The work of Frederick Charles Batchelor of Alresford, 1840-1931: an article by Adrian Jones of Kingsworthy, 2006.
Examples of his bottles are currently on display in the Library in Broad Street, which has been organized by the Alresford Museum section of the New Alresford Town Trustees. [See the separate article about this display.]
It is fitting that in the 75th year since Frederick Charles Batchelor’s death in 1931,
the location of his grave has finally been found in St John’s Alresford Parish Church yard.
For many years fruitless searches were made attempting to locate the headstone of his
final resting place. However recent reference to the Alresford Monumental inscriptions
held in the Hampshire Records Office revealed that the family plot was numbered 85 and
also contained the graves of his wife Frances and his son Walter.
On returning to the Church and using for reference graves listed nearby, his plot was
located, but nothing on the surface betrayed the grave site, unfortunately it had no
headstone! However just below the overgrown wild grass was found the stone carved edge
to Frederick, Frances and Walter’s grave.
This corner of the churchyard is actually an award winning conservation area deliberately
left for nature to reclaim. All the graves in this area are very old, and in the Summer
there is a beautiful display of wild native flowers attracting insects and butterflies.
Kindly Chris Lillywhite, who is responsible for the churchyard, allowed permission for
a sympathetic tidy of the grave, enabling the inscriptions to be read without damaging
the established natural growth or spoiling the tranquil corner.
As a child in the 1970s I first became acquainted with the name of F.C.Batchelor of
Alresford and Alton when I dug up some old bottles embossed with it. Since then I have
acquired several different variations of bottles used by him. Alresford is not a large town,
and with a little research I decided I would try to find out more about the man and his
Batchelor’s Early Life
Frederick Charles Batchelor was born in 1840 and lived in Ovington, his mother died young, and his father George, a carpenter, brought up Frederick and his sister Ann with the help of his sister-in-law. In 1861 the family moved to 49 Broad Street Alresford where his father sold household goods and china from the building. Frederick took over a carrier’s business at the age of 21, taking horse drawn goods between Alresford and Basingstoke three times weekly. It was with this business that he developed a great love for his horses, and was later to use them for deliveries of his mineral waters even when it was not economically viable. By 1870 he had started manufacture and sell lemonade, mineral waters and ginger beer. He married Frances and they lived in lodgings before buying 49 Broad Street from his father in 1879.
He then began to concentrate on his mineral waters business, but also kept the carriers business going. He brought goods from Basingstoke to sell from the front room of 49 Broad Street, becoming a hardware supplier. He continued selling china and earthenware, but also did a great trade in candles and lighting oil, and also became the biggest supplier of sugar locally. It was bought in bulk and then sold to Alresford residents in smaller amounts. It is believed that the sugar was delivered to him via the nearby railway station. With so much to do, he asked his wife Frances, well known locally as Frannie, to run the hardware and china business. She was very successful and in time was able to purchase a Tea Shop in West Street, and also a bakery that supplied the tea shop and the locals. In 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee she has an advertising plate produced, with a picture of the Queen in the centre and F.C.Batchelor’s name around the rim. You have to remember that her success was at a time when a Woman in business was very unusual, but perhaps she was able to use Frederick’s good name to her advantage.
Batchelor’s house at 49 Broad Street – Pineapple House
With his wife Frances running part of the business, Frederick was able to concentrate on his mineral waters. H produced many different drinks beverages, including Codd’s Wallop, a type of lemonade mineral water, that was sold in returnable codd bottles with the marbles. He also sold Iron Brew, containing not only iron but also Vitamin C: many people at that time were suffering from deficiencies and even malaria, brought back from India, so it sold very well, it was said to be similar to Guinness, but alcohol free. However his most popular product was his ’Great British Brewers Exhibition, London 1901, Gold Medal winning Ginger Beer’. In the years prior to and following the Gold Medal, he won both the Bronze and Silver medals for this ginger beer. This was a huge achievement because at that time there were thousands of different Ginger Beer manufacturers nationally. He was extremelyproud of his win, and went on to show images of his medals in his advertisements. He even had his pocket watch fob made into a miniature copy of the medal. He never revealed the award winning secret recipe, even after substantial amounts of money were offered to him. It is said he took the recipe to his grave.
A meeting with his relations
Last year I was lucky enough to meet his nephew, now aged over 85, who’d traveled over to try, unsuccessfully, to locate his grave. He could remember him as a child. Much of this article came from my meeting with him. He said that his uncle was very straight laced, and he kept out of his way, being a little afraid of him: ’children should be seen and not heard’ was very apt.
Frederick was very religious, disliking anything to do with alcohol. He showed me pictures of Frederick, but best of all he even had the original dated medals awarded for the quality of his Ginger Beer. Surprisingly, even his family, who were with him at the time, didn’t know they still existed, and I had the thrill of actually holding them. He told me a very interesting piece of information: when the family occasionally got together, Frederick would always tell this story, because it made him laugh. At that time most ginger beers were made using a ginger concentrate, however some manufacturers also added fresh ginger during manufacture to improve the taste. The weekly delivery boy with the ginger concentrate said to Frederick one day, ”Mr Batchelor, we all know by the taste of your ginger beer that you use fresh ginger” and Frederick replied ”Yes of course I do” and had a good laugh afterwards! This was because he never used any fresh ginger, only the concentrate, and he said in hushed tones that the only secret ingredient he used was from his well, Alresford water and its superb quality! Perhaps the distinctive tasting ginger beer’s great secret was just its Alresford water? [Maybe more likely from the extra taste provided by the work at Tanyard Cottages just down the hill? – Editor] The well is still situated in the courtyard of 49 Broad Street today.
Frederick’s drinks were so successful that he also began trading from Alton’s Pound Hill. His minerals were delivered to the local pubs and shops, all within one day’s horse and cart distance: he supplied as far as North Waltham and East Meon but never Winchester. In his early days Batchelor was in the Hampshire Volunteers; later he volunteered for Alresford Fire Brigade, the fire station was opposite the business. He was regularly in the crew, being able to respond to the alarm calls immediately – he eventually became the Captain. He was one of the original Parish Council members, and when younger did much to help the Alresford people. He was a Freemason of the Shalden Lodge, and became the eldest member and senior trustee of the Loyal Unity Lodge of Oddfellows.
In 1929 Frances his wife died, at the age of 83, three years later on the 14th August 1931 Frederick died at the grand old age of 91. His funeral was attended by a who’s who of Hampshire, most of Alresford’s shops closing for the afternoon as a mark of respect. His business continued under the stewardship of his son William, but when he died in 1949 the business finally folded.
A Future Memorial?
It surprises me that there are no memorials to Frederick Batchelor, a native of Alresford, who lived in the vicinity all his life: a great Humanitarian sand British Champion he had cared about his community and provided employment. At least his grave can now be viewed by visitors to the churchyard and his legacy lives on in the form of his bottles that held his precious and award winning beverages. Perhaps one day the local planners will honour him with a memorial or name a road or place after him, as is the local tradition.
I would like to thank my friend Charles Docherty and his father Chris J Docherty for research, together with Chris Lillywhite, churchyard custodian, and the relatives of Frederick for their information enabling me to complete this.
If anyone has any photos of Frederick or related to his business at 49 Broad Street or has any information not mentioned I would love to hear from you to perhaps take copies.