This article is from "Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford" by Norman Hidden, 2009.
In November 2000, the Hungerford Historical Association published its book on the history of the Town entitled ‘Hungerford a History’.
This was undertaken as a project for the Millennium, and I had the privilege of being Chairman of the Association and also of the Steering Committee entrusted with its publication. Shortly after this was published the Rev. Andrew Sawyer, Vicar of St. Lawrence, the Parish Church of Hungerford, asked me if I would be interested in bringing up to date the booklet available on the history of the Church, which was last revised in the 1950s. This I agreed to do and started some detailed research into the Church’s history. At that time the Chairman of the Association was Mrs Karen Sperrey, and she expressed an interest in the project, and suggested that the Association should be involved in its publication, but that, rather than just publish the history of the Parish Church, we should widen the field and include the three other denominations in the project as well. A small sub-committee was formed, but whereas the initial interest was good the idea finally fizzled out due to the limited amount of information on the three other Churches. I then continued on my own investigating as much as I could about the Parish Church and whereas I had obtained a good amount of historical data, there were certain areas, which I felt could be enlarged.
When in 2004 the Association published its 25-year anniversary booklet, again under the Chairmanship of Karen, it listed details of all the talks given to the Association since its inception in 1979. Among the talks listed from the early days, was a talk in April 1982 on Two Hungerford Chantries, and the speaker was Norman Hidden. This in fact was the second talk he had given, the first being in February 1981. Norman and his wife Joyce had become interested in the activities of the Association after meeting Michael Blakeway when they first visitied the area as described in the introduction to this publication. Seeing this talk listed, I contacted Norman and Joyce in July 2005, and asked if it would be possible to have sight of the research notes on the Chantries to assist in my research into the history of the Church. The response from Norman was fantastic. He replied that he would be delighted to help with my request but in addition to this, would also send to me a copy of other collected articles he was having bound under the title of ‘Aspects’ in which the two Chantries were detailed.
These collected articles are what you see in this publication today and, as soon as I saw them I felt that this was an important work, which the Association should be involved in publishing. I discussed this with the then Chairman of the Association, Mrs Daphne Priestley, who shared my opinion, and we agreed to discuss this matter with Norman and Joyce over the coming months.
Sadly Norman passed away on Easter Monday 2006, and I had already suggested to him that the Association would like to be involved in some way when it was published, and after his death Joyce agreed that the Association should go ahead and arrange for this to be done. In my correspondence with him prior to his death,
Norman had told me that these articles were the result of over 30 years research into the history of the Town, but with the advance of modern technology, would prove a good starting point for future research. This is definitely the case, as the reader will see that every point is fully referenced, with the reference list quoted at the end of each Chapter. In some of the chapters Norman makes reference to the Parish Registers, W.H. Summers unpublished notes and his own publications on the family of Hidden. The originals of the Registers are in The Berkshire Record Office, but transcripts of these and the other documents referred to are available in the Association’s Archive Room, and can be accessed by arrangement with the Association’s Archivist. Also the inscription tablet, now fully restored, referred to in the Chapter on the Chantry of the Holy Trinity is now mounted on the wall in the North West corner of St.Lawrence’s above the effigy of Sir Robert.
My very grateful thanks must go to Norman’s widow Joyce for all her patience and help in providing everything on computer disc, especially as the original draft was in Lotus, which does not transfer easily to Word. In some cases the Chapters had to be re-typed by Joyce as a suitable transfer could not be obtained. Some chapters such as Royal Itineraries and the Great Fire were not included in Norman’s draft and had been published some years ago in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, but I felt that they fitted into the publication and with the agreement of Joyce, have been included. At the end of some chapters reference is made to these articles but as stated they are now included in the book. In some cases Norman’s research contradicts facts which the Town of Hungerford has accepted for many years, and in some cases I personally do not agree with his statements, but this is Norman’s research and is published without alterations. I was in fact in correspondence with him over my disagreement of facts stated in this publication at the time of his death. They must now remain unresolved.
This publication would not have been possible without the tremendous support of Tom Sperrey, who has assisted me when my limited computer knowledge was not up to the task, and has also processed the final draft and prepared this in a format ready for the Printers. I must also thank the past and present Chairman of the Hungerford Historical Association, Daphne Priestley and Lois Pihlens for their support and patience over the past two years whilst this publication was in the process of being finalised. Thanks are also due to Chris & Carol Ticehurst, the present ownersof Marsh Gate Cottage, for their permission to use the sketch of the old Pest House.
Fred Bailey, August 2009.