“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
The 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.
The 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:
06.04.1918: “…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
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.
All 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.
Another 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.”
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.
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
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!