Archive for the ‘Taste of Alresford’ Category

Hidden messages from the past.

There are many messages left in hidden crevices, or in bottles thrown into the sea, and maybe some are still waiting to be discovered. Even in Alresford! First we have a Happy New Year message from January in 1860.

25 Broad Street, with 27 on the right, pictured in 1985. In about 1900 Charles Baker, a Draper, brought both houses together in one large dwelling.

25 Broad Street, with 27 on the right, pictured in 1985. In about 1900 Charles Baker, a Draper, brought both houses together in one large dwelling. (Making “Tottenham House”? See footnote)

Back in 1955, at 25 Broad Street, builders doing some alterations to the house found a message hidden in a bottle, left in a wall cavity. A vintage photocopy of this message was passed to the Alresford Museum recently by George Watson, now living in Makins Court. The message was from earlier builders, who were working on the shutters at the house, and sealed the bottle in, possibly behind those shutters, on 13th January 1860 (according to a note added at the top of the paper) with a message to future generations, wishing them a Happy New Year.

scan484The message seems to be written on a sheet of paper that was a bill, or receipt, that has the following printed heading – possibly relating to the business conducted there in 1860:

Bought of S. Dixon

Successor to James Calvert

Linen & Woollen Draper, Silk Mercer

who offered the following:

Ready Made Clothes, Warehouseman, Undertaker etc

Family Mourning

Tailoring in all its Branches

(M)antles, Bonnets, Silks, Flowers etc

Linens, Moreens, Chintz Furniture, Blankets, Counterpanes etc.

The hand written section then lists the team responsible for the message, and then there follow several separate comments – some not quite understandable! It seems to say:

“6th January 1860.

Mrs Dirford own idea, executed by:

Mrs W. Hunt Jnr Architect

John Fowler Builder

Harvey Bricklayer

Pewsey Plumber Painter”


“Mrs Jas. Calvert Jnr, and John Baker (Tailors)

Thos Field, N.M. Girling, Jas. Hall – assistants doing a flourishing trade”


scan485“Lady Ashburton has just given an order for 1200 yards of fla___ (Flannel?) at one price which we were able to supply from stock. 4000 yards of stuff given away by her Ladyship this Christmas. “She’s a brick! And no mistake””


“Mrs Harding conducts a singing class in the town which we all attend and enjoy.”


“Whosoever can look upon this document and realizing the past without weeping cannot be in a right state of mind. Where we are no one knows, perhaps we see you now, so take care and not desecrate this sacred thing.”


“Can you work like this (John Baker asks) as we have done in 1859 – and wonders whether you are doing as much as we did. Hopes you are living in as great a harmony as we have done during the alteration which was begun in August last year and is not likely to be entirely finished till August next year. Fare well friends we all wish you a happy new year.”

Footnote: An advertisement for H.C.Baker in the 1898 and 1899 Alresford Parish magazine advises that: “H.C.Baker has a lot of Bedsteads, Bedding and Bedroom furniture, besides many handsome pieces of furniture suitable for Reception Rooms, purchased at the sale of the late Canon Poole, West Meon Rectory” – address for viewing quoted as Tottenham House, Alresford.



Another hidden message….. from 19A Broad Street

The Recipe Book “A Taste of Alresford” was published by Sally March in Alresford in 1985, on behalf of Oxfam. One of the recipes was provided by Maggie Roper of Broad Street – it dealt with Braised Partridge and Cabbage. The book records that David and Maggie Roper lived at 19A Broad Street,  reached by a long narrow passageway opening onto the street. Overlooking the street on the first floor are high, airy, well-proportioned rooms, while behind them the original cottage has small low-ceilinged, cosy rooms. In restoring the sitting room in the cottage the Ropers found a message on paper fastened to the old chimney breast.

scan487Reading from picture of the message in the Recipe book, it seems to be dated as “Alresford 1830” and use headed paper “To W.H. Moody”, who from the pictures alongside was a boot and shoe maker. Or was he? The message reads:

“This Chimney Piece was Altered in the month of August by the Above Named Person Who is now no doubt numbered with the dead (He was right so far!) And such Reader will thy Lot be ere long——–Prepare to meet thy God.”

Not a happy, friendly sort of message!

