When Andover entered into an agreement with the Greater London Council and grew rapidly in the 1960s and 70s, it was promised a new town centre. This massive redevelopment swept away many buildings and even threatened the old Angel Inn at the top of the High Street. A ‘Save the Angel’ campaign was mounted and most of the structure was saved. Investigations by Richard Warmington and Edward Roberts have confirmed that it is ‘arguably one of the most significant timber-framed buildings in Hampshire’.
In 1414, the rectory of Andover was purchased by St. Mary’s College, Winchester, and brought with it income in tithes, urban land and freehold property in an important medieval cloth-producing centre. It stood at a crossing of trade routes from London to Salisbury and Southampton to the Midlands and was almost certainly a long-term investment. When the town was devastated by fire in 1434, the College re-built extensively, including the construction of a brand new timber-framed inn.
In March 1445 the College Warden, Robert Thorbern, entered into a contract with carpenters John Hardynge and Richard Holners for a building consisting of four ranges around a courtyard to be situated on a rectangular plot of land measuring 90’ north to south by 80’ east to west. A separate contract provided for the building of a ‘long house’, probably on a separate site, that would contain kitchens.
Although the Angel was associated with the main contract, published by the College in 1892, other references made no mention of it. Research by architectural historian Richard Warmington (1972) and later availability of other documents, have led to the firm conclusion that the structures specified in the 1445 contract and the Angel Inn are one and the same.
The documents include a College ‘chattels only’ listing (1462) and an inventory of Richard Pope, inn-holder, of 1633. The latter shows the inn to have consisted of a hall, parlour, and seventeen chambers, with ninety-one beds! It also refers to fifteen fireplaces. Staff accommodation (hostery) and an innkeeper’s chamber are also noted along with numerous service rooms such as kitchens and cellars and ‘ffyve stables’.
Present day structural evidence points towards substantial alterations between the 16th and 18th centuries, resulting in the excavation of an additional cellar, a gallery overlooking the courtyard behind the east gate, lean-tos and internal partitions, as well as chimneys
These alterations changed the external appearance of the building significantly with demolition of the west range and substantial reconfiguring to most of the south range. The east front, facing the High Street, was re-built probably in 1775, as evidenced by an inscribed brick, when the jettied gable ends of the cross wings were taken down and roofs truncated.
In 1793 the building was divided into two tenancies with a carpenter occupying it to the south of the gate with access to a timber yard. To the north a brewer took the building now called ‘The Old Angel’. The division is shown on a plan of 1839 when James Grant, presumably the landlord, was the occupier; a carrier named Reynolds held the south range.
An investigation of 1990/91 showed that the remains of three original ranges contain some interesting features that conclusively support the opinion that the core of the present day building closely follows the specification laid down in 1445. Of particular interest was the scissors brace in the east range hall, which itself had dimensions of 20’ by 30’ in line with the original specification. The northernmost bay of this range contains the arched gateway still in use.
Another survivor is a large chimney-stack, attributed to Thomas Beere in 1449 -50. Also, the 5’ width of a present day closed corridor has led to the conclusion that it is the original ‘oriell’ (open gallery). The south range contains the remains of a cross wing which mirrors that of the north range. The chimneypiece and stack of this range were removed in the 20th century. The cellars beneath it and the north ranges have dimensions as listed in the 1445 contract.
Of the west range there is no trace.
Roberts, E (1991) A Fifteenth Century Inn at Andover, Proc Hants Field Club & Arch Soc. Vol. 47 pp 153-170
Series by: Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone