A rural community
Farming and forestry
Until the 1990s, where you are standing now was open farmland. In 1726 this was called Green Close. It was leased, with another ten fields and meadows, by John Smith who lived at Buddens Farm – now Buddens on Mill Lane. His farm was one of about forty farms that, together with woodland, the manor house and the village, made up the manor of Wickham. The manor dates back to the 11th century and still exists today
as the Rookesbury Estate which owns Rookesbury Park and other property, farmland and forestry around Wickham.
Wickham was a farming community and the village was much less important to the Lord of the Manor than the land around it. A 1698 valuation assessed the village as worth £200, while the woods and coppices alone were valued at £765, almost four times as much. Timber was one of the most valuable resources of the manor and the navy was an important customer.
In the 18th century Wickham was well known for producing quality agricultural edge tools like scythes. William Wheatley Ltd. of Wickham became a leading manufacturer and supplier of agricultural equipment from 1890 until 2005.
Women’s Land Army (WLA)
The WLA made an important contribution to increasing Britain’s food production during the Second World War. Amelia King, an Afro-Caribbean girl from east London was determined to work as a land girl but was repeatedly turned down because of her colour. Mr A.E. Roberts of Frith Farm offered Amelia a job and, after her case was taken up by her MP and she was accepted into the WLA, she joined other land girls working at Frith Farm.
The Community Centre
Thanks to a donation of land by (Harold) Ralph Houghton, a local farmer, Wickham Community Centre was built here in 1998. It replaced the Victory Hall, which opened in 1921 in the old brewery on Bridge
Street. This was preceded by the Wickham Coffee House and Reading Room built in 1882 by the then lord of the manor, John Carpenter-Garnier. The building is now Pages newsagents.
In 2011, Ralph’s son Tom provided land for the building of the new surgery and housing for local villagers. Ralph and Tom both farmed this land from Coldharbour Farm on Titchfield Lane.