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.
To read the outbound trail please click here.
Headley to Selborne
11. From the Holly Bush, turn right along Headley High Street, past the church and the old rectory, and just before Belmont take a path to the left. This crosses a road and then passes along two sides of the Holme School grounds, emerging in Church Lane at a right-angle bend.
12. Turn left along Church Lane (a cul-de-sac) and at its end pass through a footpath gate and downhill across fields. You emerge by Huntingford Farm, at the junction of Curtis Lane and Frensham Lane. The original route to Trottsford would have gone right and then left here, past Linsted Farm and Headley Wood Farm, but this is now closed as a right-of-way. Instead, turn left, following Frensham Lane towards Lindford for a short distance, then take the footpath to the right, which follows the road uphill for a while before bearing right and becoming sandy.
13. After passing through some woodland, this diverted right-of-way crosses the River Wey by way of an old aqueduct and then zigzags sharply uphill. At its junction with a track at the top of a rise, look back the way you have come - if the trees are not obscuring it, and if you know where to look, you may just make out the top of Headley Church tower nestling among the treetops.
14. Here you rejoin the original route. Turn left along the track and follow it for just under a mile to Pickett's Hill road. Turn left, and follow the road down to its junction with the main A325 at Sleaford. Here there is a set of traffic lights. Cross the main road diagonally, and follow the nearby side road towards the rear of the New Inn (now redeveloped), then turn sharp right on the old road which passes over the River Slea.
15. After crossing the river, take the public track leading off through Army land across Kingsley Common. Note that the route is not as straightforward as the OS map suggests - about 100 yards after crossing the open space by Coldharbour, look for a less significant track branching to the right, just past a 'crossroads' of vehicular tracks. Follow this until it passes the pond on the left. Here, in Kingsley village, you will find the Cricketers available for refreshment.
16. To continue the walk, follow the track between the pub car park and the pond, pass Ockham Hall, and shortly turn along the first track on your right past some houses. Follow footpath signs left and right, past the aptly named Meadowgate Farm, over a stile and along a fence across a flat field.
17. After another footpath joins at a double stile, you pass the garden of Kingsley Mill on your left. Cross a stile and a stone slab bridge over a culvert, and cross the drive of the mill, then follow the footpath diagonally across the orchard and over the mill leat, and round a bend to another stile.
18. Cross a field and go over a disused railway embankment. From here the original course of the path has been diverted due to sand works. Follow the path round the edge of a field, then cross a stile onto Shortheath Common. Once again, the route is not as straightforward here as the OS map suggests. Keeping all houses to your left, cross one vehicular track, then join another. Go along this track, ignoring turns - it becomes less well-used by vehicles as it continues south-west across the common and into the centre of Oakhanger village. Here, at the village green, turn left along the pavement of the metalled road through the village. The Red Lion soon offers refreshment on your right.
19. At the bend in the road as you leave the village, take the footpath to the right, along the garden wall of an old thatched cottage. Cross the field, and follow the footpath to the left, arriving at the five-ways junction you met on your outward journey.
20. You may, of course, return to Selborne by following the outward route in reverse from here. Alternatively, turn right and follow the course of the stream more closely towards Priory Farm. Be warned - this can be tough on the ankles if muddy hoof-prints have hardened! Cross the stream by a footbridge, then cross over a track by Priory Farm to continue on the footpath towards Selborne.
21. After walking through a portion of Coombe Wood and past some ponds, you arrive at the end of the Long Lythe which is National Trust property. Follow the path along both Long and Short Lythes to emerge in the meadow below Selborne Church. Climb the hill and go through the churchyard to the Plestor. Turn left along Selborne High Street to arrive back at the Queen's Hotel.
