Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Seen in August this year

New faces appear round town

The month of August has seen some different views around town this year. At the beginning of the month lots of new faces started appearing in shop windows, and in some other buildings, around the town centre. Twenty five faces were spread around the town, all with a code letter: they had been designed, created and painted by the Year 7 pupils at Perins school.  The competition, open to everyone, was to find all the faces and their code letters, adding these to the entry forms provided by Altogether Alresford. Completed competition forms have to be handed in to Lawrence Oxley’s bookshop by 3rd September, in order to qualify for the prize draws! Obviously you have to have identified the faces correctly: a lot of the shops in Alresford have provided generous prizes. While an excellent pastime for the children, grown-ups can enter too!

Stop that noise!

The elderly residents in Ellingham Close are delighted that the lobbying organized via the Giles Group, which explained to Jackie Porter of Hampshire County Council how frightening the loose man-hole cover under the Jacklyn’s Lane bridge was, has had a result! The manhole cover smashed down on the frame whenever a vehicle ran over one corner, like a see-saw.  If anyone was under the bridge when this happened, on the footpath, the noise was deafening, and frightening, particularly with the speed of the traffic tearing down the hill.


Finally, towards the end of the month, BT repaired the cover, and put new tarmac round the edges. The older residents are pleased, thankyou Jackie!   It has not reduced the speed of the traffic though, so that is the next objective, particularly with the Methodist Church and the toddlers’ Playgroup right next to the bridge.

More strange visitors

There have been things appearing on the Avenue late in August. Looking even more alien and horrifying than the masks in the shops. So far there have been two large fungi in the grass near the ARC. Hopefully these will be identified soon, but the brown sludge on top looks like a very nasty, and possibly smelly defence mechanism – it definitely discourages touching them – which is not recommended! Hopefully these are not a local delicacy?

Does anyone know what they are?






Cat plague: Good or bad?

There is a cat plague in Alresford, around Carisbrooke Close and Orchard Close in particular, and to my knowledge. This is not just a problem of cats leaving their mess in any cultivated vegetable patches, it has grown to involve regular, even daily, bird kills, mainly pigeons, but also young blackbirds.

I am delighted that the pigeons now appear to have moved away, as a result, so that is a major benefit!

But as a carp pond owner, it is true that the occasional cat is seen to lick their lips alongside the water, but there are further pond level defences that stop them getting at the fish. They are amateurs compared to the herons around here, from which we need to defend ourselves rigorously.

The beneficiaries of this phase of cat trespassing have been suppliers such as Homebase and even the Winchester Pound shop, one of whom (guess who?) sell wire netting at very reasonable prices – yes, you’ve guessed it, £1. I recommend their metal mesh fencing, for use on top of a six foot wooden fence. Maybe the cats cannot see it when they shoot up the fence, but I really hope they then get the message with the next 6 inches to a foot of wire net, with spikes on the top.

The wire netting has now grown up above fences and gates to stop these feline climbers getting into back gardens along their regular routes. They may climb up, but they will not get over! If they get into our back garden, I’m not sure they will ever get out…..

I look forward to responses from all the irresponsible cat owners who send their cats out every morning, they will undoubtedly send some sort of justification to defend the misery they inflict on all their innocent neighbours.

Old Alresford – an Edwardian view

From another website  there is an interesting review of the significant houses in Old Alresford, and their history, as published by the Victoria County History, London, 1908.

Old Alresford in 1908

“About two miles south-east of Old Alresford, in the parish of Bishop’s Sutton, the River Alre ‘beginnith of a great Numbre of fair Sylver Springes’, which ‘resorting to a Botom make a great brode Lak, communely caullid Alsford Pond’. This pond, the reservoir from which the Itchen is for the most part supplied, was formed by Bishop Godfrey de Lucy towards the end of the twelfth century in order to render the River Itchen navigable from Alresford to Winchester as well as from Winchester to Southampton (This is now questioned – Ed).

Old Alresford House

Entering the parish from New Alresford, immediately north of the pond, Old Alresford Park stretches to the east, in the north-west of which stands Old Alresford House, best known to fame from its connection with Admiral George Brydges Lord Rodney (1719–92), who considerably enlarged and improved the original house during his residence. It is a large white brick mansion finely situated with its grounds gradually sloping down to the lake. Colonel Richard Norton, ‘idle Dick Norton’, the farmer of the manor of Old Alresford, resided at Old Alresford House during the Commonwealth, and Oliver Cromwell paid several visits to him there.

