Opposite the White Horse stands the vicarage of St Marks, Ampfield. The church was the idea of the influential vicar and scholar John Keble ( of Keble College, Oxford), who was the vicar of the neighbouring parish of Hursley.
In 1895 a new vicar was appointed, the Reverend Vere Awdry. The vicar lived in the beautiful vicarage and was obviously happy with his parish, in his diary he states “…the moral condition is, I think, on the whole good, there being an almost entire absence of illegitimacy. Drinking is small and noticeably less since the change of landlord of our village inn”
In 1910 William Awdry was born in the vicarage, the young boy who shared his father’s passion for trains grew up to write the famous “Thomas the Tank Engine “ books
His father has an enormous train set that ran around the vicarage garden, it had a tunnel, station and 40 yards of track. The lay out was so professional that the local school used to be allowed to witness the running of the trains and listen to the vicar give lectures on steam trains.
The characters that would make Awdry famous, and the first stories featuring them, were invented in 1943 to amuse his son Christopher during a bout of measles. After Awdry wrote The Three Railway Engines, he built Christopher a model of Edward, and some wagons and coaches, out of a broomstick and scraps of wood. ]Christopher also wanted a model of Gordon; however, as that was too difficult Awdry made a model of a little 0-6-0 tank engine. Awdry said: “The natural name was Thomas – Thomas the Tank Engine”. Then Christopher requested stories about Thomas and these duly followed and were published in the famous book Thomas the Tank Engine, released in 1946.