minutes, and as well as Alton it passes through Alresford, Hampshire which is home to my MITCHELL roots.

Racing through the Hampshire countryside on the top deck of the double-decker bus was a perfect way to end the day, especially as when we neared Ropley we passed alongside the Mid Hants Railway and were treated to the sight of one of their preserved steam trains heading for Alton.

From Guildford, Surrey it was another hour by bus to Horsham, Sussex where I was finally able to get on a bus that would take me home. For some people four hours on buses would be torture, but for me it was just a perfect way to end another little adventure in my life.

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