This postcard was produced by Cosser of Southampton and sent in 1905. It shows the Star and Garter hotel on what was evidently a gloriously sunny day.

Past local historians have concluded that before 1788 it was called the White Hart and what is now the White Hart in Bridge Street was called the Star. The change of names was down to Jane Marcer who ran the Bell on the opposite side of the High Street.

She was the widow of the innkeeper Richard Marcer who had changed the name of the Bell to the Star and Garter in 1772, and when it was finally closed in 1788, she moved across the street, taking the name with her. During her husband’s time at the Bell, the inn had been gradually reduced to enable shops and tenements to be constructed along its High Street frontage.

Jane Marcer seems to have been a capable entrepreneur and as well as running the Star and Garter with all its stables and coaching traffic, she also acted as the town’s postmistress. Indeed, the 1784 Hampshire Directory lists her deceased husband Richard Marcer as postmaster at the Star and Garter (formerly the Bell), so it was a familiar role.

Besides other coaching traffic, a London/Exeter mail coach arrived each morning from London with its local mail for delivery, and another came back in the evening from Exeter to collect that day’s consignment of letters and parcels.

Eventually, three generations of Marcers were to run the post-office but at some time, before the 1830s, it moved to 10 High Street where George Marcer was also a bookseller, stationer and printer. On his death in 1855, it was acquired by John Russell Fox who started the Andover Advertiser there, three years later.

H W Earney in his book, Inns of Andover, tells us that records for the building go back to at least 1582 but there was major reconstruction in 1827 under the ownership of John Woodward when perhaps the current façade was created.

The new edition of Pevsner’s The Buildings of England (2010) agrees with such a date, calling it ‘a showpiece from the late stagecoach era’ though also stating that ‘the rear wall indicates a mid-Georgian core’.

However, an early 19th century painting of the rear view, reproduced in Lookback at Andover (2019) shows (even then) rather ancient-looking timber-framed buildings, much earlier than ‘mid-Georgian’. The current hotel proprietors on various advertising web-sites claim the inn was built in 1770 but whether that is an older building reconstructed later with a new façade or it is indeed what we see today is not clear. Presumably some sort of deed history lies with the owners, so maybe they are best placed to know.

What of the famous visitors? George III was frequently there en route to Weymouth and Lord Nelson stopped at the inn with Lady Hamilton in 1800 on his way to Salisbury to receive the freedom of the city. At the same period, Jane Austen records that when she was in Andover she posted letters to her sister Cassandra there.

Another visitor was General Tom Thumb who arrived in a miniature coach and attended a dinner in the Guildhall. Notable was William Cavendish-Bentinck, the 3rd Duke of Portland and twice prime minister, who spent so lavishly in 1771 that in settlement he was forced to give up his holding of Longstock Manor to the then innkeeper Richard Bird.