How to get into a Yorkshire Penny Bank Money box!

How do you get into one of these things when the key is long gone? Foolishly, some years ago, I put lots of pre-decimal coins in this money box! Maybe I had the key then, but I certainly do not have it any more. So as a lock-down project I decided I needed to get it open. But hopefully without demolishing the money box!

I don’t know how old this is: I think it was my mother’s savings box before me. The number, 42284, I thought was fairly old, until I saw one numbered 2012 on Ebay. Total value in the LSD coins in the money box is about £5: while the old coins might be now worth more than the face value, this project was more a challenge than a treasure hunt!

Every funny looking key available was tried, but none worked. Lock picking was even less successful, made difficult by not knowing how the lock worked. So I needed to see a lock mechanism, to hopefully find a way of defeating it!

This could be an on-going saga, as I have not achieved the objective yet, but progress is good.

The Plan

The plan was to buy a cheap similar money box on Ebay, that had no family memories: there are lots available without keys! Then to cut this up, to see how the locking mechanism worked. Straightforward! Then it should be possible to bypass the lock, or at least see what a key had to do.

With P&P the money box cost £8. It was showing the serial number 203599. First the rivets holding the nameplate were filed down, and bashed out. The nameplate came off, exposing three metal tabs holding a brass coloured metal plate under the silver lid. It was then sawn open, working from the halfcrown slot. The lid is brass, plated with a silver metal. Folding back the halfcrown slot sides gave little further information.

So then brute force was used to try to separate the cover from the base plate, which from previous knowledge supports the coin tubes, which are round, and sort of three quarters of a circle. When opened with a key, these tubes present the coins in several neatly stored columns. The two parts were levered apart, which ended up in the storage tube for the pennies, opposite the halfcrowns, being left in place, with the three tabs from that circular construction, into the base plate, having been pulled out. 

The major discovery there was that the money box locking mechanism uses a brass tongue pushed into a slot in the back of the old penny storage tube. The box is dated on the base as from a patent of 11th June 1921. They were a bit devious at this time, as having realised that the tongue of the lock could be pushed open using a knife through the penny storage slot, they introduced a sort of metal curtain as a barrier to such an intrusion. This curtain interrupts the straight line from the slot to the end of the brass tongue, so frustrating that approach. Unless maybe you had a knife like a grapefruit knife, with a bent blade.

The next task was to remove the brass locking mechanism, still stuck inside the cover, held by the three bent metal ears from the top lid. These three metal tabs on the top of the cover were holding the lock.  The tabs themselves were part of the cover, bent through the brass coloured plate that held the lock. So all three tabs were pushed out from the top, which was necessarily violent, and caused a bit of damage! Then the lock was levered away from the cover, which when suddenly released caused a slight explosion of lots of bits of the lock, as the spring behind the tongue became free to move away from its housing.

Unfortunately this meant that the three main elements of the lock were scattered about, so I cannot absolutely say in which order they were assembled, but it seems reasonable to assume that the two spacers were above the tongue, which fits best in the base of the lock mechanism.

The conclusion for this section is that if you need to break in to the money box, the best cut is made at the top of the “Penny” column, which might give you enough access to release the lock by pressing on the tongue, from slightly below the horizontal plane, to avoid the barrier in there!

Dimensions of the key

It seemed the only way in to the money box was by using a conventional key, so the next step was to work out the dimensions and shape required. Perhaps foolishly I also thought I should check on the internet to see how much the boxes with keys were selling for, since it seemed that one standard key shape would fit all these round box locks.

As ever, the result surprised me, as there was a guy offering to sell newly made money box keys for these round boxes from Yorkshire Penny Bank and Midland Bank…. at an auction starting price of £5 (+£1.50 P&P). He was not giving much away, but the picture of his key showed it to be much the same as what I was planning.

It also proved that there is always another engineer/enthusiast/nutter also thinking along the same lines as yourself, but that he had much more common sense than you, as he saw a business opportunity! Just to prove it, his picture shows the key, with a cleverly placed key ring, that hides the critical part of the key pattern…. see below!

The auction for this particular key ends in 24 hours, so we will see how much it costs me! Needless to say, this will not be published until after the auction ends……

The result so far…

The key sold for £20+ . OK so I need to work out the dimensions…..

