The History of Eversley
50,000 BC (approx) The great river which fills the Blackwater valley deposits sarsen stones carried down by melt-waters of the ice sheets.
Roman Occupation (43-410AD) Road linking Staines (Pontes) with Silchester (Calleva) becomes a vital thoroughfare in the Roman communication network. Later known as The Devil’s Highway, its course can be traced where it crosses the River Blackwater at the bottom of Ford Lane in Bramshill.
Saxon Settlement King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) transfers the hamlet of Eversley and its surrounding lands to the monks of St. Peter Westminster. The charter recording this grant (c 1060) provides the earliest evidence for a church here.
Eversley’s ancient origins are suggested by its name, which is derived from the Anglo Saxon for “eofors leah”, the field or clearing of the wild boar.
The Middle Ages are chronicled in records which provide intriguing glimpses into the life of the parish during the centuries following the Norman Conquest (c1066-1500). Eversley is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1085, when the Abbey of St Peter, Westminster held the overlordship of its four separate manors. The exact sites of these manors are not known, but it has been suggested that they were beside the Church near Glaston Hill House at Eversley Cross and close to Up Green. The four manors appear to have been combined by 1276 when a right was granted to hold a market every Monday and to stage a five day fair over St Luke’s Festival (16th to 20th October). A license was also given by Edward III in 1336, to enclose 300 acres to make a private deer park. This enclosure was from a large tract of countryside called the Royal Forest of Eversley, established to protect the wild game for the King’s own use. One Gilbert de Eversley paid an annual rental for the Forest of Eversley to the Constable of Windsor Castle and he was also in charge of the neighbouring Pamber Forest.
After a succession of owners, the combined manors of Eversley were sold to Deodatus Staverton in 1582, whose family sold them on to Sir Andrew Henley Bt. of Bramshill in 1649, so this is the date when the entire parish had a single overlord.
About 1702, the manors of Eversley and Bramshill were bought by Sir John Cope and the next few decades heralded a transformation in the village. Between 1720 and 1735 the church was substantially demolished , rebuilt and extended. The work is attributed to the architect John James, a student of Sir Christoper Wren, who also built Warbrook in 1724 as a family home. At Warbrook he laid out formal gardens and canals and planted woodlands split by pathways and avenues. Much of the design has survived for 280 years and reflects the principles of d’Argenville’s ‘The Theory and Prictice of Gardening’, which James translated from the French. Born in Basingstoke in 1671 or 1672, James worked for Sir Christoper Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral and succeeded him as its Surveyor. It is also thought that he extended and re-fronted Firgrove Manor in 1736, for Wadham Wyndham, but perhaps his best known building is St George’s, Hanover Square. He also designed a number of fine country houses, public buildings and churches, including the west towers of Westminster Abbey.
In 1722, Thomas Attwood gave his house and land, Church House, which used to stand opposite St Mary’s, in trust to the church. The house was pulled down and replaced by four cottages built at Cross Green to house the poor of the parish. It is believed that a number of other derelict cottages were also cleared from the area during this period to improve the outlook of The Rectory, which now enjoys views of the Mount.
By 1795, as well as the St Luke’s Fair, there was also an annual Cattle Fair. There is a long distance drove road across Eversley, known as The Welsh Drive, along which cattle from Wales were herded to the markets south of London. Eversley’s Cattle Fair continued well into the 19th Century.
Over 1,200 acres of Eversley’s Commons were enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1868. The Award divided the Commons up amongst the existing landowners according to the percentage of land that each held. To compensate non-landowners, three areas were set aside as “recreational allotments”, now Village Greens, at Up Green, Eversley Cross and The Great ‘A’.
Nineteenth Century Eversley is inextricably linked with the Reverend Charles Kingsley who was Rector from 1844-1875. He pursued his wide-ranging interests with a conviction and energy that gave him an enduring place as a figure of national, as well as local, importance.
Following in Charles Kingsley’s reforming footsteps, one of his pupils, John Martineau, created a number of model workmen’s cottages to replace some of the deplorable housing that existed. Built between 1890 and 1905, these are extravagantly detailed, timber frame houses, carved with uplifting Christian and ethical mottoes. The Martineau Cottages are a special village feature. From much the same period there are many ‘villa’ style residences. One, known as Wixenford, was developed into a private school, which is now the much extended St Neot’s. Other mor recent developments have included many infill sites and some estate developments at Eversley Centre and Cross.
The last great upheaval in the village was the break up and sale, in 1952, of the 5,247 acre Bramshill Estate. The 125 lots included more than 40 houses, farms and cottages in Eversley, including the supposed sites of the four original Manor Houses.
Eversley is world-famous as the village where Charles Kingsley lived and wrote “The Water Babies”. As well as being an author, social reformer and chaplain to Queen Victoria, Charles Kingsley was rector of the parish from 1844 until his death in 1875. During the years he served the parish, Kingsley did much to transform its life, especially in the building of a school in 1853. His Rectory, beside St Mary’s Church, is now a private house, but there are memorials to him and his family in the church and in the churchyard, where he is buried. He planted the Irish Yew trees which line the path and also the large Wellingtonia which he grew from a seed which he brought back from the United States of America, following a lecture tour.