Archive for the ‘Local Businesses’ Category

Alresford Crafts: Dolls and soft toys for Collectors and Children.

scan186For around 25 years Alresford Crafts was a major business venture in the town, making dolls and soft toys. Perhaps more than any other, this business promoted the name of Alresford to consumers across the world, until 1992! John and Margaret Jones started trading from the two lower floors of the Town Mill, a building at the bottom of Mill Hill, Alresford, which dates from 1189. Water flowing out of the pond, and under the bridge at the lower end of Broad Street, used to fall down a vertical shaft inside the mill building and there rotate a turbine, which could drive the hoist and other machinery: then the water flowed under the mill floor and downstream.  Following an accident with a tree-trunk ramming down this shaft and smashing the turbine housing, causing a flood in the basement, the mill was modernized in 1972, when the stepped waterfalls were introduced, keeping the river outside the building: the basement became more habitable!

DSC01962a softtoysWhen John and Margaret moved into the mill, in 1964, their first business was that of a mail order gifts company, mainly involved in Christmas gifts. In order to expand they began co-operating with a lady from Salisbury, who used a network of home workers around there: eventually they took the business over from this lady, in about 1972, when more home workers were recruited around Alresford. In the first five years or so, Alresford Crafts just made soft toys, designed by Margaret Jones, and the business grew and became known for quality hand-made toys: the work was brought in-house as a method of ensuring this quality. Mrs Jones says the Brighton Toy Fair made an enormous difference, with lots of orders, but it alerted a lot of the competition, like Steiff (teddy bears), to their new materials.

Verena Harper worked there during 1976, as a checker and finisher, and particularly remembers the machinist girls making the toy otters had problems, because their tails seemed to twist round. Verena will be pleased to see the otters in the Alresford Museum collection seem OK. However, Mrs Jones was also interested in making dolls, and was convinced that a quality manufacturer in England could produce porcelain dolls for collectors worldwide.

DSC01991 alr crafts dollsSo in 1977 Alresford Crafts started planning a workshop where doll’s heads, hands and feet could be produced. Initially these were made of bone china, but then production switched to using porcelain. They were proud of producing their dolls wholly in England, and did not call their dolls ‘China dolls’. In fact the company adopted a logo that just used the word ‘Alresford’ – and so had to add a subheading of “…say it Alls-ford” to help with the problem of pronunciation, maybe particularly for the Chinese and Japanese people, when trying to order the dolls! The staff who made the soft toys found the transition to doll making, with their soft bodies, and the doll’s clothes, fairly easy. The first baby dolls were produced in 1978, and in 1979 boy and girl dolls were added, with 11 different styles. Each year saw fresh designs of doll, and soon the business moved to larger premises in another mill, a corn storage mill in the Railway Station Yard in Alresford, known as Station Mill. Next to the old Police Station, this is likely to be converted into retirement flats shortly!

Production at the Station Mill

scan188The Station Mill is a four storey building, and was used for producing both the stuffed toys and the dolls. On the ground floor a carding machine combed and straightened the fibres of non-inflammable synthetic material used for stuffing the toys, and the bodies for these animals were cut out in fabric by machine. On the second floor the bodies were sewn together on machines. On the top floor under the rafters the bodies were stuffed and the remaining seams sewn by hand. The toys then descended via a long chute to the ground floor, and were taken to the Town Mill for inspection, packing and despatch – going to children and collectors all over the world. Even by 1980 Alresford Crafts quoted official Distributors in Australia, Japan, France, Germany, The Netherlands and the USA. The company won design awards for their products in the USA and Japan: at one stage they even had their own warehouse in the USA, with their own sales staff.

The first floor was devoted to making and dressing the dolls. Normally Margaret Jones designed the dresses and cut the material out. On one side of the workroom the “Dress-makers” made the under-garments, dresses and bonnets:  in addition home-based workers were again recruited, this time to sew the doll’s clothes. Before working full time at the Town Mill from 1986, Jenny Lawes was one of these home workers, and remembers being paid five pence each for sewing a pair of doll’s pants!

scan185Production and painting of the porcelain heads, lower arms and legs was transferred in 1982 from near the Town Mill to a new Ceramics Department, located in the single storey building next to the Station Mill, which was run by Colin Larkin. Eventually the whole business employed around 35 people, including the home-workers. Most of the dolls were fairly large, typically 60cms, or two feet, tall.

Famous toys from Alresford

Today the Alresford Crafts soft toys and dolls are well known, and often sold on internet auction sites, as collector’s items. The Alresford Museum has acquired a collection of these soft toys, including the hedgehog, kangaroo (with a baby), Teddy bear, Polar bear, dinosaur and squirrel. One of the Alresford Crafts Teddy bears, known as a Honey Bear, was said to be unique in that it was designed to have a flat bottom, which made it easy to bend its legs and make it sit down properly, without having to lean against anything.

The Hand Of Fear pt4 102Another famous Alresford Crafts stuffed toy was the owl, which was produced in various styles and colour combinations. One of these, Oliver, the dark brown owl with large eyes, made a guest appearance on the BBC’s “Dr Who” programme, in Episode four of ‘The Hand of Fear’ as Sarah-Jane’s owl, when she leaves the Tardis: as yet we have not managed to find this particular version for our collection, but if you see one, let us know!

ET sceengrabs aaThe same owl appeared in the film ‘ET’, amongst the cuddly toys in Elliot’s wardrobe, which is where ET hides. Many thousands of this style of owl were produced.

Jenny Lawes also remembers Alresford Crafts producing the first versions of Pudsey, the BBC’s “Children-in-Need” bear, with the eye patch: these Alresford prototypes, built to a BBC design, had the bandage over the other eye (his left eye!). There was other work for the BBC, one presenter on children’s TV had a lamb puppet from Alresford Crafts, and the company was featured in a “Made in Britain” film, and in a Pebble Mill report. The mill also hosted visits from Angela Rippon, and even Kate Adie, but not when the latter was a war correspondent!

