HAT recently made a grant of £8,000 to the new Victoria County History (VCH), which, under the guidance of Dr John Hare and Dr Jean Morrin, has the long-term objective of rewriting the history of the entire county, starting with a series of studies on the north-east of Hampshire. The money will go towards financing the publication of its latest ‘short’, on Herriard and Southrope, near Basingstoke. This parish has been chosen because of its remarkably fine surviving archive and should provide a picture of the development of a chalkland village. It will be written by Dr Alex Craven an experienced author for the VCH in Gloucestershire, Hereford and Wiltshire.
In 2007, nearly a 100 years after the first edition after the completion of the Hampshire, the Hampshire Archives Trust, in association with the Hampshire Record Office, the Hampshire Field Club and the University of Winchester, pledged its support to update and extend the VCH for a new age. As well updating the existing content, the plan is to extend the coverage in a numbers of subjects, including the economy, and social structure and life.
The VCH was a remarkable act of Victorian self-confidence, the idea that one could produce a history of every parish and county in England. It is a national project that still continues, 235 volumes later. The Hampshire volumes have formed an essential first step for so much local history in the county. They were also were the first to be published for any county, more than 100 years ago, and the new series is the first of any county to be updated.
Since then the national project has been bedevilled by periodic financial difficulties but has survived and continued, with 16 counties currently active. During one period of difficulties, in 1932, the whole project was taken over by the University of London, which has subsequently provided a national focus and quality control for the project. Even so, more than a century later in some counties work has not even started! The need for a new approach was evident. The original parish histories reflected the assumption of their age: a world dominated by the landowner and apparently by the Church of England. Now a parish history needs to cover the life of all the community, its economy and society and not just the rich of the community. But in addition the communities themselves have been transformed in the last century. Basingstoke is no longer the flourishing, but relatively small market town it was, while the villages around are no longer predominantly occupied by the workers of the land.
Realism dictated that work should initially focus on a limited area and the Basingstoke area has proved an admirable choice.
Rewriting Hampshire’s history is very much a long-term project, whose value should be seen on both a national and county-wide scale. It is to be hoped that this will help towards a reappraisal of Hampshire’s past and help generate further interest in the development of its diverse communities.
Whereas the original work came out in large volumes, the new VCH is published as a series of ‘shorts’, each dealing with a relatively small area – a parish, or a pair of parishes, or a period in the history of a town. Details of published shorts to date are given below.
Future titles which are being worked on, or are in press, include a village near Andover, further villages in the Basingstoke area and a study of Basingstoke in the 19th century. Work is being carried out on a voluntary basis under the leadership of Dr John Hare and Dr Jean Morrin. A group in Basingstoke meets fortnightly to transcribe 16th and 17th century wills and inventories and as a focus for planning research, while individuals write the text for publication on the web, or eventually as shorts.
An example of the wealth of material written for the VCH, much of it not yet in print, but available at https://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/explore/items/day-vicar-locked-council-out-parish-church-basingstoke
- J. Hare, J. Morrin and S Waight, Mapledurwell (£9 inc. p & p).
- J. Morrin, with contributions by J. Hare, Steventon (£14 inc. p & p).
- J. Hare, Basingstoke: a medieval town, 1000-1600. (£14 inc. p & p).
- A. Deveson and S. Lane, Cliddesden, Hatch and Farleigh Wallop. (£16 inc. p & p).
Shorts are available from Dr J. Morrin, 23 West Road, Emsworth, PO10 7JT. Cheques should be made out to ‘Hampshire Archives Trust (VCH Project)’. Extensive research findings and draft material on forthcoming shorts, and other information on the new VCH, is posted on www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/explore/county/hampshire.