Alresford takes its name from the river Arle, which in the Saxon language may signify the ford at the Alders. The earliest reference to Alresford in Saxon records by King Kenwalc, King of the Wessex around the middle of the seventh century granted ownership to the church at Winchester. Confirmed by his successors King Ena in 701, Egbert in 826, Edward the Elder in 908, Edwy in 956 and Edger. Mentioned in the Doomsday book, a survey made in almost every county in the kingdom of William the Conqueror in 1081 and finished in 1086. The Bishop or Chief Lord had in his domain 48 villagers, 36 cottagers, and 31 slaves, another englishman had 27 villagers, 6 cottagers and 19 slaves.
Godfrey de Lucy
Alresford took a great step forward in 1189 with the newly consecrated Bishop of Winchester Godfrey de Lucy. His plan for improving trade between Winchester and Alresford, was the creation of a great weir, forming a large reservoir called Alresford Pond. This head of water combined with sluices, locks and aqueducts, made navigation possible for barges, lighters and other small vessels, from Alresford through Winchester to the sea at Southampton. In consequence to this undertaking, King John granted to the Bishop and his successors free license and authority in the collection of fines, tolls, taxes and customs arising from goods conveyed along this route. With this charter now in place, the Bishop had the whole of the town taken down and remodelled. The new layout remains partially today, with broad and spacious streets headed by a formerly noble square.
Battles and Fires
In 1644 a battle between the parliamentarians and the Royalists at Cheriton, saw victory for Oliver Cromwell's army. This formed a bond between Cromwell and Alresford, and he regularly stayed at the Swan Hotel. Finding several of the principal inhabitants warmly attached to his party, trade and commerce grew. 1689 however saw a devastating fire, which claimed almost the whole town, together with the church and council house. It is said to have been maliciously set, as it started in three separate parts of the town at the same time. A party of soldiers, who had recently left the town, were suspected of being the authors, but this was never proved.
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