Braishfield History

Although the ecclesiastical parish of Braishfield was only formed in 1855 and the civil parish just under a century later there is evidence of human activity in the area in the Paleolithic era, about 500,000 years ago. At Broom Hill is probably the oldest building in Britain – an 8,500 year old mesolithic hut discovered by Michael O’Malley in 1971 (for further information click on links Hampshire Archaeology). There is evidence of intermittent settlement from the late Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and late Saxon periods. The site is particularly noted for the range and quality of Mesolithic flint tools, and it would have been visited seasonally by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. In later periods of settled agricultural activity, from the Neolithic period onwards, the site would have been inhabited for longer periods.

The Romans settled at Fernhill not far from the Mesolithic site. A late third century bath house was excavated in 1976, part of a much older villa complex consisting of at least six substantial buildings which were occupied long before the construction of the bath house. North of Fernhill Farm a trial trench showed chalk blocks laid in mortar, and finds included bricks and roofing tiles. Excavations by Test Valley Archaeological Committee in 1976 revealed a bath house block and C.4 Roman coins

Little is recorded of Braishfield until 1043 when, as part of the manor of Michelmersh, the lands were donated by Queen Emma to the cathedral clergy at Winchester. Later much of this holding was released to secular landowners, including two Oxford colleges, one of which owned land in the village up to the Second World War.

The origin of the name Braishfield is not clear. The name Braisflede, meaning ‘brow of hill’ or ‘open land or fields’, is first documented in 1235, but some believe that the name is derived from ‘brassy fields’ where ‘brassy’ means soil of poor quality or flinty. Indeed many Braishfield-born people still call it ‘Brashfield’. In the Middle Ages Braishfield consisted of a number of large but scattered farmsteads, some of which survive today, including Pitt Farm, Elm Grove, Sharpes Farm, Fairbournes Farm, Paynes Hay and Hall Place. Fairbournes Farm is believed to be the oldest of these, dating from the tenth century. Archaeological evidence suggests that Hall Place was a major fourteenth century manor site. There were two large commons in the village before the Enclosures in 1794, Casbrook to the west and Braishfield Common, a one hundred and thirty-eight acre area covering most of the southern part of the present village from the site of the War Memorial. The oldest buildings with medieval origins are to be found around the periphery of these ancient commons. For further information on Braishfield’s building treasures follow the link: Braishfield listed buildings and other points of interest of Braishfield see Braishfield Rural Settlements

The Parish Church of All Saints’ was built in the gothic style in 1855 designed by a prominent Victorian architect, William Butterfield. At that time there were already three non-conformist chapels in the village only one of which remains as the United Reformed Church, built in 1818. The Braishfield Public Elementary School was opened in 1877 bringing public education to the village children, although there were two small schools in the village prior to this date.

The following map, found in the church archives, shows the village in remarkable detail:

Twentieth century Braishfield experienced gradual development as the areas between the old cottages and farmsteads were filled with new houses. Since the Second World War the pace of change increased and, in common with much of rural Britain, there was a transition from a predominantly agricultural community with the majority of inhabitants living and working within the village to one which is primarily a residential area with most people travelling away to work.

This extract was taken from Braishfield Memories 2003, a millennium project consisting of a collection of memories, photographs and articles on Braishfield Village life. The book was published in November 2003 but is unfortunately out of print.