The History of the Alresford Community Centre

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A drawing by A E Wade dated 1958. Reproduced from the Alresford Museum archives with permission.

The building now normally referred to as the Alresford Community Centre has a long history in the town: working backwards, it has been previously known as the Alresford Town Hall, the Alresford Market House, and the “Rose and Crown” Inn. In fact the ‘Rose and Crown’ days were in the period just before 1865, when the present building was constructed. The earliest reference found to a dwelling on this site is in 1685, when on 27th November, Abigail Bath, the owner, sold the property to Thomas and Joane Standen, on a 500 year lease of one peppercorn per annum. [In those days spices were more valuable than ordinary money, and becoming more popular (and therefore expensive) by the year]

26th July 1865

The ‘Rose and Crown’ at this time was owned by Edward Hunt, a well-known name in Alresford, who owned the brewery in West Street. In July he sold the deeds to the ‘Alresford Market House Company’ for £550. The property at this time comprised two parts. The main part, on the West side, later to become the Community Centre, (now 7 West Street) was occupied by a Joseph Anderson (possibly the ex-landlord). The ‘messuage’ on the east side (now 5 West Street) was occupied by William Spary. This messuage on the east is the small dwelling that later became the Portman Building Society offices, and is now occupied by the Nationwide Bank.

It is assumed here that it was the Alresford Market House Company that built the imposing new building, with the large front room, presumably for the market, and a meeting room upstairs. This is also suggested by the coat of arms at the top of the front fascia, which has the Alresford crest with the letters AMHCL written above the shield, and the date of 1865 below. AMHCL = Alresford Market House Company Ltd.

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The Market House in 1906. Photo published from www.Alresfordheritage.co.uk with permission

29th August 1924

In 1924, the main building had become known as the “Town Hall”: earlier tenants had been a John Simms, and a Thomas Burly – most recently it was a Stephen Hoffe. But on 29th August the Market House Company went into voluntary liquidation – after 59 years of operating the building. Arthur Whale, an accountant, was the liquidator, and the property was sold to Miss Mary Matilda Baker, of Mitford House, Broad Street, for the sum of £800. Alresford Memories readers will have read about Kingsley Baker in another story on this website, and how after WW1 the Baker family financed the building of houses for returning soldiers, in New Farm Road. Presumably Miss Baker was part of this family.

The deal with the accountant included the house at 5 West Street, then occupied by William James Adams. It also included a weighbridge outside in West Street. The accountant also tidied up the peppercorn lease, enlarging it into a “fee simple” – presumably buying out the freehold and ending the lease.

Miss Baker’s tenants 1924-1942

There were many tenants in this period! The Meryon Hall (downstairs – note the reference to Dr Meryon’s name) was let to Hazelgrove and Son as a butchers shop for £44-4-0 a year.

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The Hazelgrove shop in the downstairs room (The Meryon Hall) in the 1920s.  Photo by permission from Alresfordheritage.co.uk

H Royle had the use of the large room on Sundays for £5 pa, and the small room for one hour on Thursdays for 2s 6d a week. But the Foresters and the Oddfellows each took the small room on alternate Tuesdays for £4-4-0 pa each. (Nowadays Tuesdays are taken up with the Giles Group coffee morning – they have obviously taken the place of either the Foresters or the Oddfellows!)

The Medical Officer of Health (Dr Cronk) had the use of the main room and two small rooms for one day a week, for the Child Welfare clinic (10 shillings) and the Ante-Natal clinic (7s 6d).

In the 1930s, the upper room was used as a Magistrates Court for the Petty Sessional Division of Alresford. In 1935, Miss Baker upgraded their facilities by creating a retiring room for the Magistrates (cost to her was £62-5-0) and the rent for the two rooms was increased from the previous £25 pa to £29-10-0 pa. This was in a five year lease starting 29 August 1935.

15th September 1942

Miss Baker now sold the two properties to Henry Joseph Phair Esq, the stationer, who later occupied the corner shop and newsagents at the top of Broad Street on the East side. The sum involved was £1100. The sale agreement included the house at #5, then occupied by Mr Jupe, but did not mention the weighbridge. It also stipulated that no intoxicating liquor should be sold from the premises.

