Minstead Village is set amidst a maze of lanes and is mostly surrounded by forest. The Parish adjoins the Parishes of Lyndhurst, Bartley, Copythorne and Bramshaw.
Minstead is referred to in the Domesday Book as Mintestede (Mint place) because of the mint that grew wild here. There are variations to this name, such as Mintstead and Minesteed.
Oral legend associates Minstead with the history of William Rufus, who, while out hunting, was struck by an arrow and killed. The arrow was said to have been fired by Sir Walter Tyrrell, who, guilty or not, fled by boat to France. North of the A31 is a marker known as the Rufus Stone that commemorates this event.
All Saints Church. In the 12th century a Norman Church was built and various additions have since been made. Although the present church building is not mentioned before 1272, the list of Rectors dates from 1279 and parts of the church are definitely of an earlier period.
The 17th century three decker pulpit is one of the most interesting features in the church. The lowest ‘deck’ was used by the Parish Clerk and was entered from the Nave, where he sat and was responsible for saying the ‘Amens’.
The Parish Clerk today, is responsible for the maintenance of the Parochial Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths, but is no longer required to participate in services.
The middle and top levels were entered from the Chancel and were used respectively for the reading of the Scriptures and Preaching of the Sermon, as they are today. This type of pulpit is very rare and few examples exist.
The Font is possibly Saxon. In 1893 Henry James Abbott, who was doing some gardening, dug it up in the Old Rectory garden. He wheeled it up to the Church in his wheelbarrow and it was placed where it belonged.
There are two galleries; the first was for the Church minstrels to play their instruments and the second was possibly for the poor of the Parish or for the children of the Charity School.
There are two private pews, one for the occupants of Castle Malwood and the other, which now houses the organ, for Minstead Lodge.
The extra long hat pegs were for the accommodation of the tall stovepipe hats that were worn by many men who attended church.
The tower was built in 1774 and until 1980 housed only three bells which were installed in 1776 and rung from the ground floor of the tower. These ancient bells were probably cast in the churchyard by itinerant founders and they are listed for preservation by the Church Buildings Council. The oldest bell was cast in the 15th century and is inscribed Sancta Maria, while the other two were cast in the 17th century and have inscriptions Love God R.B. 1604 and In God is my hope 1638 J.H. In 1980 money was raised to add two more bells. These were cast by Whitechapel Bell Foundry and are now bells no. 2 and no. 3. With five ringers there was not sufficient space for ringing from the ground floor so the ringing room was established on the floor above. In 2013 a sixth bell was added. This was cast by Taylors of Loughborough and is now the treble bell.
In the Churchyard is the grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Church lane leads from the Church down to the ‘Trusty Servant‘ and the Village Green. The original of the sign of the ‘Trusty Servant’ is in Winchester College.
The other remaining Public House in the Parish of Minstead is the ‘Sir Walter Tyrrell’ situated not far from the ‘Rufus Stone’ in Canterton. The Compton Arms at Stoney Cross was rather a smart Hotel with stables, now it is a ‘Little Chef’.
The Village Green has been used for many activities over the years. In 1641 a certain John Purkess was fined for keeping too many geese on the village green and the village gossip was ducked in the pond. There were stocks on the green from early times and in 1818 a James Gain, the carpenter, was paid 4 shillings for repairing a plank and making a new post for the stocks. A new set, to replace these, was made by Mike Brentnall to the style shown in an old painting, as part of the refurbishment for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.
Around 1808, a Friendly Society was formed and they organised a fair with roundabouts, swings and coconut shies. Stalls were set up down the road and people came by horseback and carriages from miles around. Teas were served in the garden of the Old Rectory.
The Chestnut was planted on the green to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary.
In the 1970/80’s the W.I. held ‘A day on the Village Green’ during August when morning coffee, ploughman’s lunches and afternoon tea would be served to raise money for charity.
Since the 1970’s, on the Saturday before Christmas, Carol singing takes place around the Christmas Tree that is placed on the Village Green, followed by the Minstead Mummers who then tour around the local Public Houses with their play to raise money for charity.
Parties for the children of the Village were held on the Green to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of VE Day, the Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York, and the Golden Anniversary of the crowning of Queen Elizabeth 2nd.
For the past few years in August a Beer festival has been held at the Trusty Servant.
To celebrate the Millennium the Parish Council replaced the concrete posts around the Green with wooden posts, drainage of the Green was undertaken, and a Visitor information board was installed on the corner of Congleton Close.
