Thomas Dummer, Esquire, who in 1765 succeeded his father in the possession of Cranbury, was a man to whom some evil genius whispered, "Have a taste," for in 1770 he actually purchased the City Cross of Winchester to set it up at Cranbury, but happily the inhabitants of the city were more conservative than their corporation, and made such a demonstration that the bargain was annulled, and the Cross left in its proper place. He consoled himself with erecting a tall lath and plaster obelisk in its stead, which was regarded with admiration by the children of the parish for about sixty years, when weather destroyed it.
He also transported several fragments from Netley Abbey, which formed part of his property at Weston near Southampton, and set them up in his park as an object from the windows. There is an arch, the base of a pillar, and a bit of gateway tower, but no one has been able to discover the part whence they came, so that not much damage can have been done. The rear of the gateway has been made into a keeper's lodge, and is known to the village of Otterbourne as "the Castle."
He is also said to have had a kind of menagerie, and to have been once in danger from either a bear or a leopard; the man at Hursley who rescued him did not seem in his old age to be clear which it was, though he considered himself to have a claim on the property.
It would not have been easy to substantiate it, for Mr. Dummer died without heirs about 1790, leaving his property at Cranbury and Netley first to his widow, and after her to the Chamberlayne family.
Mrs. Dummer lived many years after her husband, and married an artist, then of some note, Sir Nathanael Dance, who assumed the name of Holland, and in 1800 was created a baronet. He threw up painting as a profession, but brought several good pictures to Cranbury. His wife survived him till 1823-24, when William Chamberlayne, M.P. for Southampton, came into the property, and from him, in 1829, it descended to his nephew, Thomas Chamberlayne, Esquire.
Brambridge had a more eventful history. From the Welleses, it passed to the Smythes, also Roman Catholics. Walter Smythe, the first of these, was second son of Sir John Smythe of Acton Burnell in Derbyshire. His daughter Mary Anne was married at nineteen to one of the Welds of Lulworth Castle, who died within a year, and afterwards to Thomas Fitzherbert, who left her a childless widow before she was twenty-five.
It was six years later that, after vehement passionate entreaties on the part of George, Prince of Wales, and even a demonstration of suicide, she was wrought upon to consent to a private marriage with him, which took place on the 21st of December 1785, at her house in Park Lane, the ceremony being performed by a clergyman of the Church of England, in the presence of her uncle and one of her brothers.
So testifies Jesse in his Life of George III. Nevertheless there is at Twyford a belief that the wedding took place at midnight in the bare little Roman Catholic Chapel at Highbridge, and likewise in Brambridge House, where the vicar officiated and was sworn to secrecy. The register, it is said, was deposited at Coutts's Bank under a lock with four keys. The connection with Twyford was kept up while the lady lived, but no one remains who can affirm the facts. Her first marriage, in early youth, was most probably, as described, at Brambridge. Her very small wedding ring is also extant, but neither ring nor ceremony can belong to her royal marriage. It would be curious that the adjoining parish of Marwell likewise had to boast (if that is a right word) of Henry VIII.'s marriage with Jane Seymour.
Mrs. Fitzherbert certainly visited Brambridge, for an old gardener named Newton, and Miss Frances Mary Bargus, who came to live at Otterbourne in 1820, remembered her, and the latter noted her fine arched brows. George IV.'s love for her was a very poor thing, but she was the only woman he ever had any real affection for, and he desired that her miniature should be buried with him.
She survived him for many years, and died in 1837 at eighty-one years old.
Her brother Walter was one of the English who visited Paris and was made prisoner by Napoleon I. at the rupture of the peace of Amiens, and detained till 1814. While he was a prisoner, his brother Charles caused all the limes in the avenue at Brambridge to be pollarded, and sold the tops for gun stocks. Nevertheless the trees are still magnificent, making three aisles, all the branches inwards rising up perpendicularly, those without sweeping gracefully down, and all budding and fading simultaneously. The pity is that the modern house should not have been built at one end or the other, so that they form actually a passage that leads to nothing. Since his death, the property has been sold, and has passed into strangers' hands. The endowment of the chapel has been transferred to one at Eastleigh, and the house to which it was attached belongs to a market garden.
