Archive for February, 2013

The Home Guard in Alresford

A couple of photos have introduced the topic of the Home Guard in Alresford in WWII: was your Dad a member at that time? The picture below shows the Alresford Home Guard in WWII, and is from the Alresford Museum collection, waiting for names to be added. Len Strong has identified his Uncle, Bert Strong, the younger looking guy at the end of the middle row on the right.

Pat Young (nee Strong) has identified several more: on the back row from the left there is Jim White, Dennis Biggs, Mr Kemp, Unknown, Geoff Small, Unknown, Harry Meadows, Unknown, Mr Tremeer, and Andrew Duffy. The middle row has: Unknown, Unknown, Mr Clift, Unknown, Reg Faithful, Unknown, Archie Livingstone, and Bert Strong. The front row is more difficult, but fourth from the left, sort of in the centre position, is Trevor Childs.The Alresford Home Guard in WWII

The Alresford Home Guard in WWII

Added in April 2013: this photo was found in Arthur Stowell’s book called “The Story of Alresford”, and Arthur had identified most of the people and their occupations/addresses. So starting on the back row again we have Jim White, Dennis Biggs (Hankins Garage), Arthur Kent (The Dean), Dick (or Joe) Brazier (The Dean), Geoff Small (Painter/decorator, West Street), Unknown again, Harry Meadows (Grange Road), Bill Haslett (brother-in-law to old Tom Bennel), Tremeer Baker (The Dean), and Billy Smith (Van driver, The Dean – different to the above list!). MIDDLE ROW: Here we have Mr Curtis, Chappie Blake (World Stores, East Street), Cliff Baker (Blacksmith’s son, T M Bean), Harry Radbourne, Reg Faithful (Elinham’s Bakers, The Dean), Unknown, Mr Strong,  Ceril Strong (Pound Hill). FRONT ROW: Here is Mr Miles (Spring Lane), George Allen (West Street), Freddie Sayle (Hankins Garage, South Road), Trevor Childs (Miller, The Dean) Dickie Dymond (School Inspector, Jacklyn’s Lane),Peter Cheyney (West Street),Russel ? (New Farm Road) and Mr Lawson (West Street). (These are not necessarily all correct, because they only represent what Arthur was told by someone in the 1990s).

Peter Chalk was a member of the Army Cadets, which typically offered training for 12-18 year old boys in those days, and in the picture below he can be seen sitting with crossed legs at the very front at the right hand end of the group. Audrey Chalk thinks this photo was taken in the grounds of the Old Rectory at the top of Sun Hill: second from the right seated on the chairs is Harold Young, who says this must have been after 1945, because he didn’t get a uniform until then!

Harold and Pat Young have managed to identify all the people on this picture: on the back row, left to right, there is Maurice Russell, Jim Hunt, Ken Smith, Alan Miles, Nobby Clark, John Stevenson, Gordon Taylor, John Groves and Barry Young. Middle row is Tony Curtis, Cyril Bennett, Tony Smith, Frank Hazelgrove, Taffy Williams, Stan Williams, Harold Young and Ron Rustell. Seated cross-legged on the left is Ron Carver, who was an evacuee from Portsmouth.

The Alresford Junior Home Guard, 1940

The Alresford Cadets, 1945

On the http://www.AlresfordHeritage.co.uk website, there is another picture from 1940 which shows an anti-tank gun next to a pile of scrap metal being collected for the war effort. The gun was mounted on some concrete bases, positioned at the top of Pound Hill, next to the Perins school entrance: it was pointing down the Avenue, with the idea of defending the town against a German invasion and tanks coming from the Winchester direction.

Scrap metal being collected for the war effort, 1940

Scrap metal being collected for the war effort, 1940

What remains today are some of the concrete pillars that presumably prevented the gun recoil sending it down Pound Hill, and the concrete for the gun base, with a plaque. The inscription says “1940-45 – All that remains of Alresford’s anti-tank defenses against the expected German invasion after the Dunkirk withdrawal from Europe in May 1940. These defenses were manned by the Alresford Home Guard”.

