It was considered in the Middle Ages that tithes might be applied to any church purpose, and were not the exclusive right of the actual parish priest, provided he obtained a sufficient maintenance, which in those days of celibacy was not very expensive. The bishops and other patrons thus assigned the great tithes of corn of many parishes to religious foundations elsewhere, only leaving the incumbent the smaller tithe from other crops--an arrangement which has resulted in many abuses.
Thus in 1301, when Bishop Sawbridge or Points, or as it was Latinised, de Pontissara, founded the college of St. Elizabeth, in St. Stephen's, Merdon, by the Itchen at Winchester, for the education of twelve poor boys by a provost and fellows, he endowed it in part with the great tithe of Hursley. The small tithes having been found insufficient for the maintenance of the vicar, he united to Hursley the rectory of Otterbourne, giving the great tithes to the vicar of Hursley; and in 1362 Bishop Edyngton confirmed the transaction.
Mr. Marsh thus relates the transaction:-
"The Living of Hursley was anciently a rectory, and, as it is believed, wholly unconnected with any other church or parish. Unfortunately, however, for the parishioners, as well as for the minister, it was, about the year 1300, reduced to a vicarage, and the great tithes appropriated to the College of St. Elizabeth in Winchester. The small tithes which remained being inadequate to the support of the vicar and his necessary assistants, the church of Otterbourne was consolidated with that of Hursley, and the tithes of that parish, both great and small, were given to them to make up a sufficient maintenance--an arrangement which, in that dark age, was thought not only justifiable but even laudable, but which nevertheless deserves to this day to be severely censured, since not only the minister but both the parishes and the cause of religion have suffered a serious and continued injury from it.
"The person by whom this appropriation was made was John de Pontissara, alias Points, Bishop of Winchester, the founder of the college to which the tithes were granted; it was, however, afterwards confirmed by William de Edyngton, by whom the vicar's rights, which before were probably undefined, and perhaps the subject of contention, were ascertained and secured to him by endowment. This instrument is still in being, bearing the date of 1362. It may be seen in Bishop Edyngton's Register, part I, fol. 128, under the following marginal title:- 'Ratificatio et Confirmatio appropriationis Ecclesiae de Hursleghe, et ordinationes Vicarie ejusd.' The following is a translation of it, so far as the vicar's interests are concerned in it:- 'The said vicar shall have and receive all and all manner of tithes, great and small, with all offerings and other emoluments belonging to the chapel of Otterbourne, situated within the parish of the said church (viz. of Hursley). He shall also have and receive all offerings belonging to the church of Hursley, and all small tithes arising within the parish of the same, viz., the tithes of cheese, milk, honey, wax, pigs, lambs, calves, eggs, chickens, geese, pigeons, flax, apples, pears, and all other tithable fruits whatsoever of curtilages or gardens. He shall also receive the tithes of mills already erected, or that shall be erected. He shall also receive and have all personal tithes of all traders, servants, labourers, and artificers whatsoever, due to the said church. The said Vicar shall also receive and have all mortuaries whatsoever, live and dead, of whatsoever things they may consist. The said Vicar shall also receive and have all profit and advantage arising from the herbage of the churchyard. He shall also have and receive the tithes of all fish-ponds whatsoever, within the said parish, wheresoever made, or that hereafter shall be made. The said Vicar shall also have for his habitation the space on the south side of the churchyard, measuring in length, from the said churchyard and the rectorial house, formerly belonging to the said church, towards the south, twenty-seven perches; and in breadth, from the hedge and ditch between the said space and the garden of the aforesaid former rectory on the west, towards the east, sixteen perches and a half, with the buildings erected thereon.'
"Besides the above, John de Pontissara allotted to the Vicar the tithes of wool, beans, and vetches; but of the first of these he was deprived by Bishop Edyngton's endowment, and the latter have been so little cultivated that he has never yet derived any advantage from them, though his right to this species of tithes cannot, I suppose, be questioned, unless, indeed, they are comprehended under the term Bladum, and are consequently to be considered as the portion of the Impropriator. The tithes given by the Endowment to the President and Chaplains of St. Elizabeth College are--'Decimae Bladi cujuscunque generis, Foeni ac Lanae,' and no other.
"The church of Hursley is situated within the deanery of Winchester, and is a Peculiar;  a distinction which it enjoys, probably, in consequence of its having been formerly under the patronage of the bishop. The advantages of this are, that it is not subject to the archdeacon's jurisdiction; that the minister is not obliged to attend his visitations; and that he has the privilege of granting letters of administration to wills, when the property conveyed by them lies within the limits of the vicarage.
