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!

Alresford Preparatory School (APS)

Affectionately known to older generations of Alresford residents as “Apples, Pears & Sausages” or even “Alresford Pears & Sausages”, Alresford Preparatory School was a small private school off West Street, which taught up to 25 pupils from the 1890s until 1968. This description was prepared and written by Godfrey Andrews, of 

APS was a small private school in Alresford, known to have been in existence from the 1890’s. It was located on the west side of what is now named Bay Tree Yard, off West Street, in Alresford.  This yard was sometimes referred to as Doidges Yard: Frank Doidge was a local Alresford Builder, living in ‘Westholme’ on West Street.

The original school, now a residential property, can still be seen directly at the rear of No 33 which is currently (2019) the Delilah Boutique. The original schoolmistress is thought to have been Emily Lavina Elizabeth Stevens, who was born at No 33 Broad Street in June 1859.

Illustration 3

The old school building in Bay Tree Yard off West Street, seen in February 2019    Photograph © Godfrey Andrews –

The school was subsequently taken over by Miss Ann Eliza Dorey, born 1872, who lived with her parents at the family farm in the Dean, Alresford. Her father was a farmer and watercress grower. She was the schoolmistress who steered the school through the period around the First World War, up until 1929: Miss Dorey died in 1935.

Then the school was taken over by Dorothy Curtis, born 1908 in Alresford. Dorothy had been educated at Perin’s Grammar School and then started work as a pupil teacher at the Dean School: she had subsequently been a teacher back at Perin’s. Dorothy lived on the family farm at Ladycroft with her three sisters and four brothers. Her older sister Daisy helped her at the APS from the late 1930’s.

Under Miss Curtis’s patient but firm guidance, up to 25 children each year learned the “three Rs” using traditional methods. These were so effective that the places at the school were in steady demand throughout her tenure. Until 1944, prior to the introduction of the 11-plus examination, the children were educated to a sufficient level to gain a scholarship place at one of the nearby Grammar schools.

The school day

The pattern of daily routine changed little over the years, every day beginning with a hymn and a prayer. Exercise and play being taken in the small cobbled yard next to the school. The fixtures and fittings of the schoolroom remained much as they had been for decades. In the 1960’s, the wartime black-outs still hung above the skylight and the desks still contained the long dried-up porcelain inkwells.

For a long period of the school’s history, music and singing would be taught one afternoon per week on the school piano by Miss Cobb (Louisa Dyson Cobb 1896-1969).  She was born in Ontario but her family moved to Winchester. Miss Cobb would cycle to Alresford from her home in Winchester: she also give private piano lessons.

IllustrationIt was not unusual that years later her former pupils would send their own children to this school, encouraged by the high rate of success in getting pupils through the 11-plus. The school finally closed its doors for the last time when Dorothy Curtis retired on 19th July 1968: she had run the school very effectively for over 35 years.


The illustration shows the commemorative certificate presented to Miss Dorothy Curtis on the occasion of her retirement on 19th July 1968.  Illustration © Michael Hedges.




Memories of a former pupil who attended APS around the time of the First World War.

(an edited extract from the book by A.Godwin, entitled ‘Alresford Remembered … looking back with pleasure’, published by New Alresford Press, 1996)

The little school run by Miss Stevens in West Street, was taken over by Miss Dorey and I went there. We sat on forms at tables and wrote on slates. I’m sure Miss Dorey fostered and inspired my interest in natural history. Hers was a happy school.

Memories of a former pupil who attended APS around the Second World War

(an edited extract from ‘Reminiscences of Alresford 1930-1950’, a document written by Peter G. Turner)

Whether I started school before or after the Jubilee [May 1935, Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary] I don’t know. Anyway at 5 years old I went to school at Miss Curtis’s Alresford Preparatory School in what I shall call Doidges Yard.

The schoolroom in those days would never have been allowed now. On looking back it was a death trap. The only window (apart from a skylight) was barred and the room of fair size was atop a wooden staircase – the only access.

The heating was a paraffin stove, or perhaps two, and standing at the end of the room was an open fire.

