Archive for the ‘Railway’ Category

Alresford Railway Station: 1940s and 50s

There are not many photos of strategic installations around WW2: it is said that taking such photos was “not the right thing to do”. But there are a few paintings. Some of these were reproduced as souvenir postcards, after the war. June Benham found two of these recently, and has provided them for us to see.

The first is from 1944, from a painting by Ian Cooper. It shows tanks preparing for unloading, to be assembled and checked prior to D-Day. Iris Crowfoot, on her website, mentions the tanks parked on the Avenue on 4th and 5th June 1944. This was in her story “Ike and Monty came to Alresford”.


The second postcard is from the 1950s, and rather glamorizes the smoky steam engines with shining bodywork, in the sunlit scene. But no matter. It shows Edward Terrace too, and was painted by Ken Hankin.


Later, there were different styles of engine attending Alresford Station. Actually, my grandson and I did a 100 yard trip on the diesel engine with the unusual Thomas the Tank Engine type face, up the sidings alongside Ellingham Close, and back again!.


A wartime childhood in Bishop’s Sutton

Drayton Farmhouse, at Nythe, drawn by Jim Smith

Drayton Farmhouse, at Nythe, drawn by Jim Smith

Jim Smith, who still lives in Alresford, remembers various wartime events: all these happened between Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton, where he lived with his parents in Drayton Farmhouse, just past the watercress beds in Nythe. At the time, Jim was around six years old, and years later, when he finally managed to get a sketch pad, he drew the pictures shown here of some of these events.

Frank Smith, his Dad, farmed the fields between Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton, and looked after the cress beds. The most memorable event was the crash of the Lady Luck, a USAF Flying Fortress, in September 1943, when Jim, his Dad and Uncle Alf, who was in the Marines, were out in the evening, near the watercress beds at Nythe. As dusk approached, and the first sign of anything unusual was the noise of bombers coming over at low level from the west (Nelson Trowbridge – see below – says that the rest of the crew had bailed out over Winchester). Jim says that their landing lights appeared to be switched on, lighting up the sky, and presumably also the ground in front of them. He assumes they were trying to show the pilot of the stricken aircraft the ground, despite the dusk, for him to find a suitable area of fields for a crash landing. Then the aircraft crashed, ploughing into the field near the cress beds at the top of the pond.

Lady Luck, who did not quite end up in the pond!

The crash of Lady Luck, who did not quite end up in the pond!

Almost at the same time, a parachute appeared, and the parachutist came down in one of the trees north of the pond, close to them. His parachute got caught, and the man, who turned out to have been the pilot, ended up hanging in the trees upside down. Jim’s Uncle Alf was a big man – he had size 17 feet – and managed to reach the pilot and lift him up out of the harness, and tree, down to the ground: being very grateful the pilot gave Uncle Alf his boots, which were hanging round his neck, as they used to fly in thick flight-socks. The pilot said it was not a problem for him to give the boots away, they were always lost in a crash, so he would get some new ones issued. The only trouble was the boots were size 8, so Jim’s Dad had them, they would not fit Uncle Alf’s big feet!

img182The railway, running on the embankment up the rise to Four Marks, was an easy target for passing enemy aircraft, so they would harass any trains they found steaming up the gradient. As a result there would often be a train sitting in the cutting, west of the railway bridge, hiding in the shelter of the cutting and the trees, until the driver felt that aircraft activity in the area had subsided, or any circling aircraft had given up. Others got caught on the exposed embankment, and Jim remembers one train speeding down the hill, with what appeared to be all the wheels sparking or on fire under the carriages behind. Possibly it had needed to go downhill very fast, and the driver was trying very hard to slow down! But Jim reckons the train had been machine gunned by an enemy aircraft and was on fire.

The railway bridge itself was quite low, for vehicles passing underneath, and one unfortunate tank commander only discovered the lack of headroom when he tried to open the hatch on the top of the tank just as the driver approached the bridge. This did not end well, as the bridge did not move.

Plan of the Bishop's Sutton Army camp

Plan of the Bishop’s Sutton Army camp, off Water Lane at the bottom

Jim also remembers the troops who were in a camp in Bishop’s Sutton, between Water Lane and the main road. The huts at the bottom were where they slept, and higher up there was the canteen and other common rooms. Jim was always sure of a breakfast there, so often sneaked in with the soldiers: they had sort of adopted him as a mascot. He also sold them the occasional eggs when he could find them, and achieved a good price! His Dad as the local farmer used to take the kitchen waste away for the animals to eat: there he would often get a wink and a comment that there was a sealed container in the slops that he might find useful – it would contain some sausage meat or bacon.


Another comment on this area is from George Watson:

George Watson also remembers that the Alresford Volunteer Force practice rifle range used targets on the embankment of the railway, on the northwest side. Hopefully they did not shoot at these when trains were passing by, but there were various wayward shots that went over the railway, into the fields at the other side. George collected some of these bullets – with permission from the farmer – and later gave them to the Alresford Museum.