Alresford Crafts Dolls

scan187Maybe not so well known, except to doll collectors, are the Alresford Crafts dolls, and the first example found by the Museum was a clown, produced in 1981. Notable dolls made by Alresford Crafts included the Royal Baby dolls, celebrating the births of Prince William and Prince Henry. Such was the success of the first (the Prince William doll, a limited edition of 2500 in 1982) that the Prince Henry doll was also created to commemorate the birth of HRH Prince Henry of Wales (Harry). Cast in fine porcelain, and impressed on the neck ‘1984 Royal Baby RB2 Alresford’, (RB2 was a code for Royal Baby 2) the doll had blue glass eyes, painted features and a cloth body, and was dressed in a long cream satin robe with an overlay of lace, a matching bonnet and a pillow. Not quite what he looks like today, and there is not much evidence of red hair, in this model. Each doll was issued with a limited edition certificate, two catalogues and a swing tag. This baby doll measured 40.5cm (16″), and the robe was 71cm (28″) long.

prince henry alr craftsThe Alresford Museum has recently been lucky enough to obtain 25 Alresford Crafts dolls, collected over the period 1980-1983 by Mrs J.K.Gloyn of Taunton, and still in perfect condition in the original packaging. Included in these are the Prince William doll, and several other baby dolls, plus two boy dolls, called Patrick and Benjamin! The girl dolls are too numerous to mention, but all bear the initials of the people working there, who signed the back of the labels to show who made the clothes. The ceramic heads were marked and stamped with the initials of the workers who moulded, painted and completed the ceramics. The production staff were also involved in designing the outfits, and naming the dolls!

Later ventures

In 1982, in response to collectors’ requests for a fully pose-able jointed doll, Alresford Crafts introduced Mellissa (CD74) with a ball and socket jointed body made from a composite material – the head was still porcelain. Most of the other full sized dolls had a stuffed cloth body, upper arm and thigh: the exceptions were some of the baby dolls, particularly CD1/CD2 from 1979/80. The new style Mellissa doll was announced, at a price of £70, 40% higher than the average full sized doll, but were either never sold or quickly withdrawn, as Alresford Crafts were not happy with the quality/reliability.

DSC01967Later in the 1980s, a range of hand puppets and rag dolls were added to the Alresford Crafts doll collection, ie fully dressed dolls with soft bodies, heads and hands/feet. Apparently there was also some production of the black rag dolls previously described as ‘Gollywogs’, which was criticised from some quarters: the major market for these dolls was apparently to be found in export, to Nigeria.

Fiona

Fiona

Plus the factory produced other dolls under the trade name of ‘Margaret Jones Designer Dolls’: one of these was Fiona, a favourite of Jenny Lawes, who helped design and produce her outfit.

The recession of the 1980s, and the rapid growth of lower cost Chinese competition, made the volume of business turn down. The lead they had achieved with the softer filling in their soft toys was eroded by copycat products.

The Alresford Crafts business closed in 1992, with a major sale of the remaining stock, attended by most of the ladies of Alresford. Verena Harper remembers that much of the left-over stock of stuffed toys, mainly rats, guinea pigs and small owls, were given to the Alresford Christmas Tree Committee, to be used as presents for the children attending the Carol singing and Father Christmas evening on Broad Street that year.

STOP PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT!

Oliver the Owl

Oliver the Owl

A specimen of Ollie the owl, just over a foot high, has returned to Alresford from his temporary home up North – in Winsford, Cheshire. Ollie will be making a guest appearance in the Alresford Library display cabinet between now and Christmas, with lots more of the Alresford Crafts soft toys and dolls from our growing collection. So don’t forget to say hello as you collect your library books – unless of course he goes off with Dr Who and Sarah-Jane for another adventure in the meantime.

Now it is important to find some examples of the Alresford Crafts rag dolls for the Museum: and if possible even one of the “Gollywogs”! (Possibly we will be inundated with those emails from Nigeria, suggesting that this can be provided, for a relatively large up-front payment! The answer is ‘No’)

LATEST NEWS!

News as at January 2016: The Alresford Museum has received another collection of over 100 original stuffed toys and glove puppets made by Alresford Crafts: look out for the story and photos soon!

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George Frost, a local photographer

scan061sepiaIn acquiring local articles for the Alresford Museum, many of these unearth snippets of local history. One such is a card from the Photographer “Geo Frost” of the West End Studio, Market Street, Alton and Alresford, Hants. While the address is relating to his Alton premises, obviously he considered himself as the local photographer for Alresford also.

The card is playing card sized, and presents a picture of a little girl (we presume it is a little girl, rather than a boy), holding what appears to be a doll, sitting on a low table, like a coffee table. The initial thought was that we should publish the picture to see if anyone recognised the little girl as one of their relations, but a little more research suggests another possible identity.

In the book “Alton, Hampshire: A History” by the local historian Jane Hurst, All Saints’ Church, in Butts Road Alton, is described as being built in 1873-74, and among other donations, the wrought iron chancel screen was provided by “Mr and Mrs George Frost (in memory of their daughter)” in 1894. Other research shows George Frost was still taking pictures in 1900, when he recorded the celebrations in the town over the relief of Mafeking.

scan062sepiaSo possibly this picture was taken by George and shows his daughter, prior to 1894, and at some time later she died prematurely. It would be relatively straightforward to use his daughter’s picture to promote his business, whereas it might be less easy to use a picture of another young girl in that way. The picture also shows the Masonic symbols fairly prominently on both sides.

Adding some confusion, the very small writing at the bottom on the back of the card, which is a good quality thick card, says “Marion.Imp.Paris” in inverted commas.

Maybe you have some George Frost pictures or postcards from this period? If so we would be delighted to see them, and if possible, copy them for our collection – many such local postcard views can be found on www.alresfordheritage.co.uk, which is accessible via the museum website, http://www.museum.alresford.org

The Kingsley Bungalows, in New Farm Road

DSC01563b“During World War I (1914-18), Winchester became a major transit location for troops destined for the Western Front and battlefields. Vast numbers of barrack huts and recreation buildings were built, covering large tracts of Morn Hill, Magdalen Hill, Winnall Down and Avington Park. It is claimed the Morn Hill Camps could accommodate more than 50,000 troops when Winchester at the time only had a population of about 20,000.”