The two parishes were near enough to the coast to be kept in anxiety by the French schemes for landing. The tenant of the Winchester College property at Otterbourne is said to have kept all her goods packed up, and to have stirred the fire with a stick all through one winter; and as late as between 1840-50, Mr. Bailey of Hursley still had in his barn the seats that had been prepared to fit into the waggons that were to carry the women into the downs in the event of a battle.
The Rev. John Marsh, who in 1808 collected the memoranda of Hursley and dedicated them to Sir William Heathcote, was curate of Hursley and incumbent of Baddesley. The Vicar was the Rev. Gilbert Heathcote, fifth son of Sir Thomas, second Baronet. He was afterwards Archdeacon of Winchester and a Canon of Winchester. He was a man of great musical talent, and some of his chants are still in use. The only other fact recollected of him was, that being told that he used hard words in his sermons, he asked a labourer if he knew what was meant by Predestination, and was answered, "Yes, sir, some'at about the innards of a pig." He generally resided there. Mr. Marsh remained curate of Hursley and was presented to the living of Baddesley. All this time Otterbourne had only one Sunday service, alternately matins or evensong, and the church bell was rung as soon as the clergyman could be espied riding down the lane. Old customs so far survived that the congregation turned to the east in the Creed, always stood up, if not sooner, when "Alleluia" occurred at the end of the very peculiar anthems, and had never dropped the response, "Thanks be to Thee, O Lord," at the end of the Gospel.
The Holy Communion was celebrated four times a year, 35. 7d. being paid each time for the Elements, as is recorded in beautiful writing in "the Church Raiting book," which began to be kept in 1776. "Washan the surples" before Easter cost 4s.; a Communion cloth, tenpence; and for washing and marking it, sixpence. A new bell cost 5 pounds: 5: 10, and its "carridge" from London 11s. 10d. Whitewashing the church came to 1 pound: 1s., and work in the gallery to 10s. 4d. Besides, there was a continual payment for dozens of sprow heads, also for fox heads at threepence apiece, for a badger's head, a "poul cat," marten cats, and hedgehogs. These last, together with sparrows, continue to appear till 1832, when the Rev. Robert Shuckburgh, in the vestry, protested against such use of the church rate, and it was discontinued. Mr. Shuckburgh was the first resident curate at Otterbourne, being appointed by the Archdeacon. He was the first to have two services on Sunday, though still the ante-Communion service was read from the desk, and he there pulled off his much iron-moulded surplice from over his gown and ascended the pulpit stair. The clerk limped along the aisle to the partitioned space in the gallery to take part in the singing.
But changes were beginning. The direct coaching road between Winchester and Southampton had been made, and many houses had followed it. The road that crosses Colden Common and leads to Portsmouth was also made about the same time, and was long called Cobbett's road, from that remarkable self-taught peasant reformer, William Cobbett, who took part in planning the direction.
Cobbett was a friend of Mr. Harley, a retired tradesman who bought the cottage that had belonged to a widow, named Science Dear, and enlarged it. Several American trees were planted in the ground by Cobbett, of which only one survives, a hickory, together with some straggling bushes of robinia, which Cobbett thought would make good hedges, being very thorny, and throwing up suckers freely, but the branches proved too brittle to be useful. About 1819 Mr. Harley sold his house and the paddock adjoining to Mary Bargus, widow of the Rev. Thomas Bargus, Vicar of Barkway in Hertfordshire, and she came to live there with her daughter Frances Mary. In 1622, Miss Bargus married William Crawley Yonge, youngest son of the Rev. Duke Yonge, Vicar of Cornwood, Devon, of the old family of Yonges of Puslinch. He then retired from the 52nd regiment, in which he had taken part in the Pyrenean battles, and in those of Orthez and Toulouse, and had his share in the decisive charge which completed the victory of Waterloo. They had two children, Charlotte Mary, born August 11th, 1823, and Julian Bargus, born January 31st, 1830.