A town, a camp, and a parish in Hants, 34 miles from London, and 3 from Farnham. The town stands near the Basingstoke Canal, with stations on the L. & S.W.R. and S.E.R., and a post, money order, and telegraph office, with a sub-office at Aldershot Green, and also two banking offices. It suddenly rose from seclusion to importance by the formation of the neighbouring military camp. The town was made a Local Government District by the Act 20 and 21 Vict. c. 22, and is under the management of a Board of 12 members, 9 chosen by the ratepayers and 3 by the Secretary of State for War.
The Aldershot Gas and Water Co. supplies both town and camp. There are two brick and tile works. Races are held here in the spring. There are several churches, and chapels for Wesleyans, Baptists, Primitive Methodists, and Roman Catholics, and a Soldiers’ Home. The parish church of St Michael contains several monuments of the Tichbourne family, who formerly resided in the parish. The living is a perpetual curacy of the annual value of about £300. Holy Trinity Church, in Victoria Road, was erected in 1878; it is a fine building in the Early English style. There are 800 sittings. The living is a vicarage; value, about £400. A vicarage house was erected in 1884.
Under the Local Government Act Aldershot parish was separated from Farnham union, and became a contributory union, using the Farnham workhouse as heretofore. The parish is divided into two wards for County Council purposes, and comprises an area of 4178 acres; population, 25,595. The camp is situated close to the town, on Aldershot Heath, which consists of the Bagshot sand, and stretches away to the downs of Surrey. It was formed in 1854, covers an area of 7 square miles, and is divided by the Basingstoke Canal into two parts, containing accommodation for upwards of 20,000 men.
The North and South camps and permanent barracks, which were erected at a great cost, contain the usual accessories to a military camp, such as churches, libraries, schools, hospitals, &c. Quarters for the commanding officers are on a rising ground overlooking it from the SW; the Queen’s Pavilion, built at a cost of £5000, is beyond these quarters. A large volunteer meeting is held at the camp every year, which is attended by a considerable number of volunteer corps. On a hill overlooking the camp is the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington which formerly stood at the top of Constitution Hill, near Hyde Park, London. The average number of troops in the camp is about 10,000, though this number is largely exceeded at times. There is a post, money order, and telegraph office at the camp.
The name Aldershot may have derived from alder trees found in the area (from the Old English ‘alder-holt’ meaning copse of alder trees). Aldershot was included as part of the Hundred of Crondall referred to in the Domesday Book of 1086. John Norden’s map of Hampshire, published in the 1607 edition of William Camden’s Britannia, indicates that Aldershot was a market town.
Prior to 1850, Aldershott was little known. The area was a vast stretch of common land, a lonely wasteland unsuitable for most forms of agriculture with scant population. As it existed at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, the extensive settlement of Crondall in the north-east corner of Hampshire was certainly Scandinavian, for among the customs of that great manor, which included Crondall, Yateley, Farnborough, and Aldershot, that of sole inheritance by the eldest daughter in default of sons prevailed, as over a large part of Cumberland, and this is a peculiarly Norse custom. In the 18th century, the stretch of the London to Winchester turnpike that passed through Aldershot between Bagshot and Farnham (now known as the Farnborough Road) was the scene of highway robberies. At one time it had “almost as bad a reputation as Hounslow Heath”. Dick Turpin is said to have operated in the area having his headquarters nearby in Farnborough, and there were sightings of Springheeled Jack.
In 1854, at the time of the Crimean War, Aldershot Garrison was established as the first permanent training camp for the British Army. This led to a rapid expansion of Aldershot’s population going from 875 in 1851, to in excess of 16,000 by 1861 (including about 9,000 from the military). Mrs Louisa Daniell arrived in the town at this time and set up her Soldier’s Home and Institute to cater for the spiritual needs of the soldiers and their families. During this period Holy Trinity church, the Presbyterian church, the Wesleyan church and Rotunda chapel were built in the town centre to cater for the spiritual needs of the increasing numbers of troops in the nearby Camp and the growing civilian town. In August 1856 on her return from the Crimean War and “wishing to be with her sons in the Army” Mary Seacole with her business partner Thomas Day is said to arrived in Aldershot where they opened a canteen, but the venture is said to have failed through lack of funds.
A TIMELINE OF THE TOWN
The Aldershot Observatory, in Queens Avenue, was gifted to the British Army by aviation pioneer Patrick Young Alexander.
The town’s first bus service was introduced, between Aldershot and Farnborough. It was operated by the Aldershot & Farnborough Motor Omnibus Company Ltd.
The modern nave of St Michaels church was extended north of the tower. Work on the church, by architect Sir Thomas Jackson, was completed in 1912.
The Hippodrome Theatre, on the corner of Station Road and Birchett Road, opened in February. It closed in 1953.
