Archive for the ‘Local Businesses’ Category

The Community Centre and Parking!

The name proposed for the settlement on the South side of the River Arle was originally “Newmarket” – as the Bishops of the time, planned the town as a marketplace, where people would visit to trade and buy goods. That was Bishop De Lucy, I believe. But the people who established the new settlement mainly came from the village on the north bank, now called Old Alresford. They therefore felt that a better name would be “New Alresford”, and adopted that instead. Action by popular demand, even in the C11th! It was almost democracy.

The town has thrived on its large market, in Broad Street, still maintained today by the Town Trust. But the traders and restaurants and shopkeepers of Alresford have perpetuated the approach, and Alresford today is known as a good place to go to, to visit and buy things, where visitors are welcomed, and parking is free.

Indeed the old statutes of the Bailiffs and Burgesses that ran the town until 1890 have been passed down to the NATT, the Town Trust, who own the rights to the parking and activities in the market area, ie Broad Street. So if parking fees were ever introduced, any revenues generated would probably go to the Town Trust.

The modern view

In 2018 the whole idea seems to be turning itself on its head. The traders in the town continue to rely on visitors arriving, these days, in their cars. There are shops to provide services to many sections of society, and with parking available they can ensure a short walk to the destination, short enough to carry possibly heavy shopping back to the car. Many OAPs rely on this for groceries, meat and fish, producing heavy shopping bags. Ladies in high heels can visit the boutiques and dress shops, and then have a coffee nearby. The car parks at the station and at Perins are well used, and no distance.

Surprisingly the car park at the ARC, up Pound Hill, is really not well used, and has many spaces during the week. The town plan, driven by the NATC, is investing millions in a new car park in the Dean, knocking down three factories, but the spaces will probably be mostly used by the residents of the new McCarthy and Stone retirement flats that are probably financing the whole thing. Meanwhile all the traders in the town park their cars in the spaces they would like their potential customers to use, in the town centre. When the Traffic Warden arrives they miraculously shift their cars to the station car park or similar.

Even more recent events

I hesitate to be too biased in commenting about controversial things, but I don’t drive an SUV, and my car easily fits into a standard parking place.

Driving around any town, you see spaces marked out with white lines, identified as disabled spaces. You know that this is near a place where disabled people have to alight safely, and you do not block these spaces, unless you are sitting in the car, able to move it if the space is needed. These are not legally designated disabled bays: but it is requesting your co-operation as a responsible member of society.

So we come to the two spaces marked as disabled outside the Community Centre. These are useful to the town, as they are also outside the banks that remain, and drivers can use them for 5 minutes while visiting the bank, particularly if they leave the car supervised. They are “Drop-off” points.

The Community Centre is one of the jewels of Alresford. It provides a meeting point, and a rest centre, for residents visiting the shops, and the parking spaces provide a pick up point for shopping bags, once the shopping is finished. This can be seen every Friday morning, when the town Minibus brings around 30 OAPs and mobility-challenged people into town for a weekly shop. They visit the Banks, Tesco, the Pet Shop, the butchers and the chemists. Plus the greengrocers, the library and the card shops/gift shops. The more affluent visit Heidi’s and the Age Concern charity shop. It is unlikely many of them visit Fitique – maybe the session times don’t match.

The Chamber of Commerce

It then appears that leading members of the Chamber of Commerce, the successors of course to the Bailiffs and Burgesses that ran the town until the 1890s, but the various Acts of Parliament took away their powers, took exception to the Town Minibus that reserved two disabled spaces on a Friday morning, for at most 4 hours. They felt this was preventing custom for their businesses, and say many businesses agreed. Which ones do not benefit, one wonders, from the 30 OAPs that come in in those four hours to spend their money? Four hours, two spaces, with a parking max time of two hours – that means four cars could have driven into town and spent their money, contrasted with the 30 pensioners who did come.

It is my opinion that the benefit resulting from four SUVs, spending their money in sessions in Fitique or the various boutiques and coffee shops, would not meet the benefit to the town’s shops from the 30 OAPs. But if it takes 30 cars to come into town, to deliver these pensioners, separately, and block the roads while discharging and collecting them, then I am prepared to arrange it.