This above is the first paragraph from the website www.tohonourapromise.co.uk, which describes the camps and troop activities on Morn Hill and generally around Winchester during WW1. In Alresford, Tichborne and Old Alresford there were large encampments of soldiers waiting, in transit to France.

At the end of the war many of these young men returned home, and needed somewhere to live: there had been no house construction for five or more years. Efforts were made to construct houses quickly: and the huts used for the barracks and dormitories obviously offered a ready source of what were expected to be temporary accommodation huts for families.

Lt Kingsley Baker, MC

DSC01831aThe full story of these bungalows was difficult to confirm, as my first assumption was that Kingsley related to a family surname! The outline was always present, that the bungalows were erected in memory of a loved son who was killed (and decorated for his actions) in WW1.

The answer came from reading Glenn Gilbertson’s book, published by the Alresford Historical and Literary Society, called “Not Just a Name”. Lieutenant Kingsley Baker, MC, of A Battery, 51st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, died on 30 March 1918, aged 23, and is buried in the Abbeville Communal Cemetery on the Somme, in France. Kingsley Baker was the son of Henry Charles Baker and Nellie (nee Stubbs) Baker: Henry was a Draper and Outfitter of Broad Street in Alresford. They had three sons, and Kingsley was the youngest: the other two sons had previously been injured during WW1. Lt G Baker of the Royal Berkshire Regiment suffered a serious arm injury, and Lt P Baker, of the RAF, suffered severe burns in an aircraft accident in September 1917.

DSC01830aThe father wanted to do something in his son Kingsley’s memory, and he decided to buy some land at the end of New Farm Road, and have seven of these surplus army huts dismantled and re-erected on this land, as “temporary” homes for returning soldiers. In Glenn’s book the facts are quoted as “After the Great War Henry Baker purchased army huts at the bottom of New Farm Road, turning them into homes, named Kingsley bungalows, in his son’s memory.”

Hampshire Chronicle Reports

As quoted in “Not Just a Name” by Glenn Gilbertson:

Baker Kingsley real06.04.1918: “…Lt Baker … [from Alresford] was extremely popular in the town and district. He enlisted in September 1914 in the Hussars, and when volunteers were asked for he was one of the first to come forward, and was transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service. He served through the whole of the Gallipoli Campaign, and was one of the last thirty to leave Sulva Bay. On his return he was granted a commission in the Royal Field Artillery, and went to the Western Front in 1916.”

13.04.1918: “Letter from HQ – Brigade – Division BEF, to the Baker family: ‘I have just received intimation of the death from wounds of your son. I hope you will allow me to express to you my deep personal sorrow at the loss of a most gallant officer and friend, and my fellow-feeling for you in your great sorrow. He was one of my best officers, and, at the time he was wounded, was performing most gallant and efficient work as a forward observing officer in front of ******. He did so well that his name has gone in for immediate award of the Military Cross, and I feel very sad that he did not live to wear a much deserved decoration. I trust it may help you to know how much we thought of your son, and how gallantly he has fought throughout this great battle.’”

Kingsley Baker is listed on the New Alresford and the Tichborne WW1 memorials, the latter because prior to WW1 he had worked as a member of the Tichborne Estate Management team.

The Kingsley Bungalows

Kingsley Bungalows, as marked on OS maps

The Kingsley Bungalows plan, as shown on OS maps

These bungalows, created by Henry Baker in memory of his son, are still known as “The Kingsley Bungalows”, and labelled as such on the OS maps. Situated at the southern end of New Farm Road, they are constructed of seven huts end to end, ie with the roof line parallel to the road.

DSC01828aAll that can be seen to confirm this name is one plaque next to the doorway of Number 1, saying “1 Kingsleys”. These homes are around 24 feet deep and 30 feet wide, and still have the metal framework in place that was the strength of the original construction. Possibly the walls have now been replaced with brickwork, which is why the “temporary” homes are still standing, and permanent, sought after homes, after nearly 100 years. Obviously there have been extensions and modifications added over the years.

It is possible the two further similar bungalows, sited along Spring Way, now much modified, also started life as similar military huts: it is not known whether they were also part of Mr Baker’s project, but it seems likely.

Other Kingsley donations?

Possibly some of the military huts used in the camps around Winchester were dismantled and re-erected as community halls, scout huts and similar. Others were used for homes – Pat Bentley, in his recent article published on this website, describing his 1950s newspaper delivery round, quotes the use of two such huts that formed the home he lived in on the Bishop’s Sutton road outside Alresford, where here the huts were side by side.

Ropley008aAnother possible site of a ‘Kingsley’ related bungalow is on Church Lane in Ropley, where Nurse Johnson lived for a time in the 1950s or 60s, near to the Ropley school: the postcard photo of her wood-board faced bungalow is distinctly named (in a hand-written addition on the corner of the photo) as “Kingsley”. With two chimneys and a tiled roof it has been much modified from any original military hut. The use of the Kingsley name there is interesting: but further research by Una Yeates (now living in Alresford) into her family links with Ropley, has shown that her relation Walter Ford (later of 3 Church Cottages, Ropley) married a Fanny Walton in  1878: Fanny was quoted to be resident at ‘Kingsley’ in Ropley, at that much earlier date. Una provided the attached picture from family archives.

In Ropley and Fourmarks, it was reported that after WW1 returning servicemen erected what were known as “Colonial style” bungalows as homes on land which was provided at low cost: one is pictured in the Ropley Millennium booklet. Les Holder comments that there were four huts similar to the Kingsley bungalows opposite the Flower Pots Pub in Cheriton, and his brother lived in such a hut in Darvills Terrace, next to “The Ship” in Bishop’s Sutton.

From the “To Honour a Promise” research activities, Tony Dowland comments that the WW1 hutments were frequently used post-war, for civil use. “In King’s Worthy. Much of Springvale Road was ‘developed’ using strips of land upon which a hut would be placed. There is no real evidence of where they came from. They could have come from the many camps around Winchester including wider Morn Hill, Worthy Down and Morestead. In Kings Worthy the ‘developer’ was Cundell Blake of Woodhams Farm.”

