Following the extensive refurbishment that doubled the size of the Museum we are now in a position to welcome visitors on a regular basis. Subject to the restrictions of the Covid-19 emergency our aim is to open for at least two weekend days a month from Easter 2021 until the end of September but this will be dependent upon sufficient volunteers coming forward to act as stewards. As part of our work these last few months we have provided a refreshment and relaxation area for stewards.
In the interim, and subject to the Covid-19 guidelines, we are offering group visits to the Museum in return for a donation to Museum funds. (Minimum £2 per head)
Help is needed to prepare displays, undertake historical research and produce display material.
The horse drawn steamer fire engine together with the fire service displays will continue to be the centrepiece of the Museum but we have now created new displays for Alresford Crafts Dolls and Soft Toys which begin to show the extensive range manufactured by this local company. We are also exhibiting archeological artefacts unearthed in what were fields to the west of Alresford particularly in The Avenue/Arlebury Park area. The majority were found within the Town (Parish) boundary which hasn't materially changed since the 11th Century. Whilst, in the main, these finds are not significant they do seem to indicate that itinerant workers, possibly visiting Alresford for a market, camped on the outskirts of the Town continuing to practice their trade before and after attending the market.
Over the next few months we want to create new displays related to two other traditional Alresford industries - watercress and sheep. Additionally we want to make some of our historical documents available for inspection as well as those archeological finds that will not be on permanent display.
Although we now have a functional Museum we continue to provide as much information as possible to web visitors, and this website offers eight routes to search and view our collection. We are planning to continue this as an access route, providing photos and videos and copies of documentation possibly more easily than in a physical library.
The five routes give access to:
The Alresford Heritage website and the Alresford Memories website have been operating for some time. Now also available is the Photo Gallery, where many of the photos in our collection are already on display. Lists of the Artefacts, Archeological Finds, Documents & Books and Pictures & Art, we care for are now listed and we will continue to add further information links that can be accessed from these listings.
The Alresford Museum has established links with associated organizations, such as the Hampshire Record Office (HRO). We have scanned their collection of Black and White glass negatives and these images can be viewed in the photo gallery.
All artefacts found in the local metal detection searches managed by the Museum are processed through the relevant Finds Officer, and these are now listed. We also scan the photographs and documents in our possession, and lodge copies with HRO for safe keeping.
The Museum also has close links to other local organizations, such as the Alresford Historical and Literary Society, which publishes an annual magazine of relevant research articles about Alresford, called Alresford Articles, as a successor to the similar Alresford Displayed series of annual publications, which started in 1976.Our future plans
We intend to collect and catalogue photographs, documents and artefacts which will illustrate the story of Alresford and the immediate surrounding district, so that we can set up displays and exhibitions which will be interesting and educational. Artefacts continue to be forthcoming as our existence becomes known. In the absence of a group dedicated to this goal valuable material tends to be lost forever. We hope that this will not now happen. So if you have material which you think might be of interest please let us know, and at least enable us to record it.Examples of material that would be of interest includes:
If in doubt please do talk to one of our group. Remember photographs which are not very old now will become significant in 50 - 100 years time. If they relate to Alresford, rather than throw them out, pass them to us for posterity. We would also welcome promises of material in the future and funds now. Since the Museum is part of the Town Trust who are a registered charity no. 239052, we could get 25% back from the tax man if you give by Gift Aid.
The Museum was originally conceived by Roy Robins who established the Alresford and District Museum Trust as a charity in April 2006 but the initial enthusiasm was lost on his death in May 2007. Their achievements over that short period were limited but they did manage to raise over £10,000 towards their endeavour. Ill health and the death of Trustees resulted in the Charity and the initiative failing and the Charity was removed from the register in 2009. There are strict rules on how a charity can dispose of its assets but in essence they can only be transferred to another charity. This is where the Town Trust stepped in during 2011 and the Charity Commissioners agreed to the funds being transferred to the Town Trust as an established charity.
We have now picked up the reins where they left off!
Alresford Crafts soft toys and dolls are well known, and often sold on internet auction sites, as collector’s items. The Alresford Museum has acquired a collection of these soft toys, including the hedgehog, kangaroo (with a baby), Teddy bear, Polar bear, dinosaur and squirrel. One of the Alresford Crafts Teddy bears, known as a Honey Bear, was said to be unique in that it was designed to have a flat bottom, which made it easy to bend its legs and make it sit down properly, without having to lean against anything.
For around 25 years Alresford Crafts was a major business venture in the town, making dolls and soft toys. Perhaps more than any other, this business promoted the name of Alresford to consumers across the world. John and Margaret Jones started trading from the two lower floors of the Town Mill, a building at the bottom of Mill Hill, Alresford, which dates from 1189.
In 1977 Alresford Crafts started planning a workshop where doll’s heads, hands and feet could be produced. Initially these were made of bone china, but then production switched to using porcelain. They were proud of producing their dolls wholly in England, and did not call their dolls ‘China dolls’. In fact the company adopted a logo that just used the word ‘Alresford’ – and so had to add a subheading of “…say it Alls-ford” to help with the problem of pronunciation, particularly for the Chinese and Japanese people, when trying to order the dolls!
The Alresford Crafts business closed in 1992, with a major sale of the remaining stock, attended by most of the ladies of Alresford. Read the full article.
The Museum has also acquired a number of the catalogues, price lists and marketing material which are listed here.