VE Day 75 years on…

VE Day 75 years on celebrations in Alresford were given a boost by a lot of last minute volunteers and some hard work by two of the cafe owners in Alresford.

Initially it was a NATC idea to organise an afternoon tea on the Avenue for the over 75’s in Alresford, but because of the Coronavirus shutdown, they decided to hang onto their cash for an enhanced VE day celebration in July.

Faced with that a couple of the Councillors got together and lead by Cllr Sarah Cavell they decided that something was needed. So they decided on a distribution of cream teas for the 75 year olds plus. Sarah enlisted the help of her friend Becky Smith (who runs the Arlebury Cafe at the ARC) and Sarah Pendlebury, who runs Tiffins tea rooms on West Street. Together, and with the help of their staff/friends, they baked over 500 scones, during the night of 7/8 May, and made up the teas in individual bags. The cost of ingredients were met by a benefactor – who wishes to remain anonymous.  Alresford PIGs volunteered assistance at least in terms of the distribution of the teas around the town, as they were keen to support the efforts of those doing the hard work behind the scenes.


Over 500 individual cream teas were distributed to residents over 75 in the town at lunchtime on Friday, VE Day, hopefully for the residents to join in with their street parties.


The picture above shows Mark and Emma Emmerson, dressed in their vintage best, preparing to distribute the teas, along with another 20 of the Alresford Pigs members.

Life and exercise under Lockdown!

Life continues in Alresford, even though the streets are deserted of cars and parking has never been easier next to Tesco! But most communal activity for retired people in particular has closed down.

Many things have moved over to the internet – including our weekly Pilates classes with Brenda Clarke. So we have not escaped, and now don’t even get the school holidays off! Brenda, like so many other people, has adopted Zoom, and still runs her 60 minute sessions 3 days a week…. but we are still limiting ourselves to one session a week.

Will things ever return to the original classes in village halls? We don’t know, but we have used Zoom for a cocktail party for my wife’s birthday, talking to the kids – in Cornwall and Mexico – and earlier in the day it worked well much closer to home, for a lunchtime drinks get together with the neighbours!

Amazingly, the Zoom works very well, and is free to users, despite everyone adopting it so quickly. As for the Pilates, you need to try it yourself!

More info:

Zoom conferencing –

Pilates with Brenda Clarke – contact via the website

The Hurdle House

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The Hurdle House, sited in Sheeplands Paddock (from the collection)

A Hurdle House is recognised as a specific, but rare type of building, meant for the storage of the hurdles used typically to create pens for the sheep in a Sheep Fair. The annual sheep fair was very important to Alresford…. not only was there a Hurdle House for the hurdles, but there was the Fair Field – known locally as Sheeplands Paddock – basically dedicated to the Sheep Fair. Presumably this helped attract the herders, as they would know it as a good, standard location to sell their flocks every year.

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An Alresford Sheep Fair,  with pens made from hurdles, held in Sheeplands Paddock

The sheep fair from at least 1835 until 1864 was held in the original Fair Field, East of Sun Lane, opposite what is now the houses of Edward Terrace: it also extended south, presumably as far as to include the site of Langtons Farm. But the railway arrived, and to build the railway line through Alresford the Fair Field was bisected by the railway line and the associated cutting through the chalk.

Raymond Elliott tells the story of establishing the new Fair Field, and building the new Hurdle House on the North side of the Bishops Sutton Road, in his story in Alresford Displayed (Volume 6, 1981). The land was owned by Winchester College, but leased to the Bailiff and Burgesses of Alresford.  They asked William Henry Hunt, a local architect, to design and build the Hurdle House in 1864. Hunt showed his love of good brickwork in the “quoins. jambs and string courses together with panels of grey knapped flint-work and again red brick dressings around the door and window openings, circular ventilation openings and including decorative eaves and gable ends”. The building was about 75 feet long by 19 feet wide and 12 feet clear height inside from floor to underside of the roof timbers.

