A NEW history of Alresford has just been published by the local Historical and Literary Society.
It was launched at a society meeting at St John’s Church on Wednesday evening March 16, when editor Prof Brian Tippett spoke of ‘taking a fresh look at the history of Alresford after which many of the 90 members and guests in attendance purchased their first copies and had them signed.
Alresford through time: a new story takes the reader from the founding of the city in 1200 through many changes to the present day.
It depicts key events with new insights including the creation of the Great Pond, the Battle of Cheriton, the devastating fire of 1689, the quartering of hundreds of French prisoners at Alresford during the Napoleonic Wars, the Farm Riots of 1830, the arrival of the railway, how Alresford fared in two world wars, the development of the Watercress Line and the town’s growing tourist appeal.
In his opening remarks, the editor illustrated how, although much has already been written about Alresford, there are sometimes surprising new discoveries to be made. Henry Perin, the founder of the local school, turns out to be much more than an obscure country doctor, but a man of great importance with a large house and business interests in Portsmouth. Sir Christopher Wren helped rebuild Alresford by releasing building materials from the unfinished royal palace in Winchester after the Great Fire destroyed most of the town. And it was thought at the time that the fire had been started by saboteurs. Forgotten documents help bring to life events from the more recent past. A letter from one of the former American GIs quartered in Alresford as he prepared for D-Day says he slept on bunk beds in rooms above the local pharmacy and chatted with locals in the one of many pubs in Alresford where whiskey was severely rationed even though the Dean’s soldiers kitchen kept them well fed.
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The book, a substantial 430-page volume, is lavishly illustrated, recalls many interesting local figures, including the poet George Wither, who celebrated the beauty of the Great Pond; Colonel Norton, Cromwell’s friend who fought at the Battle of Cheriton; Peter Heylyn, the royalist rector expelled from his parish; Admiral Rodney, Mary Russell Mitford, John Arlott and the Claimant from Tichborne.
Professor Tippett, the book’s editor, was until his retirement a senior member of staff at King Alfred’s College where he helped lay the foundations for the college’s conversion to the University of Winchester.
Although he wrote much of the book himself, he was helped by other contributors, including other members of the company and two former colleagues. The first chapter was written by University professor Barbara Yorke, renowned for her writings on Anglo-Saxon England, and the second by Edward Roberts, well known for his extensive research on ancient buildings in Hampshire.
Full sales details are given on the company’s website www.alresfordhistandlit.co.uk. The book is also available from local booksellers, Laurence Oxley and Long Barn.
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