In the most westerly corner of the park, seeming almost to be within its boundaries, is the church of St. Mary surrounded by a churchyard. A large eighteenth-century house of red brick, north of the church, was till recently the rectory. It has lately been sold, and is now known as Old Alresford Place. The present rectory is a white building standing east of Old Alresford Place and opposite Upton House.

Church of St Mary


The church of OUR LADY St Mary was entirely rebuilt in 1753, a west tower was added in 1769, and in 1862 the eighteenth-century work, except as regards the tower, was Gothicized, and a south transept, north organ chamber, and vestry added. As a result the building is of very little architectural interest, though the tower is a good specimen of its kind, of red brick with round-headed western doorway and belfry windows, and finished with a parapet carrying stone ball finials at the angles.

DSCN2209smallThe only thing of note in the church is the monument of Mrs. Jane Rodney on the north wall of the nave, dated 1757, a fine piece of eighteenth-century work in white marble, with figure sculpture. Her husband afterwards became the famous admiral, Lord Rodney, and in the church are monuments to the second and third lords.

There are six bells, by Wells of Aldbourne, dated 1769 and 1770, a tablet on the west face of the tower recording their casting, as well as the building of the nave and tower.

Old Alresford Village

The main block of houses (in the village), is some yards higher up the road (from the Church). Here are the smithy, the village green—an irregularly-shaped plot of grass, the post office, an iron foundry, and the national school, built in 1846 by the Onslow family. There is also a group of almshouses, built to house three destitute couples in 1852 by the Misses Onslow in memory of their mother. Some yards still further north is an industrial home (Primitive Methodist), which was in existence by the middle of the nineteenth century.

Farms in the Parish

Manor Farm lies west of the village, and still further west, near the Itchen Stoke border line, is Fob Down Farm. About a quarter of a mile east of the village, reached by Kiln Lane, which cuts across the fields east and west, is Upton Hamlet, consisting of a few scattered farm buildings, and including Upton Farm and Upton House. The latter was occupied by a younger branch of the Onslow family during the early nineteenth century, but is now occupied by Mr. J. F. Christie, JP.” ENDS.

The Mother’s Union

Obviously as the above was published in 1908, it pre-dates the growth and importance of the Mother’s Union, the organisation founded by Mary Sumner! Mary was the wife of George Sumner, the vicar at St Mary’s in Old Alresford. For more info on this topic, please see the September 2015 story –


The Mary Sumner Chapel and window in Old Alresford Church was dedicated on 9th August 2015

The Alresford Literary Festival

In their Golden Anniversary Year, 2016, the Alresford Historical & Literary Society is hosting the Alresford Literary Festival. This is to take place on Saturday 4th June, at Perins School, in the School Hall. (Postcode SO24 9BS).

The event is being supported by Hampshire County Council, New Alresford Town Council, and Winchester City Council. Tickets are being sold for places to listen to the various eminent speakers who will make presentations throughout the day: delegate costs are £10 per speaker session or just £25 for the whole day. Please contact Vic Prior on 01962 733380 or The Society website is

Festival Flyer Draft 6L

The Speaker Programme

Doors open 10.30am

  1. Robert Hardy: In conversation about his career with John Miller: starts 11.00am

  2. John Julius Norwich: He will give an illustrated talk about his new book ‘Sicily’  starting at 2.00pm.

  3. Edna O’Brian:  In conversation with  John Miller, will talk about her latest novel   ‘The Little Red Chairs’. This starts at 4.00pm.

  4. John Miller & Dolores Willis will then present am amusing presentation entitled ‘Great Eccentrics’. This commences at 6.00pm.

Hot and cold food will be available, plus a full bar. On-site parking is available at Perin’s school, or in the town car parks.

Local history, as recorded by Sun Hill School

There was a time, in 1971, when the children at Sun Hill School took an interest in recording what they saw in terms of the businesses in Alresford, and what they knew of the history of the buildings in the town centre. This was recorded, in 1971, and shown to later generations of students to pass this history on, and encourage them to look around. The pages showing the results of the survey were copied by my son, when he then studied at Sun Hill in 1982.

