WHEN we think of writers from Hampshire, names such as Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens instantly spring to mind. But there’s one that often gets overlooked, one that helped shape both a town and a village in the county – Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Eastleigh residents have many reasons to thank the Victorian writer, after all, it was she who gave the town its name.

She was born in Otterbourne on August 11, 1823, and educated at home by her father, William. She studied Latin, Greek, French, and algebra.

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Her father’s lessons could be harsh, as she was later to write: “He required a diligence and accuracy that were utterly alien to me. He thundered at me so that nobody could bear to hear it, and often reduced me to tears, but his approbation was so delightful that it was a delicious stimulus.’’

A prolific writer with more than 100 books to her credit, Charlotte lived all her life in Otterbourne and taught Sunday school there for 71 years.

In 1868 a new parish was formed to the south of Charlotte’s home containing the villages of Eastley and Barton.

The author donated £500 towards the parish church, equivalent to more than £43,000 today, and was asked which of two villages the parish should be named after.

Charlotte chose Eastley, but decided that it should be spelt “Eastleigh’’ as she thought it sounded more modern.

Daily Echo: Birthplace of Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901), English novelist, Otterbourne, Hampshire.
19th century

She loved Otterbourne, the people, the village life, the wildlife, and the countryside. When she wasn’t writing books or involved with the church, she collated local words, phrases, idioms and customs.

As a writer, Charlotte was anxious to save the sayings and descriptions and in 1898 she published a book containing many of these.

As stated in the listing, “caddle’’ refers to an untidy state, such as “In he comes when I’m all of a caddle” and “stabble’’ means to walk aimlessly in the rain.

Otterbourne people seemed to have many local remedies, including wearing a bag with hair from a donkey round their necks as a cure for epilepsy.

Fever sufferers were in for a particularly difficult time because it was believed that they should be taken to the top of a steep hill and “violently pushed down.”

If this didn’t prove successful then bags of gunpowder were to be hung round the wrists and then set on fire.

Daily Echo: Leigh Road, Eastleigh

Charlotte also told the story of William Stainer, who was the village baker.

“His bread was excellent, and he was also noted for what were called Otterbourne buns, the art of making which seems to have gone with him,’’ wrote Charlotte.

“They were small, fair-complexioned buns, which stuck together in parties of three, and when soaked, expanded twice or three time times their former size. He used to send them once or twice a week to Winchester.

“But though baking was his profession, he did much besides. He was a real old fashioned herbalist, and had a curious book on the virtues of plants, and he made decoctions of many kinds.

“Mr Stainer was a deeply religious and devout man, and during an illness of the clerk took his place in church.

“He was happy in this office, moving about on felt shoes that he might make no noise, and most reverently keeping the church clean, and watching over it in every way.

“His kindness and simplicity were sometimes abused. He never had the heart to refuse to lend money, or to deny bread on credit to hopeless debtors; and altogether debts, distress, baking, and caring for sisters, were too much for him and he died insane, drowning himself in the canal.’’ Charlotte died, aged 77, on May 24, 1901 in her beloved Otterbourne leaving behind a wide-ranging list of novels which are still read and studied today.

Charlotte devotedly followed the Church of England and was greatly influenced by John Keble, the vicar of Hursley from 1835, a near neighbour who became a leading churchman and poet and gave his name to Keble College at Oxford University.

Daily Echo:

While in Eastleigh, residents and visitors can sit and read with Charlotte - a bronze resin art piece featuring Ms Yonge sitting on a bench reading a book. The historical landmark can be found outside Eastleigh railway station.