Stockbridge lies not far from Winchester on the road west to Salisbury and the name means literally a bridge over the river. On a causeway of compressed chalk which was laid down in the remote past for a cross of the River Test, Stockbridge is almost between Andover to the North and Romsey to the south.
Here the Test is shallow and divides in five streams that thread their way through marshy meadows and then under the road.
Settlements wee on Stockbridge Down from around the second millennium BC and the earthworks at Danebury, Meon Hill and Woodbury are not far away. In Stockbridge two ancient roads meet, one runs east to west between Winchester and Old Sarum, and the other running north and south along the Test Valley.
The valley is quite wide here and has provided a river crossing since ancient times and a posting station in Roman times on the road From Winchester to Sarum.
Stockbridge itself is not much more than a row of buildings down either side of a wide main street but it gained importance when the Welsh drovers rested here on the way to various sheep fairs and markets in the South East, Drovers House, a thatched cottage has the message in Welsh painted on the wall 'Seasoned hay, tasty pastures, good beer, comfortable beds'.
There is a 12 century chapel know as St Peters which was served by the 'head-Minster' at King's Somborne the same as other chapels in the hundred. And although the town became a small flourishing borough which eventually acquired parliamentary representation it never had a parish church of its own until 1848.
The main street has both Georgian and Tudor architecture and is crossed by two streams and the town hall clock dates to before the Battle of Waterloo, A bridge was built over the test in 1799 but then along came the motor car and this and large lorries meant that the bridge had to be replaced and in 1963 this was achieved, The 15th century bridge was cross by John Leiland on his travels and there is an inscription on the present day bridge in his memory.
"Say of your cheryte a paternoster and a ave for the sowilys of John Gylmyn otherwyse seyd Lokke and Richard Gater and Margarete the wyf of the forsayd John and Richard fownderys and makerys of the sayd brydge yn whos sowilys God have mercy".
The White Hart Inn has an upper storey that is supported on cast-iron Tuscan columns and where the churchyard wall joins it there are some strange grooves which are said to have been cause by the sharpening of swords over the years. Another building with Tuscan columns is the Grosvenor Hotel inside of which is the old Market Room.
Though there is not much in Stockbridge it has a good selection of shops and restaurants and people come from miles around to buy some of the country fare that is sold here, including home made jams and pickles.
IMAGES OF STOCKBRIDGE
Stockbridge had two members of Parliament that served it from 1563 to 1832 and it is said that before the Reform Acts the elections were a farce and that bribery and corruption was rife here, and John Bucket or Burckett was one of two ringleaders and he is buried in the churchyard.
STOCKBRIDGE RACE COURSE.
A frequent vistor here was the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII and once watched his horse, Counterpane, come in last and then fall down dead. It is said that souvenir hunters pulled out every hair of its tail.
In 1898 the last race was run here and its grandstand which was reputed to be the oldest in the country is still there along with the ghosts of days gone by when the thunder of hooves and the roar of the crowd dominated the area.