The results are presented in the listings below: where they are incomplete, there are possibly private houses between the shops, and these are not always noted. The house numbers are shown first. On the line after this 1971 record, are the results of a survey done in 1986, inspired by this start from Sun Hill School, and some of the survey done by my son’s class at Sun Hill in around 1982. I apologize that this website does not like tabulations!

Broad Street, West side:

1             Parts of the “New Inn”: In 1893, A.Yates lived here, and his horse won the Grand National

3             Parts of the “New Inn”: Florist. TV Shop.                 1986: Fruit and veg shop

5             Gedye: TV & Radio                                          1986: Derek Gedye Radio & Electrical

7             A Livingstone, Butcher                                  1986: Carpets & Curtains

9             Clunes cleaners. Dress shop. Flair Cleaners             1986: Flair Dry Cleaners

11           Feltmaker. Skins. Shoes. Draper                                1986: Stiles China & Glass

13           Grocer. Barber. Coach Office                                      1986: ?

15           Gladstone: Draper and clothes. Stiles                       1986: Stiles ironmongers

17           Howe: clockmaker. Dedman: milk. Oxley: books      1986: Laurence Oxley’s bookshop

19           “Marilyn”. “Broad St Salon”: Hairdresser    1986: “Broad St Salon”: Hairdresser

21           Grocer & Baker. Tea Rooms                    1986: Godwin House Georgian Tea Rooms

23           “Anchor” Pub. GPO. Nursery school                        1986: Old Post House

27           Doctors. Mary Russell Mitford born here. School

29-31    Previously Private house, plus butcher and candle-maker. Attorney, Doctor and Dentist

39           Private house                                                              1986: Antique shop

41           Evans & Evans clocks

43           (Cranley) Home of the Hall family (Flour millers)

49           Batchelor’s Mineral Water and China


Broad Street, East side:


2             Pub: Horse & Jockey, then Horse & Groom       1986: Horse & Groom

4             Grocer & baker, Estate Agent                             1986: Cubitt & West Estate Agents

6-8         Hobby Horse. Candle-maker, then Saddler & Harness maker                                   ……………… 1986: Chinese Take-away

10-14     Kelsall: Mini supermarket and grocer                1986: Kelsall Grocery

20-28     The buildings of the George Inn, operating 1415 to 1927: owned by Winchester College

20           Library. Boot repairer                                  1986: Hampshire County Library

28           Westminster Bank. Estate Agents               1986: Marshall Bendall Estate Agents

32           Wine shop. Wine bar                                    1986: Bodega Wine Bar

34-40     On the site of “Le Hart” pub, dating from 1552 to 1689

34           Telephone Exchange                                   1986: Private house

36-40     Chris Lenz: garage                                      1986: Chris Lenz: garage

40           Godwins Grocery 1920-30.

44           Blacksmith’s house

46           Blacksmith’s Smithy and Forge                             1986: Old Smithy

48           Vet and Doctor’s surgery and house

50           Brewery, Orphanage. Beehives     1986: Old Mill House. 9th US 47th Infantry HQ

52           Home of Dairy Farmer (In the 50’s, Miss Pingleton, and her friend, bred goats here!)

54           Old Fire Station


West Street, North side:

2             Wessex Chemist                                        1986: Wessex Chemist

4             Hazelgrove: butcher                                 1986: (National chain of) Butcher

6             Saddlers                                                     1986: Tobacconist

8             Anderson’s: Fishmonger and Greengrocer            1986: Still called Anderson’s

10           Jackman’s Electrical shop                                        1986: Gift Shop

12           Bell Hotel                                                                   1986: The Bell Hotel

14           Routledge café                                                           1986: Private house

16           Itchen Antiques                                                         1986: Artemesia Antiques

18           Lex Leather shoes                                                     1986: Hines Footwear

20           Woodland Tobacco                                                    1986: Watercress Travel

22           Reg Cutting antiques                                                 1986: Candover Gallery

24           Office

24a        Ann Verity: Hairdresser                                                1986: Pastimes Toys

26           Bay Tree House Antiques                                             1986: Pastimes Crafts

34           Private house                                                                 1986: Kitchen centre

36           Westholme

38           Berukin                                                                            1986: Dentist

40           Antiques                                                                          1986: Evans & Evans Clocks

40a        M.P.Stoodley: Jewellers                                         1986: Stoodley Jewellers

42           Sweetland Baker                                                            1986: Tapestry Centre

44           John Irwin Hairdresser                                                  1986: Bread shop

46           Waring Bookshop                                                          1986: Delicatessen

48           ASMI Ltd Petfood

50           Pat’s Pantry Confectioners                                          1986: Tiffin Tearoom

52           Prior’s second hand furniture                                     1986: Design Realities

56           Wilstead Chemist                                                          1986: Goode: Chemist

58           Perins Newsagents                                                        1986: Newsagent

60           Mr Howarth’s café                                         1986: Old School House Restaurant


West Street, South side, from Station Road downhill!

