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10 things you didn’t know about Odiham

PUBLISHED: 11:16 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:16 20 November 2018

Illustration by Lucy Atkinson

Illustration by Lucy Atkinson

Archant

This thriving community in North Hampshire is a desirable location for residents and visitors alike

The sporting life

Those who enjoy the sporting life are spoiled for choice. There are tennis courts in Buryfields off Chamberlain gardens, and Odiham and Greywell Cricket Club meet at their ground on King Street. Their first recorded match was in 1764! The bowling club was established in 1985 and welcomes many members. And Hook and Odiham Rugby Club topped the Waterfall Solent 3 in 2018.

 

Getting around

Only a few miles from Junction 5 of the M3, Odiham sits between Basingstoke and Fleet. If you’re visiting by car, sat nav RG29 1LP is the address which will get you to the centre. The village doesn’t have its own train station, the nearest being in Hook, which has services to London Waterloo every half an hour. The number 13 Stagecoach bus service goes to Hook, Alton and Basingstoke.

 

Culture clubs

Odiham Society keeps its eye on village developments and there’s a thriving Art Group with around 135 members who meet regularly for talks, workshops and exhibitions. The Bury, the village heart with its church and pub was the original venue for fairs and get-togethers and the tradition has continued, with markets, jazz concerts and carol singing. The village is also home to the Libélula fashion label, designed by Sophie Cranston.

 

Lucky escape

Despite being a major target, RAF Odiham was never bombed in the war which is probably due to the skill and heroics of the defending pilots. But it’s also rumoured that after being invited to open the airfield in 1937, General Erhard Milch, chief of staff of the Luftwaffe, was reputedly so impressed he was said to have told Hitler: “When we conquer England, Odiham will be my air headquarters,” and ordered his pilots not to bomb it!

 

Eye for design

Thanks to the interior and garden designer Nicky Haslam, who rents it from the National Trust, the 1740s Hunting Lodge on the Dogmersfield Park Estate near Odiham has become one of the UK’s most photographed houses. Rumoured to have been the meeting place of Catherine of Aragon and her first husband, Prince Arthur, it was also home to another designer of enormous repute; John Fowler of Colefax & Fowler.

 

Foodie offerings

The George Inn is generally accepted as the birthplace of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which is as impressive as the menu at Bel and the Dragon which now lives there. Check out, too, The Red Lion, ‘Newcomer of the Year’ in our 2017 Food and Drink Awards. The Grapevine Bistro serves up gourmet delights; and the Wild Carrot, at the Four Seasons Hotel at Dogmersfield, does a famed Farmer’s Market Sunday Lunch.

 

Sense of history

King John is said to have rode out from Odiham castle on June 10 1215, to meet baronial leaders on the water meadows of Runnymede, birthplace of the Magna Carta. During the Napoleonic Wars French prisoners were detained in the village, and the graves of two lie beside the north wall of All Saints church. War itself came to the village on October 18 1940, when a lone German bomber circled Odiham before dropping bombs and then machine-gunning and killing five civilians. A plaque to mark the terrible event can still be seen in the High Street.

 

Country vibes

Its wide, welcoming High Street is instantly recognisable and the restaurants and boutiques which cater for its energetic residents attract many visitors too. They may be working at nearby RAF Odiham, commuting to London, or they may be downsizing retirees, keen to base themselves in what’s been described as ‘a miniature county town’. Who could blame them when Odiham has its own castle, canal, and impressive stock of ancient property; from Monk’s Cottage at 111 the High Street dating from 1300, to a Pest House and even an old set of stocks.

 

Odiham’s finest

On April 6 1916 William Addison, Temporary Chaplain of the Forces, 4th Class, ‘carried a wounded man to the cover of a trench, and assisted several others to the same cover after binding up their wounds under heavy fire. In addition, by his splendid example, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.’ Addison, who was educated in Odiham at Robert May’s Grammar School,  was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on August 3 1917. He is buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

 

Famous match

Forget the Rumble in the Jungle, one of the world’s most famous boxing matches took place in Odiham. The first of three bouts between Daniel Mendoza and Richard Humphries was played out on January 9 1788, on a specially-erected stage. Humphries narrowly won, but Mendoza took the best of the three fights which sparked an ‘explosion of interest’ in the noble art, not just among his fellow Jews, but the country as well. Cartoons of the bout are held by the National Gallery and commemorative jugs, plates and mugs were produced too.

 

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