                     The photos show the hurdles inside the Hurdle House, and sheep arriving                                                along the Bishops Sutton road, outside Sheeplands Paddock,                                            where the Long Barn now stands

The Hurdle House was well used, and the sheep fairs thrived, with 20,000 sheep recorded as sold there in 1885. Slowly the numbers declined… there was no fair held in 1971, and in 1980 the Town Trustees returned the Hurdle house and Sheeplands Paddock to the Freeholders (Winchester College) – taking care to apply for listed building status before doing so.  The College quickly sold the property to a private owner. In June 1981 there was a major fire in the building, which destroyed the original roof.

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The 1971 fire at the Hurdle House: picture by Peter Chalk

Raymond Elliott showed the following pictures of the Hurdle House in his Alresford Displayed article later in 1981: this was the result of the fire.

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Over the next few years the house was rebuilt, and the photo below of the conversion into a dwelling was found on the web, attributed to a Mr D Toms:

the-hurdle-house-alresford-1864 D Toms

The Hurdle House converted to a home: picture by D Toms

21st Century additions

Later, in 2014, the private owners started a project with Adam Knibb architects to design an extension to the Hurdle House to create more living space, whist maintaining respect for the original barn.

They approached the scheme with the aim to set the works into the surrounding nature, provide natural light, harness the fantastic views and provide a social heart to the house and for the family. Working with the Winchester Conservation department, it was agreed that a bay window at the rear of the property could be removed and provide the linking element to the extension. A frameless glass link was envisaged to touch the existing building lightly and connect the old to the new.


The extension comprises a large open plan kitchen, dining area, casual seating with utility/WC and study attached. A major aim of the project was to increase the excitement when entering the property. The new main entrance will bring you directly into the extension, showing off views directly down the garden.

Externally, vertical timber cladding has been used to mimic the surrounding trees and provide a contemporary contrast to the existing building, which Adam Knibb say clearly shows that this work is ‘architecture of this time’. Alresford Interiors was selected as the sub-contractor and supplier of the internal furniture and fittings.

This Hurdle House project won ‘The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovation Award’, and has been a finalist in the ‘AJ Retrofit Awards’, was ‘shortlisted for the ‘RICS Awards’, and also shortlisted for The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Countryside Award. Adam Knibb Architects have produced a video describing the work, which can be found on youtube ( Their photographer, James Morris, presented the photos on their website, one of which is shown below.


Photo (c) James Morris c/o Adam Knibb Architects

The actual Sheep Fair Field used from 1864 to the 1970s, known as Sheeplands Paddock, is now the site occupied by Long Barn Lavender, to the East of the Hurdle House.


Long Barn Lavender sales and garden centre


The Sheep Fair Field, now devoted to lavender growing.

Photos courtesy of Godfrey Andrews of, Audrey Chalk, D Toms, Alresford History and Literary Society, and James Morris for Adam Knibb Architects

That Scotsman was ‘ere

Well, the Flying Scotsman, now 60103, a steam locomotive, came to the Watercress Line between Alresford and Alton for a couple of weekends in February and March 2020.  Basically to celebrate the re-opening of the line to Alton, after the extensive bridge works over the roads near The Butts, at the far end. This took months and months, so the Watercress Line must have been pretty desperate to attract some attention, and money.

So they went the whole hog, closed the Station Car Park to everyone who hadn’t booked a ticket of some form, charged a lot for platform tickets etc, but couldn’t really stop the passers-by on the road bridges and roadsides along the way! These non-devoted enthusiasts were there, getting a peek, because the banners seemed to block the views everywhere else.

We’d love to hear your experiences of the ride: the reports are that the commercialism missed out by not selling refreshments on the train: even coffee would have been good, to warm up the passengers.

As a confessed novice in railway matters, it seemed the good old Flying Scotsman was feeling its age. Rolling past without carriages, it did not seem to travel as effortlessly as might have been expected…. It also seemed to need a second engine to help it with the carriages – there were not that many! Admittedly there is a hill out of Alresford, but not necessarily any bigger than the hills it used to traverse.


Arrival in Alresford, under the Sun Lane bridge. The engine helping the Flying Scotsman, 41312, looks much more interesting, but not as streamlined! Both pulling backwards here.