In 1946 Mr Phair updated the lease of the upper room and the retiring room for the use of the County Council as a Magistrates Court, at £60 a year, and in January 1953 the lower hall was let for £10 a year for sittings of the Juvenile Court, with an added fee of £3 for the rent and use of an electric fire.

1st February 1958

Mr Phair now sold the Town Hall to a Trust, formed by the Alresford Chamber of Commerce, which included local business men and gentry. They paid the £2000 cost via a mortgage granted by Mr Phair, at 6% interest. The nominated Trustees were Charles Evelyn Meryon (Doctor), Hugh Robertson Leishman (Doctor), Geoffrey Brian Gush (Company Director), and Henry Cleeve Mills (Farmer).

5th October 1964

After 7 years, the Trustees were directed by a Chamber of Commerce resolution to “Hold the Trust Property for and on behalf of the Alresford and District Community Association”. The Trust deed giving the constitution of the ADCA is written around this resolution, and gives the Council of the Association “Management and Control of the Trust property, but not ownership”. The ADCA has continued this responsibility to the present day.

Events in the 1970s

Between 1970 and 75 the original Trustees either died or resigned, and new Trustees were appointed, like Major Covill, Mr R E Witchard, John Arlott and Gordon Scrase. On 29th March 1977 the cottage at 5 West Street was sold to Morris Dibben, for £9500.

The ADCA in 2018

The ADCA is a Registered Charity, and continues to manage the Community Centre on behalf of the townspeople of Alresford. Current Trustees are Mick Atterton and Gareth Rees, but there is wide community representation on the management committee. Main contacts there are Brian Clark for bookings of the rooms, Ian Wilcox as Treasurer, Moyra MacRae as chair of the fundraising committee, and Jackie Earthy as ADCA Secretary.

The photo below shows the Albert Wade drawing of the Community Centre in 1958, almost 100 years after it was first built. This drawing is perhaps in its finished form with some colour – this is published with permission from Gog Andrews – see his website on www.alresfordheritage.co.uk for this and other historical local pictures.

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Discussion points arising

Following this historical summary, which was taken from an explanatory document in the ADCA’s records, these are the current unknowns: (Comments added by Nick Denbow 2 March 2019)

  1. The town weighbridge was sited at the edge of West Street (in the current lay-by), either outside the current Matheson Optometrists (1-3 West Street), or outside number 5 West Street. The office dealing with the weighbridge measurements was in one of these buildings.
  2. The building at #5 was constructed in 1865 as a part of the Market Hall (the photo shows it had no front door access of its own, as late as 1906). After the Market House Company went into liquidation in 1924, it is possible that Miss Baker continued to sublet rooms at #5 to Mr Adams. But it is believed there was an internal door or passageway between #5 and #7, and that there was a small meeting room at the back of #5 on the ground floor. This may be the “Small Room” that was subsequently let to the Foresters and Oddfellows at times, and later used by Dr Cronk, the Medical Officer of Health (Indeed this explains the sentence in the Community Centre records, where Dr Cronk rented the main room and two smaller rooms – without a meeting room in #5, two small rooms would not have been available). The front of #5 was an “office”, possibly for market house admin, but even possibly for the weighbridge admin.
  3. After WW2, there are memories of such a separate small room on the ground floor of the Market House being used for health clinics, ante-natal clinics, vaccinations etc – possibly the Market House had also evolved into an NHS health centre used by medical practitioners. In 1958, when the Trust was established to take care of the building, it is notable that two of the main Trustees were the town’s busiest Doctors, who could have been the most regular users of the Market House facilities. It is also notable that Wade’s 1958 drawing shows no separate front door for #5 at that time.
  4. It is not known when the current ladies toilet was completed/modernised on the ground floor of #7, but it is noticeable that this room extends into the floor plan of #5, with a doorway through the partition wall between the buildings. This must have been completed  before the sale of #5 in 1977.

 

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