The NATC and HCC response

It seems that HCC has been quick to respond, and is circulating suggestions that it should start to charge for parking in the town, covering all parking spaces. Worse still for the traders, they would propose a residents parking pass system that would charge peanuts for residents to park in the town, and block the parking spaces that seem so important to the Chamber of Commerce, that they are prepared to go to the extreme of proposing banning the town minibus from the town centre.

Overall, the town is descending into selfish, suicidal madness!

Nick Denbow

  • Any opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author alone.
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1980s Taste of Alresford – 3: Fish dishes

……………………..From residents of the time

 

taste of alreThe following are descriptions by Alresford families of their houses/homes, and their lives in the early 1980s, provided to the charity recipe book ‘A Taste of Alresford’, published by Sally March, on behalf of Oxfam. There have already been several extracts from this book published in stories on this website. Most are listed under the “Taste of Alresford” tag, but they include stories about the Hobby Horse, Beresford House, The Cricketer’s Pub and the Golf Course, Fulling Mill, and Anderson’s green-grocers.

The introduction to the book was written by John Arlott, which is also featured in one story, and his life here in the old Sun Inn is described in another AlresfordMemories story.

The authors and their recipes for Fish dishes are as follows – all written in the early 1980s: TO GET THE RECIPES YOU NEED TO BUY THE BOOK!

 

Isabel Sanderson, Country-woman and Historian

…….Also authoress of the “Dwellings in Alresford” booklets.

‘When I was seven, we moved from a farm in Suffolk to Abbotstone Farm, some 2.5 miles from Alresford, and here, with a sister and four brothers, I was brought up. The farmhouse was my home – apart from spells of teaching in Kent and Yorkshire – until 1956. A large rambling farmhouse; a weeping ash tree on the front lawn whose long, trailing branches formed a shadowy green ‘tent’ where many meals were eaten in Summer; a large, walled-in garden where much fruit and vegetables were grown; and a stream that flowed through the farm buildings where we used to paddle and bathe, and where John used to ‘tickle’ trout. Long and tiring days for little legs in the harvest field. All of us at various times used to take the horse and carts to and from the men in the fields, loading sheaves of corn, and unloading at the stack being built in a corner of the field. Masses of food and tea, picnic fashion, where everyone, – men, women, children and often dogs – congregated at the stack for tea. Such was my upbringing.

In 1956, mother and I left the farmhouse and came to live in one of the farm cottages where we made a garden – still a source of much interest and hard work. Later, I started my researches into the history of the surrounding countryside and its dwellings. For the past ten years my researches have been confined to the old market town of New Alresford, and these have been published in a series called ‘Dwellings in Alresford’.

[Editor’s note: and what a fantastic legacy Isabel left in her series of ten volumes, each covering up to 10 dwellings, intricately researched and illustrated, with careful line drawings. I can honestly say Isabel’s collection was one of the things that sparked my interest in photographing the houses of Alresford, which also led to this website]

Recipe: Smoked Haddock – The Abbotstone Way

 

Sandra Hart, Andersons (Fish) shop, 8 West St

Andersons – poultry and game, fishmonger and greengrocer. Some years ago the shop changed hands, but Alresford was so accustomed to ‘Andersons’ that the present tenant, Mr Phillip Gay, reverted to the old name. They stock a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including exotic cumquats and mangoes, lychees and limes. Even better the watercress is fresh from its ‘bed’, the cream from its farm and the trout from Mr Gay’s own ‘stew’. There is local game, hare and rabbit, partridge, pheasant and pigeon, teal and mallard.

The building still belongs to Mrs Rita Blundell of Ropley, the grand-daughter of Mr and Mrs Henry Batchelor, who came to Alresford in 1915 and lived over the shop. Their daughter, Mrs Cecil Turner, later managed Crook’s Restaurant, which is now the greengrocery side of the present shop, and her husband ran the other side, called ‘Eureka Fish’ (try saying it to yourself). After the Second World War, rations and regulations made the catering so difficult that the Turners changed the Restaurant into a greengrocers.

