Archive for the ‘History’ Category

1996 Bell Hotel Fire

News topics from the 1996 papers

The following two items appeared in the local newspapers found in the time capsule placed in the Methodist Chapel in the Dean, during its renovation for the Alresford Youth Association in 1996.

Bell Hotel Fire

In the issue of the Hampshire Chronicle that was placed in the Methodist Chapel time capsule that was re-created in 1996, there was a news item about a recent fire in the Bell Hotel. The newspaper was dated 8 March 1996 – it said

“Four people who were asleep in the Bell Hotel in Alresford, on Sunday night, had a lucky escape. Carl May, son of the Manager, woke up to the smell of smoke just before 0230 and raised the alarm. Hotel manager Courtney May, Carl, and two guests who were in the hotel at the time made their way to safety.

The first fire fighters on the scene were from Alresford, followed by those from Winchester. “When we arrived we could see fire coming out of the roof, it had obviously been burning for some time,” said Winchester sub-officer Kevin Oxlade. “It was a very serious fire.”

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Efforts were originally made on preventing the flames spreading to nearby buildings. It took about four hours for six units plus a turntable ladder, and 40 firefighters from Alresford, Winchester, Twyford and Alton to get the blaze under control. Damping down operations continued for most of the morning. Fire investigators attended the scene on Monday: the cause of the fire was thought to have been an electrical fault

The roof, top floor, and the first floor where the guest bedrooms were located suffered the most damage.”

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The scene the next morning

The hotel was owned by Phoenix Inns at the time. The building is Grade II listed, recorded as a coaching inn dating from 1756. Additional reporting by the Winchester Extra is included above.

Creamfields – Boomtown gets go-ahead

Also in a front page feature in the Hampshire Chronicle of 8 March 1996, the Winchester City Council gave the go-ahead for the music festival at Cheesefoot Head, stating the assumption that it would be likely to attract 50,000 people.

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From 1896 Methodist Chapel to 2017 Event Space!

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In Autumn 2017, the old Methodist Chapel, in the Dean in Alresford, was re-opened as “White Space Alresford”, an event space for hire in the middle of Alresford. The building has been totally renovated, and now features a single storey 850 square feet of space, with a 6.6m high vaulted ceiling. The space is truly described as a white space, with white walls and arched ceiling, and white light from windows in the roof, as well as the original long thin windows in the East wall facing the street. ‘White space’ is offered for hire as an ideal venue for ceremonies, pop-ups, photoshoots, workshops (for training or product launches) and wellness days. For a conference the room be fitted out with chairs, and tables if needed, to accommodate 26 delegates.

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During the 2016 renovation work at the building, the workmen found a time capsule placed there in 1996, when the last renovation took place. This time capsule incorporated the contents of another, earlier time capsule, installed when the building was originally constructed, which by coincidence was dated March 1896, almost exactly 100 years previously. Holly Budge of White Space Alresford has generously decided that the documents in the capsule should be passed to the Alresford Museum, so that they can be preserved and recorded as an important part of the town’s history.

The Methodist Chapel, 1896

The ‘Primitive Methodist Chapel’, in the Dean, Alresford, was built in 1896. Many current Alresford residents, passing by the front of the building, which is directly against the pavement, will have seen the original 10 foundation stones at the base of the front wall. These were laid by the local notables and officials on Wednesday 11 March in 1896. The Mayor of Winchester, A.R. Dyer, laid the first stone. Other local people who paid for bricks, have their initials engraved in the side of a brick here too, as can be seen on the photographs.

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The builder given the work of erecting the Chapel was H. Mundy, builder and contractor, house decorator and undertaker, of Essex Road, Basingstoke. On some of his headed paper, dated 12 March 1896, four of his builders signed their names and added this to the time capsule they created. Their signatures were interpreted as Fred Mundy, John Willis and Bill Gunner in 1996: a fourth name was not deciphered, but could be “Harvey Bundon”: Victorian writing is hard to read at times, as you can see. The total cost of the original building was £200.

