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Aldershot Park Walk History Notes

  1. Introduction

    Aldershot along with Farnborough and Cove was one of the three historic villages in our borough. The name may have derived from the name of Alder trees common in this area, perhaps suggesting that it was a wet boggy place The area of North Hampshire, where Aldershot is situated, was once part of the old English administrative area known as the Hundred1 of Crondall. Before the coming of the army in 1854, Aldershot was described as a delightful and picturesque village consisting of the Manor and St Michael’s church, on and adjacent to the current Manor Park.

  2. Aldershot Park Park in winter

    There is evidence that the original manor in Aldershot Park dates back to the early medieval times. This manor was acquired in the 16th century by the White family (Sir John White) who were originally traders in wool then known as Merchants of the Staple.

    In 1599 Robert White, son of Sir John, died without male heirs, and his estates were left to his two daughters (Ellen the wife of Richard Tichborne, and Mary the wife of Walter Tichborne, brother of Richard), and hence through marriage the manor passed to the Tichborne family. (Sir Walter Tichborne). Eventually in 1670 the Tichbornes (Sir Richard Tichborne) decided to build a new dwelling leading to the construction of the manor house in Manor Park which is still standing. St Michael’s church, Aldershot, contains monuments to both of the daughters of Richard Tichbourne.

    The Aldershot park estate was acquired in 1840 by Charles Barron who built a large Victorian residence know as Aldershot Place, on the site of the original manor.

    The land of Aldershot Place, as it was then called, was acquired by the council in 1920 (Aldershot Urban District Council) and part was used for the building of the Park estate of council housing, and part retained as a public park. The Charles Barron house, now known as the Mansion was, at first, divided into flats but later in the 1960s was demolished to make way for Place Court sheltered accommodation. Existing photographs of this house show it to be a rather grand Victorian mansion.

    The council decided to convert the fish pond, of the mansion into a bathing pool and this was one of the council's major improvement projects of the 1920s. At this time the pond was overgrown with weeds, the banks were crumbling and it was overhung by surrounding trees. A nearby old house was demolished, the lake was drained, considerable excavations were made, and the pool provided with the necessary filtering plant, dressing rooms and other amenities, including the pleasant lawns and terraces around the pool, at a cost of nearly £20,000. The Aldershot Lido was reputed to be "the largest and finest open-air bathing pool in the country". Opened in the spring of 1930, it contained one and a half million gallons of water and covered some 10 acres of leisure area adjacent to the current Aldershot Park. In 1948 the pool hosted the Modern Pentathlon of the XIV Olympiad (Gold Medallist Captain William Grut of the Swedish Artillery).

    Some of the lands nearby, including Runfold, Badshot Lea and parts of Seale and Tongham, were variously acquired by Henry Tice, Walter Tice, his widow Ada Hewett, and Alan Perrett Tice from 1851 until 1958. There name is remembered in Tice’s Meadow housing estate.

  3. Blackwater River

    The River Blackwater, which rises in Rowhill copse, flows for 33km (21 miles) in an arc from Aldershot to Swallowfield, where it joins the river Loddon. The river flows mostly across gravel terraces, and sites adjacent have been extensively worked for gravel extraction. The river, which has no great slope, traditionally meandered through a pleasant rural landscape of small meadows and pastures, with much of the area close to the river liable to flooding. In the past much of the surrounding sandy area, such as the Ash ranges or Aldershot Common would have been heath lands and commons supporting perhaps rough grazing only. The coming of the army first stimulated growth in this area and this growth has continued to this day, with much of the farming areas bordering the Blackwater having since been built over.

    Development beside the Blackwater had largely despoiled this traditional rural area, with much urban development, becoming the back yard of local industry, the place of abandoned land fill tips, such as at Hollybush Lane, of worked out gravel and the siting for many sewage stations to serve the expanding adjacent housing expansion. The oxygen levels in the water were low, and in general the river was in danger of becoming dead and a blot on the landscape within the increasing urban development of adjacent areas of Hampshire and Surrey.

    In the 1960s plans were developed to build a new road, the A331, to link the M3 motor way with the A31 at the hogs back, and in part bypass the A325 in its route through Farnborough, past Aldershot and onto Hale.

