Rioters Walk (Part A)

Headley Grange © John Owen Smith
Kingsley Pond © John Owen Smith
St Mary's Church, Selborne © John Owen Smith

On Monday 22nd November 1830, a mob several hundred strong attacked the workhouse in Selborne, Hampshire, turned out the occupants, burned or broke the fittings and furniture, and pulled down the roof. The next day an even larger mob, containing some of the Selborne rioters, did the same to the workhouse at Headley, some seven miles away. The parsons in both villages were also coerced into promising to reduce by half the income they took from tithes.

Less than a month later, at a special court hearing in Winchester attended by no less a person than the Duke of Wellington, nine local men were sentenced to transportation (commuted from a death sentence in the case of eight of them), and all but one sailed for Australia in the Spring of 1831 never to return.

In this walk we follow the course of the rioters when, on a cold November day, they marched from Selborne to Headley, ransacked a workhouse, and returned.

The walk starts from the Queen's Hotel (the Compasses in 1830) in Selborne going to the Holly Bush in Headley by way of Whitehill and Standford, and returning by way of Kingsley and Oakhanger.

It is based on the route thought to have been taken by the rioters who marched from Selborne to Headley and back in November 1830.

Note that suggested routes through Military and National Trust land between Whitehill and Standford, while open to walkers at the time of writing, are not marked as public rights of way on maps.

Selborne to Headley

1. From the Queen's Hotel, take Huckers Lane which runs by the side of the hotel garden and drops down to Dortons. This becomes a bridleway, muddy in places, above the valley of the Oakhanger Stream through a beech hanger and then across fields. At Priory Farm, turn right up a metalled road to the top of the hill where it meets Honey Lane. From here there is a view over the Oakhanger valley, today noted for its satellite tracking stations.

2. Take the footpath down through fields towards Oakhanger for about a mile. At the five-way junction of footpaths (which you will also meet on the way back), turn sharp right emerging after about half a mile by the side of Springfields Nurseries. Cross the road here, taking the track almost opposite the Nursery entrance. After crossing the stream take the track to the left of a house, this passes through Blackmoor Golf Course, joining another track known as Eveley Lane before becoming a metalled road.

3. Follow this road (which soon has a pavement) straight to the roundabout on the main road (A325) at Whitehill - cross here with care.

4. You now have the choice of following the metalled road (Liphook Road) ahead, or cutting into the Military land of Woolmer Forest just to the right of it. Even when the red flags are flying, it is possible to walk outside the danger zone following close to the course of the old Longmoor Military Railway towards Hollywater.

5. On this route you pass close beside two distinct hills, or 'clumps', on your left - probably these would have been treeless and therefore more prominent landscape features in 1830.

6. After about a mile, join the line of the old railway and look for a barrier leading to a grass track on the left, alongside the garden of Stone Cottage, which becomes a vehicle access road, crosses the stream from Hollywater Pond, and re-joins Liphook Road opposite Passfield Common (which is National Trust land).

7. The Common is fenced to allow for stock grazing. Cross the road and go through a kissing gate. You will have to discover your own track across - be warned, it is extremely boggy in places. If you are not dressed for walking over very wet ground, you may prefer to take the next entrance into the common, through a gate further up the road beyond the house. Head for the north corner of the common to find another kissing gate in the perimeter fence about 50 yards from the corner. For those with GPS, start at SU 80962 33667 and end at SU 81538 34169. You emerge on the B3004 Liphook to Bordon road at a point where a small rivulet passes under the road, marking the boundary between Bramshott and Headley parishes.

8. Cross the road and turn left along the verge path, passing both the Methodist Church and Gospel Hall on your left before going downhill to Standford Village Green. Here the Robin Hood offers refreshment.

9. Leave the village green by the small road which leads to a ford across the River Wey. There is a footbridge. Keep straight on at its junction with Tulls Lane, following the metalled road uphill between hedges to a triangular junction at the top. Turn left here, along (another) Liphook Road.

10. This is the road by which the rioters entered Headley in 1830. The old workhouse (now Headley Grange) is about half a mile away on the right hand side - and if you wish, you may walk past it into Headley as the rioters did. However, if you have had enough of walking on roads, take the footpath to the left immediately after the first sharp bend (by an electricity sub-station) and follow it to emerge in the centre of Headley where the Holly Bush stands.

