Lying on the upper reaches of the Hamble, Botley is a delightful old village with small shops, handsome houses, and attractive inns. In the Market Hall there is a carved block of timber about three feet high. This was part of a Danish war galley measuring 110 feet long that was found embedded in the river mud during the 19th century.
Botley has two churches one being the old one that is some way from the village centre (at the end of Brook Lane near the Farm Museum). Only the chancel survives. This little 13th century church stands a long way off amidst farm buildings and cottages and is reached by either of two rather picturesque little lanes (Church Lane or Brook Lane). It is surrounded by trees and has a pond by its gate. To enter the church you pass through a doorway made of moulded Norman stones, and there are two narrow 13th century lancets and a canopied piscina that is 600 years old.
The present church, All Saints which was built in 1837, is shown below. It has dormer windows with carved bargeboards, a stone frieze and a tower having a diamond shaped clock with a gilded crown. This clock came from the stables owned by William Cobbett the Radical farmer who lived in a house called Fairthorn Farm and he rode out of his stables on his rides around England, and must have often looked up to check the time.
The font in the church of All Saints came from the older church and is Norman. Around the top and bottom runs cable mouldings that are joined by herringbone strips. The panels are filled with crude arcading. The font was found in the rive where it had lain for hundreds of years.
One of the rarer treasures is the arcades that have timber in them, only Crawley and Gosport have others. And the nave and aisles have timbered roofs, with the aisle having timber piers.
There is a canopied recess in which lies the figure of John de Botley, dressed in a long gown and with a smile on his face. He is reputed to have lived here during the 14th century.
William Cobbett once said that
Botley had everything in it that he loved and nothing that he hated. It had neither a workhouse, barber, attorney and not even a justice of the peace, and that he could walk along a primrose and bluebell filled field lane and listen to a thousand linnets singing in a spreading oak above his head. He could also hear the jangling of harness and the whistling of the local ploughboys 'saluting his ears' over the hedgerows.
It was here that he lived for a while and would take delight in arguing with the local parson, he would listen to his sermons but would ride outside the rectory to attract attention in unpleasant ways and he often stated he would love to horsehip him in the pulpit for talking such nonsense!
Richard Baker, the parson in question, is often mentioned in Cobbetts Rural Rides, he was one of two men who were the only rectors in Botley from 1803 to 1954, and he died on 5th December 1854, and was succeeded by John Morley. His son, John Thomas Wright Baker was then the Curate of Botley and married Harriet Martha Maria Guillaume on 9th April 1855. One of their grandchildren was Richard Edward St Barbe Baker who was known as The Man of the Trees.
Baker was an enemy of Cobbett as he would not let the villagers have the key of the church when they wanted to ring the bells on Cobbett's release from Newgate, he having been imprisoned because he expressed in public his indignation at Englishmen being flogged under a guard of Hanoverian soldiers.
Cobbett tells us how a legacy hoax once got the parson up to London to a hotel. At the hotel he was beset by a whole tribe of applicants, they kept the parson in town for several days, bothered him three parts out of his senses, compelled him to escape as if from a fire. When he got home, he found the village posted all over with handbills, giving an account of his adventure under the pretence of offering £500 reward for the discovery of the hoaxers.
(from Arthur Mees "Hampshire")