The History of the Alresford Community Centre

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A drawing by A E Wade dated 1958. Reproduced from the Alresford Museum archives with permission.

The building now normally referred to as the Alresford Community Centre has a long history in the town: working backwards, it has been previously known as the Alresford Town Hall, the Alresford Market House, and the “Rose and Crown” Inn. In fact the ‘Rose and Crown’ days were in the period just before 1865, when the present building was constructed. The earliest reference found to a dwelling on this site is in 1685, when on 27th November, Abigail Bath, the owner, sold the property to Thomas and Joane Standen, on a 500 year lease of one peppercorn per annum. [In those days spices were more valuable than ordinary money, and becoming more popular (and therefore expensive) by the year]

26th July 1865

The ‘Rose and Crown’ at this time was owned by Edward Hunt, a well-known name in Alresford, who owned the brewery in West Street. In July he sold the deeds to the ‘Alresford Market House Company’ for £550. The property at this time comprised two parts. The main part, on the West side, later to become the Community Centre, (now 7 West Street) was occupied by a Joseph Anderson (possibly the ex-landlord). The ‘messuage’ on the east side (now 5 West Street) was occupied by William Spary. This messuage on the east is the small dwelling that later became the Portman Building Society offices, and is now occupied by the Nationwide Bank.

It is assumed here that it was the Alresford Market House Company that built the imposing new building, with the large front room, presumably for the market, and a meeting room upstairs. This is also suggested by the coat of arms at the top of the front fascia, which has the Alresford crest with the letters AMHCL written above the shield, and the date of 1865 below. AMHCL = Alresford Market House Company Ltd.

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The Market House in 1906. Photo published from www.Alresfordheritage.co.uk with permission

29th August 1924

In 1924, the main building had become known as the “Town Hall”: earlier tenants had been a John Simms, and a Thomas Burly – most recently it was a Stephen Hoffe. But on 29th August the Market House Company went into voluntary liquidation – after 59 years of operating the building. Arthur Whale, an accountant, was the liquidator, and the property was sold to Miss Mary Matilda Baker, of Mitford House, Broad Street, for the sum of £800. Alresford Memories readers will have read about Kingsley Baker in another story on this website, and how after WW1 the Baker family financed the building of houses for returning soldiers, in New Farm Road. Presumably Miss Baker was part of this family.

The deal with the accountant included the house at 5 West Street, then occupied by William James Adams. It also included a weighbridge outside in West Street. The accountant also tidied up the peppercorn lease, enlarging it into a “fee simple” – presumably buying out the freehold and ending the lease.

Miss Baker’s tenants 1924-1942

There were many tenants in this period! The Meryon Hall (downstairs – note the reference to Dr Meryon’s name) was let to Hazelgrove and Son as a butchers shop for £44-4-0 a year.

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The Hazelgrove shop in the downstairs room (The Meryon Hall) in the 1920s.  Photo by permission from Alresfordheritage.co.uk

H Royle had the use of the large room on Sundays for £5 pa, and the small room for one hour on Thursdays for 2s 6d a week. But the Foresters and the Oddfellows each took the small room on alternate Tuesdays for £4-4-0 pa each. (Nowadays Tuesdays are taken up with the Giles Group coffee morning – they have obviously taken the place of either the Foresters or the Oddfellows!)

The Medical Officer of Health (Dr Cronk) had the use of the main room and two small rooms for one day a week, for the Child Welfare clinic (10 shillings) and the Ante-Natal clinic (7s 6d).

In the 1930s, the upper room was used as a Magistrates Court for the Petty Sessional Division of Alresford. In 1935, Miss Baker upgraded their facilities by creating a retiring room for the Magistrates (cost to her was £62-5-0) and the rent for the two rooms was increased from the previous £25 pa to £29-10-0 pa. This was in a five year lease starting 29 August 1935.

15th September 1942

Miss Baker now sold the two properties to Henry Joseph Phair Esq, the stationer, who later occupied the corner shop and newsagents at the top of Broad Street on the East side. The sum involved was £1100. The sale agreement included the house at #5, then occupied by Mr Jupe, but did not mention the weighbridge. It also stipulated that no intoxicating liquor should be sold from the premises.

In 1946 Mr Phair updated the lease of the upper room and the retiring room for the use of the County Council as a Magistrates Court, at £60 a year, and in January 1953 the lower hall was let for £10 a year for sittings of the Juvenile Court, with an added fee of £3 for the rent and use of an electric fire.

