THIS very competent watercolour of the western end of Bridge Street hangs in the Andover Museum. The artist is unknown and the painting is undated but the depicted fashions suggest a date of 1830 or a little later.

To the left of the hay cart is a gateway that would lead down to the wharf of the Andover-Redbridge canal. This was opened in 1794 after almost 25 years of delay from when it was first conceived and never made a profit for its shareholders during the whole 65 years of its existence. The wharf area must have been a pretty grubby place, where the coal being unloaded from the barges from Southampton was stored. George Thompson and then his son Henry were coal merchants who had premises here. Stone for building was another material that arrived by barge; a stone yard run by William Gibbs on the western bank of the wharf, was right on site. However, there seems to have been little trade going the other way and very often the barges returned to Redbridge with nothing in the hold.

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To the right of the wharf gate is what is now the Station Hotel, named after the town station that stood beside it after 1865. Here, it would have been called the Eight Bells, that name coming from an inn near St Mary’s church, from where the landlord moved at the end of the 18th century, taking the name with him. The building we see here is very different from the Station Hotel we know today and looks like two separate houses. Possibly the replacement structure was built over these, without demolition of the old buildings.

Before it became an inn, the occupant of the farther house may have operated the town gates, which were a means of locking the town up at night. The Statute of Winchester 1285 decreed that town gates had to be locked from sunset to sunrise and a watch kept by four men, though this surely fell into disuse long before 1830. But for this painting, we would not have known that there were any gates here at all. They have mistakenly been called turnpike gates but that gate was farther up at the top of Western Road where a toll house (The Round House) was located to collect the fees for using the road.

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In the centre of the picture is Western Cottage, which is where the Broadway development of shops now stands. For much of the 19th century, this house belonged to Turner Poulter Clarke, a surveyor and engineer from Saffron Walden, who was in Andover from the 1830s onwards and was much involved in both the business and civic life of the town until he died in 1897 at the age of 93. He was a member of the borough council for many years and served five terms as mayor between 1854 and 1875.

Behind the house was a large expanse of ground and when the last member of the Clarke family living there died in 1930, it was sold to the Mattia family who built what is now Leicester Place and the terrace of houses in Suffolk Road. I believe the old house was not completely demolished but encased in the Broadway complex of shops. Completing the development was what is now Broadway Garage, used initially by the Post Office to service its delivery vehicles.

To the right is Bishops Court House, again very different from the building that was finally demolished as part of town development in 1969, and which had been given a new ground-floor frontage to accommodate a run of six shops in the mid-1920s. Apart from the shops, the whole edifice had the look of a large, unattractive block, very unlike the pleasant house in this picture with its dormer windows and shapely roof.

During the 1969 demolition, investigation showed that an older house still survived beneath a later one and that the old roof and walls were still intact. Curious indeed that all three buildings depicted in this watercolour may have received the same treatment. Reports of the time dated the later house to circa 1795 but this seems to be a guess based on the style of a rounded section to the rear – which may have in any case been part of the earlier building, as that section would not be visible in the watercolour. The earliest surviving deeds (examined in 1969) were dated 1867 and so they yielded no clues. But certainly, there is little similarity in the frontage of the house seen here with what was there later.

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