Four Marks

Four Marks Village Website

The Civil Parish of Four Marks lies 5 miles south-west of Alton in Hampshire. It was created in 1932 from land transferred from the six parishes of Medstead, Chawton, Farringdon, East Tisted, Newton Valence and Ropley.

The name Four Marks, according to Coates, derives from Fowrem'kes and appears on a document dated 1548 discovered by Gover in the Hampshire Record Office. Early records show the parish to have been farmland with 16th and 17th century farmhouses at Hawthorn in the south-east. A 1759 map suggests a new windmill replacing an older one, and shows another farm in the south of the Parish.

Although the Turnpike from Alton to Winchester followed the route of today's A31, this, and the stagecoach run to Southampton from 1784, had little influence on the growth of the settlement. From five dwellings in 1697 the total in 1839 was only fifteen.

The London and Southampton railway served Four Marks with the opening of Medstead Station in 1868. The railway is today the popular recreational Watercress Line between Alton and Alresford.

There was a downturn in profitable farming in the 1870's and workers migrated to the towns. To stem the flow, propaganda promoted the idea of smallholdings and land was divided. The effect on Four Marks can be seen today with many of the original one and two-acre plots surviving, particularly in Blackberry Lane, which was the centre of development between 1897 and 1908. This trend continued with a further influx following World War l when the promotion of the ideology of the countryside became part of military propaganda too.

There was considerable co-operation between smallholders, e.g. in getting produce to market. This co-operation included social needs with the formation around 1910 of 'the Institute'. Meeting in borrowed premises, the Institute raised funds for a permanent building. Dating from 1913, the Institute has since been incorporated into today's first class Village Hall in Lymington Bottom. Another feature of the era is Four Marks School, which owes its existence to two benefactors. Marianna Sophia Hagen of Ropley was the driving force. She bought the plot of land in 1902 from Mr J. J. Tomlinson, a retired haberdasher, who in turn gave the purchase price towards the cost of construction. In line with the huge population increase the school has been greatly enlarged.

By 1885 the pub, also a farmhouse, was called 'The Windmill Inn'. Previously it was 'The Four Marks' for 10 years, prior to which it was 'The Old Windmill'. Opposite, in 1903, the Post Office opened at Four Marks House.

Church services had been held in the school but a proper place of worship was much needed. The redoubtable Miss Hagen provided it. She had previously sited the 'Iron Room' at North Street Ropley in 1891 and she had it removed to opposite Belford House in 1908 where it became the 'Church of the Good Shepherd'. Its replacement opposite the Village Hall was built in 1953 and since enlarged.

When visiting the countryside became a popular pastime cycle repair shops sprung up. There were several of these in the village from 1911, which graduated into garages with the arrival of the motor car. Cafés also appeared to sustain riders and drivers. Naturally this development straddled the main road. Today there is a car showroom on the site of an original garage, as well as a filling station near the shops.

Although the first branch bank appeared in 1923, after two moves it closed.

On the top of Swelling Hill there is a pond which, when Four Marks had no mains water supply, was a great standby in times of drought. Local residents can remember seeing cows driven to the pond and some remember how they swam in it when they were children. But it fell into disuse and became so overgrown, that it was little more than a swamp. In 1974 a team of enthusiastic helpers was formed and they dredged the pond, cleared the surrounding jungle, planted shrubs and plants, put up seats and even a wishing well. So hard did they work, that they won the Daily Telegraph National Award for the best rehabilitated pond!

Four Marks gathered around it a fair share of folklore. This is dealt with, together with a great deal more, in 'Four Marks its Life and Origins' by Betty Mills. Now out of print, it is widely available on loan from the Hampshire Library Service.