He also comments that “If you look back in the Chronicle for the immediate post-war period you will find auctioneer’s adverts listing the many items being sold as war surplus. Huts would go for about £25, with the purchaser to dismantle. They even offered rail transport via the camp railway. Also the large camp cinema on Morn Hill was transferred to Park Avenue (on North Walls) – where it became first a theatre, and later a cinema.”

Colonial style bungalow in Ropley

Colonial style bungalow in Ropley

In Ropley and Fourmarks, it was reported that after WW1, returning servicemen erected what were known as “Colonial style” bungalows as homes on land which was provided at low cost: one is pictured in the Ropley Millennium booklet. Possibly these were based around war surplus hut purchases. Les Holder (aged 101 now I think, but still resident in Alresford) comments that there were four huts similar to the Kingsley bungalows opposite the Flower Pots Pub in Cheriton, and his brother lived in such a hut in Darvills Terrace, next to “The Ship” in Bishop’s Sutton.

Again in Ropley, the Ford brothers (relatives of Una Yeates), who were painters and decorators, so associated with builders, both lived in such bungalow huts. Una also remembers that there were four such huts erected in Walter Read’s builder’s yard in West Meon, and that in fact six families lived in these four huts. This continued even after Read’s was taken over by another builder (Jenkins of Bournemouth), but the yard was developed and replaced by modern residential housing in the 1950s.

It was also reported that the first council houses built at the far end of Grange Road, during or towards the end of WW1, were in fact built with the help of German POWs! A different legacy to the town, compared to the French soldiers who, as Napoleonic POWs, left us some gravestones. Across the country, after WW1, some of these German POWs decided to stay and settle down in the UK, maybe because they had been absorbed closely into the community while working on such projects.

History repeats itself

The same story occurs in WW2, where there were major encampments of soldiers in transit, camped in Alresford, Northington and Old Alresford: also during WW2 the St Swithun’s school buildings on the road into Winchester were used as a Hospital for injured soldiers – in fact my stepmother (an Army nurse from Great Yarmouth/Gorleston) was stationed there. Then, after the war ended, all the returning soldiers were desperate to find or create homes for their families, the moreso because of the bomb damage to city centres like Portsmouth and Southampton. Notably the Fire Service accommodation erected on the Stratton Bates Recreation Ground was turned into homes for evacuees, and continued in such use until the early 1950s. This story is told by Brian Rothwell in his article ‘The Stratton Bates Legacy’ in the 2014 edition of Alresford Articles, published by the Alresford Historical and Literary Society – he even has a sketch of the last hut left on the recreation ground, as the first sports pavilion and changing rooms, which served until 1994.

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

Another temporary home, mentioned by Pat Bentley in his recent article, was the Railway carriage that was positioned in the field at the top of Jacklyn’s Lane, near the water tower. There was another Railway carriage in Alresford at that time: this one was heavily disguised, with a thatched roof and wood cladding on the sides – it was used as a clubhouse by the Golf Club for some years. It was located opposite the Cricketer’s Pub, across Tichborne Down, and had a car park between the two for the golfers. This cannot really be classed as an emergency temporary home…..

 

Update from 1950-60

Number 1: "Bennett's" shop in the 50s-60s.

Number 1: A modern picture of what was Mrs Bennett’s shop in the 50s-60s.

Gog Andrews remembers that Number 1, Kingsley Bungalows, in the 1950-60 period, was a thriving local shop, known as Bennett’s, run by Tom and Emma Bennett. Thriving, because at that time the main industry and employment in Alresford was located in Prospect Road: these were companies like Gush & Dent (Agricultural Steel Fabricators), White & Etherington (Timber Merchants), Wessenden Products (Brush Manufacturers), William Thorne (Timber Merchants), The Chicken Factory (Poultry Slaughter, Prep & Packing). Mrs Bennett sold a selection of groceries, sweets, tobacco, cigarettes, cakes, paraffin, etc, to all the Prospect Road workers, and the local residents, so it was relatively busy. Tom Bennett had a farm, along on Tichborne Down, and fresh eggs from the chickens there were also sold in the shop.

But the bungalow was in the same format as it remains today – Mr and Mrs Bennett lived there, and the sitting room was to the left through the front door. The room to the right was the shop, in just one smallish room, containing a counter, a few shelves and a large table: a hanging bell on the front door called Mrs Bennett out to serve. Gog says that from the outside it was hardly noticeable as a shop, with hardly any signage or advertising: in fact it looked almost the same then as it does today, approached up the front path through the lawn in the front garden, with the door in the centre and windows either side.

Postscript: April 2016

A new document donated to the Alresford Museum shows road layout plans (hand-drawn) and lists the house names and numbers existing in Alresford in 1946. The Kingsley bungalows are shown there, labelled 1-7, and these are also labelled with their house numbers as allocated on the New Farm Road numbering system, which are numbers 14 to 20, with the bungalow known as number 1 Kingsley Bungalows also being number 20, New Farm Road!

Delivering the Papers in 1950’s Alresford

This article is adapted from one of the many articles that appeared in “Alresford Articles” Issue Number 4, 2014, published by the Alresford Historical and Literary Society (www.alresfordhistandlit.co.uk), from whom copies can be purchased. 

Some reminiscences about 1950’s Alresford, mainly from Pat Bentley, still living in Alresford.

Pat Bentley was born in Alresford in 1939: the memories recalled here date from his childhood, mainly focused on his travels around town as a newspaper boy in the 1950’s. His Dad worked on the watercress beds in Itchen Stoke, owned by Mr Baker. The council didn’t really like him working as a paper boy aged 13, but somehow he got round that: he worked for Phair’s, the newsagent at the corner of Broad Street and East Street, later renamed Lawrence’s.

Pat Bentley

Pat Bentley

On weekdays the papers arrived at Phair’s at around 6am, in a van from Winchester, and were sorted out by Mrs Taylor and Jean Cannings. Pat picked up the paper bike from St Joan’s at 7am, and started deliveries along East Street, Sun Lane and Edward Terrace, then back along Haig Road (not then properly surfaced) and Churchyard Cottages, getting back to Phair’s at 0745. More papers were collected and delivered to West Street, the Dean and Pound Hill: his friend John Newman did Broad Street and Grange Road.

