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The great Tudor poet, Edmund Spenser lived in a house near the market place and completed ‘The Faerie Queen’ in 1590.
As John Aubrey put it: ‘Mr Spenser lived some time in these parts, in this delicate sweet air, where he enjoyed his muses and writ a good part of this verse.’
This epic poem is one of the landmarks of English literature but Spenser was disappointed in not receiving State Office from Queen Elizabeth, making do with a £50 pension instead. He died in distress in London in 1599.
The town is noted for producing two famous botanists:
John Goodyer, born in 1592, was considered to be England’s best botanist during the Commonwealth. He lived on the Green (now the Spain) and by tramping through every field around the town, made a mass of notes on local plants. These were lost for centuries until they were rediscovered in the archives of Magdalen College Oxford.
He produced a wealth of knowledge on the development of tobacco and potatoes - as well as our now-familiar garden plants. Goodyer was buried in nearby Buriton: its church has a window bearing the arms of the Goodyers - a partridge holding an ear of wheat.
William Curtis lived in the second half of the 18th century. This doctor was acclaimed as one of the foremost naturalists of his day: he worked on grasses, popularised new vegetables - and linked botany wth medicine in a masterly way.
When a plague of moths scared farmers into thinking their crops would be eaten bare - Curtis predicted that this was one of those temporary explosions in insect populations that would soon decline. He was right.