1st February 1958

Mr Phair now sold the Town Hall to a Trust, formed by the Alresford Chamber of Commerce, which included local business men and gentry. They paid the £2000 cost via a mortgage granted by Mr Phair, at 6% interest. The nominated Trustees were Charles Evelyn Meryon (Doctor), Hugh Robertson Leishman (Doctor), Geoffrey Brian Gush (Company Director), and Henry Cleeve Mills (Farmer).

5th October 1964

After 7 years, the Trustees were directed by a Chamber of Commerce resolution to “Hold the Trust Property for and on behalf of the Alresford and District Community Association”. The Trust deed giving the constitution of the ADCA is written around this resolution, and gives the Council of the Association “Management and Control of the Trust property, but not ownership”. The ADCA has continued this responsibility to the present day.

Events in the 1970s

Between 1970 and 75 the original Trustees either died or resigned, and new Trustees were appointed, like Major Covill, Mr R E Witchard, John Arlott and Gordon Scrase. On 29th March 1977 the cottage at 5 West Street was sold to Morris Dibben, for £9500.

The ADCA in 2018

The ADCA is a Registered Charity, and continues to manage the Community Centre on behalf of the townspeople of Alresford. Current Trustees are Mick Atterton and Gareth Rees, but there is wide community representation on the management committee. Main contacts there are Brian Clark for bookings of the rooms, Ian Wilcox as Treasurer, Moyra MacRae as chair of the fundraising committee, and Jackie Earthy as ADCA Secretary.

The photo below shows the Albert Wade drawing of the Community Centre in 1958, almost 100 years after it was first built. This drawing is perhaps in its finished form with some colour – this is published with permission from Gog Andrews – see his website on www.alresfordheritage.co.uk for this and other historical local pictures.

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Discussion points arising

Following this historical summary, which was taken from an explanatory document in the ADCA’s records, these are the current unknowns: (Comments added by Nick Denbow 2 March 2019)

  1. The town weighbridge was sited at the edge of West Street (in the current lay-by), either outside the current Matheson Optometrists (1-3 West Street), or outside number 5 West Street. The office dealing with the weighbridge measurements was in one of these buildings.
  2. The building at #5 was constructed in 1865 as a part of the Market Hall (the photo shows it had no front door access of its own, as late as 1906). After the Market House Company went into liquidation in 1924, it is possible that Miss Baker continued to sublet rooms at #5 to Mr Adams. But it is believed there was an internal door or passageway between #5 and #7, and that there was a small meeting room at the back of #5 on the ground floor. This may be the “Small Room” that was subsequently let to the Foresters and Oddfellows at times, and later used by Dr Cronk, the Medical Officer of Health (Indeed this explains the sentence in the Community Centre records, where Dr Cronk rented the main room and two smaller rooms – without a meeting room in #5, two small rooms would not have been available). The front of #5 was an “office”, possibly for market house admin, but even possibly for the weighbridge admin.
  3. After WW2, there are memories of such a separate small room on the ground floor of the Market House being used for health clinics, ante-natal clinics, vaccinations etc – possibly the Market House had also evolved into an NHS health centre used by medical practitioners. In 1958, when the Trust was established to take care of the building, it is notable that two of the main Trustees were the town’s busiest Doctors, who could have been the most regular users of the Market House facilities. It is also notable that Wade’s 1958 drawing shows no separate front door for #5 at that time.
  4. It is not known when the current ladies toilet was completed/modernised on the ground floor of #7, but it is noticeable that this room extends into the floor plan of #5, with a doorway through the partition wall between the buildings. This must have been completed  before the sale of #5 in 1977.

 

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Jane Loe of Bishops Sutton

Back in the 1960s while at Churchill College in Cambridge, one of the new friends I made was a fellow student called Bob Loe. In a recent reunion to celebrate the Golden Wedding of another college friend, I discovered Bob was a descendant of the Loe family of Selborne, that later were farmers in Bishops Sutton, in the 1800s.

Bob’s great great grandparents were Johnson and Jane Loe, and the 1851 census shows them as a farmer of 700+ acres in Bishops Sutton, employing 20 people. Johnson Loe died in 1855, and so Jane inherited the farm, and continued to run it – she was quite a wealthy widow.

