Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Bishop’s Sutton Church, 1914

 

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Getting dark, at Headbourne Worthy, 1914

 

 

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History of Tiffin Tea Rooms

A story reported on the Francis Frith (vintage postcard suppliers) website came from a Rodney James, who was born on West Street in Alresford.

In 2007 he wrote to Frith about one of their postcards of Alresford, talking about the building at number 50 West Street (the original Tiffin Tea rooms building), which is where he was born. In those days it was a bakers and confectioners known as the ‘Black and White Bakery’, actually owned by a Mr White. Rodney’s father, presumably Mr James, was the baker there, and they lived with his wife and family (Rodney) ‘on the premises’ in the flat above the shop.  The bake-house was through the broad alleyway entrance to the right (labelled as Bakehouse Yard in the photo below): the ovens were wood (oak) fired and there was a large well in the yard which supplied the water – this well, or spring is still (2017) visible in the courtyard behind Tiffin Tea Rooms.

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Tiffin Tea Rooms, as seen in 2017

Rodney comments that the shop next door, down towards The Dean, was a general grocer when he was a youngster: this was number 52, later occupied by Design Realities, which relatively recently moved further up West Street, and Tiffin Tea Rooms expanded from the small shop where Rodney had lived, adding the premises at number 52. This became the Tea Rooms, and the original building, where Rodney had lived, became the chocolates and ice cream sales section of Tiffin, no longer using the upstairs rooms for serving the tea.

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The photos above show the Tiffin Tea Rooms as they were in 1986, and some of the girls looking out of the tea room window upstairs, during the Carnival procession in 1988.

Rodney also remembers the Café on the corner, owned by the Chalke family (he remembers their daughter Susan well). Opposite, across the road from the bakery was the garage owned by Mr C Hankin.

 

New display features town celebrities and businesses

The Alresford Museum display in the Broad Street library has been updated, to add two new items relating to Alresford businesses, two relating to major Alresford celebrities and two versions of an 18th Century Alresford Policeman’s truncheon!

The very ornate saddle, for a horse, was made by Alresford Saddlers of 16 West Street: it is an example of the local trade in skins and leather that developed around the tannery on Mill Hill. Alresford Saddlers was in 16 West Street, now Suzy Watson Designs, and was next door to Lex Leathers, who were still to be found at 18 West Street in the 1965. See the story about Lawrence Wright and his Alresford drawings.

Next is a rather plain box, which is a laundry box, used by the Weir Laundry to deliver cleaned and pressed washing back to the owners. Presumably this would have been a daily service. The Weir Laundry was believed to be housed in the Weir Mill building, later called the Arle Mill, situated alongside the lane linking Mill Hill to the Weir House, in 1900-1920. A photo can be seen of the staff at the Weir House laundry in 1904, on AlresfordHeritage.co.uk, and other photos on that site show the laundry buildings.

The display in the library cabinet also still features some dolls and soft toys from the Alresford Crafts collection featured in the Museum.

Alresford Celebrity – Lord  Rodney

DSCN3888A major Alresford Celebrity was George Brydges Rodney, who was born in 1718 and brought up by his Godfather George Brydges of Avington Park. As the Royal Naval Captain of the 60 gun “Eagle” at the Battle of Finisterre, he captured many Spanish ships, and won £8000 in prize money. With this he bought land next to Old Alresford Church, and built Old Alresford House.

Later as an Admiral, in the West Indies in 1780 he was very successful against the French, using the tactic of splitting the enemy’s line of ships – a tactic later copied and used by Nelson at Trafalgar.

He retired to Old Alresford House, and died there in 1791. But throughout the latter C18th he was the naval hero that everyone in Britain knew. There are still 7 pubs all across England named “The Lord Rodney”.

DSCN5602These Alresford Museum items date from that period, and are a mock Chinese bowl, inscribed “Rodney For Ever” – in tribute to Rodney – and a Beeswax portrait of him, which was the fashionable method of presenting portraits as 3D images at that time – and the technique is still used in Mme Tussauds!

C20th Celebrity – J Ridley Shield

The silver salver on display was made by Heming & Co, in London, and was presented to J. Ridley Shield in recognition of his many years of service (1906 – 1953) as Clerk of the Court at Alresford Petty Sessions.

