The Mayor of Hungerford

From Gateway to Heart

In the romantic era of horse drawn coaches, Hungerford became known as the Crossroads of Southern England providing weary travellers with a place to rest and for their team of horses to be changed. Inns and hostelries, shops and traders in the town all benefitted greatly from this transit business.

For most of the 20th Century this source of income continued with the growth of travel by car, motor coach and lorry. When the planners in Government drew up regional areas, Hungerford was designated to be on the fringe of South East England and almost overnight became regarded as the Gateway to the South West maintaining that passing trade. However with the advent of the M4, that gateway was swung open and the traffic flow through the town dropped immediately with an inevitable dip in commercial activity.

It is a strange fact that when considering places to visit, today’s vacationers can immediately recognise areas known by their generic title such as The Cotswolds, Lake District or East Anglia. Yet Hungerford sits squarely in the middle of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONB] that stretches from Pangbourne in the East to Devizes in the West, from Wantage in the North to Andover in the South. In 1972 this area was designated The North Wessex Downs, an area of nearly 700 square miles that harbours a wealth of ancient woodlands, chalk streams, river valleys, historic settlements and monuments plus Sites of Special Scientific Interest [SSSI] including our own Freeman’s Marsh.

The highly successful “I love Hungerford” campaign organised by the Chamber of Commerce has the ubiquitous heart as its symbol and it seems to me that we could also adopt it to broadcast Hungerford as The Heart of the North Wessex Downs. By doing so we could enhance our reputation as a friendly welcoming town with an eclectic mix of independent shops and offer hospitality to encourage visitors to consider Hungerford as the epicentre of an area worthy of further exploration and stay for longer than one day. Perhaps this might see a revival of the atmosphere of those romantic days of travel and trade.

The Hungerford Christmas lights [switched on 26th November] have now become an established ‘must see’ feature for thousands and the Victorian Extravaganza [December 9th ] is a unique event that continues to build upon the festive scene bringing with it yet more visitors. It is now a task for your council and others to ensure as we enter the Year of the London Olympics and celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we can convert those visitors into tourists to the benefit of the economy of our town.

On behalf of your Town Council,
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and an even Happier New Year.

Cllr Martin Crane O.B.E.
Mayor of Hungerford

St. Lawrence’s Church, December. 18th. Mayor’s Carols 6.30pm

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