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Another photo of the Alresford Cadets in the late 1940s has been found by Pat and Harold Young, seen below. Here we have, on the back row: Harold (Chub) Young, Geoffrey Porter, Punch Kempster, Jimmy Hunt, Tony Curtis, Tony Page, Denis Smith, and John Groves.

In the second row: Gordon Taylor, John Stevenson, Nobby Clark, Les Strong, Maurice White, Tony Smith, Barry Young, and Len Lewer. In front of them there is: Maurice Russell, Stan Williams, Unknown, Mr Pullen, Ken Young, Peter Young, and Michael Wilson, an evacuee.  In front there are Ken Moore, Cyril Bennett, Harvey Young and Mousey Hayes.

Another pic of the Alresford Cadets

Another pic of the Alresford Cadets

With thanks to Audrey Chalk, Pat and Harold Young, http://www.museum.alresford.org/gallerries/hist_images.htm and http://www.alresfordheritage.co.uk for the photos

 

The Gospel Oak

One of the photos shown at the “Nostalgia with Old Photographs” day, organized by the Alresford Museum in January 2013, was a picture of a very old oak tree stump, behind metal railings, said to be “The Gospel Oak” and located at Avington Park. While no-one present could shed any light on the story behind this tree, or advise on its location, a short account on the history of the Gospel Oak was found in a small booklet entitled “Round About Alresford” published in 1958 by the Art Department of Alresford County Secondary School (Perins). The account is attributed to “W.E.Pearce” and is reproduced below.

The Gospel Oak

The Gospel Oak in Avington Park - maybe in around 1900?

The Gospel Oak in Avington Park – maybe in around 1920?

“William the Conqueror appointed Walkelin Bishop of Winchester, and he, in 1079, began building the largest mediaeval cathedral in Europe. It is often claimed that this mighty structure was completed within fourteen years. When we consider the conditions under which this was done, it is difficult to believe that it was completed in so comparatively short a time. However, when the stone structure was nearing completion, wood for the roof became urgently necessary.

Bishop Walkelin the approached William and expressed his needs. The Conqueror, an enthusiastic hunter, eventually agreed to let Walkelin have as much wood as he could cut in four days and nights from Hampage Wood. It was typical of the spirit and enterprise of Walkelin that he assembled every available man and marched his army to the wood.

Within the allotted time the wood was as bare as if a swarm of locusts had settled on a field of young corn.

It is on record that when William rode out to his delectable wood, he swore profusely. One tree was left standing, an aged oak under which Saint Augustine, to whom the coming of Christianity to this country is credited, was said to have preached the Gospel.”

W.E. Pearce.

If you have a more modern photo, please let us see it!

The Nostalgia day photos can be accessed on this page on the museum website: http://www.museum.alresford.org/nostalgia/thumb/index.htm

Modern web-based information:

1) The Hampshire Library and Information Service adds the following picture from 1908, and the comment:

The hollow shell of a tree, kept together by iron bands and protected by an iron fence, still (1908) stands in the wood and is known locally as Hampage or Gospel Oak. The tree stands today (2004). The caption to the print shown gives a slight variant of the legend. Here, it was a petition of the neighbouring Priory of Yavington which saved the oak from the Bishop.

1908 sketch and newspaper story from Hampshire

1908 sketch and newspaper story from Hampshire LIS

2) Hantsweb gives the location as SU 542 311 2620 90, and has a TPO, but other modern reports suggest the tree is in poor condition, and dead.

