1996 Bell Hotel Fire

News topics from the 1996 papers

The following two items appeared in the local newspapers found in the time capsule placed in the Methodist Chapel in the Dean, during its renovation for the Alresford Youth Association in 1996.

Bell Hotel Fire

In the issue of the Hampshire Chronicle that was placed in the Methodist Chapel time capsule that was re-created in 1996, there was a news item about a recent fire in the Bell Hotel. The newspaper was dated 8 March 1996 – it said

“Four people who were asleep in the Bell Hotel in Alresford, on Sunday night, had a lucky escape. Carl May, son of the Manager, woke up to the smell of smoke just before 0230 and raised the alarm. Hotel manager Courtney May, Carl, and two guests who were in the hotel at the time made their way to safety.

The first fire fighters on the scene were from Alresford, followed by those from Winchester. “When we arrived we could see fire coming out of the roof, it had obviously been burning for some time,” said Winchester sub-officer Kevin Oxlade. “It was a very serious fire.”

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Efforts were originally made on preventing the flames spreading to nearby buildings. It took about four hours for six units plus a turntable ladder, and 40 firefighters from Alresford, Winchester, Twyford and Alton to get the blaze under control. Damping down operations continued for most of the morning. Fire investigators attended the scene on Monday: the cause of the fire was thought to have been an electrical fault

The roof, top floor, and the first floor where the guest bedrooms were located suffered the most damage.”

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The scene the next morning

The hotel was owned by Phoenix Inns at the time. The building is Grade II listed, recorded as a coaching inn dating from 1756. Additional reporting by the Winchester Extra is included above.

Creamfields – Boomtown gets go-ahead

Also in a front page feature in the Hampshire Chronicle of 8 March 1996, the Winchester City Council gave the go-ahead for the music festival at Cheesefoot Head, stating the assumption that it would be likely to attract 50,000 people.

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From 1896 Methodist Chapel to 2017 Event Space!

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In Autumn 2017, the old Methodist Chapel, in the Dean in Alresford, was re-opened as “White Space Alresford”, an event space for hire in the middle of Alresford. The building has been totally renovated, and now features a single storey 850 square feet of space, with a 6.6m high vaulted ceiling. The space is truly described as a white space, with white walls and arched ceiling, and white light from windows in the roof, as well as the original long thin windows in the East wall facing the street. ‘White space’ is offered for hire as an ideal venue for ceremonies, pop-ups, photoshoots, workshops (for training or product launches) and wellness days. For a conference the room be fitted out with chairs, and tables if needed, to accommodate 26 delegates.

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During the 2016 renovation work at the building, the workmen found a time capsule placed there in 1996, when the last renovation took place. This time capsule incorporated the contents of another, earlier time capsule, installed when the building was originally constructed, which by coincidence was dated March 1896, almost exactly 100 years previously. Holly Budge of White Space Alresford has generously decided that the documents in the capsule should be passed to the Alresford Museum, so that they can be preserved and recorded as an important part of the town’s history.

The Methodist Chapel, 1896

The ‘Primitive Methodist Chapel’, in the Dean, Alresford, was built in 1896. Many current Alresford residents, passing by the front of the building, which is directly against the pavement, will have seen the original 10 foundation stones at the base of the front wall. These were laid by the local notables and officials on Wednesday 11 March in 1896. The Mayor of Winchester, A.R. Dyer, laid the first stone. Other local people who paid for bricks, have their initials engraved in the side of a brick here too, as can be seen on the photographs.

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The builder given the work of erecting the Chapel was H. Mundy, builder and contractor, house decorator and undertaker, of Essex Road, Basingstoke. On some of his headed paper, dated 12 March 1896, four of his builders signed their names and added this to the time capsule they created. Their signatures were interpreted as Fred Mundy, John Willis and Bill Gunner in 1996: a fourth name was not deciphered, but could be “Harvey Bundon”: Victorian writing is hard to read at times, as you can see. The total cost of the original building was £200.

Builders signatures 1896

The newspapers originally interred in a cavity in the wall next to one of the doorways in the Chapel were the Hampshire Chronicle, the Hampshire Observer, published by Warren and Sons, and the “Primitive Methodist World and Sunday School Worker”: all these newspapers cost one (old) penny each. Regrettably the Hampshire Chronicle had been severely attacked by insects.

