A gift to the town.
'At this Court with the consent of the homage of the Lord of the said Manor by his Stewards doth give and grant unto.(the) Bailiff and Burgesses of the Borough and Town of New Alresford.all those pieces and parcels of land.called Pound Hill on the Winchester Road extending from Drove Lane on both sides of the road.more particularly delineated in the plan hereto annexed and therein coloured green together with the trees thereon standing.'
With these words the Reverend Charles Richard, Bishop of Winchester, gave away his title to the land on either side of The Avenue, on 23 September 1869. The document is signed by Charles Sumner, clerk to the bishopric, as is the attached plan shown below. The Bailiff at the time was one Edward Hunt and his burgesses were John Covey, William Toynbee, Edward Blackmore, John Adams, George Hayles, William Benson, William Hunt and John Lipscomb. They had just accepted the gift and grant from the bishop on behalf of the Borough of New Alresford.
There were strict terms attached to the gift. The land was to be used for the recreation of the inhabitants of the town, 'and for no other purpose whatever'. There was an express condition that no building or other erection of any kind was permitted. It couldn't be used for 'any offensive, noxious, noisome or noisy purpose'. The grazing of animals was not allowed and its management and usage had to be ratified by the Charity Commissioners. The bishop was doing his level best to ensure that the land on both sides of The Avenue should remain forever exactly as he had known it.
It was then and, now that the bypass has taken away much of the traffic, still is, a calm and peaceful place to walk or to sit in the shade of the trees on one of the benches provided. In addition, most would agree that The Avenue provides a rather grand western entranceway to the town. However, these twin benefits may have come about somewhat by accident.
The first Turnpike Act was passed in 1663 but New Alresford had to wait ninety years before another Act of Parliament in 1753 permitted the building of the road between Alton and Winchester. The town was fortunate to be on the selected route. Its proximity to the bishop's residence at Bishops Sutton may have been the deciding factor. As road building had to be paid for, traffic paid tolls for the privilege of using the turnpike. The town's western tollgate house, Georgian built, still stands on The Avenue.
Like this writer, you may wonder why the house is set so far back from the road, when toll houses elsewhere are placed much more adjacently to their prospective toll traffic. Although we can't prove it, the answer might lie in the fact that the turnpike used to pass between the twin lines of trees on the north side of The Avenue. If they were coming from Winchester, horses and carts, and later stagecoaches, may have jolted and rumbled where the footpath and the benches are now situated and then gone on down Pound Hill. If this theory is true, it would account for the reason that Pound Hill became a dead end. Could it be plausible that sometime before the bishop's gift to the town, the gap between the lines of trees became too narrow for the prevailing traffic, or that the vehicles were thought to be causing too much damage to the trees? Could these be the reasons that the road was rerouted several yards to the south? We think that this is a nice theory, but please do contact us if you know, or can prove, anything different.
From Bailiff & Burgesses to Town Trust
The Bailiff and Burgesses didn't like it but in the end they had no choice. In 1883 the Municipal Corporations Act was passed. Democratically elected parish and district councils were to be established throughout England and Wales. Bailiffs and Burgesses in boroughs throughout the land were ordered to handover their assets to the newly formed local authorities.
The Bailiff and Burgesses of New Alresford held out for seven years in refusing to comply with these local government reforms. By 1889, they had plotted their escape route. They formed a 'scheme' under the authority of the Charity Commissioners for the future protection of their rights and assets and the legal document setting up the Town Trust was sealed in 1890. Item number four in the list of assets of the newly formed charity reads, 'two strips of land at Pound Hill, one each side of the Winchester Road'. No value is recorded.
After twenty-one years the ownership of the land on either side of The Avenue had passed on again, this time to the New Alresford Town Trust. But there it has stayed for the last one hundred and twenty seven years.
The responsibilities of the Town Trustees today
First and foremost is the responsibility, as far as is possible, to keep The Avenue as it was when it was gifted to the town by the Bishop of Winchester in 1869. The Trustees are responsible for the land on either side of the road but not for the road itself; that is down to the Highway Authority. They are responsible for the land up to, but not including, the flint wall on the north side and for the land up to, but not including, the fences and walls on the south side.
What this responsibility involves is mowing the grass, planting the bulbs, maintaining the benches and removing the litter. But most of all it involves managing the magnificent trees. This is done only with the agreement and permission of the Tree Officer from Winchester City Council. There are 114 trees on the north side of The Avenue and each of them is individually numbered, identified on a the map below and has a written maintenance plan of its own. If a tree dies or is diseased, it is replaced. If a branch is judged dangerous, it is removed. The crowns of the trees periodically need to be lifted and the feathers that grow at the base of the trunks have to be removed. Much of the tree work is done by the Wednesday Conservation Volunteers who do work such as this throughout Hampshire. As many as twenty of them have turned out on an agreed Wednesday to cut and prune on The Avenue. The Trustees are very grateful to them for their hard work and their expertise.
Wayleaves to cross the land have to be granted to allow underground pipes for water, gas or electricity to be laid and occasionally a new access point is required to and from a neighbouring property, such as the footpath to the new car park at Perins' School. All of these require the permission of the Town Trustees.
The Trust has recently lost financial support from Local Government for the grass cutting and maintenance of the trees in The Avenue and is looking at ways of covering these costs and maintaining this attractive gateway to town.
As well as business sponsorship residents are invited to become a ‘Friend’ for a minimum subscription of £25 per annum.If you wish to become a 'Friend of The Avenue' please complete the Application Form which can be found here
On 23 September 1969 the Mayor of Winchester attended a small ceremony on The Avenue to celebrate the centenary of the bishop's gift to the town. This was before the bypass was built and the Hampshire Chronicle reported at the time that any words spoken were drowned out by the noise of the dense passing traffic. Maybe it would have been better to wait until 1990 when The Avenue would have been considerably quieter and the celebration could have marked the centenary of the ownership of the Town Trust.
This didn't happen. But which date should be chosen to mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of The Avenue? 2019 or 2040? Answers, or comments, on a postcard please to the Clerk, Town Trust, The Old Fire Station, Broad Street, Alresford, SO24 9AN or email to firstname.lastname@example.org