 

J Ridley Shield, a Solicitor, was a prominent local figure, the first Chairman of the Town Trust in 1890, and first President of the Alresford Bowls Club. It is hoped to add a photo of Mr Shield to the display at some future date.

Two Truncheons

DSCN5603The Alresford Museum has two Batons, or Truncheons, items which were used by the Police Constables in the town in the 1800s. Both carry the Alresford town crest, which denotes that the Policeman was authorised by the town elders.

One is authentic, ie Victorian, the other is a modern reproduction, made in 1987 by AHW – his exact name is unknown. If you can let us know who it was, please do so! Weighing 300/400 grammes, they are fairly effective weapons…..

Maybe not as big as the town Bailiff and Burgesses Maces, also shown in the cabinet!

OLD Alresford Memories (Recorded 1977)

These contributions were made by visitors to the “Old Alresford Revived” Jubilee Exhibition held in 1977, at the Old Forge on Basingstoke Road, next to Forge Cottage/Prospect House. The original typed records, presumably typed by Pru Ransom, who organised the exhibition, are now held by the Alresford Museum, with other documents and photos that were on display back then. These are the reproduced records, as typed:

Mr Jackson remembers talk of a ‘Pub’ – The Fox – at the other end of the Green, but it was before his time, ie prior to 1905. Air Commodore Paul (at Wearne House) has found tiles which look as though they may have come from a stable yard in the south west corner of his garden.

Mr Ransom can remember the footpaths crossing the fields at the back of the village – the one to Northington being seldom empty of people – girls used to walk over to work in the Laundry (now (in 1977) belonging to Mr and Mrs Flood) every day, and the village women to shop. He has a pile of flints which came from the old lane that used to run behind the Council houses opposite the Home. Mr Bevan’s father was going to take them away to fill the ruts in the Coombe drive, but never did so! Eventually flints from this pile were taken by Mr Kemp for building at Beech Monastery (nr Alton). On this bend (the left hand side of the entrance to Coombe) people from the top end of the village used to dump their rubbish.

The ‘Nit’ House was demolished long ago – about the time of WW1 according to Miss Whitlock – who lived in Alresford for 12 years before coming here in 1912. She used to walk over from Preston, past the Nit House to fetch her sister’s clothes from Alresford where she was in service. Judging from the foundations, it was quite large. There also was a large rubbish dump at the Wield turning.

The Hoskissons came down from London in 1939. At that time their cottage was in a state of bad repair, with the roof falling in. The man who took the photographs belonging to Mrs Hoskisson was named Broad, and he owned some cottages in the village. He has conveniently dated his shots! Miss Whitlock thinks the man playing with the snowman is Harry West.

Mr Jackson can also remember the owner of the Retreat Cottages selling sweets from an “old tin shed” in his garden. Mr Whitlock used to hang his bacon in the Forge, in the small room at the front, before he jointed it, according to his sister.

Members of the Ransom family commented that their father used to keep a smallholding at the end of the village near Manor Farm. In the old days the Home used to hold their xxxxs (games?) in the field behind us, on Basingstoke Road, This was always a pasture until ploughed up in WW2 – Digging for Victory. It also had a cricket pitch on the brow of the hill. In WW1 there was a dug-out at the top of this field, where the footpath goes through to Northington. Here were stored explosives, the caps of which still lie scattered around (in 1977).

Mrs Fletcher remembers the Ransom’s small-holding, as she used to live near it. In those days (early 1900s) the Green was just a marsh – too wet to be safe enough to play on, and full of king cups and rushes. She can remember the hall being built by Mrs Christy, but the villagers were asked to buy bricks at 1 shilling each! Her mother bought 2 and a half bricks!

A chap named Snobby Merritt (no relation of our Mr Merritt (added Pru Randall, typing these notes in 1977) kept a shed on the allotments where he mended shoes (This shed features in one of the old photos, behind Christy Hall, situated where 1 Green Close is now). He actually lived behind where Mr Dory lives now. The field behind the allotments was called ‘Inhams’, and Mrs Fletcher can remember the gypsy encampment up the lane by her home. (Maybe this lane was Inhams Row, up past Prospect House? – Ed).

