THIS photograph of New Street was taken just before 1900, looking up towards the town.

Today the street forms part of the distributor road system and is unrecognisable from what we see here.

Nevertheless, even in 1900, it was part of the main road between Andover and Newbury – though of course for horse-drawn, rather than motorised traffic.

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To place the photograph into its modern context, the entrance to 1960s Corunna Main would be on the extreme left, while the far end of this view runs into today’s Church Close.

The section of modern New Street from Corunna Main to the roundabout at Swan Court lies behind all the houses on the left.

In those days, the street was virtually all thatched cottages and housed much of the workforce of the town.

It has been said that, although called New Street, it is actually one of the oldest streets in Andover.

As a thoroughfare it is ancient, but perhaps as a ‘new street’ it was where the first house-building began, as the town expanded from its early settlement around St Mary’s church.

Two disastrous fires in 1141 and 1435 claimed most of early Andover but it is possible that houses in New Street built before 1435 could have survived if of course any then existed.

We simply do not know.

The building on the left with the gas lamp on its outside wall was The Elephant Inn.

The name may come from the rise of the travelling circuses during the early 19th century and possibly a circus complete with elephant arrived in the town around the middle of the 19th century and inspired the name of the inn.

It first appears in an Andover directory of 1852 under licensee George Adams who may have been the first proprietor.

A few years before, Adams is recorded merely as a beer retailer of New Street.

Beerhouses were where people could go and buy a ‘jug of ale’, brewed on the premises or maybe even sit in the front room to drink it.

Such establishments were sanctioned by the Beerhouse Act of 1830, which enabled any ratepayer, on payment of two guineas for a licence, to brew and sell beer from home.

It was an official effort to not only wean the population off gin but increase competition in brewing and so lower the price of ale.

However, beerhouses were not the same as named premises which had to go through the rigours of the annual Licensing Sessions.

If only these rows of cottages were still standing, Andover would have an asset of national importance and what a perfect setting for period dramas.

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Although many New Street cottages were lost to fires during the early 20th century, these were generally lower down the street.

However, those to the left of the Elephant were burnt down in 1936, despite the presence, seen here, of the fire hydrant right outside.

The other rows of cottages seen here were largely a victim of the slum-clearance programmes during the 1930s, to move people from old, sub-standard housing to the new estates being planned to the west of the town, such as the Drove and King George Road.

Of course, for the people involved (though they did not want to be moved), it was much better to go from damp, dark, insanitary, cramped and hazardous dwellings to the new light, airy and spacious accommodation being built on the other side of town but the subsequent demolition of buildings at least 400 years old must be regretted.

It was a practice that became a local habit in the years to come, with the destruction of so many of Andover’s heritage buildings that were never properly assessed and surveyed as they would today.