If "Waltham" is early Ango-Saxon for "clearing in the woodland", there must have been a settlement here since Roman times. This isn’t surprising as the main road from Silchester to Winchester forms our SE parish border and a Roman villa site lies towards Steventon. After the Roman left in 410AD, maybe the inhabitants of the little Roman town near the Wheatsheaf moved down to the pond as the climate got drier.
The manor of ‘Wealtham’ was given to the Bishop of Winchester by Edward the Elder in 909 AD, but doesn’t appear in Domesday Book as it comes under Overton. However, as North Waltham, to distinguish it from Bishop’s Waltham where the bishop had one of his five palaces, it features in the annual pipe rolls of the bishop’s income kept through the middle ages. Wheat and sheep farming on the downland was recorded from 1210 AD and continued through to the mid 20c, though the sheep have now gone.
The manor was taken from the bishop in 1648 and though restored under Charles II, was leased by John Yate and sold to John Batchelor in 1772. The population doubled from 150 in this period, continuing to grow to 500 in 1850 as food production rose and infant death rates fell, overcrowding many of the ninety houses. Population then declined as mechanisation of farming reduced employment and cheap wheat imports from the Americas hit wages. North Waltham, like much of the rural south, became impoverished, which is why the old cottages were not replaced.
Charles Hall, the rector, got most of them condemned in the 1930s, to be replaced by new council houses in Coldharbour. Only the advent of WWII stopped their removal from Yew Tree Lane and Church Road, since when they’ve been listed and restored by incomers.
Things were to change after 1964. The manor was split in 1953 and when Manor Farm was sold in 1964, several plots were offered for development. Now that electricity, water and sewerage had arrived, together with buses and cars, North Waltham attracted commuters to Basingstoke and London. The middle class moved into St Michael’s Close and Mary Lane, and Elizabethan Rise, the Meads and Barley View followed. Some 250 houses were built and population grew to 900.
St Michael’s is a Norman church but only half of the north arcade survives from its collapse in the mid 19c. Extended and rebuilt in 1865/6, the chancel has a set of windows which show the development of the Gothic style from lancet through to perpendicular.
What a grand building this must have seemed when it was opened in 1873. It replaced the 1833 national school, which was little more than a shed beside the teacher’s house, with a hall for 150 pupils, which is still used today. Though numbers fell to 20 in the mid 1960s, the closure of Steventon and Dummer schools and the families moving into the new houses mean that it needs the five classrooms added since.
Cuckoo Meadow was given to the village by William Rathbone Senior when he sold the estate in 1953. Managed by the Village Trust, villagers built the pavilion, since converted into the Doris Cooke room, to support their soccer and cricket teams, raised funds for the tennis court, the play area and maintenance of the facilities. Housing the pre-school, the Rathbone Pavilion is the cultural hub of the village.
On the edge of the village is The Fox, a 19c terrace now a pub and restaurant. Down at the junction with the A30 is The Wheatsheaf, a coaching inn from 17c with Georgian and modern extensions, while further along the A30 is The Sun, a gourmet restaurant.
North Waltham is a nucleated village, based round the pond. Here you find Batchelors, the farmhouse from 1500, Blake Cottage, another farmhouse from c1640, and its Georgian replacement, Grayshott, together with the Old Post House, two 17c cottages put together to make the shop, baker and printers of the mid 19c, and the replacement shop from 1965 on which we depend.
Going up Yew Tree Lane past the Coldharbour council houses takes you to Rose Cottage, our oldest dated 1460, opposite Walnut Cottage, 100 years younger and Hook and Hatchet, an alehouse from 1822 with another 17c cottage behind it.
Opposite is one of the three early Victorian mansions, this one being the Rathbone seat from 1945-53. His bailiff lived in the Manor House on Overton Road and the rector in Boundary House.
During the 1990s, we acquired the Crematorium, located below the A303 junction, and in 2010, Bluebells, where two families of desperately ill children can enjoy a week’s break.