Recipes: Herring Pie, and Seasoned Fish Rolls

 

Isabel Liddiard, Copper Coin, 33 Grange Road

Mrs Liddiard has two sons, both of whom are competitive fishermen. They occasionally bring pike home. Pike is a rather dry, and very bony fish, ‘but as pheasant is to chicken, so is pike to cod’. Her two recipes, therefore, are for boned and flaked fish.

[My son Nick (www.catchafish.net) even aged 8 or 9, also used to bring pike home in the 1980s, after fishing trips to the Arle. He told us they were protecting the other fish in the river, and helping the trout fishermen, by removing these big predators. Some were almost as big as he was!]

Recipes: Pike and Prawn au Gratin, and Pike Fish Cakes

 

Mrs Mimi Gedye, c/o Derek Gedye, 5 Broad St

Mr Gedye’s electrical shop is a family business, established over 20 years ago. They sell and repair all domestic appliances, and Mr Gedye’s son, Simon, is an expert on television, video and hi-fi equipment.

Recipe: Salmon Mousse

 

Elizabeth Gore-Langton, Pleasant House, West St

Mrs Gore-Langton’s recipe comes from her home in Orkney. The house was named ‘Skaill’ from the Norse ‘skali’, meaning a hall.

Recipe: Skaill Scallops

 

Joy Brown, 31 Broad Street

Mr Brown is a dental surgeon, President of the Alresford Conservative Association and Chairman of the town’s Twinning Association with Brique Bec in Normandy. He and his wife, Joy, live in one of the lovely Georgian houses in Broad Street, where they cultivate not only a large flower and vegetable garden, but also a vineyard. He writes:

A small walled garden in the centre of a country town in Hampshire proved to bean ideal situation for the planting of fifty vines. The climate is not always the most suitable for wine production in England, and after careful selection, a Huxel Rebe vine grafted to anti Phylloxera was chosen.

After 12 years the vines have become well established and last year’s vendange produced 200lbs of grapes. They require the minimum of care and attention and seem to thrive on chalky soil. Careful pruning in January, a cold and thankless task for which few volunteers ever appear, is generally undertaken in freezing conditions, and a double guyot system of training ensures a neat looking vineyard throughout the year.

An early or late Spring, wet or dry, seems to make little difference, but a hot Summer with plenty of sunshine, extending well into September or October is essential to produce an acceptable and attractive wine. Vines will find their own moisture supply, some roots penetrating to a depth of forty feet, but sun, and plenty of it, makes all the difference.

The grapes must ripen sufficiently to produce a high sugar content and thus a satisfactory level of alcohol. The vendange usually takes place in early November and, contrary to public opinion, treading the grapes is not normally done, although it was a most efficient method of crushing the grapes to break the skin prior to the normal pressing.

The use of a small hand press produces the ‘must’ which is taken to the cellar in demi-johns, and a hock type yeast soon produces a violent fermentation. The wine is racked off and if necessary treated to reduce acidity. ‘Chaptilising’ the wine is optional but is a good excuse for frequent visits to the cellar for the purpose of testing and tasting. A small corking machine simplifies the bottling process, and as a final touch, a well-designed label with the alcohol content, year of growth and name and address of the Vigneron adds a touch of professionalism to the hobby.

Recipe: Salmon Fish Pie

 

John Wootten, The Bodega, Broad Street

The Inyanga mountains are in Zimbabwe on the Mozambique border, and are very like the Scottish Highlands, clear and cool after the hot plains with fast running streams where trout are found. Bright yellow patches of wattle brighten the dark firs and bare hillsides.

However Alresford trout are just as fresh and firm, and this dish would enhance a wedding buffet. Terrines or pates cannot only be prepared 2 or 3 days in advance, but their flavour improves with keeping.

Chef and cookery writer John Wootten and his wife Helen lived for some time in Salisbury Rhodesia (now called Harare in Zimbabwe, hence the name of Inyanga Trout. Another favourite from Mozambique, often served in Zimbabwe, is Piri-Piri, a very hot fish dish which John some rimes cooks for the Bodega restaurant.

