Villages, Crockham, Dogmersfield and Winchfield
PUBLISHED: 16:43 14 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:02 20 February 2013
For many, the Greater Fleet area is just a pretty blur as they make their way in to the town. But slow down a little and you'll realise there is more on offer than a cup of tea at a service station.
Although nowadays the village of Church Crookham or Croakham as it was formerly known, may be almost encompassed by its ever expanding neighbour, at one point it would have been far grander and more inhabited than nearby Fleet with some 623 residents as quoted in the 1831 version of Samuel Lewiss Topographical Dictionary of England.
It wasnt until the arrival of the railway in 1840 that land between Church Crookham and Fleet started to diminish as travellers from London began to settle in the area. Ideally situated, the village found itself in the middle of a housing boom and would have struggled to remain separate from the rising town, had it not been for its important role during World War II.
After the fall of France in 1940 Hitler turned his attentions to Britain who, although apparently defeated, had refused to surrender. It would have been a puzzling time for Germany and much deliberation would have occurred to determine the next plan of action, would they invade or bluff? But on July 16, 1940, Adolf Hitler issued Directive Number 16 reading, As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary to carry out, an invasion of England... and if necessary the island will be occupied. A threat to be taken seriously no doubt, despite the major lack of planning by the German forces, and as the Royal Navy gallantly fought for its country in the channel, preparations were being made throughout the rest of the country in the form of the GHQ line. Church Crookham was just one of many villages and towns all over the country that fell alongside these fortified stop-lines, designed to prevent the Germans as they filtered up from the coast. Of course, the RAF and Royal Navy were successful in retaining control of British skies and waterways and operation Sealion as Hitler had formerly named the potential invasion was ceased indefinitely in 1941 but, for Church Crookham, the recognition was still there. Its section of the GHQ line was notified as being one of the most important stop-lines and was heavily fortified at the time. In 1971 it was established as the headquarters for the 1st Battalion of the Ghurka Rifles who remained there until August 2000 and even played its role in the 2002 James Bond Movie, Die Another Day as the setting for the de-militarised zone between North and South Korea. This village may not have your typical chocolate-box image, but for a good taste of British War History, it is well worth a visit.
Many of you may have heard of Dogmersfield after having the pleasure of staying at the stunning Four Seasons Hotel situated close to the heart of the village.
Built in 1727 by Sir Henry Paulet St John-Mildmay on what was thought to have been the site of an old 13th century palace, Dogmersfield House was, like all of Paulets abodes, fit for a King. Henry VII would have been a frequent visitor to the area due to its unprecedented grandness and vast, rolling landscape and it is said that it was at Dogmersfield House where he first met his future daughter-in-law, Catherine of Aragon before she agreed to marry his first born Arthur, Prince of Wales. When Arthur died a year later in 1502, Catherine was a deal breaker between her father and the King and she went on to marry Henry VIII after he was appointed as King in 1507.
The house was adapted to become the famous Reeds School in the 1900s and was later home to the Roman Catholic Institute, the De La Salle Order before it was partially burnt down after falling into disrepair. Four Seasonss purchased the remains in 2001 and spent four years renovating and restoring the house to its former glory before opening on Valentines Day, 2005.
The Basingstoke Canal runs through the village and a lake, known locally as Tundry Pond, is situated in the grounds of the house.
Legend has it that the site of the original village lay underneath what is now Tundry Pond until the owner decided he wanted a lake view and moved the village brick by brick to make room for the water feature, although there is little evidence to state when this may have taken place. There are some excellent walks alongside the pond and around Dogmersfield Park with the area being of particular interest to wildlife and nature enthusiasts who come to capture the abundance of rare plants, birds and animals that have made the village their home.
The village of Winchfield is relatively small in comparison to its neighbouring Hartley Witney and Odiham but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in personality. Community spirit is in abundance in this particular Hart hamlet and proof of this can
be seen every second year when it comes together to form the Winchfield Festival.
Started 16 years ago as a single musical event to raise funds for the villages 12th century church, the festival has captured the hearts of the villagers and is now a highly successful registered charity with fun and educational events running alongside the musical talent lined up to perform every biennial. In the past, the line-up has included the likes of Humphrey Lyttleton and Tamsin Little and proves to be extremely successful with visitors arriving from all over Hampshire.
Ian Gavin-Brown has been the chairman of the festival for 10 years and, along with his committee of villagers, has enjoyed the success of six festivals, the most recent being in June this year. He says: The festival is a fantastic musical event that brings the community together in a fun and educational way. As a registered music charity, we aim to work with local schools and musical groups to help them to develop their interests and skills. We hold master classes with children from the local area and even support schools and organisations in countries such as Zimbabwe which is where one of our past acts originated from. Audiences of around 300 come from around a 10 mile radius to enjoy the festivities and Im immensely proud of the community support that we receive every other year.