Magdalen College Lands
Michael Blakstad, for Meon Matters March 2017
In 1480, the Bishop of Winchester, William Waynflete, handed over to Magdalen College Oxford 350 acres of land in what was then the tithing of Oxenbourne. It included what is now Hill Hampton (“the place of Halamtons in the township of Oxynborne & parish of Eastemene”); the map shows the estate which the college held for over five hundred years. Bishop Waynflete had founded Magdalen in 1458; the Hill Hampton rental would help towards the cost of running the college.
To this day, Magdalen holds legal documents relating to its Oxenbourne holdings, dating back to 1240 when Pavia de Bere granted to John de Menes, for ten marks, all her lands “in Oxenburne and Ebechute, vis all her moiety of the whole land which belonged to her father Lewis and her mother Maud”. At a time when it was unusual for a farm to stand in its own land, away from from the cluster of dwellings which formed the core of the tithing,
this was evidently a substantial property, since in 1327 John de la Stroude grants “to William Hulhampton and Nicholas his wife of a piece of a garden and part of a croft adjacent, which piece contains in length ten perches and in width two perches” and there is reference in 1401 to “one messuage & 10 acres of land which Richard Couse held in Oxenborn”. A messuage was a house with enough land around it for a farmyard & buildings.
The Magdalen documents record dissent against Bishop Waynflete. In August 1461, when the new king Edward IV journeyed in Hampshire, the tenants of the manor of East Meon, ‘in grete multitude and nombre,’ petitioned the king for relief from certain services, customs, and dues which the bishop and his agents were attempting to exact. According to one account the tenants had seized Bishop Waynflete. Edward, however, not only rescued him from the hands of those seeking his life, but arrested the ringleaders, whose case was tried in the House of Lords on 14 December, 1461, when judgment was given for the bishop
The handsome farmhouse which stands today was probably built in the late 18thcentury by Dr Edward Bentham, Dean of Christchurch College Oxford, who rented Hill Hampton from Magdalen College Oxford, or by his wife Elizabeth who succeeded him. It is unclear whether the Benthams or Magdalen paid for the new building; either way, the intention to attract richer tenants and higher rental. It was, indeed, rented in the early 19thcentury by John Christmas and then his son, also John, who grew to be substantial farmers in Oxenbourne and about whom I shall write more in the next edition of Meon Matters. In 1895, the College finally sold off its land in Oxenbourne to one Samuel Brothers Darwin of Portsmouth, another absentee landlord; Henry Berry was then the tenant. If you would like to see more about this slice of history, a PDF with transcripts of the documents is available at www.eastmeonhistory.net.