The copy of the Hampshire Observer tells us that following Mr Dyer, S. Tanner Esq of Avington also laid a stone, followed by other ladies and gentlemen. One was laid by Miss I. Smith on behalf of the orphanage children, in Old Alresford. After these ceremonies there was a public tea in the Town Hall at 5pm (tickets were one shilling each)

The build-up to 1996

By 1964 the building was no longer suitable for worship, and it was sold for £3000 to enable the purchase of further premises in Pound Hill. However, some people attending the 1996 ceremony remembered worshipping there. Alice Alsford, long connected with the NCH in Old Alresford, remembered attending services there, with children from the home. Bobbie Sanderson and her late husband John were actually married in the Chapel.

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The Chapel before the AYA renovation, in 1989

The building was possibly not used immediately, and by 1993 was in a derelict state. It was recognised as a possible site for creating a permanent place for the activities of the Alresford Youth Association, which had been established as a registered charity and legal framework to run the activities of “Tonix”, a meeting room and non-alcoholic bar for teenagers aged 14-18. Tonix had started in East Street in October 1992, in a room rented short term, on the first floor of ‘The Peaceful Home’ pub. This was a successful activity, but when the management committee decided to fund-raise from the public to seek permanent premises, it was necessary to establish the AYA as a registered charity. The AYA was formed with support from the County Youth Service, and many other local organisations including the local Churches, the Chamber of Trade, the Parish Council, Rotary and the Police.

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Renovation, November 95

Tonix was homeless, after vacating rented premises, and after the plan to park a vintage bus acquired for the club on Arlebury Park had been scuppered by the town council – when a planning permission request for electricity and water connections was rejected. So when the Chapel was offered for sale in 1994, further local fund raising efforts in the community, as well as grants from official bodies, enabled the purchase of the building in October 1995, and work to commence on the renovation of the building. Fixed assets reported by the AYA (valued at cost) at the end of 1995 were totalled at £42,300, of which the major part would have been the purchase price of the Methodist Chapel in October 1995.

The 1996 ceremony and their capsule

In 1996 the Alresford Youth Association invited Pat Norris, the Mayor of Winchester, to unveil a new Foundation stone to be built into the wall of the old Methodist Chapel in the Dean, to go alongside the other stones placed there 100 years before.  The photo shows the Mayor accompanied by Sir Peter Ramsbotham (the AYA President), laying the stone.

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Diana Woolridge, chairman of the AYA, later explained the history of the building to the visitors and guests, assembled on the first floor of the Chapel building. The audience included parish and city councillors, members of the local churches, chamber of trade, Rotary and Alresford Pigs, all of whom joined with the community in raising the funds needed to finance the renovations. Grants also came from the County Council. This large space, she explained, would be a large meeting room and event space, while downstairs a lounge, kitchen and office was planned. Tim Churchill explained that the two levels would work separately, with one group downstairs and another upstairs. The original concept of the Tonix coffee bar meeting room would be re-opened downstairs later in the Spring.

The building façade had been preserved and the windows with the original Cathedral tinted glass have been retained – looking much as they did 100 years before. The total purchase and restoration was budgeted to cost a total of £90,000: the building work still in progress at that time was being undertaken by Chamberlain Construction, of Laurel House in Alresford, working to a £45,000 budget. Part of their work was planned to involve the re-interment of the old time capsule, with added information from 1996, including several current local newspapers reporting on the stone laying ceremony, and some National newspapers. Additionally included were the AYA Annual reports to the Charity Commissioners for 1994 and 1995, plus a statement from Chamberlain Construction listing the unit costs of the materials and consumables used in the restoration.

[The above information was distilled down from the documents in the time capsule, such as reports in the Hampshire Chronicle of 15 March 1996, and also the Alton Herald of 22 March 1996, and the annual reports of the AYA charity for 1994 and 1995.

A subsequent story will quote some of the events reported in the 1996 local papers found in the time capsule]

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Alresford Men’s Shed launches!

Heard about Men’s Sheds? It’s the idea that started in Australia*, where ‘Guys’ get together to share skills and launch into doing the things they’ve always wanted to, like repairing broken furniture, making a corner cabinet, re-wiring a lamp – alongside other people who have done it before, and can give a helping hand.

It also gives a social interface away from the home, where you can talk as much as you want, or walk away if it’s a hassle. The idea may be to give your wife some free time, and get out of the house. Beware, there may be some wives getting away from their husbands too, to get those nagging jobs done themselves, with some different advice.

Part of the SHED objective is to provide a Community service, in return for a donation, where little elderly ladies (of Alresford), and others, can get their walkers repaired, and their lamps rewired, or chairs glued.

OK, Commercial over, what about the Alresford Shed?