This pretty wine bar, in a Queen Anne setting in Broad Street, offers a good cross section of wines, from house wines to vintage clarets and German, French, Italian and Portuguese whites. A favourite is the Chateau Haut Batailley 1976.

Light meals are served in the bar, while conferences, weddings and private functions may be held in the Seville Suite.

Recipe: Terrine of Trout and Salmon

 

Julie Henman, Alresford Young Farmers’ Club

The aims of the YFC are partly to educate and partly to do a certain amount for the community by organising numerous fund-raising events. And, of course, it is largely a social club.

Education in the form of farm visits and talks includes – animal diseases, applying Rentokil on rodents, calf-rearing, First Aid (courtesy of the Red Cross) fly-fishing and the life of a private investigator! The club secretary is Jane Gray.

Recipe: Smoked Trout Cakes and Herb-baked Trout

 

Mrs Elizabeth Davis (nee Stiles), J S Stiles (Ironmongers) Ltd, 11 Broad Street

‘Stiles’ is an old-established County ironmongers, with a wide frontage in an attractive setting in Broad Street. They sell everything for the kitchen and garden – pots and pans, seeds and fertilisers, paint and wallpaper, and all that a handyman needs. Next door there is a china and glass department. They are noted for their wide range of stock, but also for their friendly helpfulness. In rooms above the shop, old exposed beams can still be seen, blackened and burnt in the Great Fire of 1689.

Recipe: Trout with Cream and Chives

 

Jo Gilbertson, 4 Pound Hill

Mr and Mrs Glenn Gilbertson are both dental surgeons. Their surgery at the bottom of Pound Hill was an old cottage and there are still small rooms and narrow staircases leading off narrow corridors. [This would not have been a problem for Jo, not so sure about how Glenn managed – Ed]

Recipe: Celery and Seafood Pancakes

 

The recipes on offer in Part 4 will introduce Meat, Poultry and Game courses

 

1980s Taste of Alresford – 1: Starter dishes

……From residents of the time

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A well used copy of the 1985 Oxfam recipe book

The following are descriptions by Alresford families of their houses/homes, and their lives in the early 1980s, provided to the charity recipe book published by Sally March, on behalf of Oxfam. There have already been several extracts from this book published in stories on this website. Most are listed under the “Taste of Alresford” tag: they include stories about the Hobby Horse, Beresford House, The Cricketer’s Pub and the Golf Course, Fulling Mill, and Anderson’s green-grocers.

The introduction to the book was written by John Arlott, which is also featured in one story, and his life here in the old Sun Inn is described in another AlresfordMemories story.

The authors and their recipe subjects for Starters are as follows – all written in the early 1980s: TO GET THE RECIPES YOU NEED TO BUY THE BOOK!

 

Marjorie Fuller, Villa Kedros, 11 Dover Close

“Mrs Fuller is secretary of the Alresford branch of the Townswomen’s Guild, whose aim is to “Advance the education of women”, and to encourage them to contribute to their own community. Joining TG is a very good way of making friends. There are handicrafts and cookery classes, play-readings and outings, interesting and educational talks.”

Recipe provided: Jellied Hors D’Oeuvres

 

Kitchen Elegance, 34 West Street

Kitchen Elegance specialises in planning, designing and installing fitted kitchens. They are agents for Commodore Kitchens and AEG Kitchen and Laundry Appliances.

Recipe provided: Cheesy Fish Starter

 

Glenys Brundish, 2 Shepherd’s Down

Glenys Brundish’s husband Keith is manager of the Alresford branch of Barclays Bank.

Recipe provided: Mixed Fish Patés

 

Sue Clark, Studley House, Rosebery Road

Mrs Clark is a Research Nursing Sister at Alresford surgery looking into blood pressure. She is married to one of the Group Surgery doctors.

Recipe provided: Fish Paté

 

Ann Wadman, Chestnut House, Dorian Grove

Mrs Wadman is secretary of the Alresford Art Society, which welcomes anyone who is interested to talks on all aspects of the visual arts. Painting, enamelling, book binding and calligraphy are some of the subjects in this present season. Outings to places of interest and theatres are arranged regularly. The society meets on the first Friday of each month.