Pat arrived back at the top of Pound Hill at around 0850, just in time to collect his school friend Gerald Cornforth from number 42, Rose Cottage (Ref 1) and go over to school at Perin’s. In the evening there was another newspaper delivery, this time of the Echo and the Standard: these Pat collected from the 4.15pm train from Winchester – and took them for sorting to Dedman’s grocery shop at the corner of West Street and Jacklyn’s Lane. These he just delivered around the centre of the town.

On Sundays the papers were sorted out at 7am in Wigmore’s on Broad Street (where Morgan’s Hardware is now): George Wigmore was a hairdresser, that also organised bus and coach trips – on one side, up the hill was Major’s, a toy and drapery store, and on the other Barker’s café – also with a drapery and gents outfitters. [Recently Nelly Shaw, of Bramble Hill, mentioned that she once worked in Major’s: Nelly is now aged 103, I think!] These papers were delivered with help from Gerald Cornforth: Pat did the same round as on weekdays to the east of the town, but after Churchyard Cottages went on up Station Road (not made up at that time), Station Approach and through the railway arch up Jacklyn’s Lane.

Memories of the Delivery Round

In the 1950s the area around what is now called Nursery Road was a vegetable nursery, at the western end, run first by Mr Fairhead. Then the Fairheads started a builder’s yard at the corner of New Farm Road, and the nursery was run by Mr Wells. At the other end of what is now Nursery Road, opposite Langton’s farm (run by Mr Conway and his sons), the field there was known as the Alresford Fair field, where the annual Alresford Show was staged: Pat was in one of the local Scout packs, as most of the boys were in those days, and they sold the programmes. But they also tried to help get the vehicles out of the field after Show days, because it regularly flooded, and was very boggy. Over on Jacklyn’s Lane, opposite the nursery, Grange Road was unadopted, all mud and stones, with ashes put out by the residents to fill the holes: the same applied to Salisbury Road and Rosebery Road further up.

Between Grange Road and the railway line, Pam Bailey comments that another field there, Mr Ellingham’s field, was where the annual Fun Fair was held – now the Fun Fair is usually erected on the Stratton Bates recreation ground, and a bungalow has been built on that part of the Ellingham field. During WWII, the Stratton Bates rec had been used as a rest area for Southampton and Portsmouth Fire Services personnel, with various Nissen Huts erected: Pam had friends whose families lived in these huts in the 1950s, until the time when Grange Road was resurfaced and most of the huts removed (Ref 2). One was left as a changing room facility for the sports field, which lasted a long time, into the 1990s!

Demolishing the Water Tower, by A.R.Wade

Demolishing the Water Tower, by A.E.Wade

Going up the Jacklyn’s Lane hill, the town water-tower stood in a field on the right, slightly below the top, and behind where the Catholic Church and Carpenters now stand. A painting showing the demolition of this water tower and pump house in June 1955, by A.E.Wade, is now on display in the Alresford library. The records there say that the town water supply came from this field for over 50 years, using a 120 foot deep five foot diameter shaft, and below that another 45 ft of an 18” borehole. A reservoir at ground level supplied water to most of the town: the water tower, with a top water level 16 feet above ground level (and quoted to be a concrete construction) enabled the water supplies to the higher parts of the town. Access was between the houses on Grange Road: now two appropriately named bungalows have sprung up on this site. Since 1955 the town water comes from Northington.

 The chicken farm, looking towards Alresford centre. The white roof near the Church is the cinema roof.

The chicken farm, looking towards Alresford centre. The white roof near the Church is the cinema roof.

Near to the top of the hill, before Salisbury Road, the next field contained a railway carriage, at the far corner. Pat had to walk along the path diagonally across the field up to the carriage to deliver the paper to the lady who lived there: and she had no curtains on the carriage windows. Occasionally this led to some slight embarrassment to the poor lad. The field to the West of the water tower was where Miss Toft had her stables and horse riding school. On the opposite side of the road, where the Bramble Hill bungalows now stand, there was a chicken farm.

Moving on down the hill, there were 15 houses and bungalows in the area down to the Cricketer’s Pub, which included a schoolteacher – Mr Hedges – and the Chant family, who still live in Yettan, the house opposite what is now Linnets Road: there the three brothers had a car repair business. The three big houses on the left behind the Cricketer’s were named Fair View, Shepherd’s Down and Paddock Way, which were bought up and demolished to create the new housing estate. Dr Clark lived in one of these houses, and moved up the hill to the house on the corner of Rosebery Road: still present in Shepherd’s Down, Downlea was an earlier house built for the Hastead family (butchers) and accessed by a track down to Tichborne Down. Pat recalls four houses between the Cricketer’s and the field by the side of Tichborne Hospital (which is now Orchard Close) plus a track up the hill leading to Bennett’s Farm.

scan109The original site of the pub called “The Cricketer’s” was on the corner of Sun Lane, and became the Links Laundry: Whitehill Lane originally veered to the right (when approaching from Tichborne Down) at this laundry and went to the three original bungalows – on the southern side of the ‘new’ (1985) bypass to the town, now accessed via the underpass. The photo shows the original track of Whitehill Lane, as the initial work on the bypass cuts across the road. Earth banks were added later.

Turning up Sun Lane, there was Mr Hazelgrove’s house (the butcher) and another large house where Dr Calder lived, on the site of what is now the Sun Hill housing estate.  In wartime, the top of the hill (now the school playing field) had been the site for one of the searchlights on this side of town, looking for enemy aircraft, navigating at night using Alresford Pond as a landmark: Pam Bailey says another searchlight was on the Golf Course. Going over the top of the hill there was the Rectory, where Reverend Pearson lived – set well back from the road where some of the Beech Road houses are now. In the grounds of the Rectory, adjacent to Sun Lane, there was a swimming pool, and beside that there was a building that had also been used as a Scout hut. The Sun Hill Junior and Infants schools now occupy the area on the top of the hill, and they also had an open air swimming pool down near the bottom fence, up until the 1980s, but this was built presumably with the new school. Further down the hill, between where Chestnut Walk and Nursery Road is now, there was a half round-roofed Nissen hut, which acted as the local Army Cadet hut, run by Alf and Vic Merritt.

