Court Farm & South Farm
Much of the Diocese’s demesne land, including Court (or ‘Church’) Farm and South Farm, was leased 1661 to Sir Stephen Fox,who had managed the king’s finances in exile and was Member of Parliament for Salisbury. He never visited East Meon. In 1662 he sub-let Court Farm to a Dr William Hearst of Middlesex.
Court Hall, the palace of the Bishops of Winchester, now became Court Farm, with a new farmhouse wing added. We know from the Parliamentary Survey of 1647 that it now comprised: ‘The Manor House called ye Court House, being strongly built with a Buttery, a larder, a day-house, a kill, three lodging-chambers, a corn-chamber, a cheese-chamber, with some other little rooms. Before the entrance of the house with three rooms thereunto belonging. This describes a new house added to the episcopal hall; it echoed the Tudor House in containing service areas and accommodation for both family and servants; the Court Hall, built to accommodate the manorial courts, was now used to store farm equipment, which saved it from the fate of widespread alteration, or even demolition, which befell other grand medieval residences.
South Farm lies a mile and a half south of the village of East Meon; with South Mill, it had been leased to Nicholas Wright in the sixteenth century and by his sons in the early seventeenth. ‘Fairfield’, was close to the farmhouse; as we have seen, this was the location of medieval fairs and there was a chapel-of-ease in Fairfield, known as St Mary in the Fields.
A Parliamentary survey of 1647 has a detailed description of South Farm: ‘The Mansion House being strongly built with timber consisting of a hall, a parlour wainscotted about, a kitchen, a pantry, a Brewhouse, a Milkhouse, … with four convenient rooms below stairs; over the parlour is a Chamber wainscotted, five Convenient Lodging Chambers, a Loft, four Convenient Rooms above stairs; belonging to the said house two barns, a stable, an oxhouse with convenient housing for cattle, also … a Litter Crascott or Court before the house, two gardens, two outyards lying altogether to the north by the highway leading from East Meon to … the Mill and Mill Pond of Mr Searle on the East’. With its wainscotting (panelling) and ‘convenient rooms’ this was one of the finest farmhouses in the tithing.
In 1647 it also had 2 barns, a stable, an ox-house and housing for cows. As we have seen, farm outbuildings were unusual before the seventeenth century. South Farm was either important enough, like the curia of the Court Hall, to have had them during the middle ages, or a very early adopter of the new fashion (or both).
A year after its allocation to Stephen Fox , another document records ‘the bargain and sale’of South Farm by ‘Stephen Fox of Middlesex’to a London doctor, William Hearst. There is no evidence that William Hearst visited East Meon either.