Alresford Men’s Shed is about to start up! Come and hear the launch plans, the facilities available, not now, maybe not next week, but certainly the ALRESFORD SHED will be OPEN after Christmas! Come and find a use for all the Christmas presents that you might get, particularly if someone else knows what they do.

The Alresford Shed launch meeting is on Thursday 14 December at the ARC, 11am. DO COME ALONG TO HEAR SOME GREAT NEWS and take the opportunity to chat to your fellow potential “Shedders”. Be at the start of it all. Stay till 2ish.

If you do intend coming please let us know as we are planning to provide a simple Ploughman’s Lunch with drinks. Just reply by commenting on this post on the website, see the box below: it will not appear publicly, but the message will get noted, and you added to the list for future info, if you wish.

Find out how to be a part of it

The Alresford Men’s Shed Membership application form will be available for completion on the spot, on 14 December. Or take one away, and visit us at the “SHED” next year.

There are as yet few rules, but there will be more, for basic health and safety.

All are welcome, there are many “Men’s Sheds” that have both male and female members. Bring your own projects, or come and help with others.

There will be an annual membership fee, and maybe an attendance fee to cover tea and coffee and electricity for the microwave and fridge. We don’t believe anyone can work properly without sustenance!

What has happened so far?

Alresford Men’s Shed has applied for Registered Charity status, and start-up funding has been donated by Hampshire County Council and Alresford Pigs Association. Already neighbouring SHEDs are offering us free spare tools and benches and whatever.

Come and listen to what could be created!

*Background: Australia is a country where guys are guys, and that means they need to have a comfortable place to go where they can do their own thing, and do things, and maybe talk a bit. Search for “Mens sheds” on Google (no apostrophe), or go to menssheds.org.uk: this site is English – beware, there are a lot of Irish Shed websites!

Helping the local community

FareShare food distribution

The charity ‘FareShare’ is working with the Tesco store in Alresford to ensure that food that is no longer suitable for sale is distributed around the local community. Basically the food has reached its ‘sell by date’, and is surplus to their requirements. FareShare and Tesco wish to see that this food is not wasted, but distributed to anyone who can make use of it.

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Some of the food recently made available by Tesco

 

Various local community groups have undertaken to distribute the food, according to the FareShare principles: two of the first organisations to sign up in Alresford were the Giles Group and the ADCA, the Alresford & District Community Association. The Giles Group is arranging to distribute the surplus Tesco food that is available on Tuesday mornings, from their ‘Drop-in’ coffee morning held every week in the Community Centre. This operates from 1030 till 12 noon. Any food remaining is then delivered to the Makins Court Common Room, at around 1230. On Fridays, the food available from Tesco is distributed to those who attend the ADCA coffee morning, also held in the Community Centre. Again, any left over at the end of the morning is delivered to makins Court for the residents there.

The Giles Group

The Giles Group was established in Alresford some 23 years ago. The original objective was to provide people in Alresford who had a disability, or a family member with a disability of any form, with a place to go, to discuss problems and find advice from people who had faced similar problems, and could understand their difficulties. The Group acted as a source of information about disability aids, suppliers of equipment, and services, grants and funding available. Nowadays this sort of information is more easily accessible via the internet, but the Group still provides such services, and also acts as a meeting place for the members.

The Giles members also include carers for disabled people, other elderly people who have trouble walking, and also those who are just isolated and need some friendly companionship. We meet together once a month* for an afternoon, in the Community Centre, to exchange ideas and listen to visiting speakers – who often represent organisations that are relevant to those with mobility problems, or the disabled in the town. There is also the weekly coffee morning, in the Community Centre, where the Tesco food is distributed.

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Another week’s food distribution from Tesco, with the Alresford Society salver awarded to the Giles Group for 2018

Problems experienced by the members are collected, and referred to the local Council when relevant: such things as better road crossings, repairs to broken pavements and installation of dropped kerbs have been positive results.  The Group also provides a source for locating mobility aids, fluorescent jackets and items for help around the house. In co-operation with the Alresford Pigs and others, mobility aids like Zimmer frames, wheelchairs, ‘Rollator’ walkers and even mobility scooters are regularly re-cycled amongst the Giles membership.

