CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Some of the unusual aspects of life in Overton

PUBLISHED: 13:31 24 November 2015 | UPDATED: 13:31 24 November 2015

Reputedly Hampshire’s largest village, Overton’s lively community spirit sparkles like the nearby River Test

Reputedly Hampshire’s largest village, Overton’s lively community spirit sparkles like the nearby River Test

Archant

Reputedly Hampshire’s largest village, Overton’s lively community spirit sparkles like the nearby River Test. Viv Micklefield takes to its picturesque streets to track down a few of the more unusual aspects of local life

Winchester RoadWinchester Road

Nestling in the heart of Watership Down country, the rich heritage found in Overton owes as much to its geography as it does to the commercial nous displayed by successive Bishops of Winchester.

With a Roman road and Anglo Saxon settlement recorded on today’s northern-most boundary, in 1208 the ecclesiastical landlord decided to build a new community to the south of the River Test whose waters later powered its corn, fulling and silk mills. Meanwhile, when Henry VIII granted the Bishop permission for a market in Winchester Road, extra income was generated for the Church which also went on to benefit from Overton’s rise as an important staging post on the London to Exeter coaching route.

According to a plaque against the library wall, the lieutenant charged with carrying the news of Lord Nelson’s victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), stayed the night at the White Hart Inn - it’s hoped that carbon dating carried out on the pub’s timbers during recent renovations will provide historians with a rich vein to tap in the search for more evidence of this fascinating village which currently numbers a population of around 5,000.

The sight of hundreds of pairs of eyes following their every move will often see many visitors do a double-take. Yet as this summer’s biennial Scarecrow Festival proved Overton’s residents and businesses alike, are a highly creative bunch with their humorous assortment of straw characters taking over the streets. A fancy dress wheelbarrow race and a grand fête are also highlights of the festival which, since 2009, has raised money for local sport and recreation facilities (more of which later). Their job done for another year, these ‘Wurzel Gummidges’ are donated to charitable causes.

And the fun doesn’t stop with scarecrows. Since the Millennium, villagers have flocked to support the four-yearly Sheepfair. Reviving a tradition which began here during the 13th century, next year’s fair on 16 and 17 July has a 1960s theme to mark another celebration of rural life.


Percy the peacock and his pal Pierre have divided village opinionPercy the peacock and his pal Pierre have divided village opinion

Striking a pose

Two peacocks, nicknamed ‘Pierre’ and ‘Percy’, have moved into the Dellands area at the top of the village. Thought to have come from a lavender farm in nearby Whitchurch and accused by some locals of disturbing the peace with their loud squawking, a plan was initially hatched to evict the colourful intruders but this was overturned by the Parish Council which has agreed that they can stay. “The peacocks divide opinion,” says clerk to the council, Laura Harley. “Lots of people really like them but a few unsuspecting residents have had a bit of surprise when they’ve landed on their roof. Apparently, peacocks don’t like water so that’s one way to keep them at bay.”

Folklore has it the peacock symbolises protection and watchfulness, and in some religions they are thought to bring luck. Who knows? The Overton peacocks might be a good omen after all.


Doubling up

Surely one of the most curious reports in recent months is that Overton is in the grip of a battle with both its Hampshire neighbour Old Basing and 13 other villages from around the country? All, it seems, are on the shortlist to be twinned with the fictitious toy town ‘Sylvania’, whose cutesy animal figurines made of flocked plastic are celebrating their 30th birthday. The winning village will be the one that best reflects the Sylvanian idyll of nature, family and love in a land filled with picture-perfect houses, lush greenery and a happy community.

Nestling in the heart of Watership Down country, the rich heritage found in Overton owes as much to its geography (photo: Adam Trickett)Nestling in the heart of Watership Down country, the rich heritage found in Overton owes as much to its geography (photo: Adam Trickett)

Overton has been a member of the Testbourne Parishes Twinning Association since 1979. Together with Barton Stacey, Laverstoke, Whitchurch and Wonston, links have been fostered with the historic town of Neuvic-sur-l’Isle in the Dordogne - the highlight of a busy social calendar is a twinning weekend.


Licence to print money

The history of banknote paper manufacturing in the Overton area started back in the 18th century, when Henry Portal, a French Huguenot, took over the lease first on Bere Mill and later Laverstoke Mill. It’s all a far cry from the high-security fencing designed to keep prying eyes out from the present site where currency for 150 countries, including Sterling, is produced.

“Portals Paper Mill needed pure water and power from the river to drive the machines to make the paper,” explains local historian Richard Waldram. “By 1922 power could be generated from electricity so operations moved to the much larger site at Overton where they also sunk deep artesian wells into the chalk.

“All of which brought great economic benefit to a village that had been in decline following the introduction of the railways. Since Portals and then De La Rue came here it’s become a prosperous place again.” Having at one time employed upwards of 600 people at the paper mill, the irony of the impending closure of Overton’s branch of HSBC bank, is not lost on many locals.


Getting a workout

Remarkably, Overton has over 30 acres of green spaces devoted to both traditional sports and many other popular leisure activities.

“The recreation centre was created by the community and kicked-off a membership scheme that began in 1966,” says committee chairman Steve Williams. “Now we have over 3,000 members and it’s quite unique for people to have that degree of ownership in their local facilities. The Town Meadow nine-hole par three golf course has been established for over 35 years, and is good for youngsters and older golfers alike.”

While with other sports clubs also hiring Overton’s pitches and pavilions, there’s no excuse for not keeping fit. 


READ ON

How a Candover Valley farm is contributing to the country’s pain relief - A Candover Valley farm is contributing to the UK’s pain relief with their pretty crops, as Jane Gazzard found out on a recent visit

Abi Elphinstone on turning the magic of the New Forest in to a bestseller - Author Abi Elphinstone has managed to turn the magic and history of the New Forest in to a children’s bestseller… Rebecca Fletcher went to meet her in her writing shed

More from Out & About

With late-night shopping, fairs, Christmas markets and plenty of food and drink, we’ve rounded up some of the best festive offerings in Hampshire

Read more
12:34

Havant a clue where to go or what to do? Here are some pointers to parks, paths and performances

Read more

With its connections to Shakesepeare and royalty, the village of Titchfield is full of surprises

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

10 of best photos of Hampshire shared on Instagram over the past week...

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

As the mellow fruitfulness of autumn takes hold across the New Forest, what could be better than spending a few days in and around Lyndhurst? We take a tour and come up with our top 8

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Hampshire is full of autumnal scenes this month, so we asked the county’s photographers to share their secret spots for stunning vistas

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Hampshire this month

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Remember, remember… Here’s a quick round up of some stunning displays across Hampshire this year

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

Is this the ultimate city break? Winchester has it all: from ancient history to space exploration, plus cafes, cocktails, culture and countryside… But with so much to do, choices are going to have to be made

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

Our guide to some of the best Halloween events on offer across Hampshire this October

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

The community shop is thriving. Why? And what makes the perfect village store? We went in search…

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

From Jane Austen to Karl Marx, our towns and villages have fascinating links to some of the biggest historical celebrities. Viv Micklefield follows in their footsteps with the help of a blue plaque or two

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We round up 8 things you didn’t know about this little South Downs village

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Enjoy some easy walking around the Lymington to Keyhaven Nature Reserve says Fiona Barltrop

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory



Property Search