10 things you didn’t know about Stockbridge

PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 June 2020

Stockbridge Illustration: Lucy Atkinson

Stockbridge Illustration: Lucy Atkinson

Archant

A favoured destination for royals and fly fishermen, Stockbridge is home to a multitude of stories.

A BIT ABOUT STOCKBRIDGE

If the selection of boutique stores and eateries don’t hook you, Stockbridge’s angling and racing heritage will. Just ten miles northeast of Winchester on the River Test, the town has impressive royal connections – King Edward I stayed in August 1294, as did the ill-fated King James II, as he travelled to meet William of Orange’s army – he dined at the former Swan Inn in November 1688.

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THE WORLD’S POSHEST FISHING CLUB?

It’s the most exclusive trout fishing club you’ve probably never heard of, but even money can’t buy you into The Houghton. Membership of The Houghton, which was founded in 1822 and is understood to own 13 miles of fishing rights on the Test, is every fly fisherman’s dream. There are said to be 25 lucky members whose number is alleged by some to include Prince Charles.

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THE LOST RACECOURSE

The first race on the Houghton Down racecourse took place around 1755. Stockbridge Races were described as “among the pleasantest of the whole season”. One year the future King Edward VII’s horse Counterpane came last in the Stockbridge Cup before dying and having souvenier hunters yank out “every hair of its tail”. The course closed in 1898 after part of its straight mile was inherited by a woman who disagreed with gambling.

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THE KING’S MISTRESS

Edward Prince of Wales and Lillie Langtry were seen a deux at Stockbridge Racecourse during their 1877-80 courtship, which probably influenced Lillie’s decision to buy a stable in 1885. She became involved in racing – winning under the name Mr Jersey. Lillie lived for a time in a house on the High Street, now called Stockbridge House. It is Grade II-listed and is quaintly described by Historic England as formerly a “place of ill-repute”.

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EAT AND DRINK

Stockbridge is a foodies’ paradise with an abundance of fab places to eat and drink. The Greyhound on the Test has a reputation for amazing food. Run by indefatigable patron Lucy Townsend you’ll be tempted with everything from Hampshire topside of beef, to rhubarb and vanilla cheesecake, with an emphasis on artisan and local. Prego Deli in the High Street is also highly rated and boasts a popular monthly dining club.

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RACEHORSE REMEMBERED

How many race horses can boast their very own memorial in a village church? Clop forward The Tetrarch, who is depicted with rider Steve Donoghue in a roundel in St Peter’s Church, above the door to the vestry. Tetrarch, a large Irish grey, won his debut race and won the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom in 1913. He won further races at Royal Ascot and Sandown that year, all at two years old. He was retired to stud a year later.

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ILLUSTRIOUS MEMORIAL

Stockbridge’s war memorial was designed by none other than Sir Edward Lutyens, the Edwardian architect who created The Cenotaph in Whitehall, as well as the Thiepval Memorial in Europe and the distinctive Commonwealth War Graves. Unveiled in 1921 and Grade II listed, the memorial was commissioned by landowner Herbert Johnson for whom Lutyens had designed nearby Marsh Court.

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WHAT’S GOING ON

The town has its own regular cinema screenings and, unsurprisingly, there are a number of clubs and facilities offering day rods enabling fly-fishers to tackle one of the world’s most renowned river stretches. Stockbridge FC has a proud history, starting in 1894 and continuing until this day with a string of strong teams. The club, which played in the FA Vase last season, is based at the Recreation Ground in the heart of the village.

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THE LIGHT (NOT SO) FANTASTIC

On a night before Christmas in 2017 a crowd was gathered to watch Piers Morgan and local adventurer and hotelier Alex Lewis turn on Stockbridge’s Christmas lights. But something went wrong and the clip of a nonplussed Piers standing in the semi-light went viral. The Good Morning Britain presenter took it in good part but was subjected to endless ribbing from his TV co-host Susanna Reid.

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STOCKBRIDGE SECRETS

Hard to believe it now but this charming town was once a ‘rotten borough’ – wily politicians donated the town hall building as a bribe to locals in the 1700s. Its extra wide High Street was a former through route for drovers bringing their sheep and cattle from the west. The village was also known for tanning, the making of parchment and a clockmaker called Eack, whose beautiful longcase clocks had faces depicting a ship in full sail.

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