The Alexandra Music Hall, on the corner of Barrack Road and Alexandra Road, Aldershot, was converted into a cinema. The building was demolished in the 1960s.
The Cambridge Hospital became the birthplace of plastic surgery in the UK when a unit was set up to treat soldiers, who had suffered facial wounds in France, during WW1.
The Borough of Aldershot received its Charter of Incorporation.
The Pavilion Cinema, Aldershot, opened. Situated opposite Manor Park, it was the first cinema in the town to show talking movies. The building was demolished in 1956.
Aldershot Football Club were formed.
The Empire Odeon opened in High Street, Aldershot on August 1st. It seated 1700 people.
The Aldershot Lido, outdoor leisure pool, was opened as part of the Borough Council’s town improvements.
Aldershot F.C. were accepted into the Football League.
The Ritz cinema, in High Street, was opened by the Mayor of Aldershot, Councillor W. J. North JP. It was later renamed the ABC.
The Aldershot Lido pool hosted the modern pentathlon for the Olympic Games, held in London.
Aldershot’s Hippodrome Theatre was closed in June, although there were brief re-openings. The building was demolished in 1961.
The Beatles played a concert at the Palais Ballroom, Aldershot, in December. Only 18 people attended due to poor advertising.
Aldershot, Farnham & District Athletic Club was founded in August.
The Wellington Shopping Centre was built, and Union Street and Wellington Street were pedestrianised. The Princes Hall Theatre was also built.
Seven people were killed in an IRA car bomb attack on the headquarters of the 16th Parachute Brigade, at Aldershot, in February.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, Rushmoor Borough Council came into being on April 1st with the merger of the borough of Aldershot and the Farnborough urban district.
The Empire Odeon, High Street, closed.
The Aldershot Military Museum was opened.
Aldershot Football Club became the first team to win promotion through the Fourth Division play offs.
The Galleries, an extension of the Wellington Centre, was opened.
Aldershot F.C. became the first Football League team to fold since Accrington Stanley in 1962. They played their final Football League match at Cardiff City on March 20th.
Aldershot Town Football Club was formed at a public meeting at the Royal Aldershot Officers Club, just one month after Aldershot F.C. had folded. The new team was accepted into the Diadora Isthmian League Division 3 for the 1992/93 season.
The Royal Logistic Corps Museum, at Aldershot, was built.
In 1914 Aldershot had the largest army camp in the country with 20% of the British Army being based in and around the town. Aldershot was home for two Infantry Divisions and a Cavalry Brigade in addition to large numbers of artillery, engineers, service corps and medical services. At the start of World War I the units based at Aldershot became the 1st Corps of the British Expeditionary Force and soon tens of thousands of new recruits came to the large training centre in the Camp. This had a great effect on the civilian town as there was a great shortage of accommodation for the troops and many were billeted in local houses and schools. Aldershot played a vital role in the formation of Kitchener’s Army, providing the core of the Army from 1914 onwards as well as treating the wounded brought back from the trenches in France and Flanders. The Cambridge Military Hospital was the first base hospital to receive casualties directly from the Western Front and it was here that plastic surgery was first performed in the British Empire by Captain Gillies (later Sir Harold Gillies).
From 1939 to 1945 during World War II about 330,000 Canadian troops of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigades passed through Aldershot for training before being deployed for the defence of the United Kingdom while much of the British Army was overseas. Additional units of the Canadian Army followed later creating the largest force of British Commonwealth troops ever to be stationed in the UK at one time. The Aldershot riot of July 1945 caused considerable damage to the town centre when disgruntled Canadian troops tired of waiting to be repatriated rioted in the streets for two evenings. In a gesture of forgiveness and goodwill the Freedom of the Borough of Aldershot was conferred on the Canadian Army on 26 September 1945 in a ceremony held at the town’s recreation ground. In the following year Aldershot’s military prison the ‘Glasshouse’ was burned down in prison riots.
A substantial rebuilding of the barracks was carried out between 1961 and 1969, by the architecture and engineering firm Building Design Partnership. The work was sped up under government pressure, and various new building technologies were employed with mixed success. In 1974 Aldershot and Farnborough urban districts were merged to form the Borough of Rushmoor under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972.
After a 2009 campaign, the British Government allowed veteran Gurkha soldiers who had served for more than four years, and their families, to settle in the UK. As many Gurkha soldiers had been based in and around Aldershot, the town fosters a growing Nepalese population. Between the 2001 Census and the 2011 Census, Rushmoor’s Nepalese population increased to approximately 6,000 people, making up 6.5% of the overall population. The rise in the Nepalese population led Gerald Howarth, Conservative Member of Parliament for Aldershot, to request government assistance in expanding local public services to meet the needs of the growing population. Howarth was later criticised for suggesting that Nepalese migrants should be dispersed across the UK.