See also Nelson Trowbridge’s comments on the crash of the Lady Luck in an earlier story:

In this story Nelson mentions his booklet “Lady Luck: What Really happened”. In this booklet Nelson suggests that the bomber crashed at around 5pm, so it was not dark, but could have been very overcast from the bad weather that had caused their mission to be aborted. Captain Cogswell, the pilot, bailed out, but could not have survived if the plane had been so low as to crash within 100 yards or so. It is more reasonable to assume the plane flew on, on a circular track. Nelson says the plane was reported to have veered around by 180 degrees, out of control, with one engine on fire and a wing falling off, returning to the spot where Capt Cogswell bailed out. But luckily it did not get back as far as Alresford!

A childhood in 1940s Alresford

John Fisher writes:

I was born at Redlands, a house in Grange Road in September 1942, and lived in Alresford until 1950. The day we moved was the worst day of my life, I lost all my friends in the process: my memories of Alresford are limited. My mother was a teacher at Perins school until we moved, and father was a beat policeman after the end of the war. There was a nursery by the railway line where Grange Road met the Cheriton road (run by Mr Fairhead and then Mr Wells). A lot of my time was spent there, couldn’t do a lot, but at that age, I do remember it so well. My other hobby was the Winchester to Alton train line. I was always down at the station, and I remember the staff were very friendly.

I went to the Dean School where my Auntie was the head-mistress: I also remember the flaming cold loos. At the old Gas works further down the Dean I got chased off because it was dangerous. In the Summertime after school all my friends and myself lived down at the swimming pool by the river, and had great fun. As a kid, I didn’t have a bike so had to walk around the area. I missed my childhood days in Alresford very much, after moving away. Although I was only seven when I left, it has surprised me how much I remember about those days, and there’s a lot more I think.

From John Fisher, now an old timer, and enjoying life to the full!

The Opening of the Watercress Line, 1977

Nelson Trowbridge, a resident of South Close in Alresford, recorded the opening of the Watercress Line, the restored rail line from Alresford to Ropley, in 1977 with a collection of photographs, some reproduced here.

8483740686_96c5e849a9_kNelson records the background as follows.

The Watercress Line was closed by British Rail in 1973. Soon after, the stretch of line from Winchester to Alresford was sold.

The length of now disused track from Bridge Road, Alresford to New Farm Road was offered to residents in South Close, those whose gardens linked with the cutting, but not one section was bought!8483720544_cd47115f84_k

After restoration, the Alresford to Alton line was re-opened to the public on Saturday 30th April 1977. The first run was from Alresford to Ropley, and back (3 miles each way), hauled by the locomotive Azalar Line, (either 31874 or 46229, maybe someone can tell us) and driven by its owner John Bunch.

Crowds of people flocked to watch at the stations, on bridges and from fields beside the line. In the station car park the Fire Service added interest with an appliance driven by heavy horses.8482674343_8a902cf2f9_z

After the return journey, visiting dignitaries made speeches and then newspaper reporters and TV crews relaxed with beer and sandwiches in a buffet car, in a siding at Alresford.

The original photo collection is held by the Alresford Museum, and can be seen on-line at

These include some scenes from the track and engine restoration work carried out at Ropley station.

If anyone can identify themselves please let us know!













The Alresford Bypass (1985-6)

scan111Construction work on the Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton Bypass started on 17 June 1985, and the official opening of the completed road took place on 17 December 1986. To commemorate this, the HCC published an information booklet, which contained most of the information presented here, and some of the photos. A further personal collection of photos taken on site throughout the construction work is available on the photographs within my FlickR website, on

The Hampshire County Development Plan foresaw the need for a bypass to take the A31 around Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton, in 1955. In 1961 a review of this plan placed the bypass in a list for construction during the period 1966-1981.

Preliminary design work started in 1972, but was halted in 1974 by the local Government reorganization. In 1979 the scheme was scheduled for construction in 1982-83. Planning at the Alresford Golf course started in 1983, to alter the course layout and create an extension, allowing the greens to mature before work started. The last Tournament was played on the old course on 16 June 1985, and work started on the bypass the next day.

The technicalities

The information booklet produced by Hampshire County Council provides a beautiful aerial view on the front cover, plus a plan of the bypass route, both shown here. The most interesting visual aspects relate to the bridges…

scan112On the bypass, the Ladycroft Bridge spans the Tichborne stream of the Itchen, Tichborne lane and part of the SSSI at the end of Spring Gardens, in Alresford. It is 93m long and 11m high, in 3 pre-cast U-shaped spans, supported on cylindrical columns and spread foundations to abutments, under the water table of the river.scan150

The open spans and slim supports allow views of the valley to be seen through the bridge. Eighteen pre-cast concrete beams, weighing up to 40 tons each, came from Nottinghamshire, and were all lifted into place by crane in a 24 hour period.