"The value of the benefice, as rated in the King's Book, is 9 pounds per annum, and the tenths are of course 18s. These the incumbent is required to pay annually, but he is exempted from the payment of the First Fruits. The land-tax with which the vicarage is charged is 14 pounds: 1: 2.5 per annum; and the procurations and diet-money payable on account of the Bishop's Visitation amount to 12s. 9.5d."
The patronage of the living, when a rectory, belonged to the bishops of Winchester, and afterwards, when reduced to a vicarage, was expressly reserved to himself and his successors by William de Edyngton; and so long as they kept possession of the Manor of Merdon, they continued patrons of the vicarage. This Bishop Edyngton, the same who began the alteration of the cathedral, is said to have built the second church of All Saints at Hurley, the tower of which still remains.
William of Wykeham, among his wider interests, seems to have had little concern with Hursley or Otterbourne.
The bishops possessed numerous manors in the diocese, and these were really not only endowments, but stations whence the episcopal duty of visitation could be performed. Riding forth with his train of clergy, chaplains, almoners, lawyers, crossbearers, and choristers, besides his household of attendants, the bishop entered a village, where the bells were rung, priest, knight, franklins, and peasants came out with all their local display, often a guild, to receive him, and other clergy gathered in; mass was said, difficulties or controversies attended to, confirmation given to the young people and children, and, after a meal, the bishop proceeded, sometimes to a noble's castle, or a convent, but more often to another manor of his own, where he was received by his resident steward or park-keeper, and took up his abode, the neighbouring clergy coming in to pay their respects, mention their grievances, and hold counsel with him. His dues were in the meantime collected, and his residence lasted as long as business, ecclesiastical or secular, required his presence, or till he and his train had eaten up the dues in kind that came in.
Whether the visit was welcome or not depended a good deal on the character of the prelate, and the hold he kept on his subordinates. The great courtly bishops, like William of Wykeham, generally sent their suffragans, titular bishops in partibus infidelium, to perform their duties.
One of the park-keepers of Merdon was judged worthy of a Latin epitaph, probably the work of a chaplain or of a Winchester scholar to whom he had endeared himself:
Hic in humo stratus, John Bowland est tumulatus Vir pius et gratus et ab omnibus hinc peramatus Custos parcorum praestans quondam fuit horum De Merdon, quorum et Wintoniae dominorum. Hic quinqgenis hinc octenis rite deemptis Cum plausu gentis custos erat in eis.
Festum Clementis tempus fuerat morientis Mille quadringentis annis Christi redimentis, Quadris his junctis simul et cum septuagintis. Hunc cum defunctis, protege, Christe, tuis.
Here laid in the ground, John Bowland hath sepulture, A man of faith and kindliness, and hence by all beloved. He was aforetime the excellent guardian of this park Belonging to certain lords of Merdon and Winchester. He for (lit. in) 50 years--(8 being taken away precisely) With the applause of all the community was guardian among them.
The Festival of Clement was his date of dying In years one thousand four hundred after Christ's Redemption, Adding to these four (?) (years) and seventy. Him, O Christ, befriend with those who are thine!
Unlike Hursley, or rather the Manor of Merdon, Otterbourne had many different possessors in succession, and is even at the present day divided into various holdings on different tenures.
In 1244 Walter and John de Brompton, sons of Sir Bryan de Brompton, lived at Hayswode, a name now lost or changed into "Otterbourne Park," the wood spreading over the east side of the hill. At the same time Sir Henry de Capella was possessor of the manor; but in 1265 it had passed, by what means we do not know, to Sir Francis de Bohun--a very early specimen of this Christian name which was derived from the sobriquet of the Saint of Assisi, whose Christian name was John.
From the son of Sir Francis in 1279 Simon the Draper obtained the Manor of Otterbourne for 600 merks, and a quit rent of a pair of gilt spurs valued at six pence! Simon seems to have assumed the gilt spurs himself, for he next appears as "Sir Simon de Wynton." Indeed it seems that knighthood might be conferred on the possessors of a certain amount of land. Wynton in two more generations has lengthened into Wynchester, when, in 1379, the manor is leased to Hugh Croans, merchant, and Isabella his wife for their lives, paying after the first twenty-five years 100 pounds per annum. And two years later William de Winchester conveyed the manor over to Hugh Croans or Crans.
The great Bishop William of Wykeham bought it in 1386, and gave it to his cousin, bearing the same name. It continued in the Wykeham family till 1458, when William Fiennes or Fenys, Lord Say and Sele, the son of him who was murdered by Jack Cade's mob, being married to the heiress, Margaret Wykeham, sold it to Bishop Waynflete for 600 pounds.
The bishop's treasurer was Hugh Pakenham; and being one of the feoffees to whom the manor was conveyed for the bishop, he pretended that he had bought it for himself, and absconded with some of the title deeds; but eventually he died in magna miseria in sanctuary at St. Martin's le Grand, Westminster. His son John renounced the pretended claim, and very generously the Bishop gave him 40 pounds.