13           Turner’s Cycles and Toys                                             1986: A&S Fruiterer’s

15           Post Office                                                                     (2013: Gone!)

17           Post Office                                                                     (2013: Gone!)

19           Wine stores                                                    1986: Peter Dominic off licence

23           Clunes Cleaners

27           Flowers & Greengrocery                                1986: Oliver’s Flower shop

29           Antiques

33           Langton Antiques                                           1986: Gore Langton Antiques

35           (Volunteer Arms)                                           1986: Charms and Clipper Stationers

39           Electricity Showroom                                    1986: Halliwell’s Leather Goods

43           Co-op Grocery                                   1986: Co-op – (2013: now two new shops!)

45           Allders private house (The Hankins)

47           Hankins Garage                                              (2013: Now the Co-op)

49           Dedman Grocers                                             1986: Gillian Ellen and Brambles


So what is all this worth?

Arthur Stowell

Arthur Stowell

Nothing, in monetary terms. Lots, to a local historian. But another answer is, we all have an interest in our own history, understanding how our surroundings were created. Arthur Stowell understood this, as an ex-schoolteacher, when he moved to Alresford in around 1980. He lived in the Riverside Cottages in The Dean, and his book, “The story of Alresford” was published by the Alresford Historical and Literary Society at the turn of the Century. Because he was a teacher, Arthur wanted to pass on his enthusiasm to future generations. So in his Will he endowed a fund (Ref 1) to make financial awards to school projects that encourage children to take an interest in history, particularly the history of the area of Alresford.

Because of the rigorous requirements of the school curriculum, few of these grants have been taken up. One recent donation was made to Cheriton Primary School for help with an activity sand-pit, where the children use metal detectors to locate items buried in the sand! Maybe further ideas in infants schools along these lines can be suggested, or after school clubs in the older kid’s establishments could take up the idea.

Nick Denbow

Ref 1: New Alresford Town Trustees,, Arthur Stowell Fund.

April 2016 Update

One of the latest additions to the Alresford Museum collection of old archives and memorabilia is a hand-drawn map of the Alresford streets, giving house numbers and house names, and in some cases the occupant’s or trader’s names. This together with the similar 1552 survey of the centre of the town, published by Isabel Sanderson and also available in the Museum, would make an interesting history project.

See also the earlier story on this website:

The Civic Cinema in Alresford

Richard Zealey of Basingstoke has sent in his recollections of the history of the Civic Cinema in Alresford, which operated from 1937, through to the late 1960s. A summary of this history is as follows.

The inside view of the screen (c)

The inside view of the screen. [(c)]

In the 1930s, two young men, well, men in their 30s, who had studied together at Harrow County Grammar School, formed a company called Summit Cinemas Ltd, with the intention of setting up a cinema. They enlisted the help of one of their former teachers at this school, Percy Rayner, who was then the Headmaster of Pinner County School, in Middlesex, to be the third Director and investor in the company. The two ex-schoolboys were William Zealey, Richard’s father, who was a carpentry contractor working mainly on private houses, and Keith Wilson, who had set up Soundcraft Ltd of Kingsbury in Middlesex, who had also become the District Commissioner for Scouts in South Harrow. Why they chose to establish their first cinema in Alresford is unknown, but they leased a building on Station Road from Mrs Hankin, who owned the garage on West Street.

The front view of the Cinema, on Station Road. (c)

The front view of the Cinema, on Station Road. [(c)]

The building was of corrugated iron construction, but they employed Mr Budd of Ropley to build a brick area at the front to accommodate the Box Office, toilets and a store: the operating room for the film projectors was above these rooms, accessed by an external iron staircase.