The Bush at Ovington from 1920

The Bush Inn, Ovington, 1920 style

The Bush Inn, Ovington, 1920 style

Once upon a time there was a pub in Ovington, known as the Bush Inn. Actually the Bush Inn is still there, but it looks a little different now to the picture above. This old picture is believed to have been taken in the early 1920s, when Charles Coward and his wife Laura Emmeline ran the pub. Charles is pictured here with the white jug on the plate, in the middle of the row of people. Second from the right is George Smith, his son-in-law, and second from the left is Fred Biggs. The window that is open on the ground floor behind them was Laura’s parlour window, and very few drinkers were allowed through to sit in there. Nowadays the pub has been extended to the right and the bar continues through Laura’s parlour, past her fire, into a new room. D203 The Bush ovington 1920s

Some of the same group of drinkers appear in the second picture, now positioned near the door to the pub. This does not seem to be the door in the side lane, because the brickwork lacks the chimney, and the side of the building has some flint sections in the walls, so maybe the pictures are close to the pub doorway that opens into the garden. In the picture here Fred Biggs is on the left, and Charlie Coward is still dispensing from the tray.

The next two pictures show the side lane next to the Bush, used as a starting point for the local Hunt and their dogs. The side door to the pub seems to be in a different position to the current doorway, and has a porch with the advert for Bell tobacco.

D207 Bush

D206Charles Coward died in 1930, and his daughter Kathy, married to George Smith, and her mother Laura Emmeline managed the pub from then onwards. George worked on a farm in Bishop’s Sutton, primarily on the steam powered equipment used there. They had children Charlie, pictured here in the Bush garden with his grandmother Laura Emmeline, who lived with them at the pub probably until 1949, and also a daughter called Doreen.

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The final picture is taken at the Bush on Doreen’s wedding day in 1945, with George and Kathy to the right of the bride, and Laura next to Kathy: sitting on the extreme right is George Smith’s mother. Doreen married Ted Saint from Upham, whose mother ran the village shop in Upham, and is sitting to his right. Standing second from the right on the bride’s side is Una, who provided the photos and was another grand-daughter of Laura Coward: Una Coward lived in West Meon, but regularly cycled to the Bush to see the family.

D204

One of the biggest problems for Charles Coward was that a fair proportion of his customers and evening trade was from Itchen Stoke. There were many nights when the men from Itchen Stoke arrived home very wet and presumably having sobered up quickly, after a ducking in the river, trying to negotiate their way along the path to Itchen Stoke in the dark.

With thanks to Una Yeates of Alresford (nee Coward) for the pictures and background information

The Bush, as it was in September 2012

The Bush, as it was in September 2012

John Triggs and the Hampshire Cycle Regiment in WW1

John William Triggs was born at West Meon, Hampshire, in the summer of 1882: his father was also called John Triggs (1860 to 1929), a bricklayer and builder: one of the projects he worked on was to build various parts of St John’s Church in West Meon.
John Triggs junior had a sister called Annie Marie Triggs, who later had a daughter Una: it was Una, now Una Yeates, who provided these pictures and the background story.

After leaving school, John Triggs joined his father as a bricklayer: he also joined a band called the Band of Good Hope, and he is pictured here in the band – on the left, with the French Horn.

John Triggs (left front with the French Horn) in the Band of Good Hope, West Meon

John Triggs (left front with the French Horn) in the Band of Good Hope, West Meon

Prior to The Great War, John enlisted with the 9th Cyclist Battalion, known as the Hampshire Cycle Regiment, which was formed in 1911: in the picture below, taken with St John’s Church at West Meon in the background, he is third from the left. The Cycle Regiments originated in the 1880s, and were used very effectively instead of horses for the troops in the South African War, and were later used for reconnaissance and communications work. Initially at least they were not used on active service overseas in the Great War, as they were not effective in the trenches in France. At the start of the Great War they spent a lot of their time patrolling the coastal defenses along the south coast.

Hampshire Cycle Regiment, circa 1910: John Triggs is third from the left.

Hampshire Cycle Regiment, circa 1910: John Triggs is third from the left.

You will note, particularly in the detailed enlargement of one section of the picture, the moustaches popular with the Sargeants in charge of the troops at the time, presumably they shaved them off in WW2. Also see the rifles on special mounts on the bicycle frame, and the oil lamps on the bicycles.

Detail of the cyclists and equipment!

Detail of the cyclists and equipment!

