CHAPTER I. WINCHESTER AND CENTRAL HAMPSHIRE
A little further away is King's Worthy, with an uninteresting and rebuilt Perpendicular church in a pretty spot on the banks of the Itchen. At the far end of the village the Roman road to Basingstoke leaves the way taken by the pilgrims from Winchester to Canterbury at Worthy Park, and the straggling houses on its sides soon become the hamlet of Abbot's Worthy, a name reminiscent of the time when the countryside was parcelled out among the great religious houses. This village was once in the possession of Hyde Abbey and afterwards became the property of that Lord Capel who defended Colchester for the King during the Civil War. Martyr's Worthy, a mile farther, has a Norman arch to the doorway of its church, but is otherwise unremarkable. "Martyr," by the way, is a misspelt abbreviation for "Mortimer." Itchen Abbas, the goal of this short journey, is not five miles from the centre of Winchester and is a great resort of fishermen. Here Charles Kingsley came to stay at the "Plough" and, I am told, wrote a good part of Water Babies between spells upon the trout stream near-by. Possibly these charming chapters were planned while the author watched the placid waters before him.
The main road winds on to pleasant Alresford, where Mary Russell Mitford was born. The principal attraction of the town is a large lake, made by Bishop de Lucy in the twelfth century as an aid to the navigation of the Itchen. Not so far as this, and in the same direction, is Titchborne, quiet and remote among its trees with an old church that boasts a Saxon chancel and with memories of the Titchbornes, whose separate aisle and secret altar for the celebration of mass indicate their devotion to the old faith. But our return route passes Abbas church and crosses the river to Easton, a rambling and pleasant river-village full of mellow half-timbered houses and with a church that boasts a Norman apse and fine chancel arch. There is a unique monument in this church to the widow of William Barton, Bishop in turn of St. Asaph, St. David's, Bath and Wells, and Chichester, whose five daughters married five bishops! The walk across the meadows to Winnal and the city is one of the best near Winchester, but is hardly pleasant after wet weather. The hilly road, about three miles long, direct from Martyr's Worthy, affords pretty glimpses of the Itchen valley and the low Worthy Downs beyond. Just before the last descent toward Winnal there is a fairly good view of Winchester itself.
The straight, dusty and rather wearisome Roman road to Southampton runs up to a spur of Compton Down, a once lonely hill but now unsightly with the red-brick and plate glass of suburban Winchester. Near the conspicuous roadside cross - a memorial to fallen heroes - there is a distant view of the city, veiled in blue smoke, to the rear. Compton church, in the combe beyond, has made good its place in history by recording its ancient past in the porch of the building erected in 1905. The old church is actually one of the aisles of the new, and here may be seen an ancient wall painting and two piscina. A little over a mile to the south-east is picturesque Twyford on the wooded banks of the Itchen. Here Pope went to school for a time, and in the chapel of Bambridge House close by Mrs. Fitzherbert was married to the future George IV.
Twyford Church was believed by Dean Kitchen to be built on the site of a Stone circle. Two large "Sarsens" or megaliths lie by the side of the building, and a magnificent yew stands in the churchyard. Shawford Downs, that rise above the river and village, are scored with "lynchets" or ancient cultivation terraces and there is no doubt that the neighbourhood has been the home of successive races from a most remote age.
The high-road continues over hill and down dale to Otterbourne, with its memories of a celebrated Victorian writer, Miss Charlotte M. Yonge. The Rood in the rebuilt church was erected to her memory nearly twenty years ago. The tall granite cross in the pretty churchyard commemorates the incumbency of Keble, the author of the Christian Year, who was also vicar of Hursley, three miles away to the north-west, where a beautiful church was erected through his efforts on the site of an eighteenth-century building, and, it is said, paid for by royalties on his famous book. At Hursley Park Richard Cromwell resided during the Protectorate of his father. He is buried with his wife and children in Hursley church.
A road runs westwards from near the summit of Otterbourne Hill through the beautiful woods of Hiltingbury and Knapp Hill to the valley of the Test at Romsey. There are a couple of inns and a few scattered houses, but no village on the lonely seven miles until the parallel valley is reached.
Romsey Abbey dates from the reign of Edward the Elder, and his daughter, St. Alfreda, was first Abbess. Another child of a king - Mary, daughter of Stephen - became Abbess in 1160, and her uncle, Henry de Blois of Winchester, built the greater part of the present church about 1125, the western portion of the nave following between 1175 and 1220. The building is 263 feet long and 131 feet broad across the transepts. The interior is an interesting study in Norman architecture and the change to Early English is nowhere seen to better advantage. Portions of the foundations of the Saxon church were laid bare during repairs to the floor in 1900. A section is shown beneath a trap door near the pulpit.