Managers of the Cinema

The Volunteer Arms, 40s/50s. (c)

The Volunteer Arms, 40s/50s. (c)

Since all the Directors were living around Harrow, they appointed a manager to run the cinema: Richard thinks the first was called Yardley. Later they had a Gordon Wigg as manager, whose brother became Lord George Wigg, after being an MP. Gordon at first lived in Basingstoke, but then took over as landlord of the Volunteer Arms, in West Street (where the dress shop, Moda Rosa, is now located): his wife ran the pub while he dealt with the cinema. Films were changed three times a week, so his job also involved collecting and delivering the films to a garage in Basingstoke, and then later to another garage on the Winchester bypass.

In these days, life was simpler, so despite the garages not staying open in the evenings, the films would be left on the forecourt, presumably under cover, by the delivery driver, and Gordon Wigg would  collect them later when he arrived. The films were returned in the same way. Few other people would have any use for such film, so the public exchange was relatively secure.

Richard Zealey in 1948, at the Fulling Mill (c)

Richard Zealey, in 1949, at the Fulling Mill [(c)]

Richard Zealey stayed at the Volunteer Arms when he was in his teens, in 1943. He remembers that the Army had taken over the rear of the premises, to do boot repairs. Richard also swam in the river, by Fulling Mill, which at that time was much dilapidated. He and his father would have tea in the tea room in East Street that he thinks was called the Blue Café: they were served by Katie, who always referred to the owner as “Madam”. This maybe reflects the whole background of the Blue Café, which was an old-fashioned tea room, run by two elderly ladies.  Richard also came back to Alresford in 1964, and was once again served by Katie, now working in a café in Broad Street!

Gordon Wigg ceased to be the cinema manager later in the 1940s, to go to be a landlord of a pub in Fourmarks: the next manager was Alf White, who worked in the Post Office in Alresford. Alf White ran the cinema with help from his wife Betty: more of their life and work in Alresford can be read in article by Brian Rothwell in Alresford Articles Issue 5 (2015), from the Alresford Historical and Literary Society.

1950s comments from cinema-goers!

Richard does not comment on the cinema history after the 1940s. Other reports have been recorded in earlier stories on the Alresford Memories website: the ones that follow are from Audrey Chalk, Pam Bailey, Pat Bentley and Gladys Ashe.

They described the building as an un-insulated tin shack, an oven in Summer and a fridge in winter: there were two stoves for use in winter, which roasted those close to a stove – but everyone else was chilly. Audrey Chalk was the usherette in the cinema, when the normal usherette (who happened to be her future husband Pete’s Aunt, Kathleen Smith) was on holiday, or absent.

The films on show in 1938, just after the cinema opened. (c)

The films on show just after the cinema opened. [(c)]

At first the photo above was thought to have been taken in 1938, soon after the cinema opened, but Richard Zealey has commented that the car has a hooded nearside headlamp: this only happened during WW2, when normally the offside light would have been switched off, and the nearside lamp would be hooded as shown in the picture. So maybe this photograph dates from later, say in 1940. The films advertised were available in both years!

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 old pence for seats at the front, and six pence at the back: there were three films per week, one of which was a matinée.

Gladys Ashe remembers the matinee performances for children on a Saturday, which also cost three old pence per person. Gladys went there as a birthday present, and saw her first film – which was Shirley Temple in “Heidi”. She also got a badge for this!

All the photos included above are reproduced here with permission from the copyright owner,, where many other similar old photographs of Alresford can be found.

George Watson: A life in Alresford

Any historian looking at events in the last 50 years or so in Alresford will inevitably meet up with the name of George Watson. George’s Dad was Jock Watson (real name George too), the gardener for Sir Francis and Lady Lindley at the Weir House. In fact George was born in one of the cottages next to Weir House: many of the estate staff lived in these cottages. This was in 1933, and he spent most of his childhood living on the Weir House estate. At that time this included all the river down to the Eel House, plus the fields on either side of the river: the Fulling Mill at that time was more of a mill and less of a house, as the old 1930s pictures show. This was also part of the Weir House estate, and George’s family lived there for a while, before moving back to one of the cottages by the house. The fields mainly were used for horses and cows – one of those fields, running up to the cottages east of The Dean, was used for the big horses that were used to pull the fire engine, then kept in the Old Fire Station in Broad Street.

