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