There were probably 25 children aged 5-11 all taught by Miss Dorothy Curtis who had a good reputation of getting her pupils through the “scholarship” which would enable those successful to attend Peter Symonds for boys, the County School for girls at Winchester or both sexes could go to to Eggars at Alton.

I was sent to school and on the first day I went wearing a blue beret with the red APS badge on it. The other children laughed at a boy wearing a beret and I went home crying.

The schoolroom was fairly large and the new pupils sat at little desks nearest the door and the bigger children were on bench type desks with seating attached further up the room. After a while I learned to read and write, grew in size and moved up to the bigger desks.

Among the boys there was Derek Curtis (probably the teachers nephew). He was older than me and was adept at crawling under these large bench desks. He would then return to his own seat and tell everybody what colour knickers the girls were wearing, eg. Margaret’s got pink knickers today or Sybil’s got white knickers. I can’t remember him being caught in the act.

I learnt pretty quickly and we had a smattering of geography, history and nature study. We also did PT and had music and singing with Miss Cobb who had the monopoly of piano tuition in Alresford.

Miss Curtis suffered a nervous breakdown (unsurprisingly) and when she came back she was then assisted by her sister Daisy Curtis.

I was 9 and a half years old and still at APS when War was declared.

Memories of a former pupil who attended APS from 1959 to 1964

(an edited extract from ‘Memories of Alresford Preparatory School (APS)’ written by Mike Hedges, February 2019)

I attended Alresford Preparatory School (APS) from 1959 to 1964. It was run by two of my great aunts, Dorothy Curtis (1908 – 2002) and Daisy Curtis (1901 – 1977), who lived with their sister Violet at Ladycroft Farm for virtually their whole lives. None of the three ever married.

APS was located on the west side of Bay Tree Yard, off West Street. It was a fee-paying school (approximately £11/term in 1964) teaching children aged 5 – 11. There were up to 25 children in the school. Dorothy tended to teach the older children (branching out into French lessons in my last year there), while Daisy taught the younger ones.

On entering the door off Bay Tree Yard, we turned immediately right up a set of wooden stairs into the single schoolroom, which was above the entrance door, and had a large window looking out onto Bay Tree Yard. At the foot of the stairs was a door to the lavatory, alongside another door to the rest of the property, occupied by Mrs Sherwood and her daughter Mavis. There was a fire escape from the schoolroom leading down a second staircase to a separate door on to Bay Tree Yard. At the opposite end from the entrance door was another door, which was never opened, but must have led into Mrs Sherwood’s house. Mrs Sherwood would bring Dorothy and Daisy a cup of tea in the mornings and afternoons.

The school day began at 9am with a hymn (with no piano or other accompaniment) and a prayer. The younger children sat at smaller desks at the northern (entrance door) end of the room, and older children sitting alongside and at the other end. At morning break we had a third-of-a-pint bottle of milk to drink, as was provided to all schoolchildren at that time. In summer, Dorothy would buy vanilla ice creams and wafers as an end-of-term treat for each pupil.

We learned the alphabet from a set of pale blue cards each bearing a letter, a word it stood for and a picture, starting with A for apple through to Z for zebra. When learning the alphabet, we recited each card aloud in full, ie A for apple, B for bucket, C for cup etc.

We learned vocabulary from cards kept on a mantelpiece just inside the entrance door. Each card contained eight words in alphabetical order which we had to study for a while, then the card was taken away and we had to remember the words and write each one down with the correct spelling. I can still recall one such card more than 50 years later (it’s called learning by rote!), ie Bough, Crystal, Debt, Delicious, Doubt, Emerald, Foreign, Grieve. Each word was selected to exemplify differently spelt constructions of common English words.

The mathematical tables were learned by rote as well. On the mantelpiece by the door was a stack of old tobacco tins covering the 2 times table up to the 12 times table. Each tin contained loose cards, for example for the two times table: “1 x 2=” up to “12 x 2=” and separate cards for “2” up to “24”. We had to arrange the cards in the correct positions. Then we would recite the tables out loud.

