10 things you didn’t know about Hursley

Map of Hursley Illustration: Lucy Atkinson

Map of Hursley Illustration: Lucy Atkinson - Credit: Archant

Hursley: Home of the Spitfire, England’s second short-lived Lord Protector and a magnificent sundial


Known as the Village of Chimneys because of the tall and elegant examples on many of its older buildings, Hursley is south west of Winchester. It dates from 1138 when Bishop of Winchester, Henry de Blois, built a manor called Merdon Castle. Now the parish includes Standon, Pitt, Farley Chamberlayne and Slackstead. It's also home to the IBM company's research and development labs based in Hursley Park.


Where better to feast than at Hampshire Best Pub of 2018, The Kings Head which, along with a great pint, promises an excellent wine choice and plenty of modern British gastro favourites? The pub, on Main Road, also features a fresh Bread of the Day kingsheadhursley.co.uk/the-story

You can also indulge in pub food favourites at the 16th century coaching inn The Dolphin on Main Road, with its restored stables and large garden.


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There is no known grave for Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt VC, who was born in December 1897 and joined the 2nd Hampshire Regiment during World War I. His heroism near Ypres on July 31 1917 earned him the UK's highest honour as he continued to fight despite a piece of shell exploding the signal lights in his haversack and setting fire to his equipment and clothes. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate and at Hursley's All Saints Church.


From bell-ringing to Zumba, to tennis and a cricket club which dates back to 1785, there's something for everyone in Hursley. The club has two grounds adjacent to each other and supports four senior teams on a Saturday, a Sunday senior XI, two ladies' teams and junior cricket for girls and boys from the ages of eight to 15. The parish hall has been upgraded and for those who enjoy a walk, the Monarch's Way long distance trail runs through the parish.


Earning a nickname like this is never going to end well and so it was for Richard Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, a title he reluctantly inherited from his dad, Oliver. Richard lived quietly with his wife at Hursley Park until he was turfed out of the job and forced to flee the country instead. He lived in France under a false name before returning to England after the death of his son, also called Oliver, who is buried in All Saints Church.


Most sundials just show the hours and display a whimsical quote. But the one in the grounds of Cranbury Park House is divided into nine circles, the outermost into minutes, then hours, then a circle marked 'Watch slow, Watch fast', and another with the names of places shown when the hour coincides with our noonday. The person who devised this was our greatest physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, who was said to have lived at Cranbury Park for a time.


From 1835 until 1866 Hursley was home to one of the most remarkable theologians of modern times. John Keble was a humble vicar but his book The Christian Year was a powerful hit, as were his self-penned hymns. Keble rose to become Professor of Poetry at Oxford and had a college named after him. He died in a Bournemouth hotel while trying to recuperate from illness but was buried at his beloved All Saints Church.


Long before anyone had ever heard of the Apple company of Cupertino, International Business Machines dominated the world technology market. Now they dominate Hursley House, employing more than 1,000 people developing software and new technology for the US computer giant. The lower ground floor is home to the IBM Hursley Museum which covers the history of this household-name corporation as well as their earliest technology.


The largest private donor to the UK war effort during World War I lived at Hursley Park. Lady Mary Cooper and her husband, George, bought the estate in 1902. She had inherited an immense fortune from her uncle. Lady Mary handed over the colossal sum of £5m to the nation, the equivalent of a staggering £344m today. As if that wasn't enough, she also founded an American hospital in Hursley Park.


When Sir George Cooper died in 1940, the Hursley Estate house was requisitioned by Lord Beaverbrook and used by the design staff of Vickers Supermarine, creators of the historic Spitfire fighter-plane, who had been bombed-out of their Southampton base. The control centre of the programme remained at Hursley House for the duration of the war. Their tenure lasted until 1958 when IBM purchased the property.