Alverbank

Alver House on a map of 1891

Alver Bank House, now Alverbank, (sometimes shown as Alver House on old maps) was built for John Wilson Croker, Politician and writer, Member of Parliament; Secretary of the Admiralty; founding member of the Athenaeum Club, London. Croker was a close associate of the Duke of Wellington, Canning and Pitt, a friend of Lord Ashburton, who built and lived in nearby Bay House. Croker had been Secretary to the Admiralty from 1809 to 1830. Ashburton encouraged Croker to acquire the land and build Alverbank next to Bay House. The house was visited by Robert Peel, the Prime Minister and the Duke of Wellington.

John Wilson Croker
John Wilson Croker (National Portrait Gallery)

After the death of Croker in 1857, Prince Alfred Ernest, the future Duke of Edinburgh (from 1866) stayed at Alverbank from October 1857 to September 1858 whilst he studied under the Rev. Jolly and his tutor, Lieutenant Cowell R.E. The house was rented but not owned by Queen Victoria or her son. Victoria traveled across the Solent from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight to Alverbank, using a small pier close to the house.
In 1859 Lord Dumfermline was reported as living at Alverbank.

prince alfred 1863
Prince Alfred Ernest in 1863

January 1863 the trustees of Croker leased Alverbank to Captain John Edmund Commerell VC  for 21 years from 1 November 1862.
John Commerell was the second son of John Williams Commerell of Strood Park, Horsham and he entered the navy in 1842
In 1854 he was awarded a V.C. As Admiral Sir John Edmund Commerell, RN, VC he was resident with his family at Alverbank at Stokes Bay for a number of years in the 1860s and 1870s. He surrendered the lease in 1869.

John Edmund Commerell 1889
John Edmund Commerell 1889

In 1907 Alverbank was occupied by Edward Darell and Mrs Darell-Blount. John Darell_Blount of Alverbank died on August 10 1909. Alverbank was sold in 1912 to Winfred Alured Comyn Platt, (later a Colonel), part of a marriage settlement between Platt and Louisa Maria Atherley. The Platt family built an extension to the house (dated 1912 above the doorway) The Platts did not move from London into Alverbank until 1915, to avoid the bombing raids, and returned to London in 1917, probably because of a change in family circumstances. Their motto can be seen by the front door (parva sed apta – Small but fit, convenient or perfect), and the date above, 1912.

They then let Alverbank to Lt R Smith-Barry, who used the house as an extension to the officers’ mess from nearby Fort Grange airfield. Here he worked on the famous ‘Gosport Tube’, an apparatus that allowed young pilots to talk to their instructors during training flights. A photograph shows Smith Barry with his wife Kitty and with Lieutenants Moore (left) and Parker (right) at Alverbank.

Smith-Barry at Alverbank with his wife and Officers
Smith-Barry at Alverbank with his wife and Officers

In 1947 Gosport Borough Council made an offer of £7,500 for Alverbank with accompanying 7.5 acres of park land adjoining Stanley Park. The offer was refused so the Council issued a Compulsory Purchase Order.  In 1948 the house became the property of Gosport Borough Council.

Alverbank is now the Alverbank Hotel and is next to Stanley Park, which once formed its grounds. The house is a Grade II listed building.

Alverbank Bridge

Alverbank bridge
Alverbank bridge
South of Alverbank is a small, brick bridge built by the Royal Engineers in 1860 to replace an existing bridge that crossed the River Alver allowing John Wilson Croker, who lived in Alverbank until 1857, to get to the sea. The River Alver  river once flowed from the wildgrounds south of Fareham, seawards, towards Stokes Bay and turned eastward at Gomer Ponds to run the length of Stokes Bay, finally exiting to the sea via a huge ‘Morass’ close to Fort Monckton. But there is no river here now!
River Alver Course 1847
River Alver Course 1847
Beneath the bridge is the overgrown, dried up, river bed, barely recognisable as such. In 1860 the River Alver was diverted into the newly constructed Stokes Bay Moat which ran along the length of Stokes Bay from No1 and No2 Batteries in the west to Fort Gilkicker and Fort Monckton in the east, a distance of 2,700 yards. Known as The Stokes Bay Lines it was completed by 1870 at a cost, calculated to be £75,120. The moat itself was lined with concrete and was 60ft in width and contained water to depth of 9ft at high water of Spring tides.
As you cross over the River Alver bridge you can search for the R.E. bench mark (a broad arrow) in one of the pillars that reads 5.56ft above LMS (Local Mean Sea level). The brick parapets and pillars were recently re-built but happily the bench mark and inscription survived.
Alver Bridge bench Mark
Alver Bridge bench Mark
When over the bridge you can look left and right to see where the Stokes Bay Moat once ran in both directions. There was a second bridge here crossing the moat and this can be seen in old postcards. When the weather is particularly dry you can sometimes see the concrete sides of the moat, which is still there beneath the grass. The moat was not destroyed, this section was merely filled with rubbish after an appeal to Gosport house holders to supply it. The section from No.2 Battery to Alverbank was filled first from October 1954 so that the Stokes Bay Road and promenade could be widened. The section in front of Palmerston Way survived until 1966, at the request of the residents who wanted to keep it. If you look over the sea wall at low tide you can see the Victorian penstock outlet, a large iron pipe, that allowed the Royal Engineers to maintain the depth of water in the moat. The filled-in moat is now piped to this outlet.
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