THE Elms is now an estate of houses just off the Salisbury Road but formerly it was the name of this impressive house that once stood on the same site.

Ostensibly, it has the look of a small Elizabethan manor house, quite unlike anything else in Andover but surely not so old as that.

A combination of information from the 1848 Andover tithe survey and the 1851 census shows that the house then belonged to Ann Todd, a widow who was born in 1785.

She lived there with her daughter’s family, her son-in-law being Thomas Lamb, a solicitor who was nominally head of the household.

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Ann had married widower John Henry Todd in 1817 who was also a solicitor.

He was some 20 years older than her and had died in 1834.

John Henry Todd had been in practice with his father, another John Todd whose presence in Andover dates back to at least 1766 when the Salisbury and Winchester Journal records that he was involved with the selling of properties near The Chough Inn, in Bridge Street.

Two years later, the same newspaper reports him handling the sale of the Rose and Chequer(s) in the High Street.

But Todd is not a local name and he must have come from elsewhere.

There is strong evidence of a connection with Cumberland.

In 1779, an extensive estate was reported for sale at St Bees in that county.

It belonged to ‘John Todd, attorney at Andover’, who probably inherited it, suggesting the family was a wealthy one.

The sale of that estate would have put Andover’s attorney very comfortably off - and a new house was an obvious way of spending some of the money.

The earliest detailed map of the town, that of Isaac Taylor of 1759 does not appear to show The Elms, while Milne’s of 1791 quite clearly shows a house in that position.

This was the westernmost area of the urban town and anything beyond that was largely devoid of buildings; it was in fact part of the old West Field, a large expanse of agricultural ground divided up into disparate strips, that were owned, leased or rented by a large number of residents.

Similar fields existed to the north, east and south of Andover as well.

These fields largely fed the town they surrounded and such systems were in place throughout the country.

Andover Advertiser: The ElmsThe Elms (Image: Contributed)

But change was coming and during the second half of the 18th century much land up and down the country was enclosed.

This was done with the consent of the various owners, and enclosure commissioners were appointed to map out the land and suggest boundaries.

This was accompanied by a lot of land-swapping where strips of land that were far apart but owned by one person were consolidated into single holdings that were better to manage and eliminated non-productive access areas between the strips.

In addition to the fields, downland, woods, waste and ‘other commonable places’ were all to be enclosed, a veritable assault on the freedoms of ordinary people who could once wander at will but would now be faced with fences.

By 1784, those changes in Andover were largely complete, ready for an Enclosure Act that would follow the next year.

One of the owners of land whose holding had been staked out and agreed was innkeeper Mungo Major - or rather, his trustees, as he had died some years before in 1772.

The property which included several tenements in the town itself was sold by auction in The George Inn at the end of 1784.

Lot 3 was ‘such allotment as shall be awarded by the commissioners for enclosing the common fields of Andover, in lieu of several pieces of arable land, lying in the said fields, which allotment is already staked out, and consists of about four acres of exceedingly good land near the Weyhill and Western roads, and within a quarter mile of the town.’

Particulars could be obtained from ‘Mr John Todd, or Mr Bird, junior attorneys at law, in Andover.’

This John Todd, as a junior attorney, was the son of John Todd senior, who would then have been about 19 years of age.

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Here was a unique chance to buy an extensive plot of land, within easy walking distance of the town and adjacent to the Andover –Salisbury turnpike road.

We can only assume the land was bought by John Todd senior and The Elms built soon afterwards, between 1785 and 1791, an early example in Andover of a grand, private house, set within its own garden and pleasure grounds, completely unconnected to agriculture.

Such a trend would continue during the next century as wealthy, local individuals sought a large house with land to suit their improved status.

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