The next picture was taken at Devonport, presumably just before John Triggs’ embarkation to France. Possibly John was in the cycle regiment as a Territorial volunteer, and as the war progressed he had wanted to volunteer: so he had to enlist once more, as a regular soldier. He was recorded as being 29554 Lance Corporal John William Triggs in the 2nd Battalion, of the Hampshire Regiment, having enlisted with them at West Meon. With the Hampshire Regiment, John fought at the battle of the Somme throughout the Summer of 1916.

John Triggs at Devonport

John Triggs at Devonport

But it was later, on Saturday 14th October that he was killed. The day was overcast, but the Battalion was not actually involved in any major actions.
They were in positions to the North of Delville Wood.
By the end of the year there was only one tree standing and alive in the wood.

Possibly he was involved in a working party or a trench raid,
because 11 other men from the Battalion were also killed on that day.

His name is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme battlefield.

Background information supplied by Una Yeates of Alresford, John Triggs’ niece.

A day at the Seaside – by Charabanc!

Len Strong recalls memories of a drive to Southsea in Mr Vickers’ coach, known then as a “Charabanc”.

As far as I can recall I don’t think the workers had a mandatory annual holiday in the 30s. I know my dad never had a weeks holiday, he seemed to always be at work 52 weeks of the year except for the odd day off at Easter, Christmas etc, but one Whit-Sunday, Grandad hired a charabanc and took the whole family on a day trip to Southsea.

With my Aunts & Uncles, cousins, mum and dad and grandma and grandad we were about twenty-five in all. Mr Vickers who ran a bus service from the Dean in Alresford, provided the charabanc. Gran, Mum and Aunts provided a picnic lunch and dad put a hat-pin in his jacket lapel. When I asked him ,’what for’?, he said “That’s for my winkles!”.

We all piled aboard the old bus and settled down for the thirty odd mile journey to ‘Pompey’. After passing through Petersfield, and up over Butser Hill all our eyes were on the horizon to see who could be the first to catch a glimpse of the sea.

Finally we pulled up by Clarence Pier and disembarked all agog and anxious to get on the beach but had to be restrained till deck-chairs had been sorted for the ladies and Dad and Uncles had called at the shell-fish stall for a pint of whelks or winkles and we kids had persuaded parents to buy us a bucket and spade.

Eventually we got to take off our clothes and into our bathers and were able to run down the beach and into the sea with constant warnings of  ‘Don’t go in too far’ and ‘Watch that big wave’. The beach at Southsea is mainly pebbles and shingle so to make sand-castles we had to go right down to the water’s edge to find any sand which meant as fast as we made castles a wave came in and washed them away, but we enjoyed ourselves. Mum and several Aunts relaxed in their deck chairs and Dad and the Uncles used their hat-pins to prise the winkles from their shells, the sun shone and we all suffered from sunburn and all too soon it was five o’clock and Mr Vickers was calling, “time to go”.

On the way home we called at a pub “The West Meon Hut”. We kids had a packet of Smiths crisps with the little wad of salt in a blue paper and glass of lemonade and the grown-ups had their suitable refreshments and the rest of the journey was accompanied with an impromptu sing-song, ‘Show me the way to go home’, etc, and by the time we reached Alresford, most of we kids were fast asleep. Happy Days!!

A new home for Gilbert Platon and his VA flowmeters

VA (Variable Area) flowmeters are often known as Rotameters, although this is a trade name. The flowmeter design uses a vertical glass tube, and has a rotating ‘float’ in the tube. Flow of a liquid or gas up the tube makes the float rise, and its position against a scale gives the flow rate. These meters are most commonly seen in anaesthetic trolleys, giving the anaesthetist a fairly foolproof view of the gas/air flow to a patient. But they are also used industrially, on chromatographs, in welding equipment, on moisture analysers and gas mixers. Stainless steel versions and those with electronic read-outs and alarms also exist.

