Alresford has been attracting people for centuries due to its clear chalk streams, watercress farms, and wool markets. Pastel-colored Georgian houses can be seen today with their original 13th-century cellars. It is a delightful place to plan a weekend getaway or partake in afternoon tea while checking out many historical sites.
Alresford is known throughout the UK as the watercress capital. Due to the watercress farming in the area, the name of its steam railway is the Watercress Line which is a fun way to see the natural landscape of this region of England.
Alresford is the No. 1 “Favorite Market Town,’ in the southeast. What makes it so unique is the specialty shops selling antiques, gifts, food, clothes, and stores offering collectible books, dishware, pictures, and crafts. In addition, Alresford is a perfect place for strolling the streets, window shopping, and enjoying a watercress scone with a cup of English tea in the afternoon.
St. Mary the Virgin Church
Located in Old Alresford is the historical St. Mary the Virgin Church, built in the 18th Century on the foundations of the old manor house and home to one of Nelson’s greatest admirals, Rodney. It is noted that the church appears in the Doomsday census.
During our visit, the church was open to roam about freely.
Old Alresford Place
At the corner, opposite the church of Old Alresford, is a large country house, the Winchester Diocesan Retreat and Conference house (Old Alresford Place), serving the community for three centuries as the Rectory.
The Watercress Line
Experience the nostalgic steam train ride, traveling through 10 miles of beautiful Hampshire countryside. The Watercress Line travels between Alresford and Alton. The fares give you an all-day travel experience so you can visit all four heritage stations with period charm and these historic towns.
- Departure: 11:00, 11:45, 13:00, 13:45; Ride takes approximately 1.5 – 2 hours round trip
- Admission: Online Booking: £20; at the ticket counter, £24
St. John the Baptist Church
Standing in the center of New Alresford is St. John’s Baptist Church, built in 1851. The church is known from the Domesday Book that a church was in New Alresford after the Norman Conquest.
The elegant Neo-Georgian country house with highly distinctive gardens was rebuilt by its last owner, Ralph Dutton, after a fire in 1960.
The lovely home has beautifully decorated rooms with exquisite ceramics and art collections. Throughout the home are stories of items that tell about the people of the past.
The grandson of John Dutton, Ralph, inherited Hinton Ampner in 1935. He began a lengthy remodeling project to convert the house into a more comfortable home.
As the remodeling began, uncovering the original Georgian structure beneath the Victoria alterations gave it a whole new look of the 18th Century. The interior walls were retained, and he reduced the number of rooms, leaving the first floor with seven bedrooms and a generous number of bathrooms.
With the threat of war increasing, it was becoming difficult to source materials, so Ralph could not complete the remodeling project, so he went ahead and moved in 1938.
The gardens are something to see as well. Plan a picnic and make your visit a half-day visit.
- Times: Daily 10:00 – 17:00
- Admission: Adult £13.20
Old Alresford Pond
Created by Bishop de Lucy, Bishop of Winchester, in the 12th Century, the Old Alresford Pond is a large shallow lake that attracts numerous wetland birds. Here you will find watercress beds, which have long been of ornithological interest.
The Millennium Trail
If you want to get your steps in, take on the Millennium Trail and follow the footpath around the town, where you can read illustrated boards that give you information on the history of Alresford. The walk is about one mile and is suitable for wheelchair users.
You can pick up a map at the Station Information Office, the library, and many of the shops with Alresford have it available.
A little over a mile outside of Alresford in the woodland valley sits the Eel House. Eel House straddles the cascading, River Alre. The Harris family commissioned this modest clay-tiled roof home dating from the 1820s.
The purpose of its strategic location was to trap eels. Every year, between August and November, eels set off from the Old Alresford Pond, traveling with the current of the Alre River to the Itchen River and finally to the English Channel.
The house has three channels running beneath, with an iron grill used to trap the eels in the water. The river keeper would set the traps and maneuver his live catch into a boat-shaped eel box.
The house has been restored and is one of England’s most unique places to visit.
- Hours: 11:00 – 17:00
- Admission: Free
This regal Elizabethan Manor House, set at the end of a long driveway overlooking the local church, is best known as Jane Austen’s homestead.
It was bequeathed to Edward Austen, the brother of the famous author Jane Austen in the 1800s. It was thought that she visited here frequently as she lived less than a mile away.
Today, the house is operated by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust as a museum. For the past 70 years, parts of the house have been restored to their original design when Austen lived in the home. Inside the home are special collections from Jane Austen, such as jewelry, first edition books of Jane’s, furniture, textiles, and the table she did most of her writing.
- Hours: Check the website for details on hours.
- Admission: Adult £12
Villages Outside of Alresford
St. John the Evangelist
The church of St.John the Evangelist Northington was commissioned by the 4th Lord Ashurton and his wife, Leonora. St. John’s was built between 1888 and 1890.
The tower contains a separate bell ringer’s room containing seven bells dating back to 1602. The church comprises magnificent stone and wooden carvings, with an ornate domed ceiling.
The Grange at Northington
The stunning Grange, a neo-classical building with giant pillars, is tucked away in Northington, built by William Wilkins between 1809-1816, who transformed a modest 17th-century brick building into something more like an Ancient Greek temple.
From the front of the house, you can look down across the green landscape to the rolling hills of the English countryside that lead down to the river.
Today, you can stay at Grange Park, offering fully furnished homes, gardens, lake cottages, an apartment at the Clock Tower, or campsites.
The Grange is available for weddings, conferences, or other special events. Also, you may find that people use these elegant, decorated homes for movie sets in filmmaking.
During the summer, the neoclassical buildings burst into life with a mix of opera fans attending The Grange Festival.
Bombay Sapphire Distillery
One of our favorite tours we experienced was the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. Gin making has a long history in England. One of the main ingredients, juniper, combined with alcohol, has been used as a herbal medicine in England since 70 AD. In the late 1600s, gin production was on the upswing in England due to The Corn Laws, giving tax breaks on spirit production.
The tour begins in Turbine Bar, where you can choose a Bombay gin to make your complimentary gin & tonic before heading to the cinema room to learn about the distillery.
Hour host guided us into the beautiful botanical glasshouse filled with all the plants used in making gin. Then you will visit the Dry Room, where you can smell the different flavorings used to create the flavors you taste when drinking gin. Finally, you will walk through the distillation process which makes Bombay Sapphire gin.
- Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:00 – 18:00, Friday – Sunday 10:00 – 20:00
- Admission: Adult £20
Alresford offers spectacular scenery, plenty of sightseeing options, and excellent dining experiences.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.