If you visit Jane Austen’s house in Winchester, at No 8 College Street, you’ll see a plaque on the wall of the straw-coloured building, where Jane Austen spent the last few weeks of her life in 1817.
The plaque reads: In this house Jane Austen lived her last days and died. 18th July 1817.
A plaque like this shows Jane Austen’s connection with Winchester and the local people. The plaque is an important historical marker.
In Chandler’s Ford, where are our historical markers?
If you walk along Hursley Road, near Cuckoo Bushes Lane, you’ll see a few interesting street signs. They remind you of 3 particular people in Chandler’s Ford, Dr. Gardner, Mr. Morley and Miss Laidlaw.
The main sign reads: Gardner Way, Leading to Laidlaw Gardens & Morley Gardens. Dr. Gardner was one of the early Doctors practicing in Chandler’s Ford area circa 1890.
Dr. Gardner was mentioned in the memoir by Captain A. A. Fortune, who recorded the growth of Chandler’s Ford from a hamlet to a village by 1897. This book was published in around 1970. On page 12, Captain Fortune wrote about his family doctor.
“The first doctor in Chandlers Ford was a Dr. Gardener (sic) who lived at Eastleigh in the Leigh Road at a surgery which has been in existence for many years. In the early 1890’s he used to ride a bicycle to Chandlers Ford two or three times a week and attend many families in the area, when required.”
According to local historian, Barbara Hillier, in her popular book, The Chandler’s Ford Story – from earliest times to the 21st century (2005), a book with editorial and technical support from Gerald Ponting, the first school in Chandler’s Ford was opened in 1881. Barbara Hillier wrote, “Miss Isabel Laidlaw was engaged as the first schoolmistress at a salary of £50 per annum.”
This sign reads: Laidlaw Gardens. Isabel Laidlaw was the first Teacher to arrive in Chandler’s Ford circa 1881.
A few yards from the Laidlaw Gardens sign, you’ll see a sign for Morley Gardens. It reads: Mr. Morley was the first licensee of the Station Hotel (later known as The Monks Brook) Hursley Road circa 1898.
I asked my friend Alex from Ahmad Tea what a licensee was. Alex explained to me that a licensee is like a business tenant. He wrote, “The licensor, usually a brewery in the old days, owned a pub. It licensed a ‘landlord’ to run the pub. There would be an agreement between the licensee (‘landlord’) and the brewery (licensor). The licensee would probably have to pay a fixed rent plus a variable %. The licensee was known to the public as the ‘landlord’, which was a bit of a misnomer, because he was generally actually a tenant. Often licensees were only allowed to sell the brewery’s own beer. Some pubs were ‘free houses’. That meant they could sell anyone’s beer.”
In the same book mentioned earlier, The Chandler’s Ford Story, Barbara Hillier also mentioned a hotel called The Railway Hotel. The Railway Hotel is now the Monk’s Brook. She wrote that the hotel was built in 1898 and the first landlord was Mr. Morley.
However, if you look closer, you’ll find this sign isn’t quite historically accurate. It actually renamed The Railway Hotel to Station Hotel. I wondered if this sign would be updated. Surely if you want to reflect local history to inform the future generation, the fact has to be accurate?
You can buy the book, The Chandler’s Ford Story, by Barbara Hillier and Gerald Ponting, on Amazon.
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