Christopher Hussey part 2

This particular article, by Christopher Hussey, was written for Country Life magazine
and published on the 26th December 1941.
A Georgian village whose yeoman farmers charmingly re-housed themselves on the profits of wheat and hops
FROYLE’S name, the pundit’s say, is derived from the old English Freohyll which may mean “the hill of Frea,” the goddess commemorated in Friday. The upper and lower parts of the village are separated by a spur of the Downs, ending to the south in a hill now called Saintbury, which is, perhaps, how the nuns of Winchester christened Frea’s Hill. The Pilgrim’s Way, which here joins Upper and Lower Froyle, climbs over Saintbury’s southward slope through a grove of beeches before meeting at right angles the lane up the valley towards Odiham on the other side of the Downs, along which Lower Froyle is spread.

South front of Bonhams
The upper village has a nucleus formed by the church and Manor Place, and has contained several properties of such size as to have ranked as sub-manors at various times. Lower Froyle consists in a succession of yeomen’s houses, mostly reconstructed about 1760, linked by thatched cottages of clunch and brick, some of them bearing dates between 1712 and 1737, the various holdings running back up the sides of the valley. This formation suggests a relatively late period of development, subsequent to the earliest enclosures and in contrast to the typical Saxon village grouped round a green and surrounded by the common fields. It is not unlikely that in the early Middle Ages much of the downland was sheep-walk. But by Charles II’s time, when John Aubrey tells us that Farnham had become “the greatest market in England for wheat” Froyle farmers had long since turned over to arable. Another change since the Middle Ages, which undoubtedly contributed to Froyle’s prosperity, was the cultivation of hops on the Greensand clay in the lower land. This largely took the place of the orchards to which there are medieval references. In 1236 the Abbess of St. Mary’s, Winchester, who owned Froyle Place, sold three tuns of cider at Froyle for 21s; and in another year, out of four tuns made, two were retained by the abbess for “bever” on the manor - incidentally an interesting appearance of the term by which “elevenses” are still called in many parts. In 1800 there were 141 acres of hops in Froyle, and in 1855 a village directory states that “there are hop-yards on all the farms.” Nearly each of them still has an oast, usually a single one, though Husseys has four, grouped rather unusually round a square central building. Hodges and Silvesters in Lower Froyle have single oasts. The higher hopfields have all been grubbed, but hops are still a considerable crop on the larger farms in the Wey Valley and Bonhams and Coldrey and Place Farm, now Froyle Manor, have large groups of oasts.

After about a century of high arable and hop profits the standard of living had risen to a degree when the timber-framed sixteenth century yeomen’s houses ceased to suffice a community in which the farmer was called “gent” on his grave. A phase of almost universal re-building followed. Silvesters had been enlarged and re-faced in stone and weather-tiling in 1674. But other renovated farms of which the dates are ascertainable are after 1760, suggesting that it took three or four generations from the rise of high arable farming to change the yeoman into a small squire. The progress of several of these families can be traced. The Burninghams, who began as yeoman farmers at Husseys in about 1670, refaced it as a “manor house” in 1764, and joined Silvesters, Brocas, Rock House and other farms into a compact estate, then in about 1820 moved to Upper Froyle and converted another farm into the “gentleman’s residence” of Froyle House. A Froyle yeoman family still farming actively is that of Mr.J.C.Messenger of Bonhams. Their name first appears in the registers of 1755, when Thomas Messenger lived at Heath’s Farm in Upper Froyle, and was overseer of Yarnhams on the top of the Downs. The Heaths, who were Quakers, had recently vacated their old home for the larger Bonhams Farm, which Thomas Heath probably rebuilt in about 1730. The name Bonhams, like Yarnhams, is of Pre-Conquest origin.

Bonhams, the entry side
Bonhams, visible from the Farnham - Alton road, is one of the most charming of the Froyle yeomen’s houses. Actually it is in Holybourne parish on the southward edge of Froyle, and in the shrunken Hundred of Neatham - now represented by a mill on the Wey, but at the Conquest a royal manor possessed of a market, the Hundred comprising the whole of the later Alton and Selborne Hundreds, and originally the manor of Froyle itself.

To digress a moment from Froyle. The pre-Conquest importance of the now obscure Neatham, which both Edward the Confessor and the Conqueror thought worth keeping in their own hands, is probably accounted for by the presence there of a very large entrenched hill-top camp. This lies in the solemn recesses of Monks’ Wood, where Herb Paris grows and Gilbert White found the wild hellebore, about a mile south of the Wey, the thick woodland making it hard to trace the full extent of the vallums. But from the way it stands up over the surrounding countryside, it was obviously a place of note in the early Saxon period when the Hundreds were demarcated, and so continued until after the Conquest, when its importance shifted to Alton, and the manor was given to Waverley Abbey, the fort, overgrown with trees, being remembered only as “the monks’ wood.” Somehow or other their tithes from Neatham and from Bonhams, the chief farm in the emaciated hundred, now go to the trustees of the Algebra Lecture at Cambridge.

