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Alresford, New

ALRESFORD, NEW, a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the liberty of Alresford, Alton and N. divisions of the county of Southampton, 6 miles (N. E. by E.) from Winchester, and 57 (S. W. by W.) from London, on the high road to Winchester; containing 1578 inhabitants. This place, which derives its name from its situation near a ford on the river Arle, was given to the church of Winchester by Cenwalh, King of the West Saxons, after his baptism by Bishop Birinus; and about 1220, Godfrey de Lucy, Bishop of Winchester, restored the market, then fallen into disuse. On May-day, 1690, the town was destroyed by fire, previously to which it was so prosperous that there was not an individual requiring parochial relief; and in 1710 a similar calamity occurred. The Parish comprises by computation 730 acres; the surface is flat in some parts, and in others hilly; the soil, which is light and chalky, is in general good. Alresford pond is a fine piece of water, through which runs the river Itchen. The northern embankment is formed by a causeway nearly 500 yards in length, which, previously to the construction of the present road through Bishop's-Sutton, in 1753, constituted part of the main road to London. It was accomplished by Bishop de Lucy, under a grant from King John, with a view to the improvement of the prelate's grounds, and to increase the depth of the river Itchen, which was formerly navigable to Alresford, though of late it has ceased to be so higher than Winchester; and as a recompense for this arduous undertaking, the bishop obtained, for himself and his successors, the entire royalty of the river from the reservoir to the sea. Among the seats in the neighbourhood are those of Lord Rodney (formerly the residence of his ancestor, the gallant admiral), the family of Tichbourne, and Lord Ashburton, which last, called the Grange, is a beautiful copy of the Parthenon at Athens. The market is on Thursday; and fairs are held on Holy-Thursday, the last Thursdays in July and Nov., and the Thursday next after Old Michaelmas-day, almost exclusively for sheep.

Alresford was incorporated at a very early period, and returned one representative to parliament in the 23rd of Edward I. The corporation consists of a bailiff, appointed by the Bishop of Winchester (as lord of the manor), and eight burgesses, who, by virtue of a lease from the bishop, receive the tolls of the market, but exercise no magisterial authority. A court leet is held at Michaelmas, when the bailiff is chosen; and the county magistrates hold a petty-session weekly, for the division of Alton. The living is a rectory, annexed, with that of Medsted, to the rectory of Old Alresford: the glebe comprises 18 acres. There are places of worship for Independents and Roman Catholics. H. Perrin, in 1698, founded a school for nineteen boys, sons of poor tradesmen in the town, and in the neighbouring villages of Old Alresford, Sutton, and Tichbourne; it is endowed with a good house for the master, and fifty-two acres of land, now let for £100 per annum. The poor law union of which this town is the head comprises 13 parishes and places, and contains a population of 7092. At Bramdean, about three miles distant, a tessellated pavement was discovered some years ago, one part of which represents the wrestling match between Hercules and Antæus.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.