Notes on the walk - Headley to Selborne
Next to Headley church stands the old Rectory, which had been under repair in 1830. It was described in 1783 as: 'A very good house, consisting of two parlours and hall, a kitchen and pantry on the ground floor; four bed-chambers, six garrets, four underground cellars, with a brew-house, milk-house, and other convenient offices; also of two spacious barns, a stable, cow-pens, granary, waggon-house, fuel-house, ash-house, etc. The gardens, yard and rick-yard amount to about one and three-quarter acres'.
The Holme School takes its name from Dr George Holme, Rector of Headley 1718-65, who had given the parish a school in 1755. The original building stands beside the Village Green.
Church Lane takes its name from the fact that it forms part of the old track from Headley church towards the outlying parts of the parish on the way to Farnham. You will follow it, with some modern diversions, as far as Trottsford.
Huntingford Farm was built around 1774, according to a rent-roll of that date which has an entry for John Huntingford of: "one close called Church-field with a tenement thereon newly erected containing 4 acres lying at Lackmore-cross on the south part of Curtis Lane" - we assume it is this building. It was thatched until 1959, when the roof was lost in a fire.
The aqueduct over the River Wey is part of an extensive system of channels which would have extended along the river, through this parish and beyond, to regulate the watermeadows. Water was diverted from the river by a weir into a header ditch, which had a number of sluices along its length allowing water to be spread evenly over the meadow in a controlled fashion before draining back into the river. This system added nutrients to the land, allowing early crops of fodder to be produced, and a second cut to be made later in the year.
As you arrive at Pickett's Hill road, note the footpath straight ahead which marks the old route to Farnham prior to the building of the turnpike.
Near the point where you cross the A325 at Sleaford there once stood a tollhouse, opposite the New Inn. It was eventually removed when the road was widened. The New Inn itself consists of a 'new' section facing the turnpike, and an older section behind facing the road which existed prior to the turnpike's construction. [The New Inn site was redeveloped in 2002, retaining the existing buildings]
In crossing the River Slea you pass from Headley into Kingsley parish. There is a stone set into the west side of the old bridge indicating this.
At Kingsley Pond, note the area on higher ground to your right behind the church which was called 'Kingsley Green' on old maps. It was at Kingsley Green, we are told, that Holdaway in 1830 "called out ten persons as the representatives of the ten parishes of which the labourers had formed your dangerous and illegal assembly" and shared out the spoils of the day. The church would not have been here at the time, having been built only in 1876.
In reality, the various men from 'ten parishes' must have made their separate ways home from here in several different directions - but we follow a probable route of those heading back to the centre of Selborne.
Kingsley Mill is of some antiquity, and legend says that it may even have been the mill that Geoffrey Chaucer had in mind when writing his Miller's Tale. His son Thomas was Lord Warden of Woolmer and Alice Holt Forests at the end of the 14th century, and is said to be buried nearby at East Worldham, where he lived.
The disused railway viaduct belongs to the spur from Bentley to Bordon, opened in 1905 and closed in the late 1960s.
Oakhanger is a hamlet in the parish of Selborne, and so to some of the 'Selborne' rioters it would be home. In particular, the Heighes brothers lived here. For others, there were still a few miles to travel cross country.
Priory Farm is on the site of Selborne Priory, closed in 1484 due to bad debts and the stones reused for various local and not-so-local building projects.
The Long Lythe and Short Lythe (pronounced 'Lith') are footpaths which were mentioned in the writings of Gilbert White.
Within the church of St Mary, Selborne, is displayed the collar of vicar Cobbold's large mastiff, which he bought to protect himself after the riot.
The Great Yew of Selborne sadly blew down in 1990, and never recovered. According to Mrs Cowburn, men climbed into its branches on the evening of Sunday 21st November 1830 to overlook the vicarage and make sure Cobbold would not get away in the night.
The Queen's Hotel was, in 1830, stated as being the only public house in Selborne. At that time it was called the Compasses, or some say the Goat and Compasses which may be a corruption of 'God encompasseth us'. Robert Holdaway was the landlord here until about a year before the riot. It was renamed the Queen's Inn in 1839.
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.