Recipe provided: Chicken Liver Paté

 

Jo Newbury, The Globe Inn, the Soke

Recipe provided: Stilton Paté

 

Hampshire Watercress Ltd

Mr Raymond Isaac began growing watercress on one acre of land in the 1940s. Today his company, Hampshire Watercress Ltd, with its trade name Vitacress, cultivates more then 50 acres, and is the biggest grower in the UK and possibly the world. They supply most major supermarkets.

Watercress has long been regarded as a natural source of important nutrients, and contains vitamins A and B and Riboflavin, plus mineral salts such as calcium and iron. It is ideal for diets, having only 4 calories per ounce.

If bought as a bunch, wash thoroughly and trim as required, shake off excess water and put in a closed polythene bag, or a container from which air has been excluded. Keep it, and pre-packed cress, in a refrigerator.

             Recipes provided: Tangy Starter, Slimmer’s Special, Stuffed Tomatoes,                 and Egg and Watercress Mousse

 

Jill Shackleton, 24 Arle Gardens

Jill Shackleton is Clerk to New Alresford Parish Council. As its only paid officer she is secretary and archivist, keeping all plans, deeds records, letters, writings etc, and carrying out all functions and duties imposed by statute, regulation or order.

The council’s duties are to provide public open spaces, recreational facilities, street lighting, bus shelters, litter bins, and seats, and to make byelaws. Possibly its most important role, however, is to bring local matters to the notice of the District Council and the Hampshire County Council.

Recipe provided: Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Jane Long, Linnets Cottage, Tichborne Down

Alresford Golf Club (the course is opposite her cottage) was founded in 1890 on downland owned by Sir Joseph Tichborne (of the family of the Greta Tichborne Inheritance case fame), the course was grazed by sheep until 1907.Charles Marks, of Woking Golf Club, was then employed as the first professional greenkeeper, but unfortunately he fell out with Sir Joseph and only stayed for two years.

golf club railway carriage

Thatched and wood clad, this was the Golf course Clubhouse, based round a railway carriage: picture from alresfordheritage.co.uk, and “The History of Alresford Golf Club” by ER Hedges, 1990.

A room at the ‘Cricketer’s’ served as a clubhouse at first (no ladies permitted of course); later, in 1953, a retired railway carriage was placed by the first tee, and used for 16 years. The present Clubhouse on the Cheriton road now serves a membership of over 400 and is a social and sporting centre.

Recipes provided: Mushrooms Provencales, and also Savoury Toasts

 

June Gregory, Grasshoppers, Grange Road

June Gregory has worked hard for Oxfam for many years. Her husband Peter is a partner in a firm of Solicitors whose offices in Broad Street were formerly part of the Old George [Inn]. This In was owned by Winchester College and built for them in about 1420. Twenty years later, in 1439, it was burnt down in one of Alresford’s Great Fires, and not rebuilt until a lease was granted in 1460.

In 424 it was referred to as the ‘St George’. Presumably it was then known colloquially as ‘the Old George’ and that gradually became its proper name.

The Inn was sold by the college to a brewery in 1914. It was then closed on 1st September 1927, after more than 500 years of innkeeping.

Recipe provided: Mushroom Savouries (‘Mock Snails’)

 

Vasanti Rogers, Chalk Hill, New Farm Road

Born of Indian parents in the city of Lucknow, where she spent her childhood, Vasanti studied Manipuri dance at the Vidyodaya School in Madras and was a student at Wellesley Collegeand Columbia University in the USA. She teaches yoga in Alresford and Winchester.

Vasanti is part-owner, with her husband Tom, of the antique shop ‘Rogers of Alresford’. They deal in English pottery, furniture and works of art. They also exhibit at major antiques fairs.

Recipe provided: Indian Spiced Meatballs (Kofra Balls)

Part 2 of 1980s Alresford, covering people who gave recipes for Soups, will follow!

 

 

 

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.”

bell hotel fire 1

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.”

bell hotel fire 2

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.

Helping the local community

FareShare food distribution

The charity ‘FareShare’ is working with the Tesco store in Alresford to ensure that food that is no longer suitable for sale is distributed around the local community. Basically the food has reached its ‘sell by date’, and is surplus to their requirements. FareShare and Tesco wish to see that this food is not wasted, but distributed to anyone who can make use of it.