Going down past Edward Terrace, the last house had a garage round the corner in Haig Road, and here Mr Molyneux, an AA patrolman, stored his motorbike and sidecar. Haig Road was not made up at this time: down there on the right was the British Legion Hall, and a printing works.

On the corner of Sun Lane was the Sun Inn, owned and run by Cameron Black: of interest to Pat because they had Rock & Roll discos in there (in the evenings). But the main contact with the pub was his weekly visit from after collecting the paper money, mainly in pennies. These he swapped in the pub for larger denomination coins, as Cameron Black needed the change. Audrey Chalk at that time worked in the World Stores, run by Mr Blake: it was almost across the road from The Sun, at 17 East Street. Audrey well remembers phone-calls requesting them to take over further cheese supplies to The Sun, when extra lunchtime guests had arrived. Cameron Black would only have cheese cut from the centre of a whole cheese, so he was a difficult customer!

Bicycles were important

For Pat and his friends, such as Gerald Cornforth and Peter Chalk (later to be Audrey’s husband), bicycles were very important. Mr Andrews at 36 East Street, working from a shed accessed up Brandy Mount, mended bikes – cheaper than the main cycle shop, Turner’s. He did all the jobs needed despite only having one good arm. The cycle shop was in West Street, on the corner of Station Road, and was run by Mr Turner. He also lived on West Street – in number 38, Berukin, where the Dentist is now. Mr Turner employed young staff in his shop, so when he was not there, on a Saturday, the boys of the town used to get their bikes serviced free of charge.

They then went regularly on trips, pedalling to Oxford or Bournemouth, Southampton or Portsmouth, in groups of 10 or 12 on their bikes. These were 1950s bikes, not modern lightweight ones. Audrey Chalk remembers Peter was keen on cycling trips to Portsmouth, where he would visit the theatre for a matinee performance, then cycle home. His preferred show was by the actress who was the model for Jane Gay in the famous ‘Just Jane’ strip cartoons in the Daily Mirror – quoted by Winston Churchill as Britain’s secret weapon in WWII. She was actually called Chrystabel Leighton-Porter: born in Eastleigh, her routine was much appreciated by sailors. It sounds like Audrey soon put a stop to that. Pat says he never went to those sort of shows.

Pam Bailey also remembers bicycles as very important. When she was very young her mother worked in the Volunteer Arms on West Street, and took Pam into work with her. This pub was always full of cyclists from out of town: the main hobby for ordinary people in those days seemed to be touring on a bicycle, so the cycle shops, pubs and tea rooms did a lot of passing trade. Pam also remembers cycling to Petersfield, and walking to Winchester on a Saturday to support the Alresford Town football team when they were playing at Couch Green. Probably in later years than Pat Bentley, Pam also did the same paper round as Pat, on behalf of her brother, when he was unable to do it!

Picture 3a. The Civic Cinema in Station RoadFurther up Station Road was the Civic Cinema, which was basically an un-insulated tin shack that was an oven in Summer and a fridge in winter, but which had two stoves, which roasted those close to the stove – everyone else was chilly. Audrey Chalk was the usherette in the cinema, when the normal usherette – who happened to be Pete’s Aunt, Kathleen Smith – was on holiday, or absent. Pat Bentley also helped as a projectionist at the cinema, and because of his liking for Rock & Roll discovered that the large speakers behind the screen were very effective for playing his 78rpm records. The regular projectionist was Georgie Troke, sometimes helped by Pam Bailey’s brother. Pam recalls the audience stamping their feet when the film projection broke down. Entrance charges were three pence for seats at the front, and six pence at the back: there were three films per week, one of which was a matinee. The cinema was where Alders Court now stands, opposite the (then) Police Station.

The Monkey Hut

The Monkey Hut

Between the Police Station and the Swan Hotel was a wooden building known as “The Monkey Hut”, which was almost three-cornered, and acted as a Church Hall, being used for Brownie and Girl Guide meetings, but also another place that Pat remembers as holding ‘Rock & Roll’ sessions for the younger townspeople! The origin of the name is unknown. In the area by the side of the cinema, down to the house known as Mulberries [demolished in 2014 to make way for more houses!] was the HCC lorry park and yard, and behind the public conveniences there were allotments reaching down to the houses in Station Approach: this area is now occupied by Bailey House and Crockford House.

The Scout Hut

Pat lived at 25 Mill Hill, opposite the Town Mill originally: his Godmother Miss Chapman lived at the Old Post House in Broad Street. Miss Chapman became frail and needed more care, so they all moved to live together at Secundus on the Bishop’s Sutton road. The bungalow there was constructed from what might have been two Army huts side by side, so by boarding up doorways, Miss Chapman had her own privacy in one half of the building: Pat and his family named their other half of the bungalow “Dancaster”, and had a separate entrance on the side. There were several acres of land with Secundus, and Miss Chapman donated an acre of land, up to the railway bridge, to the Scouts for a headquarters hut, which was then brick built by Paines the builders, with help from Pat (who can still build a good wall if you need one). The building was situated on the right just before the railway bridge: it was later used as a rabbit farm, and then gradually developed into a bungalow home – called Railway View. Around five years ago this was replaced with a much larger house, called Acre Wood, so presumably any recognisable features of the Scout HQ building have disappeared!

Picture 4. The Scout hut on the Bisop's Sutton roadThe picture shows the District Commissioner Rev. E.W. Selwyn inspecting the Scouts at the opening event, with some Guides also lined up behind. Miss Chapman is with the First Alresford troop Scoutmaster, Harold Shaw. On the right the Scouts there are from the Second Alresford (Handicapped) troop that was for boys and some older residents from the Tichborne Down House Hospital (Ref 3), which was a large community at that time.