From about 90 years before 1977, up to 1920, a Swiss Jew named Mr Brollot collected clocks and watches from the village every three months, for repair, and returned them on his next visit. He used to come down by train and stop at “The Globe”, which Mrs Fletcher’s family kept. The “Cosy” was built in about 1915. She can remember two thatched cottages where Arthur and Shirley Wyeth’s house is now.

After the Twinnings family left in 1915, the shop was closed for about 18 months, then the Worthingtons re-opened it, with an off-licence for already bottled beer. After that the first lot of Joneses came and opened the shop as a general store. The sub Post Office was at Green End.

Billy Smith, now of Bishop’s Sutton, added the following:

The Jackson twins went to school with a Mr Benham, Mr Ransom’s brother-in-law (now of Bishop’s Sutton), and Billy Smith and his brothers – this would have been in around 1909. There used to be a bell in a cupola at the back of the school, which was also where Old Alresford Sunday School was held.

The lady who lived in the Laundry (next to the school) used to steam a pud and hang it over the wall for the schoolchildren (presumably only on washdays). The laundry was only for the use of the Upton House family. In those days Christy was at Upton, and used to give new sixpences to all the children every Empire Day.

Green End used to be both Post Office and Sweet Shop. Next door was a carpenter’s shop belonging to ‘Narrow’ Broad’s brother. A man called Sutcliffe took it over. The name of the owner of Green End was ‘Tin’ Rampton – his wife was the mistress in charge of the infants at the school. (Mrs H Rampton eventually retired from the school at Christmas 1923, after 25 years service – Ed)

At this time the Forge was where the Bus shelter is now. Charlie Rampton was the head man, with a chap called Ford, and a Jack Cousins under him. It soon moved to its present position.

The Home owned no fields in those days, and was shut off from the rest of the village. The boys (no girls were mentioned) used to appear only on Sundays, when they were marched to Chapel twice. They were taught at the Home. The field was a rubbish dump, known as “Dory’s Dell”.

Mrs May Smith was a maid at Prospect House for 11 months in 1939 for a Mrs Maynard, who died a few months after. Mrs Smith left to be married. Mr Smith was born at the Nythe in Bighton Lane, which sounds exactly like it is today.

Alf Bucham used to drive the baker’s cart in about 1912.

There was a ‘German’ who once owned Maxwell’s Old Alresford House named Schwert – remembered with affection by the school children as he used to give them a party after Christmas with nice useful presents of clothing – though the children did not appreciate them fully at the time! The other big houses joined together and gave a party before Christmas.

 

 

Old Alresford Revived – the 1977 Jubilee Exhibition

The Alresford Museum is delighted to have received the collection of documents and photos that were used in the 1977 Silver Jubilee exhibition held in Old Alresford. These items were assembled and displayed by Mrs Pru Randall, in The Forge, in Old Alresford, and Mrs Randall has now donated them to the Alresford Museum for safe keeping.

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The Old Forge in 2017

The display presented at the Forge was entitled “Old Alresford Revived”, and was an exhibition showing records and objects from Village Life through the Years. It ran from 6th to 11th June, all week, and then re-opened for one day on Saturday 18th June, 1977.

Winchester City Council and Verena Pegg supplied and described some of the ancient exhibits, like Saxon and Roman Pottery, Neolithic flints, and lethal looking animal traps. Colin Priestley produced the prints of the various photographs on display, and John Howard penned the labels and notices explaining each item. Others of the Old Alresford community rallied round to help, and put on a good display.

Other notable items included Mr Broad’s collection of Hampshire Chronicle cuttings about Old Alresford. There were Farm and Smithy tools, a collection of old bottles, and various clay pipes and other bits dug up in various back gardens. The documents that hopefully will be added to this website shortly include an account of events on Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887, and a history of the Church and Old Alresford Place.

The Old Forge

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The Old Forge is the long low building on the road, next to Forge Cottage

The Exhibition was held at the Old Forge building, which was apparently in the course of renovation: it is now converted into a home. Presumably it was owned at the time by Mrs Randall. The sheet describing the event had a history of the Forge on the back page, as follows (written 1977):

“The building consists of a single storey approx. 43 feet from front to back by 16 feet wide, constructed of brick with a tiled roof and two large wooden doors at the front. It measures approx. 8 feet 6 to the eaves and 16 feet to the single ridge. Boarding over the rafters creates a second floor over the front section, which can be reached via a removable step-ladder.