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Some of the food recently made available by Tesco

 

Various local community groups have undertaken to distribute the food, according to the FareShare principles: two of the first organisations to sign up in Alresford were the Giles Group and the ADCA, the Alresford & District Community Association. The Giles Group is arranging to distribute the surplus Tesco food that is available on Tuesday mornings, from their ‘Drop-in’ coffee morning held every week in the Community Centre. This operates from 1030 till 12 noon. Any food remaining is then delivered to the Makins Court Common Room, at around 1230. On Fridays, the food available from Tesco is distributed to those who attend the ADCA coffee morning, also held in the Community Centre. Again, any left over at the end of the morning is delivered to makins Court for the residents there.

The Giles Group

The Giles Group was established in Alresford some 23 years ago. The original objective was to provide people in Alresford who had a disability, or a family member with a disability of any form, with a place to go, to discuss problems and find advice from people who had faced similar problems, and could understand their difficulties. The Group acted as a source of information about disability aids, suppliers of equipment, and services, grants and funding available. Nowadays this sort of information is more easily accessible via the internet, but the Group still provides such services, and also acts as a meeting place for the members.

The Giles members also include carers for disabled people, other elderly people who have trouble walking, and also those who are just isolated and need some friendly companionship. We meet together once a month* for an afternoon, in the Community Centre, to exchange ideas and listen to visiting speakers – who often represent organisations that are relevant to those with mobility problems, or the disabled in the town. There is also the weekly coffee morning, in the Community Centre, where the Tesco food is distributed.

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Another week’s food distribution from Tesco, with the Alresford Society salver awarded to the Giles Group for 2018

Problems experienced by the members are collected, and referred to the local Council when relevant: such things as better road crossings, repairs to broken pavements and installation of dropped kerbs have been positive results.  The Group also provides a source for locating mobility aids, fluorescent jackets and items for help around the house. In co-operation with the Alresford Pigs and others, mobility aids like Zimmer frames, wheelchairs, ‘Rollator’ walkers and even mobility scooters are regularly re-cycled amongst the Giles membership.

The Alresford Society award

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Clive and Tessa receiving the Salver Award for 2018 at the Alresford Society AGM

After 23 years working in the town for the disabled, the Giles Group is delighted to have been awarded the Alresford Society’s Silver Salver Award for 2018, in recognition of the assistance provided to the Community over this time. Founder member Tessa Purkiss attended the recent AGM of the Alresford Society to receive the award from their Chairman, Jan Field. Tessa was accompanied by Clive Earthy, a long term member of the Giles Committee, and the current Treasurer. Clive and Tessa stressed that Giles membership is open to anyone who feels they could benefit, and is only run for the benefit of the members – currently 35 in total. New members are always welcome – membership in 2017 was only £15 a year, as the Group receives occasional external support – recently from the NATC and from personal donations.

  • For more information about the Giles Group, please see www.gilesgroup.org.uk . Monthly meetings are held on the second monday in the month, from 2pm to 4pm in the Community Centre.

How to stay safe at home….

You always feel safe at home. Maybe you get your gas boiler serviced regularly, maybe you have smoke detectors, with new batteries fitted regularly? Above all you get competent professionals to install your new cooker, and also the new gas hob in the kitchen.

When was that done, when was your gas supply system checked? If you were in rented accommodation, the landlord is legally obliged to have it checked every year. But if you own your own home, there’s no obligation to have anything checked on a regular basis. Even if you have lived there 30 years. But things can go wrong.

Take your own precautions

Yes I did that. I installed a carbon monoxide alarm system, alongside the smoke detector, to check whether the gas boiler flue had been blocked, and CO was building up in the boiler area. I installed a flammable gas alarm to monitor the kitchen, in case a gas ring was inadvertently not switched off, or had a fault. Not expensive, maybe £30 each.

