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Help us by joining the Basingstoke Heritage Society today.
Annual subscription - £5.00 per person, or £6 per household
(Students and under 18’s FREE)
Membership Benefits: Quarterly Newsletter Occasional free talks, walks and visits to places of local interest Opportunity to attend the Society’s monthly Business Meetings & make views known Opportunity to contribute to submissions on issues of concern Support the protection of your locality from inappropriate development
To download an application form go to the ‘contact us’ page.
The Society focuses its attentions on the town centre area of the Borough where residents have no Parish Councillors to represent them. Particular emphasis is on the six conservation areas and any surrounding area likely to impact on the town. Subject to this the Societies objectives are -
To promote high standards of planning and architecture.
To inform the public in the geography, history, natural history and architecture in the area.
To secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest.
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Basingstoke Heritage Society is 35 years old this year.
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Church Square plaque It has been our intention for some years to put up information about the air-raid in Church Square and to explain why the gardens have an arched entrance with ‘Remembrance’ carved into it. It is now nearly 80 years since the day in August 1940 when bombs dropped here, causing the deaths of 11 people here and in Burgess Road. Initially, we had intended one of our A4 blue plaques and we had submitted this to the conservation officer at the council. However, the council thought that a lectern-style sign would be appropriate, which was great, because we can get so much more information and images onto a bigger sign. Work has gone on through the summer agreeing wording, research and asking Andy Thomsen to design the sign. Andy also designed the Viables interpretation and the three signs at each entrance to the Holy Ghost (South View) cemetery. The sign had to pass through many council officers for approval but will hopefully be ready for installation before long. The society has funded the sign, and we are grateful to the council for taking on the installation and future upkeep of the sign.
Research and history for the sign
It proved difficult at times to find the facts of this event since accounts differ. We were not able to find any information on this particular raid - at the time the Luftwaffe were targeting airfields in Britain - and there was a raid at Brize Norton that day, but the timing didn’t correlate. There are images, and although the Hants & Berks Gazette could not report the incident fully at the time because of wartime restrictions, by the following January (1941) they were able to report the location and damage. It was not until 1947 that repair work was completed. The Methodist Church was also substantially rebuilt, only to face demolition in the 1960s during town development.
The Gazette Archive update – we continue to be very grateful for the help we have had and were pleased that MP Maria Miller was able to come to see the archive. She is enthusiastic for saving the paper archive, which we regard as a museum piece in its own right, not as ‘old newspapers’ as some person at County, who shall be nameless, called the collection. Ideally, they would go into the Local Studies collection at the Library/Discovery Centre but do desperately need to find a home.
World War 2 structure at Whiteditch.At long last we have not only got inside this building but also found time to do research at the Hampshire Record Office. We were very grateful to David Rymill at HRO for his suggestions for finding the right documents to search. We went through the council minutes of the ARP committee from the outbreak of war to 1943 when BINGO! we found this building. We now know that it was one of two ordered by ‘Region’, whose HQ was Reading. The council were told to build 2 buildings to house Rescue and First Aid Parties to bring them under one roof. The other was described as being south of War Memorial Park or Westside Road area. This one obviously has not survived. The building was ready in February 1944. Our expert visitor, Paul Francis from the Airfield Research Group, has pointed out 2 differing brickwork styles and that part of the building has a thinner roof thickness. The council’s minutes refer to a shortage of materials, so may be that the specification was reduced because of this. So why were they built? We don’t know the answer to this. Both buildings were at that time on the outskirts of the main built area of the town. Did they anticipate, and might they have been, a response to information known about at the highest levels of the ‘secret’ weapon – the flying bomb or V1, first launched in June 1944? Our research with this is now stuck so if anyone has any ideas about how to discover why these buildings were ordered across the south of England, then do help.
The Watchers – this installation by artist Rachel Fenner, which was at Fort Hill School, was under threat because of the demolition of the school. We had asked QMC if they would take it and they were happy to do so. However, when they were removed, they were too rotten to be re-installed and have been stored at Chilcomb pending work to restore them.
Harold Gillies and The Rooksdown Club – Dr Simon Millar has written his PhD thesis on The Rooksdown Club and of the work of Sir Harold Gillies and others at Rooksdown during and post WW2. Simon argues that the Rooksdown Club, which supported patients and their families for many years, is of equal importance to the better-known Guinea-Pig Club, formed at East Grinstead under Sir Archibald McIndoe. This is a very readable thesis and we were given a copy of it by Paul Evans, who had been treated at Rooksdown, with the intention that it would be presented to the Library/Discovery Centre. Although the Library were reluctant at first to take it for the Local Studies section, they did agree, and it is with them. For anyone doing research into the work carried out at Rooksdown, this is a good place to start.
Cross Street – member Joan Wilson took up the state of these carved panels with the council and has been persistent through the summer in finding the right person to talk to about these panels, which have become damaged. They are the work of sculptor Richard Kindersley and his advice will be sought about how to repair the damage. The poor state of them is due in part to a contractor’s lorry working for Hants County Council, so that insurance will pay for their repair. The work includes an analemmatic sundial which works using your body as a gnomon to work out the time.
From the Art in the Open Booklet.
4 Downsland Parade is part of an art-deco group of shops which are in the Brookvale Conservation Area. The groups were sympathetically refurbished some years ago with matching facia lettering style. Changes of occupier have led to some very poor signage proposals and this is one. We have objected.
Great Western Hotel – we have got Local List status for this building, which dates from the mid-19th century and is a notable and key building in the South View Conservation Area. It has been vacant for some time but has now been acquired and we understand that a planning application will be coming forward.
Windows and doors in conservation areas – we have objected to a proposal to remove wooden sashes from a Church Square property in the heart of the conservation area. Another example is 62-64 New Road, currently subject to an appeal.
The Triumphal Gates – the panels on this sculpture, which reference Basingstoke’s history, are very interesting, but they do require a bit of interpreting. There is a book available at The Willis, but the museum is not always open. Another plaque in this area might be a step too far, so what might be done?
Hackwood Cottages – these former estate workers’ homes in Hackwood Road are charming and are on the Local List. We objected to a proposal to add a side extension, which we thought detracted from the appearance of the whole group. Permission was granted though.
Gilbert White of Selborne – 2020 will be the 300th anniversary of his birth. The celebrated author of The Natural History of Selborne attended lessons in Basingstoke – probably in the Vicarage, then home to the Reverend Thomas Warton and his sons, Thomas and Joseph. However, some lessons may have taken place at Queen Mary’s School in the Holy Ghost (South View) cemetery, where we know that White and his school mates set a charge which blew, damaging the structure. Even in the 18th century schoolkids were little vandals!
The Burberry vaultin the Holy Ghost cemetery has 11 sets of initials inset around the granite border, but there are only 6 burials here. The other initials are of family members, including Thomas Burberry’s daughter Elizabeth who had married and gone to New Zealand, but sadly died along with her newborn baby.