From Parish Records
Crimes of violence are not unique to the twentieth
A brief survey of the local records of Totton
and Eling reveals a number of violent acts some of which appear to
have gone unpunished. The story starts with the digging of a tank
outside the Church of St. Mary's on Eling Hill. The tank was to be
sunk deep outside the Church door that fronts on to Eling Hill. Deep
in the ground the contractors found a number of human skeletons. With
them was found a coin. On examination the coin proved to be of the
late Roman period, about 360 to 370 AD. The Emperor of the time was
Jovian. The skulls appeared to have been damaged, perhaps by blows.
The date is of great interest as it is the time of the great Saxon
Raid on Britain. The Romans only regained the province with great
effort. Who were these people? Had they been murdered? Were they Saxon
pirates, put to death after capture, or were they captured Roman
soldiers? We can never know. If the coin was buried with them
deliberately it could have been to pay the ferryman to the land of the
Poaching the King's deer was a practice as old as the Forest itself.
In 1257 the King's huntsman, Wassemer, was travelling with his boy
from Lyndhurst to Redbridge. Between Ashurst and Fletchwood he was
assaulted and killed by Richard and Rocelin sons of Robert de
Lyndhurst. They were sheltered at the home of Ralph de Lyndhurst whose
daughter Rocelin had married. They also found shelter at the home
of Absalom, Ralph's brother and at the home of Richard Le Wayl in the
area of Redbridge. The Monks of Beaulieu had also given them shelter.
The boy travelling with the huntsman was brought before the and put in
prison. The Inquest took place at Rumbridge before Alexander de Monti
Forti and the Sheriff, James Le Sauvage. Richard fled but Rocelin
turned up to the Court. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hung.
All the others were acquitted apart from Ralph de Lyndhurst who was
hung. The sorry tale does not end there. Further inquiries uncovered a
huge poaching ring, involving the abbots of Beaulieu and Titchfleld
and the Priors of St. Deny's and St. Mary's in Southampton. All had to
appear before the court at Wilton in 1257. All these worthies received
fines ranging from £10 to 1 mark. As usual it was the little
men who paid the price.
Church records also record a number of suspicious deaths. Who was
Hector Pierce who was recorded slain in 1616? Who was the soldier
found dead at Hartley in 1644. Far more obvious is the epitaph of
William Mansbridge in the
cemetery in Eling.
"Stop reader and read my fate,
What caused my life to terminate,
For thieves by night, when in my bed,
Broke up my house and shot me dead".
The Mansbridges were an important local family.
Were the murderers ever caught and brought to trial? Did they suffer
the ultimate punishment. Again there is a gap in the historical
record. Just as tantalising is the sad end of Edward Dudman in 1737.
The parish records simply say that he was shot by Mr Coster's maid.
Was it a crime of passion or was it an unfortunate accident? Again
there is a gap in the historical record. All we can say is that Dudman
and Coster are local
So we come to perhaps the strangest mystery of ally one that has
passed into local folklore. Testwood house, now offices along
Salisbury Road, is reputed to be haunted.
The ghost takes the form of a man in a top hat. People working in the
offices complained effecting cold and being watched. The story goes
that in the 18th. century a coachman murdered a cook. He killed her in
the servant's quarters in
Testwood House and dumped her body in a lane nearby. The lane is now
called, Cook's Lane. A later version of the story replaces the
coachman with the butler. The factual origin of the tale has not been
traced, yet it is probable that a real event lies at the centre of the
story, an event so powerful that it has been remembered in some form
for two hundred years. One wonders if it is the sad story of Edward
Dudman, shot by a maid y which has become changed as it has been
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