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John Keble's Parishes   By: (1823-1901)

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To explain the present undertaking, it should be mentioned that a history of Hursley and North Baddesley was compiled by the Reverend John Marsh, Curate of Hursley, in the year 1808. It was well and carefully done, with a considerable amount of antiquarian knowledge. It reached a second edition, and a good deal of it was used in Sketches of Hampshire, by John Duthy, Esq. An interleaved copy received many annotations from members of the Heathcote family. There was a proposal that it should be re edited, but ninety years could not but make a great difference in these days of progress, so that not only had the narrative to be brought up to date, but further investigations into the past brought facts to light which had been unknown to Mr. Marsh.

It was therefore judged expedient to rewrite the whole, though, whenever possible, the former Curate's work has been respected and repeated; but he paid little attention to the history of Otterbourne, and a good deal has been since disclosed, rendering that village interesting. Moreover, the entire careers of John Keble and Sir William Heathcote needed to be recorded in their relations to the parish and county. This has, therefore, here been attempted, together with a record of the building of the three churches erected since 1837, and a history of the changes that have taken place; though the writer is aware that there is no incident to tempt the reader no siege of the one castle, no battle more important than the combat in the hayfield between Mr. Coram and the penurious steward, and, till the last generation, no striking character. But the record of a thousand peaceful years is truly a cause of thankfulness, shared as it is by many thousand villages, and we believe that a little investigation would bring to light, in countless other places, much that is well worth remembrance.

For the benefit of those who take an interest in provincial dialect, some specimens are appended, which come from personal knowledge.

The lists of birds and of flowers are both from the actual observation of long residents who have known the country before, in many instances, peculiarities have faded away before the march of progress.

The writer returns many warm thanks to those who have given much individual assistance in the undertaking, which could not have been attempted without such aid.



The South Downs of England descend at about eight miles from the sea into beds of clay, diversified by gravel and sand, and with an upper deposit of peaty, boggy soil, all having been brought down by the rivers of which the Itchen and the Test remain.

On the western side of the Itchen, exactly at the border where the chalk gives way to the other deposits, lies the ground of which this memoir attempts to speak. It is uneven ground, varied by undulations, with gravelly hills, rising above valleys filled with clay, and both alike favourable to the growth of woods. Fossils of belemnite, cockles (cardium), and lamp shells (terebratula) have been found in the chalk, and numerous echini, with the pentagon star on their base, are picked up in the gravels and called by the country people Shepherds' Crowns or even fossil toads. Large boulder stones are also scattered about the country, exercising the minds of some observers, who saw in certain of them Druidical altars, with channels for the flow of the blood, while others discerned in these same grooves the scraping of the ice that brought them down in the Glacial age.

But we must pass the time when the zoophytes were at work on our chalk, when the lamp shells rode at anchor on shallow waves, when the cockles sat "at their doors in a rainbow frill," and the belemnites spread their cuttlefish arms to the sea, and darkened the water for their enemies with their store of ink.

Nor can we dwell on the deer which left their bones and horns in the black, boggy soil near the river, for unfortunately these were disinterred before the time when diggers had learnt to preserve them for museums, and only reported that they had seen remains... Continue reading book >>

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