History talks launched

St Matthew’s was packed to capacity on 16 March for the first local history talk celebrating the re-opening of St Matthew’s. Retired electronics engineer Barrie Brinkman, an expert on Weeke and its past, gave a sweeping overview of the area from medieval times until the Victorian period.

We heard how the farming community came to this ‘chapel of ease’ to save them the journey down to St Mary in the Valleys, at the city end of Andover Road. The area was flourishing before 1348, when the Black Death first hit; Brinkman movingly described the recurrent waves of disease that meant the population didn’t recover numerically until the mid-19th century, with the coming of the railways.

Brinkman had fascinating insights into some of the local names, such as Bereweeke, meaning ‘grange’ or ‘dairy farm with woodland’ in Old English. Ancient field names such as Rowlings, Taplings and Crouchers Croft have been preserved in some local streets.

An overview of the families living at the Manor – or more correctly, the Mansion House (as the land was owned by the Church) – led us from medieval times, through Complin, Godwin, Burnett and Hitchcock, to the 20th century, the Red Cross and development of Weeke Manor Estate in 2003–4.

Facts you may not know:

  • Weeke Turnpike Gate used to charge tolls near the modern junction of Stockbridge Road and Chilbolton Avenue
  • in the 19th century there was a cricket ground opposite the Roebuck Inn, on the other side of Stockbridge Road.

The next talk, at St Matthew’s on 6 April at 6.30 pm, is ‘The coming of the railways and its impact on Weeke and Fulflood’ by Dr Mark Allen of the University of Winchester.