Most people who remember Andover in the 1970s will recall the Central Hotel standing in the triangular plot of land between the meeting of Western Road and Junction Road.

Traffic jams caused by the level crossing gates to the Town Station in Bridge Street or even the traffic lights at the High Street junction meant that anyone in a vehicle often passed by here at slow speed.

Although it has the look of a smart Edwardian residence with a frontage of bay windows topped with triangular sectioned roofs, this must have been a later ‘improvement’ to the much older building of brick and flint construction that lay behind the mask of white stucco.

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As a private house, it was known as The Knoll, briefly becoming the Knoll Hotel during the 1920s and finally the Central Hotel by 1929.

There were extensive alterations and additions in that year when Charles and Louisa Churchhouse took it over, with a large extension to the rear in order to create more bedrooms, designed by local architect Freddie Henshaw. However, the Edwardian-style façade would pre-date that.

Mr and Mrs Churchouse had come from the Central Hotel at 15-17 Bridge Street which had closed, bringing the name with them.

The Knoll certainly existed before 1850, as it appears on the tithe map of that date, and the 1851 census shows that Giles Westbury, land agent, was then living there with his wife Anne and young family.

There were very few houses in this area of Andover at that time and this western end of the town was to become a favoured spot for the prospering classes during the second half of the 19th century.

Andover Advertiser: Giles Westbury, land agent and mayor of Andover.Giles Westbury, land agent and mayor of Andover.

Giles Westbury was born at Burbage in Wiltshire in 1807 and he married Anne Harris in June 1833 at Southampton.

His early work was involved with assessments for the new system of tithe apportionment for various landed estates.

The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 abolished the former - and much maligned - annual harvest contribution by farmers to the local vicar and replaced it with an annual rent charge on all land occupiers, according to the size of holding.

Nationwide, the process took over 20 years to complete.

The Westburys were certainly in Andover by 1841 and living in Union Street, their likely home being Wyndgate House, written about in an earlier article (Andover Advertiser 3 June 2022).

He joined the borough council and was elected mayor in November 1844, a position he was to hold four times.

Of the three Westbury children, Edward, Elizabeth and George, only the latter stayed in Andover and he inherited the house on his father’s death in 1894, his two siblings having already died.

George Henry Westbury followed his father’s profession and also became a land agent. When he married Marie Whitehead in 1877, the couple moved into The Knoll with George’s parents.

It was a big, rambling house of nine bedrooms, so there was plenty of room. George and Marie were to have three boys who all married and successively moved away from Andover.

In 1909, after the departure of the youngest child on marriage, the house was put up for sale with local agents, F Ellen & Son, who were given the options of outright sale for £2,700 or letting-out with a lease, either furnished or unfurnished at an annual rent of £200 and £120 respectively. No outright buyer came forward but it was let unfurnished.

Consequently, there was a sale of the contents by auctioneer Allan Herbert in October 1909, after which George and Marie Westbury would have moved out. It was at 42 Langham Place in London, where George died in 1922.

The Knoll was let to Colonel James and Mrs Hodgson who appear on the census of 1911 as occupants.

They were still there in 1917 when their son Lt Guy Hodgson of the Royal Engineers, became engaged to Mary Dorothy Lambert, an event considered worthy of a report in The Tatler. However, by 1921, the house was advertised for sale again, with George Westbury the vendor.

Evidently the house had continued to be let and not sold during the 1909-21 period. The sales particular lists nine bedrooms and four reception rooms.

One Hamilton Weller was in occupation soon afterwards but whether he bought it or was tenant to a new owner is unclear.

By now, it was The Knoll Hotel and Weller got into trouble in 1922 for selling liquor without a licence.

By 1924 it was let to Mr I T Bell but the lease, though not the freehold, was up for sale by 1926.

The trail runs cold until 1929, when Mr and Mrs Churchouse submitted their plans for the building of extra bedrooms.

Andover Advertiser: Demolition in 1976, photographed by Charles Wardell, showing the decorative brick and flint walls beneath the plaster facade. Demolition in 1976, photographed by Charles Wardell, showing the decorative brick and flint walls beneath the plaster facade.

In all likelihood, they had bought The Knoll (hotel) outright. It was to be successfully run for many years under Churchouse ownership and the 1939 register shows a number of single retired army officers in residence, as well as four single serving officers as well, suggesting the hotel acted virtually as a permanent home, though perhaps the serving officers had arrived as a result of the outbreak of war.

The Churchouses continued there until the early 1950s but by 1953, the proprietors were Mr and Mrs E J Bennett.

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However, in 1960, the hotel was again up for sale. By this time there were 22 bedrooms – perhaps all added by the Churchouses – together with a Tudor style dining room, a lounge, sitting room and a hall with bar.

Andover Advertiser: The site of the Central Hotel today, replaced after 1976 by Charles Dalton Court.The site of the Central Hotel today, replaced after 1976 by Charles Dalton Court.

It lasted another 16 years but with perhaps a lower profile. The Kelly’s directories of the 1960s and ‘70s that had once featured a glowing and full advertisement, together with a photograph, now merely stated ‘Central, Western Road’ under the list of local hotels. Sadly, it was finally demolished in 1976 and replaced by Charles Dalton Court, a complex of small homes for the elderly.     

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