Methodists and mills

You are standing close to the ford used by the Romans for their road from Chichester to Winchester and to Bitterne. It was built after 43 AD to help move troops and supplies from the Roman invasion base at Chichester. The junction going to Bitterne was on the golf course off Tanfield Lane. We don’t know the exact river crossing point the Romans used but the later ford was where you are now.

The railway and the turnpike road

Wickham was divided in two by the embankment of the Meon Valley Railway which opened in 1903. The railway bridge here was called ’Asylum Bridge‘ as its construction required the re-routing of Asylum Lane (now Mayles Lane) which went to the Knowle Mental Hospital. The hospital was built in 1852 and finally closed in 1996, after which it was converted to housing.

Fareham Road was part of a turnpike route built in the late 1750s leading from Fareham to Bishops Waltham. The turnpikes charged tolls but made travel easier and faster with milestones and improved maintenance. Although the Wickham toll house at the junction with Titchfield Lane was demolished in the 1930s, you can still see a milestone on Hoads Hill (the hill leading towards Fareham).

The Methodist Church and the mill

There has been a succession of mills and other businesses on the opposite side of Fareham Road to here, including corn mills, a tannery, and more recently Wheatley’s iron foundry – you can still see some of their drain covers around the village.

The first Methodist Church, built by local builder James Draper c1840, was a reconstructed bark shed from the nearby tannery. Today’s church was built by subscription in 1906 and closed in 1995.

James Draper’s son Daniel James Draper was Wickham’s most famous Methodist.

Born in 1810, he became a Wesleyan minister in 1831. Migrating to Australia in 1835, he later became a leading Methodist, founding several churches and also Wesley College in Melbourne.

He visited Wickham in 1865, restoring his parents’ graves in St Nicholas churchyard and preaching in Fareham. His return journey to Australia ended in disaster when the SS London was caught in fierce storms in the Bay of Biscay and sank. The survivors reported that Revd Draper held prayer meetings, greatly comforting the many doomed to perish.

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