This photograph of the top of Chantry Street was taken by Charles Wardell in 1967. The house on the left then belonged to Peter (Pip) Page, who was the third generation of his family to live and trade from these premises. The present owner, Ed Malden, bought the house from Mr Page about 20 years ago and he was kind enough to invite me to the house and to look at the documents and deeds that relate to it.

Since buying it, Ed has completely renovated the house which, he says, was ‘in a terrible state’ and the restoration has transformed a deteriorating ruin into an important local building of historic significance.

When the photograph was taken there was another house next door and two further adjoining cottages in Chantry Street itself, while there was also a line of three Victorian tenements to the rear of the house that faced Marlborough Street. All of that once belonged to Mr Page and most of it was demolished by him in order to provide space for the stonemason’s business. Many will remember the conglomeration of stone and marble memorials stacked up in his yard.

READ MORE: Andover fought off the demolition of St Mary's Church

Fifty or more years ago, many old, local houses, often through neglect, largely remained as they were built – no sanitary facilities, no central heating or insulation, rotting window frames, damp walls and leaking roofs. In short, they were not considered fit for human habitation. If the owners could not afford to bring them up to a suitable standard in order to rent them out – and in many instances, it was uneconomic to do so – the planning department was not usually against a case for demolition. Regrettably, this was an age when demolition was an easy and acceptable answer – and the council was doing so itself, all over the town.

Thankfully, what is No 2 Chantry Street has survived, and although it has naturally been altered, improved and changed over the course of its existence, the core is that of a 16th century house and as such it is Andover’s oldest dwelling house. Although it was listed as Grade II in 1983, there seems to be little information about its origins and it has never been the subject of any serious archaeological or historical study.

Given its position, there is no surprise that such a house would be among the oldest in the town. The roads around the church were those of the earliest settlements, well above the water table and the marshy ground, but near enough to the river, for water. Twice, these early settlements were destroyed by fire – in 1141 and in 1435 – and so we must look for our earliest buildings after the latter date. The pre-15th century town was still largely confined to the church area, with any new development gradually spreading out from that central point.

After 1435, Andover was an impoverished town and it took some time to recover. Investment from wealthy colleges who saw potential in Andover’s geographical position certainly helped; the Angel Inn was an early project by Winchester College in 1445, but Magdalen College Oxford, founded in 1458, was another institution that bought land and property to lease out. It bought a High Street inn called The Bell in 1481 and subsequently replaced it with a more substantial inn of the same name in 1534.

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Both colleges retained their Andover interests for something like 500 years. The usual policy was to grant a lease to their properties of between 20 and 40 years to a reasonably well-to-do (reliable) individual, who then sub-let to a tenant. Such leases could comprise one building or a collection of tenements held by a single lease. These leases could be renewed by the lessee at any time in order to secure his holding but each time there was a renewal, a ‘fine’ or charge was levied by the college. Later on, the multiple property leases tended to be split down, allowing the tenant himself to acquire the lease; and by the 20th century, the colleges, for various reasons, became willing to sell the freehold outright.  

The lease of No 2 Chantry Street was held by land agent Giles Westbury in 1848 at the time of the Andover tithe survey. This was a nationwide survey, from 1836 onwards, that replaced the centuries-old tithes that farmers paid for their produce, with a charge on property. The records produced for the survey, including maps of properties and the accompanying apportionments book of each owner/lessee/tenant are a valuable tool for historians.

Westbury’s tenant was builder Henry Wear, who lived at No 2 until his death in 1890. His widow was still there in 1891 but then moved to Portland Place. The tenancy was then taken on by milliner Mary Anne Locke who moved to a new house in Vigo Road in about 1908. By then, George Henry Westbury, Giles Westbury’s son, owned the property outright; he had bought the entire Chantry Street block from Magdalen College in 1901 and then sold it all to Thomas Page in 1908.  

Next week’s column, will trace the property next door, sold with No 2 by the college in 1901. That history is also an interesting one.