The Alresford Society award

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Clive and Tessa receiving the Salver Award for 2018 at the Alresford Society AGM

After 23 years working in the town for the disabled, the Giles Group is delighted to have been awarded the Alresford Society’s Silver Salver Award for 2018, in recognition of the assistance provided to the Community over this time. Founder member Tessa Purkiss attended the recent AGM of the Alresford Society to receive the award from their Chairman, Jan Field. Tessa was accompanied by Clive Earthy, a long term member of the Giles Committee, and the current Treasurer. Clive and Tessa stressed that Giles membership is open to anyone who feels they could benefit, and is only run for the benefit of the members – currently 35 in total. New members are always welcome – membership in 2017 was only £15 a year, as the Group receives occasional external support – recently from the NATC and from personal donations.

  • For more information about the Giles Group, please see www.gilesgroup.org.uk . Monthly meetings are held on the second monday in the month, from 2pm to 4pm in the Community Centre.

Community Volunteers – can you help?

For those recently retired, or anyone wishing to volunteer to help the less able-bodied in Alresford, the Giles Group of Alresford is seeking help for one or two days a month, assisting people at their meetings or on their Minibus outings. The group (www.gilesgroup.org.uk) organises a monthly talk in the Community Centre, and a monthly outing in the town Minibus, for old, infirm or otherwise disabled/lonely people in the town.

The current organisers are also getting old, and need some help in shepherding the visitors onto the Minibus, handing out teas, organising tables and chairs, fastening seat belts etc. The meetings are held on the second Monday in the month, in the afternoon, and the Minibus trips, to a garden centre, or a market, or a café on the coast (in the good weather) are on the third Monday in the month, again in the afternoon.

The Giles Group has around 35 members, with maybe 30 attending the meetings regularly, and 13 is the minibus capacity for the outings. Volunteer drivers are already available driving the bus, both to collect people for the meeting in the Community Centre, and on the outings.

If you would be able to help, please come along and see what we do, what help is needed, and how such events can be so useful for the Community. Or call Nick on 734824, with any questions!  Thankyou

A 1914 Description of Alresford

In Pursuit of Spring

Edward Thomas, in 1914, lived in London. That Spring, he decided to journey from his home, down through Guildford, Alresford, Salisbury and on to the Quantocks, on (and with) his bicycle. Whether he cycled all the way is not really clear at all. But his account of this journey was described in his book, “In Pursuit of Spring”. This gives an early account of the towns and villages, “Rich in literary associations and observations”. Robert Frost recognised this book as “A kind of poetry, having the cadences of fine verse”.

What drew me to this book was that Thomas, later a resident of Petersfield, took a camera with him on this journey, and has an interesting picture of the Avenue in Alresford, in 1914, before the older carriage track and path were covered over with grassed areas. Petersfield Museum put on a display of some of these photographs in 2017: the picture of the Alresford Avenue is shown below.

DSCN6006 The Avenue Alresford in 1914

More or less the same view in August 2017, with all the trees in leaf, is shown below. Obviously his original photo is taken from a higher viewpoint, maybe standing on his bicycle!

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Further old pictures, circa 1900, of the Avenue and the various paths and tracks, can be seen in the AlresfordHeritage website collection, in the pages that feature the Avenue. Also the picture below from AlresfordHeritage shows these paths in the early 1900s, near the top of Pound Hill, and what is now the site of the ARC.

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The Edward Thomas account

The book – the copy I have seen – is words only (it has none of his photos), ISBN 0 7045 0423 5, a 1981 reissue by Wildwood House, available from Hampshire Libraries, with an introduction by P J Kavanagh. It describes Farnham, Bentley, Holybourne, Alton and Fourmarks, before arriving in Ropley. The comments about Ropley, and Bishops Sutton, are shown below, before he enters Alresford.

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Then he enters Alresford, ‘sad coloured, but not cold, and very airy’. At least East Street is no longer “sad” in colour! He considered Alresford was “Consisting of one street, plus a side turning, very broad”! The following pages also describe Alresford Pond in the words of George Wither, a poet, who praised the pond for its beauty:

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So, Thomas then goes on to spend pages extolling the virtues of the Norgett family, who lived at Oldhurst. Anyone know where that is, or who they were?

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The next extract sees him leaving Alresford, along the Avenue, where he stops to take a photo, and then he turns right along the Worthies road, but on the pages shown below does not get past Itchen Abbas.

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The pictures

The Edward Thomas photographs, 53 of them, were unearthed by Rob Hudson, a Photographer specialising in landscapes, based in Wales. Rob has published them in his blog, of March 1st 2016, accessible via his website. A couple more are shown below, that might interest local residents.

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Bishop’s Sutton Church, 1914

 

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Getting dark, at Headbourne Worthy, 1914

 

 

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.

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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?

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