The Parish of Beech is located in the north-eastern area of Hampshire approximately eleven miles south of Basingstoke, fifteen miles east of Winchester and two miles from the market town of Alton. Beech is close to, but outside, the northern boundary of the proposed South Downs National Park.
The village has a linear nature, sitting largely within a narrow valley that descends (by minor road) for almost two miles from Alton Abbey, which at 217 metres (712ft) is one of the highest points in Hampshire, to the Alton – Basingstoke trunk road at 106 metres (348ft).
The area in which Beech is situated is primarily rural. The parish totals 526 hectares (1262 acres) and is a broad mix of woodland, farmland and, in the village area, residential developments. In the past, the area has had an agriculturally based economy, although this influence has declined with modern farming practices.
The village is now primarily a residential area, serving surrounding business areas with little commercial activity within the village boundary. Beech is a growing village with, at present, some 600 villagers living in 205 houses. The establishment of the South Downs National Park is expected to have a major impact on Alton (which falls just outside the Park) and its surrounding villages in terms of increased housing development.
Although Beech’s origins can be traced back to the 12th century, modern Beech took shape in the 1890s when the local landowner began to sell off small parcels of land for housing – much of it in the colonial style of wood and corrugated iron construction. This process continued in the period between the First and Second World Wars. The parish church was built in 1902 and the existing village hall was established nearby in 1932. Since the 1960s the colonial-style housing has gradually been replaced by modern housing stock.
Situated at the top of Kings Hill, The Abbey is a Benedictine Monastery in the Church of England. The Community dates its foundation from the ordination of the Revd Charles Plomer Hopkins, who was appointed as River Port Chaplain of Rangoon in Burma in 1884.
In order to fulfil the need for a house in which the active work was not pursued, a plot of land, called Kingswood Copse, was purchased at Beech, outside Alton in 1895. The first monastic inhabitants of Kingswood Copse lived in tents and wattle huts, until a corrugated iron monastery could be built. The last of the wattle and iron buildings were not demolished until the beginning of the 1980s.
More information on Alton Abbey can be found by following the link to the Website www.altonabbey.org.uk.
The Friends of Alton Abbey was established in 1980 as a registered charity (No.284876) to raise funds to support the charitable work of the Abbey and, in particular, to contribute to the cost of projects which the Community is unable to finance but which are essential to their life of witness and service.
Membership of The Friends is open to anyone who supports the Object, namely to support the charitable work of Alton Abbey. The current minimum subscriptions are – Annual Member, £20.00 per annum; Life Member, a single payment of £200.