Fulling Mill, 1930s (c)

Fulling Mill, 1930s (c)

Sir Francis also had fishing rights down to Itchen Stoke and shooting was organised in Arlebury Park, both used for the entertainment of various high society visitors to Weir House. Sir Francis also owned the cress beds and Laundry on the little weir: the mill house buildings were later owned by Mrs Flood. [The Alresford Museum has various documents relating to the later sale of the separate parts of the estate, after the demise of Sir Francis.]

Another visitor who came to the Weir House for the trout fishing was Neville Chamberlain, around the beginning of the war, at a time when he was the Prime Minister (he died in November 1940): George found his visit particularly memorable as Chamberlain gave George a silver sixpenny coin! [That at least should be enough proof for Brian Rothwell to believe that Chamberlain did indeed visit the Weir House for fishing – see his article “Neville Chamberlain in Old Alresford?” in Alresford Articles, Issue 3, the Weir House Edition, from the Alresford Historical and Literary Society in 2013].


World War II at the Weir House

WW2 came, starting when George was aged seven. George remembers aircraft dropping incendiary bombs, 2” cylinders over a foot long, around Alresford: he found several embedded in the lawns of the Weir House, still live, and apparently with help from his Dad took them indoors: two of them were displayed proudly above the fireplace, on either side of the mantle-piece, like ornaments! The contents slowly formed a white powdery crust on the outside of the bombs, at the several joints along the body, and his Dad used to brush this white powder off into the fire, where it caused sparks and crackles! The local fire service chief was a frequent visitor to buy honey and watercress: one day he noticed the incendiaries and immediately called out the bomb disposal people to deal with them. George says they blew them up, making a six foot diameter hole in the field, mainly just from the over-zealous use of their explosives!

Lady Lindley’s brother, Simon Fraser, was the 15th Lord Lovat, living at Beaufort Castle in Inverness: mobilised as a Captain in the Lovat Scouts, at the outbreak of war he volunteered to join one of the new commando units being formed by the British Army – by 1942 he was appointed the commanding officer of No.4 Commando. Either for R&R, or more likely before missions into Europe, Commandos were often billeted at the Weir House. They didn’t actually practice with guns around the estate, but the trout in the river were rather tempting, so they made catapults and managed to kill the fish that way, using small stones for ammunition.

Real ammunition was used by the Alresford Volunteer Rifles, and they had an Armoury at the top of the Dean where Wild Brothers are now. Rifle practice was in the field North of the Bishop’s Sutton Road, with targets against the railway embankment. Inevitably some bullets went over the railway into the field beyond, and George collected some of these – with permission from the farmer, he added. The other major event in the war was the crash of the Flying Fortress called the ‘Lady Luck’ one evening, at the top of Alresford pond. Like all the other lads George went racing up there on his bike, to see the fires, and find what souvenirs they could. In a combined effort they nearly managed to get a big machine gun out of the field, but the Policemen came along and stopped them. The US bomb group people took most of the interesting bits back. George later did some metal detecting to find some shells and other bits of the plane.

School, and work for Laurence Oxley

George went to The Dean School, and then Perins: he has vivid memories of the pre-war time at the Dean School, in particular the toilets outside the back, which used an earth urinal. Every so often blocks of peat were delivered, to refresh the process, but even so in hot weather the smell was pretty bad. He thinks it might have been the caretaker’s job to take out the surplus solids and bury them behind the school in the lawn….

After leaving school George went to work on the cress beds for two years. He did his national service from 1950-52, in the Air Force, serving at Padgate and Odiham. Around this time, Sir Francis gave up part of his land on the South side of the river for use as the War Memorial gardens and Swimming Pool. On returning to Alresford, George had jobs with Doidge the builder of West Street, and worked for Colonel Allen as a gardener: but then found his next major employment with Dudley Grace, building trailers.

Pound Hill 2015: it is not known which garage Dudley Grace started his trailer business in.

Pound Hill 2015: it is not known in which garage Dudley Grace started his trailer business! Both are modern conversions. Further down is O’Rourke’s Wine bar/Rio Rio, in the 70’s/80’s.

