The Croft is a quiet green, lying away from the hustle and bustle of the High Street. It probably originated as the village green of the original village of Hungerford, before the “new” medieval town was laid out slightly to the east sometime between 1180 and 1250. It was originally known as “Town Croft” and has also been called “Play Croft” and “Church Croft”.
Around 1553 the land was owned by John Undewes and his wife. They gave the land, about one acre, “for the people of Hungerford to sport herein” at the nominal rent of a red rose yearly, if demanded. Such a rent is not demanded, and The Croft is now part of the Town and Manor land.
The alley way to the High Street (now known as Church Lane) was first originally known as Church Passage, and later as Little Church Lane. There are several notes in the Constable’s Accounts of money paid to the Bellman for sweeping Church Lane on Saturday evenings, so it was clean for the townspeople to go to Church on Sundays. In 1837 a turnstile was erected at west end of Little Church Lane, but it proved unsatisfactory, and was replaced by the two cast iron posts in 1863.
The line of trees along the northern part of The Croft has variously been known as “The Avenue” and “The Mall”.
The Croft Nursery School opened in 1942 as a Wartime Nursery (later re-named Day Nursery) administered by the Ministry of Health, to provide young mothers with crèche facilities whilst they worked at local factories involved in the war effort, including the Vickers Armstrong Aircraft Factory in Eddington and the Chilton Aircraft Factory in Church Way. The original prefabricated buildings were replaced in 2005.
The doctors’ surgery was built in 1959 and extended in 1993.
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A casual glance at this wonderful brick frontage suggests that the house is Georgian. However, look more carefully and you will see that it has four bays on the second floor, five bays on the first floor and six bays on the ground floor. The re-fronting was added to an ancient timber-frame house, probably in 1710.
The Croft Hall opened in 1900. The site was originally part of the land used for the Free Grammar School, founded in 1635, which closed in 1884. In 1898 the school building was sold to Sir William Pearce of Chilton Lodge and soon demolished.
The Parish Church of St. Lawrence was built in 1814-16 in Georgian Gothic style. It is adjacent to the Kennet and Avon canal, and the Bath stone for the church was the largest of the early contracts for the canal company after the canal had opened in 1810.
The Bear is one of the grand coaching inns of England, with a long and rich history. It is thought to have developed a lodging house for the adjacent medieval Priory of St John (see War Memorial) which was founded by 1232. There is documentary proof of its use as a Hospice in 1464.
This is Hungerford’s main War Memorial. It was built on the island in Bridge Street which had, since 1232, been the site of the ancient Priory of St John the Baptist. The Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII.
The plaque above the church door states that this church opened as a Congregational Church in 1840. The Nonconformist congregation, founded in Hungerford in 1671, moved to this site in 1793.