Milford on Sea Village History

A brief history of this unique village by the sea.

Village History: Milford began as a Saxon settlement, 500 years later it appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small manor with a church, a mill and about 50 inhabitants. It belonged to Christchurch Priory from 1107 to 1539 and then passed as an investment to courtiers and city merchants. Milford's main resources were agriculture and the seasonal production of sea-salt, plus some smuggling. The salterns declined rapidly in the 1780s and faded slowly away after 1800. Their reclaimed land is today an area of great natural beauty. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, wealthy newcomers moved in to buy up farms and build fine houses. Their Georgian houses are part of over 50 listed properties in the village today.

Milford on Sea now has a population of approximately 4,700. Until late in the 1800's Milford on Sea was small hamlet of thatched cottages along the High Street. Little further development took place until the 1880s, when Colonel Cornwallis-West of Newlands Manor planned to convert Milford into a premier seaside resort, adding "on-Sea" to the village name. The scheme failed in its major objectives, due to an outbreak of typhoid & lack of funds.

The Milford on Sea village green was the site of the reputed Battle of Milford Green between smugglers and the militia in the 18th century. Today the green is more peaceful, & surrounded by a variety of traditional village shops, restaurants, pubs & tea shops. The Village Green is regularly used for local events throughout the year & sits in the centre of the village conservation area. The pebble & sand beach in Milford has spectacular views to The Needles off the Isle of Wight & across Christchurch Bay to Bournemouth & the Purbeck Hills. It is also the start of the Solent Way, which goes from Milford on Sea to Emsworth on the Sussex border, a distance of 60 miles for enthusiastic walkers.
To the east is Keyhaven, with its active harbour, boatyard and bird sanctuary. The inlet is tidal and low tide reveals muddy saltmarsh. Protruding from Keyhaven is Hurst Spit, approximately two miles of shingle, at the end of which is Hurst Castle, which was built by Henry VIII in 1544 to defend the Solent. King Charles was imprisoned there in the year 1648 when he was en-route to face trial in London. In more recent times Victorian wingswere added & troops were billeted there during the Second World War.

Local Village Places of Interest

The Old Smithy stands on the edge of the Village Green. It is the surviving part of the 19th Century smithy. The Blacksmith was a key figure when horses were an essential part of life, and undoubtedly serviced both local people & visitors to the 3 village inns. Today the Old Smithy is a quaint gift shop.

As you approach the village from the cliff top road, there stands the mock Tudor building. This was erected in early 1900, as shown by the machine cut timbers. The roof is a rounded tiled construction with ornate chimneys.

All Saints is a Norman Church built around 1080. This was rebuilt in stone in the middle of the 12th Century. Like most village churches it has seen alterations over hundreds of years but much of it is still 12th & 13th Century. There are memorials here to the Cornwallis West family, local landowners in the 19th Century, and in the north-west window of the chancel is a stained glass panel showing Charles I, who was imprisoned in nearby Hurst Castle proir to his trial. The church bells were recast in 1928 and are engraved with the names Patience, Victory, Joy, Liberty, Faith, Hope, Peace and Love.

Outside the Church, there are two grotesque heads above the window of the south aisle. One is of man playing bagpipes and the other a woman with medieval hairstyle. These are thought to be 14th. Century.

The Lichgate [or Lychgate] was erected as a memorial in 1908, for the Rev. Marlow Wilkinson vicar of Milford for 21 years.

Milford House is a splendid Georgian House in red brick. The central part is the oldest, with castellated parapet being built in about 1730 for William Rickman. He died in 1764 and William Reynolds became the new owner of the Manor, purchasing more land around the house to make a 14 acre park. He altered the main road so he had continuous views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. In the 1780's, Edmund Reynolds, son of William, enlarged the house with Adam style wings. The Reynolds left for their Jamaica sugar plantation in the 1820's. Milford House was next occupied by tenants while being owned by Mrs. Whitby of Newlands. Mrs. West (Mrs. Whitby's Daughter) inherited it in 1850 and tried unsuccessfully to auction it in 1863, but in 1867 it was purchased by William Talbot Agar who lived there until his death in 1906. Edward Agar resided in Milford House until he died in 1927 and it was sold and became a Hotel but in 1972 it was closed. Several blocks of flats were built on the gardens and the House was also converted into apartments.

The Poor House: Originally these old cottages were once part of the Poor House. In 1795, there were 46 inhabitants, 3 men, 6 women, 16 boys and 19 girls. The Master and Matron had to see that the poor people were clothed and fed properly. The poor children were sent out to be apprenticed, so they would not put a charge on the parish in adult life. They were sent to work locally, so providing cheap labour in the neighbourhood.
In 1834, the Poor House was closed due to changes in the Poor Laws. The cottages became a bank, lodging, private house and a draper's shop.

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The Victorian pillar box is the oldest one in Hampshire. This rare post box was manufactured between 1856-1857 by Smith & Hawkes of Birmingham, it has vertical fluting, a small hinged vertical posting slot, stepped circular base and heavy cap. The shape of this box illustrates the reason today's post boxes carry the name "pillar box". This Pillar box preceded the famous hexagonal box by John Penfold by some 10 years. The pillar box can be found at the junction of Victoria Road with Cornwallis Road.

George & Mary Double Street Light
Victorian Post Box

The double street-light was erected on the village green in 1912 to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. When it was demolished by a lorry about 1970, the villagers were so upset by the loss of this symbol of the village that they had a replica made to replace the original, it is known locally as "George and Mary".

Carrington Terrace (a row of late 18th Century cottages) & Carrington Farmhouse, originally they all had thatched roofs.

Milford has three old inns, The Red Lion built in the 1790's, the White Horse Inn is said to be 18th Century and the Smugglers Inn built around 1803, (Until recent times the Smugglers was called the Crown Inn.)

The Smugglers Inn has rendered walls, sash windows and a tiled roof. The door has a reeded frame and flat hood supported on scrolled brackets. Timbers from old barns were used to construct the beamed ceilings inside.

All of these Inns would has historically provide stabling for horses. The original stable building alongside The Red Lion can still be seen.

The White House: When Miss. Mabel Walker was about to marry Lieutenant Edward Munro RN., her father's engagement present was £250,000 with which to build a family house at Rhinefield. (The family owned what is now the Rhinefield Hotel in the New Forest.)

However, this did not use up all of the money, so the White House was built as a summer residence from the residue. It was a "Modest Beach Hut" standing in six acres, completed in 1903, literarily within a stones throw of Milford beach. It has a nautical theme being in the shape of the bridge of an ocean liner. For one month each summer the family would take up residence for the benefit of the sea air.
The White House remained in the family until 1938 when it was sold to Middlesex County Council. At some stage the house was also rumoured to have been 'Lunatic and Mental Asylum’, but the history on this phase of its life is unclear. What is known is that the house became a Childrens Hospital during the period of 1938 to 1983. During this time it served as a convalescent home, mainly for child TB sufferers. From 1963, it became a school for those with special needs before falling into disuse by 1983 as it was too expensive to upkeep. Squatters and drug addicts moved in, vandalizing and removing the tiles and generally leaving it in a sorry state. It was purchased by the builder in 1997 for conversion into 14 self-contained luxury apartments.