The Flying Scotsman rolling past on his own, in order to reposition to the front of the carriages


Atmospheric shot, showing the engine now positioned in front of the carriages, enveloped in steam, with the general public mob on the opposite platform


Lloyds Bank in 1959

The Francis Frith company, with their catalogue of old photographs, has many pictures of New Alresford, which you can see on their website. They also publish stories, or memories, from readers, and one, published in 2010, is from Valerie Neal, describing the time she worked in Lloyds Bank in 1959:

“I was working in Lloyds bank in 1959. I remember going across the road to fetch cakes from the bakery every day for the staff. We had six staff, this was before the extension to the bank. The other members were Mr Rainford, Mr Sherwood, and the manager whose name escapes me. The girls were Myrtle Young, another Anne and me. I also remember going to the cinema in Station Road. You could not hear a thing if it was raining because of the tin roof. I travelled to work by train from Winchester, it cost six shillings and fourpence return. Those were the days.”


The Mural in the Old Fire Station

Once it was agreed that the old Merryweather Fire Appliance would be returned to the Old Fire Station garage, as the first major exhibit of the Alresford Museum, attention turned to the decoration of the garage walls. Other major investments went into the lighting system to be used, and the folding glass doors installed behind the original wooden doors. But it was felt that the back wall should feature a major relevant picture, or photograph, of something representing the history of fires in the town, or why the fire appliance was needed.

Undoubtedly the front cover picture from Arthur Stowell’s book “The Story of Alresford” was one of the best images available. It totally fitted the subject and history, and was very colourful. The photos available of the Fire Appliance from around 1900 were also largely black and white. Many were available from the Gog Andrews collection ( so these were used on a slide show on a TV screen on another wall of the garage.

Arthur Stowell’s picture was drawn by Brian Wynne, but neither the original nor any prints could be found. The book had been published via the Alresford History and Literary Society, but enquiries there did not produce any leads. So the only copies available were on the covers of his book. At that time I had a scanner that could be used to scan at a very detailed resolution, so to see what could be done I scanned the front and back covers, using a new ‘clean’ copy. I soon realised that it would be necessary to scan the spine, so eventually that was also achieved. These three scans were then brought together (using free PC software known as “Paint”).


As you can see, the scan of the spine is fairly obvious! The joins down the middle were bridged together (using more free PC software, called “PhotoScape”), to get rid of the visible edges and mould the colours together. The words had to go too.


Then another problem arose: the dimensions of this image, when scaled up to fill across the back wall of the garage, meant that it was too tall, and would be hidden behind the cabinets. Ideally it was necessary to lose most of the sky, and even some of the foreground where the people were standing. Normally, pictures can be stretched up to about 10%, without becoming too distorted. This was done, using ‘Paint’, but it was still not wide enough. So the ‘Photoscape’ software came back again, to add extra rooms on the houses at either side, copying the existing bits of wall. The final result was as below.

OFS plan 4 stretch crop add 10pc patch

Getting the mural printed 10 feet wide also was difficult, and the result came in two sections, once again joined down the middle! The width was not quite as wide as the garage wall, so it appears the picture version used was not a stretched one, after all! A 2019 picture in the garage (below) shows the final version on the wall. For 2020 this wall has disappeared… the mural will be repositioned!

Nick Denbow




Alresford cartoons

Inspired by an artist producing “Wobbly” pictures of their local town, Ian McDonald, a local amateur painter and DIY enthusiast has brought these skills together, maybe, to produce some “wonky” pics of Alresford. I think they are worth presenting here:


Then, by chance, I found some similar pics produced by Mad Lou Publishing, of Steep, near Petersfield. Created by Louise Braithwaite ( also from Ashford, near Steep, there is also a lovely card with her  pic of Broad Street in a similar vein…


Arthur Stowell used a similar pic, but set some 400 years earlier, on the front cover of his book about Alresford History. This now is used as a mural on the wall of the Old Fire Station Museum display area:


Ian has now branched out, and attempted an alternative view of the Alresford centre, looking up the hill along West Street.  This is his second Wobbly pic of Alresford, which also has an acknowledgement to our friends from Odiham:


Another slightly more conventional view of Alresford houses is afforded by Hellards, the Estate Agents, on their notepaper: this is primarily of East Street, and is more in the style of the architect Lawrence Wright’s drawings..;;

1986 East Street South side0003

While Louise Braithwaite seems to specialise in pics in and around Winchester, another of her cards shows the backs at Cambridge, which I also rather like:


Others have tried to picture Broad Street before it was taken over as the most preferred car parking area in Alresford:


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The Fire Station Clock, by Thomas Mercer

The Alresford Museum was recently presented with a brass cased clock, labelled as by Mercer of St Albans, which was used in the Fire Station in Alresford. The intention is for it to be displayed alongside the Merryweather fire engine now on display by the Museum, in the Old Fire Station in Broad Street.