Community buildings and The Dean factories

A big impression from Pat’s comments is that there were many many huts and buildings erected for out-of-school and community activities, for the kids, but also the young people of the town, in those days!  Most of those listed so far were for boys, so I queried that. Pat says the girls had the Monkey Hut, and another guide hut, well separated from the boys huts, situated at the lower end of the Dean, where Huxley’s now stands. Up the road from there, he adds that there was Trucraft, a factory that made cinder blocks from the coal waste produced in the gasworks, which was further up the road. Pam Bailey remembers having an old pram that the children used, to collect twigs and broken branches from the woods – and it was also used to collect coke from the gasworks – to use on the fire at home. Allan Hunt, who was later to run a coach company from the Dean, used to drive the lorries for Trucraft.

Further up the Dean, the ‘Old Forge Works’ in the 1950s made wrought iron gates and similar products – the business later moved to Ropley, near The Chequers Pub on the A31: maybe this building will not be a landmark much longer either, as it is unoccupied and derelict in 2014! For around the last ten years the Old Forge Works has been the home to Influx Measurements, who make glass tube variable area Rotameter flowmeters, normally seen as the anaesthetic gas flowmeters in TV Hospital dramas. Influx was an offshoot from the company Platon Flowmeters of Basingstoke, which is where your author worked: the Platon company was founded by Gilbert Platon, who retired to one of the flats in Ellingham Close. Influx Measurements is now located in one of the other factories in the Dean.

Nick Denbow

Ref 1: “The bombing of Alresford”, Glenn Gilbertson, Alresford Articles 2, page 15.

Ref 2: “The Stratton-Bates Legacy”, Brian Rothwell, Alresford Articles 4, page 7.

Ref 3: “100 Years of Scouting, in Alton, Alresford and surrounding villages” Nicola Guy & Sheila Woodman, 2001.

The 1950s black+white photos are reproduced with permission from www.alresfordheritage.co.uk.

Postscript July 2015:

This article relied heavily on the memories of Pat Bentley, who was then living in the Valdean mobile home park in the Dean. Pat, on his own since his wife died a few years ago, has now decided that it is time to do something different. So he has sold his Valdean home, and bought a true mobile home, plus a Smart car that he can tow behind. He is now off travelling, wherever the road takes him, and will probably spend some of his time with his brother in the East Midlands. I’m sure his old friends in Alresford will wish him Bon Voyage, and hope to see him back here occasionally. You’ll recognise the bright blue Smart car, it has “Smart arse” written across the boot!

Different experiences of being a PoW in Germany

……from one family, in two World Wars!

Valery Hollier is the grand-daughter of Edgar and Alice Teresa Blake. Edgar Blake was the manager of The World Stores in East Street, in Alresford, at number 15, which is now the hairdressers. The World Stores (or, looking at the picture, maybe it was called the Worlds Stores) was in East Street from around the 1920s until the 1950s: Pat Bentley and Audrey Chalk remember the World Stores in the 1950s, Pat from his paper round (See Alresford Articles Number 4) – and Audrey worked in the shop for a time.

Edgar and Alice Blake, probably in the 1930s

Edgar and Alice Blake, probably in the 1930s

Edgar and Alice had four children, Kenneth, Marjorie, Primrose [Valery’s Mum, known as Peggy] and Barbara. Barbara is still alive, living in Winchester, aged 92, and Valery, born in 1946, lives in Bournemouth, but returns to Alresford to visit whenever she can.

Edgar Blake in WW1

In WW1 Edgar Blake was in the Royal Hampshire Regiment, fighting at the Somme. A shell exploded close to him, and it blew half his face away: these very bad injuries led to his comrades leaving him where he lay, believing he would die. The advancing German troops found him and took him back to a field hospital – this led to a series of 22 operations on his face, rebuilding it and using skin grafts from his chest. Valery says that each operation was photographed and written up in German: at the side of each photograph each procedure was described. This album is now to be passed to a museum from one of her cousins in Hertfordshire. During his treatment Edgar heard one of the Doctors say that “This one will not make old bones”, implying a short life expectancy. In this diagnosis they were wrong, in that he lived until March 1977, achieving the age of 89. His face was always disfigured, and he had to eat what Valery calls ‘sloppy food’ – like shepherd’s pie, home-made soups etc. Alice died in 1963, and both of them are interred in St John’s churchyard: in their retirement they lived at 8 Bridge Road.

Peggy Blake and Len Swatton in WW2

Peggy Blake was living in Alresford at the outbreak of WW2, and was courting Leonard (Len) Reginald Swatton, from Winchester, at the outbreak of WW2: he went off to France with the 51st Highland Division of the Royal Horse Artillery. Early in February 1940 Peggy received a telegram saying “See the Vicar , we are getting married!”. With leave from France and a special license they were married, on 14 February 1940 in St John’s Church. Only 3 days later Len went back to Europe via Chideock in Devon: he was captured by the Germans in late May/early June 1940 at St Valery en Caux. Because, despite the events, he liked the name of the place, this is why Valery, who arrived after the war in 1946, was given the name, with the unusual spelling. She was christened by Canon Robertson Len was a POW for five years, held in the Stalag VIIIB camp near Auschwitz in Southern Germany. When he was released in 1945 he told Valery [as a child] that the Germans marched them round and round in circles, but later she discovered this was what was known as The Death March, with prisoners trudging around Germany between January and March 1945.

Strange comparison

It is ironic that two members of the same family could have had such contrasting treatment as POWs of the Germans in the two wars. But at least both survived the war to come home.

And the Worlds Stores as it looked today:

DSC01333a

 

Comment from Valerie, August 5th 2014:

Thank you, thank you, SO much for the wonderful “Write up” with regards to my Grandfather and my own Father during World Wars I and II, in your reminiscences.

Valery

Alresford Memories – from Pam Bailey

These memories were inspired by the account of Pat Bentley’s newspaper delivery round in the 1950s, written for the Alresford Articles journal (Issue Number 4) published in June 2014 by the Alresford Historical and Literary Society. Some of Pam’s reminiscences were also included in that article, as often she was asked to do a similar paper round on behalf of her (older) brother.