One afternoon per week, Miss Cobb from Winchester would teach singing. We sang traditional songs, such as ‘Dashing away with the smoothing iron’, ‘A smile is quite a funny thing’ (to the tune of Auld Lang Syne). Miss Cobb was a large, no-nonsense woman, who always arrived in her green coat and hat. Apparently she had a very musically talented sister named Primrose Cobb, who also lived in Winchester.

We did very basic exercises in the schoolroom twice per week, by simply standing on the spot and doing eight arm exercises, starting with both hands on shoulders, then arms raised vertically, then hands back on shoulders, then arms stretched horizontally at our sides, then back on shoulders, then horizontally ahead of us, then back on shoulders, and finally by our sides. We recited the numbers one to eight as we did this.

There was no grassed playing area at APS. At break times, we simply played on the cobbled Bay Tree Yard, often resulting in grazed knees. At the far end of the yard was a wide, open barn and in front of it a large puddle about 25 feet across would form after rain. This left a dry perimeter where we could play, but there were quite a few wet feet too! It was unusual for this puddle to ever dry up completely.

Illustration 2

Photographed here in front of the school are the last class of pupils. Sitting on the left is Daisy Curtis and on the right is Dorothy Curtis, the schoolmistress.            Photograph © Michael Hedges.

At the end of break Dorothy or Daisy would come down the stairs and ask the nearest pupil to call time, upon which came the loud call ‘T-I-M-E!’, which would often be turned into a rhyming couplet by children shouting “Katie’s got fleas!” or similar.

During break times, we could simply have walked out of Bay Tree Yard and into West Street, but no-one ever did.

There were 15-minute morning and afternoon breaks and at lunchtime (12 noon to 2pm) all children were collected and were either taken home or went off the premises for lunch. On our return from lunch we would play in the yard until time was called. Dorothy rode her bike home to Ladycroft for lunch and back, while Daisy caught the bus. Dorothy cycled to school in all weathers, two round trips totalling 4½ miles each day.

Discipline was never a problem, the worst thing being a rap over the knuckles with a wooden ruler. Normally it was enough for Dorothy to suddenly stand stock still and adopt a long, sinister frown at a miscreant, with her eyes narrowed to slits. Daisy would simply shout loudly at a misbehaving pupil or shake them by the shoulders; another of my great aunts used to say that, when West Street traffic was light, Daisy’s shouting could sometimes be heard from the post office on the other side of the road!

The schoolroom was little changed over many decades. Around a high shelf at the West Street end of the room were various objects, such as a stuffed green woodpecker in a glass case and a large globe. On one wall was a framed map of central Europe with the Caucasus Mountains in the centre. In the ceiling above was a skylight still equipped with a World War 2 blackout.

APS had an excellent record of getting pupils through the 11-plus exam. We went to Perin’s to sit this exam, a rather daunting experience after being used to a small schoolroom for the previous five or six years. Those who passed usually went on to Eggar’s Grammar School (boys and girls) in Alton, or Peter Symonds’ (boys) and The County High School (girls) in Winchester; those who didn’t went on to Perin’s, then a secondary modern school for boys and girls.

In 1968, the school finally closed, mainly because of the lack of suitable recreation facilities; a cobbled yard could by no stretch of the imagination be described as ‘suitable’! By this time, Dorothy was 60 and Daisy was 67, so they would not have been in harness for too many more years in any case.


Museum Display for 2019

The Alresford Museum will be opening regularly through 2019 in the Old Fire Station at the bottom of Broad Street. The main theme is around a Merryweather Fire Engine, one of which was acquired for the town in 1908.*


On the back wall of the Old Fire Station a mural showing Brian Wynne’s impression of what the devastating 1789 fire in Alresford might have looked like, which was used on the cover of Arthur Stowell’s book “The Story of Alresford”, published in 2000.


At one side, behind the Fire appliance, a cabinet shows some of the golden coloured helmets used by the volunteer Firemen in this station, some of the fire bugles used to summon the volunteers to man their appliances – for example in Alton, and some of the awards received by the Alresford volunteers.*


In the other corner, display cabinets show other items held in the Alresford Museum collection of local items, including a doll and some toys from Alresford Crafts, a clock face made by Jno Howe, bottles for locally brewed drinks, and Alresford crested china.


