Archive for January, 2013

History of the Fulling Mill

The Fulling Mill, as described by Isabel Sanderson, in a pamphlet given away to tourists walking past the house by Mr Gush in the 1980s:

“This old Mill, situated on the parish boundary between Old Alresford and New Alresford, is a reminder of the period in the early 14th Century when there was a flourishing cloth trade in Alresford. Part of this prosperity was due to the construction of the Great Weir by Godfrey de Lucy, Bishop of Winchester, about 100 years previously. This resulted in the formation of Alresford Pond and the head of water thus formed supplied power to various mills situated on the banks of the canal that carried the water from the pond. One such mill is the present Fulling Mill.

[Editor’s note: the canalisation of the water flowing from the pond, past the Town Mill and along through watercress beds and past the Weir House, plus then the slope to accelerate the flow into the Fulling Mill, effectively ceases just downstream of this Mill, although the first section of the river bed downstream had been used previously as part of the road from Old Alresford to the Dean, presumably mainly before the creation of the Great Weir. It was still used as a route up into Victorian times.]

The high chalk downland in the neighbourhood of Old and New Alresford was, and still is, very suitable for the rearing of sheep. After shearing, the wool was spun by the women of the household and then woven on looms, the resulting cloth being known as ‘homespun’. Lengths of homespun cloth were brought by the weavers to the Fulling Mill for ‘finishing’. The cloth was first scoured to get rid of the natural oil in the sheep’s wool and this was followed by ‘fulling’ or ‘felting’. The length of cloth was wetted with soap and water and then well trodden with the bare feet: this is the origin of the name ‘Walker’. Later, machines were invented for fulling cloth, the essential part being heavy wooden mallets, hinged to an upright post and worked by water power causing the mallets to rise and fall alternately. The damp cloth was contained in a hollow vessel or Fuller’s pot and pounded with the heavy mallets until the cloth had shrunk the required amount.

After fulling, the fibres of the wool interlocked causing some shrinkage of the material. The same effect is produced when hand-knitted garments are badly washed. After rinsing, the cloth was stretched on a rectangular wooden frame called a ‘tenter’, fitted with many sharp hooks to keep it in shape and dried outside, probably in the garden of the Mill. When the cloth was dry it was brushed with ‘teasels’ – the tough, spikey flower heads of the teasel plant that was grown locally. This brushing removed loose fibres and raised a ‘nap’ on the cloth. To produce a smooth finish the nap was reduced by shearing evenly all over the surface of the cloth.

There is an interesting entry in the Borough Records for New Alresford in 1735. William Newland, fuller, was prosecuted for ‘erecting a grinding house for grinding Edge Toolls (sic) on the Common Marsh, to be removed in ten Days on pawn [fine] of two shillings’. This grinding house was possibly erected on part of the land now used by Mr Gush for growing fruit and vegetables [ie across the path to the south side of the house].

The Fulling Mill must have been in operation before the middle of the 17th Century when the Churchwardens’ Accounts for Old Alresford begin. The Mill belonged to the Bishop of Winchester who was the lord of the manor. Detailed accounts of each manor owned by the Bishop were recorded each year by his Steward and these would include those for the Fulling Mill. These priceless documents, dating from the early 13th Century, are preserved in the Hampshire Records Office in Winchester. Written in Latin on skins of parchment and rolled into bundles, they can only be transcribed by scholars.

The first entry in the Churchwardens’ Accounts in which the Fulling Mill is mentioned was in 1678 when Thomas Fielder paid 4d rate for Colonel Norton’s fulling mill: he continued to pay this rate until 1702. He was followed by Richard Budd who operated the Mill from 1704 to 1724. William Newland paid the rates from 1724 to 1740, and from 1741 to 1746 a Richard Budd worked as a fuller at the Mill. He may well have been the son of the former Richard Budd and his wife Mary, whom he married in 1724 when he was a widower.

In 1805 John Freemantle was assessed for rates on his annual rent of £3 suggesting that the Fulling Mill was no longer in use, although the cottage adjoining it was being used as a dwelling. It would seem that the cloth industry in Alresford had faded out by the second half of the 18th Century.

For many years the Fulling Mill was part of the Weir House estate, but since 1950 it has been the home of Mr and Mrs G B Gush. Many improvements have been carried out yet the basic structure of the old mill has been retained. The beautiful garden and unspoilt natural surroundings, far from the noise of traffic, create an atmosphere of peace and serenity where birds especially, find sanctuary.”

Dr I Sanderson.

Isabel Sanderson's sketch of the Fulling Mill from upstream.

Isabel Sanderson’s sketch of the Fulling Mill from upstream.