    Three County Councils, Hampshire Surrey and Berkshire, which boarder the river, became aware of the situation and commissioned a report, Blackwater River Valley Landscape Restoration & Recreation Strategy, which was published in 1971. It advocated major landscaping, restoration and the development of planning policies to prevent the urban centres melding together. It also recognised the recreational potential of the area and recommended that future development should be based around both water- and land-based leisure activities. The concept of a ‘Blackwater Valley’ was born. In 1979 the Blackwater Valley Project was established to co-ordinate action and work began to dramatically improve the area’s blighted landscape and turn it into a green corridor to benefit both local people and wildlife. From these beginnings the Blackwater path, the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, Blackwater trust and the Black water conservation volunteers were established. During the development of the road, and since, landscaping and tree planting has been undertaken beside the new road, and many new nature reserves established beside the black water. It has become a local Urban green corridor of major significance.

  4. Gas Works

    This was founded in 1865 as the Aldershot Gas Consumers' Company, and situated on the corner of North Lane and Ash road. After several changes of name it became part of the nationalized gas industry as the Aldershot and District Gas Undertaking (Southern Gas Board) in 1949.The buildings were demolished in 1965.

    The No. 4 gas holder, which was built 1926-7, was unusually tall; being a 212 ft. steel structure, with a capacity of 3,000,000 cubic feet, and for many years was a local landmark until its recent demolition.

    A short railway branch line was laid from Tongham station to serve the Aldershot Gas Works in 1898, and continued in use until 1954.

  5. Tongham Station

    This station was opened in 1849 on the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) as one of two intermediate stops on a now closed section of the Guildford to Alton line (the other being at Ash Green). In the early days of the Aldershot army camp, Tongham station was important, as a close railhead for the military. However with the opening of a more direct line to Aldershot from Pirbright junction (1870) on the London to Southampton line, and the laying of a spur to Aldershot, from the Ash to Guildford line (1879), Tongham station diminished in importance.

    Passenger services ceased in 1937, and the line through the station completely closed in 1960. The station is now completely demolished and part of the route was used for the new A331, and part remains as a footpath.

  6. Ammunition train Incident 1940

    Two railway men, George Keen and George Leach saved a major disaster happening after an ammunition train that had been hit by German incendiary bombs on the night of the 22nd August 1940, and part of it caught fire. The ammunition train had been standing in sidings near Grange farm Tongham for some days previously. It is said that they first gathered a working party from members of the local home guards and local firemen. Then by uncoupling the untouched trucks and pushing then to safety, they prevented what could have been a much greater catastrophe. For their bravery both men were awarded the George Cross. Regrettable nine months after the event, George Keen died and was unable to collect his medal in person.

  7. Tongham Community Wood Fruit

    Originally part of much larger woodland, the site was bought by Surrey County Council as part of the Backwater Valley Road scheme. Initially tree planting was undertaken on either side of the old woodland to alleviate the impact of the road and enhance the landscape of the area, but the site was then neglected. In 2002 a community volunteer group, known as the Tongham Wood Improvement Group was set up to restore the site. Today the area has multi-user surfaced paths, a wildflower walk, butterfly glades, grassed play area, semi-natural secondary woodland and an old orchard and is much used by the local residents. The volunteer group continues to manage this site with support from Partnership staff.

  8. Aldershot Stadium, Oxenden Road, Tongham - 1950 to 1992

    The Aldershot Stadium at Oxenden Road Tongham existed from the 1950s until the final meeting on 21 November 1992. Immediately after this date the site was cleared for construction of the A331. The Stadium hosted Greyhound racing and Stock Car events and a British League motorcycle speedway team from 1950 to 1960.

  9. Tongham Pool Tongham Pool

    Tongham Pool was formed through gravel extraction for the construction of the Blackwater Valley Relief Road (A331), which runs along the east side of the site. Since then the site has been restored as an area with public access and features for nature conservation. The shallow lake margins are ideal for wildfowl and various water plants. The site is also populated by damselflies and dragonflies. Scenically, with the Hogs-back in the background, the serene waters of the pool, and the surrounding reeds and colourful flowers, provides a delightful setting for a pleasant stroll on a warm summer’s day.

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