For many years the flammable gas alarm worked fine – in other words it just sat there, and never said a word. Then it started going off, whenever there was any wine added to the stew on the hob, whenever there was any bread dough rising in a low oven, and whenever the windows were sprayed with a solvent cleaner. Eventually the alarm started going off so often – for example when the kettle boiled and steam was seen rising past the detector, that this was the final straw. It must be worn out, or faulty, it is just giving too many false alarms. So the gas detector was discarded.

Smart metering

OK I’m a real geek, I like the idea of monitoring the gas and electricity consumption, so readily joined in the offer for Scottish Power to install new “Smart” meters free of charge. Its part of a Government scheme, but means the meter readers don’t trample all over your home. That is the real benefit.

Meters installed aok, but just the final safety test – oh dear, there seems to be a slow gas leak somewhere in your system, its not major, but it falls outside permitted levels. Now I have to call out a ‘Gas Safe’ engineer to check the system, and have to pay for that (!) .

You know the problem, for the first two appointments no-one turns up. For the third, he is called away for urgent safety checks on a tower block, otherwise the tenants will all need to be evacuated. Finally, Saturday afternoon, I get an engineer to visit: this is Simon from JPS Plumbing and Heating in Winchester.

A hob problem

Simon very quickly locates the area of the problem, it’s in the supply to the ten year old gas hob. If the leak is in the hob itself, it would not be economical to repair. There are only two joints underneath to check, so Simon lies upside down in the oven space to feel the state of each one. Now the leak checks show the leak rate is smaller, and within the allowable tolerance – only a sixth of what can be permitted.

He is actually surprised to have made such a difference, compared to the initial leak test, so re-checks the joints. Now the supply pipework where it joins to the hob falls away completely. The steel 90 degree bend feeding the hob has sheared off between the thread holding the pipework and the bend. Although this newly created ‘nut’ unscrews, it immediately falls apart in two halves, in what could be described as a brittle fracture.

DSCN6161

This is supposed to be a 90 angle steel union. The thread holds the fitting on the copper pipe down onto the blue looking seal. The whole thread has cracked off, maybe its a very short length of thread, but it was not strong enough to take the stud fitting on the hob.

DSCN6166

Side view of the fitting, where the hob would be above. The cracks and failures are obvious.

The photos above show the union, with its broken thread, and the crack around the pipe, which had obviously been growing, and leaking, over the years. The false alarms the gas detector had given were just saying “Whatever else you are doing, its made the gas that’s leaking exceed the thresh-hold to trip my alarm”. Even the steam from the kettle was just making the gas rise faster on a route past the detector.

It would seem the elbow had been twisted too tight onto the hob, necessary to get the entry angle for the supply pipe to fit in the right direction. Maybe it was pulled too far on installation?  Or the sealing washer (the blue bit) was not flexible/compressible enough?

Lessons learned….

That union could have failed catastrophically, at any time, but maybe in the middle of the night, and filled up the kitchen with gas. When the boiler ignited at 7am, it would have had a willing flame ready to set off a really big bang.

Listen to your alarm sensors, and don’t ignore persistent false alarms! Buy a new sensor if the old one seems to be getting unreliable.

Get your gas supply around the house checked regularly – how do you know that even a properly installed hob – like we believed ours was – has not developed a fault, over 10 years?

Call a reputable plumber, a Gas Safe engineer who knows what he’s doing, like Simon from JPS Plumbing! Don’t just use a guy down the road who’s installed a few gas fires….

Postscript – the Hob itself

It is very likely that the 90 degree bend in steel that failed was supplied as an integral part of the hob itself, and not as a component by the original gas installation engineer. The hob was a PROline PGH460GL-U black glass top hob, with four burners, purchased via Currys. ProLine is reported by UKwhitegoods.co.uk as a trading name/brand owned by the retailer Comet, who sourced Eastern European or Chinese domestic appliances at the lower end of the market, and sold these via many other retail outlets. Particularly after the break-up of Kingfisher Group and transfer of the Comet business to Kesa, the quality of their product supply was not good.  The products were also still sold through the Darty chain of shops in France. This was apparently from 2006 onwards: the manual that came with this hob is dated 2007 and was originated by Kesa in Hull. PROline products are no longer sold, the business has closed.

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A ProLine gas hob of the PGH460GL-U type described here

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.