Today we are celebrating in Pilcot, a hamlet in the parish of Dogmersfield.
1024 – Earliest reference to Dogmersfield – “Docce Mere (water-lily lake) Feld”
1086 – Domesday Book reference – a Mill at Pilcot valued at 6s. 6d. (not the same one as today, but we can still have our annual duck race near it!). The Domesday Book entry for “Ormersfelt” records –
“There are 6 plough lands, 1 plough land in the estate, and 10 small farmers and smaller tenants with three ploughs, or three teams of 8 oxen. Here is a Church (would have been Saxon) and one servant; and a mill (see above), and 5 acres of meadow; the woods furnish 100 hogs. It is worth 100 shillings.”
In the 12th century a licence was granted to ”impark” Dogmersfield and stock it with deer for hunting.
Dogmersfield House was granted to the Bishops of Bath and Wells by Henry 1 in the early part of the 12th century. C. 1250 a Palace was built for the Bishop on the site of the present house. The Bishops retained the Palace until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. In 1501 Dogmersfield Palace was the first break of journey for venue for Princess Katherine of Aragon from Southampton to London and where she was to meet Prince Arthur, the heir to the English throne, and his father, King Henry VII, prior to satisfactory agreements for their marriage. The Dogmersfield Estate was most recently owned by the Mildmay family until the mid 1930s when Sir Anthony St John Mildmay was sued for breach of promise in a claim made by a nurse, Ellen Fender. Ellen was finally awarded damages of £2000 by the Court of Appeal. This signaled the end of the Mildmays at Dogmersfield, for the remaining estate was then sold off. A large part of the Estate had been sold in 1919/1920 after the First World War. This was a common occurrence for similar large estates across the country in the aftermath of war.
Since the Mildmays ‘ departure, Dogmersfield House has been Reeds’ Girls’ School (1945 – July 1955) and the Noviciate and house of studies for the De La Salle Order, a Roman Catholic institute of teaching Brothers. Following a fire in 1981, which gutted the building, the house and its gardens were purchased, renovated and extended for use as office headquarters by Amdahl. In 1996 the property was sold to Systems Union. Today it is the Four Seasons Hotel and spa and is a welcome addition to the village.
Dogmersfield Street ran from Blacksmith’s Bridge to Spratshatch Lane until the latter part of the 18th century. Tundry Pond was at that time called Wale Pond, because of its whale-like shape. Estate workers lived in houses along the Street and Wale Pond. This was the era of Capability Brown and his ideas for including grass meadows in front of the mansion, serpentine lakes, follies, encircling carriage drives, bridges, belts and circular clumps of trees, etc, to show the mansion off to advantage, particularly for visitors arriving in their carriages. The original main entrance to the house was from Winchfield, down Spratshatch Lane, through the Archway and then winding down the drive across the bridges over Tundry Pond with a grand view of the house all the way.
To achieve this parkland effect, the houses in front of the house had to be moved. At the end of the 18th century the cottages in Chatter Alley were built for the estate workers. These buildings were mostly pairs, with ECs, pantries, gardens, some with pigsties, so probably much more desirable than where they had lived previously.
Two houses have been dendrochronology tested and thus provide a more accurate date of building. The oldest, Lords and Ladies, was built in 1336, i.e. prior to the Black Death. Pilcot House, which was later the village shop – grocers, bakers and post office, was built in 1620. It was bought by Terry’s of Odiham and run by Frank Terry until he retired in the mid 20th century. Highway Cottage next door was the last shop in Dogmersfield and the last Post Office..Other houses in Pilcot were probably built at a similar date – Katherine of Aragon (two cottages), The Barracks (4 cottages). Red Cottages (2 cottages), Rosevale and The Chimes, Briar Cottage, and Thatched Cottage (2 cottages). Parsonage Cottages (2), which once formed the Rectory, were probably built at this time too,
The first recorded church was the one mentioned in Domesday. The next was one close to the front entrance of Dogmersfield House, probably erected late in the 12th century. This was demolished in 1806 and a new church built close to Floods Farm and now a domestic dwelling. Interestingly this building, said to be falling down and no longer fit for purpose some 37 years later, was replaced by the current church in 1843. This was some years after the estate workers had been rehoused in Chatter Alley. Perhaps the real reason for moving the church was poor attendance at the 1806 building – quite a walk from Chatter Alley?
The former Rectory, now called Tundry House, was designed by JB Watson and built in 1836. Charles Dyson was the Rector at the time. He worked closely with Jane, Lady Mildmay on projects for the estate workers, one of which was the building of single storey Rectory Cottage, which was the first local school. Education here continued until 1911, when the State school was built in Chatter Alley. Rectory Cottage was later transformed into a large house, which was owned by Graham Houghton Brown a few years ago. One day, Graham decided to light a fire in the lounge, only to be smoked out because the hearth was not connected to a chimney! The first floor had been built over the original building.
The Parish Room, built in c. 1912 from public subscription on glebe land, was a popular venue for whist drives, scout meetings, village suppers, gym clubs and toddler groups. Sadly this ceased to be in the 1970s.
However, the Queens Head, which dates from the 18th century, has always been a centre for people to gather. A former resident of the village relates the tale of the firing of ammunition by a German bomber over Dogmersfield on 18 October 1940. The bomber was being chased by a Hurricane and as it flew over the pub it fired shot which went over the Green and up the front of Pilcot House, before continuing to fly over Odiham, where three bombs were dropped in the High Street, causing much damage and five deaths. Back in Dogmersfield the Vicar who had been outside the pub ‘answering the call of nature’ and was almost killed in the crossfire. Fortunately, he survived.
On a darker note, the sad murder of Karen Bigg-Wither took place in her parents’ home in Chatter Alley in 1984. The murderer, her boyfriend, was found guilty of her murder.
But, on a lighter note – in more recent years Pilcot has found a new ‘industry’ – producing local wine. All three vineyards are now maturing well and producing excellent English wine.