The Alresford time-line is also explained in five display panels, depicting the growth of the town, and the industries supported.  The items illustrated here are locally found items dating from up to more than 1000 years ago, as travellers along the Pilgrims Way, or Roman nobles, or people in travelling from Southampton to London, lost clothing or brooches, buckles or coins.


A slide show presents the main display of the history of fire-fighting in Alresford, over the Centuries, using photos from the collection of Godfrey Andrews (  The Fire Appliance, and most of the exhibits, have been polished and are presented by ex-volunteer fire-fighters in Alresford, Richard and Ann Pay.*

The Museum was summed up by the grandson of a local resident, obviously knowledgeable about Museums, who visited on 20 April: “That was the smallest Museum I have ever visited, but it was also the coolest”.*


Hopefully there is something there to impress visitors of all ages, as illustrated here. These two were more interested in trying on a few of the modern Fire helmets, that are available for any budding firemen to try!


Para 1: the Merryweather on display was in fact the unit that was bought as the Tichborne Park Fire Appliance, some time after Alresford acquired their (used) unit in 1908. Originally painted green, it was repainted like the Alresford appliance by volunteers in the 60s/70s.

Para 3: There is no record of a bugle being used in Alresford, to summon the volunteers to man the appliance. We know that the Alresford firemen were summoned by shouts and a maroon fired from the police station. [See Len Strong’s memory on this website entitled “Alresford’s Fire Service”]

Para 6: Ann Pay was never an “officially recognised” volunteer fire fighter in Alresford, as the volunteers pre-dated the Equality Acts! But the girlfriends and later wives of the firemen arguably volunteered for more hours of work and effort than the (male) firefighters, in cleaning and polishing the appliances and kit etc! In addition, there is a picture of Ann Pay in a fireman’s uniform on display in the Old Fire Station….. which was a special occasion!

Para 7: Planned opening days in 2019 are: 20 April, 13 July, 26 August, 14 September, and 15 September. The Museum will be open from 11am.

IMG_0211 small

The Alresford Fire Brigade deliver the Merryweather to its Alresford Museum home, the Old Fire Station in Broad Street, on 18 August 2018.

September 2019: Heritage weekend!

The weekend of September 14/15 saw the Museum open for two of its most successful days ever! Beautiful weather and the normal Heritage weekend, plus a vintage Brocante market in town on the Sunday, saw around 500 visitors to the Museum, to see the old Merryweather fire engine, plus a display of memorabilia about the Boeing B17 that crashed in Alresford Pond on 26th September 1943. Many thanks to all the volunteers that put on an excellent display!

While welcoming many ex-fire service volunteers and their families, there were lots of children (and older, grown-up children) wanting to have photos taken in Firemen’s hats and USAF flying caps!

The museum is now to be closed for the winter, during which time it is expected to be able to extend our exhibit space back into the building, to enable a display of further Museum exhibits for next Summer. These will include some of the dolls and soft toys from Alresford Crafts, the various local metal detector finds, and some of the brewing history of Alresford.



The Monkey Hut?

The Monkey Hut, in Alresford, was an unofficial name given to the Parish or Church Hall that was situated at the edge of the St John’s Churchyard in Station Road, alongside the footpath that is at an angle to Station Road, emerging close to the current Doctor’s surgery. It has already been mentioned in some Alresford Memories stories – see those from Pat Bentley and Gladys Ashe.

Image 1.jpg

The Monkey hut photographed from across Station Road, near the Surgery.

The hall was a wooden construction, but small, at the most 12 feet wide, shoe-horned in to a space at the top end of Station Road. It was demolished in 1981, and even older residents suggest it was built before their time, maybe in the 1920s: there is a 1930 aerial picture of Alresford town centre, where it is clearly visible. The roof was of corrugated iron, and the outside wooden walls were painted yellow (originally). It occupied a ‘waste’ patch of land between two footpaths that gave access to the Churchyard. One of these paths is still in use today, the ‘diagonal’ path, described above. The other was a path perpendicular to Station Road, which started from the same corner of the churchyard as the diagonal path. Both paths had a brick and flint wall defining the outer edge. The area covered by the waste ground between them can be seen as the red and green shaded areas on the 1980s aerial picture below, kindly supplied and marked up by Godfrey Andrews, at The original two paths are marked with the grey areas.

