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passed on by Miss Maddock to Marianna Hagen who collected them in her “Annals of Old Ropley”, published in 1929.


The squires, gentry, vicars, and to a lesser extent the “tradesmen” in Ropley, as elsewhere, have always lived relatively well. Most of the inhabitants of Rop- ley down the ages worked on the land and did not feature so strongly in the reports. They would have lived in “tied” cottages, a relic of a system which be- gan with the Norman conquest, when the reigning monarch was recognised as the sole landowner. Par- cels of land were granted either for an unlimited period (“fee simple” or freehold), or for a fixed pe- riod (leasehold). These parcels of land were granted for services rendered, usually in war, and the senior ranks then granted portions of their land to their own dependants under similar terms to squires who were responsible for supplying them with men and arms. These in their turn employed men on their farms under the same conditions.

Eventually the peers and other landowners were enfranchised by the monarch, retaining their lands in free or leasehold. The yeomen or serfs how- ever remained subject to the conditions of the land- owners, and the tied conditions under which cottages were held remained in force. A small number of houses in Ropley are still “tied”.

Up until the mid 20th century most cottages in Rop- ley were still dependent on wells for water, or rain- water collected from the roofs, and oil or gas lamps for lighting. A typical cottage around the turn of the century had a thatched roof, a flower garden in the front, and roses around the door. It sounds idyllic, but in a cottage like “Little Barton” opposite the Po- lice House on the Petersfield Road 3 families with an average of 5 children each would have been crammed in conditions that would be hard to de- scribe nowadays as other than squalid. The floor was generally of earth, with no damp course. Windows were small and interiors dark. Bedrooms were often in windowless attics reached by a ladder. Heating was from one central fireplace, and the search for kindling and wood was a constant preoccupation. The toilet was an earth closet in a shed outside, alongside the pigsty and hen house.

Children were expected to do their share of the work, there was little time for “leisure”. One quarter of all children in rural villages in England suffered from malnutrition in the early part of this century. School was attended when it didn’t conflict with harvest or other field work. The lanes were muddy and often flooded, travel of any kind was difficult if the weather wasn’t good. Social gatherings were in the Church or ale-house, with occasional excursions to Alresford for market days. Average life expectancy was only 40 in the mid 1880’s, improving to 60 by the First World War.

Two early views of Little Barton. On the left you can see it as three dwellings with The Dene in the background — Dene Stores and the adjacent garage are clearly visible. Hard to imagine that some 20 people would have lived here…

Ropley at the Millennium — 9

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