March 20, 2016|

Alfred Stubbington – Market Gardener

Born in 1888, Alfred had a piece published in The Grower’s Gazette in 1949 in which he described the history of Hundred Acres hamlet.

Alfred Stubbington was a market gardener of Wickham Parish, an industry important to the area in days gone by. In 1949, he had published the following article in The Growers Gazette:

On or about the year 1840, a large part of the Bare Woods, situated in South Hampshire, was enclosed by the Manor of Wickham. Now, on this enclosure there were a number of dwelling houses, occupied by people known as “squatters”. They were people who worked in the forest nearly all their years in different forms of wood craft as hurdle and spar makers, faggot and hoop makers, timber cutters and hewers, and in the summer they helped on local farms. After this enclosure, the Squire wished to have all the houses pulled down as they were now in his Park. So he located a site of 62 acres and built twenty four houses in pairs, each house having an acre of land: this was now called 100 Acres. These houses were offered to the squatters at a very low rent of £5 per annum and no rates. Needless to say, they were soon taken, the rent were increased in later years, but they were always cheap rented. The tenants had the chance to take on additional land, if they so wished, and many of them did.

They worked very hard, still carrying on their work in the forest and cultivating their land in their spare time. They grew early potatoes and other vegetables which were sent to Portsmouth Market, some 10 miles away. Within a few years they planted some bush fruits, for the situation of this little hamlet was really suitable for fruit. It was high above sea level and sheltered on the north-west and east by a belt of forest and open to the south, and a few years later the strawberry began to be grown commercially. It was soon found to be an ideal spot for the production of early strawberries.

I, myself, was born at Hundred Acres in the year of 1888, and from my earliest memory quite a quantity of strawberries were grown there. It must have been one of the first places in Hampshire to grow strawberries. The first varieties I remember were British Queen, Sir Joseph Paxton, known locally as “Joes”, and “Melters.” These were picked in round punnets, packed in orange boxes with plenty of bracken and sent to the London markets from Fareham Station, which was about six miles distant. As they were early, they generally made a good price; the later ones were sold in the local markets.

Early in the present century, (i.e., the 20th century), the Meon Valley Railway was opened with a station at Wickham which was only two miles from 100 Acres. The smallholders there now had the advantage of supplies of cheap stable manure and very soon the land at 100 Acres reached a high state of fertility. As a result, this little hamlet became very prosperous and local traders people vied with on another for their custom.

During World War One many of the trees that sheltered 100 Acres were cleared and I do not think it has been such an early spot for crops as it was. Some of the cleared land was grubbed and cropped well for a few years but, in common with other Hampshire districts, the strawberry does not seem so robust as it once was.

Not many tradesmen called in the early years, so the people of this hamlet did their own baking of bread and brewed their own beer. There were no shops, but there was a lot of lending and borrowing. The old tenants did all the work by hand. Today there are quite a number of machines but the place does not look so spick and span as it used to.

In the year 1928, when a large part of Rookesbury Estate was sold, this hamlet of 100 Acres came under the hammer. Fortunately, most of the tenants were able to purchase their holdings and the rest were bought by neighbours, so there has been very little change.

Today (1949) one can look at the houses and remember that it was in 1845, 104 years ago, (at the time of writing), that they were built and this little settlement started.

Do you have something to contribute to the society?