At the lower end of Church Lane, just above the Trusty Servant are Crofton Cottages, which were originally the Technical School, where laundry and woodwork was taught. The building then became a meeting room for the various Village organisations. When it was no longer needed for that purpose it was converted into two cottages and so it remains today.
Minstead Village School was situated close to the ford that crosses the Fleetwater, known as ‘The Splash’. In July 1966 the numbers of children attending became too low and so, for the sake of economy, the Church of England School was closed and the children were sent to school in Lyndhurst and Hounsdown and that system still applies.
The redundant school became ‘The Rural Studies Centre’, where groups of children and their teachers from urban Primary schools in Hampshire stayed for a week and learned about a rural way of life. Apart from a change of name to ‘The Study Centre‘, a similar system applies today.
There were several large houses in Minstead:
Minstead Manor House. Henry Compton, a gentleman jockey, built the house in 1719. John Compton enlarged it in 1802 and he was mainly responsible for the layout of the beautiful gardens and the planting of some of the finest trees in the area. John Compton was also Sheriff of the County of Hampshire.
The first member of the Compton family to become Rector of Minstead Church was Charles A Compton in 1779. Three members of the family were Rectors of Minstead Church from 1842 to 1932 and the lych gate commemorates their ninety years of unbroken service. They were Canon John Compton, 1842-1898; Charles Henry Compton, 1898-1928; and John Compton, 1928-1932. Anne, widow of John Compton, erected the lych gate in 1938.
During the Second World War the Royal Army Service Corps was billeted in Minstead Manor House. It became so dilapidated that it had to be pulled down. A new Manor House was built and now the present Squire of Minstead, Mr Christopher Green, and his wife live there.
Castle Malwood. There was a house on the site in 1802, and sometime between 1802 and 1840 it became the property of Col. Thomas William Robbins. He served at Quartre Bras under the Duke of Wellington and was wounded at Waterloo in 1815. He became General Robbins and in 1864 he died at Castle Malwood. Mr Charles Hill, a retired tea planter, purchased it in 1892. He enlarged the property, which was described as ‘yellow brick, low and rambling, in free Jacobean style with some baroque touches’.
In 1910 Mr Daniel Hanbury, one of the Directors of Allen and Hanbury, the makers of baby food products, bought the estate. Mr Hanbury made extensive improvements to the property and also laid the cricket field and the tennis courts. During the Second World War the house was used for refugee children under the management of the Dr. Barnardo’s Homes. He and his family took a great interest in Village affairs. Mr Hanbury died in 1947 and the estate was sold.
Subsequently the Southern Electricity Board took possession and many alterations were made. Since the reorganisation of the SEB an I.T. company is in possession of the house.
Malwood Lodge. Sir William Harcourt built Malwood Lodge on the site of an old Iron Age fort in 1890. He was a lawyer and politician and became Queen’s Council in 1866. In 1880 he became Home Secretary and in 1886 Chancellor of the Exchequer and was responsible for the introduction of death duties as they are today. He remained in Government until his death in 1904. Lady Harcourt, his wife, was an American and it was she who formed a Woman’s Institute in Minstead.
The property was sold in 1947 and divided into flats. The Forestry Commission bought the property in 1975 and the flats were let to tenants of the Forestry Commission. It was sold to a developer in the 1980’s and a major refurbishment took place with the property becoming seventeen homes and that is how it remains today.
Minstead Lodge. At one time successive members of the Preston family lived in Minstead Lodge followed by the Duncan Family. Dr Duncan was a physician to Queen Victoria. One of his daughters married John Compton, Rector of Minstead Church. The Congleton branch of the Parnell family then bought the house in 1924.
The 7th Baron, Lord Congleton was a very active man with interests in both the matters of the Church and the Village. Tragically he was killed in a car accident in 1967. As he was unmarried, the house was sold for death duties. Mrs Pamela Ward purchased it and lived there with her husband until 1976 when she sold it to the Selwood Charitable Trust, set up by Rev Tim Selwood in memory of his brother. It was run as a non-denominational Christian Community for residential retreats and conferences, and for people who were trying to begin their lives again.
The use of the building was extended in 1986 when Martin Lennearts established the Minstead Training Project (now Trust), which shared the building with the Christian Community. The Project expanded considerably and now uses all of the property as well as Furzey Gardens, its sister Trust and the place where it was founded.
The Minstead Training Trust offers training in work, life and social skills to adults with learning difficulties seeking to develop their independence and enjoyment of life. The training offers a wide range of choices, including horticulture, woodwork, literacy, numeracy, computer skills, arts & craft subjects and catering both for residential and day students. The Trust continues as a Christian foundation offering a caring environment to people whatever their belief.
