New Alresford
Horse and Groom on the Corner of Broad Street   Top of West Street where it changes to East street, Broad Street is on the left.

One of six planned new towns by the Bishop of Winchester was New Alresford, often referred to as just Alresford, which is pronounced 'awls-ford' despit it being on the River Arle. And in the time before the Norman Conquest the main London/Winchester Road ran along the Northern boundary of the Parish of Tichborne. The newly found town by the Bishop was the most valuable of his plantations, he already had a strong interest at Bishop's Sutton as he had a residence there.

Around 1200 King John granted Godfrey de Lucy who was the Bishop at the time a market, fair and river mills which would attract more settlers andy by the early part of the 13th century more than forty burgesses were attracted to the town and the Bishop then had to build a market hall and rebuild the fulling mill. At the end of the same century Bishop de Lucy was to turn the Itchen into a navigable canal and a head for this was provided by Alresford Pond as well as a source of power for a number of mills.

The fourteenth century saw one of the country's ten greatest wool markets here as it was a collecting centre for the downlands to the east and north-east of Winchester. The town had a straightforward street layout and today it remains more of less the same as it was in the 13th century with a spacious market place now Broad Street at right angles to the main Winchester road at the top of the town. Broad Street has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful streets in the county with its lime trees and ol fashioned street lamps that have been refurbished and electrified.

There had been numerous fires in the town during the 17th and 18th centuries and one is said to have been deliberately started by retreating Royalist troops from the Battle of Cheriton. But by far the worst fire was in 1689 when the church was badly damaged and a lot of the towns buildings were complete gutted.

One of the celebrities of the town was the novelist Mary Russell Mitford who was born here in 1787 and until she was ten years of age resided at 37 Broad Street, her most famous book being Our Village, which was about Three Mile Cross in Berkshire. She also penned Recollections of a Literary Life, Belford, Rienzi and Atherton. The actor and manager Francis Benson spent his childhood at Langton House.

Broad Street at its junction with East and West Streets   The Bell Hotel, West Street
Looking down Broad Street to The Globe public house on the Old Alresford road.   The White  Swan, West Street

Another house in Broad Street bears a plaque declaring that the 47th Infantry Regiment of the US Army had their headquarters there during WWII in the days prior to D-Day, but they had to leave their mascot Hambone Jnr behind as he had been killed in a motor accident but the dog's grave can be found on the walk by the river from the Dean.

But by far the main attraction in New Alresford is the Watercress Steam Railway which brings in thousands of tourists each year who are keen to travel from Alresford to Alton on some of the old rolling stock which has been carefully refurbished, not only in the summer time with Thomas the  Tank Engine but at Christmas there is the Santa Claus special and 1940s Day when local people play their part by dressing up in the fashions of the era, including fully kitted out soldiers with the faithfully restored military vehicles.


The mill at the bottom of Mill Hill in New Alresford
The Old Mill has now been converted to luxury apartments

When visiting the town make sure you make the most of the river and visit the Old Fulling Mill. Another favourite is the walk past the Town Mill to the famous watercress beds to Old Alresford, this takes you along Little Weir and you come back along Great Weir which is opposite Alresford Pond.

Most of the shops in the town centre are specialist and these contain jewellers, antiquarian booksellers, antiques, tapestry and embroidery and quality furnishings, interspersed with green grocers, butchers, travel agent, pet food and a small supermarket as well as the usual banks and local hostelries. The Market is held every Thursday and a street fair is held in October which is popular with people from miles around, as is the annual Alresford Show which is held on the first Saturday in September at Tichborne Park. Though New Alresford was a chapelry of the Rectory of Alresford and despite being bigger the mother church is at Old Alresford, in fact there were three churches within the Liberty of Alresford.


The Fulling Mill, so named from the fact that the 
fast running water was ideal for fulling - the ancient 
process of cleaning and thickening woven cloth. 


Mill Hill, New Alfresford, showing "Old Timbers"  on the left. Reputed to be the towns oldest building parts of it date back more than 700 years.

The church is dedicated to St John and here there are some interesting memorial stones which are in memory of French prisoners of war who were buried here from 1808 to 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars. It is thought that around 200 prisoners were on parole in Alresford and a number of them died here and were buried in the churchyard, and their gravestones have been cared for ever since.

The graves of the French Prisoners of war


Local folklore has it that a group of Saxons had engaged in battle with a group of Danes in the vicinity of a village by the name of Tistwood or Tisted which lies 5 miles east of Alresford and completely destroyed most of them. Those that survived were given quarter on the condition that they went to the Ford of Arle to be baptised to which they agreed. In recognition of this a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected in the churchyard at Old Alresford and crowds from all over the country came here to pay homage to the shrine and it was found that there were so many pilgrims here new buildings had to be erected and this is where New Alresford is today.

Entrance to the Bell Inn   Shops in Broad Street
Shopping in Broad Street
Local produce on display outside the shops
A Summer day in the town
Cottages on the road to Alton
Cottages on the road to Alton showing their colourful frontages
Cottages on the road to Alton   The Horse and Groom Broad Street
The Swan
Arle House   Arle Mill
The watercress beds   Cottages by the river Arle
The Toll House on the main road from Winchester   The Town Mill now renovated into apartments

The former Perin Schoolhouse and plaque

The signs on the entrance porch to the memorial gardens
Until 1998, this land was owned by Beedon Dening who lived at Arle House. A modest man, Mr Dening led an extraordinary life earning the DSC for his involvement in mini submarines in WWII and spending much of his working life as a District Commissioner living and working amongst the Nuer and other Nilotic peoples of southern Sudan. He died in 1998 and this sign is dedicated to his memory.

The old fire station in New Alresford, note the Sun Insurance badges on the doorsThe fire station served the town from 1882 - 1940. The preceding fifty years saw the fire engine housed in the church tower.


1160 - Town totally burnt.
1440 - Half the town was burnt down
1620 - Royalist troops set fire to the town at both ends prior to marching out. (The Roundheads soon distinguished it and pursued them)
1678 - May Day a fire broke out in West Street
1680 - The church, Market House and many other houses destroyed by a fire which broke out in three places at the same time, and 117 families were made homeless
1736 - April 30th, many houses burnt down according to Parish Records.....
"....It burnt ye dwellings of 30 families with all the outhouses, barns and stables to the number of 86 Piles of buildings besides damage 5000lbs and upwards."



The Watercress railway, which runs from New Alresford to Alton and uses preserved steam locomotives lovingly restored by enthusiasts, note the old Southern Railway livery, even on the Morris car parked in the car park!!


Nostalgic memories from an Alresford lad.
(Kindly submitted by Len Strong, Derbyshire)


St John the Baptist Church History.