Bonhams is E-shaped in plan, the entrance in the very narrow space between the wings, and, from the structure of the roof, is evidently a re-facing of an earlier building. The date 1617 occurs on a window-frame in the north wing, and may be its original date. The vermilion brick walls, the roof shot with golden lichen on the southern face, retain many of the original casements, though sashes were inserted in the windows of the principal rooms probably about 1790, when “Adam” fireplaces were installed in some of the rooms. The lack of any bell-cast in the slope of the roof makes the elevation a little clumsy, but the building as a whole is of great charm; a fine oak staircase and other details suggest an earlier date for the re-facing than most of the Georgian houses in Froyle, perhaps 1730-40.

Mr. Messenger has the old advertisement for the auction at the Swan Inn, Alton, on July 26th 1836, between three and five in the afternoon, “of the singularly eligible and compact capital residence, commanding noble and extensive views, for many years in the occupation of Mr. William Heath.” Among the attractions were its being bounded chiefly by a fine Trout stream called the Wey which runs through a considerable portion of the estate and the excellent game preserves of Sir T.C. Miller, Bt; . . . . at a very convenient distance from the High Road from London to Southampton, to and from which Coaches pass day and night; . . . distant only a morning’s drive from the Metropolis and other principal watering places.

The London-Alton coach was called The Voice, and it was scheduled to take just under six hours.

At the auction Bonhams was bought by Mr. Coldham Knight, banker of Farnham; a Messenger farmed it from West End, Bonhams being inhabited by labourers until the late Mrs. Messenger went into residence there and, in 1918, acquired the freehold.

Froyle Mmanor
The staircase, Froyle Manor
Froyle Manor, alias West End and also Place Farm, adjoins the grounds of Froyle Place, and, although now a private residence, has a big group of oasts that exhale a drowsy perfume in September from the hops on west End Farm. The house, faced in early Georgian red brick, is a high, steeply roofed building the evolution of which is difficult to deduce; several of the rooms are panelled in bolection wainscot which, with the staircase, can scarcely be later than 1730. William Draper succeeded Gauden Draper as squire at Froyle Place in 1710: a big improvement of the home farmhouse may have been undertaken at that date, possibly to convert it into a dower house. An unusual feature of the staircase is the decoration of the under surface of the upper flight with crudely painted landscapes, recalling distantly the king of grisaille scenes introduced by Thornhill in some of the lower surfaces of his painted hall and staircase at Stoke Edith, circa 1725. The house is now the home of the Hon. Geoffrey Parsons.

William Draper of Froyle Place, whose family had inherited it from the Gaudens, died in 1765, and his heirs were duly fined £5 for failing to bury him in woollens, according to the statute not repealed until 1814. A contributory factor to the outburst of building after 1760 may have been the break-up of the Froyle Place estate towards the end of his life. The Burninghams re-fronted Husseys in 1764, and Hodges, in Lower Froyle, is dated 1766. Its front to the road, added to a sixteenth-century house, is the most accomplished piece of brick building in the village. The front rooms and a roomy staircase hall are plainly wainscoted. There is record of a Richard Hodges in 1657, but it is doubtful what family was living there at the time of the re-building. The house was carefully repaired by Professor W.G. Constable, and is now the residence of Mrs. R.E. Moore.

