Alton, Hampshire

Alton, Hampshire

infobox UK place
country = England
latitude= 51.1498
longitude= -0.9769
official_name= Alton
population= 16,584
shire_district= East Hampshire
shire_county = Hampshire
region= South East England
constituency_westminster= East Hampshire
post_town= GUILDFORD
postcode_district= GU34
dial_code= 01420
os_grid_reference= SU716394

Alton is a small market town in Hampshire, England, to the southwest of Farnham. It had a population of 16,584 at the 1991 census, and is administered by East Hampshire district council. It also is home to Treloar College, the National Specialist college for Young Disabled People. The town is twinned with Pertuis, France [] and Montecchio Maggiore, Italy.

Jane Austen lived at the nearby village of Chawton.



A Roman road ran from Chichester to Silchester and there is evidence of a Roman posting station at Neatham near Alton, probably called Vindomis, and a ford across the River Wey. Centuries later, a Saxon settlement was established in the area and a large seventh century cemetery has been discovered during building excavations. It contained a selection of grave goods which included the "Alton Buckle" which is on display in the Curtis Museum, and is considered to be the finest piece of Anglo Saxon craftsmanship found in Hampshire. The buckle was found in the grave of a warrior, and has a silver-gilt body, set with garnets and glass.cite web | author=Wey River| year=2006| title=More about Alton, Hampshire | work=River Wey & Navigations | url= | accessdate=2006-05-20]

The River Wey has its source in the town, and the name "Alton" comes from an Anglo-Saxon word "aewielltun" meaning "farmstead at the source of the river".Coates, Richard (1989), "Place Names of Hampshire", Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-5625-6] Harvard reference | Last=Roberts | First=John | Year=2005 | Title=Alton 2020 | Publisher=Alton Steering Group | Place=Alton .]

Battle against the Danes (1001)

:main|First Battle of AltonIn 1001 Danish forces invaded England, plundering, ravaging and burning, and spreading terror and devastation. When they reached Alton, the men of Hampshire came together and fought against them. About 81 English were killed, including Ethelwerd the King's high-steward, Leofric of Whitchurch, Leofwin the King's high-steward, Wulfhere a bishop's thane, and Godwin of Worthy, Bishop Elfsy's son. Danish casualties were higher, but the Danes won the battle and fleeing Englishmen took refuge in Winchester.Harvard reference | Last=Ingram | First=Rev. James (trans.) | Year=1823 | Title=The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle | Publisher=London.] Harvard reference | Last=Hutton | First=Edward | Year=1914 | Title=England of My Heart — Spring | Publisher=J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.]

Domesday Book (1086)

Alton is listed as having the most valuable recorded market in the Domesday Book under the name Aoltone in the 'Odingeton Hundred — Hantescire'Domesday Book, 1086]

The Treaty of Alton (1101)

:main|Treaty of AltonThe Treaty of Alton was an agreement signed in 1101 between William the Conqueror's eldest son Robert, Duke of Normandy and his brother Henry I of England. Henry had seized the throne while his elder brother was away on the first crusade. Robert returned to claim the throne, landing in Portsmouth. The two brothers met in Alton and agreed terms which formed the Treaty of Alton. Part of the main street through Alton is called Normandy Street, probably reflecting this event.

Markets, fairs and the Royal Charter (1307)

The first recorded Saturday market in Alton was in 1288. It was much bigger than the current weekly market and established Alton as a significant market town. Blome wrote in 1673 of a 'market on Saturdays, which is very great for provisions, where also are sold good store of living cattle'.Blome's Hampshire, 1673] The Saturday market is also featured on Kitchin's map of Hampshire (1751) which marks the town as "Alton Mt. Sat."cite book | first=Thomas | last=Kitchin | year=1760 | title=A NEW Improved MAP of HAMPSHIRE from the best SURVEYS & INTELLIGENCES Divided into its HUNDREDS Shewing the several ROADS and true Measured Distances between Town and Town ALSO the Rectories & Vicarages the Parks and Seats of the Nobility & Gentry with other useful Particulars Regulated by ASTRONL. OBSERVATIONS. By T. Kitchin Geographer. | publisher=Printed for R: Sayer in Fleet Street, Carrington Bowles in St. Pauls Church Yard, & R. Wilkinson No.58, Cornhill (viewed on website: cite web | author=Jean and Martin Norgate | title=Kitchin's Hampshire 1751, whole map | url= | accessdate=2006-04-24 | year=1996-2003 | work=Old Hampshire Mapped) ]

In 1307 King Edward II presented the town with a Charter giving it the right to hold an annual fair, mainly for cattle and toys. Mediaeval fairs were like markets but they were held once a year and attracted buyers and sellers from a wide area. Alton still has an annual fair, but it now takes the form of a fun fair.