In the sketch of the Fulling Mill, also by Isabel Sanderson, the room over the river flow is shown with external boards: Mr and Mrs Gush developed this to be the kitchen area, with I believe some glass floor panels to show the water flow underneath. At the front of the house the stream emerges (from under the path) from two separate circular section channels.

scan308 Fulling Mill 1969 card

In this image used for a 1969 Christmas Card from A E Wade (see the separate story) the view is from the other side of the Fulling Mill, which is the normally photographed side!

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Flying Fortress crash in Alresford Pond

Nelson Trowbridge of Alresford recently wrote to the Alresford Historical and Literary Society:

“I feel sure you will know that in September 1943 the centre of  New Alresford narrowly escaped being blown up by a damaged B-17 Flying Fortress bomber (Lady Luck) of the 303rd bomb group, US 8th Air Force, which was carrying a full bomb load on course to crash at or near St John’s Church and the top of Broad Street.  The pilot, Captain Cogswell, ordered his crew to bail out then stayed with the plane and  steered it to a field on the far side of Old Alresford Pond.  He baled out at the last minute, and survived.

Captain Cogswell is a war hero who should be remembered.  In connection with this you might like to know that the exhibition of the Lady Luck events has been restored by Mike Adams in The Globe Inn and is now open for visitors to explore.  I hope your members will do this.  I donated my scale model of Lady Luck, a copy of my booklet  “Lady Luck: What really happened”, photographs and more. There is a lot to examine and think about.”

Editor’s notes: There is now a plaque, in Soke Gardens, honouring Captain Robert Cogswell: Soke Gardens can be found down the lane to the right of the ‘Globe on the Lake’ pub and the cottages next to it. This cobbled lane leads to the sluices, or “Shettles” which control the flow of water from the lake down the main stream that flows under the bridge, past the Town Mill and then forms the River Alre. It is said that the Shettles  were the landing place for the Bishop of Winchester on his travels to and from his palace at Bishop’s Sutton, presumably getting into a coach in front of the Globe. When first formed, the pond reached as far as his palace at Bishop’s Sutton, but over the years silting has reduced its size and depth.

In the 1980s when my son fished in Alresford Pond, from the Great Weir, he caught pike, trout – escapees from the Bishop’s Sutton fishing lakes – and carp. The largest carp caught by anyone was reported as 34lbs. More recently the otters have ensured that there are no more carp.

There is a photo of the Lady Luck crew on the Alresford Heritage photographs website, see http://www.alresfordheritage.co.uk/alresford-photo-collection/soke-pond–weir/p-017.html

Andersons – poultry and game, fishmonger and greengrocer.

In the Oxfam book “A Taste of Alresford”, by Sally March, published in 1985, Sandra Hart, manageress of the Anderson Fish shop at 8 West Street, writes:

“Some years ago the shop changed hands, but Alresford was so accustomed to calling the shop ‘Andersons’ that the present tenant, Mr Phillip Gay, reverted to the old name. The shop stocks a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including exotic cumquats and mangoes, lychees and limes. Even better, the watercress is fresh from its ‘bed’, the cream from its farm and the  trout from Mr Gay’s own ‘stewponds’ [at the trout farm in Drove Lane].

“The building still belongs to Mrs Rita Blundell of Ropley, the granddaughter of Mr and Mrs Henry Batchelor, who came to Alresford in 1915, and lived over the shop. Their daughter, Mrs Cecil Turner, later managed Crook’s Restaurant, which is now the greengrocery side of the present shop, and her husband ran the other side, the fish shop, called ‘Eureka Fish’ (try saying it to yourself). After the Second World War, rations and regulations made the catering so difficult that the Turners changed the restaurant into a greengrocer’s.”

Note: Rita Blundell is quoted widely on the photo website http://www.alresfordheritage.co.uk!

The Fulling Mill

“A Taste of Alresford”, by Sally March, published in 1985, advises:

When Bryan and Elinor Gush bought and restored the derelict Fulling Mill, standing astride the lovely River Alre, they little realized that in thirty-odd years it would attract visitors from all over the world.

In the 13th century, the English wool staple was at Winchester, where wool was sorted and graded. The Fulling Mill probably dates from then, soon after Bishop de Lucy had built his Great Weir, and where the River Alre now ran purposefully along its new path. The mill was built above the water, with a smooth slope down to it, where the woollen cloth could be washed and laid out to be dressed with powdered chalk (there being no Fuller’s Earth in the district). It was then trodden or beaten to rid it of excess oil, and to shrink and concentrate the loosely woven cloth. The industry declined when the staple was moved to ‘English’ Calais some time before 1452.

