ON 23 June, members of the Andover History and Archaeology Society met at All Hallows, Whitchurch for a historical tour conducted by John Mariner and members of the Whitchurch History Society.

Although the present church dates from 1868, incorporating Norman, 15th and 18th century work, it is on the site of a Saxon chalk church, which gave the town name, ‘White-church’. The settlement was near the crossing of two pre-Saxon roads and the River Test. The borough was incorporated in 1248-9 and the market in 1241. From the 16th century, the main industry was the cloth trade, and from the 19th silk.

Its position made it an important coaching stop, and later a railway junction. In the church, John drew attention to the painted commandments board (1602), Portal and Brooke monuments, and the c.800AD Saxon stone memorial to Frithburga.

Among the 64 townsmen killed, the 1914-19 church War Memorial names two brothers of Lord Denning.

The guided walk down Church Street continued past The Lawns, the late Lord’s residence, still the attractive venue for the summer fête. The street boasts a number of historic cottages and houses of the 17th to 19th centuries. Turning up Fair Close, the group visited the old Whitchurch Primary School, converted to housing, with a thriving pre-school in the canteen building. A footpath led to the site of the town’s once major employer, Long’s Jam Factory, now Long’s Court housing development, and Seeviours Court, where the gas works stood.

Noting cottages in Bell Street, some late medieval in origin, the group reached the Market Place, a busy junction of five roads, including the A34 before the bypass was built. A plaque commemorates the liberty to demonstrate gained by The Salvation Army in 1890.

Beyond the Town Hall of 1786-7 in Newbury Street, another plaque marks the Denning’s draper shop. The tour offered a welcome stop for refreshments at The White Hart, a fine 18-19th century coaching inn. From the older town core, newer 20th century building filled in the hill up towards the present mainline railway station.

Passing down Winchester Street and the Methodist Church of 1812, re-fronted 1903, and the former Primitive Chapel opposite (1902), the tour continued to the Silk Mill, on the River Test. Here the guide was Geoff Hide, grand-nephew of former owner James Hide, who ran it from 1886 until his death in 1955. Built as a saw mill by William Hayter in 1815, after his bankruptcy the building was adapted for silk weaving by the addition of a third story in 1817, with machine looms installed in the 1890s. Acquired after the factory’s closure by the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust, it was restored as a working mill in 1985, and is currently planning improvements for the many visitors.

The tour finished with a walk to the Fulling Mill, and then back along the River Test up to the church. John and the members of the History Society were very warmly thanked for leading such a fascinating and informative tour of their town.