Alton Westbrook Fair

According to William Curtis’ History of Alton (1896):-

:"‘Edward II granted the privilege of holding a fair at Alton to Edmund of Woodstock, who then held the manor.’"

This was a direct quote from the History of Hampshire by T W Shore (1892). Unfortunately, Curtis added:-:"‘A D 1307.":"Edward II.":"Privilege of holding a fair’"in the margin. It is this which has caused later confusion with people thinking that the grant of the fair was in 1307. In fact, it seem likely that William Curtis did not know the date of the grant/charter as the Calendars of Charter Rolls were not published until 1903-1927.

1307 was, in fact, the first year of Edward II’s reign but Edmund of Woodstock was not lord of the manor then. According to the Victoria County History (written after Curtis’ book):-

:"‘In 1273 Edward I granted the manor [of Alton Westbrook] to his mother, Queen Eleanor, who died in 1291, when it reverted to the Crown and was granted in 1299 as dower to his second wife, Margaret of France. On the death of Queen Margaret in 1317, it again came to the Crown, and Edward II gave it in 1319 to his brother Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent.’"

As can see be seen, Queen Margaret held the manor until 1317 and so the fair could not have been granted to Edmund of Woodstock in 1307.

The correct date for the grant seems to be 22 November 1320 (according to the Charter Rolls, 14 Edward II, no.15). The grant was for a 9-day fair - the vigil [eve] and feast of Whitsuntide and seven days after.

Alton Eastbrook Fair

The two main manors in Alton - Alton Eastbrook and Alton Westbrook - had a fair each. That of Alton Eastbrook has no existing charter and may never have had one. It was originally held on St Lawrence’s Day and so its origins were, presumably, the patronal festival. The religious aspect would have ceased when the country was no longer Roman Catholic. This fair seems to have been held on Crown Close (which is in the manor of Alton Eastbrook) in the early 1800s. When this land was built upon, the fair moved and was held where ever the Westbrook fair was - the Market Place, various meadows and the Butts.

The date of the Eastbrook fair was changed to Michaelmas in the mid-1700s as it came at harvest time and the farmers were not happy about that. Some accounts for this fair for the early 1700s do survive and show that there was a cheese fair as well the usual list of travelling and local people with stalls and stands - people selling lace, gloves, books, gingerbread, bodices, sugar plums, toys [small items - not for children] , soap and knives to name but a few. By the late 1800s, this fair was said to be mainly for horses, sheep and, occasionally, hops.

Alton Market

There is no existing charter for Alton Market. It was already in existence at the time of Domesday (c1086) and, hence, was probably functioning in Anglo-Saxon times. Despite what is written in various histories, it was probably always held in, what is now, Alton. (In the past, the true meaning of the Doomsday entries for the area were misunderstood.) It was the most valuable market listed in Doomsday - but Winchester, Southampton and London (and possibly other larger settlements) are missing.

Originally, Market Day was a Saturday. In September 1813, the monthly cattle market was changed to a Tuesday and the weekly market changed to the same day in early 1840. This caused the Church School to look for other premises as classes had been held in the Town Hall until then but the noise of the market made things difficult - hence the move of the school to near St Lawrence’s.

Foundation of Eggar's School (1640)

Eggar's School was founded in 1640 by John Eggar of Moungomeries as the "Free Grammar School". It later became known as Eggar's Grammar School. It occupied a site in Anstey Road until it moved to a new site in Holybourne in 1969.cite web | author=County Secretary| year=1989| title=Former Alton Eggars Grammar School premises — transfer of charitable trusts | work=Hampshire County Council Schools Sub-Committee | url= | accessdate=2006-03-28]

The Battle of Alton (1643)

:main|Battle of AltonA battle was fought in Alton during the English Civil War. A small Royalist force was quartered in the town when on 13 December 1643 they were surprised by a Parliamentary army of around 5,000 men. The Royalist cavalry fled, leaving Sir Richard Bolle and his infantry to fight. Outnumbered, the Royalists were forced into St Lawrence Church, where Bolle was killed along with many of his men. Over 700 Royalist soldiers were captured and bullet holes from the battle are still visible in the church today.

