Hampshire Life - - History -

Whether trav­el­ling along a busy high­way or a back­wa­ter, the dis­tinc­tive blue and white plaque vis­i­bly at­tached to a build­ing of­ten catches the eye. “Read me!” it in­sists.

Many such plaques fol­low the English Her­itage Lon­don scheme, and that of its pre­de­ces­sors, which since 1866 has cel­e­brated the link be­tween no­table fig­ures of the past and the build­ings in which they lived and worked.

Orig­i­nally hand­made, blue ce­ramic roundels set the trend but bronze, stone and lead ones can also be found, and plaques now come in var­i­ous shapes and sizes. These days typ­i­cally man­u­fac­tured from alu­minium, at a cost of around £900, it’s the nom­i­nee, be they lo­cal coun­cils, so­ci­eties, com­pa­nies, or pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als who usu­ally foots the bill fol­low­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion and ap­proval process.

Of course, the orig­i­nal build­ing may have long since dis­ap­peared or changed its use. Don’t be sur­prised to dis­cover for in­stance a poet lau­re­ate iden­ti­fied on the wall of a su­per­mar­ket. Or a co­me­dian now ‘liv­ing’ above a Chi­nese take-away. Yet, whether it’s a cul­tural icon re­called in the place that they found in­spi­ra­tion, or mil­i­tary he­roes hon­oured close to a fa­mous dock­yard, the sen­ti­ment is the same.

“There’s no ques­tion that a blue plaque adds value to the visi­tor’s ex­pe­ri­ence,” says David Evans, Portsmouth City Coun­cil’s sports and leisure fa­cil­i­ties man­ager, adding: “Peo­ple are fond of re­mem­ber­ing oth­ers.”

IN THE NORTH At­ten­tion Alder­shot

15 July 2017 is a no­table date in this part of Hamp­shire as it marks the town’s first blue plaque which was erected by the Alder­shot

Civic So­ci­ety. The former home in Lysons Road of much loved co­me­dian and ac­tor Arthur English - who fa­mously be­gin per­form­ing in mu­sic halls and went on to star in TV’s Are You Be­ing Served?, holds the hon­our. Con­tact: alder­shot­civic­so­ci­ety. org.uk

Bea­cons of Bas­ingstoke

So plen­ti­ful are the blue plaques (which, in­ci­den­tally, are pre­dom­i­nantly rec­tan­gu­lar) that a walk­ing trail last­ing ap­prox­i­mately 90 min­utes has been based around them. Old Town boasts the former site of the Assem­bly Rooms which hosted the dances at­tended by the young Jane Austen. And just me­tres away from here, not only did Oliver Cromwell check into the Fal­con Inn, it was in Bas­ingstoke that Thomas Burberry, in­ven­tor of the epony­mous gabar­dine, had his fac­tory.

Nat­u­ral­ist Gilbert White, cricket com­men­ta­tor John

Ar­lott, and poet lau­re­ate Thomas War­ton are also among those de­served of a men­tion. Whilst there’s even a blue plaque to com­mem­o­rate the wed­ding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer erected on a bus shel­ter at nearby Sher­field on Lod­don. Con­tact: bas-herit-soc.org

From Jane Austen to Karl Marx, our towns and vil­lages have fas­ci­nat­ing links to some

of the big­gest his­tor­i­cal celebri­ties.

Viv Mick­le­field fol­lows in their foot­steps

with the help of a blue plaque or two

Ori­gins in Odi­ham

The fa­mous Royal Col­lege of Ve­teri­nary Sur­geons may now be based in Lon­don; how­ever is roots were es­tab­lished at Odi­ham’s Ge­orge Ho­tel back in 1783. It was here that the in­au­gu­ral meet­ing of the Odi­ham Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety took place and where the group of lo­cal landown­ers and men of learn­ing present had the idea of giv­ing young far­ri­ers a sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion to im­prove the treat­ment of sick an­i­mals.

Among the pri­vate homes com­mem­o­rated, Robert Ad­di­son, one of only four chap­lains to be awarded the Vic­to­ria Cross dur­ing World War One, and Man­ley James whose gal­lantry in both World Wars was also rec­og­nized by a VC, are com­mem­o­rated.

Con­tact: odi­ham-so­ci­ety.org

IN THE MID­DLE: Advertising Al­ton

The birth­place of cel­e­brated botanist Wil­liam Cur­tis is one of sev­eral sites high­lighted in the town for their his­tor­i­cal rel­e­vance or no­table res­i­dents.