Another Georgianised farm is Brocas in Lower Froyle, commemorating a medieval tenure in its name. The re-building was probably due to Joseph Tarrant, living here in 1750, or James, his son, who married Ann Westbrook in 1777. A century previously Newmans were living at Brocas. The family still farms actively in the district, and in Froyle is probably commemorated by a holding now called Nomansland; “Newmans Land” is referred to in 1751, and William Newman of Froyle was a magistrate in 1784. The Westbrook family, probably deriving their name from the manor of Alton Westbrook, have been in Lower Froyle since at least 1653, and are farming there still. The Brownjohn family, now farmers and general store-keepers, appear in 1729. Clunch and brick-built houses in Lower Froyle bear the following dates and initials:-
E.&R.K. 1712 R.C. 1719
T.&W.C. 1724 A.C. 1737 ,
but it has not been possible to identify the persons commemorated.
East front of Coldrey
The East front of Coldrey
An important property adjoining Lower Froyle is Coldrey. Like Bonhams at the other end of the parish, it is actually outside its boundaries, having always been “extra parochial,” and, indeed, erected into a parish of its own in 1860, though there is no sign of a church, and is now incorporated in Bentley parish. The manor was the Bishop of Winchester’s, but always leased to tenants. Though the East front, visible from the main road, is a charming late Georgian facade - one of the latest re-frontings in Froyle - a wing, running at right angles to it, containing the present entrance, is very much earlier. The doorway may be of circa 1550, the staircase beyond, about 1700, and the great open fireplace, in what was probably the kitchen, cannot be much later than 1550, possibly a century earlier. The builder seems to have been anxious about the wide span of the opening; not only did he incorporate the customary relieving arch above it, but the wooden beams introduced below and above the relieving arch appear to be in the nature of ties or “chimney bars,” designed to divert weight from the main arch.
The great brick fire-arch of the former kitchen at Coldrey
The great brick fire-arch
of the former kitchen at Coldrey
In the fourteenth century Coldrey was held by the Colrithe family, the names being evidently connected. A daughter took it to the Holts, Thomas Holt of Coldrey dying in 1458. His heiress married Edward Berkeley, whose daughter, Laura, brought it o Lord Mountjoy. In Henry VIII’s reign William Lord Mountjoy sold the manor to William Lyster, who died in 1553, his son selling it to John Lighe, Esq., in 1557. Lighe, or Leigh, may well have built the old part of the house and was buried in Froyle Church in 1557, and his descendants retained Coldrey till 1629, when Thomas Leigh sold the property to Sir Humphrey May. Thenceforward local yeoman families were in possession, probably as tenant farmers; an Eggar, now squires of Bentley, in 1683; Robert Baldwin of Coldrey died in 1729; and in 1756 Thomas Rothwell of Coldrey married Elizabeth Burningham of Husseys. The front room may be as late as about 1815; the principal rooms were rather charmingly re-decorated in the style of that period. By 1850 it was being farmed by Mrs. Harriet Lee, in 1939 Colonel Nigel Duncan, whose family had owned Coldrey for two generations, sold the property to Mr. C. Mann, who has recently made considerable alterations. Coldrey lies off the main Farnham - Alton road, where the lane from Binsted and Isington bridge to Odiham via Lower Froyle crosses it. Following the main road towards Alton, Highway House (Mrs. Linzee) stands back on the right, The “Highways Farm” of eighteenth-century records re-built from designs by Mr. Walter Sarrel.

Beyond the dip in the road called Quarry Bottom, from which the grey sandstone used in the village came, is Shrubbery House, the home of the late Sir Hubert Miller, Bt., of Froyle. Originally a cottage or small farm, a delightful addition was made to it, at right angles to the road, in mid-Georgian times. This front, the only instance of bay windows in Froyle, no doubt originally had the front door in the centre of it. Considerable additions were made by Sir Hubert Miller, who has also laid out charming gardens sloping to the Wey, which here runs at the bottom of a picturesque valley. A little further on is the Hen and Chicken Inn, on the corner of the turning to Upper Froyle. It is an attractive, little altered, brick Georgian house, with posting stables at the back, the doorway of which is similar to that of Hodges, indicating a date of building about 1765. The inn is first referred to in 1767, after which the parish records contain periodic references such as:
    s d
1772 Spent at Parish Meeting at the Hen & Chicken
Sugar, tea and a jugg
18 0
Such items are in contrast to usage in neighbouring Bentley, where relief was refused in 1774 to any of the poor who drank tea or frequented the public-house. Other items of interest are:-
    £ s d
1767 1lb of hops for the Parish beer
1769 Beer at Sarah Hawkins funeral as was forgot to be charged
2 8
1771 5½ ells of hop bagging to make Jas.Newman a bed
1773 Catching sparrows
1 0
  Making a frock and shirt
1 4
1775 Thomas Newman by order at church for inoculation himself & family
(During an epidemic of small-pox 1774-77)
2 2 0
1780 Paid for a spinning wheel for Robert Blunden’s daughter
2 0
The house in the upper village known as Froyle Cottage was the Dame’s School for Upper Froyle until 1868. Internal fittings of the house point to a date about 1790 for its construction, and a largish room projecting at right angles might have been a schoolroom. It is certainly in contrast to the present Church school, in the thirteenth-century style, completed in 1868, which is frequently mistaken by visitors for the church. The vicarage, next door to it, is a larger version of Froyle Cottage tacked on to an earlier building of sixteenth-century origin. It is a rambling, homely, gentlemanly house, with large stables, eloquent of the days described by Parson Woodford, where the Rev. Richard Follen (1773) was vicar for 30 years, to be followed in 1804 till 1864 by the Rev., afterwards Sir, Thomas Combe Miller, both of whom employed curates who lived in the vicarage. During the Rev. Sir Thomas’s incumbency Anglicanism was enforced by his double authority of parson and squire, though it is perhaps significant that, in spite of this, a Wesleyan meeting-house was built in Lower Froyle in 1841 (actually 1862), still in the Georgian tradition of clunch and brick. Indeed, in this village of Georgian England, nurtured by corn and hops on a Saxon highway, almost the only later imprint is the eddy of the Oxford Movement, that has embellished its cottages with a hierarchy of saints. Perhaps the genius of Saintbury is to be traced in this, still seeking to efface the memory of Frea’s Hill in Froyle.