The plague (1665)

In 1665, Alton suffered an outbreak of bubonic plague, but soon recovered.cite web | url= | title=A History of Alton, England | author=Tim Lambert | work=Local and National Histories — Histories of British and Irish towns, Histories of Nations, Ancient Civilisations and Miscellaneous Articles | year=2001-6 | accessdate=2006-06-04]

Fanny Adams (1867)

:main|Fanny AdamsThe Victorian era also left its mark when, on Saturday, August 24, 1867 a young eight-year old girl Fanny Adams was murdered. Her assailant Frederick Baker, a local solicitor's clerk, was one of the last criminals to be executed in Winchester, and one of the original public notices advertising his forthcoming execution hangs in the Crown Public House. Fanny Adams' grave can still be seen in Alton cemetery. The brutal murder, so the story goes, coincided with the introduction of tinned meat in the Royal Navy, and the sailors who did not like the new food said the tins contained the remains of "Sweet Fanny Adams" or "Sweet F A", hence the expression which for over a century has meant "sweet nothing".

More recent developments

Here are a few events in the past two hundred years:
* 1813 — new Town Hall was built
* 1844 — Alton gained a gas supply
* 1852 — rail connection to London
* 1856 — the Curtis Museum was founded
* 1862 — sewage works was built
* 1865 — rail connection to Winchester
* 1876 — waterworks was built
* 1874 — All Saints Church was consecrated
* 1880 — the Assembly Rooms were built
* 1901 — Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway opened
* 1908 — Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital was built
* 1927 — Alton gained electricity
* 1938 — Alton Convent School opened
* 1966 — St Mary's Roman Catholic Church was built
* 1972 — Alton by-pass was built
* 1972 — Alton Sports Centre opened
* 1974 — Alton Health Centre opened
* 1975 — Alton Community Centre opened
* 1978 — Alton College opened
* 1978 — Alton Magistrates Court opened
* 1985 — Preserved portion of the former railway line to Winchester (Mid-Hants Railway) reopened to Alton.
* 1992 — Alton gains its own local radio station, Wey Valley Radio (now Delta FM)
* 2005 — Alton Maltings Centre, a renovated Maltings building, opens.

Traditional industries in Alton

Brewing used to be one of Alton's main industries. Hops and barley were grown in the surrounding area (indeed, Fanny Adams's butchered remains were found in a hop field) and the barley would have been malted in the town. The maltings still stand in Lower Turk Street, though it is no longer used for that purpose. They belonged to Halls Brewery from 1841 and were still producing malt in 1949.

There have been a number of breweries in Alton since 1763. Today, Coors Brewing Company (among the top ten largest brewers in the world) has a brewery in Alton which produces Carling, Grolsch and Worthington.

Alton was also famous in the 18th century for the manufacture of paper and of dress materials including ribbed druggets, shallons, silks and serges, bombazine and figured barragons.Brookes, R: 1815 (16th edn): General Gazetteer, The: (London)] The Pearce family in Alton owned and operated the Timber and Saw Mills from the 1890s to 1939 which employed over 100 people and produced all the wooden tools used in the brewing industry in the town.

Alton today has thriving businesses in the retail and service sectors in the centre of the town, and over a hundred businesses in the four industrial areas of Mill Lane, Newman Lane, Caker Stream and Omega Park, ranging from light industrial to computer software production.cite web|url=|title=Industrial Developments|work=Alton Chamber of Commerce & Industry|year=2006|accessdate=2006-11-26]

However, today, one of Alton's largest commercial employers is in the financial services sector. Lumbry Park, which used to be known as Lumbry Farm, is on the road from B3006 Alton to Selborne Road, and is occupied by Inter Group Insurance Services, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Inter Group employs over 170 people on this site, and specialises in travel insurance.

