Priors Freshwater was a manor created from lands in Freshwater belonging to two priories: the Priory of Carisbrooke and the Priory of Christchurch.
The Carisbrooke portion derived from a grant by William FitzOsbern of three virgates from the manor of Freshwater to the Abbey of Lyre soon after the Norman Conquest, but before 1071. This holding was passed on to Carisbrooke Priory, who undertook the collection of dues owing to its parent house, the Abbey of Lyre.
Map of Freshwater
In 1414, all alien priories were suppressed and their property and titles taken over by the Crown; this included the Abbey of Lyre. Over the ensuing two centuries, the lands of Carisbrooke Priory were leased by successive kings to individual landowners and even the City of London. It was eventually sold to John Bromfield around the mid-17th century. In 1682, Bromfield’s son, Edward, sold it to John Comber and his nephew, Sir Thomas Miller.
The Christchurch portion derived from land at Freshwater that formed part of the manor of Ningwood, which had been granted to the Priory of Christchurch by Richard de Redvers in the early 12th century. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries Ningwood was granted by Henry VIII with other church lands to Thomas Hobson in exchange for the manor of Marylebone. The manor was passed down through the Hobson family until it was sold to the aforementioned John Comber in 1631. Comber died childless in 1684 and his estate was inherited by his nephew Thomas Miller.
Thus, from the end of the 17th century, both the Carisbrooke and the Christchurch portions of Freshwater land were united in one owner, Sir Thomas Miller (c.1635-1705). This combined holding became known as Priors Freshwater to distinguish it from the manor of King’s Freshwater. The manor remained in the Miller family until 1784, when Sir Thomas Miller of Froyle, Hampshire, sold it to Leonard Troughear Holmes. Holmes subsequently settled it upon his younger daughter, Catherine, who married Edward Rushworth. After Rushworth’s death in 1819, Catherine sold it to Henry Shepherd Pearson of Lymington in 1821. It then passed to John Hambrough of Steephill in 1823, and to Rev. George Seymour in 1844. The latter then sold it to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in 1856. In 1945, the manor went with Farringford house and its grounds to British Holidays Estates Ltd., when they purchased the whole estate.
The boundary of Priors Freshwater is indicated on a map of 1863:
Dissolution of the Monasteries: The process by which Henry VIII disbanded Catholic monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland and seized their assets. This took place between 1536 and 1541.
virgate: An old English unit of land, equivalent to approximately 30 acres.
Based on the ‘Analytical FarchaeRecord’ of Farringford by Robert Martin: