My Home Town – Aldershot
This is an interesting blog for me to write, for two reasons, the first is that it will be turned into a talk for my Children’s school ( we live in Spain, the talk is for their culture week) and secondly because by researching this piece I have found a huge amount of pride for the town I grow up in, which to be fair I didn’t know I had.
Growing up, my house always felt like home but Aldershot didn’t.
I was a child from a non-military family, who had little knowledge or understanding about what a lot of the local people were going through. Family members spending months at a time away from home or not returning home.
The bomb scares that would see the Wellington centre (the towns covered shopping centre) evacuated at regular intervals, scared me.
I had heard about the bomb that had killed seven people in 1972. This was a very real threat with the conflict in Northern Ireland still very much active. Most people including my Mum would still try to pay for her shopping before leaving, rather than abandon it in the middle of the store and leave immediately.The threats became a normal way of life, just something that happened, just a threat. Thankfully they never did blow up the Wellington centre, they did turn out to be just threats.
Aldershot is situated in Hampshire, 60km southwest of London.
The name Aldershot comes from old English.
Alder – because of the alder trees
shot-old English for copses (woods)
Aldershot is referred to all the way back to the Domesday book in 1086.
(the Domesday book is a record of all extent, value and land ownership in 1086)
St Michaels Parish Church, was built in the 12th century, starting with the bell tower.
The Church has been added to over the centuries, to accommodate the growing population.
The Church has been an important part of Aldershot history ever since. It continues to be busy with Weddings, Christening and funerals, as well as everyday church activities. It also has an infant and junior school attached and named after it. Both I attended.
The church has many story’s that surround it.
Stories of the 19th Century body snatcher who would appear in the dead of night to dig up the freshly laid bodies to sell to medical schools for the teaching of anatomy to medical students.
Rumour has it that there is a Royal baby buried within its grave yard, under a tree. The child was a still born baby of King Charles II and his long term mistress Nell Gwynn. It is also said that the king gave the church £200 for their assistance, yet no record has been found.
This stunning house is said to be where the baby was born, whilst Nell Gwynn was enroute between London to Plymouth.
The house must have many secrets to tell.
It is said that during the 1730’s the Famous Highway man
Dick Turpin was in operation in the area,
on the route between London and Winchester.
His base was in nearby Farnborough in a camp called Bagman’s Castle.
Aldershot became ‘The Home of the British Army’ when the first permanent army training camp was set up at the time of the Crimean War in 1854.
The Crimean War seems to be a turning point for Aldershot where temporary shelters started to turn into permanent ones and a small village starts to become a town with all many forms of entertainment.
Aldershot is lucky to have the statue of The Duke of Wellington.The statue started life above Green Park Arch, London in 1846. At the time it was the largest equestrian statue in the Britain.
It moved to Hyde Park Corner, but Queen Victoria said it ruined her view from Buckingham Palace. She was not alone with her dislike of the statue it was widely considered to be an eyesore.
In 1883 it was placed into stored and remained there for two years until finally being erected where it stands today in 1885, thanks to the then Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VII.
Who suggested to the Queen that the army would value the statue.
The Late 1800’s was a busy time for Aldershot.
Seeing the military population grow to around 9000 troops in 1861.
A Theatre was built called the Hippodrome in the late 1850
The Concert Hall was the largest for miles around with seating for a thousand people.
It played host to the famous acts of the day, with variety shows, pantomimes and later a cinema.
Sadly Aldershot lost this beautiful building in 1961, when it was declared that the dry rot was beyond repair.
Another stunning building was to arrive in Aldershot in 1863
The Royal Garrison Church
Thankfully this still is not only standing but in use today.
This shows a military Parade, Parades are still carried out here.
Every St.Georges Day all the local Scout and Guides have a special service and march into the church. It was always are very great honour if you carried the flag for your troop, which I did on a few occasions.
It really is a stunning building, that Aldershot is lucky to have.
Enjoy this clip of Remembrance Day service inside the church.
End of part 1
Part 2 another look back at the importance of events in Aldershot.