For a great many years before I can remember as well as for a few years afterwards, the correct hour in Ropley was ascertained by the moment at which the mail cart from Alton to Winchester passed by the Chequers Inn. "And not fur out neither way," as the villagers said ! It was "near enough" for them !
An old man of 84 who used to work for my father, told me about a man named Thorpe who lived in this neighbourhood and who was a Wizard. He then related to me the following story :-
"When I was a lad a man named Haling Budd used to live at the Lyeway Farm, Ropley. One day he was giving a shearing, or a harvest supper to his men. After the meal was over they all came out to stroll in the garden, and to smoke and chat. The man Budd kept a pack of beagles which were enclosed in a yard surrounded by a very high fence or wall - such (he said) as no dog could possibly jump under ordinary conditions. No sooner did the men appear than all the pack of dogs instantly leaped over the wall and threw themselves upon the visitors with great ferocity. With difficulty were they restrained and driven back into the yard. This, said my old friend, "was entirely the work of Thorpe the Wizard."
N.B. - This would be about 80 years ago.
I understand that this man Thorpe was in the habit of sleeping in a large oven for the sake of the warmth which it afforded ! One morning he was found there dead.
Since writing the above I was mentioning Thorpe to an old woman here. She said, oh yes, she had often heard about him, though he lived rather before her time. Some money was once stolen from a cottage at Kitfield and Thorpe was consulted. He at once pointed to a certain house, saying "There lives the man who took your money - but do nothing, it will be returned to you." And sure enough, soon afterwards the thief was seen stealthily to enter the cottage and replace the money from where it had been taken, in fear (as was supposed) of being discovered.
An old woman here told me only the other day that the cottage in which she used to live was haunted, chiefly it would appear, by the spirit of a cat, which she used to meet about the house, and which was quite impalpable ! Sometimes she would find it sitting by the hearth ; and then it would get up, walk across the room and suddenly disappear without passing through the door. "I knew it was my mother," she concluded, much to my surprise, "by the way it walked. It was just her walk ! It walked exactly like mother !"
The "haunted cottage" was the old one on the right side of Old Chapel Lane.
From Mr. Woodhouse's Note-Book.
Many old customs linger here. The Club which meets on Whit-Tuesday at the Anchor Inn, for its anniversary, parades the parish with a band of music, going round to all the principal houses. The men wear clean white (s)mocks and top hats which bear rosettes and streamers.
This Club was ere long disbanded.
Ruth Pullinger tells me that when she was a girl Public Catechizing was still carried on in Church. On the first three Sundays in Lent, sixteen of the best girls in the school were assembled in the chancel after the second Lesson, and they said the Church Catechism to the Vicar, who gave them a short Lecture on it, after which the Squire (Mr. Duthy) used to give a fourpenny piece to everyone of them.