Written by Ron Allen
Tithe Maps and Award
Careful examination of the 1839-1859 Tithe Maps and the accompanying Rent-Charge Apportionment Awards documents held at the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester reveals a fascinating picture of Stroud parish as it was in the middle 19th century. The maps come as massive rolls that have to be spread over large tables to read. The written awards documents provide information on land-use, cropping, ownership and occupiers of every single field and property as well as details of rent to be paid in lieu of tithes.
In the mid 19th century, the present area of Stroud was then split between outlying parts of Steep, East Meon and Buriton parishes. The name ‘Stroud’ only appears as Stroud Common and as two locations around Stroud Bridge (Stroud Bridge Mead, Stroud Bridge Coppice) in the south west of the present parish alongside Ramsdean Road.
Present parish boundary
Note that the present boundary of the modern parish extends from the A272/A3 junction, west along the A272 Winchester Road to the Red House, cuts west northwest to Rothercombe Farm, southwest to Mustercombe Farm and south to Stroud Bridge and along the river eastwards to the A3 and so back north to the A272 junction.
Farmland in the east
The tithe maps show that the majority of present day Stroud in the east (and mostly what is now New Buildings Farm, although there was no such farm then) was a complex of fields, mostly in pasture but with some arable and hops that stretched from the present A3 west across to a line south from the 7-Stars public house just east of Ramsdean Road to Stroud Bridge. The fields are all named and we have for instance Upper and Middle Dolmans and Dolmans Mead, Rick Piece, Milking Plot, Stroud Mead, and Upper, Middle and Lower Longlands. We also have a small Hop Garden and a Stench Field. Furzefield Copse was then called Holmwood Copse. Many of these field boundaries survive today.
The main landowner in the both the Steep and Buriton parts of the parish was the Hon. Heneage Legge (soldier and conservative politician), with Sir William Jollife Bart (Conservative politician and member of Parliament for Petersfield) owning much of the remainder of the parish then in East Meon.
Common land in the west
West of this line, the land use changes abruptly to common land, mostly in Stroud Common but including a small portion of Steep Common north of the A272. This land is identified on the Tithe Awards as a large area of ‘Roads and Waste’. Roads crossing the common, including the Winchester Road and Ramsdean Road appear unfenced. North Stroud Lane is not shown. Presumably the commons were grazed by locally owned commoners livestock.
It is interesting to see that the common land was mostly open and undivided but that the Pest House and associated cottages and gardens (on the west side of Ramsdean Road) were then isolated within the common. All other properties were just outside the boundary of the common and so we find Homestead (now the Red House), Rothercombe Farm and cottages, the 7-Stars (then owned by John Hector Cornthwaite and occupied by William Mitchell), the Brick Kilns (north of Stroud Garage), and what is now Stroudbridge Farm were all located around the edge of the common. The excavations that served the brick works are not shown, but the known sand and clay pits within the parish all appear to have been within the common.
The present day Stroud Village Green is the only surviving part of the common with public access (although privately owned and the public must respect the rights of the landowner to manage the land).
All in all we find that Stroud in the middle 19th century was mostly occupied by a series of grassland fields with some arable cropping and a little hop growing but that land west of the Ramsdean Road was open common land (or waste land) and not yet enclosed. The population must have been tiny and restricted to occupiers of the few farms and cottages around the periphery of the common and those occupying the ‘Pest House’. The only industry (other than agriculture) was at the Brick Kilns and so most people would have worked at the kilns or on the farmland with commoners making a living out of grazing the common wastes.