The Village of Titchfield can date its history to 6th century Anglo-Saxon times, two centuries before the Vikings invaded Britain. Evidence of Roman occupation abounds in the local area and Titchfield’s accessibility from its once natural tidal harbour suggests that it benefited from navigable access at high tide that would have allowed shallow keel vessels to travel up the Meon Valley.
Founded by the Meon tribe, Titchfield is located at the bottom of the Meon Valley. There is debate about the origin of the name Titchfield, it was known as Ticefelle in the Domesday Book in 1086. Some of Titchfield’s oldest buildings from the 13th century in South Street are jetty styled houses, having their top floors extending over the pavements
Titchfied thrived on agriculture and sea trade. Geographically, it is an ideal location to live and prosper with rich soils supporting sheep farming and a thriving port that facilitated trade via Hill Head on the busy Solent before it was blocked off in 1611.
A canal was built to connect Titchfield with the Solent and runs along the western edge of the Titchfield Haven, the purpose can only be surmised but Titchfield was referred to as a thriving marketplace in medieval times and one has to presume that floating trade elevated its already busy market and local Tannery trade. Today, the canal is somewhat overgrown with trees, but it has a footpath which follows the canal on one side and the Titchfield Nature Haven on the other on its route to the Meon beach where Titchfield harbour once existed.
The termination of the canal resulting from an act of the 3rd Earl of Southampton was by all accounts unpopular but the rationale has gone undocumented.
St Peter’s Church was the first church to be built on the south coast in approximately 680 A.D. Saint Wilfrid travelled from Northumbria and ventured up the Meon Valley building churches on his way. St Peter’s Church in Titchfield was his first construction. Anglo-Saxon stone in the church has been exposed and dated to that period. Norman and other additions have been built on since then.
In St Peters church there is a magnificent marble monument that commemorates
Thomas Wriothesley, his wife Lady Jane and son Henry Wriothesley, their families are interred in the crypt now known as the Southampton Chapel.
The Montagu family of Beaulieu descend from Wriothesley family and Lord Montagu takes a keen and active interest in historic Titchfield.
Titchfield’s largest historic landmark is the Abbey, founded early in the 13th Century by Peter de Roches, the Bishop of Winchester for the Premonstratensian canons (known as the White Canons) a catholic religious order founded on the continent.
The Abbey has been frequented by many Kings and Queens and in 1445 it was the location for Henry VI marriage to Margaret of Anjou. So significant an event was it that a lion in chains was brought to the Abbey for the ceremony from the Tower of London.
The dissolution of the Monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII and effected by Thomas Cromwell, saw the Abbeys conversion into a fine country residence and the building that we can see now called Place House. The conversion and build of Place House was undertaken by Thomas Wriothesley who, richly rewarded for his Royal allegiance, was given the title 1st Earl of Southampton and along that title, the Titchfield and Beaulieu Abbey and estates.
Place House was clearly on the Royal circuit as its visitors included Edward VI, Elizabeth I, Charles I and his queen Henrietta Maria. Charles I spent his last night at Place House before fleeing to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, and this refuge became his prison for a year and a half before his execution in 1649.
Place House was also the home of Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton most famously remembered as William Shakespeare’ patron. It is conjectured that Shakespeare perhaps spent his ‘lost years’ (between 1685 and 1692) as a school teacher in Titchfield and there is reference to some of his plays being first performed in Place House. The old school house still survives across the road from Place House.
Place house was left to ruins in 1781. The Delme family who owned it re purposed some of its stone fabric to build Cams House on Fareham Creek. Abbey stone can also be found in local dwellings and even a fireplace salvaged and built into the Georgian village pub the Bugle Inn. The Abbey still stands tall and proud and it is easy to imagine the lives and ways of monks, Kings, & Queens, its banqueting halls and royal weddings and even the premier of a Shakespearean play stage managed by the author!
The Great Barn near the Abbey by Stewart’s Garden Centre is a Grade 1 listed building. It dates back to the 15th Century and is a fine example of a mediaeval monastic timber framed aisled barn. It probably stored grain and other essential supplies for the village, but there are stories that it may have stored supplies for Henry V and that he visited the barn before he sailed to France to do battle at Agincourt in 1415. Some believed he made his famous rallying speech. In many ways this is a repeat story as Edward III also sailed to France from the Titchfield coastal area to do Battle at Crecy in 1346.
The barn has established itself as a much loved local amenity in recent times and Titchfield’s local theatre group the Titchfield Festival Theatre hosts Shakespeare’s plays in the iconic setting. The barn has also proved itself to be a romantic and very successful wedding venue.
The Strawberry industry, stimulated by the 19th century Enclosure Acts saw a remarkable growth and more recently a decline, but if you follow the coastal road south of Titchfield in early summer, you will encounter some of the best strawberries in Hampshire.
During World War 2, Allied troops were billeted in the surrounding farms to practice the Normandy beach landings to liberate France. The Meon Shore was used to practice beach landings and we understand that the training involved live rounds fired over the soldiers heads towards the cliffs to simulate the action that lay ahead.
For 150 years there has been a annual Titchfield Carnival parading through the village. This was a huge event with local floats supported by all sorts of communities and clubs. The history of this event suggests that Titchfield doesn’t easily forget, the Carnival stemming from the villages wanting to display its discontent with the 3rd Earl’s damming of the harbour. Every year an effigy of the 3rd Earl was publicly burnt and the Carnival evolved at the hands of the infamous Titchfield Bonfire Boys. Sadly, the Carnival has paused due to burgeoning running costs. Let us hope the pause is only temporary.