‘ANDOVER 1947’ was Greg Gregory’s theme for his illustrated talk at the October meeting of the Andover History and Archaeology Society held in the Guildhall.

He offered a kaleidoscope of pictures and recollections of the town of 70 years ago, from his own experience as an Andover Grammar School boy coming from Whitchurch, from detailed reports in the Andover Advertiser and Kelly’s Directories. Clothing, coal, churches, chapels, employment, road, rail, gas, electricity, schools, health, housing, library, museum, pubs and leisure in the town were described by Greg and set in the national context of a very challenging year.

Members with memories of life in the town in 1947 added their own details, while those brought up elsewhere compared the pictures with the town they know.

Andover then had a population of around 12,000. It was the hub of the villages around, especially on Saturdays with the market — which moved from Bridge Street to the High Street in September 1947 — , and its cinemas and sports events.

The many shops, small specialists and larger stores, marked a time before the dominance of supermarkets, though some national chains like Marks and Spencer, Woolworth and W H Smith were here. There was rationing, but a schoolboy might enjoy unrationed liquorice twists, the wonderful ice-cream in Tony’s Café, and that gathering place for the young, The Mikado.

January 1947 was marked by the worst snow blizzard since 1894, turning into the severest winter since 1877. There was a sudden thaw on 7 February causing hundreds of burst pipes and losing 450,000 gallons of water. But Greg’s daily bus ride to school was uninterrupted as his Venture Bus service used snow chains on the unheated bus. The football season finally ended on Whit Monday, so he could see both a Hampshire County Cricket match and Southampton playing football against Leicester at The Dell on the same day.

Echoes of the war lingered. Home Guard and ARP Wardens’ signs remained on doors. A ‘Static Water Supply’ reservoir was now used as a temporary swimming pool. Many military personnel continued at Tidworth, the four army camps at Barton Stacey and the Army Pay Corps at Whitchurch and Stockbridge.

Andover, Amport, Middle Wallop, Chilbolton, Thruxton and Longparish (a bomb dump in Harewood Forest) all had RAF bases. Even the Royal Navy was nearby at Worthy Down and US soldiers were still around.

The Andover Borough Council of 1947 was composed of Mayor Charlton, four Aldermen and 12 ward Councillors. The council was becoming politicised, although most were independent (later Conservatives), and even one communist councillor. Petty crime was dealt with in the fortnightly Sessions in the Guildhall. The year saw convictions for an 81-year-old indecent exposer, 28 people caught under a wireless licence crackdown and a nine-year-old arsonist.

With a wealth of evocative local detail, Greg, with his careful research and engaging presentation, vividly sketched the changing life of Andover through the rigours of 1947. He was thanked very warmly.