Dudley Grace started his business based in the field at the corner of Drove Lane, where he had a house. Scattered around the field were the remains of old vehicles, where Dudley had removed the axles to make trailers. These were then constructed in the garage/shed premises on Pound Hill initially, but he then took over a long low building in the Dean that was the Smithy and Forge previously run by Mr Best, in the 1920s, and later by Tom Baker.  This was next to the Dean School, where the curtain factory now stands. Tom Baker lived in one of the houses opposite the Dean School, and was known for firing his anvils at the Alresford carnival in the early 1950s, famously destroying his own hat once when he got too close. George worked there for a few years, first in the forge, making the trailers, and later over the road in the newly built sheds there, that later became known as Warwick Trailers.

Laurence Oxley's shop on Broad Street in the 1980s.

Laurence Oxley’s shop on Broad Street in the 1980s.

After this a change of career was on the cards, in around 1957. He had been repairing furniture for Oxley’s bookshop in Broad Street part time, so he left the trailer business and started full time work for Mr Oxley. He also married Beryl, who came from Ropley, and worked for Eddolls on Broad Street: they lived in the George Yard. His work at Oxleys involved making picture frames, repairing and restoring furniture, and also occasionally – once every 2-3 months – running the printing business in the basement, particularly when they needed more original prints. This work frequently involved printing from copper plates, and the most notable of this output was of the drawings and cards produced by Albert Edward Wade (see the article about Wade). There were also Parish magazines, and other printing for the town’s businesses.

George also printed Moody’s history of Hampshire there, which contained 200 plates of A5 size, and was involved with creating the Wade painting that is now in St John’s Church. George provided a lot of his Wade souvenirs, including the painting showing the demolition of the water tower at the top of Jacklyn’s Lane, to Roy Robins for the town museum: this now hangs in the Alresford Library. Oxley also cleaned pictures at this time, and George was involved in this work, cleaning the picture of Charles I that used to hang in Ropley Church, an oval picture of Henry Perin, and one of the Tichborne dole (as below), prior to the loan from Tichborne House to an Exhibition in the USA. The picture shows Sir Henry Tichborne distributing the Dole in 1670, and was painted by the Flemish painter Giles Tilburg. Interestingly, most of the people shown, including the villagers, can be identified from the key that goes with the picture. Several other pictures with WWII bomb and fire damage from Portsmouth Cathedral were also cleaned at Oxley’s.

tichborne dole pic

From 1957 to 1977 George also served as a part-time fireman in the Alresford Fire Service: somewhere in there he also fitted in occasional work for White & Etherington, who were based in the old ARP yard on Mill Hill – the main result of this labour seemed to be pit props, made from local trees cut into 6” or 8” square posts.

Freelance work

In 1977 George and Beryl decided to set up their own business doing the carpentry work and making picture frames. So he rented single room premises – the barn on Mill Hill, and ran the business there for 10 years. For many years after that his wind vane on the barn had an image of him working at the bench – see the photo. Being just a barn, George had to dash home occasionally to George’s Yard, to get to a cup of tea and a toilet! The barn of course has now been totally rebuilt into a smart new house.

1982: George's barn on Mill Hill, with Wykeham house on the left, and his personal wind vane!

1982: George’s barn on Mill Hill, with Wykeham house on the left, and his personal wind vane!

After 10 years on Mill Hill, George felt like another change, so they set up a picture framing business in the Old Fire Station at the bottom of Broad Street. Beryl was also involved in this business, choosing and cutting the mounts for the pictures. While there, for around 13 years before retiring, George found various other old articles in the Fire Station that were donated to the Museum.

George was very keen to help with the Roy Robins project to create a town museum, and passed over a lot of items to help him establish a good collection of the town history. George had collected many interesting items in his time in Alresford, for example things found within buildings when renovation work was undertaken.  When Mr (AE) Childs closed his hardware shop in East Street suddenly, to retire to a nursing home, he left a lot of old stock and other items in place. So when the house went up for sale, George rescued a few samples, including the shop ledger, and these were also donated to the Museum. There are many more stories he could probably tell…..

….just a few of George’s stories about buildings in The Dean!

Many pictures have been found of the various old buildings and businesses in The Dean, which can be seen on the website  Some are shown above, and as small pictures below, all are the copyright of the Alresford Heritage website, or other copyrights, and reproduced here with permission.

Mr Best st the Forge (c)

Mr Best at the Forge (c)

Behind Tom Baker’s Smithy was a shed, and Dudley Grace parked the buses he owned around this shed, accessed up a little side lane. Pictures of the Forge in operation can be seen on The other bus yard, owned by Mr Vickers, was accessed via the lane near Fairlight Villas, where a printing works existed until recently: now there are two houses there. The Vickers bus service is featured in another Alresford Memories story.

