SO, HERE we go, 2021 – what does it hold for family and local historians? Certainly, there has been a lot of time to contemplate future projects, to research ideas and lay plans. And it’s one of the great assets of exploring archives that every question generates many more - it’s a form of ‘pyramid learning’.

Already there are signs that many local history projects will bear fruit in the coming months, and no doubt many more are simmering away in the background.

As ever, the members of Romsey Local History Society are working at a range of topics. Phoebe Merrick is trawling through the Romsey Advertiser during the war years and coming up with some fascinating stories. It’s meticulously done and a model for newspaper research anywhere.

The difference between healthcare then and now (in normal times!) is obvious from a report on the Romsey and District Hospital Contributory Scheme published on March 1, 1940. It was in trouble, as people serving in the Forces could not contribute. Addressing the meeting, which was smaller than usual due to the black-out, Dr E.S. Rose said: “There was no doubt that without the Scheme there would be no hospital.”

Also at Romsey, Karen Anderson is using digitised mapping in conjunction with Saxon charters, geological data and LiDAR (mapping with reflected light from lasers) to unravel the history of the valley of the River Test. Using a geographical information system (QGIS) she has been able to identify features of the landscape that are not apparent from conventional maps or fieldwork. This is overturning many of the previous ideas on the development of the town before the Norman Conquest.

Work at Alresford is progressing on a new history of the town, Alresford Through Time, edited by Professor Brian Tippett. It will break new ground and benefit from the large amount of material published over the years by the Alresford Literary and Historical Society. The town and its history were the subject of a recent Community Archive Forum talk by Glenn Gilbertson. Organised by the Hampshire Archives Trust and the Hampshire Field Club, it is now posted, together with others, on the HFC YouTube channel.

In the coming year the Community Archive Forum are planning more talks –on Publishing Local History, Making Local History Films, the Hampshire Magistracy, Running a Local History Project and other subjects. Details are available in the e-Newsletter of the Hampshire Archives Trust (

On July 3 and 4, veteran vehicles will re-enact Ellis Journey, the first authenticated journey in a motor vehicle in the country, made between Micheldever Station and Datchet in 1895 by the Hon. Evelyn Ellis and his passenger Frederick Simms.

The Christchurch History Society continues to tell the story of this interesting town now in Dorset, but with a long history in Hampshire. It has an impressive list of publications, much on the Second World War, when the area was the focus for activity in the lead-up to D-Day. One little-known fact is that in 1845, in the Bargates area of Christchurch, William Hart set up a factory to make the fusee chain used in antique clocks.

In 1954 the local Military Experimental Engineering Establishment laid a tarmac runway on the local airfield, which was used by the De Havilland Aircraft Company to develop jet fighters and the Airspeed Ambassador airliner.

Geoff Bush, who edits the Christchurch History Society Journal, has recently uncovered an intriguing plan floated in the mid-1880s to run a railway between Wimborne and Hengistbury Head. It was never realised, but would have involved blocking up the natural harbour entrance – the Run, famed for its salmon – and making another.

The Worthys Local History Group, centred in the upper Itchen valley, has recently produced a crop of new publications (available from: – including one by Peter Finn on Headbourne Worthy and another by Robin Greenwood on the Winchester racecourse. From the same stable is Traditional Houses of the Worthy Villages by Bill Fergie and Edward Roberts, experts on timber-framed buildings. This beautifully illustrated book, supported by a grant from the Hampshire Archives Trust, will sell out quickly.

The Ropley History Network and Archive is making a survey of ‘colonial Bungalows’ in the area before the few remaining examples of these characterful buildings disappear.

They were simple structures constructed on a wooden frame, with a brick chimney and clad in sheet steel, the brainchild of William Carter (1852–1920) of Parkstone. He made his fortune in property in the USA and then returned to England to set up a company with the ideological aim of allowing ordinary people to possess their own house and garden.

By 1911 there where eighteen or so colonial bungalows in the Stapley Lane area of Ropley, mostly occupied by people from London. Other examples can be seen in the nearby village of Gundleton, locally called ‘Tin Town’.

David Lee, the former manager of the Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA) held by the Hampshire Record Office, has written a User’s Guide that will be made available later in the year. Huge resources from about 1850 for photography and 1900 for film and audio are available to inform and enliven the work of historians.

Those who remember ration books in World War Two will recognise these sturdily stapled items issued by the government to allow individuals to get enough basic food to live on. The buyers had to register with specific shops for each category of food. The pages were divided into squares of various colours and the shopkeeper had to cut out enough coupons to cover the order from each customer.

There is one pressing question. What did the shopkeeper do with the accumulated coupons?

Tom Clague, whose father ran a bakery and grocery shop in Upham in the 1950s, recalls: “In the evening we would all sit round and sort out this mass of paper. But what on earth Dad did with it I have no idea.”

Perhaps someone has an answer to kick off the New Year.

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