The iconic Eel House, a historic structure in the village of Alresford, has received much-needed repairs thanks to an inspiring response by the local community.
The building has a fascinating history that is intertwined with its chalk stream environment. It was built in the 1820s to trap mature eels as they began their long journey from the tributaries of Old Alresford Pond to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea. The River Arle chalk stream runs through the base of the building in three culverts which could be transformed into eel traps using iron grills.
The Eel House is thought to be one of perhaps only two structures built in the UK for this unusual purpose, which it fulfilled until the 1980s. Today the building is managed by the New Alresford Town Trust, who have been carefully restoring it since 2007. It is highly valued by residents and visitors alike, having welcomed almost 9,400 visitors as of December 2019.
After a survey by Hampshire County Council found that the building was in need of structural repairs, the Town Trust began seeking donations from the local community. Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust was among the donors who contributed to the cost of investigation and design work, as well as ecological oversight due to the potential presence of white-clawed crayfish.
Landowner Antony Gay gave access for contractor Bio-Cain Engineering to facilitate repairs to the brickwork of the culvert arches, as well as the replacement of the wooden bridge and walkway on the upstream side of the building. The project's completion was celebrated with the addition of a new wall plaque, which was unveiled by local MP Steve Brine in a small ceremony.
The Eel House is a much-loved local landmark and an important piece of our chalk stream heritage. We're delighted to have supported the Town Trust in caring for this historic structure. Our contributions formed part of Watercress and Winterbournes, a Landscape Partnership Scheme which is protecting seven local chalk streams with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund - learn more.