There is another lane on the other side of Fairlight Villas, next to Faccombe Cottage, which leads to the cress beds that were owned by the Dorey family, who lived in the big house accessed from Ladywell Lane – this house backs on to these cress beds.

img187A spinster relation, Miss Dorey, lived in the old farmhouse further up the Dean, now called the “Malt House” with the shed at the front, and also the barn – labelled and dated in the bricks “1772” – on the east side of the road. George refers to this barn as the hay barn, as he regularly used to stack hay into there.  Opposite this house was the Dorey family turkey farm, extending from where Huxley’s and CLC are now, down to the Riverside Cottages. The town gas works was slightly up the hill from the turkey farm. The current house name comes from earlier, from before when John Howe lived there, around 1828. He was a clockmaker, but he also continued the malting/brewing business, using the site of the house next door, #58, now Western Court (or similar). The barn has now been modernized, but the picture shows it in the 1980s. John Howe’s previous premises, for his watch and clock-making business in 1803, was 17 Broad Street, later to become Laurence Oxley’s shop!

Valdean, the caravan park, was originally a US Army camp in the war, with semi-circular section Nissen huts spread around the road network the Army laid down in the field there. The Valor family bought the field from the US Army, and first used the huts for the temporary housing of returning soldiers and their families. These were later replaced by the current mobile and trailer homes.

DSCN2450Opposite the Valdean caravan park, the Alresford Volunteer Force Armoury was labelled with a large green painted wooden sign board, that had a red edging, but no pictures of this exist on the outside of the old flint built building there, which now faces onto the yard owned by Wild Brothers. This must be the old armoury, but if anyone has a picture to prove it, we’d all like to see a copy! The nearest modern (1959) approach to such a sign is pictured here, positioned high on the flint wall. The old (1823) Methodist Chapel on Pound Hill appears to back onto this flint walled building, which must have been the AVF Armoury.

Subsequently a further reference was found: Digby Grist in the Alresford Displayed of 1980, mentions that the 16th Hampshire Volunteer Rifle Company was formed in 1860, and had its drill hall in the premises of the British School in the Dean – which Digby said was in 1980 occupied by Wild Bros, so is presumably the same building that became the Armoury.

And in 2015…

DSCN2688 watson small

These days George can often be seen on his big mobility scooter heading out for his morning drive, which can include a visit to the Golf Club, or a trip to Alresford shopping: he specially appreciates the help given by the local shopkeepers, who will frequently be seen delivering the required items to George, parked outside on the pavement.


The Alresford Museum Artefacts listed as found by George Watson, and donated to the Alresford Museum – some coming from the Old Fire Station – are as follows.

A1019a: Fireman’s bucket with leather strap, which could have been similar to the ones in the Alresford Old Fire Station. But Geo Watson bought this when in the OFS, it was made by Merryweather, who made the fire engine..

A1019b: Glass bulb fire extinguisher, known as a Harden.

A1019c: WW2 Fireman’s Axe.

A1019d: Shells from site of Lady Luck Flying Fortress crash.

A1019e: A section of a charred beam from Lawrence Oxley’s house (17 Broad Street) in Alresford’s first fire.

A1019f: Inside of incendiary bomb, picked up by GW from the lawn of the Weir House after raid in WW2.

A1027:  Lead bullets from Alresford Volunteer Rifles practice range, found by metal detector near the rifle range, BS Road, 29 Sept 03 (approx?) by permission Mr Cole of Western Court.

A1006: Cap badge Alresford volunteer rifles: GW found this with the metal detector when looking for bullets on the rifle range, see 1027 above.

A1028n: Indentures on parchment: Nathaniel Bradley of Alresford 1672 and 1748 in Essex – GW said he collected it from Childs shop when it was closed down.

Other items were Bachelor’s bottles (A1020a to d), and the town batons (A1029a and b). The NATT Alresford Museum Committee are grateful for these donations, now added to the town collection of artefacts and records. George also donated various other documents and photos to the Museum, which are listed separately.


Isabel Sanderson, in Volume 9 of her series “Dwellings in Alresford” includes just a sketch of the AVF Drill Hall in the Dean, later their Armoury, with the comment that this was the British School from 1851-1888.