Here we see the first Railway Tavern on the junction of Weyhill Road and Millway Road. Until the railway from Basingstoke reached Andover in 1854, this area was all tracks and fields, much of it owned by Thomas Alexander Banks who established ‘Andover Newtown’ in 1858. A pub and three ranks of four white cottages, two of which still stand today, were all built by Banks.

However, reputations suffered badly in November 1858 when High Street draper William Parsons was bludgeoned to death in a field next to Salisbury Road. Owing to a recent incident involving Thomas Banks’s wife Emma in Parsons’ shop, Banks was immediately accused and arrested. From various witnesses in the pub, the police built a case against him that revolved around his movements, including a visit to the pub on the night of the murder and him leaving there with his wife, just a few minutes before it happened. The screams of the victim were heard in the dark of night as far away as Anna Valley.

Banks and his wife appeared before the local magistrates and were committed for trial at Winchester. There was already some antagonism between the Bench and Banks, as only a few months before the murder he had published a pamphlet criticising their conduct in a civil case he had brought against a local n’er-do-well, which he thought had influenced their decision. Both the earlier civil case and the details of the murder trial were well covered in the fledgling Andover Advertiser, which had been launched by John Russell Fox the same year.

The couple spent three months in gaol before the case came up, with Mrs Banks giving birth to their first son in Winchester prison.

When he read the prosecution’s case, the judge concluded the evidence was so flimsy that it would be impossible for the jury to convict them and the couple were freed. Both the magistracy and the local police remained confident they had the guilty party but the case was over.

An interesting postscript was that over 30 years later an ex-Andover man who had never been interviewed at the time of the murder walked into a Liverpool police station and confessed to the killing.

He wanted to give Parsons a beating ‘for being with another man’s wife’ though never meant to kill him.

Routine enquiries were made in Hampshire but after such a long time there was simply no corroborating evidence, and so he was released.

The old Railway Tavern continued its trade regardless of any bruised reputation but as traffic increased during the 1920s, it was plainly in the way. In 1932 the old building was replaced by one sited further back and at an angle. Recently, it briefly became The Lunar Hare before being re-named The Malt House - though not after the local MP.

My apologies last week for stating that Magdalen College Cambridge, owned the Bell inn; it was of course Oxford.