Builders signatures 1896

The newspapers originally interred in a cavity in the wall next to one of the doorways in the Chapel were the Hampshire Chronicle, the Hampshire Observer, published by Warren and Sons, and the “Primitive Methodist World and Sunday School Worker”: all these newspapers cost one (old) penny each. Regrettably the Hampshire Chronicle had been severely attacked by insects.

The copy of the Hampshire Observer tells us that following Mr Dyer, S. Tanner Esq of Avington also laid a stone, followed by other ladies and gentlemen. One was laid by Miss I. Smith on behalf of the orphanage children, in Old Alresford. After these ceremonies there was a public tea in the Town Hall at 5pm (tickets were one shilling each)

The build-up to 1996

By 1964 the building was no longer suitable for worship, and it was sold for £3000 to enable the purchase of further premises in Pound Hill. However, some people attending the 1996 ceremony remembered worshipping there. Alice Alsford, long connected with the NCH in Old Alresford, remembered attending services there, with children from the home. Bobbie Sanderson and her late husband John were actually married in the Chapel.

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The Chapel before the AYA renovation, in 1989

The building was possibly not used immediately, and by 1993 was in a derelict state. It was recognised as a possible site for creating a permanent place for the activities of the Alresford Youth Association, which had been established as a registered charity and legal framework to run the activities of “Tonix”, a meeting room and non-alcoholic bar for teenagers aged 14-18. Tonix had started in East Street in October 1992, in a room rented short term, on the first floor of ‘The Peaceful Home’ pub. This was a successful activity, but when the management committee decided to fund-raise from the public to seek permanent premises, it was necessary to establish the AYA as a registered charity. The AYA was formed with support from the County Youth Service, and many other local organisations including the local Churches, the Chamber of Trade, the Parish Council, Rotary and the Police.

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Renovation, November 95

Tonix was homeless, after vacating rented premises, and after the plan to park a vintage bus acquired for the club on Arlebury Park had been scuppered by the town council – when a planning permission request for electricity and water connections was rejected. So when the Chapel was offered for sale in 1994, further local fund raising efforts in the community, as well as grants from official bodies, enabled the purchase of the building in October 1995, and work to commence on the renovation of the building. Fixed assets reported by the AYA (valued at cost) at the end of 1995 were totalled at £42,300, of which the major part would have been the purchase price of the Methodist Chapel in October 1995.

The 1996 ceremony and their capsule

In 1996 the Alresford Youth Association invited Pat Norris, the Mayor of Winchester, to unveil a new Foundation stone to be built into the wall of the old Methodist Chapel in the Dean, to go alongside the other stones placed there 100 years before.  The photo shows the Mayor accompanied by Sir Peter Ramsbotham (the AYA President), laying the stone.

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Diana Woolridge, chairman of the AYA, later explained the history of the building to the visitors and guests, assembled on the first floor of the Chapel building. The audience included parish and city councillors, members of the local churches, chamber of trade, Rotary and Alresford Pigs, all of whom joined with the community in raising the funds needed to finance the renovations. Grants also came from the County Council. This large space, she explained, would be a large meeting room and event space, while downstairs a lounge, kitchen and office was planned. Tim Churchill explained that the two levels would work separately, with one group downstairs and another upstairs. The original concept of the Tonix coffee bar meeting room would be re-opened downstairs later in the Spring.

The building façade had been preserved and the windows with the original Cathedral tinted glass have been retained – looking much as they did 100 years before. The total purchase and restoration was budgeted to cost a total of £90,000: the building work still in progress at that time was being undertaken by Chamberlain Construction, of Laurel House in Alresford, working to a £45,000 budget. Part of their work was planned to involve the re-interment of the old time capsule, with added information from 1996, including several current local newspapers reporting on the stone laying ceremony, and some National newspapers. Additionally included were the AYA Annual reports to the Charity Commissioners for 1994 and 1995, plus a statement from Chamberlain Construction listing the unit costs of the materials and consumables used in the restoration.

[The above information was distilled down from the documents in the time capsule, such as reports in the Hampshire Chronicle of 15 March 1996, and also the Alton Herald of 22 March 1996, and the annual reports of the AYA charity for 1994 and 1995.

A subsequent story will quote some of the events reported in the 1996 local papers found in the time capsule]

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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

 

 

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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