I spend a lot of time wandering around the local countryside and I’m constantly finding out interesting things about the places I’m in. Today I’ve written about the local village of Ashley Heath…
Ashley Heath is a village in Dorset, England. Confusingly address’ in the village state it as being part of the nearby town of Ringwood, though Ringwood is actually across the county boundary in Hampshire.
Ashley Heath is home to what is purportedly the smallest high street in Britain.
A plaque on the building tells us more about it- for ease I’ve transcribed it below.
William Webb// 1862-1930 // Father of Ashley Heath
Came to Ashley Heath in 1920 and reclaimed 1500 acres of heathland to build a garden estate to be called “Hampshire Heath Garden Estate”. Dwellings were built, most in plots of 1 acre. They included “Moorside” (now Struan Hotel) [Struan Hotel later became ‘The Struan’ pub but a few years ago was demolished.] and the High Street. Illness struck and he died in January 1930. He is buried at Purley in Surrey where he has build a garden village before the First World War.
The High Street// Ashley Heath// Smallest in Britain
This building is exactly as it was when first build in the 1920s, consisting of four shops. The construction is of a unique form designed by William Webb. They were the centre of the village to be known as “Hampshire Heath Garden Estate” to serve the need of the villagers who were to live here. The clock, bearing the inscription “The Night Cometh”, struck only between 7.00AM and 10.00PM to indicate the working day and the period of rest. A few buildings of the original village still remain.
Now there is some debate about whether Ashley Heath does have the smallest high street in Britain or not. The town of Holsworthy in Devon claims the same and claims it is 100m long and has three shops. Now Ashley Heath does have one more shop but there are no records of exactly how short the high street is- by my reckoning it’s shorter than 100 metres though.
For a while a railway line passed through Ashley Heath, the Southampton and Dorchester Railway. The railway first opened in 1847 but it wasn’t until 1927 that Ashley Heath Halt station was opened- by this point the village and those near it were now deemed big enough for a station. The station closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.Despite serving what is small a fairly small place, the station had two long concrete platforms, each with a shelter.Despite having been closed since the sixties one of the platforms and the sign still exist to this day.
The former railway line is now a walking and cycling route called The Castleman Trailway. Though nature is slowly reclaiming signs of the railway, every now and then you stumble upon something from that time.
Everywhere has a story if you look hard enough! I may do an occasional series of this sort of thing if there’s any interest in it. That’s all for now though, thanks for reading!