A 1914 Description of Alresford

In Pursuit of Spring

Edward Thomas, in 1914, lived in London. That Spring, he decided to journey from his home, down through Guildford, Alresford, Salisbury and on to the Quantocks, on (and with) his bicycle. Whether he cycled all the way is not really clear at all. But his account of this journey was described in his book, “In Pursuit of Spring”. This gives an early account of the towns and villages, “Rich in literary associations and observations”. Robert Frost recognised this book as “A kind of poetry, having the cadences of fine verse”.

What drew me to this book was that Thomas, later a resident of Petersfield, took a camera with him on this journey, and has an interesting picture of the Avenue in Alresford, in 1914, before the older carriage track and path were covered over with grassed areas. Petersfield Museum put on a display of some of these photographs in 2017: the picture of the Alresford Avenue is shown below.

DSCN6006 The Avenue Alresford in 1914

More or less the same view in August 2017, with all the trees in leaf, is shown below. Obviously his original photo is taken from a higher viewpoint, maybe standing on his bicycle!

DSC04929

Further old pictures, circa 1900, of the Avenue and the various paths and tracks, can be seen in the AlresfordHeritage website collection, in the pages that feature the Avenue. Also the picture below from AlresfordHeritage shows these paths in the early 1900s, near the top of Pound Hill, and what is now the site of the ARC.

A 047

The Edward Thomas account

The book – the copy I have seen – is words only (it has none of his photos), ISBN 0 7045 0423 5, a 1981 reissue by Wildwood House, available from Hampshire Libraries, with an introduction by P J Kavanagh. It describes Farnham, Bentley, Holybourne, Alton and Fourmarks, before arriving in Ropley. The comments about Ropley, and Bishops Sutton, are shown below, before he enters Alresford.

96-97

Then he enters Alresford, ‘sad coloured, but not cold, and very airy’. At least East Street is no longer “sad” in colour! He considered Alresford was “Consisting of one street, plus a side turning, very broad”! The following pages also describe Alresford Pond in the words of George Wither, a poet, who praised the pond for its beauty:

98-99

So, Thomas then goes on to spend pages extolling the virtues of the Norgett family, who lived at Oldhurst. Anyone know where that is, or who they were?

100-101

The next extract sees him leaving Alresford, along the Avenue, where he stops to take a photo, and then he turns right along the Worthies road, but on the pages shown below does not get past Itchen Abbas.

110-111

The pictures

The Edward Thomas photographs, 53 of them, were unearthed by Rob Hudson, a Photographer specialising in landscapes, based in Wales. Rob has published them in his blog, of March 1st 2016, accessible via his website. A couple more are shown below, that might interest local residents.

Bishops+Sutton,+Hampshire

Bishop’s Sutton Church, 1914

 

Headbourne+Worthy,+Winchester

Getting dark, at Headbourne Worthy, 1914

 

 

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