The History of Ringwood

Ringwood  was a settlement founded in the Anglo-Saxon period on the River Avon. Its existence was first recorded in 961 when King Edgar gave 22 hides of land in “Rimecuda” (Ringwood) to Abingdon Abbey. A hide of land was approximately 120 acres (49 Hectares).

Edgar, known as the Peaceable, was king of the Mercians and the Northumbrians.  He became king of the West Saxons in 959 and, from that date, he was considered the King of England until his death in 975.  Precisely why he gifted 22 hides of Ringwood land to Abingdon Abbey is not known but Edgar took an active interest in Church affairs and the allocation of land to Church institutions was an obvious and popular way of both eliciting and paying for favours.

The word Rimecuda (in 961) for Ringwood - and indeed Runcwuda (955), Rimucwuda (955) Rincvede (1086) - require some explanation which, sadly, is neither conclusive nor entirely persuasive.[1] First, there is some debate about how to split these various forms of names for Ringwood into two parts. Some scholars favour a ‘rimec/rimuc’ and wua/uda’ split; others a ‘rimu and cwuda’ split. All agree that ‘rim’ (whether ‘rimec’, ‘rimuc’ or’rimu’) means ‘border’.  And most agree that the ‘wuda’ or ‘cwuda’ part means wood. Hence the general conclusion that the origin of name Ringwood meant border of a wood.  Those who favour the alternative Run-cwuda  over the Runc-wuda split may perhaps take some comfort from the origins of the word for wood which is the Welsh gwydd, from the Old English ‘wudu’.

Eilert Ekwall, an eminent English scholar of the early 20th century, offered support for this traditional etymological explanation. He postulated a word ‘rimuc’, a version of the Old English ‘rima’, meaning border or edge and argued Ringwood was the ‘border wood’: i.e. the wood on the edge of the New Forest.

All this leaves unanswered the question: How did ‘rim’ become the ‘ring’ of Ringwood?.  It may be simply that Ringwood sounded more euphonic or more flatteringly descriptive than Rimwood as time passed. After all, it’s generally better to be a complete ring of something than to be on the edge of something.  Or it may be explicable only in terms of the folk etymology that, for example, converted Roi de Rue into Rotten Row, the French moucheron into mushroom and, at one time in English history, asparagus into sparrow grass (by which it is still known in some parts of England today).

We shouldn’t leave the subject of the name of Ringwood without mentioning an entirely different explanation of its origin.  Disregarding the etymological excursion above, William Camden 1551 – 1623), an eminent English historian, suggested that the original form was derived from the Regni (aka the Regnenses), a tribe ruled by King Cogidubnus who was accorded Roman citizenship in Roman Britain.  According to Camden, Ringwood was originally Regne Wood, the wood occupied by the Regni tribe.

This version of the origin of the name Ringwood is supported by The National Gazeteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) which noted:

“Ringwood was a place of importance at a very early period, and was originally named Regnum, or the town of the Regni, mentioned by Antoninus. It was occupied both by the Romans and Britons as a military post, and was called Renoved and Regnewood by the Saxons, who set much store by it."

It’s time to end our inconclusive speculations about the origin of the name Ringwood.

The description of Ringwood in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book gives an impression of a modest settlement of an estimated 43 households. Yet, according to the Open Domesday project, it was amongst the 20% largest settlements recorded in the Domesday Book. 

In 1086, according to the Domesday record of Ringwood, there were 56 villagers, 21 small holders, eight slaves, and one riding man. It was owned by King William, as was all that he conquered. The annual value to the King was £8-10 shillings. 

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When Ringwood was acquired by King William it was worth £16. It had been worth rather more twenty years earlier when it had been owned by Earl Tosti. Given that, before William the Conqueror’s arrival, Earl Tosti was credited with ownership of some 265 places up and down the country and, after Williams arrival, he owned none, we can only assume that, following the Norman Conquest, it became a buyer’s market, at least for the Normans.

There is a record from 1108 that affirms that the tenants of the “manor of Ringwood and Harbridge” had common rights in the New Forest, among the knights and esquires, for their farm beasts and plough beasts between “Teg att Brokelisford” and “Ostaven” and “in the vill of Beaulieu for all their livestock except goats and geese”. For this they paid they paid the King an annual agistment (a legal instrument allowing them to use the land but not giving them any rights of ownership).

During the 12th and 13th centuries Ringwood was owned by the king as Overlord but assigned by the King to many different noblemen. The patronage of the King was a key element in the monarch’s hold on power and his manipulation of the nobility.

In 1226, Henry III granted Richard Marshall, the 3rd Earl of Pembroke and Lord of the Ringwood Manor, together with Gervaise, his wife, the right to hold a weekly market in the town on Wednesdays  “until the King should come of age”.  (Every Wednesday, almost 800 years after the original but temporary permission for a market was given, the Market Place in Ringwood is given over to a market.)

In 1280, custodianship of Ringwood Manor was given to Queen Eleanor of Castile.

In 1299, when Edward I married his second wife, Margaret of France (the daughter of Philip III of France), Ringwood Manor formed part of the new Queen of England’s dower. When Margaret died in 1318, Ringwood Manor was handed over to Queen Isabel, the wife of Edward II.

