Waltham Chase is situated about eight miles east of Southampton. A chase (or chace) was a piece of land reserved by the Crown for a local lord for hunting. After the Bishop’s Palace had been built at Waltham in the 12th century, Waltham Chase was used as a hunting ground by successive bishops. The chase began at Waltham Park and ran to the south and east, stretching as far as the Bere Forest at Soberton, covering a much larger area than the present village.
The deer with which the Chase had been stocked was a nuisance to the labouring tenants whose crops they ate, but it was not until the 18th century that the Waltham Blacks appeared. They were young men who blacked their faces, disguised themselves and stole the bishop’s deer. Further, they went on to rob stagecoaches and were much feared by travellers.
In 1722 Parliament, having been urged to do so by Bishop Trimmell, passed a Black Act which listed hundreds of offences, many punishable by death. A gibbet was erected by the roadside hedge of what is now the Triangle Recreation Ground. Although scholars believe the Black Act was not called into use, the gibbet was used more than once. However in 1742 when Bishop Hoadley was asked to restock the Chase with deer, he refused, saying it had done enough harm already.
Waltham Chase village was enclosed in 1855, and, following enclosures, the common wasteland was sold for seven shillings an acre. Market gardening became important and there were many smallholders. Strawberry growing was an important industry by the turn of the century, until the Second World War. Many growers took their fruit by horse and van to Botley station where they queued up for their turn to unload. The growers’ carriage charges helped the railway and the service provided by the railway helped the growers. Much of the fruit was sent to London hotels.
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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The best option for most vehicles.
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