The book also comments that because Broad Street was originally wider than it is now, in the passage way could be seen the cobbled, old road, and the line where the old house bricks began.


Andersons – poultry and game, fishmonger and greengrocer.

In the Oxfam book “A Taste of Alresford”, by Sally March, published in 1985, Sandra Hart, manageress of the Anderson Fish shop at 8 West Street, writes:

“Some years ago the shop changed hands, but Alresford was so accustomed to calling the shop ‘Andersons’ that the present tenant, Mr Phillip Gay, reverted to the old name. The shop stocks 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 ‘stewponds’ [at the trout farm in Drove Lane].

“The building still belongs to Mrs Rita Blundell of Ropley, the granddaughter 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, the fish shop, 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 greengrocer’s.”

Note: Rita Blundell is quoted widely on the photo website!

The Fulling Mill

“A Taste of Alresford”, by Sally March, published in 1985, advises:

When Bryan and Elinor Gush bought and restored the derelict Fulling Mill, standing astride the lovely River Alre, they little realized that in thirty-odd years it would attract visitors from all over the world.

In the 13th century, the English wool staple was at Winchester, where wool was sorted and graded. The Fulling Mill probably dates from then, soon after Bishop de Lucy had built his Great Weir, and where the River Alre now ran purposefully along its new path. The mill was built above the water, with a smooth slope down to it, where the woollen cloth could be washed and laid out to be dressed with powdered chalk (there being no Fuller’s Earth in the district). It was then trodden or beaten to rid it of excess oil, and to shrink and concentrate the loosely woven cloth. The industry declined when the staple was moved to ‘English’ Calais some time before 1452.

The Old Mill, almost surrounded by running water, has the most beautiful garden designed and cared for by Mr and Mrs Gush. They have also developed a small nursery alongside the river, where the old open swimming pool used to be. By selling its produce to passing visitors, they have raised £27,000 for charity since 1974.


In 2013 the footnote to this is that Mr and Mrs Gush eventually retired to live in the Churchyard cottages in Alresford. The new owners restored the pond where the nursery garden had been created, and although this was stocked with fish these did not survive the attentions of the growing populations of otters in the area. Pictures of the thatched Fulling Mill itself feature on most Hampshire and local calendars, and tea towels, so that it is indeed known worldwide.


The Cricketer’s Pub and the Golf Club

The Cricketer's Arms in around 1900, later to become the Links Laundry.  Photo copyright

The Cricketer’s Arms in around 1900, later to become the Links Laundry. Photo copyright

The Cricketer’s Arms takes its name from an earlier pub, in fact the pub that was sited at the other end of Tichborne Down, and indeed possibly stood on the edge of one of the first ever cricket pitches on what is now the golf course. This pub was known as the White Horse, but changed its name to the Cricketer’s Arms when the cricket square was created in front of the windows. This was where the number 5 hole was later sited, and then in 1985 the bypass also cut through this area of the golf course. This old building became a laundry, and was then divided into separate dwelling houses. In 1975, when the book “A Taste of Alresford” was written, Mike Burchett, landlord at the new “Cricketer’s”, was in fact a well-known local cricketer, having captained Winchester and played for Tichborne and the famous Hampshire Hogs. At this time, the pub had an “Off-Sales” entrance at the corner of the building, later removed to create a larger dining room.

The old Cricketer's pub in 1985

The old Cricketer’s pub in 1985

The pub was purpose built in the 1920s, with a clubroom attached for the use of the neighbouring golf club. The first tenant. W. Boniface, was in fact the club’s professional. In the garden are tables, children’s swings and a trampoline: the grounds of the Cricketer’s extend a long way behind the car park, reflecting the large land areas allocated to this and the three other houses built at the time in this area of the town – Shepherd’s Down, Fair View and Paddock Way – the other three have given way to more modern housing.

The Golf Club itself was founded in 1890 on land belonging to Sir Joseph Tichborne: the course was grazed by sheep until 1907. Charles Marks of Woking Golf Club was employed as the first professional greenkeeper, but he fell out with Sir Joseph and only stayed two years. The room at the Cricketer’s pub was used as the clubhouse until 1953, when a retired railway carriage was placed by the first tee and used as clubhouse for 16 years.

