The tiny English village (one pub, one church, no shop) of Tichborne deep in the Hampshire countryside has a curious connection with our home country, Australia. It was the centre of a cause célèbre that had captivated Victorian England in the 1860s and 1870s.
The affair involved a butcher from Wagga Wagga who claimed to be Roger Tichborne, rightful heir to the title and fortunes of the Tichborne Baronetcy. He claimed to have been rescued from a ship wreck off the Brazilian Coast and taken to Australia. The mother of Roger, Lady Tichborne believed his story but many others didn’t and he ended up being imprisoned in a British jail for ten years!
Such an intriguing tale to come out of this tiny village that we just happened to stop in!
The Tichborne Church also has a fascinating story to tell. Apart from the fact that parts of this Anglican Church date from the 11th-century, it is also remarkable for having a Roman Catholic Chapel on the north aisle.
The chapel is a rare Roman Catholic chapel inside a pre-Reformation church. Its survival is incredible and there are only another two in the whole of England.
How did the chapel survive when other Churches in England became wholly Anglican by order of King Henry VIII?
All through the Reformation, the Tichborne family clung to their Roman Catholic faith. So did many others and were persecuted for it. Any hint of Catholicism in parish churches was removed and that is why the Tichborne Family Chapel is such an extraordinary thing. The explanation is that the powerful Tichborne Family were in high favour for their support of the monarchy.
Tichborne is a great place for hiking. In England there is a a huge network of “rights of way” that often date back to ancient times. This means that there are many wonderful paths that you can walk along, through farming and other private land regardless of who it belongs to.
In Tichborne we were spoilt for choice as to where to walk and enjoyed a wonderful tramp across the fields and along country lanes to another small village called Ovington.
We stopped to have a look in the Church there which was relatively modern (it was entirely rebuilt in 1865–66 but had a list of rectors of the parish dating back to 1290! A Norman arch from the original Church which can be found in the graveyard dates back to the 11th Century.
We walked on through glorious countryside and fortuitously came upon a lovely pub called the Bush Inn where we enjoyed some liquid refreshment before pushing on back to our camping spot in the carpark of the Tichborne Arms.
After a very enjoyable couple of days we moved on and ended up in an interesting and historic town in Dorset called Wareham.
Walking through the Main Street was like a walk through time. The shops were straight out of a movie set in the 1950s – a gentlemen’s outfitters selling tweed jackets and deerstalker hats and everything a country gentleman might need. There were old fashioned sweet shops with bottles full of sherbert lemons and creamy whipped bonbons, chewy caramels and highly coloured gob stoppers.
There was a lovely bakers with many lovingly made home made Dorset apple cakes, light as a feather scones and slabs of chocolate cake. Then there was an “olden day’s” hardware store smelling of paraffin and mothballs where you could buy anything from mouse straps to candles, loose screws to drain plungers.
There were also many old pubs and interesting buildings such as the tiny little Church perched high up on the old city walls.
These walls, are actually ancient earth ramparts that surround the town, and were likely built by Alfred the Great in the 9th century to defend the town from the Danish marauders.
We enjoyed a wonderful walk round the walls and another highlight was a visit to the local museum. Many small towns have a museum and they are always especially fascinating because of the idiosyncratic displays. For example, a dinosaur foot print next to a Saxon sword pulled from a lake and photos of Laurence of Arabia side by side with items from a traditional “caravan and wagon works”. Marvellous!