Returning to current times, yesterday saw the opening of the Old Fire Station in Alresford, which now houses a horse-drawn Merryweather Fire Engine from Tichborne Park, very similar to the new engine bought by public subscription for Alresford in 1893. A similar purchase in 1858 was of a new manual fire pump, which was purchased to improve fire safety and fire fighting in the town. Cost, with 160 feet of hose to be used on the suction side, was £138.00. This fire pump was planned to be housed in the Swan Inn, at least until the building known as the “Old Fire Station” was completed in 1881. But notable amongst the list of subscribers for this pump was Mrs Loe, of Bishops Sutton: her name can be seen on the document now on display in the Old Fire Station.

fire-engineAt first I thought this could have been the old manual pump purchased in 1858, but apparently this was a model of the original manual fire pump that was housed at one time in the porch of the West entrance to St John’s in Alresford, earlier in the C19th. The model was built by George Watson in the 1970s, and is pictured here outside the (new) Alresford Fire Station.

In 1859 Mrs Loe remarried – her new husband was Edward Parsons. Possibly fairly advanced for the time was a post-nuptial agreement dated 1859 that specified that her wealth was reserved for her children, and not for Edward Parsons. Considering that she had 11 children, possibly some of the farm was split later into several smaller units. In the 1871 census, Jane was living at New House, and an associated farm: she died in 1882. Bob tells me that there is a long memorial stone to her in the outer north vestry wall of the Bishops Sutton church.

Maybe I will be able to get some photos of this stone later – and add any comments from other descendants of Mrs Loe, or Bishops Sutton farmers! First there is the picture of the manual fire pump donor list, which started this story!

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A notable name on this list is that of Mr J (John) Covey, of Alresford. Later, in 1881, it would be John Covey’s widow, Susanna Eliza Covey, who bought the (run-down) dwellings and land at the bottom of Broad Street, and donated this land to the Bailiff and Burgesses of the town – for them to build what we now know as the “Old Fire Station”.  We believe that the fire pump was housed prior to 1881 in the entrance to the Swan Inn, in the centre of town. Possibly it looked like the picture below, which is of the Victorian “Huntley and Palmer” factory based horse-drawn fire pump.

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ENDS

Old Fire Station opens!

15 September 2018. The Old Fire Station (OFS) building on Broad Street opened for the first time, in nearly 100 years, as a display of the 1893 vintage fire engine of the type that used to serve Alresford and district. It is a Merryweather, steam driven fire engine, powered by two horses, to get it along the road, and with a water tube steam boiler on the back, fired up before the engine set off, to be ready to drive the water pump on arrival at the fire. The appliance sucked water up from a nearby pond or stream, and  supplied the hoses and nozzles with this water at high pressure.

The Merryweather is in the OFS, positioned in what many would describe as backwards, as the horses would have to be attached at the back! But the outside view is better that way round!

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The new Tichborne Park Fire Engine, now on display for various open days thru the year at the Old Fire Station, in Alresford.

Also on display on open days there will be several fireman’s helmets, of various vintages, and in the near future there will also be a display of photos of the Alresford Merryweather engine in action, provided from the local collection on the Alresfordheritage website.

The picture below shows an Evening Standard pic from 1908, showing a Merryweather racing to put out a fire…..

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Most of the displays link to the 1893 purchase of the Merryweather engine, subscribed by public generosity, just like the Fire Station itself. But earlier, in 1858, local subscriptions had raised enough money for a hand operated public fire pump, and a list of all those subscribing to that is also on display:

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There are no pictures of this original 1858 unit, but many similar fire pumps are on display in other Museum facilities around the country. Pictured below is a typical manually operated horse drawn fire pump of this type.

1880 multi-hand pump

ENDS   !

 

Vintage Fire Engine finds Old Home

Eighty years after the last fire engine left the Old Fire Station in Alresford the building will once again house a fire appliance.  One of the old Merryweather Steamer Pump appliances built in the early 1900s and similar to that operating in Alresford in the early part of the twentieth century, will be moving into the Old Fire Station on Saturday 18th August 2018.

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The arrival on the 18th, on a modern towed trailer!

The fire engine will not have travelled far over the last hundred years as it was originally used on the Tichborne Park Estate and for many years it has been housed at the fire station on Pound Hill.  It will be transferred to the newly refurbished Broad Street Fire Station – which was built in 1881 and housed the town’s fire brigade and their equipment up until 1938 when the new fire station on Pound Hill was completed.

The Old Fire Station is owned by the New Alresford Town Trust which has refurbished the original part of the building that formed the fire station to house the newly created Alresford Museum.