On Isabel’s death in 1331, Ringwood Manor was passed to William Montagu, the first Earl of Salisbury.  For the next two centuries, Ringwood Manor formed part of the Salisburys’ family estates, not without interruption, but for much of the time.

In 1337, the Earl of Salisbury, the then Lord of Ringwood Manor was granted the right to hold an annual fair on St Andrew’s Day.

In 1460, Ringwood Manor was part of the estate of Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick and son of the Earl of Salisbury.  Richard Neville who exercised power over the English throne for more than a decade, became known as the Kingmaker. Originally a supporter of King Henry VI, Warwick later allied himself with the Duke of York whose son, with Neville’s help, was crowned Edward IV in 1461. Then, when King Edward IV embarked on a marriage of which Warwick disapproved and opposed a marriage which Warwick very much favoured (the marriage of his own daughter Isobel to George, Edward’s brother) relations between the Kingmaker and the King quickly soured.  Further disagreements over matters of foreign alliances persuaded Warwick that he should abandon Edward IV and restore Henry VI to the throne. This he did in 1470. A year later, the Kingmaker was killed in the Battle of Barnet and his estates, including Ringwood Manor passed to his daughters.

In 1553, in the reign of Edward VI, Ringwood’s right to hold its weekly Wednesday market was confirmed. It established itself as the main centre in the Avon Valley for the sale of agricultural produce, livestock and forest ponies.

In 1685, Ringwood played a part in the national upheaval of the Monmouth rebellion. James Scott, the 1st Duke of Monmouth, the eldest, albeit illegitimate, son of Charles II and a Protestant, challenged his uncle, James II, the last Catholic King of England, for the throne. Monmouth had little hope of success. His army was untrained and no match for the regular army but James II was Catholic and unpopular and, encouraged by his mistress Lady Henrietta Wentworth, Monmouth was persuaded to chance his luck. 

The rebellion seemed to be progressing well at the beginning. Monmouth set out from Lyme Regis  on 11 June 1685, gathering volunteers to support his cause on the way. He was, rather precipitately as it proved, crowned king in Chard, and again in Cornhill. After two or three skirmishes with troops loyal to the real king, the armies met at Sedgemoor on the 6th July, 1685.

The battle did not go well for Monmouth. What was intended to be a surprise night-time attack by Monmouth’s army was a total failure.  A random shot in the early hours of the morning confounded the element of surprise.  Monmouth’s cavalry were demoralised by their inability to find their way in the darkness across the Bussex Rhyne, a substantial ditch that lay on their planned route. Monmouth’s infantry of untrained farmworkers and artisans was no match for the well-trained and well-equipped regular army. Estimates of deaths on the rebel side range from 727 to 2,700; of the regular loyalist troops 27 died.

Monmouth’s cavalry fled; his foot soldiers were routed and then massacred. Many of his troops were captured and several hundred were hanged. The notorious Judge Jeffreys, with scant regard for judic+ial process, made his way through Somerset hanging any rebels or suspected rebels he could lay his hands on. 

Monmouth himself escaped from the battlefield and took refuge, hiding in a ditch under an ash tree either at Ringwood or at Horton in Dorset, where a local woman revealed his presence to those who were searching for him.  Wherever he was caught, he was taken to a house in Ringwood where he was detained, pending a decision on what to do with him.  He was already a condemned man, Parliament having passed an Act of Attainder in June, which sentenced him to death as a traitor and stripped him of all his civil and property rights. When word came from London, the Duke of Monmouth was taken from what is now Monmouth House in West Street, Ringwood, to the Tower of London.  On 15th July, 1685, James Duke of Monmouth was beheaded. The execution was botched by the executioner, Jack Ketch, who after three blows which failed to sever Monmouth’s head, tried to quit, saying “God Damn Me, I can do no more. My heart fails me. I cannot do it.”  The crowd needed to see the macabre ceremony completed and threatened Ketch who took up the axe once more and tried three more times to complete his grisly work.  At the end, the head was still not completely severed from the body and Ketch had to use a butcher’s knife to complete a task for which one blow of the axe should have been sufficient.

Before we leave the Monmouth Rebellion and Ringwood’s association with it, we should mention the case of Alice Lisle, the daughter of Sir White Beconshaw, who was brought up at Moyles Court in Ellingham near Ringwood.  On the 20th of July, Alice, who was by then aged 67, agreed to shelter two fugitives from the law, a Nonconformist preacher and a man who had fought in Monmouth’s army at the Battle of Sedgemoor.  The two fugitives were arrested after spending a single night at Moyles Court.  For her compassion, Alice was charged with treason.  In a travesty of a trial presided over by Judge Jeffries, she was found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake. The king refused to exercise clemency, except that he commuted burning at the stake to beheading, a mode of execution thought more befitting Alice’s rank. On the 2nd of September, Alice was beheaded in Winchester, the last women in England to face the executioner’s axe. She was buried in St Mary and All Saints Church in Ellingham.  Today Moyles Court is a prestigious independent school and Alice is also commemorated by The Alice Lisle, a rural inn in Rockford Green, Ringwood.

Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which James II was deposed by Parliament in favour of William of Orange and Mary, the daughter of James II, the tumult of her father’s reign came to an end.

For the next 240 years the Manor of Ringwood passed through the hands of numerous members of the English nobility.  

In 1727 the Meeting House was built in Ringwood Town Centre.

​In 1734,  James Mansfield (1734 - 1821) was born in Ringwood Manor, the son of a Hampshire  lawyer.  After attendance at Eton and King's College Cambridge, Mansfield became  an eminent British lawyer and politician.  As a lawyer, he was involved in a number of noteworthy cases, including the trial in 1776 of Elizabeth Pierrepont, the Duchess of Kingston, for bigamy. (The Duchess was notorious for her unconventional life-style.)  In 1779 Mansfield became Member of Parliament for Cambridge University (which, at that time,  was entitled to send two members to the House of Commons).  He twice served as Solicitor General and in 1804 was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and was knighted.

In 1741, Benjamin Bound bought the tannery in West Street and turned it into a brewery to compete with  an existing beer-fermenting business on the site of the present Ringwood brewery on Christchurch Road. The origins of Ringwood's tradition of brewing of beer are lost in time and they certainly predate the founding of these brewing establishments but they both represent significant events Ringwood's illustrious beer-making history.  in 1802, the Brewery that Benjamin Bound had founded came into the hands of Alexander Carter.  Carter & Co.  went on to own a number of public houses  in Ringwood including the Ship Inn and the Lamb.

In 1794 the then owner of Ringwood Manor, Henry, the eighth Earl of Arundell, sold it to John Morant of Brockenhurst. (John Morant was the son of Edward Morant who had moved from Jamaica to England in 1759 and had, in 1770, bought Brockenhurst House and estate.) The Morant family retained ownership of Ringwood Manor until 1916 when death duties compelled Edward Morant, the great grandson of the Edward who had arrived in England 157 years before, to sell much of their Ringwood properties.

In the 19th century, Ringwood established a reputation for glove-making (Ringwood Woollen Gloves) , with the traditional glove-making stitch and patterns devised then still in use today. It also established a reputation for the manufacture of collars and cuffs.

In 1830 farm workers in the region took part in the “Swing” riots, so named because the supposed leader of the riots was a “Captain Swing”. Captain Swing was never identified and may well have been a fictional leader invented by the rioters. The cause of the riots was years of impoverishment of farm workers because of the increasing mechanisation of farm work. Threshing which, before the invention of the mechanised thresher, had provided employment for thousands could now be carried out by a handful of operators.

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In 1843 the will of a Mr William Clark, provided land and money to build Clark’s Almshouses in the Quomp in Ringwood.

In 1847 Ringwood joined the rail network, with a railway station on the main line from London to Dorchester.

In 1850 Ringwood was furnished with a police station.

 

In 1853, the Church of St Peter and St Paul was built on the site of and in the style of the old Medieval Church. (For a full description of the design of the church, go to:

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1094964

In 1862 the Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway Company opened a Christchurch-Ringwood link which it extended to Bournemouth in 1870.

In 1868 the Lord of Ringwood Manor, John Morant, built Ringwood Town Hall.

In 1879 Ringwood Town Football Club was formed.

In 1888 the London and South Western Railway opened a shorter route between Brockenhurst and Christchurch, turning the Ringwood to Christchurch railway into a branch line.

In 1935 on the 28th September, the last passenger train set our from Bournemouth - Ringwood.

In 1938 The Bournemouth – Ringwood line was closed to freight.

In 1959 Ringwood School, a coeducational secondary school with a sixth  form, opened.

In 1978 Peter Austin, following the town’s long tradition of quality ale making, founded the Ringwood Brewery.

In 1987 Historic England had Ringwood Manor listed as a Grade II* listed building. It described the house, as it was then, in the following terms:

15/51 Manor House (formerly listed 30.9.64 as No 63 (The Manor House) GV II*

Manor house. Early C18, possibly earlier core, altered C19. Brick, blue brick with red brick dressings, stuccoed to front, plain tile roof. 2 storey and attic, 5 bay, double pile. Front has slightly projecting centre bay with rusticated quoins, matching rusticated pilasters inset from ends. Offset plinth. Central C19 square plan porch, depressed archway to front, round-headed windows on sides, cornice and parapet. Inside half-glazed door. Each side 12-pane sashes. On 1st floor 5 similar. Central pediment the height of parapet. Each side moulded cornice running as far as pilasters. Running right across parapet with pilasters between bays and coping breaking forward over pilasters. Carved stone urns on corners and either side of centre. On roof face near each end 2-light hipped eyebrow dormers. Gable walls and large paired stack at top of outer roof faces. Interior has many C18 features.

Listing NGR: SU1489405492

There is a legal Note to the entry which states:

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The West Wing of the Manor House is currently offered to let for holiday parties of up to six people.

In April 2011, Ringwood School became an academy; and in July 2011 it was recognised as a National Teaching School.

 

 

Sources:

 

Addition and corrections should be emailed to admin@ringwood.world