In 1481, good Bishop Waynflete made over the property to his newly- founded College of St. Mary Magdalen at Oxford, in whose possession it has remained ever since, except small portions which have been enfranchised from time to time. It includes Otterbourne hill, with common land on the top and wood upon the slope, as well as various meadows and plough lands. The manor house, still bearing the name of the Moat House, was near the old church in the meadows, and entirely surrounded with its own moat. It must have been a house of some pretension in the sixteenth century, for there is a handsome double staircase, a rough fresco in one room, and in the lowest there was a panel over the fireplace, with a painting representing apparently a battle between Turks and Austrians. The President of Magdalen College on progress always held his court there. The venerable Dr. Rowth in extreme old age was the last who did so. Since his time the bridge crossing the moat fell in and choked it; it became a marsh; the farm was united to another, the picture removed, and the only inhabitants are such a labourer's family as may be impervious to the idea that it is haunted.
Simon the Draper, otherwise Sir Simon de Wynton, granted a plot of land to the north-west of the Manor House to Adam de Lecke in villeinage, and later in freehold to John de Otterbourne, reserving thirteen shillings rent. By this last it was rented on his wife Alice, from whom it passed through several hands to John Colpoys in the year of Henry VI., and twenty-two years later this same John Colpoys agreed with the warden and fellows of Winchester College to enfeoff them of one messuage, four tofts, twenty acres of arable land, and eighteen acres of meadow, to the intent that they should on the 7th day of April in every year celebrate the obits of Alice his deceased wife, of John Giles and Maud his wife (her parents), of Sir John Shirborne and of Joan Parke, and of Colpoys himself and Joan his then wife, after their respective deaths.
These obits, namely anniversaries of deaths when masses were to be offered for the person recollected, were to be secured by the fee of a shilling to the warden on each occasion, sixpence to each fellow and chaplain, and likewise to the schoolmaster, twopence to each lay clerk, sixpence to the sacrist for wax candles, and a mark or thirteen and fourpence to be spent in a "pittance" extra course in the college hall. The indenture by which Colpoys hoped to secure perpetual masses in remembrance of his relations and himself is in perfect preservation, with seals attached, in the muniment chamber of Winchester College.
The property has continued ever since in the possession of the College of St. Mary, Winchester, though the masses ceased to be celebrated after the Reformation.
In those days the rector of Hursley was John de Ralegh, probably a kinsman of the bishop of that name.
Before this, however, Bishop Richard Toclive had a dispute with the Knights of St. John, who claimed the almshouse of Noble Poverty at St. Cross as Hospitallers. They had unfortunately a reputation for avarice, and Toclive bought them off by giving them the impropriation of Merton and Hursleigh  for 53 marks a year.
PAGANUS DE LYSKERET, styled Presbyter, was collated in 1280. It appears that at this time there was a perpetual vicar established in the Church of Hursley as well as a rector; and that he was instituted by the bishop, had a certain fixed maintenance assigned to him, and was independent of the rector. In the register of John de Pontissera, Bishop of Winton, may now be seen what is there called the "Ordinatio Episcopi inter Rectorem et Vicarium de Hurslegh." It is therein settled that the vicar shall have a house as described and other emoluments, and that the rector shall pay to him forty shillings per annum. The vicar at this time was Johannes de Sta. Fide. The deed of settlement was executed in Hyde Abbey, in the year 1291; Philip de Barton, John de Ffleming, William de Wenling, and others being witnesses to it. Vide Regist. de Pontissera, fol. 10. Forty shillings or five marks was, it appears, the stipend usually assigned to vicars and curates at this time, the vicar being REALLY what we now call a curate.
HUGO DE WELEWYCK, styled Clericus, succeeded in 1296 on the resignation of Paganus and was the last rector, the benefice having in his time been reduced to a vicarage by the appropriation of the rectorial-house, tithes, and glebe to the College of St. Elizabeth. The PRETENCES assigned for this act, for true REASONS they could scarcely be, since in all cases of appropriation and consolidation they appear to have been almost exactly the same, were the unfinished state of the college buildings and the insufficiency of the revenues for the maintenance of the society, owing to wars, sickness, pestilence, and the like. But notwithstanding this serious deprivation and loss, a vicar it appears was still continued in the church, Hugh de Welewyck having presented two, viz. Henricus de Lyskeret in 1300, and Roger de la Vere in 1302; of whom the latter was certainly appointed after the appropriation.
WILLIAM DE FFARLEE was collated Vicar of Hursley, on the death of Welewyck in 1348.
WILLIAM DE MIDDLETON was collated in 1363.