Famous people

* William de Alton, (c. 1330 – 1400) Dominican Friar, writer and theological philosopher during King Edward II's reign became famous for asserting that the Virgin Mary was polluted with original sin
* Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599), the Elizabethan poet and contemporary of William Shakespeare, lived in a well preserved Tudor cottage at 1 Amery Street in about 1590. A plaque on the house states that he "lived some time in these parts".Harvard reference | Last=Wyatt | First=Sue (ed.) | Year=1997 | Title=The Hidden Places of Dorset, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight | Publisher=M & M Publishing Ltd | Place=Altrincham, Cheshire | Id=ISBN 1-871815-42-8 .]
* John Pitts, biographical author, was born in Alton in 1560cite web | author=Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894 – 5 | year=2005| title=Alton, Hampshire | work=UK Genealogy Archives | url= | accessdate=2006-05-20]
* Bernard Montgomery, (1887 - 1976), British Field Marshal, World War II commander, 'Monty' lead Allied forces at the Battle of El Alamein, commander of all Allied ground forces during Operation Overlord until after the Battle of Normandy. Lived in Bentley near Alton in his retirement and died there in 1976 aged 88. He was interred in the nearby Holy Cross Churchyard, Binsted.
* John Murray, (1741 – 1815), born in Alton, a pioneering minister of the Universalist church in the United States. cite book | title = Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607 – 1896 | publisher = Marquis Who's Who | location=Chicago | date = 1963]
* William Curtis (1746 – 1799), botanist, was born in Alton and served his apprenticeship as an apothecary before devoting the rest of his life to the study of British plants. He founded the Curtis Museum in Alton.
* Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), Georgian novelist, lived in Chawton just outside Alton from 1809 until her death, and wrote or revised six novels here
* Cardinal Newman (1801 – 1890), English Catholic, lived in Alton from 1816 to 1819.cite web | title=Alton | work=Hampshire County Council | url= | year=2006 | accessdate=2006-05-20]
* Ian Bone (1947 – ) anarchist, studied at Eggar's school in Alton
* Catherine McCormack {1972 – } actress, Her first notable role was as the character Murron in the multiple Academy Award-winning movie Braveheart, which also starred and was directed by Mel Gibson.
* James William 'Jimmy' Dickinson (25 April 1925 – 8 November 1982 in Alton, Hampshire) was an English football player. Dickinson holds the record for number of league appearances for Portsmouth F.C. (764). Only Swindon Town's John Trollope (770) has made more appearances for a single club. His performances earned him a call-up to the England national football team. He went on to win 48 caps for England, making him Portsmouth's most capped English player of all time. During his record 845 club appearances for Pompey and his 48 England caps he was never once booked or sent off, earning him the nickname Gentleman Jim. There is a pub in Alton named after him called The Gentleman Jim.
* Alison Goldfrapp (1966 – ) singer in band Goldfrapp.
* Emily Monk co–author "Don't Tell Mum: Hair-raising Messages Home from Gap-year Travellers". [The Daily Telegraph – [ "Education – Questions"] . Retrieved on 22 May 2007.]

Education in Alton

Alton is home to "Treloar's", an independent educational establishment founded in 1907 by Sir William Purdie Treloar, Lord Mayor of London, to provide education for young people with physical disabilities [] . Treloar's now runs "Treloar College", a college of further education in Holybourne, and "Treloar School" in Upper Froyle about three miles (5 km) away. Treloar's provides specialist facilities, therapy and medical care to enable pupils to achieve their academic potential and develop their confidence and independence. Former pupils include comedian and actor Spike Breakwell, actress Julie Fernandez, mouth and foot painting artist Tom Yendell, and actress and aspiring playwright Robyn Hunt.

The State secondary schools in Alton are "Eggar's School" [] (formerly the Grammar School), and "Amery Hill School" [] .

There is also an independent Catholic day school, "Alton Convent School" which educates boys from 3 to 11 and girls from 3 to 18 [ ] .

Sixth-form education is provided by "Alton College" which has gained very good inspection reports from Ofsted. Former students of Alton College include Yvette Cooper (Member of Parliament), Alison Goldfrapp (musician).

Alton lies approximately mid-way between the University of Winchester and the University of Surrey at Guildford.

Performing arts in Alton

"Alton Morris" formed in 1979, and have been Morris Dancing both in UK and abroad. They often perform at Alton street events. [] "Minden Rose Garland" Dance team are a Ladies` Morris Dance side formed a little later, in 1982. They perform displays of garland, stick and hankie dances. []

A number of local choirs includes "Alton Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society", established in 1921, who perform two musical shows and one play each year in a wide variety of musical and dramatic styles. [] "Alton Community Choir" sings unaccompanied Hampshire folk songs as well as some African, gospel, blues and calypso music.

Since January 1948, "Holybourne Dramatic club" has put on performances of plays and pantomimes in Holybourne Theatre.