The Old Mill, almost surrounded by running water, has the most beautiful garden designed and cared for by Mr and Mrs Gush. They have also developed a small nursery alongside the river, where the old open swimming pool used to be. By selling its produce to passing visitors, they have raised £27,000 for charity since 1974.

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In 2013 the footnote to this is that Mr and Mrs Gush eventually retired to live in the Churchyard cottages in Alresford. The new owners restored the pond where the nursery garden had been created, and although this was stocked with fish these did not survive the attentions of the growing populations of otters in the area. Pictures of the thatched Fulling Mill itself feature on most Hampshire and local calendars, and tea towels, so that it is indeed known worldwide.

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The Cricketer’s Pub and the Golf Club

The Cricketer's Arms in around 1900, later to become the Links Laundry.  Photo copyright www.Alresfordheritage.co.uk

The Cricketer’s Arms in around 1900, later to become the Links Laundry. Photo copyright http://www.Alresfordheritage.co.uk

The Cricketer’s Arms takes its name from an earlier pub, in fact the pub that was sited at the other end of Tichborne Down, and indeed possibly stood on the edge of one of the first ever cricket pitches on what is now the golf course. This pub was known as the White Horse, but changed its name to the Cricketer’s Arms when the cricket square was created in front of the windows. This was where the number 5 hole was later sited, and then in 1985 the bypass also cut through this area of the golf course. This old building became a laundry, and was then divided into separate dwelling houses. In 1975, when the book “A Taste of Alresford” was written, Mike Burchett, landlord at the new “Cricketer’s”, was in fact a well-known local cricketer, having captained Winchester and played for Tichborne and the famous Hampshire Hogs. At this time, the pub had an “Off-Sales” entrance at the corner of the building, later removed to create a larger dining room.

The old Cricketer's pub in 1985

The old Cricketer’s pub in 1985

The pub was purpose built in the 1920s, with a clubroom attached for the use of the neighbouring golf club. The first tenant. W. Boniface, was in fact the club’s professional. In the garden are tables, children’s swings and a trampoline: the grounds of the Cricketer’s extend a long way behind the car park, reflecting the large land areas allocated to this and the three other houses built at the time in this area of the town – Shepherd’s Down, Fair View and Paddock Way – the other three have given way to more modern housing.

The Golf Club itself was founded in 1890 on land belonging to Sir Joseph Tichborne: the course was grazed by sheep until 1907. Charles Marks of Woking Golf Club was employed as the first professional greenkeeper, but he fell out with Sir Joseph and only stayed two years. The room at the Cricketer’s pub was used as the clubhouse until 1953, when a retired railway carriage was placed by the first tee and used as clubhouse for 16 years.

The above information is taken largely from Sally March’s book “A Taste of Alresford” published by Oxfam in 1985.

News of past students: 1955

Keeping in touch – with the Alresford County Secondary School

The editors of the Alresford County Secondary School (aka, or later to become, Perin’s) magazine, Volume 4, in 1955, recorded that it was the second time that they had been able to publish news of previous pupils, following a circular sent out requesting this. They write:

“A number of you, like Alan Watmore, have found that leaving school hasn’t meant goodbye to books, blackboards and lessons. He is in the Royal Artillery band, and besides playing the violin and learning to play the clarinet, he is hoping to take the General Certificate of Education. Christopher Robinson is serving with the Royal Air Force near Wolverhampton.

Sheila Kirby, who is a secretary working in Basingstoke, writes:- “Just recently I was chosen by the firm to be on our Lansing Bagnall Ltd exhibition stand at Earls Court – at the largest mechanical and agricultural show in the world. It was great fun,” Valerie Hamilton, working at the Winchester Commercial School, has gained her Royal Society of Arts Advanced 1st class certificate for typing, so now takes a class of pupils in typing. Ann Springer is a shorthand typist in the Hampshire Executive Council, National Health Office, Winchester. She may correspond with you if you have any complaints to make about your false teeth or spectacles!

Also engaged in office work are Shirley King, Ann Tee, Ann Bennett, Iris Giles. Ann Bennett enjoys her work and adds: “The days seem to fly by, but it seems rather strange not having so many holidays.” Shirley King’s first impression of an office was not a favourable one, but she has settled down to it now, and can recommend it to any boy or girl. Ann Tee is awaiting the result of a typing exam, so good luck Ann!

Pamela Hurn writes that she is a shorthand typist at the Alton Urban District Council, and she enjoys the work tremendously. She is now taking the advanced typing exam of the Royal Society of Arts. Good luck Pam!

