New Alresford

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New Alresford
Hampshire
Alresford town centre.jpg
Broad Street, New Alresford
Location
Grid reference: SU5832
Location: 51°5’27"N, 1°9’40"W
Data
Population: 5,102  (2001)
Post town: Alresford
Postcode: SO24
Dialling code: 01962
Local Government
Council: Winchester
Parliamentary
constituency:
Winchester

New Alresford or simply Alresford is a small town in Hampshire, 7½ miles north-east of Winchester and 12 miles south-west of the town of Alton. At the 2001 census, Alresford had a population of 5,102.

New Alresford has shops, a tourist information centre, a central conservation area, two tea rooms and is a terminus as with Alton of the Watercress Line, a steam-worked heritage railway at Alresford railway station.

History

There is evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age occupation on numerous sites in the Alresford area, with a Roman or Romano-British site on nearby Fobdown and to the southeast of the town in Bramdean. There is evidence of a grant to the Church at Winchester at some time before the 9th century, which became known as the Liberty of Alresford.

Alresford is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, but this probably refers to what is now Old Alresford as there is no evidence of a settlement south of the river at this time.

New Alresford is not that new: it was founded in the 12th or 13th century, the idea originally being that of Henri de Blois, the Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen of England. The design of the T-shaped town (originally named Novum Forum) was followed by de Blois' successor Godfrey de Lucy. Alresford was one of the Bishop's six new towns and was his most profitable plantation—his palace was situated in nearby Bishop's Sutton, perhaps less than a mile distant. The mediæval stone bridge he built at this time is still in place.[1]

The bishop's expansion of the new town also involved the construction of the Great Weir between New Alresford and Old Alresford, creating Old Alresford Pond. This remarkable period in the town's history included the construction of one of the oldest canal systems in Britain, based on the River Itchen.

New Alresford quickly became established as a prosperous market town, focussed on the wool, leather and the other products from sheep and cattle; in the 14th century Alresford sheep markets produced one of five highest turnovers in England. Alresford sent two members to parliament until the population was reduced by the Black Death.

In the 17th century the town made news as a dangerous place to live due to the uncommonly frequent fires which razed it. In the spring of 1644, the Battle of Cheriton took place on Cheriton Down, reaching the outskirts of Alresford, and defeated Royalists set fire to houses in the town as they withdrew. Much of the mediæval town was destroyed by another fire in 1689/90 that destroyed 117 houses in the town as well as the church and Market House. Another raged in 1710 and a 'like calamity' in 1736.[2]

Much of the town was rebuilt in the 18th century, with many of the Georgian buildings remaining today.[3]

A turnpike road was built in 1753 passing through the town, linking London to primarily Southampton but viable for Hamble and Portsmouth. Its route is now the A31, and some of the route was that of a Roman road, then a track in variable condition maintained by each parish.

During the late 18th century, Alresford Cricket Club was one of the strongest sides in England.

The 13th century church was, save the mostly 14th century tower, rebuilt in 1898 by Sir Arthur Blomfield in the Norman gothic perpendicular style. The top third of the tower is of 16th century red crenalated parapet brickwork pictured.[4]

A Cold War commemorative plaque on the wall of public toilets, close to the railway station, commemorates that occasionally in the early 1960s members of the Portland Soviet Spy Ring used the toilets as a dead letter drop to pass to the Soviets secret military documents they had obtained.

Art, Tourism and Rail transport

The town is crowned by its large T-shape main street conservation area.[5] The town is an attractive art, rail and tourist destination, with its classical, dense two Georgian streets situated near Winchester and the South Downs National Park. Here are the Swan Hotel,[6] Bell Hotel,[7] Pink House Hotel,[8] jewellers, wine merchants, butchers, flower shops, toy shop, dress shops, the Alresford Gallery,[9] Candover Gallery[10] and tea rooms. There are three other public houses,[11] the larger being the Globe Inn by one of the stream channels and play area.[12]

Alresford is at the south-western end of the Watercress Line (officially "the Mid-Hants Railway"). This heritage railway line runs steam and diesel trains, and gains its name from the fact that it used to be the line that took watercress up to London. The other end of the heritage line is Alton, which is also the end of the current Alton-London Waterloo line, making it possible non-peak (if £13 extra) to take the train from Alresford to London: steam to Alton, and then modern train into London.

Accordingly, the town council provide 115 hanging baskets every summer. [13]

Shop Fronts, Broad Street
Other side of Broad Street

Brandy Mount House

Brandy Mount House holds the National Plant Collection of Snowdrops in their grounds. The gardens are open to the public during the season.[14][15]

Itchen Valley brewery

The Itchen Valley brewery was founded in New Alresford in 1997.[16] The brewery produces a range of cask ales [17] and a selection of beers which until early 2006 were bottle conditioned by Gales Brewery.

The Fulling Mill

The Swan Hotel
The Fulling Mill

The Fulling Mill is, or was, as the name suggests. It stands along the river path west of the town and is a place which draws photographers and anglers. It is half-timbered and has a mill race underneath.[18]

Events

Alresford holds a number of community events throughout the year. Several are organised by or with New Alresford Town Council. All events which are held in the main streets within the original town (Broad Street, East Street, West Street) require the permission of the New Alresford Town Trust, a registered charity which preserves the town's traditional rights of access, to fairs and to street markets, preserves old documents and buildings, and runs a community minibus. A fee for street usage is usually payable by organisers, which helps in the Trust's other works, including running the local minibus which serves the elderly and disabled.

