St Leonards and St Ives Parish History
For much of its history the district has predominantly been a transit area between the two rivers, very little occupied, but much resourced by those who live on the fringes. There is a theory, with some valid argument and visual evidence, that a tactical Roman road may have passed through around 45AD. For centuries random tracks led from the bridges across the Avon at Ringwood to several fords on the Stour, Crane and later Moors Rivers. They include one called Palmers, with pilgrim potential, still there near today's St. Leonards Farm. (xv) The Chapel of St. Leonards, positively recorded in the 12th century but most probably much older, was nearby, but seems to disappear during Elizabethan times. (xvi)
Improvements in the roads came mid-18th century with Turnpikes from Ashley Cross to Wimborne and Poole via St. Leonards Bridge across the Moors River, and to Horton via Wools Bridge. The toll house at Ringwood's third, or Treening Bridge (originally a wooden one), was only demolished during roadworks for the Spur Road in the late 1960s. Its milestone, showing it to be 92 miles from Hyde Park Corner, is preserved at the Meeting House in Ringwood. (xvii)
1847 saw the arrival of the railways, first "Castleman's Corkscrew" from Southampton via Ringwood and on to Dorchester, then in 1862 a link through the Avon Cottage area to Christchurch. (xviii) Attorney Charles Castleman (xix) was resident at St. Ives House (xx) from about 1844 to 1862. His name survives in the Castleman Trail that now follows the old course of the railway, which was finally closed in 1967.
The old Woolsbridge Crossing became Ashley Heath Halt in 1927.
A station was provided on the other line at Hurn for the Earls of Malmesbury, major land owners and diplomats living at nearby Heron Court from 1795. A halt with a station house was also provided for the Earl's tenants and staff at Avon Cottage, later at the Castle. The line briefly provided the sole link into east Bournemouth, but became less used once the direct route across the Forest opened in 1888. This line closed completely in 1935. (xxi)
TOLLHOUSE (Meeting House file) - ST. IVES HOUSE 2007 (Ted Baker 2007) - AVON CASTLE HALT (Ted Baker archive, 1901)