Notes on the walk - Selborne to Headley

We don't know for certain which route the rioters took in their march from Selborne to Headley, and it could be that several groups went different ways. The most direct route from the centre of Selborne in those days would probably have been some near-variation of the one we have chosen. However, we are told that Robert Holdaway went to collect signatures from farms near Empshott and Greatham on the way, in which case his route would have been considerably longer.

The communities of Bordon and Whitehill did not exist then, but I was interested to know if the Farnham to Petersfield turnpike (now the A325) had been constructed at that time of the Riot in 1830. If so, it might have formed a convenient route for the marchers to move from Greatham to Whitehill instead of cutting across the uncharted tracks of Woolmer Forest on their way to Hollywater - but although the turnpike had received Royal Assent in 1826, it was apparently not completed until 1832.

When William Cobbett rode through Woolmer Forest in his Rural Ride of 24th November 1822, he said of it, "The road was not ... without its dangers, the forest being full of quags and quick-sands." He also said of it, "This is a tract of Crown-lands ... on some parts of which our Land Steward, Mr Huskisson, is making some plantations of trees, partly fir, and partly other trees. What he can plant the fir for, God only knows ..."

Close to Hollywater Clump is the spot where the old parishes of Selborne, Headley and Bramshott met, at the chimney of a house which has since been demolished.

The hamlet of Hollywater is still located where three parishes meet - and as such is claimed by no-one and forgotten by most. It has had a reputation in the past of being a place where the people described as "forest dwellers and travellers"' who joined the march might well have lived.

Standford was one of the main local centres of industry in 1830, with two paper mills and a corn mill operating on the River Wey. The Warren family, who ran the paper mills there from the 1820s until the early 20th century, were staunch Methodists, and the 'non-conformist' nature of the community is in evidence even now with its Methodist Church and Gospel Hall.

Although paper mills in Buckinghamshire were being attacked by mobs in the very week that 'our' riot occurred, those at Standford were not touched as far as we can tell. Perhaps there was no machinery installed in them at that time, or at least none that could be seen to be causing unemployment. For whatever reason, the mob appears to have passed through Standford, crossed the ford and headed up Tulls Lane towards the workhouse.

The Headley 'House of Industry' had been built in 1795 at an estimated cost of some 1,500 pounds for the parishes of Headley, Bramshott and Kingsley, to shelter their infirm, aged paupers, and orphan or illegitimate children. After the 1830 riot, the building was repaired, and in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses it is shown still being used as a workhouse. It was sold in 1870 to a builder for 420 pounds, and he converted it into a private house, now known as Headley Grange. In November 1872, he resold the building to Mr Theophilus Sigismund Hahn for 490 pounds.

After two further changes in ownership, Headley Grange was used during the 1970s as a recording studio, and there, early in 1971, "Out of the clear blue pool of creativity arose the eight-minute extravaganza which would become Led Zeppelin's ultimate trademark, a song of shimmering and flourishing beauty, a supreme accomplishment which Robert Plant would later describe as 'our single most important achievement' ... Stairway to Heaven." [Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin, the definitive biography, by Ritchie Yorke]

Today the house remains a private residence. On St George's Day 1994, descendants of four of the rioters, along with representatives from Selborne and Headley, assembled in the garden to plant a cutting from the old Selborne Yew in memory of the transportations.

The present Holly Bush in Headley High Street is not a building which would have been present in 1830. In fact we believe the old Holly Bush to have been situated across the road in the house now called Wakefords. William Cobbett mentions visiting here on his Rural Ride of 24th November 1822.

Mr Lickfold's shop is still to be seen, though no longer a shop - it is the building now called Crabtree House which faces north along the length of the High Street, with a good view of what was going on there at the time.

To read the return trail please click here.

Trail Location

Selbourne village is on the B3006. This can be reached from the A31 at Alton or the A3 at Liss. Both Alton and Liss have a train station.

Hampshire Cottages

Beautiful Hampshire holiday cottages and self-catering accommodation perfectly located for walking and cycling the trails of this unique county