St Mary Bourne

How has the parish and village of St Mary Bourne been described over the years. Here is a trip in time from 1822 when Cobbett briefly mentions traveling through, to today when we get a description from Hampshire County Council.

17th November 1822

Set off from Uphusband for Hambledon. The first place I had to get to was Whitchurch. On my way, and at a short distance from Uphusband, down the valley, I went through a village called Bourn, which takes its name from the water that runs down this valley. A bourn, in the language of our forefathers, seems to be a river, which is, part of the year, without water. There is one of these bourns down this pretty valley. It has, generally, no water till towards Spring, and then it runs for several months.1


BOURNE (St. Mary), a parish, in the union of Whitchurch, hundred of Evingar, Kingsclere and N. divisions of the county of Southampton, 3 miles (N. W. by W.) from Whitchurch; containing, with the tythings of Binley, Egbury, Stoke, Swampton, and Week, 1152 inhabitants, of whom 384 are in Bourne tything. The parish comprises 6727 acres, whereof 21 are common or waste. The living is annexed to the vicarage of Hurstbourn-Priors: the tithes have been commuted for £110, and the glebe comprises 63 acres. The estate of the Earl of Portsmouth is charged with the annual payment of £16. 16. to a mistress for teaching 18 children; the school-building has been lately enlarged, and 130 children are taught by a master and mistress, to the former of whom his lordship allows £21, the remainder of the expenses being raised by subscription.2


BOURNE, ST MARY, a par. in the hund. of Upper Evingar, Kingsclere div. of the co. of Southampton, 3 miles to the N.W. of Whitchurch railway station, and 5 N.E. from Andover, its post town. It includes the tythgs. of Binley, Bourne, Egburg, Stoke and Week, and part of Swampton. The living is a perpet. cur. annexed to the vic. of Hurstbourne-Priors, in the dioc. of Winchester, of the joint annual val. of £202, in the gift of the Bishop. The tithes have been commuted for a rent charge of of £110. The church, dedicated to St. Peter, is an ancient Norman structure, with pointed arches, resting on massive pillars. It has a square embattled tower and contains a curious font, hewn out of a block of black marble; of which there are said to be only three other examples in England. The Baptists, Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists have chapels here. The Earl of Portsmouth is lord of the manor.3


AMONG the retired villages of North Hampshire, St. Mary Bourne may be considered as possessing picturesque and pleasing features, for which it is mainly indebted to the rude and scattered character of its habitations. The homes like the people have undergone but little change, or rather the change has been so slow as to be scarcely appreciable. The same may be said to characterise the hamlets of North Hampshire generally, thereby contrasting somewhat remarkably with the upgrowth which has been so apparent in many of the manufacturing districts. The consequence is that these old agricultural centres have obtained the reputation of maintaining the simplicity of former times.

About forty-five years ago, when I first settled in the village, a friend inquired, “What kind of folk live at Bourne?” whereupon I replied, “The people generally live in thatched houses, and keep old Christmas,” Mr. Dawson, who just previous to that time had been vicar of the parish, is stated to have affirmed from the pulpit that the village was half-a-century behind; meaning, I suppose, that in a progressive sense it was fifty years in arrear of other places. 4


Borne, Seynt Marye Borne.

The village of St. Mary Bourne is 1 mile northwest of Hurstbourne station and lies near the eastern boundary of the parish, which contains the tithings of Binley, Egbury, Stoke, Week and Swampton, and consists of 7,745 acres, of which 5,821 acres are arable land, 1,002 acres are permanent grass and 594 acres are woods and plantations. 

The village stands on the River Bourne, a tributary of the Test, and at the south end of it, not far from the site of Port Way, an old Roman road from Sarum to Silchester, in a fairly central position in relation to the various tithings is the church, which is described in a manuscript of the 18th century as ‘a Chappel of Ease belonging to the mother church of Hurstbourne.’5


St Mary Bourne parish includes the larger village of that name together with Stoke. It also includes the surrounding hamlets of Binley, Dunley, Egbury, Upper, Middle and Lower-Wyke (pronounced “Wick” or “Week”) and Wadwick. The parish is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the villages of St Mary Bourne and Stoke form a Conservation Area. In the past the Parish’s main income was from farming, with supporting industries and trades. Swampton Mill, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, was the earliest recorded business.

The wooded areas around St Mary Bourne, especially to the south side of the lake contain a wide variety of wildlife. The traditional water meadows on either side of the Bourne Rivulet form pastureland from the ilake towards the viaduct. The Bourne Rivuleta is a chalk tributary of the River Test. Upstream views from the Summerhaugh Bridge in the village square include buildings dating back to the 16th century.6

Images from the Postcard Collection of Clive Wedge

  1. Cobbett, William. Rural Rides (pp. 130). Kindle Edition. ↩︎
  2. ‘Boughton – Bournemouth’, in A Topographical Dictionary of England, ed. Samuel Lewis (London, 1848), pp. 314-317. British History Online [accessed 15 November 2023]. ↩︎
  3. Virtur & Co. (1868). The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland for 1868. London. ↩︎
  4. Stevens, J. (1888). Parochial History of St. Mary Bourne Hants with an account of the manor of Hurstbourne Priors Hants. London: Whiting and Co. ↩︎
  5. ‘Parishes: St. Mary Bourne’, in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4, ed. William Page (London, 1911), pp. 295-299. British History Online [accessed 10 November 2023]. ↩︎
  6. ↩︎