“The original idea was to create exhibition and display space for local historical artefacts in the Old Fire Station, but when the possibility of actually housing a local, vintage fire engine became a reality our plans changed,” said Roy Gentry, Chair of the Alresford and District Museum Trust. “Our focus now will be on preparing suitable displays to complement the fire engine and open the Museum to the public.  We are grateful to the Hampshire Fire Service, Alan House and the Hampshire Police and Fire Heritage Trust for their help in making this project a reality.”

The fire engine came into the possession of the Hankin family business in the 1960s, and was housed in the fire station on Pound Hill during the times when Alex Hankin was the Chief Fire Officer for Alresford. The Hankin family spent many thousands of pounds having the appliance restored in the early 1990s. John Hankin is delighted the fire engine will be staying in Alresford, and housed in the Old Fire Station.

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The Merryweather fire appliance in the original Tichborne Park livery outside the Pound Hill Fire Station (courtesy of AlresfordHeritage.co.uk)

“There will be a handover of the fire engine at the Pound Hill Fire Station at 2.30pm on 18th August and all past and present fire fighters and local residents are welcome to attend and escort it to its new home,” said Roy Gentry.

In order to successfully display the fire engine and associated artefacts, the Museum Trust needs more volunteers to assist with this project. Help is needed to prepare displays, undertake historical research and produce display material as well stewards to man the museum when it is open to the public. Anybody who thinks they would like to be involved should contact Roy Gentry on 01962 773185 or roy.gentry@alresford.org.

Note: The Town Trust took over the responsibility for the original Alresford Museum charity when it ceased to operate in 2010.

 

The Community Centre and Parking!

The name proposed for the settlement on the South side of the River Arle was originally “Newmarket” – as the Bishops of the time, planned the town as a marketplace, where people would visit to trade and buy goods. That was Bishop De Lucy, I believe. But the people who established the new settlement mainly came from the village on the north bank, now called Old Alresford. They therefore felt that a better name would be “New Alresford”, and adopted that instead. Action by popular demand, even in the C11th! It was almost democracy.

The town has thrived on its large market, in Broad Street, still maintained today by the Town Trust. But the traders and restaurants and shopkeepers of Alresford have perpetuated the approach, and Alresford today is known as a good place to go to, to visit and buy things, where visitors are welcomed, and parking is free.

Indeed the old statutes of the Bailiffs and Burgesses that ran the town until 1890 have been passed down to the NATT, the Town Trust, who own the rights to the parking and activities in the market area, ie Broad Street. So if parking fees were ever introduced, any revenues generated would probably go to the Town Trust.

The modern view

In 2018 the whole idea seems to be turning itself on its head. The traders in the town continue to rely on visitors arriving, these days, in their cars. There are shops to provide services to many sections of society, and with parking available they can ensure a short walk to the destination, short enough to carry possibly heavy shopping back to the car. Many OAPs rely on this for groceries, meat and fish, producing heavy shopping bags. Ladies in high heels can visit the boutiques and dress shops, and then have a coffee nearby. The car parks at the station and at Perins are well used, and no distance.

Surprisingly the car park at the ARC, up Pound Hill, is really not well used, and has many spaces during the week. The town plan, driven by the NATC, is investing millions in a new car park in the Dean, knocking down three factories, but the spaces will probably be mostly used by the residents of the new McCarthy and Stone retirement flats that are probably financing the whole thing. Meanwhile all the traders in the town park their cars in the spaces they would like their potential customers to use, in the town centre. When the Traffic Warden arrives they miraculously shift their cars to the station car park or similar.

Even more recent events

I hesitate to be too biased in commenting about controversial things, but I don’t drive an SUV, and my car easily fits into a standard parking place.

Driving around any town, you see spaces marked out with white lines, identified as disabled spaces. You know that this is near a place where disabled people have to alight safely, and you do not block these spaces, unless you are sitting in the car, able to move it if the space is needed. These are not legally designated disabled bays: but it is requesting your co-operation as a responsible member of society.

So we come to the two spaces marked as disabled outside the Community Centre. These are useful to the town, as they are also outside the banks that remain, and drivers can use them for 5 minutes while visiting the bank, particularly if they leave the car supervised. They are “Drop-off” points.

The Community Centre is one of the jewels of Alresford. It provides a meeting point, and a rest centre, for residents visiting the shops, and the parking spaces provide a pick up point for shopping bags, once the shopping is finished. This can be seen every Friday morning, when the town Minibus brings around 30 OAPs and mobility-challenged people into town for a weekly shop. They visit the Banks, Tesco, the Pet Shop, the butchers and the chemists. Plus the greengrocers, the library and the card shops/gift shops. The more affluent visit Heidi’s and the Age Concern charity shop. It is unlikely many of them visit Fitique – maybe the session times don’t match.