Recreational facilities

Alton has the following facilities:
* "Allen Gallery" is Alton's art gallery and houses a large ceramics collection
* "The Palace Cinema" is in Normandy Street and shows a regular programme of films []
* "Holybourne Theatre" is on the site of a former Nissen hut that was converted into a theatre by German prisoners-of-war during World War II. Plays have been performed there since 1950, but the official opening was not until 1971. []
* "Alton Maltings Centre" was built in around 1850 and was used as a maltings until about 1970. It was renovated in 2004-5 and is now used by Harvest Church and is available for hire for events such as conferences, receptions, business meetings, etc []
* The Alton Fringe Theatre was formed in 1988, regularly performing at Alton Maltings and other venues in the region.
* "Alton Sports Centre" is open to the public and includes a swimming pool, gym, indoor and outdoor courts, etc
* "Curtis Museum" was founded in 1856 by Dr William Curtis and houses one of the finest local history collections in Hampshire
* "Town Gardens", with bandstand (built in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of King George V), a children's playground, flower beds, trees and shrubs (4.5 acres)
* "Anstey Park", a large open space with playing fields and a small children's playground (32 acres); the park is home to the town's rugby club. []
* "King's Pond", with parking, a surfaced path all round, ducks and swans (11 acres)
* "The Butts", convert|2|acre|m2 of common land now used for visiting circuses and fairs, and used in medieval and Tudor times for the weekly archery practice which all men were legally required to do (see archery butts)
* "Flood meadows", about 15 acres close to the source of the River Wey through which rivulets weave and public footpaths give access through the diverse plant and animal lifeThere's a Tourist Information Centre in Cross and Pillory Lane (near Market Square in the centre of the town).

Places of worship

* All Saints Anglican Church, Queens Road
* Alton Abbey (1895) in nearby Beech is a Benedictine monastery in the Church of England []
* Alton Baptist Church
* Alton Methodist Church, Drayman’s Way []
* Alton United Reformed Church, Normandy Street
* The Church of the Good Shepherd, Four Marks (Church of England) []
* Brethren's Meeting Room, Vicarage Hill
* Friends' Meeting House (Quaker) (1672)
* Harvest Church, Alton Maltings Centre, Maltings Close []
* Jubilee Church, Four Marks and Medstead []
* Kingdom Hall, Holybourne (Jehovah's Witnesses)
* St Andrew's Parish Church, Medstead []
* St Lawrence's Anglican Church (1070), Church Street []
* St Mary Catholic Church, Normandy Street
* The Butts Church, 56 Spenser Close []
* The Salvation Army, Amery Street
* Three Counties Church, Mount Pleasant Road

Rail connections

Alton station is located on the National Rail network at the end of the Alton Line with a regular service to London Waterloo. Journey time is usually just over an hour, stopping at Bentley, Farnham, Aldershot, Ash Vale, Brookwood and Woking.

Alton railway station also serves as a terminal for the Mid Hants Railway commonly called 'The Watercress Line', a restored steam railway running between Alton and New Alresford, so called because it used to be used to transport fresh watercress to London.

The origins of the Watercress Line date back to 1861, the year in which Parliament granted consent for what was then known as the 'Alton, Alresford and Winchester Railway'. Four years later the Mid Hants Railway opened, and the train service continued until the line was closed in 1973. Then in 1977 the line was partially re-opened, in 1983 it was extended further, and in 1985 it was re-opened as far as Alton to connect with the mainline London service.cite web | author=Mike Pearson| year=2007| title=Mid Hants Railway (The Watercress Line) - a Guide | work=The Watercress Line Official Website| url= | accessdate=2007-11-07]

Alton used to be a fairly important railway junction. As well as the Mid-Hants Railway, from 1903 to 1955 the Meon Valley Railway ran from Alton down the Meon Valley to join the Eastleigh to Fareham line at Fareham. There was also a (now closed) line, the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway, north to Basingstoke.


Nearby Brockham Hill, situated 5.5 km (3.5 mi) northeast of Alton, rises to 225m (738 ft) above sea level.


External links

* [ East Hampshire District Council]
* [ Alton Town Partnership] — a non-commercial site providing regularly updated information on life in Alton now.
* [ Alton Community Centre (Alton Community Association)]
* [ The River Wey and Wey Navigations Community Site] — a non-commercial site of over 200,000 words all about the River Wey and includes information and images on Alton at the source of the river.

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