The Hurdle House

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The Hurdle House, sited in Sheeplands Paddock (from the alresfordheritage.co.uk 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:

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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.

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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 (youtu.be/nBN-u7L_Mzw). Their photographer, James Morris, presented the photos on their website, one of which is shown below.

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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.

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Long Barn Lavender sales and garden centre

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The Sheep Fair Field, now devoted to lavender growing.

Photos courtesy of Godfrey Andrews of AlresfordHeritage.co.uk, 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.

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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.

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

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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 (alresfordheritage.co.uk) 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”).

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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.

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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!

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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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..;;

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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 Maggie.Shelton@hiwwt.org.uk, 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!