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Reflections: Earliest records show Milton chapel owed the Bishop of Winchester the princely sum of 15d in 1288





The earliest records for a chapel or church in Milton Parish go back to the 1260s when the Calcombe or Chaucombe family are linked to the building. In 1270 the Christchurch Priory cartulary noted that the chapel in Milton owed the Bishop of Winchester 15d. In 1288 the cartulary noted that Milton chapel owed the priory a wax candle and three shillings. At that time the prior would have sent a monk to Milton to preach to the population; there would not have been a priest resident in the village. The earliest voters register for Milton Parish is dated 1833 and lists the Reverend John Browne, curate of Milton, as being eligible to vote through owning the freehold of a house and grounds. Sadly, it does not state where the property was in the parish.

New Milton rectory, dated 23rd March 1909
New Milton rectory, dated 23rd March 1909

The Reverend John Edward Kelsall, rector of Milton Parish, writing in the 1904 publication ‘Miltoniana’, said that “the old Parsonage, which stood close to the Rectory Pond, was built in 1841, and more than half the expense was contributed by Capt. Marryat, the well-known novelist [Children of the New Forest] whose family is still connected with the neighbourhood”. Captain Marryat’s brother lived at Chewton Glen. The family also paid for the font in St Mary Magdalene Church, and their name can be seen on the inscription at the base. The parsonage that Reverend Kelsall mentioned was probably the first house built for the incumbent curate, near to St Mary Magdalene church, in the grounds of the present-day rectory.

New Milton rectory today
New Milton rectory today

The 1841 tithe map shows that the building was named Milton Hatch House. It was surrounded by a yard, pasture gardens, fish pond, kitchen and garden and a plot of land called Home Close which was three acres in size. The occupier was the Reverend Francis Tyrell who was the perpetual curate of Milton from 1840 to 1853. At that time the church in Milton village was under the care of the vicars of Milford who appointed curates to attend to the spiritual needs of the residents. A perpetual curacy was the equivalent of a vicarage. In 1867 this became a rectory.

Reflections: New Milton rectory – datestone on the gable
Reflections: New Milton rectory – datestone on the gable

The Rev Tyrell was succeeded in 1853 by the Rev Philip Somerville MA who served as the curate until 1867, when he was appointed rector of Milton. When the Rev Somerville passed away the old parsonage was demolished and a new rectory built in 1876. There appeared to have been some disagreement over the plans. On 29th January 1876, the Weekly Hampshire Independent reported on grants in aid from the diocese. One hundred pounds was offered for a parsonage house at Milton near Lymington subject to certain modifications suggested by Mr Street. Earlier in the same column, Mr Street is described as the diocesan architect. His name is linked again to Milton Parish in October that same year when an appeal for a further grant towards the building was “not entertained” as Mr Street had not reported on the plans as amended.

Reflections: New Milton rectory – the hallway and main entrance
Reflections: New Milton rectory – the hallway and main entrance

In a biography of George Edmund Street (1824-1881) he is described as the diocese architect for York, Ripon, Winchester and Oxford. He had started his career articled to a firm in Winchester. From there he progressed to a more prestigious practice in London. In addition to his creation of churches, he also designed numerous parsonages and rectories. His most famous building is the Royal Courts of Justice in London. However, an online list of the domestic buildings he designed fails to mention Milton Rectory.

Reflections: New Milton rectory – plaque besidea lime tree in the grounds
Reflections: New Milton rectory – plaque besidea lime tree in the grounds

Another Victorian architect who may have designed the rectory was John Coulson (1820-1895). He was born in Southampton and lived and worked in Winchester. For most of his career he specialised in the building and repair of churches, cathedrals, parish schools and parsonages. Coulson was considered to be an able and competent architect but of a ‘lower school’ to George Street. In a publication on Coulson, historian Brenda Poole states his office papers and private correspondence have not been traced. She has produced a list of over 200 commissions Coulson carried out in Hampshire but acknowledges this is not complete. The list does not include the Milton rectory but does show he was linked to the enlargement of the Milton Hotel in 1891.

Reflections: New Milton rectory – freplace with servant bell pull to the left
Reflections: New Milton rectory – freplace with servant bell pull to the left

The present rectory was built in 1876 at a cost of £2,000, approximately £233,000 in 2020. Eight hundred pounds of the original sum was raised by subscription which was matched by the ecclesiastical commissioners. Two hundred pounds was awarded from Queen Anne’s Bounty, a scheme established in 1704 to augment the incomes of the poorer clergy of the church of England, and this was also matched by the commissioners.

