WHEN Alresford Town Council recently asked local resident Godfrey Andrews to make a photographic record of the town during lockdown he was only too pleased to oblige. His website Alresford Heritage now has a tab “CORONAVIRUS 2020” with 150 new images added to its gallery of more than 2,000.

It all started about 48 years ago when he was given a small collection of postcards by an aunt. They showed views of Alresford, some from the early 1900s, and sparked off a quest that has never stopped. Visiting postcard fairs around the region and later keeping an eye on online auction sites he found huge numbers of pictures on this one small town, where his family has lived since the 1700s.

Since then his collection has continued to grow, often helped with contributions from local people and chance finds. Now, almost 50 years later, he has more than 2,000 images of the town and surrounding villages.

He said: “When I started to collect you could get cards that were really cheap, whereas now they can be more than £100 each, especially for World War I views. There are so many different ones because postcards were the emails of the day. People jotted a few lines on the back to say they were coming to visit or just to contact family and friends.

“The amazing thing is that the pictures are so good. A 100 years ago there 3 or 4 local photographers who would spend the whole day taking pictures. It was much easier without all the cars and lorries around. They would get the whole staff of a shop to come outside and have their photo taken. They were recording history. Today, urban photography has almost died out.”

Local photographers included Frank Newell, born in Brixton, who later came to live in Alresford at 2 May View, West Street. Claude Hunt took pictures before World War I and then ran a tobacconist shop in the town. Another active photographer in the area was Henry G. Osborne, who had a studio at 1 East Street, Alresford.

Godfrey was fortunate to have the necessary skills to work on pictures that were in poor condition. Apprenticed in the print industry his job involved all aspects of graphics, layout and pre-press preparation. Using specialist software he often spends hours restoring pictures and making “a nice looking image”. He thereby creates intellectual rights, even though the original pictures are generally out of copyright.

The range of pictures on the Alresford Heritage site is amazing for a town which only really has three main streets. The first impression is how dirty everything was 100 years ago – no tarmac and horses and carts with all that they entail! In West Street an early view of the Bell Hotel boasts a “motor house with inspection pit”, another shows the mineral water manufacturer F.C. Bachelor delivering lemonade to Mrs Jane Crooks restaurant. By 1905 the post office is already served by a Royal Mail lorry.

Broad Street at the turn of the last century was lined on each side with a fine avenue of trees. A view of 1930 shows a mere sprinkling of tiny cars and on the east side at the top were Richardson, dispensing chemist, and Chas Eddols, drapery, clothing and boot store.

The collection not only covers Alresford itself, but also all the surrounding villages, from Abbotstone to Four Marks to Wield and the Worthys. The town’s past is paraded in a section devoted to local advertisements from the 1920s to modern times.

The success of the collection is evident from the many enquires Godfrey receives. He said: “In a week I generally get a couple of dozen emails – often from architects restoring old buildings or even from the council considering new developments.”

For more information visit: www.alresfordheritage.co.uk, or www.hampshirearchivestrust.co.uk.

Barry Shurlock