Working on the land

We have heard from a number of people who are working on the land. Wilfred Joyce is farming. James Smith is a tractor driver. Roger Earp is a gamekeeper. Raymond White writes: “I shall always remember my first day on the farm, getting up at 6am, waiting for my first order – stone pickling. I was at that job all the first week and didn’t my back ache!”

Kenneth Stribling has put his comments about farming in verse, which we had to cut short:

I get up every morning

When mother gives the warning,

Then off to work I have to go

Just as the cocks begin to crow.

The spuds are all growing

The mangolds need hoeing,

There’s the harvest to be done,

So we’re hoping for more sun.

John Etheridge tells us: “In the eighteen months since I left school I have reared nearly 200 claves and I have just achieved my ambition by winning two prizes at the Royal Counties Show.” Diana Forcey looks after 18-30 calves. Stephen Simmons is doing agricultural engineering.

Most of us think that a bad egg is just a bad egg, but Ann Buckman knows that twenty-one different things can be wrong with it. She is an egg packer and candler and adds: “Candling is a process where the egg is held against a bright light, and this enables any fault to be detected.”

Other occupations

Margaret Shaw has now completed nine months of nursing experience. Now she is in the children’s ward, and finds herself reading stories to her patients from morning till night. Maureen Giles too, is at Alton Hospital. Mary Jennings is completing her last term at the pre-nursing department of the Technical College in Southampton. Evelyn and Margaret Underwood are working at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

Maud Cain finds interest and variety in dismantling old vehicles and steam engines. She is a metal sorter. Noel Trimmer is at Vickers-Armstrong. He is serving an apprenticeship as an aircraft fitter. Gerald Cornforth is an apprentice painter and decorator.

Owen Philpott has a thirst quenching job bottling beer in the Courage brewery. Raymond Davis is an estate carpenter, Yvonne Read hopes to begin her training in hairdressing at Christmas. Ann Laidlaw is still at the Winchester School of Art. We have also news from Shirley Brown, who is doing domestic work, Alexander Meek, and Alan Harmer. Alan is a bricklayer’s improver.

Best wishes to all old students!

River Life

River Life – From a Water Bailiff’s Notebook.

The river is a very interesting study. First there are the fish. In the Itchen there are trout. Fishermen from all over the country come to try to catch them on dry fly, for the Itchen is a dry fly river. Then there are pike which eat the trout and have to be kept down by the riverkeeper. There are also minnows, sticklebacks and bull-heads which boys and girls love to catch with jam jars on the end of a piece of string.

There are several kinds of river weeds: water celery, water crowfoot and starwort. The water crowfoot and water celery are the two best weeds for trout and fly, they make good cover for trout and good feeding for the fly larvae. Starwort holds plenty of shrimp. Some of the fly on the Upper Itchen are olive, iron blue, sherry spinners, red sedge, silver sedge, alders and black gnat. The olive is the most common of these fly, and most trout are caught on them. The commonest of birds on the river are the moorhen, coot, dabchick, duck, water rail and heron. The coot is black with a white bill. It eats river weed and insects. It makes its nest out of dry reeds and lays eight or nine greyish eggs with black spots on them. The young ones have a white breast until they are full grown. The mother will fight to defend her young. They have a short length of the river, and if any other birds come onto it, the coot will drive them away. The coot is not a very good flier and only flies at mating time.

The dabchick is a dark grey bird with legs set well back. It cannot walk on land, but is a good swimmer, and can stay under water for a long time. If it is on the surface when it sees you, it will dive under and you may not see it again. It makes its nest of river weed. The nest looks like a small pile of weed, with most of it under water, and only a little above. It lays its eggs on top of the pile and when it hears you coming, it will cover its eggs and dive under the water. The eggs are white when laid, but in time they get stained by the weed and turn a dark grey. The dabchick will drive the coot away from its nest by attacking it from underwater.

The water rail is dark brown in colour. It is a very shy bird and not seen as often as other water birds. The water rail’s nest is made of dry reeds, and is not often found. It feeds on river insects. Its call is not unlike a rabbit when a stoat has caught it.

The otter is found living in the Itchen. It is brown with a few grey hairs around its throat and mouth. It has webbed feet, very short legs, a long body and tail. It lives on trout, eels, crayfish and any other kind of fish in the river. It is a shy animal in its wild state, and if it sees you it will not be seen again. It leaves a tiny row of bubbles in its wake when underwater. The otter always uses the same places for coming ashore. If you see a place where it crosses over from one stream to another, you have only to look each morning and you will be able to tell whether there is one about, because it leaves its footprints on the path.

….by Rodney Norgate, Class 2.

Published first in the Alresford County Secondary School (later to become Perin’s school) magazine, Volume 4, of 1955.