Above the main entrance to the rectory the 1876 date stone can be seen. Many Victorian architectural features remain inside the building including an ornate staircase, stained glass windows, brass fingerplates on the doors, fireplaces and bell pulls for summoning servants. The stables, coal store and outhouses were demolished in the 1960s.

The servant bell pull beside the dining room fireplace
The servant bell pull beside the dining room fireplace

The rectory is linked most closely with the Rev John Edward Kelsall. He used the building and grounds not only as a home but also for the benefit and improvement of the local community. He held natural history classes in the grounds and kept detailed records of the birds and animals sighted in the grounds which he published in the parish magazine.

In the First World War, the parish magazine records that convalescent Indian soldiers were invited to afternoon tea in the grounds. Local children put on a dance performance for the soldiers, who thanked the rector and local residents, saying the children brought back happy memories of those they had left behind at home. There is a plaque in the garden detailing the planting of a lime tree on 18th July 1915 by Sepoy Frank Maya Das an Indian soldier. Sepoy Das, a Christian Indian, later gave a lecture at the rectory on religion in his country. Apart from the Indian memorial at Barton, the rectory is one of the few remaining buildings in New Milton that has a proven link to the First World War Indian soldiers who convalesced here.

Post-war the rectory hosted Women’s Institute meetings in support of the League of Nations promotion of international peace. The Rev Kelsall also provided free education classes in the rectory to all members of the Parish.

In November 1918 a Norwegian maple was planted to commemorate the signing of the armistice; this tree is still alive in the rectory garden. In a survey carried out in May 2023 it was noted that butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) could be found in the garden. This is a species indicative of ancient woodland and is by no means common. Apple and pear trees on the west side of the property suggest there was once an orchard in the grounds. Other mature trees identified in the grounds include holm oak, English oak, yew, elm, ash, sycamore, horse chestnut, cedar, beech and grey poplar. Many of these veteran trees are extremely old and could be classified as ‘heritage’ or ‘amenity’ trees. The ground cover between the trees includes three-cornered garlic, bluebell, cow parsley, meadow foxtail, goosegrass and cuckoo pint. The survey also recorded the presence of chaffinch, woodpigeon, dunnock, robin, bullfinch and blackbirds. Orange tip, holly blue, speckled wood and small white butterflies were also observed along with beautiful demoiselle damselflies (Calopteryx virgo) which may be attracted to the garden by the clean, flowing watercourse on the eastern side of the garden. Common pipistrelle bats were also observed, potentially emerging from area of the roof during a survey in July 2023.

In the early 1990s there were plans by the diocese to sell the rectory and build houses in the grounds. The plans were approved by the Bishop of Winchester in the time between the Rev Outhwaite leaving and the Rev Andrew Bailey arriving, as the incumbent rector had a power of veto. The plan consisted of building three new houses, one of which would be a modern four-bedroom parsonage. The existing rectory and remaining grounds were to be sold off. Planning permission was sought and this was reported in the New Milton Advertiser and other newspapers in 1996 and 1997. This newspaper made comment that the rectory and grounds were in a designated conservation area and that protection orders were in place on many of the trees. It was also noted that a number of rare bird species had made the grounds their home.

Local and district councillors pointed out it was one of the few remaining large Victorian buildings in New Milton. Public opinion in Milton Parish was firmly in favour of keeping the rectory and grounds. A petition of 3,700 signatures against the sale and development of the site was given to the council planning authorities. The diocese was refused permission to demolish the rectory and build on the grounds. They appealed the decision but the Environment Department upheld it. The appeals inspector was quoted on this newspaper as saying that “the site is very important to the character and appearance of the Old Milton conservation area and that to erect a dwelling there would introduce an alien feature into its heart, depriving the locality of a much-needed and attractive open area”.

Two private houses were allowed to be built in the grounds. The Victorian rectory and much of the grounds were saved. The Rev Bailey and his family made the rectory their home and the gardens were restored.

The Rev Andrew Bailey retired in July 2023, and the diocese has put the rectory and grounds up for sale. The future of this building and the grounds is once again uncertain. It is an important part of our local heritage and it would be a great loss if it were destroyed.

Nick Saunders MA is a local historian and chairman of the Milton Heritage Society. He can be contacted via nick@miltonheritagesociety.co.uk



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