Furzey Gardens are a well known feature of Minstead. They are smaller than some gardens that are opened to the Public. However they contain rhododendrons and azaleas that are glorious in springtime. Trees and shrubs have been collected from around the world and some are quite exotic, such as the Chilean Fire Tree, Peonies, Irises, Roses and many other attractive species.
Students who are training at the Minstead Training Trust now look after the gardens.
Furzey House that lies within the Gardens was built in 1922 for the three Dalrymple brothers who came from a military family. It was claimed at one time to have the biggest thatch roof in the forest. Furzey House is now a centre for retreat.
Also within the gardens there is a delightful thatched cottage approximately 400 years old, which once housed a family with fourteen children.
Lastly there is a thatched art and craft gallery which displays and sells the work of artists of the New Forest.
Minstead Village Hall. Originally known as the ‘Hut’ it was bought in 1918 by Mr D Hanbury of Castle Malwood as two large army huts from the Re-mount section of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. He presented them to the Village to be used as a social centre. Unfortunately, as the gift had been a verbal one, there were no deeds and when Mr Hanbury died the property, now known as the ‘Minstead Hut’, had to be sold. Lady Congleton of Minstead Lodge bought the premises and when a local committee was formed, they organised an appeal. £1500 was raised and a further £1500 was obtained as a loan from New Forest Rural District Council. The Village owes a debt of gratitude to Lady Congleton for all her support.
The Village had to repay the loans and it took ten years for the debt to be cleared. All kinds of money raising events were organised. The Ladies Social Club worked particularly hard. One organisation that was formed to raise money was the ‘Flower Show’ which continues to hold its annual show in September.
In the early 1980’s finances became a problem but again the people of Minstead pulled together and held various money raising functions. They formed a management committee and things have gone from strength to strength.
Today it is in good heart, many improvements have been made and continue to be made to keep the hall up to date with constantly changing regulations. It is one of the biggest halls in the area containing the main hall and a smaller hall, known as the ‘Green Room’, which has a bar attached. There is also a fully equipped kitchen. The bar may be hired along with the Green Room, the Hall, or both and is run by the Minstead Social Club. The Social Club leases an area from the Hall Management which includes a substantial lounge area, bar and a snooker room. The Danby Room is a committee room with a small kitchen and is also available for hire. The Parish Council holds its monthly meetings here.
The Flower Show, the Women’s Institute (now Women on Wednesdays), Junior Minstead, and Minstead Players are Village organisations that continue to use the hall. It is also let to outside events such as the weekly auction, held every Monday. Mo Jive also meets there. The Parish Council meets in the Danby Room on the first Monday of every month (except Bank Holidays).
Minstead is very fortunate indeed that Mr Hanbury thought to purchase the two army huts and that in 1947 the people of Minstead were sufficiently far sighted to work so hard to secure its future.
Minstead Women’s Institute. The idea of forming Institutes for women came from Canada to this country during the First World War. The original aim was the training of countrywomen in housecraft and motherhood. Because of the War an urgent need arose for their help in producing and preserving more food. The first Hampshire WI was formed at Sparsholt in 1917, Sutton Scotney was next and Minstead became the third Hampshire Institute when it was formed in September 1917 with Lady Harcourt as President. The meetings were held in the afternoons, with a speaker and afterwards a wonderful tea was served. In 1988 it was found to be impossible to form a committee for the following year as many of the members were becoming quite elderly and Mrs Annie Cooper, who was then President, decided to suspend the Branch. A few months later it was resurrected as an evening WI with Mrs Liz Green as President. Until 2007 the WI flourished, maybe with not quite the number of members that it once had, but with just as much enthusiasm. Recently the membership voted to leave the WI and form a new group called WOW AT MINSTEAD which usually meets on the 2nd Wednesday of the month in the evening – hence WOW which stands for Women on Wednesdays. The group provides a variety of entertainment – with interesting speakers (some imported and some home grown), with a summer lunch and a cheer up January dinner, with outings, garden visits and the occasional theatre trip. It also raises a little money for its nominated charity, is involved in the village and the members all enjoy each other’s company. If you think you would like to come and take a look phone Sylvia on 07831 142245 – you will be made very welcome.
The Minstead Players first took to the boards in 1980 with a revue produced by Dr. David Balfour and continue to perform one or two productions every year. They have won three ‘Accolade of Excellence’ awards from the National Opera and Drama Association. The first was for Pro Patria, (1996) the second for ‘Habeas Corpus’ (2000) and the third for ‘Candleford’. (2002)