The Tichborne Down footbridge has a 27m span, and was cast in reinforced concrete on site. It links Alresford to the “Wayfarer’s Walk” long distance bridleway.

Other bridges were made from cast on site reinforced concrete structures, the Cheriton Road/Jacklyn’s Lane bridge having a voided main span, a 21.6m length.

The total scheme cost was £4.5m, from which the Contract cost was £3.4m. Of this, the structures cost £850k, and drainage added £230k. The bypass is 5.5km long.


Environmental aspects

So after 30 years, we know what the bypass looks like today, what did they intend to create?

First, the photos on FlickR show off what was obvious then, they sited the roundabout to avoid the fine copse of beech trees at the end of the dual carriageway. Also the roundabout is set low down, so it is only really visible from the east.

scan157The Ladycroft bridge is built to be sensitive to the SSSI fed by the spring into the marsh in that area, and has side slopes of only 1:5; the embankments are only 11m high.

South of Alresford the 0.75miles of cutting shields the traffic from the houses on Tichborne Down and Spring Gardens. This is helped by the earth embankments, or mounds, which hide the traffic, and the noise, but retain the views. 49,000 trees and shrubs were planted.

scan078The verges and side slopes all along the bypass were sown with a ryegrass-free seed mix, with 2% wild flower seed. In selected areas the topsoil depth was restricted, and a 10% wild flower seed mix was used, to re-establish colonies of wild flowers indigenous to chalk downland.

Even the environment was kind to the contractors, they only lost 15.5 working days because of heavy rain – this occurred in August 1985!! Interestingly, HCC report that rain only fell on 25 of the working days in the 18 month contract.




Go to the FlickR website to see a large series of photographs during construction.

And did the bypass solve the town’s traffic problems? Your views would be welcomed, but there was a recent example worth highlighting, when a steam tender on the back of a lorry overtook a steam locomotive on the back of another lorry going down West Street! Well almost…


 The bare bypass

Lots more pics are on the Nickdenbow FlickR site: but these four pics were taken by Peter Chalk back in 1986, and show it just after opening:

Scan bypass 1_0002

The Jacklyn’s Lane bridge, from the West

Scan bypass 3

The rise up to the Winchester Road roundabout, with the unused lane across to Tichborne

Scan bypass 4

The sodden fields and the old ‘Horse pond’ at the ford

Scan bypass 4a

The pristine roundabout, no weeds, no bushes on the bank!


Static railway carriages in Alresford

A challenge for you! Where have old railway carriages been used as dwellings or residences in Alresford?

We have reported on one such railway carriage, used as the Golf Course Clubhouse in around 1954, by the side of the first tee, across the road from the Cricketer’s pub. What we need here is any old photo of anyone in front of this clubhouse winning a trophy or whatever – maybe just drowning their sorrows! came up with this image of a well clad carriage on the grass opposite the Cricketer's! came up with this image of a well clad carriage on the grass opposite the Cricketer’s!

The next challenge is from around the same time, 1954, but has anyone any memories or photos of the railway carriages used at the top of the hill on Jacklyn’s Lane, near the old water tower? Pat Bentley used to deliver papers to a lady who lived in one of these carriages: who was she, and have you any photos?


The photo above is said to be in Alresford: where is it? Who is the young schoolboy in his uniform? Please let us know, particularly if this was you!

Encouraging an interest in local history

An interesting book was published at the turn of the Century by the Alresford Historical

and Literary Society (, entitled “The Story of

Alresford”. This was written by the late Arthur Stowell, who came to live in Alresford, in

the Riverside Cottages in The Dean, in around 1980: actually around the same time as

your Editor. But Arthur was a teacher, and had a deep interest in history, so the book

sums up the many documents and accounts of the history of Alresford that Arthur found

and read over the years, to see what story he could make of life in the town over the years.

Some extracts from the book have already been used on this site, for example in

identifying a lot of people in the picture of the Alresford Home Guard in WW2. It will be

a useful source for future articles. Possibly because he was a teacher Arthur wanted to

pass on some of his enthusiasm for the town history, and finding out about history in

general, to future generations. So he has endowed a fund, that is administered by the New

Alresford Town Trustees (, to make financial awards to

school projects that encourage children to take an interest in history, particularly the

history of the area of Alresford.

Typically the grants are up to £250. One recent donation was made to Cheriton school

for help with an activity sand-pit, where I understand the children use metal detectors

or similar to locate items buried in the sand!

The aspect of Arthur’s book that has become obvious to me is that he was looking for

any effects of the railway on the town: whereas it had significant impact on the

watercress industry and possibly the sheep sales, there do not seem to be that many

comments about it: nor of the effect when the line through Alresford closed. This might

be an interesting area for further study too.