DSCN5413The two forges still existed there, the one nearest the front having a set of leather, hand-operated bellows in working order, connected to the tuyere (the pipe through which air is forced into the furnace). The other is at the rear. Air was supplied to this forge by a fan with an extended shaft, to which was fitted a belt-driven pulley. The bottom halves of plummer block bearings still remain on the roof trusses, along the southern side of the building. These indicate that a line of shafting existed.

There is an old engine buried in the garden, and it might be reasonably surmised that this engine drove shafting that was connected by belts to drive the pulleys upon machinery, such as drilling and grinding machines on the bench below.

A place for the fitting of wrought iron tyres to wooden wheels exists in the grounds of the south side of the building. This consists of a wrought circular plate 5 feet 8 inches in diameter, 1” thick.

Mr Rampton was blacksmith at Old Alresford in the late 19th century. He was assisted by Jack Cousins, who lived at Prospect Cottages nearby, and George Trebick, who became the Smith at the Forge in Herriard.”

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Prospect Cottage, on the corner of Kiln Lane, occupied by Jack Cousins at the time

More stories

More stories will follow, from this Exhibition, but a really comprehensive review of Old Alresford history was published by Arthur Stowell, in his booklet “Tales of Old Alresford”, published 2004 by the Alresford Hist and Lit Society.

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The story of Hambone Junior

Iris Crowfoot is another local collector of memories and stories about Alresford and the surrounding district. Her interest started as a project to learn more about Hambone Junior, the dog that was adopted by the US Forces based in Alresford in WW2. In doing this Iris has collected many wartime memories from local people, and other people too: these are published for all to read, on her website, www.HamboneJunior.com. There are a lot of interesting accounts on there, well worth reading!

In the February issue of the Alresford Forum, Iris presented a summary of the history pieced together so far about Hambone Junior, which is based on highlights from all her different stories. If the Forum story presented here interests you, you will find the longer accounts on her HamboneJunior.com website really fascinating!

From the Alresford Forum of February 2017:

“I often walk by Hambone Junior’s grave. Situated on a peaceful bank beside a sparkling trout stream in Alresford, sometimes it’s decorated with wildflowers by children on their way home from the park, and other times by a rubber ball dropped by a dog-walker. Poppies are placed there on Remembrance Sunday, to honour the memory of Hambone and his friends in the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Division, US Army. It makes me wonder what the American soldiers actually did whilst they were in Alresford in May 1944 and how poor Hambone met his end.

By interviewing local people and researching the archives, I’ve discovered that Hambone was a ‘brown and white scruffy little terrier’ who lived in a World War II army camp in The Dene, Alresford, where Valdean Park is sited today. The 9th Division were the US Army’s experts in amphibious warfare: they had already invaded the beaches of Morocco and Sicily before they reached Alresford in November 1943. They certainly made the most of the town’s watery landscape as they prepared for the biggest amphibious operation ever attempted – the allied invasion of Normandy. The railway station clattered with steam trains delivering tanks and amphibious vehicles with aquatic names like the Water Buffalo (a tracked landing vehicle) and the Duck (a 6×6 wheeled armoured truck). The shop windows rattled in West Street as the GIs drove them down to the camp. And Hambone would have added to the racket by barking as he ran around the busy men servicing and waterproofing the vehicles.

Not all the soldiers were expert mechanics. Sergeant Eddie Knasel’s son told me, ‘It was almost unbelievable, to think of Dad in the Ordnance Corps – he just wasn’t a practical person. He couldn’t even change the oil in the car when we were growing up!’ Nevertheless, Kentucky-born Eddie supervised a team of GIs who maintained Sherman tanks in The Dene. He was 24 at the time, a bit older than most, and had completed more of his education before being called up – perhaps that was why he was given more responsibility.

The soldiers dammed the River Arle where it crosses Drove Lane, to create a pool. Then they drove the Water Buffalo and Ducks up the medieval sheep track to test their waterproofing by splashing through the pool. A landing stage was built and whole platoons practiced getting out of a landing craft and wading through the river to the other side (I hope Hambone liked swimming). Godfrey Andrews remembers that the banks of the river were lined with sandbags when he swam near here as a child, just after the war.

