New Alresford or simply Alresford ( or ) is a small town and civil parish in the City of Winchester district of Hampshire, England. It is north-east of Winchester and south-west of the town of Alton. In the 2001 census, Alresford had a population of 5,102.
New Alresford has shops, a tourist information centre, a central conservation area, two tea rooms and is a terminus as with Alton of the Watercress Line, a steam worked heritage railway at Alresford railway station.
There is evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age occupation on numerous sites in the Alresford area, with a Roman or Romano-British site on nearby Fobdown and to the south-east of the town in Bramdean. There is evidence of a grant to the Church at Winchester sometime before the 9th century, which became known as the Liberty of Alresford. Alresford was listed in the Domesday Book but this probably refers to what is now Old Alresford as there is no evidence of a settlement south of the river at this time. Old Alresford as with Farnham, Guildford, Dorking and Maidstone adjoins the Pilgrims' Way between Canterbury and Winchester.
New Alresford was founded in the 12th/13th century, the idea originally being that of Henri de Blois, the Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen of England. The design of the T-shaped town (originally named Novum Forum) was followed by de Blois' successor Godfrey de Lucy. Alresford was one of the Bishop's six new towns and was his most profitable plantation—his palace was situated in nearby Bishop's Sutton, perhaps less than a mile distant. The medieval stone bridge he built at this time is still in place. This expansion also involved the construction of the Great Weir between New Alresford and Old Alresford, creating Old Alresford Pond. This remarkable period in the town's history included the construction of one of the oldest canal systems in England, based on the River Itchen.
New Alresford quickly became established as a prosperous market town, focussed on the wool, leather and the other products from sheep and cattle; in the 14th century Alresford sheep markets produced one of five highest turnovers in England. Alresford sent two members to parliament until the population was reduced by the Black Death. In the 17th century the town made news as a dangerous place to live due to the uncommonly frequent fires which razed it; in the spring of 1644, the Battle of Cheriton took place on Cheriton Down, reaching the outskirts of Alresford. Defeated Royalists set fire to houses in the town as they withdrew. Much of the medieval town was destroyed by a fire in 1689/90 that destroyed 117 houses in the town as well as the church and Market House, another in 1710 and a 'like calamity' in 1736. Much of the town was rebuilt in the 18th century, with many of the Georgian buildings remaining today.
A turnpike toll road linking London to primarily Southampton but viable for Hamble and Portsmouth (now the A31), some of which was a Roman road then a track in variable condition maintained by each parish, was built in 1753, passing through the town.
During the late 18th century, Alresford Cricket Club was one of the strongest sides in England.
The 13th-century church was, save the mostly 14th century tower, rebuilt in 1898 by Sir Arthur Blomfield in the Norman gothic perpendicular style. The top third of the tower is of 16th century red crenalated parapet brickwork pictured.
A Cold War commemorative plaque on the wall of public toilets, close to the railway station, commemorates that occasionally secret military documents obtained by members of the Portland Soviet Spy Ring in the early 1960s were left here for collection.