The GEC Rotameter was developed, maybe in the 1920s, in Kent, and then the factory moved to Crawley. A parallel company developed in Germany which produced a ‘Rotamesser’. Chief engineer or similar at GEC was Gilbert Platon, who decided not to move to Crawley and took Government incentive grants to move to the other new town of Basingstoke. There he set up his own company known as G A Platon, to produce VA flowmeters, which was eventually located on the Viables Industrial Estate. His company prospered, mainly through the use of an A5 size catalogue known as the Flowbits catalogue, which became indispensable for laboratory technicians. His flowmeters were called GAPmeters, rather than Rotameters, after GAPlaton, and the crucial gap between the float and the side of the glass tube.

At the end of the 1980s Gilbert sold his business to the first of several industrial investor companies, and retired to a flat in Ellingham Close in Alresford. His daughter(s) had also settled around Alresford, one had a dress shop in the town. The subsequent owners of his business progressively ratcheted up the expansion expectations they had, particularly for the Flowbits catalogue. But by the end of the 90s the Internet had arrived, and the catalogue did not make the transition, and the business folded, mainly being absorbed into a factory in Sheffield.

Several of the key employees in Basingstoke at that time, including the Technical Director, Mark Towner, with some of the key Platon development personnel and Flowbits sales staff, formed a new company in around 2000 to manufacture and sell similar VA flowmeters to the Platon flowmeters. After a few years working from a factory base in Wimborne, the factory moved to Alresford, and is located in a unit in the Dean. It is now called Influx Measurements.

Gilbert Platon almost made 100 years old, not too far from where his products were still manufactured, living in a flat in Ellingham Close.

Written by Nick Denbow, of Alresford, who worked for Platon Instrumentation and Platon Flowbits as Marketing Manager from 1991 until the crash of 1999. See http://www.flowbits.com 

Alresford – The UK centre for Ultrasonic Flowmeters?

Way back in 1975, as a young graduate working in electronic and industrial instrumentation, I was living in Hillingdon, Middlesex, and started work for a firm known as Bestobell Mobrey in Slough. In those days the job was fairly unique: it was to look at research work at Universities and other centres, and find some technology ideas with commercial potential that the company could license and develop into viable products for sale. Obviously the products preferably had to relate to the existing Mobrey business – which was in steam boiler water level controls and valves, with some new developments in ultrasonic liquid sensors.

One obvious market area of interest was in industrial flow measurement systems, and this was pursued separately in the eventual purchase in 1977 of a turbine flowmeter company in Baldock, previously known as EMI Meterflow. Turbine flowmeters use a rotating vane, like a windmill, driven by the flow, with sensors to measure how fast the blades rotate. This process took around 2 years, so in that period I also was searching for other more modern flowmeter devices.

Finding a new flowmeter product

One route used in those days, before the internet, was to search Patent Applications for relevant ideas. I found a patent application relating to a Doppler ultrasonic flowmeter, which was interesting because it used an external clamp-on sensor like a stethoscope to measure the flow inside a pipe! I wrote to the patentee, Thomas Evans, since his home address in Norfolk was given on the patent, and then met up with him. He was just the sort of person my bosses hated, a boffin who would not tell you anything helpful. What’s more Mr Evans was living on social security, and keen to get some form of income from his patent. So I persevered.

The patent was fairly irrelevant, not that important. But Mr Evans the boffin had actually got a little firm in Southport who was making a few of these flowmeters that were based on his ideas. This was United Automation Ltd, run by Norman Hambley, and a visit up to Southport showed there was indeed a product of potential interest to Bestobell Mobrey. There was no problem in negotiating with United Automation to continue and indeed increase production and supply the flowmeters labelled as Mobrey products, for us to sell and promote. But there was a different sort of problem that emerged, in that Mr Evans had signed an agreement with a Cheshire based flowmeter consultant, Cyril W Nugent, whom I was aware of from previous research into other different styles of flowmeter. The agreement licensed his Doppler flowmeter product to Cyril Nugent’s company.

