Research Projects

We are involved in a number of research projects, some large and long-term, others much smaller but often time consuming! We welcome any offers of help with any of them.

 

Such assistance could be anything from actual involvement in the project, based on expertise (or enthusiasm), to providing additional information that you possess. All the projects are local and in some cases much of the knowledge may lie in individual or family memory. So please do have a look at what we’re doing…

 

Large scale projects

In 2017 we began a project – which will take a number of years – to investigate and understand the history of Bishop’s Waltham in the thousand year period from 250-1250 AD. Any of the recent histories of the town place a heavy emphasis on the early Norman period in our history (especially the 12th century when Henry of Blois built the church, started the Palace and apparently ‘laid out the town’). This has meant that 700 years of our previous Saxon history is largely ignored or forgotten.

 

Wealdham (as it was then known) was a Saxon settlement started within 50-100 years of the Romans leaving Britain, somewhere between 440 and 550 AD. That makes it a really early Saxon settlement! But we know little about it. Waltham was one of King Alfred’s Royal Estates, whose capital of Winchester was just 10 miles away. It was Alfred’s son, King Edward the Elder, who arranged the exchange of his estate at Waltham with the Bishop of Winchester’s property at Portchester Castle in 904.

 

Despite being burned down by the Vikings in 1001, by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Waltham had regrown to be the tenth largest settlement in the whole of Hampshire. This pre-Norman history is worth exploring!

 

There are already quite a number of volunteers who have offered to help with this project, but if you are interested we would love to hear from you. Contact us by email using info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk. Tell us about your interest and any expertise you may (or may not) have – enthusiasm for the subject is enough. You can download a small pdf of a few slides, from a presentation about this project that provides a brief glimpse at what might be involved. Does anything interest you? It should be a fascinating activity and we would love more local involvement, so if you are interested, please do let us know!

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In 2015, in conjunction with Bishop’s Waltham Museum, we launched a Bishop’s Waltham House History project. Some 90 participants, representing about 65 properties, joined the project which was intentionally designed to be property-owner led, with the Society and Museum offering help and access to information.

 

For a variety of reasons, the project has been on the back-burner, but a major relaunch in early 2019 is actively being planned.

 

If you would like to know more, download a leaflet describing the project. If you would like to be involved in any way, contact us by email using info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk

 

Small scale projects

From time to time we receive enquiries from people with a particular interest in something about Bishop’s Waltham’s past. We always try to respond, even if it takes some time! Equally, topics or ideas that are worth investigating simply surface as new information arises.

 

The following are a selection of areas of current research and study. If you have any information you could add, or if you would be interested in making any of these subjects part of your academic work, we’d be delighted to hear from you.

 

We’d be pleased to share information or provide guidance for anyone at school or university who would like to make a part of Bishop’s Waltham’s past the centre of their study area. See Bishop’s Waltham Timeline and the subjects below.

 

Bishop’s Waltham Grammar School

In June 2016 we received a request from a Canadian, William Duke, about his possible great-great-uncle Henry Duke. This request was based on the 1841 census that showed a Henry Duke at a ‘Brook Street Boarding School’ in Bishop’s Waltham. Humphrey asked the question ‘was this a charity school?’ because his research suggested that Henry may have been an orphan. In trying to help, we’ve pieced together a history of the charity Grammar School founded here by George Morley, Bishop of Winchester, in 1679.

 

The working draft of this research is downloadable here. Interested in helping to complete it? Let us know at info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk

 

 

Church House School

In 2017, we were contacted to see if we had any information about a school in Bank Street that had been called Church House School. The inquirer knew that it had catered for children with learning disabilities and that it had closed some time ago.

 

We mentioned this in our Summer 2017 Newsletter and got a good response from someone who worked there, someone who knew someone who worked there and someone who knew the school’s owners socially. You can download a pdf of the article and some additional photographs here. We will be putting together a short history of the school, and indeed the house, in due course – interested in helping? Let us know at info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk

Merchants House and ‘Josies’

When it seemed likely that Sainsbury’s would get planning permission for their superstore at Abbey Mill, Baker’s Wine Merchants who, in 2011, occupied the shop that is now Josie’s, decided to close down because of the threat of price-cutting competition. This was picked up by the national press and broadcast media.

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The board that they had displayed in their window showed the previous owners over the last 400 years. Unfortunately, it was factually incorrect in at least one detail. But it nevertheless listed all the occupiers or owners over a 400 year period. We’ve tried to pull together as much information as we can and it’s a fascinating story. Our chairman, Tony Kippenberger, gave a presentation of our current findings at a Society meeting in late 2017 to mark the 400 years. But there is more research to be done… interested? Let us know at info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk

 

Other subjects…

Other subjects under initial research include:

 

The “Waltham Blacks”

A large local gang who, in the 1720s, ‘blacked’ their faces to poach deer on the Bishop of Winchester’s land at Waltham Chase. In response Parliament enacted the draconian ‘Waltham Blacks Act’. As a result, 340 offences became punishable by death. There are old books and Parliamentary papers available for research… interested? Let us know at info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk

 

The “Swing Riots”

Possible successors of the Luddites (1811-1816), the ‘Swing Riots’ of 1830 spread from Kent across southern England. Gangs roam the countryside at night destroying threshing machines and burning farm buildings. During November, there were riots at Corhampton, Droxford, Durley, Owslebury, Upham and Wickham. There was even a threat in Bishop’s Waltham to burn down all the Gunner family’s buildings in the town. A rich field for more research for our area… interested? Let us know at info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk

 

Caroline Gunner – a Victorian lady in charge of a bank!

The story of Gunner’s Bank in Bishop’s Waltham is interesting enough, and there is a lot of material available, including a 36-page academic paper on the bank and additional material in the Museum archives. But it is the role of a woman, Caroline Gunner, who was its Senior Partner from 1872 to 1890 that fascinates. She was not unique amongst ‘County Banks’, but she was rare in Victorian times! A great subject to investigate further… interested? Let us know at info@bishopswalthamsociety.org.uk