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History of Bighton

The earliest recorded spelling of Bighton comes from an authentic 14th century copy of a Saxon charter dated 959 AD, in which King Eadwig granted ten hides ofland at Bicincgtun to the New Minster at Winchester (later Hyde Abbey).

The earliest spelling of the name suggests a farm or estate associated with, or belonging to, a man called Bica: ‘Bica’s farm’. One of the charters for Alresford shows that by 877, Bishop Tunbeort had leased 40 hides of land at Alresford (including the present-day parishes of Old Alresford, New Alresford and Medstead) to a lay family. This large portion cut out of the Alresford estate corresponded with the pre-1985 Bighton parish boundaries, so it is fairly safe to say that Bighton had become an estate in its own right by 877.

The settlement of Gundleton had its beginnings at the start of the 20th century, although the name is much older. In the 19th century, Gundleton was the name of two fields on either side of Bighton Lane, on the border with Bighton. What Gundleton means is hard to say. Some suggest that it is a medieval female name ‘Gunild’s farm’. Alternatively, in the 1830s, on the Bighton side of the boundary there was a field called Edneys Girdledon. Girdle is often used in the context of a boundary, so perhaps ‘boundary down’. But just to confuse the issue, the point where Bighton Lane crosses the boundary was, in the 16th century, known as Gundell Gate. Gundleton doesn’t seem to have been used as a name for the settlement until the 1930s or 40s.

It seems hard to believe that in the past Bighton was situated on one of the nation’s major road arteries, which was for several hundred years the equivalent to the M3. From Saxon times until the mid-18th century, the main road from Winchester to Westminster passed right through Bighton. This route was travelled by kings, queens, bishops, armies, drovers and pilgrims. By the 13th century the stretch of road between Alresford and Alton was known as the passus de Alton (the name still survives in Paice Lane at Medstead) and had become notorious for robbers and cut-throats. 



The situation became so bad that in 1269 Henry III held an inquisition (putting the blame on, among others, local shepherds,) which decided to have all the woods along the pass cleared and the roads made wide, so removing any hiding places. It is said that this is how the Broads got their name. Despite its importance, being known as the Royal or London Road, it was badly maintained and in 1753 the Farnham Turnpike act was passed, which took the main road through Bishops Sutton. The old road fell into disuse, being used for local traffic, even so the Drayton track and the Broads still retain their status as public roads.

To the north of Alresford Road is Kate Nevill’s Walk, so called because that is where the unfortunate girl is said to have been murdered on fair night. No-one has found out when, although her ghost apparently returns on fair night at midnight the first Thursday after the 11th October each year. Kate Nevill’s connects with the metalled back road to Old Alresford. This is an ancient stretch and was certainly part of the Saxon highway from Winchester to London in the 16th century. It was called Bighton Lane and a stretch of it was called Buttocks Bottom.

Apart from the church and village hall The Three Horseshoes is the last of Bighton’s amenities. It has been situated in the middle of the village since at least the 17c and probably for some time before that. Its situation on the old pre-1750 London to Winchester road would have made it ideal for travellers to stop for refreshment and board. In those days it was owned by the lord of Bighton manor and would have been occupied by a publican appointed by him. The ale was probably brewed on site from malt produced down at the malthouse.

The name Three Horseshoes, in Bighton’s case, has one or two possible origins. This very popular inn name is the heraldic symbol of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, a fellowship since 1356. A Three Horseshoes sign is an indicator that a blacksmith or farrier was not far away, or even owned or ran the inn. Why three shoes and not four? Because the horse would stand on three when he was being shod.

The shape of the horse shoe is similar in shape to a crescent moon and it has been suggested that the three horseshoes at Bighton represent the three crescent moons found on the arms of the 17th century owners of the Manor, the Withers family.