February 2014

Geraldine Beech ‘Secrets of Pennington- its fluctuating fortunes’
February 2014

‘Secrets of Pennington and its fluctuating fortunes’ was the title of the talk given by Geraldine Beech to the February meeting of the Society.

Geraldine considered the history, the buildings and the people of Pennington in her most interesting and enjoyable Power Point presentation.

Although dating back to pre-Norman times, Pennington was a tithing in the ecclesiastical parish of Milford until 1839 when it was created a parish in its own right. From the point of view of civil administration it became a separate ward in 1895 and a self-contained civil parish in 1911.But it retained this independence for only a short time, being incorporated into the Borough of Lymington in 1932. In 1974 it merged with Lymington to form a town council. For centuries Pennington could probably be regarded as a typical country village. Although the first church was not built until 1838, it is recorded that the village previously had a chapel-of-ease named Magdalen Chapel, for the use of the villagers. It was endowed with 60 acres of land which became named Priestlands, a name which survives in the area. The site of the chapel is not known.

In 1859 the population was approximately 800 and by 1921 had increased to only 921. However by 1990 the increase was almost tenfold to about 9000 and is still growing. So Pennington is no longer a village.

Priestlands has, since the Reformation been divided into many plots that are now in private ownership. Priestlands School occupies a significant area. An imposing property, Priestlands House which William Gilpin much admired, was built in early Victorian times but following WW2 was purchased by Hampshire County Council to become the Gurney-Dixon Centre, used for adult education and similar, but after recent rebuilding has become part of the school complex.

The Common, over the years has seen many uses from being the Pennington ‘playground’ not only for children but adult cricket and football have been played on this facility. Much to the disgust of some, many of the local women would drape their washing over the furze bushes on the Common, to dry in the sun. This activity is a reminder of the poverty which resulted in the women needing ‘to take in washing’ to make ends meet. At one time, a feature not only of the Common but also the village was the excessive number of donkeys in evidence which attracted the sobriquet ‘Donkey Town’ Perhaps the most notable occurrence on the Common dates back to 15 April 1814 when reputedly the last duel in England took place. Lieutenant John Dieterich, adjutant of the Foreign Depot in Lymington, was deemed to have insulted Captain Souper in public and refused to apologise. The consequence was a duel with pistols which took place on Pennington Common. Lieutenant Dieterich was mortally wounded; Captain Souper was arrested, tried at Winchester and convicted of murder. But there was such an outcry from both the public and the army authorities that Captain Souper was reprieved and thereafter dueling was banned.

Close to the Common is Yaldhurst, at one time home of Rear Admiral Sir Hubert and Lady Brand. Lady Nora Brand was treasurer of the W.I. and after her death a fine new hall was built in her memory in Ramley Road at an approximate cost of £1800.

Lower Pennington, was predominantly a farming area but comprised a series of salt pans, adjacent to the river. These pans had been operated for many centuries and much of Lymington’s wealth particularly during the 18th century was based on the salt industry. But in 1845 the industry virtually ceased, being superseded by Cheshire salt which could be produced much more cheaply. However there were several houses of consequence there including Pennington House which was in existence in 1781 and until recent times owned and occupied mainly by senior Army or Navy officers. One of the most illustrious was Major-General Pringle Taylor who served in India with great distinction particularly during the Indian Wars. However he courted controversy and his popularity ebbed and flowed. He died at Pennington House in 1884 and is buried in St. Mark’s churchyard.

The talk was extremely interesting and enlightening and it was apparent that there is much more to learn about the history of Pennington. The next meeting of the Society will be held on 28 March 2014 when the speaker will be Jeremy Waters whose talk is entitled ‘Parkstone on Sea – salterns, sandbars and flying boats’.