The above information is taken largely from Sally March’s book “A Taste of Alresford” published by Oxfam in 1985.

The Old School House and St Joan’s

The Old School House, at the lower end of West Street on the corner of the Dean, is the original home of Perin’s Free Grammar School (later to become Perins Community School). One of the pupils there was Robert Boyes, who became the schoolmaster there from 1723 to 1782, and who wrote most of the early history texts that describe Alresford. In 1774, Boyes wrote that “The school was founded in 1698 by Christopher Perin ‘for educating 19 poor men’s sons in the Latin tongue, writing accounts etc. Every scholar was to pay one shilling a year for his admission and one shilling a year towards providing rods and brooms to be used in the school.” [So it was not quite free! – Ed]

The School House is described as a plain, strong building standing at the bottom of West Street. But the actual school room, and some of the accommodation for the pupils, was at numbers 56 and 58 West Street. These two current buildings at that time were joined together to provide one large and very lofty school-room, adjoining the School master’s house. This school continued in operation until 1932, when the school moved to the current site at the top of Pound Hill.

In 1971 the corner building was recorded as being Mr Howarth’s cafe, in a town survey conducted by Sun Hill Junior School students. In 1985 it was the home of the chef-proprietors of the Old School House Restaurant, the catering business run there by Terry and Sara McTurk. In 2013 it is now an Indian restaurant, known as the Shapla.

The shops created out of the school room have had many uses. Number 56, now Oakleaf Stationers, in 1971 was Wilstead’s, a chemist in a 1971 Sun Hill Junior School Survey: this then became Mr Goode, the chemist, in a 1985 survey. Next door at 58 there was a newsagents known as Perins in 1971, and was still a newsagent in 1985: in 2013 this is a hairdresser.

Diagonally across the cross roads outside the Old School House, and next to the Fire Station, is the house known as St Joan’s. Many years ago St Joan’s was a convent, and also later functioned as a boarding house for the Old Perin’s school. At an earlier time apparently a Quaker Meeting House stood next to it. But in 1985, when the Oxfam book “A Taste of Alresford” was published, this house had been renamed Ferndale House, by the owners Julia and Brian Champion. Brian Champion ran a photographic studio from there: originally the business had been established in Shepperton, but they visited Alresford one day and decided it was the place they wanted to live. They started in a shop in West Street, but later moved down the road to St Joan’s, which at that time was rather derelict. It took two years to rebuild the house how they wanted. Brian Champion was also involved both in international power boat racing, and pheasant shooting, but not at the same time.

Isabel Sanderson

Most local historians will have come across the delightful series of books researched and written by Isabel Sanderson, called ‘Dwellings in Alresford’. These tell the history of some of the people in each house, and highlight features of each building that otherwise a casual observer might miss. The following is Isabel’s own story, as provided to the Oxfam book “A Taste of Alresford”.

‘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 farm-house 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 horses 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’.’

Surprisingly perhaps, the recipe submitted by Isabel to the Oxfam book was entitled “Smoked Haddock – The Abbotstone Way”.

Dr Sanderson died in 1987: there is a tribute to her in the Alresford Displayed 1988 issue, by Digby Grist, see

The George Inn, Broad Street.

The George Inn in Broad Street was originally owned by Winchester College, and was 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 1424, the Inn was known as the Saint George, or ‘St. George’. Presumably it was then known as ‘the old George’ and that gradually became its proper name.

The Inn was sold by Winchester College to a brewery in 1914. It was then closed on 1st September 1927, after more than four hundred years of innkeeping.

This introduction was provided in “A Taste of Alresford” by June Gregory, an enthusiastic supporter of Oxfam. Her husband Peter Gregory was in 1985 a partner in Dutton and Gregory, a firm of solicitors whose offices in Broad Street were formerly a part of the Old George Inn, access to their offices was via a side door within the coaching entrance through the centre of the old building.

In another contribution to “A Taste of Alresford”, Elizabeth Davis (nee Stiles) from J S Stiles (Ironmongers) at 11 Broad Street tells us that in the rooms above the shop, old exposed beams could still be seen [in 1985] that were blackened and burnt – an effect believed to be from the Great Fire of 1689, which presumably did not affect the George.