In the north of the New Forest, a stone’s throw from the Wiltshire border, nestles the ancient village of Fritham, a hamlet of fewer than 200 people, and mentioned in the Domesday Book as Thorougham or Truham.
For generations, this Hampshire village, about ten miles west of Southampton, slept happily at the end of a track that dwindled into the silent forest. Most farmsteads had a few cows, pigs and hens and an acre or two which supplied their needs, and villagers teamed up and helped each other with the harvesting at the end of the year.
The village shop with its clanging doorbell and indescribable smell of freshly baked bread, shoe polish and smoked bacon, was the main shopping centre and, post office, and as the towns of Ringwood and Lyndhurst was a fair old pony and trap ride away they were not journeys to be undertaken lightly.
At the top of the lane, the banks of which are still dotted with primroses and bluebells in spring, stood the Royal Oak, one of the oldest pubs in the forest. It was renowned for its beer from the barrel, drunk in the little front parlour, often in the company of a pony or cow’s head peering in through the open door, and to the accompaniment of the grunting pigs in the adjoining sty.
The other main meeting point in Fritham was the little tin chapel where services held twice on Sundays were attended by everybody in the village. Every child, willing or reluctant, was washed and scrubbed for the weekly visit to the Sunday school in the hut beside the chapel, which served as the junior school during the week and meeting place for the Band of Hope, sewing circle and socials most evenings.
Many of the old cottages had Forest Rights, which entitled the owners or tenants to collect wood and turf and to pasture their cattle, ponies and donkeys on the forest. Pannage rights also allowed pigs to forage and root for acorns from 25th September to 22nd November, thus preventing the ponies from eating too many, a practice which is too often fatal. These rights belong to the chimney and hearthstone of the cottage, not to an individual, and several cottages in Fritham still hold on to them.
When the Schultz Gunpowder factory was built in an isolated glade by Eyeworth lake, life for the village changed overnight. The factory, making ammunition for sporting guns, provided work for most of the men and many women in Fritham and surrounding areas. The grass tracks, unchanged for decades, were strengthened with gravel from the forest, and huge carts drawn by teams of heavy horses trundled along the once deserted lanes. The tin chapel was ‘adopted’ by the factory owners, and a handsome brick building was erected. The village had never been so prosperous.
In 1912 disaster hit this tiny hamlet when five of its young men perished in the Titanic and, when the factory closed a few years later, Fritham returned to its sleepy isolated existence. Today, although much is unchanged deep in the glades and marshlands, and animals still graze the green and wander down the lanes, life in Fritham has changed considerably.
The shop and post office closed a few years ago, the Royal Oak has never been busier, but the little chapel holds only two services a month for a handful of people and sits silent and withdrawn, remembering perhaps the days when its congregation spilt out on to the forest.
The village information above is taken from The Hampshire Village Book, written by members of the Hampshire Federation of Women’s Institutes and published by Countryside Books.
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A standard tint job covers all windows behind the driver’s seat. We also offer a clear UV / smash protection film that can legally be fitted onto the front windows. View our Protection & Safety page to learn more.
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The best option for most vehicles.
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