A number of events are organised by The Alresford Pigs Association, which raises money in the local area for those in need, and by the local Rotary Club (such as the annual 5 November Fireworks at Arlebury Park), and by the town council.

The Watercress Festival

The town is famed for its production of watercress and is recognised as nation's "capital of watercress".[19] Once a year New Alresford holds a festival on the third Sunday in May which attracts an enormous crowd; there is a street market with locally made food on sale and usually cookery demonstrations. From 2006–8, Antony Worrall Thompson was the celebrity chef. Both north-south and east-west main roads are closed to traffic for the event, with diversions and parking clearly signposted. Entry is free.

During the Watercress Festival, the town welcomes visitors and opens a number of attractions and places of interest. The Millennium Trail at the north end of Broad Street offers a walk along a River Itchen tributary from Alresford Pond (a wildlife reserve) to The Eel House (a working migratory eel capturing sluice house restored by instigation of NATT by a specially formed company headed by the late David Goodman.

Alresford Show

This is one of the most important agricultural shows in England which takes place on the first Saturday in September. Animals are shown, flowers and vegetables are judged, there is horsejumping and other entertainment. The Alresford Pigs and Alresford Rugby Club assist. Entry is chargeable.

Alresford fair

A one-day street fair takes place on the 11 October (Old Michaelmas Day) or the first Thursday thereafter. This surprisingly large traditional English funfair, run by Wall & Son, arrives on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning and sets up in Broad Street. The fair lasts from 3pm – 11pm and has to be gone by dawn on Friday. The main north-south road of Alresford (Broad Street) is closed to traffic. Pedestrian entry is free.

Bonfire night

Organised by the local Rotary Club and usually held on 5 November. Traditionally the firework display is preceded by a torchlit procession starting in Broad Street making its way along West Street and up Pound Hill into Arlebury Park, the venue for the firework display. The display is always well attended with proceeds donated to local, national and international causes. Each year a 'Guy' is burned following tradition, with the Guys made by local schoolchildren.

Arrival of Father Christmas

The arrival of Father Christmas is a joint effort led by the Christmas Tree Fund. This takes place in Broad Street near a large Christmas Tree erected annually. A carol service with music provided by Perins Community School's orchestra precedes the arrival. The Alresford Pigs create the secret process by which Father Christmas arrives. He has arrived in Second World War NAAFI van driven by Wallace and Gromit, in a Thunderbirds, helicopter, a fire engine, an open-top bus, the Tardis, etc. This is followed by Father Christmas giving presents to children in his grotto. The presents are organised by the Christmas Tree Fund. Money donated by the crowd at each year's event goes back into the pot for the next year.

The Duck Race

The Duck Race is organised by the Alresford Pigs every two years during the summer. It was last held on 26 June 2011 and the next Duck Race will be in 2013. It brings the community out to watch several (decoy) duck races with 32 ducks in each race. The event, races and ducks are sponsored by a local family or business. It has been held on the lawn at Wier House for many years which has space for many of the traditional fete activities: Tea and Cake, Beer Tent, Tombolas, Face Painting, Bouncy Castle, Scalextric Racing and Jazz Band. This is the largest fundraising event organised by The Alresford Pigs.

Sport and leisure

  • Football: Alresford Town FC, which plays at Arlebury Park.

Big Society:

The Alresford Pigs Association is a charity which organises a number of events, they also erect and light over 100 Christmas trees on buildings in the three main streets receiving income from the businesses and house occupiers for this service. Over their 30 years of existence they have raised more than £250,000. This is in addition to the work of other local associations including the Rotary Club of Alresford and Women's Institute.

The New Alresford Town Trust was constituted in 1890 and is a direct descendant of the mediæval local government system begun by King Edward I in 1302, when he made a grant of pavage (the right to collect tolls for the paving of streets) to a bailiff and "good men" in the town.

Today the Trust maintains the Avenue and the Old Fire Station in Broad Street as well as running a minibus for elderly and disabled residents. In addition to receiving various grants and donations, the Trust owns ancient rights which allow it to collect income from markets and events in Broad Street including the regular Thursday Market.

Outside links

Commons-logo.svg
("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about New Alresford)

References

  1. National Heritage List England no. 1021111: New Alresford (Historic England)
  2. The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) ISBN 978-1861508782
  3. English Heritage - The official list of every Listed building
  4. National Heritage List England no. 1156507: New Alresford (Historic England)
  5. [1]
  6. Swan Hotel and Restaurant
  7. Bell Hotel and Free House
  8. The Pink House Hotel
  9. National Heritage List England no. 1095220: New Alresford (Historic England)
  10. Candover Gallery at Intergalleries
  11. National Heritage List England no. 1302991: New Alresford (Historic England) The Old Sun
  12. National Heritage List England no. 1302868: New Alresford (Historic England) The Globe Inn
  13. Town council website regarding the renewal of the hanging baskets since the 1990s
  14. Brandy Mount House and Gardens (2012) "Snowdrops", http://www.brandymount.co.uk/
  15. National Heritage List England no. 1095243: New Alresford (Historic England)
  16. Itchen Valley Brewery – Award-winning real ales, brewed in the heart of Hampshire
  17. Itchen Valley
  18. National Heritage List England no. 1156440: New Alresford (Historic England)
  19. Rick Peters (30 March 2010). "Seasonal food: watercress". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/30/seasonal-food-watercress. Retrieved 23 January 2013.