10 things you didn’t know about Hurstbourne Tarrant

PUBLISHED: 15:39 23 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:39 23 December 2019

Hurstbourne Tarrant Illustration by Lucy Atkinson

Hurstbourne Tarrant Illustration by Lucy Atkinson

Archant

Hurstbourne Tarranat is home to a ground-breaking painter, Shakespearean legend and World War II fake airfield

1. WELCOME

Tucked away near the River Test in the north of the county, Hurstbourne Tarrant's name dates back to 1226, when the village was given to the Cistercian Tarrant nunnery in Dorset. Over the years the village has seen differing industries including malthouses and breweries set up shop here and at one point there were said to be no fewer than 22 hurdle makers, earning their living from the local coppices.

2. FAKE VIEWS

During World War II, Hurstbourne Tarrant played its part, mainly by hosting a decoy to deflect bombs from the important RAF airfield at Andover. A series of lights simulated an active airfield along with fake aircraft and buildings. From September 1940 fake machine gun posts were added and the site is recorded as being active until 1942. Sadly none of these features remain because the site has been returned to agricultural land.

3. EAT AND DRINK

Try the George and Dragon in the Square, which offers locally-produced, seasonal food and a few gems from their frequent forages. Or the odd pheasant supplied by their customers who shoot. Bread and pastries are cooked fresh every day.

For home-make cakes, light bites and crafts, try The Tea Cosy at The Dene. On Fridays they offer a cake spectacular, featuring confections which are both tasty and Insta-worthy.

4. A CAMPAIGNER'S FURY

Social campaigner, journalist and politician William Cobbett declared Hurstbourne Tarrant as "worth going miles to see, with beauty at every turn". But his joy turned to ire after a stay at Rookery Farm at The Hill, where he claimed living conditions were "the worst I've ever seen". He'd visited many farms - and been imprisoned for treasonous libel for objecting to soldiers being flogged - so conditions must have been awful.

5. WHAT'S GOING ON?

Along with the very well attended annual show (pop 18 July 2020 in your diary) the village is home to the popular HBT5 Multi Terrain Race, a challenging five-miler in the heart of the North Wessex Downs, starting in Hurstbourne Tarrant and following part of the Test Way through woods and farmland. The course is off-road, taking in farmland, woodland tracks and a couple of "undulations". The event has been held annually since 2009.

6. THE JANE AUSTEN CONNECTION

In the late 18th century Jane Austen and members of her family visited Mrs Lloyd and her daughters, Martha and Mary, at beautiful Ibthorpe House which lies on the gentle slopes near the River Swift at Horsehoe Lane.

In 1786 Jane's brother, James, married Mary Lloyd in St Peter's Church. Ibthorpe House was also home to a studio set up by the young Bloomsbury artist, Dora Carrington.

7. AN ARTIST'S INSPIRATION

Artist Anna Lea Merritt's most famous painting, Love Locked Out, featured - daringly for the time - a male nude. It was created as a memorial to Merritt's husband and was the first painting by a woman artist acquired for the British national collection. Anna moved to the village in 1891 after developing asthma. She lived in a cottage at the foot of The Hill called The Limes, which sadly burnt down.

8. MORALITY PAINTINGS

Perhaps it's because of its connections to a nunnery that the 14th century Morality Paintings which still survive on the walls of St Peter's were created. They depict the sorry tale of the Seven Deadly Sins. An even sorrier tale is that of the unfortunate vicar at this time. He and many of his congregation sadly died of the plague.

9. PROTECTING AN ICON

The River Test has become iconic to fly fishermen the world over because of its rare, chalk-stream habitat. Hurstbourne Tarrant is part of a new project, Watercress and Winterbournes, to help preserve and enhance these eco-systems, of which there are only around 200 worldwide. Among the rare inhabitants are water voles, brown trout, southern damselflies, water crowfoot, and endangered white-clawed crayfish.

10. AN ACTOR'S final RESTING PLACE

Considering his larger-than-life persona - Sir Donald Wolfit was famed, as an actor-manager and performer of Shakespeare - his gravestone in St Peter's churchyard and the blue plaque on the side of the George and Dragon are surprisingly modest. Sir Donald lived with his wife at Swift Cottage in Ibthorpe and was said to be the actor upon which the thespian character in the Ronald Harwood play The Dresser was based.

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