Since the clock was not running, the Alresford Men’s Shed were asked if they could investigate, and see if it could be repaired. The clock is in a large brass body, giving a nautical appearance, but the bezel round the glass of the front cover is plated silver. This is marked “AP W 6578 SERIAL No M.V.779”. The clock is mounted on a modern 8-sided mahogany display board.

During the investigations at the Men’s Shed, the clock was removed from the board, and on the back of the clock the words “Alresford Fire Service” had been scratched, and then crossed out later, to be replaced with the second scratched name of “Hampshire Fire Service”.

Inside, it appeared that the clock had basically been prevented from working by mountains of congealed dust and dirt, although the insides were also much modified, with some bits missing, and evidence of earlier rough repairs. The side casing has several holes, possibly for attaching external alarms or devices, which would have allowed easy access for dust and dirt.

The clock was put back into operation, and worked well for the first day, but has once again stopped.


Searches on the internet suggest that this was indeed a clock made for use on board ship. Thomas Mercer of St Albans made marine chronometers, precision clocks that helped ships navigate the oceans. However this clock was probably one of a simpler design made in large numbers around WW2, particularly for use on the bridge of merchantmen travelling in convoys across the Atlantic. It was commonly referred to as a ‘Zig-zag convoy clock’, as every half hour the merchant vessels would change course onto another tack, as the next leg of the zig-zag.

A recently advertised similar clock, with the same markings and Serial number, was described by Oliver Sargent Antiques as an ‘Octavia’ model, and their example was fitted with the Bakelite electrical connector box above the holes on the top of the clock case.

Watercress and Winterbournes

Maggie Shelton, of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, wrote this article for the New Alresford and Ovington Parish magazine (March 2019).

Contact her on, or consult that website.

“If you play the National Lottery, I’m sure that at some point you’ve fantasised about what you would do with a sudden windfall. But thanks to Lottery players everywhere I am already feeling lucky: their contributions are helping to support our brilliant National Lottery Heritage funded-project, ‘Watercress and Winterbournes’.

“This ambitious project aims to celebrate, protect, and enhance the chalk stream headwaters of the Rivers Test and Itchen, namely Pillhill Brook, the Upper Anton, the Bourne Rivulet, the Upper Test, Candover Brook, the River Arle and the Cheriton Stream.

“We are working closely with 16 partner organisations and seven Community Catchment Groups to identify opportunities for improving the water quality in their streams in ways that will benefit each area’s people, wildlife and natural capital. Here in Alresford, the River Arle Community Catchment Group has been meeting regularly to discuss how  their community might improve the river for people and wildlife.

“Our chalk streams and their surrounding landscapes are truly special environments with fascinating local histories, and this makes Watercress and Winterbournes a very exciting project to be working on.

“Winterbournes (streams which appear during winter and dry up in Summer) are unique to chalk streams, which themselves are unique to our iconic chalk rivers. They are formed when prolonged wet weather raises the volume of water in the chalk aquifer (water stored underground in the porous chalk rock), causing springs to temporarily emerge on ground higher than the perennial head. These seasonal springs are the source of the winterbournes.

“Unfortunately, although our chalk streams look beautiful and have protected designations,they are under threat. In Hampshire we are surrounded by chalk streams, and could easily forget that globally they are incredibly rare: there are only about 200 in the World, and 160 (80%) of these are in England.

“This means that, if the streams are not in good condition, the species that are so well adapted to their unique conditions often have nowhere else to go. As an ecologist I care passionately about the natural environment, and like my colleagues at the Trust and within the partnership I feel we have a real duty to care for these fragile and precious ecosystems.

You can join your local Catchment Group and help to protect your local chalk streams – contact Maggie by email or on 01489 77 44 00 !

You can also find more information on ‘Watercress and Winterbournes’ on the website, or follow #WatercressAndWinterburnes on Twitter, to track the development of this exciting and inspiring project!