Pam Bailey was born as Pam Rousell, and has lived in Alresford and Winchester all her life: she now lives in Watercress Meadow. Pam writes:

Before the NHS system, and also before WW2, the local Doctors used to charge six old pence (6d) a week to be ‘on their books’ as it were. Dr Meryon had his surgery on the right on Broad St, Dr Leishman was on the left. Dr Skeggs had a surgery opposite the Sun Inn on East Street.

McCutcheon’s, the grocers, was on the right in Broad St, and the Crockford’s grocers shop was on the left – there was always a lovely smell of ground coffee around this shop.

During WW2 you used to collect your gas masks, rosehip syrup and orange juice from the Old Fire Station at the bottom of Broad Street. Being a young child at the time, I had a sort of complete suit that was a gas mask.

When I was very young I was not well, and had a lot of time at home, mainly staying with aunts: I missed a year of schooling because of operations. Mother had several jobs through the day in town, one of which was working in the Volunteer Arms on West Street, and I would go to work with her. This pub was always full of cyclists. Other businesses revolved around the cyclists, such as Dedman’s café and shop up on Pound Hill (there was a cycle repair shop up there too – Ed). Another café was the Winton café, near the Bell, where the flower shop and travel agents now are. I remember the old mail coaches coming through town at this time, and stopping at the Bell Hotel. Cycling long distances was normal, for example I remember cycling to Petersfield.

Mrs Whitaker had a Grocer’s shop at the bottom of West Street, in the half of the school house now occupied by a hairdresser, and next door there was the chemist, later run by Mr Goode. There was also a private school half way up West Street, run by Mrs Curtis.

Sheep and Fun Fairs

For the sheep fairs the sheep were herded into a field next to Dr Skeggs’ surgery in East Street, to be held there until they were driven through town to the station, for transport by train. I remember the Alresford Show as being held there one year too.

The story about the Broad Street Fun Fair was that a lady, Mrs Diamont, had a table top in Broad Street on the Fair day throughout the war (WW2): often this was quoted as needed to maintain the right of the Fun Fair to occupy the street on this day – a form of charter, said to date from King John.

The Golf Course

WW2 also saw a searchlight positioned on what is now the Sun Hill School playing field, as well as another on the golf course. At the end of the war the golf clubhouse was in an extension on the Cricketer’s pub: a “street party” was held on the golf course when the war ended. All the children were allowed to play on the golf course, but not on the greens: you could walk all over the course, wherever you liked.

Children, and Rivers and Swimming

Crowds of kids went swimming in the rivers at Drove Lane, and at the Horse pond (which is now called the ford) on Spring Way – also down at the hatches (now a fish farm) off Spring Way. Then came the swimming pool at the bottom of the Dean, but that was very ‘slimy’, because of mud on the bottom of the pool.

The Cinema

The projectionist at the Cinema on Station Road was called Georgie Troke, and my brother used to go and help him. When the film broke everyone would stamp their feet. Admission prices were 3d at the front, and 6d at the back.

Walking and scavenging….

Some of the children used to walk to Winchester – often to the football match at Couch Green, to see Alresford Town play against a Winchester team. Another afternoon occupation was to take an old pram out into the woods, to go ‘wooding’ – collecting sticks and branches for firewood. Then sometimes, with the same old pram, we would go to the gasworks to collect any spare coke.

Copies of Alresford Articles AA4 can be obtained from Glenn Gilbertson, or the Alresford Historical and Literary Society. http://www.alresfordhistandlit.co.uk

Christmas toys on display

Toy cars, soldiers and an Alresford clock face

Toy cars, soldiers and an Alresford clock face

For Christmas, and until early January, there is a seasonal display of toys and games in the Town Trustees’ cabinet in Alresford library. The Christmas display includes a selection of toys from the Alresford Museum stores, including several soft toys, like Teddy Bears and other animals from Alresford Toys, a business that had a factory some years ago in the Town Mill, in the station car park, and other makers. Vintage cars and old toy soldiers are on display, plus the “Ludo” board game, alongside more modern additions like the Binky story book – plus Buzz Lightyear is hiding in there too. Other local items are on show, like the leather saddle, made in Alresford by Alresford Saddlers, and a very old face from a grandfather clock also made in Alresford: this one seems to be named Howes, rather than the ‘Evans’ name you might have expected!

Soft toys, Ludo, and an Alresford saddle

Soft toys, Ludo, and an Alresford saddle

The library has also added to this theme, with a display of old-style biscuit boxes in the window, plus also a display of Christmas toys and decorations by Bob Leggett (tel 733475) whose collection of such things spans over a century.

Christmas decorations by Bob Leggett

Christmas decorations by Bob Leggett

Crested China

In addition there is a new display from the Alresford Museum in the separate cabinets on show in the Old Fire Station, where Artworthy Framing operates their picture framing business.  The display is visible during shop opening hours, Tuesday to Saturday every week. The new museum cabinets show a selection of crested miniature china souvenirs bearing the Alresford crest, which was produced over the years for tourists and maybe even official dinner table settings. This was very popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian era.

Alresford crested miniature china

Alresford crested miniature china

At least in modern times, the Alresford coat of arms does seem to be accepted to have the chequer-board coloured in gold (or yellow) and black, but the crested china has two distinct styles, one gold/black and one a red-brown colour and black. The origin or reason for the red-brown colour is unknown, maybe it was dating from an earlier period, or was easier to manufacture? Or maybe one supplier just got the colour wrong? If anyone knows please let us know.

An Alresford souvenir coffee mug

An Alresford souvenir coffee mug

Also there are various information sheets illustrating the history of the town: these feature the Old Fire Station itself, and the history of the Alresford Fire Service; Broad Street, and the annual Michaelmas Fair; The Avenue leading to the town along the Winchester Road, and its trees; and the Eel House on the River Alre, where the building has recently been restored, and where the eel traps are to be reinstated for demonstration purposes only – there will be no harm done to any eels!

The full display of china in the Old Fire Station

The full display of china in the Old Fire Station

The Alresford Museum is a separate section of the New Alresford Town Trustees, which is a registered charity: see www.towntrust.org.uk. At the moment the museum has no full time premises, so organizes separate displays in these cabinets and in the photographic panels in the Broad Street passageway and at Oakleaf Stationery.