Con­tact: al­ton.gov.uk

Peek­ing into Peters­field

Peters­field’s blue plaque trail leads the visi­tor around at least 17 build­ings of sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est. It ap­pears nov­el­ist H.G. Wells reg­u­larly dined at what’s now known as The Old Drum. There’s the Dragon Street birth­place of John Wor­lidge whose books and ex­per­i­ments formed the ba­sis of the English Agri­cul­tural Revo­lu­tion; and in the 19th cen­tury, the Corn Ex­change served as the Hamp­shire Reg­i­ment 3rd Vol­un­teers’ HQ.

Built in 1590 and at once sta­bling over 100 horses, the White Hart was Peters­field’s main coach­ing inn for such dis­tin­guished guests as Sa­muel Pepys, Charles II and Peter the Great.

And the former Com­mer­cial Ho­tel holds the dou­ble dis­tinc­tion of hav­ing been owned by lo­cal Col­lege founder Richard Churcher, and by John Small maker of cricket balls and one of Eng­land’s finest bats­men. Con­tact: pe­ters­field­so­ci­ety.org. uk

Re­sid­ing in Ro­p­ley

Prov­ing that fact can be stranger than fic­tion, is the Handy­side Bridge which achieved big screen fame in the Harry Pot­ter fran­chise. Mid Hants Railway, with the sup­port of Net­work Rail and the Railway Her­itage Trust suc­cess­fully re­lo­cated this listed foot­bridge from King’s Cross Sta­tion in 2013.

Con­tact: wa­ter­cressline.co.uk

IN THE SOUTH: Pro­mot­ing Portsmouth

The in­spi­ra­tional in­ven­tor Hertha Ayr­ton, a trail­blazer for women’s rights, has both a street named af­ter her on The Hard and is rec­og­nized on the site of her Port­sea birth­place. Whilst at the Wim­ble­don Park Sports Cen­tre, the name in the frame is Margery Hen­der­son who wrote the rules for the game of bad­minton.

Mean­while, the roll-call of the area’s great and good con­tin­ues else­where. Over a six-year pe­riod the City Coun­cil in part­ner­ship with English Her­itage erected seven plaques in South­sea in­clud­ing ones to writer and No­bel lau­re­ate Rud­yard Ki­pling, and to ac­tor and co­me­dian Peter Sel­lars, as well as a pa­rade of mil­i­tary he­roes.

The lat­est plaque un­veiled by the Coun­cil is to lo­cal lad Sir Henry Ayres, one-time pre­mier of South Aus­tralia and of Ayres Rock fame.

Con­tact: portsmouth.gov.uk

Spot­light on Southamp­ton

Again, the English Her­itage part­ner­ship bore ad­di­tional plaques dur­ing the early noughties. Among these: Sir Henry James, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Ord­nance Sur­vey’s res­i­dence at Rock­stone Place; the birth­place of ad­mi­ral of the fleet Earl Jel­li­coe at Cran­bury Court; and the home of women’s cam­paigner Emily Davies at Carl­ton Cres­cent.

With the city re­quir­ing that those hon­oured have been dead for at least 20 years, in 2012 one of the plaques erected out­side of this part­ner­ship is ded­i­cated to

Sir Arthur Henry Ros­ton, cap­tain of the RMS Carpathia who res­cued all 706 sur­vivors from SS Ti­tanic.

Con­tact: southamp­ton.gov.uk

Val­ued in Vent­nor

Num­ber 3 Alexan­dra Gar­dens, is where com­poser Sir Ed­ward El­gar, he of the pomp and cir­cum­stance marches, hon­ey­mooned. Whilst long be­fore be­com­ing a states­man, Win­ston Churchill stayed as a child in Flint Cot­tage, Wheel­ers Bay Road.

Else­where, ed­u­ca­tion pi­o­neer El­iz­a­beth Miss­ing Sewell, one of sev­eral for­mi­da­ble 19th cen­tury Is­land women, is re­mem­bered at St Boni­face

Court for­merly the Boni­face Dioce­san School which she founded. Nearby, among those who con­va­lesced tak­ing the sea air was po­lit­i­cal philoso­pher and fa­ther of mod­ern so­cial­ism Karl Marx, at No 1 St Boni­face Gar­dens; whilst ‘hid­den’ he­roes in­clude Dr Arthur Hill Has­sell, who rev­o­lu­tion­ized pub­lic health treat­ment and set up a ground-break­ing sana­to­rium in Vent­nor.

Con­tact: vent­norher­itage.org.uk

Nat­u­ral­ist, Gilbert White

Rud­yard Ki­pling lived in South­sea as a boy

Emily Davies lived in Southamp­ton

ABOVE: Com­poserEd­ward El­gar stayed in Vent­nor on his hon­ey­moonIN­SET: The blue plaque on the side of Num­ber 3 Alexan­dra Gar­dens in Vent­nor

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