Obviously the way ahead was for Mr Evans to terminate his agreement with CWNugent, and sign a new deal with Bestobell. But social security payments do not cover solicitor’s fees, so Bestobell had to fund a solicitor to act for Mr Evans to terminate the existing agreement with CWNugent, and sign a new deal with Bestobell Mobrey. That went well, until Mr Evans started demanding too much commitment from Bestobell: apart from a minimum royalty of around £5000 a year, then a percentage of sales after that for the life of his patents*, he wanted the company to fund him to research further developments of his patents. He was obviously looking to extend his income stream into future years. This was overcome by our MD quietly reminding the solicitor acting for Mr Evans that Bestobell was paying his bill, and it was in his own interests to come to a deal.

Production, launch and success

So Bestobell went ahead and United Automation started some bigger production runs, and the product was launched in parallel with the Meterflow acquisition in 1977. Personally I got a pay rise, with the instruction that I had to manage all the interface with Mr Evans, and keep him away from the company premises as much as possible!

An interesting aside in relation to the launch of the Doppler flowmeter to the sales force was that we provided around a dozen portable units that they could use as battery powered demonstration equipment. The sensor had to be pressed onto the side of the pipe to be monitored, with some grease as a couplant between the sensor face and the pipe wall. The best grease to use, with least effect on the salesmen’s hands and clothes, was KY Jelly. This was not available from our normal industrial suppliers, so I was despatched to buy 12 tubes of KY Jelly from the nearest branch of Boots. The pharmacist came out to see me to ask why I needed so many tubes, which would take all their stock. I just innocently explained that I needed one tube for each one of our sales engineers! I didn’t know it had other uses….but they did give me some funny looks.

The Bestobell Doppler flowmeter went on to sell well, all around the world, and sales at their peak during the 1980s I believe reached around £1m a year. By this time Mr Evans’ patent had lapsed, but he had had a really good income for about five years. Norman Hambley in United Automation undoubtedly had other aspects to his business, but he continued as the production centre for the flowmeters, and bought a Rolls Royce with some of the proceeds: he let me drive it on one visit up there in the late 1980s. Technology then moved on to develop other more accurate ultrasonic clamp-on techniques, and that product range tailed off.

How does this relate to Alresford?

In 1981 one of my old bosses from the time I spent working at the Plessey Research Laboratories in Havant as a raw graduate contacted me and recommended me for a job with Redland Automation in Kingsworthy. It was a similar business development rôle, and we knew the area, having often visited my Godmother for Sunday lunch, who lived in Ropley, so it seemed like a good opportunity to move out of London and to a better house. In August 1981 we moved to Alresford, and settled in Carisbrooke Close, a road with 10 houses.

Redland Automation then did a management buy-out from Redland, and became independent, with no rôle for me. For about a year I worked for the ex-boss in his part of the company, which put flowmeters into sewers in Birmingham, but I slowly worked out that I did not like that, it was dirty, and smelly, and that was before you went down the sewer. So I transferred back to Bestobell Mobrey in Slough, back to my old job more or less, driving up there every day.

The Carisbrooke Close Christmas party

It was maybe in 1987 that all the neighbours in Carisbrooke Close came together for the regular Christmas party get-together. Working in Slough and consequently leaving early and getting home late meant I had not met the new neighbours, who had moved in two houses away from us. At the Christmas party I was told to go and have a chat to him, because he was in the flowmeter business too! I chatted to him for a while, but knew I had never met him before: he was a lot older than I, and appeared to be retired. However he knew quite a lot about electronic flowmeters – he was mainly talking about temperature based sensor units. Eventually I asked his name – he was Cyril Nugent, the man who had been the consultant from Cheshire, whom we had manoeuvred out of his agreement with Thomas Evans. Luckily I was sober enough not to blurt anything out! We actually became quite good friends, discussing flowmeter ideas from time to time, but I never did tell him the whole history!

There must be some reason two of the main players in the Doppler flowmeter business ended up next door but one to each other in a street in Alresford!

Nick Denbow.