Alton is a sleepy market town on the edge of the South Downs National Park and surrounded by countryside that’s a patchwork of farmland, copse and lavender fields. Picturesque villages round and about are discreetly smart, among them Beech, Binsted, Chawton, Farringdon, Froyle and Wyck. Some of their notable residents include TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh and Location, Location, Location’s Phil Spencer – if anyone knows a below the radar property hot spot, he’s the one!

You certainly get a lot more house for your money in the Alton area – particularly in comparison to Winchester, Petersfield and properties just over the Surrey border. Choice is varied, encompassing manor houses, quaint cottages, Victorian villas, mid-century family homes and ‘heritage’ new builds with 1930s-style features such as bays, gables and ‘one-over-three’ panelled front doors.

Boxes are ticked. Local schools are all rated good by Ofsted with independent Alton School judged ‘excellent’ by the Independent School Inspectorate. Transport connections are sound, too. Alton sits at the beginning of a mainline train service to London Waterloo (journey times from 70 minutes) and alongside the A31 (connecting with Winchester at one end and Guildford at the other).


Amenities include a light-filled modern library, the gamut of supermarkets (from M&S Food and Waitrose to Aldi and Lidl), traditional butchers, hardware stores, and interesting independents such as Fill Up refill shop and café, and Goldfinch bookshop, café and bar with live music nights.

For leisure activities there’s a state-of-the-art sports complex, plus green spaces throughout the town include Alton Public Gardens with bandstand, playground, bowling green and events such as the Party in the Park in Alton Park which marks the end of the Alton Arts Festival (Sunday 14th July), Anstey Park with football and rugby pitches, and Kings Pond. There are also three golf courses locally and one of the largest gliding clubs in the world nearby at Lasham.

The Cutris Museum is home to one of the best local history collections in Hampshire. The Cutris Museum is home to one of the best local history collections in Hampshire. (Image: Getty)


Alton has tended to look to its past. It is popular for the Watercress Line, the heritage steam railway running between Alton and Alresford. This is also Jane Austen country. The author wrote her most famous novels at Chawton, a village within walking distance of the town. Hence Jane Austen Regency Week (21-30 June) celebrating the author with a programme of dancing, walks and talks. Wearing period costume is encouraged! There’s the Curtis Museum, home to one of the best local history collections in Hampshire, including the Alton Buckle, the finest piece of Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship found in the county, while the Allen Gallery houses one of the country’s most outstanding collections of ceramics, dating from 1250.

However, new housing developments are pushing Alton to reflect on its future. The town has been tasked with allocating 1,700 new homes as part of the Local Plan - spanning 2021 to 2040 - with consultation on potential sites underway. The numbers seem overwhelming, although some careful development could contribute to the town’s infrastructure and commercial sustainability.

On a Saturday morning when the farmers market and an arts and crafts market are in full swing on the broad High Street, there’s a buzz about Alton. This July sees the very first Alton Arts Festival born out of a conversation between community action group Guild of Optimists, working for the betterment of Alton, and Goldfinch Books, at the heart of Alton’s creative community.

Alton is surrounded by picturesque countryside and lavender farms. Alton is surrounded by picturesque countryside and lavender farms. (Image: Chris Button)

There has also been a significant uptick among Alton’s eateries and bars. Serious foodie waves are being created by Chariya Khattiyot, MasterChef Champion 2023. Chariya already owns Cherry Coffee, café and speciality coffee roasters, but in April she also launched Kaho Soi by Chariya – contemporary Asian fusion informal dining with a Thai twist.

She’s one of a new generation of hospitality entrepreneurs in Alton. Another example is husband-and-wife team Luke Simpkins and Becca Cassidy-Simpkins of Cassidy’s Bar, which only opened in February 2023. They have married the best qualities of a wine bar with a tap house to create a new relaxed hang-out serving cocktails, craft beer, wine, non-alcoholic alternatives and charcuterie and cheese boards. And there’s husband and wife Jason and Trish Delaney who run Ten Tun Taphouse craft beer micropub and dill café respectively, both overlooking Alton’s lovely Market Square. Ten Tun Taphouse also opened its own Brew House last October, working with Head Brewer Dave Hall who was keen to establish a brewery in his hometown, bringing the brewing tradition back to Alton.

The Watercress Line runs from Alton to Alresford. The Watercress Line runs from Alton to Alresford. (Image: Stephen Morley) Also on Market Square is Hermanos: a casual Mexican street food restaurant that’s the latest in a small group of eateries started by childhood friends and business partners Rupert Barter and James Rolfe, who grew up ‘down the road’ in Farnham. James has a history in hospitality, while Rupert has worked in Michelin starred restaurants, and developed a passion for Mexican food when he travelled round that country. They started with a food truck and now have two Hermanos eateries as well as Smash Brothers Burgers on Alton’s Westbrook Walk.

Rupert reflected: ‘People like me who grew up in Farnham can’t afford to live in Surrey, so we’re moving over the county border into Hampshire. Alton is going through a renaissance. We are creating a little paradise here. Us indies can turn Market Square into Barcelona in Alton!’


Adam Masters, Associate Director, Hamptons, says: ‘There is firm demand from a number of potential purchasers for properties in and around Alton and North Hampshire. Good schooling, access to beautiful open countryside and a strong community atmosphere are close to the top of the list of requirements for many.

‘The London property market has remained strong over recent months and there have been some indications of a possible reduction to the Bank of England base rate. Both of these factors will provide a sound basis for a steady spring and summer period. We continue to have requests for homes that will enable home working and/or annexe accommodation for multiple generation family living.

‘The charming market town of Alton has a rich history, a number of good everyday amenities including several very strong schools, excellent sports centre and mainline station connecting to London Waterloo to name a few. The surrounding villages are popular as they are home to a number of wonderful Inns and some fantastic local walking country. We are also very fortunate to have the former home of Jane Austen in Chawton, the Watercress steam railway, Gilbert White’s House and Gardens at Selborne and the South Downs National Park.’



Trish Delaney.Trish Delaney. (Image: Hana Laurie)

Trish Delaney owns dill in Market Square, a café with pop-up suppers.

‘Since moving to Alton in 2015, I’ve seen a number of changes in the town. What it has maintained, however, is the feeling of community, how friendly everyone is, and the number of local events held by individuals, businesses and Alton Town Council.

‘Initially drawn here by the countryside, I’ve explored many of the local walks and taken part in some of the local initiatives aimed at getting people outside.

‘In 2022, I left the corporate world and launched my own business in Alton, dill cafe. Living and working in Alton has transformed my work-life balance. I’ve met some fantastic people and I have been humbled by the level of support people here have for independent businesses. My café, specialising in seasonal, local produce, has been warmly received by the town. The growing desire for local produce, support of local business and producers has helped our cafe fit in organically here. I love the growing heartbeat of local businesses and groups in Alton, while still managing to hold on to its small-town feel. It’s been a great place to build some long-lasting roots and friendships.’