The Americans made friends with local people, and their kindness is still remembered a lifetime later. Les Harness, of Grange Park, Northington, was a regular visitor to the camp, collecting their kitchen leftovers to feed his hogs. A mess meal for a GI looked like almost a week’s worth of rations to the British and I’ve read that people were horrified when they saw the Americans stub out their cigarettes on leftover food on their plates. But Hambone Junior’s comrades were generous, even helping Les with his petrol ration when they spent three weeks away from Alresford training under canvas, so that he could carry on collecting the waste food for his pigs.

Disaster struck as the soldiers mobilised for the invasion. Hambone was accidentally run over by a ‘Deuce-and-a-half’ (two and a half ton) truck. The men were very upset by this, but it gave Les the opportunity to repay their generosity by giving them a puppy which had recently been born at The Grange. They named the pup ‘Spider’ and took him with them when they marched down to Southampton in June 1944. The 47th Infantry Regiment landed on Utah Beach on ‘D-Day + 4’ and fought their way home through northern France, Belgium and Germany.

Hambone’s grave was originally marked by a wooden cross. By 1962, it had rotted away and the Alresford community replaced it with a memorial stone, which was unveiled by the American Vice Consul in Southampton. In 1994, some of the original GIs returned to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in an event held in Broad Street, Alresford. They did not forget their faithful friend. Tucked away in a manila folder in the Hampshire Record Office, I found an archive photo of two old comrades placing a wreath on Hambone’s grave. A bunch of flowers was also left with the note, ‘I still remember you, Bill.’

I have not managed to find anyone who still remembers Bill … yet. If you once knew Hambone and Bill, or would like to share other memories of Hampshire during this special time, I’d love to hear from you.”

If you can add to Iris’s collection of memories about Hambone Junior, then please contact Iris either through her website, or by email.

The Voices of Bishop’s Sutton

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How about “Bishop’s Sutton Memories” as an offshoot of AlresfordMemories? OK, so there are several Bishop’s Sutton stories on this website, but in visiting the Alresford Library today I found a really enthralling new book: only just published. It is titled “Voices of Bishop’s Sutton”, and was written by Sarah Bussy, a resident of Bishop’s Sutton over the last 40 years, since 1974.

Sarah suggests that she felt very much like a ‘Townie’ person, when she first moved to Bishop’s Sutton, from her Alresford home – it was a different world to be in village life, after residing in the big Metropolis of Alresford! But having settled in, 30 years later, Sarah was involved in a parish-wide piece of team work, which resulted in a small, publicly-funded publication entitled ‘Bishop’s Sutton: An Appraisal of the Parish, 2006’. A questionnaire was circulated around all households in the village, to see what they liked and disliked about village life. Most people were really happy to live in Bishop’s Sutton, which Sarah describes as “a very friendly place, with a strong community spirit”: only one person expressed a dislike for the incoming “Townies”.

Sarah explains the background to the current book as follows:

“In the 1980s I became involved with making sound recordings of Winchester people, several of which are now in the Wessex Film and Sound Archive. Around the year 2000 I began tentatively to record in Bishop’s Sutton.

Because of other commitments, these Bishop’s Sutton tapes lay neglected, and a source of considerable guilt for years until I was suddenly spurred into further action by a Village Open Weekend held in the autumn of 2014. Several months of concentrated work followed and the book was ready for press shortly before my move to Devon in September 2015. The timing couldn’t have been better and I still feel pleased to have given something back to Bishop’s Sutton in gratitude for the 41 years I lived there with my family.”

Her book records the memories of the current residents, memories of what village life was like throughout their lives. Sarah recorded numerous current residents, dividing them up into sections that cover the 1920s; the Hillarys of Northside Farm; the accents; the houses, including colonial bungalows and council houses, as well as cottages; Domestic life (including sanitation, food and sickness); Childhood and the School; Working on the farms; Death in the village, and WW2. Selected parts of the recordings she made are published in each heading, but the original recordings are held by the Wessex Film and Sound Archive at the HRO. Apparently the recordings made of conversations with Kit Hole, Bill Hillary, Jean Hillary, Nora Hillary, and Vic Sheppard are available for visitors to listen to on request.

The book includes many old photos, provided by David Hole – some of these originated from Peter Mills’ archive. Other interviewees include Bill Smith, Barbara Upton, Joan Clift, and many more: many Alresford parents of young children will remember Bill Smith as the caretaker at Sun Hill School some years ago.