Tidgrove in the Hampshire parish of Kingsclere is usually identified with the Titegrave of the Domesday Book, but there is reason to suppose that this is a mistake. The first documented reference to Tidgrove is in a pipe roll of 1172, before that date we have to rely on archaeological evidence.
Prehistory Aerial photographs show considerable evidence of ancient field systems to the west of the lane which runs past the present farmhouse, but no evidence by which they can be dated has so far been found, nor has a probable settlement site been identified. To the east of the track, in an area largely devoid of evidence of ancient fields, there are two bronze age barrows.
Roman period In the field to the south west of the farm there is considerable evidence of a substantial Romano-British villa, or possibly a military camp. From the dates of coins found the site appears to have been occupied from the first to the fourth centuries.
Anglo-Saxon Period One solitary find, an ornate stirrup hanger, has been recovered from the Romano-British site.
Medieval Period In 1172 the sheriff of Hampshire accounted for an expenditure of £31 9s 7d on the domus regis [the King’s Houses] at Tidgrove, This probably represents the total initial expenditure on their construction. Four years later he accounted for wine sent to Tidgrove on the orders of Henry II. A year later he accounted for an expenditure of £7 16s on the king’s chapel. In 1178 there was further expenditure of £24 18s on the buildings, possibly in preparation for the king’s visit the following year when, by order of the king, 63s. 4d. was spent on supplies for the household .
1179 may have been the king’s last stay at Tidgrove for he now gave orders for the building of new houses, a mile and a half north on what is now known as Cottingtons Hill.
The work was completed between 1180-1183, and in the pipe rolls is recorded as Freemantle. It is not known why the King abandoned Tidgrove, but the name given to the new location may reflect the death of the Fair Rosamund about 1176. According to Dugdale one of her bowers was here, and the name Freemantle may reflect the King’s hope that there he would find a cloak for the coldness of his heart [Frigidum Mantellum] on the loss of his beloved mistress.
To call either Tidgrove or Freemantle a ‘hunting lodge’ is somewhat misleading. It is true they lay in the forest of Wittingly, later renamed Freemantle, but it is clear from the itinerary of King John that the king’s houses provided bases from which the country was governed by the itinerant court. Administration was only transferred to Westminster when the king was overseas.
The site of the king’s houses at Tidgrove is indicated by evidence of a ditched enclosure some 80 yards by 50, visible both on the ground and more clearly on aerial photographs. Pottery dating from the twelfth century has been found on the site, together with a fine 13th century belt buckle and an iron arrowhead. Immediately to the east of the enclosure there was once a stream, long since dried up, which may have fed a fishpond. Investigation of the site continues.
Sandelford Priory By 1241 Tidgrove had passed into the possession of the Augustinian Priory of Sandelford in Berkshire. It continued to be held by the Priory for 200 years, and seems to have been farmed as a rabbit warren. The Priory was founded between 1193 and 1202, had never been large, and in the 15th century fell on evil days. In 1440 the property was dilapidated and within a generation had been abandoned by religious.
St. George’s Chapel, Windsor In 1478 the priory, with all its possessions, was appropriated to St. George’s Chapel Windsor. According to the muniments of St. George’s Chapel Tidgrove was bounded on the east by the King’s Highway, on the west by Polhampton manor, to the north by Walkeridge farm, and to the south by Oakley Down. This would make it just under 190 acres, its present extent. The holding was generally described as pasture. There is no reference to buildings until 1611 when it was said that the tenant had built a house and two barns. A description of the farm in 1624 says, ‘the most part of it [is] very barren and a conie warren. A parcel of about 5 or 6 acres is full of underwood and trees, but none of thorn timber.’ Tidgrove continued to be farmed as a rabbit warren, at least until the 19th century. Evidently it was a profitable pursuit, for the tenancy continued to be in demand. The rent in 1479 was 23s. 4d. and ten couple of conies to be delivered at Christmas, in addition there was a substantial entry fine which reflected the length of the tenancy granted.
In the tithe award of 1841, Tidgrove is said to be owned and occupied by John Webb. The date of sale by St. George’s Chapel is not known, but was perhaps in anticipation of the transfer of the properties of the Chapel to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners
Sources Domeday Book, Hampshire, ed. Julian Munby (Phillimore, 1982) 23,68, and note. Its listing under Redbridge Hundred is explained as the scribal omission of the Kingsclere heading. Whilst this is possible, its listing under Redbridge Hundred does not necessarily preclude its physical location within the vill of Kingsclere. As was pointed out by F. W. Maitland (Domesday Book and Beyond, C.U.P, 1897, Fontana edn. 1960, p.32) ‘land is constantly spoken of as though it was the most portable of things; it can easily be taken from a vill or hundred . . . and caused to lie in another.’ On the other hand, Tidgrove, as known historically, does not really match the Domesday description. What seems to be decisive is the fact that an inquisition post mortem of 1329, after the death of John de St. John, lists Titegrave among the knights fees held by him, whilst in 1346 Sandelford Priory was listed as holding an eighth part of a fee in Tidgrove. The two statements do not seem to be compatible. Sandelford Priory’s possession of Tidgrove is well documented from the early twelve hundreds, leaving little room for doubt.
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