The Hurdle House

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The Hurdle House, sited in Sheeplands Paddock (from the alresfordheritage.co.uk collection)

A Hurdle House is recognised as a specific, but rare type of building, meant for the storage of the hurdles used typically to create pens for the sheep in a Sheep Fair. The annual sheep fair was very important to Alresford…. not only was there a Hurdle House for the hurdles, but there was the Fair Field – known locally as Sheeplands Paddock – basically dedicated to the Sheep Fair. Presumably this helped attract the herders, as they would know it as a good, standard location to sell their flocks every year.

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An Alresford Sheep Fair,  with pens made from hurdles, held in Sheeplands Paddock

The sheep fair from at least 1835 until 1864 was held in the original Fair Field, East of Sun Lane, opposite what is now the houses of Edward Terrace: it also extended south, presumably as far as to include the site of Langtons Farm. But the railway arrived, and to build the railway line through Alresford the Fair Field was bisected by the railway line and the associated cutting through the chalk.

Raymond Elliott tells the story of establishing the new Fair Field, and building the new Hurdle House on the North side of the Bishops Sutton Road, in his story in Alresford Displayed (Volume 6, 1981). The land was owned by Winchester College, but leased to the Bailiff and Burgesses of Alresford.  They asked William Henry Hunt, a local architect, to design and build the Hurdle House in 1864. Hunt showed his love of good brickwork in the “quoins. jambs and string courses together with panels of grey knapped flint-work and again red brick dressings around the door and window openings, circular ventilation openings and including decorative eaves and gable ends”. The building was about 75 feet long by 19 feet wide and 12 feet clear height inside from floor to underside of the roof timbers.

                     The photos show the hurdles inside the Hurdle House, and sheep arriving                                                along the Bishops Sutton road, outside Sheeplands Paddock,                                            where the Long Barn now stands

The Hurdle House was well used, and the sheep fairs thrived, with 20,000 sheep recorded as sold there in 1885. Slowly the numbers declined… there was no fair held in 1971, and in 1980 the Town Trustees returned the Hurdle house and Sheeplands Paddock to the Freeholders (Winchester College) – taking care to apply for listed building status before doing so.  The College quickly sold the property to a private owner. In June 1981 there was a major fire in the building, which destroyed the original roof.

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The 1971 fire at the Hurdle House: picture by Peter Chalk

Raymond Elliott showed the following pictures of the Hurdle House in his Alresford Displayed article later in 1981: this was the result of the fire.

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Over the next few years the house was rebuilt, and the photo below of the conversion into a dwelling was found on the web, attributed to a Mr D Toms:

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The Hurdle House converted to a home: picture by D Toms

21st Century additions

Later, in 2014, the private owners started a project with Adam Knibb architects to design an extension to the Hurdle House to create more living space, whist maintaining respect for the original barn.

They approached the scheme with the aim to set the works into the surrounding nature, provide natural light, harness the fantastic views and provide a social heart to the house and for the family. Working with the Winchester Conservation department, it was agreed that a bay window at the rear of the property could be removed and provide the linking element to the extension. A frameless glass link was envisaged to touch the existing building lightly and connect the old to the new.

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The extension comprises a large open plan kitchen, dining area, casual seating with utility/WC and study attached. A major aim of the project was to increase the excitement when entering the property. The new main entrance will bring you directly into the extension, showing off views directly down the garden.

Externally, vertical timber cladding has been used to mimic the surrounding trees and provide a contemporary contrast to the existing building, which Adam Knibb say clearly shows that this work is ‘architecture of this time’. Alresford Interiors was selected as the sub-contractor and supplier of the internal furniture and fittings.

This Hurdle House project won ‘The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovation Award’, and has been a finalist in the ‘AJ Retrofit Awards’, was ‘shortlisted for the ‘RICS Awards’, and also shortlisted for The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Countryside Award. Adam Knibb Architects have produced a video describing the work, which can be found on youtube (youtu.be/nBN-u7L_Mzw). Their photographer, James Morris, presented the photos on their website, one of which is shown below.

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Photo (c) James Morris c/o Adam Knibb Architects

The actual Sheep Fair Field used from 1864 to the 1970s, known as Sheeplands Paddock, is now the site occupied by Long Barn Lavender, to the East of the Hurdle House.

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Long Barn Lavender sales and garden centre

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The Sheep Fair Field, now devoted to lavender growing.

Photos courtesy of Godfrey Andrews of AlresfordHeritage.co.uk, Audrey Chalk, D Toms, Alresford History and Literary Society, and James Morris for Adam Knibb Architects

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