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Andover High Street

Andover is a town in Hampshire, England, west of Basingstoke. It has a population of about 40,000 people. It is part of Test Valley administrative district.


Andover’s first mention in history is in 950 when King Edred is recording as having built a royal hunting lodge there. In 962 King Edgar called a meeting of the Saxon 'parliament' his hunting lodge near Andover.

Of more importance was the baptism, in 994 of the Viking leader Olaf Trygvason. This was part of a deal with King Ethelred II of England (“The Unready”) whereby he stopped ravaging England and returned home. Olaf became king of Norway in 995 and tried to convert his country to Christianity before his death in battle in 1000.

At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Andover had 107 male inhabitants and probably had a total population of about 500. It was quite a large settlement by the standards of the time. (Most villages had only 100 to 150 people). Andover also had 6 watermills which ground grain to flour. In 1175 King Richard I sold Andover a charter granting the townspeople certain rights, forming an merchant guild which took over the government of the town. The members elected two officials called bailiffs who ran the town. In 1201 King John gave the merchants the right to collect royal taxes in Andover themselves. In 1256 Henry III gave the townspeople the right to hold a court and try criminals for offences committed in Andover. Andover also sent MPs to the parliaments of 1295 and 1302-1307. The town was ravaged by two serious fires, one in 1141 and another in 1435.

Andover remained a small market town. Processing wool appears to have been the main industry and street names in the area of the town known as “Sheep Fair” commemorate this. A weekly market, and an annual fair were held.

As well as the Church of St Mary the town had a priory and a hospital run by monks, dedicated to St John the Baptist, and also a lepers hostel to St Mary Magdalene. In 1538 during the Reformation Henry VIII closed the priory and the hospital. In 1571 a free school for the boys of Andover was established. This in time became Andover Grammar School, and is now John Hanson Community School.

In 1599 the town received a new charter from Elizabeth I. The merchants guild was made a corporation and the number of annual fairs was increased from one to three. Like other towns Andover suffered from outbreaks of plague. There were outbreaks in 1603-5, 1625-6 and 1636.

During the 18th century, being situated on the main ExeterSalisburyLondon road Andover became a major stopping point on the stagecoach routes, more than 30 stagecoaches passing through the town each day. In 1789 a canal to Southampton was opened, though this was never a commercial success and closed in 1859. It was replaced by a railway in the 19th century, which was closed down in 1964. The land, together with the adjacent gasworks and P. M. Coombes woodyards, were then sold to the TSB Bank who later built their headquarters there.

During the 19th century the town acquired all the usual additions, a theatre in 1803, gas street lighting in 1838, a fire station and cottage hospital in 1877, a swimming pool opened in 1885 and a recreation ground opened by Common Acre in 1887. A water company was formed in 1875 to provide piped water to the town and a system of sewers and drains was built in 1899-1902. The public library opened in 1897.

The woollen industry had declined but new industries took it place. Taskers Iron Works opened at Abbots Ann in 1809 and flourished. Andover Airfield was opened during the First World War and became the site of an RAF Staff College. During the Second World War it was the headquarters of RAF Maintenance Command. In 1932 Andover gained a new industry when the printers for Kelly’s street directories moved to the town. Slowly the town grew and by 1960 had a population of about 17,000.

In 1955 the Town Council decided it would be a good idea to add fluoride to the drinking water to improve dental health. This provoked a furious public response, and a strong anti-fluoridation campaign started. In the 1958 local elections anti-fluoridation candidates swept the board, turning out many established members, and the idea was dropped.

In 1960 the Town Council was approached by the Greater London Council to become an overspill town, to build houses and take people and industry relocated from the overcrowded capital. Some contend that had the old Town Council still been in charge this would never have been agreed. But it was, and in 1961 the plan was drawn up to expand to a population of some 47,000 by 1982, with 9,000 new homes to be built.

The first new council houses were ready by 1964 and by 1981 the population had risen to 51,000. A bypass, industrial estates and a new shopping centre were all built. and the town’s character changed completely. Major industries who moved there included Twinings the tea and coffee firm, Ducal Pine Furniture (until they closed in 2003) and Thompson International Publishers, who produce the Pitkin Guides to be found in many churches and other notable buildings. The Town Museum, based in the old grammar school, had a Museum of the Iron Age added in 1986 which houses the finds from excavations at nearby Danebury Hill Fort.

The new council houses proved to be very badly built. It seemed that the local council would have to foot the enormous bill for reconstruction, but after starting legal action against the Greater London Council a settlement was achieved, in which the GLC paid a large sum of money to the local council, who started a programme of refurbishment which finished in 1995.

Today the population of Andover is 38,000. The Town Council and Rural District Council were abolished in the local government reorganisation of 1974, and replaced by Test Valley Borough Council, which included the land down to the edge of Southampton in the south, quite a rural area apart from Andover. Light industry is still the main employer. Situated about 1 hour 20 minutes from London by train there are also quite a few who commute to the capital to work. The tensions between town and country and the “old” and “new” Andover still exist in some measure, and in the future more expansion is planned.


Andover is located at Template:Coor dms (51.2167, -1.4667)1.

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