Gog 1980 R 035  with plan c 1980 R 035

As is indicated by these pictures, after the Monkey Hut was demolished, the land was subsequently used as a car park for the Swan Hotel, and has more recently been built on, to create Warwick Court. The Monkey Hut would have occupied the current vehicle entrance to Warwick Court.  Since the land was a triangular shape, the building itself was narrower at the churchyard end. The main entrance was on the South side, onto the diagonal footpath, through the narrowest end of a small patch of vegetation, as indicated by the green on the plan. But the opposite end of the building had to be much narrower, so that wall is angled inwards, making the whole floor-plan rather non-symmetrical.

The photo below was taken in 1968, by Simon Newman. This is taken from the churchyard, through the two pillars which frame the entrance to both of the paths: the triangle is finished off to a point by the posts and metal rails around some vegetation. The high window at the sharp end of the building was blacked out inside, at least in the 1950-60s: the hut was only a single storey.

Image 2

The Monkey hut in 1968. Picture by courtesy of Simon Newman

What was it used for?

Throughout the life of the hall, it served many purposes: Sunday Schools, Town Library, Brownies Meetings, Jumble Sales, Wedding Receptions, Dances, Parties, Whist Drives, Film Shows and Annual Dinners – many of the things a Community centre might provide. Pat Bentley remembered holding ‘Rock & Roll’ sessions for the younger townspeople there in the 1950s. Pat ‘borrowed’ the speakers for these sessions from the Cinema, located across the road, where he helped out. The Cinema building was almost opposite the Monkey Hut, on the other side of Station Road – the site is now occupied by parts of Alders Court. Both these old buildings, with their tin roofs, were very noisy when the rain or hail came down, inside it was rather like being inside a drum! Other people remember expeditions to the Monkey Hut from their primary school to attend ‘Religious Instruction’ lessons from the Vicar, in particular.

How did it get that name?

No-one actually knows the answer to this question, unless someone now tells us! But maybe the sight of all the primary school children filing into the building for RI, or the emergence of all the Brownies, in their uniforms, conjured up the image of a troop of monkeys emerging from the hut. The real ‘Monkey business’ probably was a phrase more relevant to the teenagers, who occasionally enjoyed dances and parties in there!

Please write a comment if you know anything about the origins of the name!

1950 Aerial photo of Windsor Road

Margaret Russell has kindly provided a copy of an aerial photograph taken over Alresford in around 1950, when the houses in Windsor Road were being built.

Scan 5 more contrast.jpg

1950 view of part of Alresford, Jesty Road on the left, Meryon Road at the bottom

The photo also clearly shows Jesty Road, Mitford Road and Meryon Road, plus Bridge Road and Ashburton Road: Covey Way, Ashburton Close, South Close and DeLucy Avenue are not yet built. Plus there are very few cars around! More interesting are the prefabs (chalet style bungalows) between Windsor Road and Ashburton Road.

It is possible that this picture was published by the Hampshire Chronicle more recently than 1950, and that this is a photocopy of that newspaper publication. Many thanks to them for finding this old pic in their archives!

The Twine family of Old Alresford

The Curtis Museum in Alton advise that they have been given a sales ledger from the village shop in Old Alresford, which existed in Kiln Lane around 100 years ago. This shop was run by the Twine family for many years, and was quoted as a grocery and brewery, plus also a Post Office. The website has two photos relevant, one showing the prosperous looking Twine family in their garden in 1908.

old-alresford-037_med Twine

The Twine family in 1908 (picture courtesy of

The ledger shows all the transactions, in terms of the items sold to the local inhabitants of OA, their names, the products sold, and the amount invoiced – it apparently covers several years of transactions. The Museum intends to donate the original ledger to the Hampshire Record Office for safe-keeping, but meanwhile the Alresford Museum is keen to find any descendants of the Twine family. Hopefully they might have other memories, photos or souvenirs from the shop and its activities.

old-alresford-053_med old brewery stores

Kiln Lane, and the shop, circa 1925. Photo shown by permission from