The Chamber of Commerce

It then appears that leading members of the Chamber of Commerce, the successors of course to the Bailiffs and Burgesses that ran the town until the 1890s, but the various Acts of Parliament took away their powers, took exception to the Town Minibus that reserved two disabled spaces on a Friday morning, for at most 4 hours. They felt this was preventing custom for their businesses, and say many businesses agreed. Which ones do not benefit, one wonders, from the 30 OAPs that come in in those four hours to spend their money? Four hours, two spaces, with a parking max time of two hours – that means four cars could have driven into town and spent their money, contrasted with the 30 pensioners who did come.

It is my opinion that the benefit resulting from four SUVs, spending their money in sessions in Fitique or the various boutiques and coffee shops, would not meet the benefit to the town’s shops from the 30 OAPs. But if it takes 30 cars to come into town, to deliver these pensioners, separately, and block the roads while discharging and collecting them, then I am prepared to arrange it.

The NATC and HCC response

It seems that HCC has been quick to respond, and is circulating suggestions that it should start to charge for parking in the town, covering all parking spaces. Worse still for the traders, they would propose a residents parking pass system that would charge peanuts for residents to park in the town, and block the parking spaces that seem so important to the Chamber of Commerce, that they are prepared to go to the extreme of proposing banning the town minibus from the town centre.

Overall, the town is descending into selfish, suicidal madness!

Nick Denbow

  • Any opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author alone.

Men’s Shed at the Watercress Festival

For the Watercress Festival in May 2018, the newly established Alresford Men’s Shed decided to make some games – mainly to entertain the kids! These were to show that the Men in the Shed could do something creative, as well as those useful mending jobs. Alresford Rotary kindly gave their normal plot up, to allow the Shed to book a central space.

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The games that made it from the drawing board into the tent involved getting golf balls and similar into the right hole. Two toys had a ball on a string, flicked like a tiddly-wink into a small cup about a foot away from the springboard. Only around four people managed this achievement throughout the day, but of those, several did it two and three times in a row – the only prize was a toffee!

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DSC06189The major attraction was in the form of an almost vertical version of bar billiards, but here the ball had to be manoeuvred all the way up the board by pulling on two strings attached to a ball-carrier, until finally reaching the hole at the top. This needed care, concentration and patience, but most of the kids got there eventually, and won a toffee.

Mums and Dads, Grans and Grandads also had a go – their real advantage was being higher up, and able to see the top holes more easily. But they found it just as difficult as the kids…. others were content to yell advice at the kids!

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The Men’s Shed version of bar billiards

Also on display were some other products the Men’s Shed have produced, such as the ‘busy board’ built for several of the town playgroups, a nesting box for birds like bluetits, small hurdles for flower plot edging fences in gardens, and an advertising board for use by shops etc, to attract the attention of passing customers.

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A ‘Busy board’, or activity centre, built for a local nursery

Several people were also interested to learn about the Shed, and there might even be some new members amongst those who learned about the Shed for the first time!

For more pics of the kids having fun, please see the blog on Alresfordmensshed !

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Various views, events and jobs in the Shed, showing furniture and wheelchair repairs. We have also built nest boxes, advertising boards, Barn owl boxes, sewing machines and doll’s houses.

2002 Golden Jubilee in Alresford

Just over 15 years ago Alresford celebrated the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, 50 years as the reigning monarch, with a procession up West Street and some entertainment in Broad Street. Prominent in this, on the Stage and dressed in Union Jacks, was George Hollingbery and his wife Janette: I’m sure you will recognise George in the photos below, despite – or maybe because of – the unconventional attire.

More important, Maddie Attenborough spent the day taking photos of Alresford people attending the celebrations, and published them later on a CD, copies of which were later sold in aid of the St John’s Centenary Appeal. A copy of this CD was recently passed to the Alresford Museum, and extracts are presented below, to see whether you can spot anyone you know – or even yourself, looking younger and slimmer!

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These collages are much cropped versions of most of the pics on Maddie’s CD, so if you see a pic of yourself and wish to see a full copy of the image let us know! I can see several Alresford Pigs, and a couple of my neighbours, but the award for the best float/display has to go once again to the Alresford Surgery team!